Learn essential Italian phrases for travelers
Traveling to Italy is a dream, an exciting adventure that’s filled with great food, amazing places, and sunshine. The history and nature throughout the country are fascinating, however there’s one thing that you should keep in mind! Speaking some Italian is important if you’re visiting Italy!
So before you get on the plane, make sure to learn some Italian phrases for travelers!
Maybe you have already studied some Italian, by listening to music, reading books, or watching movies. Which is great! But if you need some more training, make sure to go through this Italian travel vocabulary as well! Make sure to pack these Italian words and phrases for your trip, so you won’t get into unpleasant situations with the locals.
Italian phrases for travelers – Greetings
Buon giorno — Good morning
You can use this phrase any time of the day until 12 pm. In Italy, it’s really important when you go in and out of a shop, or in any other case you’re connecting with people to greet them!
Say, “Buon giorno!” as you enter a small shop, as you walk into a booth, as you sit beside somebody in the lounge or waiting area. If you can, extend a firm handshake.
Buon pomeriggio — Good afternoon
You can use buon pomeriggio from lunchtime to around 5 pm. However, don’t be surprised if you won’t get back the same greeting. Italians tend to use buon giorno till lunch and then switch to buona sera.
Buona sera — Good evening
Buona sera is officially known to be used after 12pm, instead of buon pomeriggio, and it’s used until maybe after dinner, around 9-10pm.
Buona notte — Good night
Buona notte is saying goodbye when you’re retiring at night, or when someone else is going home to sleep, so it’s more intimate.
Ciao — Hi/Hello
Ciao is the most common greeting in Italy. You can use it at any time of the day, but it’s important to not say Ciao to an elder. In Italy they use formal communication with elder people, so to greet them, you should strictly use the formal greetings: buon giorno, buon pomeriggio, buona sera.
You can use Ciao for anyone else who is closer in age or younger. When you want to greet more people, you can say “Ciao a tutti” as hello everyone. Ciao is used also to say goodbye as well.
Salve – Hello
Salve is a more formal form of Ciao. This one you can use in formal situations and on older people, but not elders. For example, if you are 20, and the shop owner is 40, you can say salve instead of Ciao.
Arrivederci – Goodbye
Another Italian word that you should use to say Goodbye to someone. Arrivederci is an absolutely formal way to say bye, so you can use it for elders and people you don’t know in shops and restaurants.
These 6 greetings are the most important Italian phrases for travelers that must be learned, as you’ll have to use them a lot.
To extend your Italian travel vocabulary, here are some other ways that you can say goodbye in Italian:
Arrivederla — Until we see each other again (formal)
A più tardi — See you later
A dopo – See you later
Riguardati — Take care
Ci vediamo — See you
Alla prossima — ‘Til next time
Ci sentiamo – See you later, used in the context of call/text/messenger
A domani – See you tomorrow
Necessary Italian phrases for travelers
Grazie — Thank you
The word grazie is another one that you have to use a lot in Italy. When you get a coffee, or anything that’s brought to your table in a restaurant, you say grazie. Also, in Italy it’s really common to say goodbye and thank you when you leave a shop or a bar, restaurant. When you’re leaving you say “Ciao, grazie!” or “Grazie. Arrivederci!”.
Grazie mille — Thanks a lot
This is the way to say thank you when you want to show more respect and compassion for something you’ve received. Grazie mille literally means “thanks a million times”.
Prego — You’re welcome
Prego is used as “you’re welcome” but it also has other meanings. Prego is used also as “Yes? How can I help?” when you go in the shop or a bar and the waiter or staff member will ask you for what you’d like? Prego also can be used as “there you go” or “be my guest” for example if you’re asked if they can borrow something (like a chair).
Another meaning of prego is “after you” when someone lets you enter a room first, or you want to do that for someone. All in all, prego can be used for many different things.
Scusa — Excuse me (informal)
It doesn’t matter what’s your emergency, you never approach an Italian to ask them something without saying excuse me! It’s considered rude and it’s not tolerated. When you approach someone, first always use scusa. Remember, that this is a form you’re talking to friends, colleagues, or people that are around your age!
Mi scusi — Excuse me (formal)
The formal Italian phrase for travelers to keep in mind when you want to approach someone is mi scusi. This is how you should open a communication with an elder, or a complete stranger. It’s more formal to use mi scusi and it’s showing the other person that you’re giving them the due courtesy.
Mi dispiace – I’m sorry
Mi dispiace is used for whatever misunderstanding you encounter during your trip and you want to apologize. This is a more “sensitive” way to say sorry, so you don’t have to use it when you try to open a communication with someone, but rather when you want to say that you’re sorry for something.
Another phrase you can use is mi spiace which means the same but it’s more often used when someone tells you something bad that has happened.
Italian phrases for travelers – Assent/Dissent
Expressing assent/dissent is important in Italian! Here are some more key Italian phrases for travelers
Sì — Yes
No — No
Ma certo — Definitely/Of course
If you’re asked if you like Italy, make sure to say: “Ma certo!”
Sì means yes and No means no. This is simple. But what happens if you’re not sure about the answer? Here are some Italian words and phrases you can use:
Forse — Maybe
Può darsi — Maybe
Magari – Maybe
Non lo so — I don’t know
Penso di no — I don’t think so
Non credo – I don’t think so
Please in Italian
Per favore — Please
Per cortesia — Please (more formal)
Per piacere — Please
If you end every other sentence with “Per favore” you will sound like an extremely polite tourist, which is great! You may also hear per cortesia and per piacere with the same meaning.
The nicer you are the more positivity you get back from locals. Italians love to open up for a chit-chat (chiacchierare) but you have to be nice and enthusiastic for that to happen!
Italian phrases for travelers – Speaking English in Italy
When you visit Italy, you shouldn’t have issues speaking in English in touristy areas. In restaurants, hotels, museums and everything similar you’ll be fine with English. With young Italians as well, you might find many who speak English really good.
However, if you’re in a less touristy place or you encounter people who don’t speak Italian, you might want to put your cards on the table upfront! Italians really appreciate it if you’re trying to speak, or actually can speak well Italian. However, you’ll still need to learn some phrases to explain to an Italian that you’re not a fluent speaker:
Non parlo Italiano. — I don’t speak Italian.
Parla/Parli Inglese? — Do you speak English? Parla is the formal way, parli is the informal way to ask!
Non capisco. — I don’t understand.
Parla/Parli piano/lentamente, per favore. — Please speak slowly. Parla informal, Parli formal.
Ripeti/Ripeta, per favore. — Please repeat. Ripeti is informal, ripeta is formal.
Italian phrases for travelers – Common questions and answers
Initiating a conversation with an Italian is fairly predictable. They usually ask you your name, where you’re from and what do you do for a living? Here are some questions and answers you’ll need for your Italian travel vocabulary.
Introducing yourself in Italian
Come ti chiami? — What’s your name?
Literally, you’re being asked what you call yourself or what other people call you.
The answer is:
Mi chiamo, ___. — My name is ____.
Alternatively: Sono ___. – I’m ___.
Piacere di conoscerti/ Piacere di conoscerla — Nice to meet you. (informal/formal)
Locals are more likely to say just piacere.
Give this compliment to every individual you meet on your trip.
Ask how are you in Italian
Come va? — How are you?
Alternative: Come stai? – How are you? – this is informal!
Sto bene – I’m fine
Molto bene – Very well
Molto bene, grazie – Very good, thank you.
If you’re so-so, you can say, “Così così.”
Say where you are from in Italian
Dove vivi? – Where do you live?
Da dove vieni? – Where do you come from?
Di dove sei? – Where are you from?
Native Italian speakers will be always interested to find out where their guests are from. When they ask you dove abiti or di dove sei they are interested in the country, your nationality.
Have a ready answer through sentences like:
Abito/vivo a Londra. — I live in London.
Sono di New York. — I’m from New York.
Sono degli Stati Uniti – I’m from the United States.
Sono americano. — I’m American.
Talk about yourself in Italian
The conversation could go a million different ways from there, but one question that would most probably be asked is:
Che lavoro fai? / Cosa fai per lavoro? — What’s your job?
You can say, “Sono ____” and what your profession is. That’s good to check out in advance before heading to Italy!
Think of “sono” as the equivalent of the English phrase “I am,” and you can pretty much use it for things and facts pertaining to yourself like:
Sono sposato. — I’m married.
Sono un turista – I’m a tourist.
Sono stanco. — I’m tired.
Italian travel phrases for travelers – Asking for directions
Italy is the place where it doesn’t matter for how long you’ve been preparing your itinerary; you will most certainly get confused and lost at some point. The old towns of the Italian cities can be really confusing, even with Google Maps. So, it’s great to know some Italian phrases for travelers when you’re in need of finding your way to a certain place!
Asking for directions starts with you approaching the other person with a “Mi scusi,” asking your question, then hearing the directions to your destination.
Here are some phrases that could help you navigate this conversation.
The main question word to keep in mind is dove?
Dove? — Where?
Dov’è ____? — Where is ____?
Names of places in Italian
Other places in Italian:
Il museo – The museum
L’albergo – The hotel
Il teatro —Theater
Il supermercato — Supermarket
La stazione — Train station
L’aeroporto — Airport
L’ospedale — Hospital
La stazione di polizia — Police station
Fermata dell’autobus – Bus stop
Il parco — Park
Il centro — Town center
Make sure to include in your question the name of the park, airport, station, etc. Otherwise, you might be misguided! Always say the official names of the places, that’s really important!
Directions in Italian
Ask your question and you’re done. Now, listen for the directions. They talk really fast and you may have to use “Parli piano/lentamente, per favore” (Please speak slowly) and “Ripeta, per favore” (Please repeat) to get the gist of the directions.
Pay attention to their answers and these phrases:
Giri a destra / Gira a destra— Turn right (formal/informal)
Gira a sinistra / Gira a sinistra — Turn left (formal/ informal)
Vada diritto / Va dritto — Go straight ahead (formal/informal)
Vada in quella direzione / Va in quella direzione — Go that way (formal/informal)
Torni indietro/ Torna indietro — Go back (formal/informal)
È vicino — It’s near/close
È lontano — It’s far
If you hear “lontano” from the other person, that may mean your destination is not walking distance and you should consider getting a taxi.
Learn more Italian!
These are some of the basic Italian phrases for travelers.
As I’ve mentioned, in many places, especially big cities you can sort everything out if you’re speaking just in English, but knowing some basics is always great! With these phrases you should be fine having very basic conversations with locals in Italy. But if you really want to have an unique experience and have a deeper connection with Italian people and culture consider learning Italian for real!