Disclaimer: In most big Italian cities/touristy areas you will always find someone who speaks English. However, if you are the type of person who enjoys learning phrases and words in the local language, you can practice the list below during your Italian vacation!
1. Dov’è/Dove sono – “Where is/Where are”
Similar to English, you should start a question with these phrases. If you would like to ask where the train station/airport/restaurant is, you can ask “Dov’è la stazione/ristorante?” as they are singular nouns. If you are asking about a plural noun like “shops/restaurants” you would begin with “Dove sono i negozi/ristoranti”
2. The correct pronunciation of thank you (grazie)
Although “thank you” is international (meaning you will be understood everywhere) if you’d like to try the Italian word for thank you which is “grazie” make sure NOT to say “gracias” (Spanish) nor pronounce it “gratz-eeee” but rather “gratz-yeh”
If you find yourself next to someone in line, next to a doorway or hallway and you would like them to go in front of you, you should you use the word “prego” which in this case would mean “go ahead”. Prego can also be used to say “you are welcome.” If someone says “grazie” you may respond with “prego”. When you are next in line to be served in a coffee shop/ train station etc you may also hear “prego” coming from the person who is attending your request. In this context “prego” means”go ahead and tell me what you’d like”
If you’d like to be more polite when ordering food or asking for information,
try using “vorrei” meaning “I would like” rather than “voglio” “I want”
If you’re trying to order a pizza, using “Vorrei una pizza” sounds much better than “Voglio una pizza”
If “vorrei” is a bit complicated for you to pronounce, you can always use the easy way out with “per me” meaning “for me”. Therefore, when it is your turn to tell the server what you want on the menu you can respond with “Per me una pizza”
(Obviously specifying the kind of pizza as there are many different kinds on one menu!)
5. Ciao vs Salve, Buongiorno & Buonasera
Although “ciao” may be one of the most well known Italian salutations, ciao doesn’t really work for all situations. If you are speaking to a person you have never met or is much older than you, it is more polite to say “salve” which is “hello” or “buongiorno” (goodmorning)/ “buonasera” (good afternoon/evening) After all, you wouldn’t really use the word “hey!” with an 80 year old woman, would you?
6. Excuse me/pardon me
Similar to ciao vs salve, you may need to change the final letter in “excuse me” which is “scusa” when speaking to someone who is older than you. If you are walking down the street and bump into the same 80 year old woman from the previous example, it is much better to say “scusi” or “mi scusi” whereas “scusa” is alright for someone closer to your own age or much younger than you.
Other useful phrases you may need during your trip to Italy:
– “Can I pay by credit card?” – Si può pagare con la carta?
– Debit card/ATM machine – Bancomat
– “Can we sit outside? (very common when you are at a restaurant with a terrace) – Possiamo sederci fuori?
– “Are you open?” – Siete aperti?
– “How much will it be to the airport/station?” (while sitting in a taxi)- Quanto sarà all’aeroporto?
– “What time is the next bus/train?” – A che ora è il prossimo treno?
– “Does this go to _______” (when asking about bus stops/train stops) – Questo va a _____ ?
– Please – per favore