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Weekend Break: Italian

Updated Wednesday, 18th July 2007

Whether you're heading for the threatened beauty of Venice or the historical surprises of Rome, you'll get much more out of a trip to Italy with our Weekend Break guide to Italy and her language.

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Rissa de la Paz: Hi, and welcome to the Open2.net Weekend Break series. We’ll be helping you to get the most out of your European break by offering top tips and cultural insights into your destination. Along the way, we’ll also suggest some key phrases to help you get by.

I’m Rissa de la Paz, and this time we’re looking at Italy.

Joining me as a guide to both the country and the language is Anna Proudfoot. So Anna, tell me a little bit about the variety that Italy has to offer to a weekend visitor.

Anna Proudfoot: Okay. Well Italy’s a very long country, very long, very thin, so obviously within that length there are many, many different regions. We have twenty different regions, and lots of different languages.

This is very much down to the history because Italy only became a nation around 1867. So each region is very different, and the languages, we have a variety of other national languages, French, German, Croatian, Slovenian, Albanian and Greek, and lots of different dialects and regional languages as well.

Rissa de la Paz: Presumably that sort of variety is also reflected in the cuisine?

Anna Proudfoot: Very much so. In the North, which we would call ‘L’Italia del Burro’, the land where everyone eats butter, then there’s lots of dairy produce, lots of cheeses produced, and lots of meat is consumed.

In the South, which would be ‘L’Italia dell’olio’, then dishes are much more based on tomatoes, on olive oil, on the things that grow there. And, of course, in the South perhaps much more pasta and in the North much more rice.

Rissa de la Paz: So there’s going to be plenty to look forward to in this weekend trip. But tell us, how easy is it going to be to get by as far as language is concerned?

Anna Proudfoot: It depends very much where you’re going. If you’re going to one of the main tourist destinations like Rome or Venice or Florence, then lots of people will speak English, so you’ll probably manage.

But people will appreciate you making the effort and actually trying to speak some Italian. Italians love it when people try to speak their language, even if they make mistakes it doesn’t really matter.

And, of course, if you go outside these destinations you really do need to speak some Italian just to buy train tickets, to eat in a restaurant, that sort of thing.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, well let’s get down to business then. If I were to actually try and greet someone in Italian, what sort of phrases could I use?

Anna Proudfoot: The first thing you might want to say is ‘buon giorno’ which is basically hello, good morning. If it’s the afternoon or the evening you would say ‘buona sera’.

Rissa de la Paz: And when you say, would that be the same one for whether you say good afternoon or good evening? Is it the same greeting?

Anna Proudfoot: We don’t have a separate word for afternoon because between one o’clock and five o’clock it’s really siesta time.

Now, that’s mainly in the summer and perhaps more in the South than the North, but it’s still true that we don’t like to disturb people, to telephone them or to drop in and visit between the hours of one and five o’clock, so there’s no point in having a separate word for good afternoon.

The afternoon starts when everybody’s round and about again at five o’clock.

Rissa de la Paz: And just thinking back to my rusty schoolgirl French, I know that there were different ways of addressing people formally or informally with the ‘tu’ and the ‘vous’, is there something similar to that in Italian?

Anna Proudfoot: Yes, we have ‘tu’ which is informal, and ‘Lei’ which is the formal. So, for example, if you were talking to a child or a cat or a dog then you would say ‘ciao’ instead of ‘buongiorno’, it’s much less formal. So you’d always start off using the formal form.

Rissa de la Paz: Now, one of the things that I’m sure that I’m going to get stuck with is not understanding people, or wanting to find out how to say certain things, could you just give us some survival phrases that I should have up my sleeve?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay, well I’m guessing that one of the first things you want to do is to attract somebody’s attention so, for example, the waiter in the restaurant, the shop assistant, someone you need to get help from.

So I guess your first phrase would be something like ‘Scusi’ or ‘Mi scusi’, and if you want to draw attention and you’re not sure if he’s listening to you then you can say ‘Senta, scusi’ which means ‘listen, excuse me’.

After that, well if you’re really, really stuck then, of course, you can say ‘Parla inglese?’, ‘Do you speak English?’ but that’s not the best thing to do really.

So, shall we look at some of the other phrases? For example, ‘how do I say …’, ‘Come si dice …?’ You can find out how to, what something is called in Italian.

If somebody answers you in Italian and you haven’t understood then, of course, you can say ‘Scusi, non ho capito’, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand’. You can ask them to repeat it, ‘Può ripetere?’, ‘Can you repeat that?’

Rissa de la Paz: That’s really helpful. I’m sure I’m going to be using those phrases a lot on my weekend break. Now, if people have helped me and I just want to show some appreciation, what sort of phrases can I say?

Anna Proudfoot: I’d say one of the ones you’ll want to use is ‘grazie’, ‘thank you’. And if people thank you for something then, of course, you should say ‘prego’, ‘don’t mention it’.

Rissa de la Paz: And once you’ve finished your conversation and you just want to take your leave of people, how do you do that?

Anna Proudfoot: For goodbye formally we would say ‘arrivederci’ or ‘arrivederla’. If you’re speaking to a friend or someone the same age, somebody that you have a closer relationship with, then we just say ‘ciao’.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so I suspect my first chance to really get stuck into the language is when I arrive at the airport, I know I’ve got to get to my hotel, and I need the transport to get me from A to B. What sort of transport options are there?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, like in most big cities, you’ll probably be at the airport or you might be at the train station.

If you’re at the airport then you’ll probably either get a taxi or the airport bus, or in some cities there might be a metro or a local train.

Rissa de la Paz: So if I’m feeling flush with money, which won’t last very long, and I want to go by cab, how would I actually hail a cab and find out how much it costs?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay. If you’re in the airport then you can make your way outside to the taxi rank. If you can’t see it then you just need to ask somebody by saying ‘Dov’è il posteggio dei taxi?’

Most of the taxis are metered, sometimes there’s a standard fare from the airport to the city centre, but usually there’s a meter. If you’re in the street, if you’re at the station, there’ll be a taxi rank outside but if you’re in the street, if you can’t see any taxis passing, and it’s not as common in Italy to hail the taxi, you should be able to find a taxi rank nearby. So again, ask somebody where it is.

Rissa de la Paz: And if I just wanted to know how much the journey was likely to cost, what could I say?

Anna Proudfoot: It should cost what’s on the meter, but if you want to be on the safe side in case you haven’t got enough Euros, then you can ask somebody, ‘Quanto costa il tragitto?’ ‘How much does it cost?’

Rissa de la Paz: How about public transport, what sort of things can I do there, what are the options there and what are the sort of phrases I could use?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, in Italy there might be a metro or local train from the airport, or there might be an airport bus. Usually in Italy we don’t buy bus tickets on the bus, so the airport bus is the exception.

We normally buy bus tickets at the newspaper kiosk, the ‘edicola’, the tobacconist, ‘tabaccheria’, or somewhere similar. And the same goes for metro tickets and, of course, also the ‘vaporetto’ if you’re in Venice, because that’s more or less like the Venetian bus service.

Rissa de la Paz: Now, I’m just remembering from my visits to France where you almost had to sort of stamp your ticket before your journey, is there something similar with the public transport in Italy?

Anna Proudfoot: Yes, there is, because you can buy lots of tickets at once and they don’t expire until you start using them.

So to have the time on them we have to stamp them, when you get on the bus or the train you have to stamp them, and there’s usually a little yellow machine, either on the station platform or just inside the bus, there’s a machine to ‘timbrare’ or ‘convalidare’ your ticket. If you don’t do it you’ll get fined, and being a foreigner isn’t really a very good excuse.

Rissa de la Paz: I’m going to need a whole new set of phrases for emergencies, which I’m sure we’ll deal with later. But, just for now, if I wanted to know basic things like what time does a bus or a train leave, or where I can get a ticket, what sort of things can I say?

Anna Proudfoot: OK, that’s quite useful I think to know when the next train is going, when the bus is going, when the train is going. So we would say, ‘A che ora parte l’autobus?’ or ‘A che ora parte il treno?’

If you want to buy a ticket and you don’t know where the nearest place is, then you’d say, ‘Dove si comprano i biglietti?’, ‘Where do I buy tickets?’ and so it could be ‘dell’autobus’, ‘del treno’, ‘della metropolitana’ according to what means of transport you’re taking.

Rissa de la Paz: What’s the ‘metropolitana’?

Anna Proudfoot: In big cities, that would be like the tube train. It’s not usually as well developed as in London but certainly in Rome, for example, there is quite a good system, and in Milan, so you might want to find out what line to take, or you might want to know which stop to get off at.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s a good point, because I don’t know whether, if the hotel is quite a way away whether it’ll be a direct route there or whether I’ll need to change, so what sort of phrases can I use in that situation?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay, good question. There would be ‘Devo cambiare?’, ‘Do I have to change?’ Again, if you don’t know which stop, you should say, ‘A che fermata devo scendere?’, ‘Which stop should I get off at?’

Rissa de la Paz: And once you’ve paid a fare, is there any likelihood that you have to pay any extras, or it’s just a flat fare? What’s the situation there?

Anna Proudfoot: That’s a good point. On some trains in Italy, especially if they’re fast trains or trains that don’t stop so much, then quite often you have to pay a supplement, so a good question when you’re buying your ticket is, ‘Devo pagare un supplemento?’, ‘Do I have to pay a supplement?’

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, now what about the all-important question of queuing, I mean is the sort of queuing system similar to that in the UK, or are there rules that I need to know about?

Anna Proudfoot: I’m not sure that system is the right word for it. I think the British like queuing, I’m not sure that Italians have the same point of view. I think it depends where you are.

If you’re at the airport then people queue very rigidly at the taxi rank, because everybody wants to get home. But at the bus stop you would probably look around and see who was before you, and when the bus comes you would let those people get on first, but I don’t think you would stand in a straight line like you do in Britain.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s useful to know. Well, I’ve managed now to negotiate my way through either taxis or public transport to get to the hotel. I will have played safe and tried to book ahead of time so I know which hotel to go to. So, for those of us who want to book in advance, what sort of tips might you offer?

Anna Proudfoot: There’s a big variety of places to stay in Italy, and obviously in a town you’re going to be staying in a hotel probably. There used to be a separate system of ‘pensioni’ which was distinguished from ‘alberghi’, but nowadays it’s all part of the same system.

So hotels are graded from one star to five star, ‘cinque stelle’, which are probably very, very expensive but, you know, if you have the money, why not?

Rissa de la Paz: I don’t think even I would actually be able to sample the delights of a five star hotel, but anyway, once I’ve got there and I want to check in, what are the sort of things that I can say?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, I guess the first thing, you’d want to be sure that they have actually got a room for you, so you’d give your name and tell them you’ve booked by saying, ‘Buongiorno, ho prenotato. Mi chiamo Smith’ or Jones or whatever your name is.

Rissa de la Paz: And once I want the room keys, what sort of thing can I ask?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, you’d have to know your room number, and it might be as much as 200 or 300, so you’re going to have to learn some of those numbers, but they might recognise you and you just say, ‘Mi dà la chiave?’, ‘Can I have the key?’

Rissa de la Paz: In situations like that, would you say please? What’s the normal form, do you normally tack on a please at the end of requests, or are they quite happy to just hear it as it is?

Anna Proudfoot: I think it’s perfectly polite to use this form and say ‘Mi dà la chiave?’ I think please is something that English people feel they ought to say but isn’t strictly speaking necessary all the time.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s very useful to know. So what about then when I’m checking out towards the end of my stay, what sort of things would I say then?

Anna Proudfoot: First of all you’d need to be sure what the checkout time is because, of course, it might vary, it might be 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, so you would ask, ‘A che ora devo liberare la camera?’, ‘What time do I need to free the room?’ When you actually come to checking out you would say, ‘Posso pagare?’, or ‘Vorrei pagare il conto’, or simply ‘Vorrei pagare’, ‘I’d like to pay’.

Rissa de la Paz: Great. Now, do most people serve bed and breakfast like they do in the UK?

Anna Proudfoot: Breakfast is less important than in England where people seem to expect to have a three course meal at breakfast time. In Italy, most Italians just have a cup of coffee, but in a hotel you can get a room with bed and breakfast, of course.

You can also have ‘mezza pensione’ or ‘pensione completa’, but there are so many nice places to eat in Italy that there’s not much point really in staying in the hotel to eat. Why not go out and explore all the local restaurants?

Rissa de la Paz: That brings me to my favourite topic, which is food and drink during my stay. Just take us through a typical day in Italy and what are the sort of culinary delights that await us?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay. I guess the most important meal for Italians would be lunch. But the first meal, if you want to call it that, would be breakfast and lots of Italians don’t bother to have breakfast at home, they just pick up a coffee at the café, ‘il bar’, on the way to work, or maybe even mid-morning.

And you can do the same. You can have ‘un caffè’ which is an espresso, or you can have ‘un cappuccino’, which of course is the same in English I guess.

If you ask for a cappuccino after 11 o’clock, people will think you’re very, very strange. People quite often have a pastry with their coffee, and one of the most common ones is ‘un cornetto’, which is a croissant, not an ice cream by the way.

Rissa de la Paz: Can you actually order like takeaway coffee, like you would in the UK?

Anna Proudfoot: That would be quite strange to see people walking down the street with a coffee like they do in the UK or the US. I think that people if they’re in a hurry might just stand up and have it ‘al banco’ at the counter rather than sitting down.

And, of course, in many places if you sit down at the table you’ll actually pay more than you would if you take it standing up. So that’s something to remember.

Rissa de la Paz: So the whole thing about paying, do I just pay once at the end, how does that work?

Anna Proudfoot: Ah, that’s quite a useful question. In some places, especially railway stations or airports where people might be rushing off, usually you’re asked to pay first. So in this case, you might have to queue up twice; the first time would be at the cash desk, ‘la cassa’ where you would pay for what you want and get a receipt, which we call ‘scontrino’, and then you go to the counter, ‘il banco’, and you give this receipt to the barman, and you ask him (for) what you want.

Rissa de la Paz: I suspect I’m going to be gasping for a cuppa, so how would I order tea?

Anna Proudfoot: Tea is not a national drink in Italy like it is in England, but you can get it and, of course, if you want to have it British style, in other words with milk, you would ask for ‘un tè con latte’.

Rissa de la Paz: Great. I suppose by the time I’ve enjoyed my tea and my coffee, my nice little croissant, it’ll be just about time to roll up for lunch.

Anna Proudfoot: I’d say that’s a good idea. Most Italians go home for lunch but obviously there’s lots of restaurants around, lunch is the most important meal of the day in Italy, and most people have lunch, say, between 1 o’clock, perhaps finishing at 3 o’clock.

Rissa de la Paz: And what about dinner, is that much later, or?

Anna Proudfoot: Dinner’s very variable. It does depend where you’re visiting. In the North you might eat dinner around half past seven, eight o’clock, half past eight. In the South it’s more likely to be around nine or ten o’clock, especially in the summer.

Actually, in the South, people even go out to eat as late as 11 o’clock if they’ve been to the cinema or the theatre, but in the North you’d find it very difficult to find a restaurant at that time.

Rissa de la Paz: It sounds like I’m going to really have to take my siesta time seriously if I’m going to try and keep up with the hours in the South at least. But what should I sort of look out for when I’m in a restaurant?

Anna Proudfoot: I think there are very different kinds of restaurants in Italy, they vary from ‘pizzerie’ where, of course, you’re just going to eat pizza, to small restaurants, ‘trattorie’, and big elaborate expensive restaurants, ‘ristorante’, so it very much depends on your budget. And, obviously, how much you spend will depend how many courses you want to eat.

Rissa de la Paz: Let’s assume it’s very early on in the holiday and I’m feeling extravagant and I’m going to ask for several courses. So tell us what sort of courses would be on offer?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay, if you’ve got lots of money to burn you can have as many as three or four courses. We’d start off with ‘antipasto’, which literally is the course before the meal, then you could have ‘primo piatto’ the first course which could be pasta, it could be risotto, or it could be soup of some kind.

The main course is the ‘secondo piatto’, that’s usually meat or fish, if you’re vegetarian it might be a bit more difficult. And then finally, if you can really manage it, then of course you can have ‘dolce’ or ‘frutta’.

Rissa de la Paz: That sounds like serious eating. But you mentioned vegetarians, how easy is it for a vegetarian to find some reasonable choices as far as meals are concerned?

Anna Proudfoot: I think in Italy it’s actually quite easy because there’s lots of pasta, there’s pizza, there are lots of dishes made with vegetables, and obviously when you go into the restaurant you can ask, ‘Avete qualche piatto vegetariano?’, ‘Do you have some vegetarian dish?’

Rissa de la Paz: That’s a useful phrase that I’ll keep stuck in my mind for vegetarian options. But what are some more general phrases when I go into a restaurant?

Anna Proudfoot: I guess an important thing would be to find out if there’s any room, so you might want to ask, ‘Ha una tavola?’, ‘Do you have a table?’. When you’re actually sitting down, then if the waiter doesn’t immediately bring it, you might say, ‘Posso avere il menù?’, ‘Can I have the menu please?’

Rissa de la Paz: And when it comes to paying at the end, how would I ask?

Anna Proudfoot: You would say, ‘Mi porti il conto, per favore’, ‘(Would you) bring me the bill please.’

Rissa de la Paz: What about tipping, would the service be included as part of the bill?

Anna Proudfoot: You’ll quite often find things on the bill that perhaps you’re not expecting, and the first thing you might see would be ‘coperto’, which is a cover charge.

But that’s not service, so you would be looking to see if it said, ‘servizio compreso’ or ‘servizio non compreso’, which would tell you whether the service is included already. If it’s not included, then obviously you might want to leave a tip, unless the service has been very bad. About 10% is enough, in fact quite often people just round up the bill in Italy.

Rissa de la Paz: What if now, towards the end of my holiday, I’m not so flush with money, I can’t afford the fancy three course, four course meal, and I want something simpler and cheaper, what options are there for me then?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, in some cities, especially tourist cities, you might be able to find restaurants offering ‘pasto a prezzo fisso’, so that’s a fixed price, a set price menu, which can be very good value. It might not be the best dishes but it’s good value, and it might even include some wine, perhaps ‘un quarto’, a quarter of a litre, or ‘mezzo litro’ if there’s two of you.

Rissa de la Paz: Great. Now, assuming I’ve managed to stagger out of my restaurant after a three course meal or a set menu, and I still have some energy to go out and about, what sort of sightseeing tips can you offer me?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, there’s lots of things to see in Italy. It’s very hard work if you want to see everything. We have lots of museums, lots of monuments. You should always check when the museums are open.

Some museums are open all day, others don’t, and some museums close one day a week, so it’s always a good idea to check the website before you go, because most museums have a website. In fact, you can actually book tickets online, which saves lots of queuing, so book a ticket for a guided tour or just for going into the museum.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s interesting, but what if I’m not organised enough to have booked online in advance and I get to the place and I want to know what’s available. How do I do that?

Anna Proudfoot: Probably the best people to tell you are at the Tourist Information Office. There’s usually a local Tourist Information Office which would be called the ‘ufficio informazioni’ for example, and they’ll give you lots of information, lots of maps, and tell you what there is to see.

Rissa de la Paz: So here I am, I’m armed with my maps but I need to still get to the place and I don’t have the phrases to help me, so what sort of thing can I say?

Anna Proudfoot: It might be useful if you ask people how to get there, or even got them to show you on the map. So you can ask them, ‘Come arrivo a …?’, ‘How do I get to’ wherever it is you’re trying to go.

And if you’ve got your map in your hand then ask them to show you, ‘Mi faccia vedere sulla piantina’, ‘(Can you) show me on the map’.

Rissa de la Paz: And what if I wanted to just make sure what times things open and shut, what sort of thing can I say then?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay, for the museums especially, to find out when it’s open, ‘A che ora apre?’, ‘What time is it open?’, ‘A che ora chiude?’, ‘What time does it close?’

Rissa de la Paz: Do museums offer guided tours like they do here in the UK?

Anna Proudfoot: Yes, that’s a good way of seeing the best bits of the museum, perhaps if you don’t have very much time available, so asking something like ‘Ci sono visite guidate?’, ‘Are there guided tours?’ is useful.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, talking about useful phrases, one thing I have an obsession about is knowing where the public toilets are, so that’s going to be a right key phrase for me, what can you say then?

Anna Proudfoot: I think this is a problem for most visitors to Italy because public toilets are not perhaps as commonplace as they are in the UK, so make the most of it when you’re at a museum and ask them, ‘Dov’è la toilette?’, ‘Where is the toilet?’

Rissa de la Paz: Great. And when I’m wandering around about, I mean should I be careful about what I wear?

Anna Proudfoot: Most of the time you’ll be dressed for the city, and maybe that’s one of the differences between the way people dress in Italy and the UK. In Italy, wearing something like shorts is really only considered suitable for the beach or maybe in the mountains if you’re going walking.

If you wear shorts in town, everybody will know that you’re a foreigner, and in particular if you wander round, for example, without a shirt on if you’re a man, it’s considered quite offensive. It’s not really appropriate dress for the city. So I think it’s quite important to perhaps dress like the locals dress and not as if you’re on a beach somewhere.

Rissa de la Paz: I suppose that sort of dress code is even more important when you’re going into a church or something like that?

Anna Proudfoot: Yes, of course. You’re still expected to cover up. So, for example, women should cover their shoulders and obviously they shouldn’t wear shorts or mini skirts, and men shouldn’t wear shorts. If you’re planning to visit churches and buildings associated with them it’s important to remember that.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, dressing like the locals dress, sounds like an excellent excuse to go shopping, which will be probably one of my prime reasons for going to Italy in the first place. So where do you suggest I start?

Anna Proudfoot: Ah, well in Italy, of course, there’s no shortage of places to buy things and, in particular, to buy lots of clothes, handbags, shoes, all the things you might want to buy.

There are small shops, lots of small shops in Italy, there’s a great variety of shops as well as the big stores and, of course, there’s also markets. Most towns have a weekly market.

Rissa de la Paz: What about opening hours, are they very similar to those in the UK?

Anna Proudfoot: OK. The market is quite limited because it usually shuts about one o’clock. As for the shops, the opening hours are normally around half past eight to half past twelve or perhaps one o’clock, and then things tend to shut for lunch. In the North, the shops will be open again by three o’clock, and they’ll stay open until half past seven.

But in the South, you might find that shops don’t open until four o’clock or even half past four, some cases five o’clock in the summer, and they won’t shut again until eight o’clock, half past eight. And again, there’s a variation, it depends if it’s winter or summer.

Rissa de la Paz: That sounds like another good reason for me to take my siesta if I’m going to have my energy to do all this serious shopping. But now, okay, I’ve got to a place, I’ve seen some things that I like, and I just need some useful phrases to sort of point out to the assistant the things that I’m interested in.

Anna Proudfoot: I guess if you’ve made your mind up (and) you’d take the item and say I’d like to buy this, ‘Lo prendo’ or ‘La prendo’. One of the things you might want to do is to ask if they take credit cards, especially if you’ve done lots of shopping and you just haven’t got enough Euros for all those nice things.

So ask them, ‘Accettate le carte di credito?’, ‘Do you take credit cards?’ If not there’s always the ‘bancomat’ round the corner. And then ask them where to pay, of course, ‘Dove devo pagare?’, ‘Where do I pay?’

Rissa de la Paz: Well, of course, before I part with any of my hard earned cash I like to just make sure I’ve had a good look round and a good browse, does that work in Italy? Am I expected to make decisions much more quickly? Will people try and help me choose?

Anna Proudfoot: People will give you a lot of help in Italy. It’s actually quite difficult to browse on your own, so you might want to have a few key phrases up your sleeve. For example, ‘Vorrei guardare’, ‘I’d just like to look’, but you will find that people will try and help you, except maybe in chainstores where it’s more like in the UK.

When you finally do try something on, when you’ve found one or two things to try, you’ll get lots of advice from the shop assistant, and probably from the friends of the shop assistant as well.

Rissa de la Paz: But in line with all this very interactive experience in shopping, can you bargain at all?

Anna Proudfoot: I wouldn’t call it bargaining as such, but we do like to ask for discounts, and this is maybe especially true in small places, not in chainstores obviously.

You can ask for ‘uno sconto’, a discount, at the market or the small shop, and if you’re buying more than one pair of shoes, and, you know, why stop at one, you might as well buy two or three, you can certainly ask for a small discount. If you’re using a credit card - they’re much less commonly accepted - but if you’re using credit card then you can’t really ask for a discount. Lots of people prefer cash, ‘contanti’.

Rissa de la Paz: Now, I mean especially with making sure I know the various sizes of things in a different language, it’s quite possible I’m going to end up with something that I’m going to need to exchange, what do I do then?

Anna Proudfoot: It’s not so common in Italy to take things back to exchange them, but some shopkeepers if you do take things back may allow you to exchange it for something else. But I’d recommend trying it on and making sure it fits in the first place.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s very useful advice, but is there any other tip that you can offer when I’m out and about shopping?

Anna Proudfoot: I suppose, as in any European city, you’d want to be careful not to lose your credit card. No credit card, no shopping. So watch out for your wallet or handbag, and obviously this is particularly true if you go to somewhere like the market which is very crowded.

So try and keep your money in a safe place, don’t keep it in your handbag. And if you do have a rest at a café don’t put your handbag on the ground, and don’t hang it on the back of the chair. But that’s just common sense, you’d do the same in any other country in Europe.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, but what if the worst does happen and something does get stolen? What are some of the useful phrases that I can have?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, if you find that your credit card’s been stolen, and I guess you’d want to tell someone, you would say, ‘Mi hanno rubato la carta di credito’, ‘My credit card has been stolen’.

If they’ve stolen your whole handbag, which I guess is worse, ‘Mi hanno rubato la borsa’, ‘My handbag has been stolen’. You might want to contact the police, so perhaps ‘Devo contattare la polizia’, ‘I need to contact the police’. These are some of the things that might be helpful.

Rissa de la Paz: What if, in my handbag was my passport and that had gotten stolen as well, and I need to contact the embassy, what phrase would I use then?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, in that case, and assuming you’re from the UK, I guess you would say ‘Devo contattare l’ambasciata britannica’, ‘I need to contact the British Embassy’.

Rissa de la Paz: Are there various emergency numbers that one can use in Italy?

Anna Proudfoot: Well, I hope you won’t need them but we do have lots of numbers in Italy, and probably the four most useful ones would be ‘cento tredici’, 113, for the police, ‘cento quindici’, 115, for the fire department, ‘cento sedici’, 116, for the automobile club if your car breaks down, and ‘cento diciotto’, 118, for the ambulance service.

If you can’t remember all those different numbers, why not just ring the European emergency number, which is 112, which should connect you automatically.

Rissa de la Paz: What if, heaven forbid, there’s some sort of medical emergency of any sort, what then?

Anna Proudfoot: Okay, if you have a medical problem, of course you can tell someone, ‘Ho bisogno di un medico’, ‘I need a doctor’, or ‘Ho bisogno di un’ambulanza’ if you can’t get there under your own steam.

There is, in the nearest hospital there should be a ‘pronto soccorso’, a first aid department, emergency room, and usually in an airport, a railway station and even in small holiday resorts or campsites, there’s usually some kind of clinic called a ‘guardia medica’.

Rissa de la Paz: Is that going to cost me anything?

Anna Proudfoot: No, these are free services, but when you travel in mainland Europe you should have with you the EHIC card, which is your European Health Insurance Card. This shows your entitlement to free healthcare in the EU member states.

Obviously we hope that you don’t need any of these numbers and that you won’t have any such emergencies during your trip. So, all that’s left for me to say is ‘Buon viaggio in Italia’.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s lovely, Anna, and in fact we’re going to take those tips very much to mind so that we can enjoy our weekend break. So, that’s all we have time for here now on Weekend Break to Italy.

Bear some of our tips in mind, and have a go at speaking the language. It’ll transform your whole experience. Don’t forget we have other episodes in this series, available in Spanish, German and French.

You can get them all from Open2.net along with transcripts of the programmes. We’ll leave you with a list of key phrases that you’ve heard on the programme together with others that you might find useful.

Italian Phrasebook

Greetings

Good morning – Buon giorno

Good afternoon — Buona sera

Good evening — Buona sera (or) Ciao

How are you..? — Come sta?
I am well — Sto bene.

Thank you — Grazie

Don’t mention it — Prego

Goodbye — Arrivederci (or) Ciao

Survival Phrases

Excuse Me — Scusi, Mi scusi, (or) Senta, scusi

Do you speak English — Parla inglese?

How do I say …? — Come si dice …?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand — Scusi, non ho capito

Can you repeat that? — Può ripetere?

Getting Around

How do I get to…? — Come arrivo a..?

Where is the taxi stand? — Dov’è il posteggio dei taxi?

Where is the bus station? the train station? the tube station? — Dov’è la stazione degli autobus? la stazione dei treni? La stazione della metropolitana?

How much will it cost? — Quanto costa?

How long will it take? — Quanto ci vuole?

How far is it..? — Quanto dista?

Where is the bus stop? — Dov’è la fermata dell’autobus?

Where do I get the bus? — Dove si prende l’autobus?

Where can I get a taxi? — Dove si prendono i taxi?

How much is a ticket? — Quanto costa il biglietto?

A single ticket — Un biglietto di solo andata

A return ticket — Un biglietto di andata e ritorno

Which platform does the train leave from? — Da che binario parte il treno?

Which number bus should I take? — Che numero di autobus devo prendere?

What time does it leave? — A che ora parte?

Where can I buy a ticket? — Dove posso prendere un biglietto?

Do I have to change? — Devo cambiare?

Which stop should I get off at? — A che fermata devo scendere?

Do I have to pay a supplement? — Devo pagare un supplemento?

Excuse me! (on a crowded bus) — Permesso!

Which line goes to…? — Che linea devo prendere …?

Hotels

Have you got a room for 1 night? — Ha una camera per una notte?

Have you got a room for 2 nights / 3 nights? — Ha una camera per due notti / tre notti?

a single room — una camera singola

a double room — una camera doppia (or) una camera matrimoniale (double bed)

a family room (4 beds) — una camera a quattro letti

with an en suite — una camera con bagno

How much does it cost? — Quanto costa?

Could I see the room please? — Posso vedere la camera?

Have you got anything else? — Avete un’altra camera?

Room service — servizio in camera

Could you prepare my bill? — Mi prepara il conto?

I’ve reserved a room, my name is Smith — Buon giorno, ho prenotato. Mi chiamo Smith

Can I have my key please? — Mi dà la chiave?

What time is breakfast? — A che ora è la prima colazione?

At what time should I check out? — A che ora devo liberare la stanza?

I’d like to check out please — Vorrei pagare

Food and drink

Do you have a table? — Ha una tavola?

Could I have the menu please? — Posso avere il menù?

What vegetarian options do you have? — Avete qualche piatto vegetariano?

Starter — antipasto

First course — primo piatto

Main course — secondo piatto

Dessert (or fruit) — dolce o frutta

I’d like to have the bill please — Mi porti il conto, per favore

I would like a still water please — Vorrei un’acqua minerale naturale
sparkling water — un’acqua minerale gassata
with ice — con ghiaccio
a tea — un tè
a coffee — un caffè
a beer — una birra
Another beer please! — Un’altra birra, per favore!

I’d like to see the dessert menu — Posso vedere la lista dei dolci?

Thank you, that’s all — Grazie, basta così

Going out

How do I get to …? — Come arrivo a …?

Where is the city centre? — Dov’è il centro?

the tourist information office — ufficio informazioni

the art gallery — la galleria

the cathedral — la cattedrale

the market — il mercato

the museum — il museo

the internet café — il cyber cafe

the post box — la cassetta delle lettere

the cash machine — il bancomat

What time does it open? — A che ora apre?

What time does it close? — A che ora chiude?

How much is it? — Quanto costa?

Are there any guided tours? — Ci sono visite guidate?

Where are the toilets? — Dov’è la toilette?

Can I get there on foot? — Posso arrivarci a piedi?

I’m lost — Mi sono persa / Mi sono perso

It’s about 15 minutes walk — Sono 15 minuti a piedi

Go left at the next crossing — Al prossimo incrocio, giri a sinistra

Go right at the next crossing — Al prossimo incrocio, giri a destra

Go straight on — Vada diritto

tourist information — informazioni turistiche

the sights — monumenti / cose da vedere

guided city tour — visita guidata alla città

city bus tour — giro turistico della città in autobus

Where do I buy a ticket? — Dove si comprano i biglietti?

Where can I leave my coat? — Dove posso lasciare il cappotto?

Where can I leave my bag? — Dove posso lasciare la borsa?

Shopping

I'm looking for… — Cercavo.

I’m just browsing — Volevo solo guardare

Could I have some help? — Mi potrebbe aiutare?

My dress size is… — La mia taglia è…

My shoe size is… — Il mio numero di scarpe è…

Do you have this in a smaller size? — Ha una taglia più piccola?

Do you have this in a bigger size? — Ha una taglia più grande?

Do you have another colour? — Ha un altro colore?

Can I try this on? — Posso provarlo / Posso provarla ?

Could I exchange this? — Posso cambiarlo / Posso cambiarla?

Can I have a discount? — Mi fa lo sconto?

I’d like to buy this — Lo prendo / La prendo

Do you take credit cards? — Accettate le carte di credito?

Where do I pay? — Dove devo pagare?

Emergencies

My credit card has been stolen — Mi hanno rubato la carta di credito

My handbag has been stolen — Mi hanno rubato la borsa

I need to contact the police — Devo contattare la polizia

I need to contact the British Embassy — Devo contattare l’ambasciata britannica

I need a doctor — Ho bisogno di un medico

I need an ambulance — Ho bisogno di un’ambulanza

I've lost my wallet — Ho perso il portafoglio

I've lost my credit cards — Ho perso le carte di credito

I've lost my passport — Ho perso il passaporto

I've lost my mobile — Ho perso il telefonino

I need to cancel my credit card — Devo bloccare la carta di credito

Rissa de la Paz: That’s it for the key phrases.

We hope you enjoyed Weekend Break and don’t forget you can get a transcript of this programme, and the rest of this series on open2.net.

I’m Rissa de la Paz and I was joined by Anna Proudfoot.

The programme was produced by Michael Brodbin and this is a BBC Worldwide production for The Open University.

Phrasebook

Here's a reminder of the key phrases from the programme.

Greetings

Good morning – buon giorno

Good afternoon — Buona sera

Good evening — Buona sera (or) Ciao

How are you..? — Come sta?
I am well — Sto bene.

Thank you — Grazie

Don’t mention it — Prego

Goodbye — Arrivederci (or) Ciao

Survival Phrases

Excuse Me — Scusi, Mi scusi, (or) Senta, scusi

Do you speak English — Parla inglese?

How do I say …? — Come si dice …?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand — Scusi, non ho capito

Can you repeat that? — Può ripetere?

Getting Around

How do I get to…? — Come arrivo a..?

Where is the taxi stand? — Dov’è il posteggio dei taxi?

Where is the bus station? the train station? the tube station? — Dov’è la stazione degli autobus? la stazione dei treni? La stazione della metropolitana?

How much will it cost? — Quanto costa?

How long will it take? — Quanto ci vuole?

How far is it..? — Quanto dista?

Where is the bus stop? — Dov’è la fermata dell’autobus?

Where do I get the bus? — Dove si prende l’autobus?

Where can I get a taxi? — Dove si prendono i taxi?

How much is a ticket? — Quanto costa il biglietto?

A single ticket — Un biglietto di solo andata

A return ticket — Un biglietto di andata e ritorno

Which platform does the train leave from? — Da che binario parte il treno?

Which number bus should I take? — Che numero di autobus devo prendere?

What time does it leave? — A che ora parte?

Where can I buy a ticket? — Dove posso prendere un biglietto?

Do I have to change? — Devo cambiare?

Which stop should I get off at? — A che fermata devo scendere?

Do I have to pay a supplement? — Devo pagare un supplemento?

Excuse me! (on a crowded bus) — Permesso!

Which line goes to…? — Che linea devo prendere …?

Hotels

Have you got a room for 1 night? — Ha una camera per una notte?

Have you got a room for 2 nights / 3 nights? — Ha una camera per due notti / tre notti?

a single room — una camera singola

a double room — una camera doppia (or) una camera matrimoniale (double bed)

a family room (4 beds) — una camera a quattro letti

with an en suite — una camera con bagno

How much does it cost? — Quanto costa?

Could I see the room please? — Posso vedere la camera?

Have you got anything else? — Avete un’altra camera?

Room service — servizio in camera

Could you prepare my bill? — Mi prepara il conto?

I’ve reserved a room, my name is Smith — Buon giorno, ho prenotato. Mi chiamo Smith

Can I have my key please? — Mi dà la chiave?

What time is breakfast? — A che ora è la prima colazione?

At what time should I check out? — A che ora devo liberare la stanza?

I’d like to check out please — Vorrei pagare

Food and drink

Do you have a table? — Ha una tavola?

Could I have the menu please? — Posso avere il menù?

What vegetarian options do you have? — Avete qualche piatto vegetariano?

Starter — antipasto

First course — primo piatto

Main course — secondo piatto

Dessert (or fruit) — dolce o frutta

I’d like to have the bill please — Mi porti il conto, per favore

I would like a still water please — Vorrei un’acqua minerale naturale
sparkling water — un’acqua minerale gassata
with ice — con ghiaccio
a tea — un tè
a coffee — un caffè
a beer — una birra
Another beer please! — Un’altra birra, per favore!

I’d like to see the dessert menu — Posso vedere la lista dei dolci?

Thank you, that’s all — Grazie, basta così

Going out

How do I get to …? — Come arrivo a …?

Where is the city centre? — Dov’è il centro?

the tourist information office — ufficio informazioni

the art gallery — la galleria

the cathedral — la cattedrale

the market — il mercato

the museum — il museo

the internet café — il cyber cafe

the post box — la cassetta delle lettere

the cash machine — il bancomat

What time does it open? — A che ora apre?

What time does it close? — A che ora chiude?

How much is it? — Quanto costa?

Are there any guided tours? — Ci sono visite guidate?

Where are the toilets? — Dov’è la toilette?

Can I get there on foot? — Posso arrivarci a piedi?

I’m lost — Mi sono persa / Mi sono perso

It’s about 15 minutes walk — Sono 15 minuti a piedi

Go left at the next crossing — Al prossimo incrocio, giri a sinistra

Go right at the next crossing — Al prossimo incrocio, giri a destra

Go straight on — Vada diritto

tourist information — informazioni turistiche

the sights — monumenti / cose da vedere

guided city tour — visita guidata alla città

city bus tour — giro turistico della città in autobus

Where do I buy a ticket? — Dove si comprano i biglietti?

Where can I leave my coat? — Dove posso lasciare il cappotto?

Where can I leave my bag? — Dove posso lasciare la borsa?

Shopping

I'm looking for… — Cercavo.

I’m just browsing — Volevo solo guardare

Could I have some help? — Mi potrebbe aiutare?

My dress size is… — La mia taglia è…

My shoe size is… — Il mio numero di scarpe è…

Do you have this in a smaller size? — Ha una taglia più piccola?

Do you have this in a bigger size? — Ha una taglia più grande?

Do you have another colour? — Ha un altro colore?

Can I try this on? — Posso provarlo / Posso provarla ?

Could I exchange this? — Posso cambiarlo / Posso cambiarla?

Can I have a discount? — Mi fa lo sconto?

I’d like to buy this — Lo prendo / La prendo

Do you take credit cards? — Accettate le carte di credito?

Where do I pay? — Dove devo pagare?

Emergencies

My credit card has been stolen — Mi hanno rubato la carta di credito

My handbag has been stolen — Mi hanno rubato la borsa

I need to contact the police — Devo contattare la polizia

I need to contact the British Embassy — Devo contattare l’ambasciata britannica

I need a doctor — Ho bisogno di un medico

I need an ambulance — Ho bisogno di un’ambulanza

I've lost my wallet — Ho perso il portafoglio

I've lost my credit cards — Ho perso le carte di credito

I've lost my passport — Ho perso il passaporto

I've lost my mobile — Ho perso il telefonino

I need to cancel my credit card — Devo bloccare la carta di credito

 

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