Forget the classic “Buongiorno” and “Pizza”, in order to impress Italians with your language skills you have to hit them right in their (regional) feels.
Italy has more than 30 languages or dialects, spoken from the mountainous northern regions to the southernmost tip of the boot. This results in many different slang words, some commonly used by the majority of the population, some more limited to a specific region.
I was born and raised in a small coastal town not too far from Rome and I have little to no accent. Of course, I can decide whether to use it or not based on the situation, but if I go three hours south to Naples, I can barely understand people because they actually use a dialect.
Here are some of the most popular sayings, so put down your breadstick from Olive Garden and read this mini guide of Italian slang.
This is often followed by the Italian equivalent of “guys.”
You’ve probably heard this word (or name) before, but other than the literal meaning, which is “beautiful,” this exclamation is used as a form of greeting. It doesn’t matter if you’re arriving or leaving, “bella” always fits.
Be sure to use it in very informal situations and not between people over the age of 30. You might sound too young.
2. “Accannare” (regional, Lazio region)
This verb itself doesn’t mean anything in Italian and it’s not even in the dictionary. But it’s widely used instead of any word similar in meaning to “end” or “stop.”
“Accannare” is the infinitive form, so you need to conjugate it or I can get you started with these few examples:
1. You’re annoying. Stop it! (Sei fastidioso. Accanna!)
In this case “accanna” is addressing you.
2. This is getting boring. Let’s go. (È una noia. Accanniamo.)
In this instance “accanniamo” is referring to us.
Let’s say you’re at a party with some Italians and you want to go. Just say “Accanniamo” and everyone will know you want to boost.
3. “Presa a male/Presa a bene”
That beautiful Italian girl won’t talk to you and you’re sad: “che presa a male!” is the right thing to say to your Italian buddy that might cheer you up with some pasta cooked by his nonna.
“Presa a bene” is the exact opposite. Use it when they upgrade your seat from economy to business on your way back to the States.
Originally from Rome, this word is now used almost everywhere in Italy. The closest translation would be “take it easy.”
I know you’re scared of that “scia” sound: pronounce it like “sha”.
This verb is the equivalent of “messing around” or “chilling” but it’s informal and a little vulgar. However, it is pretty common anywhere, for example:
We’ve been chilling all night. (Abbiamo cazzeggiato tutta la sera.)
The verb “beccare” means “to peck” in English. I have no idea what’s the origin of this slang, but I actually use it a lot. You can use it instead of “vedere” (to see) when you’re leaving or when you’re planning to see someone at a specific time.
1. See you later! (Ci becchiamo dopo!)
Tip: This means you will literally see them later, rather than an informal goodbye.
2. See you at 8! (Ci becchiamo alle 8!)
This is a funny one. It’s not a regional slang, so everybody will understand it without problems. We describe something as an “americanata” when it’s so American it screams stars and stripes from everywhere. A nice example would be the Super Bowl or an action-packed movie with unreal scenes and explosions.
However, it does have some negative nuances: for example, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, could be described as “americanata”.
7.“Raga”/”Regà” (See “bella” above to create another slang)
“Raga” refers to a group of young people, so the closest word would be “guys,” for example:
Let’s go guys. (Andiamo raga.)
The “regà” variation is specifically used in Rome and surrounding areas. It sounds like regatta without -tta.
There are many other slang words but these are the ones everybody uses, mostly in Rome and surrounding areas.
Remember: Italy has dozen and dozen of dialects and accents, and even within a region you can expect to hear different usages and meanings. During your next trip to Italy, ask locals if they can teach you slang words and expressions, it’ll be fun.