Travel Tidbit: Italian Phrases to Survive in Italy


I lost my phone on the way to Rome a few years ago. My friend and I were traveling from Paris to Rome and when I got to the airport, my phone was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, we were relying on my international plan for navigating and planning. My friend could use her phone with Wi-Fi, but without Wi-Fi, we were out of luck.

We wanted to see the Mediterranean Sea while we were in Italy, so we set off one day to Santa Marinella, just a quick train ride from Rome. We were a bit confused figuring out where to get tickets at the train station. Finally, we found our man and (stupidly) bought one-way tickets to the beach! That’s when things began to go wrong.

First, the train didn’t announce the name of each stop and we got off a few stops early. Okay, so it wasn’t the busy beach town of Santa Marinella but instead the sleepy (literally – they were on a siesta when we arrived) town of Santa Severa. Okay, it wasn’t what we were expecting, but we made it to the beach and got some gelato, and that’s what matters.

Santa Severa

After about an hour relaxing on the beach, my friend got antsy. She wanted to go back already and I was confused – there was still plenty of daylight and we had nowhere to be. However, when we got back to the train station (about a mile walk), I realized why. There was no ticket machine, nor was there any sort of ticket office. We started to panic a bit.

We walked to a gas station which was in the opposite direction of the town but closer. I took two and a half years of Italian in college and had been brushing up with Duolingo before our trip and so I asked him in Italian where we could buy tickets for the train: “Dove possiamo comprare i biglietti per il treno?”

I was able to understand that we had to walk two kilometers back to the town and buy them in a store. We started to hustle – by this time it was close to five, and we could tell that this town would close up around then. Once back in the town, we went to the small grocery store that had been closed for a siesta when we first arrived. Inside, I asked again in Italian where we could get tickets. I began to panic when the cashier spoke to the person behind us and they said, “É chiuso, é chiuso” – it is closed, it is closed. However, she gave us directions and we rushed through the town to the little newspaper stand. It was still open, and the man rolled his eyes at us as we anxiously bought our tickets.

We made it back to Rome fine, and the story became a little funny, but at the time it was terrifying to think we’d be stranded in a very small town far away from our hostel. We were both thankful that I could speak Italian well enough to resolve our issue and I came to realize the importance of knowing some of the local language. It’s not just polite and respectful, it could be downright necessary. Here are some key Italian phrases to help with your next trip to Italy.

“Vorrei un ____ (caffé, birra, acqua)” = I would like a (coffee, beer, water, etc.)

· “Per favore” = “Please” ·

· “Prego” = “You’re welcome” ·

· “Grazie” = “Thank you” ·

· “Mi scusi” = “Excuse me” ·

· “Ciao! Mi chiama __” = “Hi! My name is __” ·

· “Dov’é ____ (il Colosseo, il bagno)?” = “Where is  ____ (the Colosseum, the bathroom, etc.)?” ·

· “Dove sono ___” = “Where are ___” ·

· “Dove posso comprare ____” = “Where can I buy ___” ·

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