So you’ve decided to study abroad in Italy this year. I’m sure you’ve already started thinking about what you need to bring with you to make the most of your stay: your passport, a good pair of walking shoes, an outlet adapter. You’ll also need to bring some Italian along with you. Fluency isn’t necessary, but there are some words and phrases that are really helpful. Here are the 10 phrases you should know before studying abroad in Italy.
1. Ciao, Mi Chiamo…
Pronunciation: chow, me kee-ya- moh…
Definition: “Hi, my name is…”
First impressions are important. Even if you have a heavy accent or stumble over the words, introducing yourself in Italian shows that you’re making an effort. Your new Italian friends will appreciate it.
Definition: Good day/Good morning!
This is one of several Italian greetings. They vary depending on the time of day, but all mean basically the same the thing. If you’re ever in doubt, just resort to ciao, which means both hello and goodbye. It’s a little informal for goodbye, but will do in a pinch.
3. Per Favore
Pronunciation: pair fah-vor-eh
This one’s a no-brainer. A good way to remember it is that saying please always works in your favor. You can also say per piacere, which is a little more formal and also more difficult to pronounce.
Definition: “Thank you.”
Being able to say thank you in the local language will go a long way towards making you friends. Also, knowing how to properly pronounce grazie is important. Most Americans say “grah-tzee” (rhymes with Yahtzee) and drop the last syllable. Don’t be that American.
Now that we’ve gotten the greetings and pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to the survival basics you’ll need while studying abroad in Italy.
5. Dov’é il Bagno?
Pronunciation: dough-vay ill bah-nyoh
Definition: Where is the bathroom?
“Where’s the bathroom?” is super essential. Italians sometimes also call the bathroom the WC. You can ask for that, if you’d like, but it’s not very fun. Phoneticized, WC in Italian is doppiavu ci. Not really worth the hassle when you can just say bagno. But if you see a door marked WC, just know that’s the toilet.
6. Non Parlo Italiano.
Pronunciation: non par-low ee-tahl-ee-ah-noh
Definition: I don’t speak Italian.
Chances are you won’t get mistaken for a local when you’re in Italy. Italians are pretty good at spotting Americans: we dress differently, walk differently, talk differently. But if you’ve got Mediterranean coloring and a chic wardrobe, it might happen. When someone starts talking to you in rapid-fire Italian, just tell them, “I don’t speak Italian.” If you want to be a little more polite, you can add scusi, “excuse me,” or mi dispiace, “I’m sorry.”
7. Il Conto, Per Favore.
Pronunciation: ill cone-toh, pair fah-vor-eh
Defintion: Check, please.
Waiters in Italy will not bring you the check until you ask for it, so this is a handy phrase to know. While we’re on the subject of checks, unless you’re in certain parts of Rome, tipping isn’t customary in Italy. You won’t be asked for gratuity but you will have to pay the coperta if you’re at a sit-down restaurant. It’s a cover charge for the table service and bread.
8. Vorrei un Panino.
Pronunciation: vor-rey un pah-knee-noh
Definition: I would like a sandwich.
Speaking of restaurants, you should be able to order at one. The word vorrei is a very polite way of asking for what you’d like to eat. Of course, you can substitute panino for whatever item you’d like off the menu. And for the record, panino is one sandwich. Panini are multiple sandwiches. Don’t go to Italy and ask for un panini. Please.
9. Quanto costa?
Pronunciation: quahn-toe coh-stah
Definition: How much does it cost?
Being able to ask the price of something is invaluable if you plan on doing any shopping while studying abroad in Italy. You might not be able to understand the answer if they say it in Italian, though. To help yourself out, try to learn at least numbers one through ten.
10. Parli Inglese?
Pronunciation: par-lee in-glay-zay
Definition: Do you speak English?
If all else fails, it’s okay to fall back on your mother tongue. Ask if the person you’re talking to speaks English. Chances are they speak a little or someone nearby does and can help translate. Unless you’re in a very rural town, you probably won’t meet anyone who only speaks Italian. In fact, when I was studying abroad in Italy, I had the opposite problem. All the Italians I met were so eager to practice their English that I had a hard time finding someone who would speak Italian with me!