Top Ten Italian Words and Phrases

(I have a credit card and I know how to use it).

Have I mentioned in the last 10 minutes that I love it here in Italy? Last night we were invited to dine at the home of some Italian friends. I’d say it was absolutely fabulous food, but in this part of the world that goes without saying and you are probably getting tired of me talking about eating stuff you can’t get. But Mio Dio! It was superb and I’m hoping Wilma will take me under her wing and into her kitchen for some instructions. We are finding it is very easy to make friends here, despite the language differences. Even though Carlo and Wilma speak less English then we speak Italian, which is to say practically none, we had a great time together.


1. Lo prendo (Low PRINdo): I’ll take it.
This is the single most useful Italian phrase I’ve learned. I use it all day long. For example: I’ll take that new scarf or I’ll take a chocolate pastry or I’ll take the train to Venice or I’ll take a nap, etc.

2. Tutt’e due (TOOT-tay DEW-ay): Both.
This is not a word, it’s a magical solution. Use it in conjunction with numbers 1. and 3. as in Lo prendo tutt’e due (I’ll take both). It’s one of Chris’ favorite words because it’s easy and fun to pronounce.

3. Saldi di scarpi (SAWL-dee dee SCAR-pee): Shoe Sale.
Imelda Marcos was a light-weight compared to even the average Italian. This phrase has been known to cause severe injury due to stampeding Italian women. You only have to look at the shape of the country to understand. Italy is not just a boot, it’s a high-style stiletto-heel over the knee sexy boot. Style is a way of life here and shoes are taken very seriously. Please don’t embarrass me (and yourselves) by wearing jeans and white tennis shoes over here - you might as well tattoo a tacky American flag on your forehead. Red or gold tennies, yes– but only if you are under forty.

4. Ho fame/sete (Oh FAH-may/SAT-tay): I’m hungry/thirsty.
Italians are so hospitable that merely mentioning in passing that you are hungry or thirsty will probably garner you an instant invitation home for dinner or at the least some tomatoes out of their veggie garden.

5. Si, con piacere (See, con pee-ah-CHAIR-ay): Yes, I’d like to.
Be ready to follow up 4. with this phrase.

6. Un po’, grazia (Oon poe, GRAHT-zee-eh): A little more, thanks.
I’ve never regretted saying this. If you leave an Italian dinner table hungry, it’s your own damn fault. There is always way too much food offered.

7. Meno male! (MAY-no MALL-eh) Thank goodness!
Another one of Chris’ favorites. When I don’t understand what’s being said, which is often, and there is a break in the conversation where everybody is looking at me and I’m obviously suppose to respond, I throw out this phrase and it almost always works.

8. Cin-cin (Chin-chin): Cheers/Salute – a toast.
If I get blank stares after trying 7., I raise my glass and use this one, a sure-fire winner.

9. Salve (SAL-veh): A neutral, not formal, not informal goodbye.
As friendly as they appear, Italians practice a strict code of etiquette particularly in speech. It is a crude mistake to say “Ciao” to someone you aren’t acquainted with. Use “Arrivaderci “ with people you don’t know at all, like shopkeepers. Say “Salve” to anyone you’ve seen more than once or spent any amount of time with. But ALWAYS say something! It’s considered very rude to enter or leave a store without acknowledging the shopkeeper.

10. Basta! (BAAHS-tah): Enough!
When I first heard this word being yelled constantly between rambunctious Italian teenagers on a local train outside of Venice, I thought they were calling each other the offspring of unmarried parents. In reality it’s meaning is more like the American “Cut it out”, or “Quit it”. Basta is also used to signify you’re finished with a meal or the equivalent of saying “When” to the amount of vino in your glass.

11. Secundo me (Say-GOON-dough May): If you ask me.
In truth no self respecting Italian ever waits to give a personal opinion on anything from the weather to politics to fashion, but they preface their belief with this phrase as a warning. I’m trying to teach Chris to say this one…

More later down the road,