Before you travel to Italy, there are a few phrases that you need to know. While Italians are very welcoming and you may find people who speak English in the city center, it is polite and more impactful for you as a traveler to learn some basic language in order to get by. Even if you have to immediately switch over to English, hearing someone say "Good morning", "Hello" and "Thank you" in their language makes Italians very happy and more willing to help you out! For anyone traveling to Italy, I'm including my most useful Italian phrases and how to say them below.
As with many languages, Italian is split between formal and informal phrases. There are usually at least two ways to say everything and if you choose the wrong way of addressing an Italian, it can sound rude, disrespectful or just weird. If you're talking to someone your age, in a casual setting, informal language is fine, but if you're in a store, restaurant, or speaking to anyone older than you, default to formal language. I'll be translating the most important phrases into both options.
Ciao (inf.) [chow] or Salve (f.) [sahl-vay]
- Good Morning; Good Afternoon
Buongiorno [bwon-jor-no], Buonasera (formal and commonly used) [bwon-ah-sar-ah]
- How are you?
Come va? [co-may va]/Come stai? [co-may sty] (inf.) or Come sta? (f.) [co-may sta]
- Thank you
Grazie [grah-zi-ay] or Grazie molte [grah-zi-aymul-tay] (for more emphasis)
- Can I have...?
Posso avere...la pizza margherita; un caffe; il menu? [poh-so ah-veh-ray]
- I'll have...
Io prendo...una pizza; un caffe. [E-oh pren-doh]
- My name is...
Mi chiamo...Abbie. [Me key-ah-mo]
- I'm from...
Sono di... (Sono degli Stati Uniti; Sono di Boston) [soh-no dE]
- Goodbye; See you soon
Ciao (inf.)/Arrivederci (f.); Ci vediamo (inf.) [chow; ah-rE-veh-dare-chi; chi-veh-dE-ah-mo]
- What does ___ mean?
Che significa...questa parola? (What does this word mean?) [kay sig-nE-fE-ka]
- Where's the toilet?
Dov'è il bagno? [doh-vay il bahn-yo]
- Do you speak English?
Parli inglese? (inf.); Parla inglese? (f.) [par-ly/par-lah ing-ley-say]
There are many nuances to what greetings and language you can use in Italian, but the phrases I've included are some of the most important ones. If you study this list before traveling to Italy, you'll have at least a basic idea of how to communicate and be polite in social situations. And when all else fails, Google Translate is my most used phone app.
How much of the language do you study before traveling to a new country? What words or phrases are your most-used while traveling?