How To Speak Italian And Not Sound Like A Tourist In Italy

How to speak italian

If you’re heading to Italy, don’t be the person who doesn’t know a word of italian! Remember the old saying : when in Rome, do as the Romans do. That means that it’s worth the effort to try and fit in with the Italians and, like anywhere else, rhetoric is the key to getting things done – just as long as you know how to use it. Learning Italian, after all, is not the exactly the same thing as learning how to speak Italian. Here are some tips on how to speak Italian and not sound like a tourist in Italy.

“Allora”  All-or-ah

Not often used as a conversation starter, ‘allora’ is perfect for keeping interest during debate and discussion. Roughly translated as “so” or “therefore,” ‘allora’ is a phrase that you’ll hear a lot during conversations in Italy. You’ll find that ‘allora’ is used most commonly as an expression to bridge thoughts and descriptions when you’re in Italy. Remember, in Italy, you want to stay off the radar and be completely grey (a color associated with not standing out). Using ‘allora’ will help you seem like an American who has been paying attention to the Italian culture and the language, and, it will keep you from sticking out.

“Boh”  Bo

Clearly, slang is one of the most important aspects of fitting in. That’s why ‘boh’ is a perfect phrase for Americans who simply “don’t know.” ‘Boh’ is Italian slang for ‘non lo so’ (I don’t know) and is a great phrase for travelers who are unsure of what to say or how to say something. The expression is very casual and will help you seem like you’re picking up on Italian idioms and that you are an open-minded and attentive traveler.


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.


“Andiamo”  On-Di-Ah-Mo

You’ll be rushing when you get to Italy. I guarantee it. If you’re trying to get from one location to another with out any fuss, use this phrase. Translated as ‘let’s go,’ you’ll need to keep this one handy if you’re running late or rushing to get somewhere. ‘Andiamo’ is a good way to let transportation assets like taxi drivers know that you are all set and ready to get going. Be careful with how you use ‘andiamo’ as it is a word that can make you seem impatient if you say it too many times or in the wrong tone. When you’re traveling in Italy, ‘andiamo’ is definitely one of the most important phrases to know.

“Basta”  Bas-Ta

You’re tired, it’s been a long day, or you’re full and the waiters are still bringing out more food. ‘Basta e basta’ – enough is enough. Use this phrase when you’ve had enough or are too tired to keep going. You can also use ‘basta’ as a way to tell others to stop or that your done with a specific activity. More importantly, as a traveler, make sure you understand this phrase as well as you can. I’m very glad I learned this phrase as I almost overpaid for a souvenir when I was at a market festival in Perugia. The Italian saleswoman said ‘basta’ and that quickly let me know that I had given her the right amount of money. ‘Basta’ is an absolute must-know phrase and will definitely help you out during your time in Italy.

“Quanto Costa” Ku-anto Cost-ah

‘Quanto Costa’ is how you ask for prices in Italy and it is an invaluable tool if you’re, well, purchasing anything. Unlike the United States, a lot of items, menus, and souvenirs in Italy are not always labeled. Literally translated as ‘how much,’ this phrase will be very useful if you need to know the monetary value of an item that you wish to purchase. Out of all the phrases that I used in Italian, this was probably the most helpful. ‘Quanto Costa’ is definitely the most important phrase you’ll need to know if your heading to Italy on a budget.


Was this small lesson useful? Let us know what else will you like to learn!



40 thoughts on “How To Speak Italian And Not Sound Like A Tourist In Italy

      • Allow me to correct your English (even though it is MUCH better than my Italian)
        There is no word pronounciate only the word pronounce or pronounced.
        That is the word is pronounced like this, or she pronounced it like this, or this is how you pronounce the word.
        Anyway thank you for your help learning you wonderful language.
        Keep up your good work.
        Molte Grazie.

  1. Sorry but “Andiamo” is not like “On-Di-Ah-Mo”. It’s more like “Un-diah-mo”. Accent on “ah”. And, “boh” is very, very informal.

  2. Well, as an italian living in Germany I am trying to suggest some tricks as well with the people (my german teacher is trying to learn italian as well, and we are exchanging tricks), but -believe me- you can’t speak italian with no body language.

    Italian language cames on 3 channels: words you are using, voice shaping you are using, and body language, that is gesture but not only, it is also face characters, and so on. This is used to share your feeling about the single word you are talking about, and please notice: this is * bloody expected* by the person you are talking with.

    The most problem I had with “northern” people is the complete lack (or maybe different) body language.

    Voice shaping (it means putting the accent on the word that makes more feeling to you) and body language are used to share our feeling about the argument we mention, word by word. Talking with no body language and using always the same voice speech in a sentence is felt like “cold”, and for italians it means: “I don’t want to share anything with you”, or “please go away as soon as possible”. If you smile while you speak like that, it could be like “this is the last time I tell you”, so to smile is not helping. Please use some more body gestures.

    By example, the first time I had a talk with my german friends, I was asking myself “uhm. What I did wrong? Did I offended him somehow? Why this guy hates me?”. Then I realized they don’t even used any body language, so I just had to refer to words and grammar. They don’t hated me, It was just they don’t used the same body language.

    I suppose then , seen from the northern point of view, we -italians- are too much “dramatic”, or enphatizing , or something like that. But, always, If you want to communicate with italians, please , share your feeling using some body language and gestures. If not, you will seem cold and hostyle. It is not your fault, nor italian fault, just: whatever you say, use gestures.

    With a good gesture, perhaps, you don’t even need to know the language, believe or not. ;)


    • Ciao Uriel~

      Body language is a valid point. And just so you know, to be dramatic and use one’s hands and too much body language can be seen as bad in my culture (I’m from the U.S). It’s lack of social grace, a lack of politeness and an incapability to express one’s self through words. A person who has a great vocabulary and elegant body language will be looked upon favorably. Too much body language has always been a little scary, and has left me wondering if the person wants to punch me or something. Why is this person making that weird and ugly face at me? Lol.


  3. Pingback: Italy | Pearltrees
  4. What a neat post. I have studied some Italian both abroad and in Italy. I really like the word “basta”. Mainly for food, as in “Im full, no more.” I dont think I ever heard “boh” before, as I tend to use the “non lo so” I got used to in class.

    @6147bf8100934f255c29fe7efb4bc365:disqus – I find English speakers (well Americans anyway) tend to at least use the voice shaping you talk about more. I think it is less “Northern peoples” and more “Germans” with that kind of thing. German has really no melody and is more of a chant. I am fluent and still miss on the emotions. There is a lot of emotion based on word choice as opposed to body language. If you want to still think of it as north versus south, think of all the time of the year that it is too cold to take your hands out of your pockets to wave them around just to make a point.

    • Oh, please don’t take me wrong. I am not a ‘people versus people’ kind of person. I am just a person that likes to learn from differences. And I am luck since I work in a company with 22 different nations inside. I don’t agree with you about the meaning of melody: all brits I met are using the emphasis, (I agree with you since here), but what you do in my experience is to “keep it simple”, I mean you are selecting a different emphasis for each sentence, but you aren’t “acting” the speech you do, you are representing the meaning very well, but you don’t share the meaning it has for you. For Italian people, you have to represent what you mean, but mostly you have to act what something was into you, moment by moment. You have to speak like you were acting. Perhaps, I live in Germany now, and I have to say they have put what we do with gestures in lot of meaningless words they add to any sentence to make the emphasis, like “Da bist du” is “you are here”, while “da bist du ja” is like “WOW! You are here!”. I don’t believe people is that different, just communication protocols are…. :)

      • wow…..Uriel Fanelli….wished I had known this the last two time I visited Italy. I am going back in 2019 (absolutely adore the people, food, demographics…etc) and maybe I won’t seem like so much a “tourist”. Thank you.

  5. When I went to Italy for a class trip, the tour guide we had would always say “andiamo” when we were getting off the bus or leaving a restaurant or if we got distracted by something and he wanted to get our attention. Hearing that word just takes me back…xD I love it.

  6. This was extremely helpful. My roommate is Italian and I have noticed her saying some of these like Andiamo and Boh. It is interesting putting the Italian word with the American word. Also, I have traveled to Italy a lot and my family and I are thinking about going back soon. This would be a great tutorial for us.

    Karim @ 007 Limousine Service

  7. Pingback: What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Europe | Блог Select ItalyБлог Select Italy
  8. Pingback: 3 MORE Reasons You Should Start Planning Your Vacation to Italy Now (As if You Needed More!) | Select Italy Blog
  9. This is honestly amazing! Me and a good friend of mine have started learning Italian lately and this has been a great help!

  10. Useful topic! We would love to know more. At our hotel we receive lots of Italians and we need to improve it. We think you should keep up with those advises

  11. Glad to see this is out there. Great resource for beginners, or even those who have studied plenty but don’t have anyone to practice with!

  12. Hi
    I am looking to have a more conversational style in learning the Italian language. Don’t laugh, but I like how Julia Roberts learn the language from a local, as they go about their daily life, everyday errands. I have done the classroom version, and also have some audio tapes. It hasn’t work that well for me – as I really don’t want to fully learn the language (it will take too long) .. I just want to be able to converse in some basic full phrases when I go to restaurant or ask for directions, engage in basic how are you, introduce myself. Currently I speak in horrible broken Italian and English language when I go to Italy. Anyone know where I can get hold of tutors who teach in this manner? Help!

    • Hi Christina! I know what you mean! You should try Hello Talk, its a pretty cool app that connects you with Native speakers who are learning your language…in a sense you teach each other! The app is currently free, and there are texting and vociecall features and a a built in translator! My Italian has improved dramatically with this method! Speaking/learning from natives is awesome.

      Happy language learning!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.