Nine essential Italian phrases for the modern traveller

We’ve all been there. You think you've prepared for your trip to an exciting new country until you arrive and realise you really should have brushed up on the language.

Nine essential Italian phrases for the modern traveller
Photo: Glazunophoto/Depositphotos

So you reach for the trusty phrase book you picked up second-hand on Amazon. ‘Now I can communicate with all the panache of a native speaker,’ you think as you congratulate yourself on having the foresight to pack it.

That is, until you flick through the pages and realise there isn’t a single useful phrase for modern travellers.

Knowing how to ask if you can send a fax or where to exchange traveller’s cheques may have cut it back in the nineties, but this is 2017, pal! You need to know how to ask the relevant questions, and you don’t want to sound like a robot reciting them off the page.

Practice Italian with native speakers on Tandem

But what to learn beyond basic greetings and pleasantries? And unless you have the free time and cash to pay for lessons before you go, how are you meant to learn a language to begin with?

For tips, we talked to our friends at Tandem — a nifty language exchange app that instantly connects you with a community of native speakers around the globe.

There are plenty of language apps out there (after all, this is 2017!), but none of them are quite as useful when it comes to nailing useful phrases and perfecting the accent.

These nine phrases have been cherry-picked by the seasoned travellers of the Tandem community:

1. Can you tell me the WIFI code, please?

Può dirmi il codice WIFI per favore? 


2. Are you on TripAdvisor?

Lei è su TripAdvisor?

Photo: Franklin Heijnen/Flickr


3. I have an online booking for a room tonight

Ho fatto una prenotazione online per una stanza stasera

Photo: Pixabay


4. Do you accept contactless?

Accetta il pagamento senza contatto?

Photo: ING Nederland/Flickr


5. Do you have a website?

Ha un sito web?


6. Can I buy tickets online?

Posso comprare i biglietti online?

Photo: Pexels


7. Where can I charge my phone?

Dove posso caricare il mio telefono?


8. Where can I top up my phone?

Dove posso ricaricare il mio telefono?

Photo: Wikipedia


9. Are selfie sticks allowed here?

Le aste da selfie sono permesse qui?

Photo: Syda_Productions/Depositphotos

Download Tandem on the Play Store for free

Now you know these everyday phrases you could join Tandem and practice the pronunciation with a native speaker. With a bit of help they’ll roll off the tongue like you’re a native speaker in no time at all.

What’s more – learning the basics of the language will make you feel more confident travelling in a new country, saving the day in tricky situations, and helping you to get the most out of your trip. And the locals always appreciate it when you’ve taken the time to learn a few words and phrases!

But how do you connect in the first place? It’s really easy – all you have to do is download the Tandem app, log in, find someone online who speaks your target language, and invite them to chat. You can even find people who specialise in different dialects. The whole process takes minutes. And it’s totally free.

In exchange you’ll help your tutor with your own language, so you can teach them useful phrases like “How much is your cheapest drink?” and “Where’s the nearest late-night takeaway?”.

You can download Tandem here – get a head start learning the words and phrases you actually need and, even better, learn them wherever and whenever you want.

Download the Tandem app on iTunes

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Tandem.


The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian

Always wanted to learn Italian but didn't know where to start? The huge number of language-learning apps now available means it's easier than ever, and The Local has rounded up five of the best.

The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian
Photo: ikostudio/Depositphotos

The best way to become fluent is to get out there and practice speaking to real Italians, but if that's not possible – or you just want to gain a bit of confidence before embarrassing yourself in front of the beautiful barista – then smartphone apps are the way to go.

The following apps are tailored to different needs so whether you just need to learn enough to order at your favourite trattoria or want to be able to tackle the works of Dante in the original language, you can brush up on the verbs, vocabulary and/or phrases you need. They're cheaper than taking a course or investing in chunky textbooks, and many use algorithms which adapt to your skills so that you'll learn faster.

The Local has rounded up the five best apps for learning Italian which are available for free on the Google Play store. They all have an offline mode, meaning you can hone your skills whenever you have a few spare minutes without eating into your data allowance.

Let us know if you've tried them out yourself.

1) Learn Italian Words Free

Learn 10,000 words and phrases relating to useful topics from beginner to advanced level – that's more words than any other free app offers. There is a flashcard dictionary and audio pronunciation, plus a listening-only mode so you can learn while exercising or doing housework. It even has an option to switch on background relaxation music which is thought to increase your capacity for learning.

User Breanna Davis wrote in a Google Play store review: “Easily the best language app I've ever used! So easy to use, and makes learning fun and easy.”

2) Learn Italian – 50 Languages

50 languages works well if you want to learn the basics to get by on holiday or in everyday situations. It’s similar to a traditional textbook approach, combining audio and text exercises which teach you vocabulary and grammar organized into different subject areas. The free version has 30 lessons available, and then you pay to upgrade to 100. You can download extra exercises and audio files from the website,

“Excellent app. Great vocabulary and easy to use. The best language app out there for the price,” commented Jim Kerr.

3) Learn Italian – Speak Italian

The app's creators, busuu, promise that learning Italian is “easier than you think”, and its 50 million users worldwide seem to agree, judging by its positive reviews. It's aimed at those who want to develop a comprehensive understanding of Italian, with vocabulary and grammar units, audio dialogues and language games, but the most exciting feature is the option of sending send exercises to a native speaker for feedback.

Carine T praised the app in her review, saying: “Great app. Learning Italian is just great! I love the written exercises corrected by native speakers.”

4) Verbi Italiani

Already learned the basics but want to improve your grammar? This app allows you to conjugate over 10,000 verbs in all the tenses – perfect when you’re dealing with the tricky irregulars or one of the less common tenses, so you’ll amaze natives with your mistake-free Italian.

“Excellent application for those who study Italian and have troubles with verbs,” said user Zury Sof.

5) Duolingo

One of the most comprehensive and best-rated language-learning apps out there, Duolingo's makers claim 34 hours on the app “are equivalent to a semester of university-level education”. Grammar, vocabulary and phrases are organized into different topics which you work through in small, bite-sized lessons that feel like a game. It evolves as you go so that you'll be tested on the topics you struggle with most, and you get rewards for regular practice, making it addictive as well as educational. The only downside is that you can't pick and choose specific topics to learn, but have to unlock them in the correct order.

“Amazing! Duolingo is really easy and fun and really does a great job of teaching the language you have chosen!! Its cool that you get 'gems' when you finish a topic and can spend it in the store to get icons or clothes for the Duolingo bird!” writes user Hannah Bottomley.

A version of this article was first published in April 2016.