Italian Lesson

I love the Italian language. It’s one of the romantic Latin languages like Spanish and French and obviously in my opinion it’s the most beautiful in the world.

Even though I speak the language (and as I keep being told by my roman friends, with una bella pronuncia! – good pronunciation or accent), as it’s not my mother-tongue, I am still completely mesmerised by it.

I confess, that when socialising with Italian friends I have on rare occasion lost track of what they were saying because of how they were saying it.


It’s just a melodic and extremely polite language (oh and did i mention romantic?) Add to that the trademark mannerism of an Italian waving a hand when talking and being completely over animated and welcome to – like I said – the most beautiful language in the world!

My expat friends and I often talk about some great Italian words or phrases that are just about impossible to translate into English – interpret yes – but they just lose their essence and meaning. Or just sound much prettier in Italian! And then there’s Roman dialect (Romanaccio). Well that’s perhaps a post for another day!)

I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite Italian words, a few of those above-mentioned phrases that for me, are quite beautiful but lost in the English language translation as well as the Italian version of some common English phrases. Enjoy!

Amazing, shocking, mind-blowing.

It happens / it can happen.

Of course.

Maybe or I wish.

Da paura

Incredibile, resounding. I often hear this in soccer commentary, un passo strepitoso (great pass, passage of play).

Con calma
With a relaxed pace or take your time.

Niente di che
Nothing special.

Ma dai
Really? Or please come on.

Ci mancherebbe
This is my absolute favorite but extremely difficult to translate. The literal translation is, ‘It would be missed’. But interpreted, it’s a courtesy. So if you thank someone for giving you a lift, they might respond with “Ci mancherebbe” which basically equates to a “No need to thank me” or “Don’t mention it”. It can also be used in an ironic sense to mean ‘That would just about top it off’.

Altre e tanto
That and more is the literal translation but it’s more of a ‘Same to you’. If someone says ‘Have a good day” you could respond with ‘Altre e tanto’.

Another one of those words that can be used in a range of contexts but mostly as, ‘Wouldn’t you know’, ‘Just imagine’ or as a reply to thanks, ‘Don’t mention it’ / ‘No problem’.

Un occhiata
Give it a look or check it out. Like when a sales assistant at a shop asks if I need any help (oh hold on, as if that’s happened to me in Rome!! – just kidding!) and I’m happy to browse, I reply, ‘Sto solo dando un’occhiata’.

Mettiti nei pani miei
The translation here is, ‘Put yourself in my clothes’, but of course the English equivalent is ‘Put yourself in my shoes’.

Ogni morto di papa
This translates to ‘Every time a Pope dies’ – historically, not often! Hence the term. Instead in English we say, ‘Once in a blue moon’.

La goccia che fa traboccare il vaso
‘The drop that makes the vase overflow’. In English we say, ‘The straw that broke the camels back’.

La ciliegina sulla torta
Translation is ‘The cherry on the cake’. Whereas the English equivalent is ‘The icing on the cake’.

Non lo voglio vedere neanche in cartolina
Translates to, ‘I don’t even want to see that persons face on a postcard!’. In English I think we would say, ‘I cant stand the sight of them’.

Does anyone have any others to add?

Signing off from Rome,
Baci Maria

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