In my quest to conquer the Italian language, I often encounter kindred souls who are struggling with the same quixotic endeavor. Often, they are ahead of me on the learning curve, so I’m always keen to gain their advice and hints.
I love stories. They impart a deeper understanding of the subtitles of language when we hear it in real-life situations. And when funny or entertaining, they leave a stronger impression and therefore better imprinted on the memory. My guest today is Cher Hale from the Iceberg Project and she has a funny story, some good advice, and a few useful Italian travel phrases for the beginner Italian learner to commit to memory. I was recently honored to be a guest on her podcast, where we talked about getting a visa, teaching English in Rome, and of course, the Italian language.
Furthermore, she has been generous to donate a free copy of her eBook, “Essential Italian Travel Phrases” to one lucky reader of this post today (it normally sells for $17). Just click on the photo to the left or THIS LINK to tweet it out, and Cher will select a winner at random. I have a copy of this book, and it is the ideal companion for a traveler in Italy. Not overdone with grammar rules and such (there’s some), but rather these are the phrases that you’ll actually use in a variety of situations while travelling.
And if you have larger goals of improving your language skills even beyond the basic Italian travel phrases, her website is an excellent resource for practice lessons, vocabulary lists, exercises, and anything else you might need to distract you at work instead of wasting time on Facebook.
So without further nonsense from me, I’ll let Cher tell you about the dangers of wearing red garments in Torino on New Year’s Eve…
Italian Travel Phrases You’ll Need in a Tight Spot
While I’ve never been in dangerous situations while abroad in Italy, I am more than aware that they happen because of stories I’ve heard from friends and from actually being present with friends as their wallet or passport was stolen.
The closest I’ve been to feeling threatened while traveling was in Torino during Capodanno, or New Year’s Eve.
My adopted Italian family told me that I should wear red undergarments for the New Year because it brought good luck, so with my red trench coat on as a substitute, my friend and I braved the masses in Piazza San Carlo in Torino. We were excited to be a part of the crowd, listening to music and enjoying the speeches that we barely understood.
And right at the countdown, maybe at nove or otto, I felt a sensation creeping up my backside, a sensation that I had been feeling for the past fifteen minutes and just ignoring on account of being in a crowd.
But yes, what you’re thinking is right.
I nudged my friend and gave her a confused face.
“Do you feel that?” I asked.
She nodded and motioned to the people behind us.
“I’ve been feeling it for a while,” She whispered.
With that encouragement, I turned around to witness two creepy guys who had been feeling us up over the past fifteen minutes up until start of the countdown to the New Year.
The way they were looking at us was off kilter, so I grabbed my friend’s hand and started to pull us through the crowd away from the two sporcaccioni (dirty men). We reached the outer sections of the crowd before I looked back and noticed that they were following us. Whenever we would make a move, they would, too.
So as the crowd around us partied and fireworks went off, we ran out of the crowd and didn’t stop looking back until we were safely in our room.
After that experience I realized how little vocabulary I had to deal with situations like that, and I made a serious effort to learn them afterwards. Luckily, I haven’t had to use any of them since.
To help you avoid the lack of the necessary vocabulary in situations like these, here are eight Italian travel phrases you might need in a tight spot – from getting lost, reporting a robbery, and getting sick to shooing creepy men away.
[For the men to say] Mi sono perso.
me SO-no PEAR-so
[For the ladies to say] Mi sono persa.
me SO-no PEAR-sah
Dov’è il commissariato?
DOH-vEH eel ko-mees-sahr-ee-AH-toe
Where is the police station?
There are four different levels of police force in Italy. The form that you’ll encounter less is the corpo forestale. These officers enforce laws for most activities having to do with the environment, like hunting or fishing.
The next kind of police force is the polizia municipale, which are most like the highway patrol we encounter in America when we’re driving too fast. They also deal with petty crimes.
Officially, the polizia di stato patrol the highway, but they tend to be more of assistance-type officers for auto troubles.
The most powerful type of police force is the carabinieri. They are officially members of the military.
Devo contattare il consolato.
DEH-vo cone-tah-TAR-eh eel cone-so-LAH-toe
I need to contact the consulate.
Before you leave, make copies of your passport, your ID, all of your credit and debit cards. Keep one copy at home with someone you trust and other copies with you different places.
If you lose your passport or it’s stolen, contact your consulate for a replacement. Plus, always carry your passport in areas that are separate from your cash or debit/credit cards to reduce the chance of it being stolen.
Dov’è la farmacia più vicina?
DOH-vEH lah far-ma-CHEE-ah pew vee-CHEE-nah
Where is the nearest pharmacy?
mal di testa
mal dee TEHS-tah
mal di gola
mal dee GO-lah
mal di stomaco
mal dee STO-mah-ko
If you’re looking to evade creepy men at any juncture of your trip in Italy, the phrase below will work best. The one after it is meant to make you smile.
Non mi interessa.
non me een-tehr-REHS-sah
I’m not interested.
Hai votato per Berlusconi l’elezione scorsa? [Informal]
eye vo-TAH-toe pear bear-loo-SCONE-ee leh-lez-ee-OH-neh SCORE-sah
Did you vote for Berlusconi in the last elections?
Cher Hale is an instigator of adventure and romance on her blog The Iceberg Project, where she teaches people how to charm Italians with their own language.
Here again is THE LINK to tweet out your chance to win a copy of Cher’s book.