Italian Language Blog

Italian Body Language Posted by on Jul 23, 2021 in Culture

Italian Body Language

Words and speaking are important, but so is non-verbal communication like body language. Italians are known to gesticulate consistently with their hands, so let’s look at some common gestures and maybe some body language to avoid.


Saying “occhio” (eye) while slightly tugging your eye socket to reveal your eye means “watch out!”


Thumb up and index finger extended, while rotating it back and forth means “nothing.” If someone asks if you have any money, this gesture could be used with or without the actual words attached.


Not a hand gesture – but rather body language you may want to avoid. Sitting at the angle of a table indicates to some superstitious Italians that you will never be married. My Italian friend and I would cheekily do this all over Sicily while saying “la libertà!” (freedom)!

“Fare le corna

The sign of the “horns” is a sign made to ward off il malocchio (evil eye) – any type of evil or ill fortune. Stretch your pinkie and index fingers with your hand facing downwards to look like horns. This could be accompanied by saying tiè! (take that!)

Once I said “addio” to an Italian waiter, knowing I was leaving Italy the next day and I would never see him again, knowing that it was ‘final’ but not exactly what kind of ‘final’. He quickly said that meant one of us will die, made the sign of the horns, and toccato ferro (touched iron – like how we would knock on wood) to ward off the evil fortune that I had unknowingly conjured up!

Making le corna towards someone (upwards) could imply they’ve been cheated on, since the bull’s horns in ancient times were the symbol of a betrayed lover. For that reason the expression: fare le corna a qualcuno means to be unfaithful to someone.


With your palm facing inwards, flatten your fingers but lift only your thumb; then move your hand several times in a side-to-side motion. This is the sign for “let’s get out of here.” Scappa – escape!

“Che vuoi?”

Bunch your fingers together, with tips touching and pointing upward. You can either hold your hand still or move it up and down at the wrist. “Che vuoi – what do you want?!” It can also simply mean “what?” This can be done in an exasperated fashion with someone who may be bothering you, for example, with an expletive and both hands in this position.


This “cheek screw” gesture means something is squisito (delicious). Extend the index finger of one hand and twist it into the cheek multiple times.


Press the thumb and index finger of one hand together and draw a straight horizontal line drawn in the air. This means “perfetto – perfect!”

“Non mi importa”

When you brush under your chin with the upper part of your fingers, you’re saying I don’t care. This is quite a strong gesture, and communicates disdain, so be careful using it.


Of course, there are a lot more Italian gestures! 😊 Feel free to share some of your experiences with Italian hand gestures in the comments! ⬇

Image from CCO, Unsplash.

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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement for Transparent Language.


  1. Rosanna McFarlin:

    molto interessanti. Grazie

  2. Rosanna g McFarlin:

    si dice scappa non scapa.

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