Italian expression of the day: ‘Alzare i tacchi’

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Italian expression of the day: ‘Alzare i tacchi’
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Don’t leave before you’ve learnt this one.


We all have at some point in our lives found ourselves stuck in a social situation that we just couldn’t wait to walk away from. 

Whether it was a party where you just didn’t belong or a family get-together where tipsy relatives were volunteering dubious views on the most pressing global issues, chances are you seized the first available opportunity to scurry off or spent the rest of the evening regretting not doing so.

In Italy – the land of interminable family reunions and four-hour-long meals – making a quick getaway from awkward social occasions is not just a survival tactic but also a time-honoured art which comes with its own fitting expression: Alzare i tacchi (pronunciation available here).

The idiom literally means ‘to lift one’s own heels’, which refers to the act of walking away at a quick pace. 

Io non ce la faccio piu’.Ti avviso: dopo aver mangiato la torta, alziamo i tacchi.

I just can’t take this anymore. I’m warning you: after eating the cake, we’re legging it.


Io direi che e’ ora di alzare i tacchi…

I think it’s time to leave…

Lo so. Aspetta che mi invento qualcosa…

I know. Let me come up with something…


As you can see from the above examples, alzare i tacchi has no direct equivalent in the English language, which means that different translations (‘up and leave’, ‘cut and run’, ‘leg it’, etc.) may apply depending on the context. 

As a side note, alzare i tacchi is often believed to have the same meaning as darsela a gambe levate (literally, 'leave with one's legs up'), but the two expressions are slightly different. 

Alzare i tacchi is generally used when leaving uncomfortable, embarrassing, or just slightly awkward social situations, whereas darsela a gambe levate is generally used when having to quickly get away from potentially dangerous situations. 

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