If you’re planning to visit Italy, I’d highly recommend learning some basic phrases, words, and sentences prior to your arrival. Although people in highly touristic cities will usually speak varying levels of English, it’s always helpful (and common courtesy) to try to speak at least a few words in the native language of the country you’re visiting.
If you plan to travel anywhere off the beaten path, English is drastically less common and local dialect is spoken in some regions, so do keep that in mind and keep Google Translate handy – it’s a lifesaver in those situations where you’re unable to communicate what you want with only hand gestures.
I’ve included each word in English, followed by the word in Italian. Next, I’ve included each word’s pronunciation. Buon viaggio!
BASIC ITALIAN WORDS:
Yes – Si – See
No – No – Noh
Please – Per favore – Pehr fah-voh-reh
Thank you – Grazie – Grah-tsee-eh
You’re welcome – Prego – Preh-goh
Excuse me (to pass by) – Permesso – Pehr-mehs-soh
Do you speak English? – Parla Inglese? – Parh-la een-glay-zeh
I don’t understand – Non capisco – Non kah-pee-skoh
I’m sorry – Mi dispiace – Mee dees-pyah-cheh
GREETINGS IN ITALIAN:
In Italian, there is a formal and informal way to speak. Generally speaking, you will use the formal greeting for people you don’t know and older people. Because the informal tense is mainly used amongst friends and people you know already, I’ve mainly included the formal tense as you’re likely interacting with strangers.
Keep in mind though, people won’t be offended if you greet them with “Ciao!” instead of a more formal greeting. Because it means hello and goodbye, it’s an easy one to remember (and pronounce).
Good morning – Buongiorno – Bwohn-johr-noh
Good afternoon – Buona sera – Bwoh-nah-seh-rah
Goodnight – Buona notte – Bwoh–nah–noh–teh
Hi/Bye – Ciao – Chow
My name is… – Mi chiamo – Mee kyah-moh
What’s your name? – Come si chiama? – Koh-meh see kyah-mah?
Nice to meet you – Piacere – Pyah-cheh-reh
How are you? – Come sta? – Koh-meh stah?
Good, thank you – Bene grazie – Beh-neh grah-tsee-eh
ITALIAN WORDS FOR USE IN RESTAURANTS:
Can I see the menu please? – Il menu, per favore – Eel men-oo, pehr fah-voh-reh
I’m allergic to…(for males) – Sono allergico a… – Son-oh ah-ler-gee-koh ah
I’m allergic to…(for females) – Sono allergica a… – Son-oh ah-ler-gee-kah ah
Gluten – Glutine – Gloo-teen-ay
Fish – Pesce – Pesh-ay
Dairy – Lattecini – Lah-tay-cheen-ee
Red wine – Vino rosso – Vee–noh ross-oh
White wine – Vino bianco – Vee–noh bee-ahn-koh
Ice – Ghiaccio – Gee-ah-cho
A glass – Una bicchiere – Oo-nah beek-kyeh-reh
A bottle – Una bottiglia – Oo-nah beek-kyeh-reh
Appetizer – Antipasto – Ahn-tee-pah-stoh
First course – Primo – Pree-moh
Second course – Secondo – Sek-kon-doh
Dessert – Dolci – Doll-chee
Where’s the bathroom? – Dov’è il bagno? – Doh-veh eel bahn-yoh?
The check, please – Il conto, per favore – Eel kon-toh, pehr fah-voh-reh
ITALIAN WORDS FOR DIRECTIONS + GETTING AROUND:
Where is…? – Dov’è…? – Doh-veh…?
Entrance – Entrata – En-trah-tah
Exit – Uscita – Ooh-shee-tah
Left – Sinistra – See–nee-stra
Right – Destra – Deh-stra
Straight ahead – Dritto – Dree-toh
Forward – Avanti – Ah-vahn-tee
Back – Dietro – Dee-et-roh