Talk With Your Hands: Italian Style

Italians are gesture professionals. Really though, what other language has its own set of crazy unique gestures that basically compliments every and any phrase or word? Those Italians; just when we think we knew everything about their language and culture, they give us even more to learn and remember.  Dio Mio!

Italian gestures are truly an art form, dating back centuries; these handheld meanings were possibly influenced by the ancient Greeks who brought these “tricks” to Southern Italy where they most likely began their Italian existence. Many Italians really don’t know why or how they started using gestures, but they insist it really just comes naturally. But one thing is for certain- Italians are extremely proud of their gesturing and the countless generations who have passed on this charming tradition are here to prove it.

The New York Times recently published an article and video about the history behind gestures creating great buzz about this Italian phenomenon (perhaps inspired by our blog series published shortly before?) We here at Select Italy love to use gestures, and we probably couldn’t go a day without witnessing at least ten out of the hundreds of these hand expressions. But, there are a multitude of gestures in a daily Italian’s life. In fact, Isabella Poggi, a professor of psychology at Roma Tre Universty, was interviewed by the New York Times staff and claimed to have identified around 250 gestures that Italians use in every day conversation. Fantastico! 

If you missed it, earlier this year we had a fun three part series demonstrating our favorite and useful gestures. The whole Select Italy team had a fabulous time showing our followers our distinctive take on just a few of those incredible gestures.

Below we have listed just a few of our favorite and most important gesture from the series.


Che Cavolo…?” / What the hell…?

This is one of the most important and widely used gestures. Simply just take your five fingers and put them all together in a point and place your palm towards yourself and shift you hand up and down.




Ma che stai dicendo?” / What are you talking about?

Usually when Italians don’t agree with what the other person is talking about or they don’t understand they tell you right away! (Those Italians always direct and fearless…) For this gesture all you have to do is join your hands together and wave them up and down, and of course, the stronger the better.



Arianna "non capisco"Non capisco“/ I don’t understand

This gesture is perfect to use in Italy and, well; is seen pretty much everywhere. If you want to “seem” Italian without actually being able to speak Italian… effortlessly shrug your shoulders, shake your head and put both arms out at a right angle with your palms facing up. This whole motion will indicate you don’t understand (and even throw in the phrase “non capisco” for an added effect!)



This summer Select Italy has the astounding opportunity to welcome two interns form Italy. Alessandro, a foodie fanatic from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, who can’t resist using gestures to accompany his every word. And; Cinzia, a comedic aficionado from Milan uses gestures with a fun and original attitude- its hard not to smile and want to participate!

Check both of these wonderful interviews with Alessandro and Cinzia about their favorites gestures.

Share your gesture experiences! E parlare con le mani!



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