March 11


Italian Travel Phrases

By Rick

March 11, 2014

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.

italian travel phrases
Click to Tweet for a chance to win!

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 

phrases for travelling in ItalyWhile 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.

piazza castello, tornioI gave the one behind me my rudest face – which looks more like an upset child, as I’m bad at being mean – and he smiled widely at me.

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

I’m lost

[For the ladies to say] Mi sono persa.

me SO-no PEAR-sah

I’m lost




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?



I have…

            la febbre

lah FEB-breh


            il raffreddore

eel ra-freh-DOOR-eh


            mal di testa

mal dee TEHS-tah


            mal di gola

mal dee GO-lah

sore throat

            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?

Photo on 1-1-13 at 12.57 AM #2

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.

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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Mee pee-aah-chay. Nice one Rick – should help a few people…until Italians reply! Had this minor problem when I was first here 😉



  • Suggestions on how to get the gypsies to back off from the Metro ticket booths? Vai via doesn’t seem to really work.

      • Well I wouldn’t want to actually touch one, could lead to even more unpleasantness, however, do I take it to mean a hand in front of their face will deter them? Taking a picture with my phone of the “head guy” seemed to make some bit of difference but it is still intimidating. Ten years of trips to Italy and I have never seen this before, flanking the ticket machines in the stations in Milano. Hope the locals will raise enough of a stink to get them moved off. In these times of suffering economy it is not in Italy’s best interest to allow tourists to be constantly bullied and “robbed”. yes, they do reach in and take whatever change has come down without even a thank you. I wonder if the same situation exists also in Firenze e Roma?

        • Yeah, I’ve noticed the major metro ticket ‘problem cities’ are Rome and Milan. In Florence, at the train station, there was a recent rash of robberies (especially on trains before departing….a lot of bags stolen, or people harrassed into giving money to “help” carry the bag on the train and expected payment), so the police actually did a blitz and now there is an obvious police presence in the station (mainly they chat amongst themselves, but I haven’t seen the circles of gypsies skulking about like before, nor congregated outside the back exit) Maybe, unfortunately, once the situation gets bad enough in Milan they will actually take steps to correct this issue?

          • Interesting, I didn’t know about that. Maybe that was a decision made at the local level…the former Mayor (now P.M) wanted Florence to look good for the cameras! Nothing wins respect/votes so much as a bella figura! (I’m joking, of course, but who knows?)

            • What votes, he wasn’t even elected! har har har. 😉 But, yes, as you noted, the article pretty much states it was done since the Station is a visitor’s first image of Florence, so why have it tarnished so early? I totally agree. I do love Rome myself, but there is no uglier welcome to a city than Termini, and the general area surrounding. sigh.

              • The area around Termini isn’t, frankly, that ugly or dangerous. I work nearby and never had a problem there, not even going back home in the evening… as for all these gypsies on the ticket machines at Metro stations, I honestly have never seen them in twenty years.

                Perhaps I’m just lucky? 😉

              • September 2013 was the first time we saw the gypsies flanking the ticket booths in Milano. We have been visiting Italy every year since 2003. It was in the Metro stations, not the Stazione Centrale. Have not been to Rome or Firenze since 2012 so can’t speak for any changes there. There has always been the occasional man, trying to assist, but they have always been polite and not in your face. The gypsies will grab whatever change comes out, they don’t even ask for a “tip”.

              • Yep, that sounds about right. A friend used to work at one of those currency exchange booths in Termini. Everyday, the same gypsy would come to her window and exchange her coins for bank notes. My friend wasn’t to happy to see that the gypsy made more money on “tips” than my friend took home in salary.

        • Careful with the phone, they might steal that, too! But yes, certainly it exists in Rome, and I’m betting it’s even worse than Milan. The way I see it, there just isn’t the manpower to manage the enormous number of gypsies. And what would you do with them anyway? You can’t deport them, because they don’t have a country/citizenship. Jail? That’s even a bigger financial burden on the state. In the end, I think it’s up to the individual to be as vigilant as possible. Not a perfect “solution,” but what else can you or I do?

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