Travel is one of the most rewarding, enjoyable things to do in life. Exploring new lands, meeting new people, trying out new cuisine and learning new customs are all very exciting. But sometimes there’s a language barrier. Which can be frustrating. Fortunately English is increasingly spoken as a second language around the world. And in Italy many now speak English, especially in the more popular tourist destinations like Rome, Florence and Venice. But not everyone does, particularly once you get out to the smaller towns and villages. So before you set off on your idyllic Italian vacation, why not memorize a few of our essential Italian travel phrases to make sure your trip goes smoothly.
One of the best things about travelling is meeting new people and greeting them in their own language. So if you only manage to remember a couple of things from these Italian travel phrases, make sure to commit some of these greetings to memory and make a great first impression.
Hello – Buongiorno pronounced bwon-jorr-noh. You can use this in the morning and into the afternoon, it’s the standard Italian greeting.
Good evening – Buona sera pronounced bwon-ah sehr-rah. You can use this from around 4pm onwards and throughout the evening.
Good night – Buona notte pronounced bwon-ah noh-tay. This is best used when leaving a restaurant or bar or saying good night to friends.
Hi / Bye – Ciao pronounced chow. This is probably the best-known Italian word. Everyone knows it, but not everyone knows how to use it properly. Ciao is an informal greeting that came from an old 1700s Venetian phrase meaning literally “At your service” and is usually used between friends, family and people you know. If you use it in formal situations like in a shop, when presented to new people or with elders you risk causing offence. At the very least it’ll mark you out as a tourist so be careful with this one.
Goodbye – Arrivederci pronounced ah-ree-ver-dare-chee.
Top travel tip : always say hello when you enter a shop, bar or restaurant as Italians consider it extremely rude for customers not to greet the owner on entry.
Italians are big on manners so you’ll hear please, thank you and you’re welcome a lot. So to make sure you mind your manners too, these are the essentials to have on your list of Italian travel phrases.
Please – Per favore, pronounced per fah-vor-ray
Thank you – Grazie pronounced grah-tsee-eh, including the e on the end, NOT grat-zi. Or if you want to say a special thanks, the most commonly used phrase is Grazie Mille meaning a thousand thanks and pronounced grah-tsee-eh meel-eh.
You’re welcome – Prego, pronounced pray-go, means you’re welcome but you’ll also hear this lovely little word in other situations. For example, the barkeep may say Prego to ask what you want to drink and waiters often use it when they come to take your order. It’s a very useful word!
Excuse me – Permesso, pronounced per-meh-ssoh, is another essential Italian travel phrase. It’s best used when asking to pass someone in a crowd and they’ll usually reply with Prego!
Pardon me – Mi scusi pronounced me skoo-zee should be used if you’ve bumped into someone by accident or if you’d like to catch someone’s attention before asking for directions.
Yes – Sì pronounced see. This one’s pretty obvious!
No – No, pronounced noh, and again this is self explanatory!
So far, all the phrases have been simple, but often situations require more than just hello, thank you or good night. It’s great to have a few stock phrases under your hat for just these situations to help communication.
Do you speak English please? – Parla inglese per favore? Pronounced Par-la eeng-glay-zay per fah-vor-ray this is the best way to track down an English speaker although obviously there is no guarantee that you’ll get a positive answer!
I don’t speak Italian – Non parlo italiano pronounced non par-loh eet-al-ee-ah-noh.
At the Station, Airport & Hotel
A lot of Italian travel-related words are pretty similar to the English. Stazione, pronounced stah-tsee-oh-neh means station and aeroporto pronounced ah-eh-roh-por-toh means airport but there are a few that are completely different so can cause confusion when you see them on signage.
Ferrovia, pronounced fair-roh-VEE-ah, literally meaning iron road, is one word that catches visitors out, as it also means train station and is often used on road signs. Binario, pronounced bee-nah-ree-oh and meaning platform, is another. Things are easier at the airport, however, as signposts tend to be in Italian and English.
At the hotel, your room is your camera, pronounced just the same as a camera for taking photos. A double room is a camera doppia or camera matrimoniale, whereas a single room is a camera singola. And colazione pronounced coh-lah-tsee-oh-nee means breakfast, but you’ll probably find the staff are very helpful with any language problems.
Download our Free Travel Guide to Italy: Useful Tourist Info Ebook here to acquaint yourself with the basics of how things get done in Italy.
Handy Phrases for Shopping
How much is it please? – Quanto costa per favore? pronounced kwant-oh kost-ah per fah-vor-ray is an essential in shops, at the market or at a vineyards if you want to bring a souvenir or two back after a wine tasting tour.
Please write it down – Lo scriva per favore pronounced loh skree-va per fah-vor-ray is also useful if you don’t understand the answer to the previous question!
Useful Italian Travel Phrases at the Bar or Restaurant
In the main tourist destinations, a lot of waiters will speak some English. But if you want a more authentic Italian experience why not order a coffee at one of the thousands of little café bars around Italy or ask for the menu in the local trattoria in Italian.
I’d like an espresso please – Vorrei un’espresso per favore, pronounced Vor-ray oon es-press-oh per fah-vor-ray.
Top travel tip : If you ask for a Latte in Italy, as you might at home, instead of getting a milky coffee you’ll get a glass of milk. Coffee with milk comes in various different forms including a macchiato, an Americano or even a Cappuccino so check the menu first!
A table for one/two/four, please – Un tavolo per uno/due/quattro per favore pronounced oon tah-voh-loh per oona/do-eh/kwattroh per fah-vor-ray.
I’d like the menu please – Vorrei il menu per favore, pronounced Vor-ray eel men-oo per fah-vor-ray.
I’d like the bill please – Vorrei il conto per favore, pronounced Vor-ray eel con-toh per fah-vor-ray. It’s simple when you know how!
And after all that eating and drinking, there may be only one phrase on your mind.
Where is the toilet please? – Dov’è la toilette per favore? pronounced doh-vay eel twoy-let-eh per fah-vor-ray means you’ll never be caught short again.
Ready to Try Out Your New Italian Travel Phrases?
Travel offers wonderful adventures but even the most experienced visitors can be nervous about the language barrier. There’s no need to worry though. As you can see a few key Italian travel phrases will ensure that you understand each other without having to resort to speaking louder or questionable mime! You might even find that just a little bit of language know-how opens the doors to the real Italy that locals know. The most important thing is to have fun. Italians appreciate whatever effort you put in and are very encouraging, even if our pronunciation hurts their ears sometimes! So go on, why not give it a go! Buon viaggio, happy travels!