Italian Language Blog

Finding Your Way Around In Italy Posted by on May 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

At this time of year many people are starting to dream of a summer vacation in Italy. Time to brush up on that rusty Italian vocabulary?

These days, of course, English is spoken in all the big tourist hotspots, so those places don’t present much of a challenge. But if, like us, you prefer to get off the beaten track, to discover Italy’s hidden gems and interact with the ‘natives’, then you’re going to need to know at least some basic phrases that will help you find your way around.

Summer’s coming, although the late snow that fell last night would seem to belie that notion. Taken from my terrazza this morning: patches of snow amongst the emerald green foliage.

Getting there:

Noleggiare una macchina (hiring a car) can be fun … if you’re prepared to run the gauntlet of Italian roads! But un pullman (a coach), un autobus (a bus), or un treno (a train) is more relaxing, and provides way more opportunities for interacting with the locals! Let’s find that train or bus, shall we?

When referring to the railway station we tend to use the generic term stazione rather than the full title stazione ferroviaria (that’s a relief, isn’t it!). Here are a few ways of asking how to find it:
scusi, dov’è la stazione per favore? = excuse me, where is the railway station please?
or … scusi, dove si trova la stazione per favore? = excuse me, where is the railway station please? (literally: where can the station be found)
or … scusi, mi può dire come arrivare alla stazione per favore? = excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the railway station please?
If you are looking for the bus station then you’ll need to ask for la stazione degli autobus
and the bus stop is la fermata dell’autobus:
scusi, dov’è la fermata dell’autobus per favore? = excuse me, where is the bus stop please?
or … scusi, c’è una fermata dell’autobus qui vicino? = excuse me, is there a bus stop nearby?

Staying there:

Unless you’ve brought a tent with you, or you’re going to sleep on a park bench, you’ll probably want to find un hotel (a hotel … with a silent ‘h’), un albergo (another word for a hotel), una pensione (a boarding house), un bed and breakfast (no translation needed!), un ostello (a hostel), or another form of lodgings.

In order to avoid that park bench, head to the local Ufficio Turistico, or Pro Loco. To find your way there you can ask:
scusi, mi sa dire dove resta l’ufficio turistico/la Pro Loco per piacere? = excuse me, are you able to tell me where the tourist office/Pro Loco is please?
In out of the way places you may not find a tourist office, in which case you’ll have to ask around. Bars are traditionally a good place to start:
scusi, c’è una pensione/un bed and breakfast, ecc. qui vicino? = excuse me, is there a boarding house/B&B, etc. nearby?
Or perhaps you’ve played it safe and booked in advance, so you can ask:
scusi, mi può dire dove si trova l’Hotel Tramonto per piacere? = excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the Hotel Tramonto (Sunset Hotel) please?
scusi, come arrivo all’Albergo dell’Anfiteatro per favore? = excuse me, how do I get to the Albergo Anfiteatro  (Amphitheatre Hotel) please?
scusi, dove’è l’ostello della gioventù per piacere? = excuse me, where is the youth hostel please?

Eating there:

Well done, you’ve successfully avoided sleeping with i barboni (the tramps) in the park … but in the process you’ve worked up quite an appetite!

Why don’t you ask that friendly ragazzo or ragazza who just served you un buon cappuccino al bar (a nice cappuccino at the bar) for some advice? Go on, be courageous!
you could ask: mi può consigliare un ristorante/una pizzeria/una trattoria? = can you recommend me a restaurant/pizzeria/trattoria? (una trattoria is usually more basic and cheaper than un ristorante)

Sight seeing:

Good, we have a place to sleep and a nice full stomach, now it’s time to feed the mind and soul with beautiful things!:

scusi, come si arriva all’anfiteatro per favore? = excuse me, how do you get to the amphitheatre please? (literally: how does one arrive at …?)
scusi, quanto dista il Museo Etrusco? = excuse me, how far is it to the Etruscan Museum?
scusi, dove si trova La Pinacoteca Nazionale per favore? = excuse me, where is the National Art Gallery please?

And last, but certainly not least … finding a toilet!:

Public toilets are often few and far between in Italy, but let’s give it a go:
scusi, c’è un bagno/una toilette/un gabinetto qui vicino?
= excuse me, is there a toilet nearby?
If you don’t have any luck, you may find that your only option is going to a bar and using theirs, in which case you’ll need to ask: scusi, posso usare il bagno/la toilette/il gabinetto per favore? = excuse me, can I use the toilet please? Of course, it’s more polite if you also buy something while you’re there, so treat yourself to another buonissimo caffè!

Summary and Notes

scusi = excuse me (when addressing strangers use the third person singular subjunctive scusi. In less formal situations you can use scusa. If you’re addressing more than one person use scusate)

c’è …? = is there …?

ci sono …? = are there …?

mi può dire …? = can you tell me …? (use mi potete dire …? if speaking to more than one person)

dov’è …? = where is …? (dove = where, è = it is)

dove sono …? = where are …? (dove = where, sono = they are)

dove si trova …? = where is …? (literally: where does one find)

come si arriva a …? = how do you get to …? (literally: how does one arrive at)

come arrivo a …? = how do you I get to …? (literally: how do I arrive at)

quanto dista …? = how far is it …?

mi può consigliare …? = can you recommend me? (if there’s more than one of you then use ci può consigliare …? = can you recommend us?)

Please let us know if there’s anything else in this category that you’d find useful.

Alla Prossima!

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  1. William C Auge:

    Queste sono frasi utili per mettere nella mia banca di memoria. Domanda, a volte ha usato “per favore” e altre volte “per piacere”. C’e una differenza in uso?
    Grazie, Bill

    • Geoff:

      @William C Auge Ciao Bill, ‘per favore’ si usa lunedì, mercoledì e sabato mattina fino alle undici e trentacinque. Per il resto, si usa ‘per piacere’.

      Only joking!!!🤪

      Puoi usare quello che ti pare Bill, non c’è differenza. 🙂

  2. Andrei:

    Ciao Geoff
    Quando ho visitato Roma il novembre scorso, la prima cosa cho ho trovato era la Villa Giulia per vedere l’arte etrusco. Percio’ quella frase del museo Etrusco ha trovato molta risonanza in me
    Saliti da Andrei

    • Serena:

      @Andrei Il museo etrusco di Villa Giulia è bellissimo, specialmente il sarcofago degli Sposi!
      Saluti da Serena

  3. Kathleen Bello:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. I really appreciate your article, very nicely executed. You obviously put a lot of effort into it. Keep it up!

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