Since I visit Italy often people will ask me questions about how to make the most of their upcoming trip.  One question I receive often is “Do I need to speak Italian to visit Italy?”.

You do not need to speak Italian to visit Italy. Most Italians working at tourist destinations such as hotels, restaurants, airports, and train stations speak English. They are used to interacting with Americans visiting Italy and can switch from Italian to English with ease.

However, if you want to get the most out of your trip to Italy I do recommend learning a few keywords and phrases. Italians are usually extremely friendly and appreciative when we try to speak their language. 

Even if it’s a simple “Grazie” or “Ciao”. 

But why stop there?

Learning Some Italian Can Help You Enjoy Italy

If you really want to feel connected and take your Italian experience to the next level spend some time prior to your trip learning a little Italian. 

You won’t become fluent in a few months like some “experts” claim but you will be surprised how much you can pick up with a little time and effort. 

How impressed will your fellow travelers be when you order your meal in Italian? 

Lost in a small town and you can’t find someone who speaks English? 

Knowing some question and direction phrases can be a life saver.

How To Learn Some Italian For Traveling

There are countless Italian language resources online that can be accessed from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

Do you commute to work?

If so, why not spend that time listening to a Beginner Italian Podcast.

Are you currently binge watching an entire season of Stranger Things on Netflix?

Why not replace one episode with an Italian Language YouTube video?

While you do not need to be fluent to enjoy your Italian holiday knowing a few of the following simple Italian key words and phrases will help you fit in during your trip to Italy. 

Simple Italian Phrases For Travel

Italian Greetings 

Being able to say hello and introduce yourself in Italian is easier than you’d think as a beginner. Try these simple phrases to greet Italians and you will be on your way to making new friends.

  • Hello (informal) – Ciao
  • Hello (formal) – Salve
  • Goodbye (informal) – Ciao
  • Goodbye (formal) – Arriverderci 
  • Good morning – Buongiorno
  • Good evening – Buona sera
  • Good night – Buona notte
  • My name is – Mi chiamo
  • What is your name (informal)? – Come ti chiami?
  • What is your name (formal)? – Come si chiama?

Italian Courtesy Phrases For Travelers

Being polite is always nice no matter what is the language you are using. These phrases will help you maintain your manners while you are visiting Italy:

  • Yes – Sì
  • No – No
  • Thank you – Grazie
  • Your welcome – Prego
  • Please – Per favore
  • I don’t speak Italian  – Non parlo italiano
  • Excuse me – Mi scusi
  • Do you speak English? – Parla inglese?
  • How are you? – Come sta?
  • How do you say? – Come si chiama?

Italian Question Words For Travelers

Whether you are in Rome looking for gelato or in Milan asking for directions, being able to ask questions in Italian can be very helpful. 

Here are a couple key question words that will help you.

  • What? – Cosa?/ Che? / Che cosa?
  • Where? – Dove?
  • Who? – Chi?
  • Where? – Dove?
  • How? – Come?
  • Why? – Perché?

Italian Numbers 

Ordering two espressos for you and your partner in Florence? Looking for a table for four in Naples? Knowing your Italians numbers can come in handy in many situations.

  • 1 – Uno
  • 2 – Due
  • 3 – Tre
  • 4 – Quattro
  • 5 – Cinque
  • 6 – Sei
  • 7 – Sette
  • 8 – Otto
  • 9 – Nove
  • 10 – Dieci

Italian Phrases To Use At Restaurant And Bars 

If you have never been to Italy before than you are in for a treat. Italian food is some of the best in the world. 

A few things to note about eating and drinking in Italy:

  1. Dinner – Italians eat dinner late. Typically most restaurants don’t open until 7:00pm and most Italians don’t eat dinner until 9:00pm and will stay at the restaurant for much longer than Americans do.
  2. Bars – When you see a sign for a bar in Italy know they are not like bars here in the United States. In Italy bars are places to not only grab a drink but also a coffee, breakfast or a quick bite to eat. They are casual hang-out places for locals and tourists alike.
  3. Coffee – When ordering an espresso simply say “un caffe”.  Italians don’t order using the word espresso. Speaking of coffee, if you want to blend in with the locals don’t order a cappuccino after breakfast. Italians never drink cappuccino after a meal and may look at you strangely if you order one in the afternoon.
  4. Tipping – Unlike in the United States, tipping isn’t nearly as common in Italy. Don’t feel obligated to do so unless you feel you received exemplary service.

Reading a menu and ordering in Italian can be a challenge but here are some words and phrases to help you at restaurants, bars and cafes in Italy:

  • I would like – Vorrei
  • A glass of  – Un bicchiere di
  • A bottle of  – Un bottiglia di
  • A cup of – Una tazza di
  • Beer – Birra
  • Red wine – Vino rosso
  • White wine – Vino bianco
  • A coffee – Un caffè
  • Still water – Acqua naturale
  • Sparkling water – Acqua frizzante
  • The menu, please – Il menù, per favore
  • What do you recommend? : Che cosa mi consiglia?
  • Check, please – Il conto, per favore

Italian Phrases To Use While Shopping

Italians take their fashion style seriously and that is why they are some of the most fashionable people in the world. 

So a trip to Italy without trying some of their latest styles would be a mistake. 

These phrases will help you at clothing stores around Italy:

  • Do you have…? – Avete…?
  • How much is this? – Quanto costa?
  • I need – Mi serve
  • Shirt – Camicia
  • Shoes – Scarpe
  • Pants – Pantaloni
  • Dress – Vestito
  • Too tight – Troppo stretto
  • Too loose – Troppo largo
  • I like – Mi piace
  • I don’t like – Non mi piace

Asking For Directions While Traveling In Italy

Italy can be a confusing place to navigate at times. 

Going to Venice? If so you will get lost multiple times during your visit. 

Don’t worry. Venice is a small island so you can always find your way back to your hotel or next destination.  

But wouldn’t be easier if you could ask for directions in Italian? 

Knowing these keywords and phrases will help.

  • Where is? – Dov’è
  • Left – Sinistra
  • Right – Destra
  • In front of – Davanti
  • Next to – Accanto
  • Near – Vicino
  • Far – Lontano
  • Street – Strada
  • Church – Chiesa
  • Square – Piazza
  • Park – Parco
  • Museum – Museo
  • Train station – Stazione
  • Airport – Aeroporto

How To Ask For Help In Italy

Hopefully your trip to Italy will be accident free and you will never need to ask for help or find yourself in an emergency situation.

However, if by some chance you do,  knowing these words and phrases could be the most helpful of all.

  • Help! – Aiuto!
  • Doctor – Dottore
  • Ambulance – ambulanza
  • Call the police – Chiama la polizia
  • I feel sick – Mi sento male
  • Call an ambulance  – Chiama un’ambulanza
  • Pharmacy  – Farmacia

Related Questions

Is It Hard To Communicate In Italy?

Communicating in Italy for English speakers is usually not difficult. Many Italians speak some English but even if they don’t you should be able to navigate those situations. If you find yourself in such a case use hand gestures and speak in short sentences. This will work more often than you would imagine.

Is It Expensive To Visit Italy?

Visiting Italy can be affordable if you plan right. The most important thing to know is that if you travel off-season (November- March) you will usually see big savings in travel and hotel prices. For example, I have seen the same hotel room cost $85 in January and $300 in June. 

By: Frank DePino

Frank DePino is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. He is a frequent traveler to Italy and has been studying Italian for years.