Italian language phrases you won’t hear in the classroom

Language holidays

Italian language phrases you won’t hear in the classroom

If we are honest, when we think about learning Italian, we imagine beautiful words pouring smoothly out of our mouths while we converse suavely with Italian waiters in the Tuscan hills or in one of the Piazzas in Rome.

The reality is often quite different. Instead of suave, we sound, well, just not very Italian.

We carefully practise out best phrases, doing our best Italian accent and putting all the words in the right place, and yet the Italian locals still smile politely and then reply in English! What are we doing wrong?

What we probably don’t realise is that all the words we are saying, even though they aren’t wrong per se, just aren’t how the locals would say it.

Here is a list of 5 great Italian phrases to use on holiday in Italy, and this really is how the Italians would say it!

  1. ‘In bocca al lupo’ – This literally means ‘in the mouth of the wolf’ but Italians use it to mean ‘good luck’ (it is actually considered bad luck to say ‘buona fortuna’).  The correct way to respond to ‘in bocca al lupo’ is to say ‘crepi il lupo’ (may the wolf die). Whatever you do, don’t say ‘grazie’!
  2. Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare – This is how Italians would say ‘easier said than done’.  Word for word it means ‘Between the saying and the doing there is the sea’. It might come in handy when trying to get a bus in Italy…
  3. Tirare il pacco – ‘To throw the package’ is how the Italians would say ‘she stood me up’.
    Example:
    A: How did your date last night go?
    B: Pretty badly. Mi ha tirato il pacco (she stood me up).
  4. ‘Vai a quel paese’ – If you ever need to tell someone to get lost, this is the best way of doing it. It literally translates to ‘go to that town’, though it might be best to practise this on people you know!
  5. Avere le braccine corte – If an Italian tells you ‘hai le braccine corte’ (you have short arms), they are telling you that you are stingy – so you might want to buy the next round.

Now you are ready to speak Italian like a local. In bocca al lupo (good luck)!


Now, it is all very well to sit and read about learning Italian, but the best way to sharpen your speaking skills is to visit Italy and learn Italian where it is spoken.

We offer Italian language holidays in both Sorrento and Florence and our experienced Italian teachers will provide you with everything you need to start speaking Italian like a local.

Is Italian cookery more your thing? One of our Italian language and cooking holidays could be right up your street.

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