Italian Terms That Aren’t Common Outside Europe

by Darya Boronilo
You may be surprised at how many new friends you make as you mingle over an aperitivo or linger in a bustling piazza. As anyone who has traveled knows, learning a few key phrases in the local language can go a long way in making new friends and getting the most out of your visit to Italy. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, taking the time to learn some basics of speaking Italian will pay off. Most Italians will appreciate your efforts to speak their language. 
That being said, it can be hard to blurt out a beautiful Italian phrase when the locals around you speak as effortlessly as Mozzarella circles are laid out in a caprese or a gondoliere glides through a Venice canal. But don’t worry! In this blog post, we will not learn hard new words. Instead, we will look closely at the interesting words common in Italy but not known in the US. OK, pronto? Ready?
Here are a few interesting Italian concepts to get you started.
Local women chatting outside of a restaurant

Aperitivo as a Popular Tradition

Aperitivo is a popular Italian term. It is also a tradition that involves enjoying a small bite to eat and a drink before dinner. The word “aperitivo” comes from the Latin word “aperire,” which means “to open.” This refers to the fact that the aperitivo is a light meal that opens your appetite for the main course. Aperitivo typically takes place in the late afternoon or early evening. People often see it as a way to unwind after a long day. Italians serve many different types of drinks and snacks during an aperitivo. Still, common choices include Prosecco, Negroni, and small plates of cheese and salumi. 
The key to a successful aperitivo is to keep things light and easy-going. It’s the perfect way to chat with friends before heading out to town. If you are solo traveling, aperitivo is a great way to meet new people. It’s also a chance to start your social life in Italy. And, of course, the best part is that in Italy, there are plenty of trendy places to enjoy aperitivo. From bustling piazzas in Florence and glamorous rooftop bars in Rome to simple tables nested within Palermo’s open markets– there is always a unique ambiance.

Waiter bringing aperitivos

Gastronomia as a Key to Great Food

Gastronomia (gastronomy) is the art of preparing and serving rich, appetizing dishes with the cooking styles of particular regions. In Italy, gastronomy is a way of life that revolves around food. From how Italians grow and prepare products to how they share and enjoy their meals with their loved ones, gastronomy plays a vital role in local culture.
The concept of gastronomy is also reflected in the way Italians approach food. They take pride in their culinary traditions and are always looking for ways to improve upon them. Whether trying a new recipe or perfecting an old one, Italians always strive to create the best dining experience. When you travel in Italy, gastronomy also means various gourmet fairs and events where you can try the best local delicacies, from Alba’s white truffles to Tuscan wines. 


People dining next to the ocean

Degustazione to Savor Flavors

And nowhere is this more evident than in the concept of degustation. Derived from the Latin word for “taste,” degustazione (degustation) is a multicourse meal designed to savor and enjoy each flavor. In Italy, food is more than sustenance – it’s an experience.
Locals take the concept of degustation very seriously. It is the process of carefully and deliberately tasting food or drink to appreciate its flavor and quality. You can do this alone or with others, taking small bites or sips to savor the flavor. Degustation is often a chance to taste and discuss the food or drink and then share opinions.
For example, you can taste wines and discuss the bouquet, body, and aftertaste, often referred to as the “finish.” Or you can pair wine with local delicacies and think of the best pairings. Imagine the experience of tasting Chianti blends and food pairings in Tuscany.
As you dip your bread into fresh olive oil or homemade pesto sauce, smell a slice of pecorino cheese with truffles, or go over a three-course meal, each dish perfectly matches the wines you taste. And all that while overlooking an idyllic scenery of emerald hills and accurate vineyards. In other words, degustation is a way to appreciate various food, focusing on the senses, high culinary art, and good company. It’s a great way to bond with other interesting people over a shared love of good wine and other gourmet pleasures.

Friendly tip:

During the degustation, use the Italian term “Che buono” to show appreciation for the food or wine you are drinking. If you want the speaker to understand your enthusiasm, a key phrase to say, “Mamma mia, che buono! “.
And of course, in the end, don’t forget to raise your glass and, in Italian tradition, say “Cin cin!”, which the Italians say when they make a toast. Do your best to remember well; after all, those are the phrases you will use most in Italy!
Local food degustation experience

Dolce Vita or Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dolce Vita, or “the sweet life,” is often used to describe the rich and famous lifestyle. The associated extravagance is reflected in Federico Fellini’s black and white LA DOLCE VITA.” The story is about the famous Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a reporter on the celebrity beat. He hangs out at Roman cafes and nightclubs, looking for news of starlets and other celebrities.
However, the concept of dolce vita is not only about a lot of money. It can also describe a more general lifestyle characterized by focusing on enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
 La dolce vita is about finding joy in everyday moments. It’s about enjoying a glass of good red wine or some white wine, celebrating life with loved ones, or simply taking a leisurely stroll through the park. In a fast-paced world, la dolce vita is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the good things in life. The next time you enjoy your glass of wine while people-watching at a small street side bar in Rome, you should know – you are living a pure dolce vita!

Sweet treats next to a window in cold days

 Add More Italy to Your Daily Life

Traveling to a new country can be a life-changing experience. Learning about other cultures can enrich your life and make you more well-rounded. And perhaps, when you return home, you can integrate new Italian concepts into your life. From the meals you eat to the way you dress, there are endless possibilities for how you can enrich your life! Our travel experts are here if you’re looking for an authentic Italian culture experience with a touch of Dolce Vita. Get ready, and Andiamo! 

If you are an avid foodie, have a look at our blog post about

Sicilian gourmet adventures.

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