Useful Italian Travel Phrases

Ok, so now you’ve made it to Italy! Your tours are booked, your days are planned, your camera is on hand, and your taste buds are ready to tuck into wonderful Italian food. Great! You didn’t forget anything. Except for … LEARNING ITALIAN!

Lucky for you, most travelers that visit Italy don’t actually know Italian, and you will find that the locals are not as terrible as one might think at speaking English. However, you want want to fit in and try speak a little bit of Italian right? Also, you will run into people that don’t speak a lick of anything BUT Italian, so you will want to have a few key sentences in your pocket that you can show off when the time is right.

Common Italian words that travelers should know:

1 Prego: ‘You’re Welcome.’ Also, ‘Please’ as in ‘be my guest/go ahead/help yourself’

This is one of the phrases that you’ll hear a lot throughout your stay in Italy. Italians use this phrase every day while speaking to friends, family members, and strangers. It means a few different things, so don’t be surprised if you hear it used in different ways.

Example: You are boarding the train and your ticket is for the window seat. You see someone sitting in the aisle seat of your row so you gesture to the window and maybe smile/ show them your ticket. The person stands and, with a big smile, says: “Prego!”

2 Permesso: ‘Excuse me’

If you find yourself on a crowded train or in a crowded church, museum, hotel lobby, etc, you will need this phrase. It is a very common word that you will hear a lot if you visit in the high season and you’re trying to get around a busy city.

Example: If you’re trying to scoot pass people on a busy street you would use ‘permesso’.

If you are trying to get someone’s attention, you won’t say permesso, you will say….

3 Scusi: ‘Excuse me’

This is the second way to say ‘excuse me,’ confusing, right? In English there is only one way to say ‘excuse me’ but with different meanings, in Italian they use two words. This version of ‘excuse me’ is used more in the context of getting someone’s attention. Here’s a way to remember and distinguish the two phrases: when passing people use ‘permesso,’ when signaling someone, use ‘scuzi.’

Example: You are at a restaurant and need the waiter. You politely catch their attention with a ‘scusi.’

4 Grazie: ‘Thank you’- be sure to enunciate that last “E” –> Grah-tzee-ae

This is one of the most common phrases that you will need throughout your stay in Italy so make sure you remember this one!

Example: You want to say thank you to your waiter for giving you your meal, say ‘Grazie.’

5 Per Favore: ‘Please’

‘Please’ is arguably the most important word to know when you’re traveling.

Key Italian phrases to know when in transit:

If you plan to get around Italy and don’t want to get stuck then it’s best to know a few phrases that can help you out while you’re in transit. These phrases are necessary when you’re taking any public transport:

1 Un biglietto dell’autobus, per favore: ‘one bus ticket, please’

If you need to get around Italy, then it is necessary to buy a ticket or a pass. You can switch the word ‘dell’autobus’ for any mode of transport that you will be using to make it useful in all situations.

Example: If you’re trying to buy a bus ticket from a newsstand or Tabacchi store then you can ask for ‘un biglietto dell’autobus per favore’ which will get you one bus ticket.

2 Scendi?: ‘Disembarking?’

If you’re using public transport in Italy then it is common for you to hear this phrase. Whenever you want to get off public transport you can use this phrase. If you’re waiting by the door, people may ask you this too.

Example: If you’re waiting at the bus stop door and want to get off you can ask the people in front of you ‘scendi?’ and you will know if they are also getting off at the next stop.

3 Permesso, scendo alla prossima: ‘excuse me, I am getting off at the next stop’

When you’re traveling around Venice, Rome, or any other city in Italy by public transport then it is likely that you will need this phrase.

Example: If you’re waiting to get off the metro then you pay say ‘Permesso, scendo alla prossima’ and this will help clear the way for you.

Top phrases you need at restaurants in Italy:

When you visit Italy, you are definitely going to want to eat amazing pizza, pasta and gelato! But once you’ve gotten over the hardest decision of picking the restaurant, your next task comes: trying to order in Italian. Although some restaurants do speak English and you can point at the menu, to feel like a local, it’s always a good idea to try and order in Italian.

1 Vorrei / Vorrei Ordinare: ‘I would like / I would like to order’

This is a necessary phrase to be able to order that Italian Carbonara that you’ve been dreaming of since you started planning your holiday.

Example: If you want to order your meal simply say ‘Vorrei …’  and your order.

2 Scusi, potrei avere del sale?: ‘Excuse me, may I have some salt?’

Now you’ve got your meal and it’s everything you hoped for but you want to add a little bit of salt to make it perfect.

Example: Simply ask the waiter ‘Scusi, potrei avere del sale?’ and you’ll be given the salt that you want! If you want to change this to pepper (Pepe) or anything else you just remove ‘sale’ and add the word you want.

3 Dove’è il bagno?: ‘where’s the bathroom?’

After walking around the city all day and taking tours you’re definitely going to want to wash your hands or go to the bathroom.

Example: When you see your waiter just ask ‘Dove’è il bagno?’ and they will be able to show you where the bathroom is.

4 Un’altra bottiglia di vino per favore!: ‘another bottle of wine please!’

Italy is famous for their wine and after finishing one amazing bottle you will probably want another bottle.

Example: You can put together two key phrases here: ‘Scusi’ (Excuse me) and ‘Un’altra bottiglia di vino per favore’. If you want to change this to water (aqua) or anything else then just exchange the ‘di vino’ for whatever you want. 

5 Potrei avere il conto per favore?: ‘Can I have the bill please?’

When your meal is done and you’re ready to head back to your hotel or back to see the beautiful Italian city then you need to request your bill. In other countries, they will bring the bill without being asked. This is usually not the case in Italy! You could do the typical hand gesture for the bill but that isn’t as fun as using your new Italian phrases. The typical hand gesture looks like: making eye contact with your waiter, raising you right hand and pretending like you are signing your signature in the air (or on the palm of your other hand). The waiter might nod or might just disappear (to go get your bill).

Alternatively, if you are at a more casual bar or trattoria, you can stand up and go pay your tab with whoever is perched on a stool in front of a register. This is typical behavior in Italy so no need to feel sheepish; waiters expect smaller tips and therefore do not benefit from table turnover so they have no incentive to bring you your bill in a timely fashion.

Example: This is where you’ll be adding together your key phrases again, ‘Potrei avere il conto’ and ‘per favore’ to get your bill.

Key Italian phrases for shopping:

Everyone knows that Italy is famous for shopping, especially Milan! But if you’re planning to go to some authentic Italian shops you will need to know some key phrases as not every shopkeeper will speak English.

1 Dove si trova il camerino?: ‘Where is the dressing room?’

After you’ve found all of the beautiful Italian clothes that you just can’t go home without, you will need to try them on. Instead of going round and round the shop to try find a dressing room or leaving without trying anything on, easily just ask for the dressing room with our key phrase.

Example: Find someone who works in the shop and ask ‘Dove si trova il camerino?’

2 C’è una taglia più piccola/grande?: ‘Is there a smaller/bigger size?’

Once you’ve tried on the item you want and you can’t find the right size, it’s time to ask.

Example: When you see someone who works in the shop ask ‘C’è una taglia più piccola/grande?’ and they should be able to help you get your ideal size.

3 Che prezzi?: ‘what is the price?’

What is the big question that everyone needs to know when they’re buying their clothes or gifts? The price!

Example: When you want to buy some new clothes and you can’t find the price, take it up to the desk and ask ‘Che prezzi?’

4 Prendo questi: ‘I will take these’

Now you’ve tried on your clothes, got the right size and know exactly what the price is, it’s time to buy it!

Example: When you’re at the desk say ‘Prendo questi’ and they will process your order.

Key Italian phrases you need for taking a taxi:

When you’re visiting Italy and you don’t want to take public transport, your other option is to take a taxi. In Italy there are a lot of taxi drivers who may not speak fluent English so if you don’t want to get lost, it’s best to know some key phrases.

1 Devo andare alla stazione centrale: ‘I have to go the central station.’

If you don’t want to get lost then you need to know this phrase. You can use this for everywhere that you need to go and it will help you get to your destination without any confusion.

Example: If you want to go to the central station then say to your driver ‘Devo andare alla stazione centrale’ but if you want to change this to your hotel or anywhere else just use ‘Devo andare alla…’ and add in where you need to go.

2 Quanto le devo?: ‘how much do I owe you?’

Once your ride is over and you’re ready to pay then you need to know how much you need to give the driver.

Example: When you’re at your destination ask your driver ‘Quanto le devo?’

3 Accettate la carta di credito?: ‘Do you take credit cards?’

If you happened to not bring cash and there aren’t any cash machines around then you will have to pay by your credit or debit card. Be sure to confirm with the driver that this will be ok.

Example: When you are getting into the taxi, simply ask your driver ‘Accettate la certa di credito?’ and you’ll be able to find out straight away if they do.

Note: In other countries it may be more common for taxi drivers to take credit cards but in Italy it isn’t as common.

Now you know all of our top Italian phrases to manage common travel scenarios, you’re ready for your holiday! And remember to always say ‘Arrivederci!’