You have saved and planned for months, and your dream trip to Italy is just around the corner. Whether you’re sightseeing in world-famous cities like Rome or Florence, you are booking a gondola ride in Venice, or a dream trip in the hills of Tuscany, you know you will enjoy the experience more if you speak a little basic Italian.

So, if you want to talk with people, order your food, and feel as though you fit in, even if you don’t know how to speak Italian perfectly, your first objective should be to learn Italian survival phrases. 

You may also wonder whether you are too old to learn the basics of Italian for travel or whether you can afford to do so. Luckily, there are many ways to learn basic Italian travel phrases, fast and effectively. Here’s how!

First step: learn basic Italian for travel

You could feel frustrated walking into a situation in which you don’t know any words in the language at all. So, when you’re traveling through a foreign country, learning a little bit of the local language by yourself can go a long way. But it’s not enough to fare la valigia (pack your suitcase) and watch Italian language movies before you leave. You should at least learn the basics for travel, such as keywords and phrases, Italian numbers, how to pronounce Italian words, and ask questions in Italian.

How to learn Italian for travel: start from the basic words and phrases
How to learn Italian for travel: start from the basic words and phrases

Ciao! Come stai?

You can find plenty of English speakers in Italy’s major cities. However, most Italians will appreciate you trying to speak their language; you’ll be surprised how many new friends you can make.

However, if you don’t have enough time to attend a real and proper Italian language course, here is a list of useful basic terms and phrases to learn for travel and to get you started:

Hello: Ciao
Good morning: Buongiorno
Good evening: Buonasera
Please: Per favore; per piacere
Thank you: Grazie
You’re welcome: Prego; di niente
How’s it going?: Come va?
I’m sorry: Mi dispiace
Excuse me: Mi scusi
Excuse me (passing through a crowd): Permesso

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Some Italian phrases tourists should know

To make the most of your trip, you should also learn some essential travel terms and phrases. Knowing a handful of travel words and phrases in Italian gives you more freedom to explore: even in the most visited cities, assuming English is enough to get by is a big travel mistake.

Here are some Italian words and phrases to learn for travel:

Do you speak Italian?: Parla italiano?
My name is…: Mi chiamo…
I don’t understand: Non capisco
I need help: Ho bisogno di aiuto
Restaurant: Ristorante
I would like… (ordering food or buying a ticket): Vorrei
The bill, please: Il conto, per favore
Where is…?: Dov’è…?
Toilet, Bathroom: Bagno
Train: Treno
Platform: Binario
Seat: Posto a sedere
Airport: Aeroporto

Read more: The most common Italian words and how to use them

Basic Italian for tourists at a shop

Navigating through shops is a delightful part of your travel experience in Italy. Learning some basic Italian will make your shopping easier and more enjoyable.

Here are some words and phrases you can use at the shops during your trip:

How much is this?: Quanto costa?
Credit card: Carta di credit
Can I pay with a credit card?: Posso pagare con la carta di credit?
Debit card: Bancomat (same word as for ATM)
ATM: Bancomat
Cash: Contanti
Change (money): Resto
Open: Aperto
Closed: Chiuso
Entrance: Entrata
Exit: Uscita
Size: Taglia
Color: Colore
Fitting room: Camerino
Grocery store: Negozio di alimentari
Bookstore: Libreria
Souvenir: Souvenir

These words and phrases should help you feel more confident during your shopping adventures in Italy. Buona spesa! (Happy shopping!)

Tourists needing to ask for directions in Italy
Discover how to ask for directions while traveling in Italy

Learn Italian for travel: how to ask for direction

It is very important to learn how to ask for directions in Italian. Here are a few examples:

To go: Andare
Straight: Diritto (dritto)
To walk: Camminare
Right: A destra
Left: A sinistra
To turn: Girare
To stop: Fermare
Close: Vicino
Far: Lontano
I am lost, can you help me?: Mi sono perso, può aiutarmi?

It can surely be useful to learn this list of words and phrases by heart, but maybe it is not enough. And what about the pronunciation of the Italian language? It can be a bit complicated for a beginner. And even if you think you have a pretty good understanding of Italian, you may not understand a word your neighbor is saying to you. And if you are asked to talk in another language, your heart might start to race a little.

Learning some of the basics of the Italian language for tourists by attending an Italian language survival course before traveling can save you a headache later on. The courses are dedicated to those who do not know the language but have the desire to communicate with simple phrases (such as ordering at the restaurant, learning to introduce themselves, understanding road information, booking a hotel or a plane ticket, and so on.).

The more effort you make to learn the language, the more immersed you will feel, and the greater the value you will receive from your travel experience. 

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Best ways to learn Italian before traveling

It is a wise idea to learn some basic Italian before moving to Italy and there are so many learning resources to choose from, it’s just a matter of deciding which suits your style of learning. Many learning options will make learning Italian easy and fun.

Full multimedia immersion

First of all, you can immerse yourself in the Italian language at home: listen to Italian music, podcasts, YouTube videos, audiobooks, movies, and TV shows in Italian. Try to turn on the TV on an Italian channel and leave it in the background while you are cooking or busy around the house: it is a way to pick up so much unconsciously of the Italian language.

Taking conversation: learn to speak Italian for travel

Practice speaking with someone who’s a native Italian language speaker. Communicating in your target language can be challenging and intimidating, so it is better to find a friendly native speaker who can help you improve your skills and build your confidence.

However, it is not always easy to find a native Italian speaker who takes the trouble or has the time to devote to the conversation, or in any case who is also able to help you with learning. Therefore, if you want to deepen or refine, or if you want to save yourself further frustrations and ready yourself by learning conventions of the language, you can take online Italian lessons with a mother tongue teacher. Whatever your level is, you can practice and learn simultaneously to help you boost your confidence and your command of the language.

And how to learn Italian for travel once you’re in!

Learning a foreign language is easiest to do by fully immersing in it, such as while living in a foreign country. However, finding yourself traveling in Italy before feeling completely comfortable in the Italian language can feel unsettling. Don’t worry, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Here are some tips on how to travel and learn a language at the same time!

Learn Italian for travel: basic Italian for your next trip to Italy
Fully immerse yourself in Italian for seamless travel. Let go and embrace the journey!

A real full immersion

If you are unable to use your native language, you will have no choice but to adapt. To learn a language while traveling, keep an app or language dictionary handy to look up new words and phrases. Once you learn a new word or phrase, listen to it carefully to how it sounds. Then, you can try to imitate it.  

If you’re visiting Venice, you can join Italian language meet-ups, where you’ll have fun speaking Italian. Forget your native language for a while and immerse yourself in the Italian language: you just might surprise yourself with how much you already know, and how much you’ll learn along the way!

Release your inhibitions

Your first experience in speaking Italian will not be perfect, especially at the beginning of the trip. If you focus too much on perfecting the language, you are not likely to express yourself like you want to. This will also hinder your enjoyment of your travel experience.

Instead, locals will appreciate the effort you are making to speak their language rather than insisting they speak yours. Open yourself to helpful tips from native speakers, and soon you will find yourself speaking Italian in no time.

When all else fails, try to speak Italian with your hands: it is a way to share emotions that Italians will understand implicitly, and it will be much appreciated.

Studying Italian for travel at your hotel

If you’re traveling in Venice, Italy, you might enjoy waking up to the gentle sound of waves, and then having breakfast with espresso and pastry, just like an Italian. Afterward, you can continue your Italian day in the hotel garden, learning Italian in a fun and engaging way with a qualified teacher. Or perhaps in the afternoon, after a morning spent exploring Venice, or even in the evening.

You can choose how to learn Italian while traveling. You can join walking tours, Italian language meet-ups, lessons in museums, but also right in your hotel. It will be possible to learn Italian on a sun-kissed balcony, in a tranquil garden, or overlooking a bustling piazza. Each session will be a fun, professional, and immersive experience in the Italian language.

Study Italian for travel at your hotel
Learn Italian in a fun and engaging way with a qualified teacher

Italian school in Venice

Learn Italian for travel through experiences

Immersing yourself in authentic local experiences is probably the best way to learn Italian for travel. You can begin with the Italian survival course, a chat & walk course where you will spend one and a half hours walking in Venice and learning useful phrases in Italian without staying in a classroom.

For a tranquil evening escape, you can join the Venice Silent Tour. You’ll discover a different side of Venice, while learning Italian and stopping in front of buildings where Marco Polo, Casanova, Tintoretto, and other famous Venetians lived.

Water is central to the life and culture of Venice. To travel on this element and learn phrases and words in Italian to use during your trip, you can choose the Italian lesson on a sailing boat. You will spend a day in the Venice lagoon, the island of Burano, learning Italian through innovative and fun techniques.

Experience Venice and Italy's charm as you delve into mastering the Italian language
Experience Italy’s charm as you delve into mastering the language

Studying Italian by traveling

You have plenty of different options available for attending a language course in Italy. The easiest choice is to find a language course that lasts for a specific amount of time and fits your level of the Italian language.

But there is no need to lock yourself in a classroom and go back to school. An excellent opportunity is to attend an Italian course outdoors: this unique experience takes place in the astonishing city of Venice, where a mother tongue teacher takes you in the streets of the floating city, teaching in a communicative method while discovering parts of Venice’s history.

So if you do want to get into the Italian language, don’t forget that learning how to sound fluid and natural in Italian requires a lot of speaking practice and not just listening, reading, and writing. Most of all, it’s meant to be fun: make sure to engage in activities that you find joy in, such as traveling, visiting new places, and ordering an excellent meal at the restaurant. And experience a new country from the eyes of someone who is no longer a typical tourist.