Learn just a handful of Italian words and phrases… and you can transform you r trip to Italy! That’s because, while English is common in Italy’s larger cities and tourist destinations (including hotspots like Florence, Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi coast), it’s not as widely spoken in Italy’s smaller towns and countryside.
So to experience off-the-beaten-path Italy, a little Italian goes a long way! (And don’t worry about practicing on locals; Italians tend to be friendly and patient with foreigners).
Have no idea where to start? Here’s help, including some of the most useful Italian words and phrases you’ll love having on hand!
A quick word on Italian pronunciations
Even if you don’t learn a single Italian phrase, knowing how to pronounce the language can be a big help—if only to, say, order items off a menu, tell a taxi driver your hotel address or ask a local what the next metro stop is… and be understood!
Italian words can be rather long (and poetic!), but here’s a helpful tip for pronouncing them: most of the time, stress falls on the second-to-last syllable. (So “Venezia” is “Ve-NE-zia”; “castello” is “cas-TELL-o”).
Vowels show up a lot in lyrical Italian. So just remember that “a” is pronounced like the a in father, “i” like the “ee” in greet, and “u” like the u in rule. The vowels “e” and “o” can be open or closed, depending on the word.
Meanwhile, many consonants sound like their English equivalent. The most important exceptions: the letter “c” before “i” or “e” is pronounced like a “ch,” “g” before an “i” or “e” is pronounced like the g in “general,” “h” is always silent, “r” is almost always rolled and “z” is pronounced like the “ds” in “lads” at the beginning of the sentence, and like the “ts” in sets in all other cases.
Double consonants can be a bit tricky, but here are some rules to remember: “ch” sounds like the “c” in “car,” “gli” sounds like the “ll” in million, “gn” sounds like the “ny” in “canyon,” and “sc” sounds like the “sh” in “shush” before i and e, and like “sk” in “skip” in all other cases.
Got that? Great! Now, here’s a quick starter guide to essential Italian words and phrases… and, of course, you’ll now be able to pronounce them!
Common Italian greetings
Other common Italian phrases
Helpful words for getting around Italy
Days of the week
Other popular Italian phrases
Which Italian words and phrases have you picked up along your travels in Italy? Let us know in the comments!