Italian Phrases to Improve Your Cross-Cultural Communication

A woman in a colorful patterned top and straw hat sits at a restaurant in front of the colosseum, reading a menu and waiving to someone out of frame. There are two shopping bags in the chair across from her and a bike with flowers next to the table.

Approximately 67 million people speak Italian worldwide. If you want to improve your cross-cultural communication while in Italy, use these phrases to impress your friends.

In bocca al lupo

This uniquely Italian idiom translates to “in the wolf’s mouth.” People use the phrase to wish friends who’re going through a difficult time good luck. The standard reply is “crepi il lupo,” meaning “may the wolf die.” This saying-- the Italian equivalent of “break a leg” -- is also common among actors.


Italian use the word “magari” to express hope, especially in situations where they want a specific outcome. “Are you trying to win the lottery? Magari!”

Ogni morte di papa

“Ogni morte de papa” is a common idiom that means “every death of a pope.” The phrase is used to describe something that rarely happens. It’s similar to the English phrase “once in a blue moon.”

Ricevuto come un cane in chiesa

Another colloquialism related to religion is “ricevuto come un cane in chiesa.” This phrase is a way to say something is unwelcome or unappreciated. It translates to “received like a dog in church.” 

Che no so

Italians will be impressed with your cultural awareness if you use the phrase “che no so” when someone asks you a question that’s impossible to answer. Italians often accompany this phrase with a shrug of their shoulders and shaking their head. “Che no se” means “how should I know” and is a sarcastic response to life’s unanswerable questions.

Salve come va

A friendly, casual way to greet your friends and neighbors, “salve come va” means “hello, how’s it going?” You’ll score highly on your cross-cultural communication as long as you make sure you only use this phrase in appropriate situations and not during introductions in a formal setting.

Non c’entra 

This phrase translates to “that’s irrelevant,” and locals use it when they disagree with a sentiment. When the verb “entrarci” is in its negative form, it often expresses the attitude “that’s none of your business” or “that has nothing to do with it.”

Learn More:
10 Extraordinarily Useful Italian Phrases
Eight Phrases to Make You Sound Like a Local