10 phrases you should know in Italian

By April Leonard

As I took my first few steps off the plane in Pisa, it finally hit me, I was about to spend the next four months studying abroad in Italy. As I was walking toward the baggage claim with my eyes wide open like a kid in a candy store, I realized that I had no idea what any of the signs said. I had never taken any Italian language classes, and the few words I knew were from my one attempt on the language app Duolingo. La ragazza, i ragazzi, la donna, and l’uomo was all I had going for me.

After collecting our overweight baggage, we headed toward the bus to Florence. “Wait!” yelled my friend, “I’m starving, I’m going to grab a snack.” We waited for a couple minutes and she came back saying, “Oh my gosh you guys I waited in line and when I got to the front I realized I had no idea how to order!” Hmm, we really were here in Italy, and we had no idea how to say anything.

Our first day of Italian class, we spent almost the entire time asking our teacher, “come si dice….?” ( how do you say) whatever words we wanted to know. With that being said, the following 10 phrases are commonly used in conversation and will help you get around Florence without feeling completely foreign.


  1. First things first, Ciao! Which is hello in Italian.
  2. Arrivederci. Goodbye.
  3. Scusa or scusi (formal). Excuse me or sorry. Use when you want to grab someone’s attention.
  4. Per favore. Please.
  5. Grazie. Thank you; if you don’t know anything else, at least you are being polite, which everyone appreciates.  
  6. Prendo – I will take, or vorrei – I would like. Use these to order; most dishes are already written in Italian and often translated below so just add “prendo” before and “per favore” at the end and you’ll have created a whole phrase in Italian.
  7. Il conto per favore. Check please. In Italy it’s different from the states, they do not rush you out of the restaurant, so they often will not bring the check till you ask for it.
  8. Dov’è…? Where is…? The Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, una gelateria?
  9. Ho una domanda. I have a question. Even if you aren’t sure how to ask that question in Italian, whoever you are asking will be more willing to help since you are at least trying to speak the language.
  10. Non capisco. I don’t understand. If you have no idea what someone is saying to you just say non capisco, and they will try their best to translate to English, if they know English.

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