Our guide to Italian
Jade O'Donoghue

Our guide to Italian

First published date September 06 2013 Amended date October 31 2014

Everyone loves a good slice of pizza or a filling bowl of pasta but how much do you know about where they come from? Aspects of Italian culture have filtered into our everyday lives yet only 0.2% of the UK population speak the language.

Whether you’re planning a holiday to Rome, a business trip to Milan, or just want to be able to understand the menu of your favourite restaurant a bit better, an Italian course will set you right up with everything you need – from being able to speak the language to reading signs and, of course,  asking for the bill for your meal.


Why study Italian?

Not only is it spoken in Italy (that one’s obvious!), it’s also one of the four official languages of Switzerland and spoken by significant minorities in countries like Malta, Monaco and Libya. It’s a romance language too, so any French or Spanish knowledge you have will definitely complement your Italian studies as you’ll recognise many of the words and sounds.

Plus, if you feel like experimenting in the kitchen, you could even try taking an Italian cookery course alongside your language lessons.


What to expect

Like most language lessons you’ll start with the basics – greetings and how to introduce yourself – then, depending on the course, you’ll go onto learn more about using Italian in specific situations. For example, if you’re studying business Italian you’ll learn the words for spreadsheet and management, but if it’s holiday Italian you’re taking it will be all about ordering espressos and how to catch the right train.


The Italian Job

Ok, that subheading is deceiving; taking a course in Italian won’t land you a job with the London mob or the Italian mafia (and would you really want it to!?). It will, however, prepare you for various careers that require language skills. This could be anything from working in the travel industry to working for government organisations. You could also teach Italian, or even go over to Italy and work.


Italian on the box

As with most languages, the best way to really grasp Italian is to immerse yourself in the language. Most of us can’t afford multiple trips to Italy across the year but watching Italian films could be the next best thing. You’ll get more of an idea of the sound of the language and the intonations when spoken.

Go for the Neorealist hits, Rome, Open City or Bicycle Thieves (worth mentioning to any film buffs you know since these are often compulsory viewing on film courses); the 1960 comedy drama, La Dolce Vita; or more recently, the Oscar winning, Life is Beautiful.


The best places to visit in Italy

Once you’ve mastered Italian, you’re going to want to go out and try speaking it, right? Well where better than Italy itself? Here are five of the most popular tourist destinations in the country so you can see some sights, eat some pizza and practice your best ‘Buongiorno’…


Rome is the capital of Italy and home to some of its most famous buildings and monuments. Explore the Colosseum, take in the Trevi Fountain and visit the Pope in The Vatican (not technically Italy, but still in Rome!). Try Italian ice cream at a gelataria but don’t forget to say ‘grazie’ afterwards.


Venice is a city of water – it’s built on small islands linked by bridges and also accessed by canal. The main things to see here are boats – and lots of them. Take a ride through the city on one of them and marvel at the architecture. Also, to start you off, boat in Italian is ‘imbarcazione’.


Florence is the capital of the Italian province, Tuscany, a region famed for its wine. It’s well worth a visit to a vineyard where you can order some ‘vino rosso’ or ‘vino bianco’ (that’s red or white wine). The city also has a lot of medieval architecture to see.


Milan is the second largest city in Italy after Rome and known for being the financial and business centre of the country. It’s also the fashion capital of Italy and thousands flock there twice a year for Milan Fashion Week. If you want something from Gucci or Armani, this is the place to get it. 

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