Basic Italian Phrases Every Tourist Must Know

italian grammar“Benvenuti in Italia,” or welcome to Italy. This phrase brings a smile to many visitors, whether for business or pleasure, as they set foot into the country for the first time. Italy is a country rich in history, art, and culture, with gorgeous panoramic scenery to match, making it a popular tourist destination for people from around the world. If visiting Italy is on your bucket list, then you will want to learn a few basic Italian words and phrases to help you navigate the country. By knowing some of the language, you might find yourself awarded the opportunity to engage more with the natives and see the real Italy behind the popular tourist destinations.

If you are not very good at learning new languages, you can start with Udemy’s Survive Italy without Being Fluent in Italian, which provides helpful hints on learning the language even for those who find new languages difficult to learn.

As one of the Romance languages, Italian is closely related to Spanish and French. However, even if you are well versed in these languages, you will probably find yourself needing to take a basic Italian course, which will teach you everything you need to know. Those who have never learned Italian or any other Romance language can still easily learn Italian. It just takes some time and dedication. With the right training, you will be speaking like a native before you know it. Most people find that only a few basic phrases and words suffice for a trip lasting only a few days or weeks around Italy. With the right basic language skills combined with gestures, you can easily have a satisfying trip around the country.

Although a comprehensive course provides a stronger foundation in the language, a quick and simple course allows you to become familiar with a few basic Italian phrases and words to help you find your way around, whether in the beautiful cities of Venezia, Firenze and Roma or the beautiful Mediterranean villages.

Greetings

The most important words and phrases to learn in any language are greetings and pleasantries. Saying hello, thank you, excuse me, and other pleasantries in the native tongue will demonstrate respect for the culture and its language, even if you cannot speak or understand any other Italian. The locals tend to look at tourists more fondly when they at least attempt to speak some of the language. You are probably familiar with one of the most common greetings in Italian: ciao. Ciao is often used as both hello and goodbye. If you are looking for more ways to say hello or goodbye, you could try some of these varieties:

  • Buongiorno: Good morning
  • Buon pomeriggio: Good afternoon
  • Buonasera: Good evening
  • Buonanotte: Good night
  • Arrivederci: Goodbye
  • Benvenuto: Welcome
  • Buona giornata: Have a nice day!

Pleasantries:

In addition to saying hello and goodbye, you will want to be able to say some other simple phrases that express gratitude and other pleasantries. Many of these simple phrases provide the opportunity to make small talk, introduce yourself, and show interest in those you meet. With these simple phrases, you might just find yourself making an Italian friend to show you the must-see sites of the area.

  • Grazie: Thank you
  • Prego: You’re welcome
  • Come stai?: How are you?
  • Sto bene: I’m fine
  • Bene grazie. E tu?: I’m fine, thanks. And you?
  • Come ti chiami?: What is your name?
  • Mi chiamo…: My name is…
  • Sono (nome): I’m (name)
  • Per favore: Please
  • Si: Yes
  • No: No
  • Mi scusi: Excuse Me/Pardon Me
  • Mi dispiace: I’m sorry
  • Piacere: Pleased to meet you
  • Non capisco: I don’t understand
  • Non parlo italiano: I don’t speak Italian
  • Non parlo molto bene italiano: I don’t speak Italian very well
  • Parla inglese?: Do you speak English?

Dining in Restaurants

A visit to Italy would not be complete without indulging in Italian food. Although you might think you know Italian food, you have not truly had the delight until you have eaten the fair in the country itself. Although tourists often expect to find the same Italian food throughout the country, the different parts of Italy often specialize in different dishes. Be sure to ask around and have the specialty of the area you visit.

Pasta, pizza, cannoli, gelato, cappuccino, espresso, and more await your palate as you make your way through the cities of Italy. You can prepare your palate and stomach by learning to cook Italian food yourself with Udemy’s online course. To help you with your dining in country, you should know these simple phrases, which you can practice while you cook and enjoy Italian at home:

  • Bon appetito: Have a good meal
  • Il servizio e incluso?: Is the tip included?
  • Potrei vedere il menu?: May I see the menu?
  • Un tavolo per una/due/quattro persona, per favore: A table for one/two/four, please.
  • Sono vegetariana: I’m vegetarian.
  • Un litro di vino della casa, per favore: A liter of house red, please.
  • Cosa ci consiglia?: What would you recommend?
  • Cameriere/cameriera: waiter/waitress
  • Può portarci il conto, per favore? May we have the check, please.

Shopping

Italy is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Therefore, you will probably find yourself shopping while in Italy, especially if you make Milan one of your destinations. Many of the most well known fashion designers began in Italy, making it the destination for fashionistas around the world. Whether you are shopping for the latest in fabulous fashion, browsing through well known designers like Prada and Dolce and Gabbana, or just looking for a fun souvenir to bring home, you will want to know these phrases to help you while shopping:

  • Quanto costa?: How much is this?
  • Pagherà tutto questo signore (signora): This gentleman/lady will pay for everything
  • Sto cercando…: I’m looking for…
  • Ha…: do you have…
  • Che taglia e?: What size is it?
  • Vorrei provarlo: I’d like to try it on
  • Dove sono I camerini?: Where are the changing rooms?

Directions

Whether you are trying to just find your hotel, an ancient ruin, a museum, or the hottest club, you will want to understand a few basic words of direction in Italian. With so much to see, especially with fabulous art from pre-history to the Renaissance and beyond in Italy, you might just find yourself running from one site to the next. Although getting lost might just lead you to an unexpected surprise, you will want to be able to find your way once more with these phrases:

  • Dov’e la toilette?: where is the toilet?
  • Dove?: Where
  • Si va diritto: Go straight ahead
  • Si va in quella direzione: Go that way
  • Si va indietro: Go back
  • Si gira a destra: Turn right
  • Si gira a sinistra: Turn left
  • Mi porti a questo indirizzo, por favore: Take me to this address, please

Important Words to Know

There are many important words to know in Italian, if you want to take your learning beyond the basics. If you expand your vocabulary, and know a little grammar, you could start carrying on conversations beyond just pleasantries and directions. The best way to learn the language is to converse, especially once you are in the country and speaking with natives.

However, before you go, you could make some flashcards or use a program to learn the most basic vocabulary words. You will want to first learn some of the basic verbs as a foundation to your language practice. There are useful verbs, such as potere (can), usare (use), fare (do), andare (go), and vedere (see). You will also find it helpful to know how to count, at least from one to ten, in Italian. Other types of words to learn are those associated with the weather, calendar, food, sports, body parts, and buildings or locations. 

Grammar 101

Italian grammar is similar to that of the other Romance languages, so if you already are familiar with one of the those languages, it will be simple for you to pick up the basic grammar and sentence structure of Italian. Like English, Italian grammar is made up of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. However, their usage and the sentence structure differ from English. A basic Italian course will often include basic grammar and sentence structure so that you have an idea of how the language actually works.

If you only need to make it through a simple trip to Italy, rather than actually learning the language, you do not have to worry about learning all the grammar rules. However, even those just looking to know basic Italian should understand the articles in Italian, as it differs from English. Italian has gender specific articles and nouns, either masculine or feminine, rather than how in English there is just “the” or “a/an,” regardless of the noun. The articles identify the gender and number of the nouns, and also help to recognize irregular nouns. They will always be used, and are some of the most important grammar rules to know from the onset of learning the language. The Italian verb is the core of the language, and as you develop your skills you can learn to conjugate the verbs into the different tenses.

Start Learning Italian Now

It is important to note that there are different dialects throughout the country, due to a long history of being separate and independent states. However, the basic phrases and words will get you around regardless of the dialect of the different areas, especially in the larger cities. With the phrases included here, you have begun to learn what you need in order to get around Italy when you visit. Increasing your knowledge with a course will make you more than prepared for when you enter into the country and see the words, “Benvenuti in Italia.” You will just have to wonder what to do when you find yourself saying “Arrivederci,” to the country and any of your newfound Italian friends.

Now that you have the basic idea of the most important phrases in Italian, you can increase your learning by trying a course, such as Udemy’s comprehensive beginner’s Italian course. Taking a course provides you with the benefits of hearing the language and learning the correct pronunciation. By knowing the basics of Italian, you can make your way through the country with ease. Even if you are not traveling to Italy anytime soon, you can still learn the language and practice for when you finally make that trip.