9 Italian Travel Phrases Tourists Nearly Always Get Wrong

4th June 2024

Are you making these tourist mistakes when you speak Italian? It’s OK, nearly everyone does! Learn how to avoid them in this mini lesson.


Listen to the episode

Ciao! Did you know that most tourists get this word wrong? 

It’s also common to make mistakes when paying for things, ordering a spritz, and asking someone to take a photo of you… in short, the things you might do a lot in Italy! 

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to avoid the 9 mistakes nearly all tourists make, so you can communicate smoothly with the locals as you go about your day. 


If you’ve been following us for a little while, you’ll know we mention this one frequently, because it’s a frequent mistake! 

Lots of tourists say ciao when greeting people like taxi drivers and waiters. But ciao is an informal way of saying “hi” or “bye” in Italian. When greeting people you don’t know, it’s usually better to use formal phrases, like these:  

Buongiorno  Hello; good morning (literally “good day").  BWON–JOR–NOH
Buonasera Good evening BWON–AH SEH–RAH
Arrivederci  Goodbye AH–REE–VEH–DER–CHEE
Salve  Hello or goodbye  SAL–VEH

However, this rule is becoming less strict over time, and sometimes even Italians aren’t sure which form to use. These days you’ll sometimes hear people greet customers with an informal ciao, rather than a formal buongiorno. Listen carefully and follow their lead: 

– Ciao! – Ciao! 

– Buongiorno! – Buongiorno! 

No problem! 

Hopefully you’ll be feeling relaxed on vacation in Italy, so you’ll want to say this phrase a lot. In Italian, there are two ways to say “no problem”: 

Nessun problema NEH–SOON PROB–LEH–MAH

Non c’è problema NON CHEH PROB–LEH–MAH 

The first phrase means “no problem”, while the second literally translates to “there is no problem”. Italians use both interchangeably. 

What’s the mistake? A lot of people say no problema, or even no problemo, but these expressions don’t exist in Italian! The word problema is also a bit tricky because it ends in –a, like most feminine words in Italian. But it’s actually masculine! This means we say nessun problema, and not * nessuna problema. 

If these details feel too complicated, nessun problema! Just say nessun problema or non c’è problema   and you’ll blend in with the locals. 

Pronunciation of Euro

This might just be the most common mistake of them all… how to say euro in Italian ! Italians always pronounce vowels as you see them, so it sounds like this: 


In English, we pronounce it more like this: YOO–ROW, with a Y sound at the beginning. In Italian, it starts with EH. And it’s always the same, even in the plural form!

Quanto costa? – How much does it cost? KWAN–TOH KOH–STAH

Due euro – Two euros DOO–EH EH–OO–ROH

Pronunciation of Grazie 

Gratsee? Gratseeah? How do you pronounce this very common Italian word? Tourists often say lots of variations that aren’t quite right. The Italian pronunciation of grazie is like this: 


Two syllables, with a “YEH” sound at the end. Here are some more handy phrases with this word: 

Grazie mille! – Thanks a lot! GRATS–YEH MEE–LEH

Grazie di tutto – Thanks for everything GRATS–YEH DEE TOO–TOH

A spritz please! 

If you go to an Italian piazza at around 7 – 8pm, you’ll see Italians sitting outside bars and caffès drinking bright orange Aperol Spritzes. While this drink is now popular all over the world, there’s one little detail most Italian learners get wrong when ordering them.  

They say it like this: 

*Un spritz, per favore! – A spritz, please! 

Can you spot the mistake? In Italian, we say uno spritz, with an –o, at the end of un o .

Uno spritz, per favore! OON –OH SPREETS PER–FAV–OH–REH

Why do learners often get this wrong? Usually, in Italian, for masculine things, we say un, for example: 

Un bicchiere di vino – A glass of wine

Un caffè – A coffee

But there’s a funny little rule! For masculine words starting with S followed by a consonant, like sp, st, sc… we say uno. For example: 

Uno spritz – A spritz

Uno studente – A student

Uno scontrino – A receipt

Asking someone to take a photo 

You’re with your travel companion in front of the Valley of the Temples in Sicily, and you’d love a photo of the two of you together. Here are two correct phrases you can use to ask a passerby: 

Scusi, ci può fare una foto?  Excuse me, could you take a photo of us? (formal) SKOO-ZEE CHEE PWOH FAH–REH OON–AH FOH-TOH
Scusa, ci puoi fare una foto?  Excuse me, could you take a photo of us? (informal) SKOO-ZAH CHEE PWOY FAH–REH OON–AH FOH-TOH

There are two mistakes learners often make here! Firstly, they say * un foto. This is because in Italian, masculine words usually end in –o, and feminine words end in –a. However, una foto is short for una fotografia. It’s feminine, so we say una foto. 

Second, they sometimes translate literally from English, and say *prendere una foto, “take a photo”. But in this expression, Italians use the verb fare , which means “to do”. 

Asking for a table 

Eating out in some lovely Italian restaurants is a must when you’re visiting Italy. The first thing you’ll need to do is tell the waiter how many of you there are. Italians have a funny little way of saying this, that most tourists don’t know about! For example: 

Siamo in due  There are two of us SYAH–MOH EEN DOO–EH
Siamo in tre There are three of us SYAH–MOH EEN TREH
Siamo in quattro There are four of us SYAH–MOH EEN KWAH–TROH

These expressions start with siamo in, which literally means “we are in”. Then you just add the number of people!

Talking about the hot weather

Talking about the heat can be a bit of a minefield in Italian, because if you’re not careful, by accident you can say: 

Sono caldo – I’m horny (literally “I am hot”)

Italians have a very different way of talking about heat compared to in English! Instead of “I am hot”, they say “I have heat”. And instead of “it’s hot”, they say “it does heat”. Here are two essential phrases to help you express these concepts like an Italian: 

Ho caldo  I’m hot (literally “I have heat”) OH KAL–DOH
Fa caldo  It’s hot (literally “it does heat”) FAH KAL–DOH

Ordering a gelato, caffè… or anything to eat and drink! 

Speaking of the heat, another thing you might want to do in Italy is eat some lovely gelatos! When ordering something to eat or drink in Italy, Italians often use the word prendo: 

Prendo un gelato al pistacchio I’ll have a pistacchio gelato  PREN–DOH OON PEES–TAK–YOH JEH-LAH-TOH
Prendo un caffè  I’ll have a coffee PREN–DOH OON KAF–FEH

Where’s the mistake? Prendo literally means “I take”, which can feel a bit strange at first! Sometimes learners translate too literally from English and use the verb avere which means “to have”. 

Italian Travel Phrase Mistakes: Review

Now you know how to avoid 9 common mistakes that tourists make with Italian travel phrases! Let’s review the correct phrases once more: 

Buongiorno – Hello; good morning 

Buonasera – Good evening

Arrivederci – Goodbye

Salve – Hello or goodbye 

Nessun problema – No problem

Non c’è problema – No problem

Euro – Euro (pronounced EH–OO–ROH)

Grazie – Thank you (pronounced GRATS–YEH)

Uno spritz – A spritz

Scusi, ci può fare una foto? – Excuse me, could you take a photo of us? (form.)

Scusi, ci puoi fare una foto? – Excuse me, could you take a photo of us? (inform.)

Siamo in due – There are two of us

Ho caldo – I’m hot 

Fa caldo – It’s hot 

Prendo un caffè – I’ll have a coffee

But remember: making mistakes isn’t bad, in fact, they’re often the best way to learn. With this in mind, it’s time to test your knowledge with our quiz and vocabulary cards. You’ll either get the phrases right 🙌 or learn how to say them right next time!

K: Ciao a tutti e benvenuti! Hi everyone and welcome to “Learn Italian with Joy of Languages”. 

M: If you’re listening to this on your podcast app could you do us un favore and hit the subscribe or follow button? This way you’ll get notified when we release a new episode and you’ll help our podcast grow so that we can keep making free lessons like this. Grazie! 

K: We live in Milan, and we almost never go to the centre. But very occasionally, we do something very Italian, hop on a scooter and go to the cathedral square. In Italian, the main cathedral of a city is called il Duomo (x2) . So the main square is often called piazza Duomo. 

M: Listen to our conversation. How many phrases can you hear that you might use when you’re in Italy? 

K: Mi puoi fare una foto davanti al Duomo?

M: Nooo… fa caldo… Andiamo al bar?

K: Ma qui uno Spritz costa 13 euro

M: Non c’è problema: offro io

K: Ma siamo in due!

M: Nessun problema. [...] Salve, prendo uno Spritz 

K: Per me un’acqua frizzante.

M: Ma daiii

K: I said: 

K: Mi puoi fare una foto… Can you take a picture of me… Literally: 

Mi – me (or “of me” in this case) 

Puoi – you can 

Fare – do

Una foto – a photo 

K: Here’s a classic example of how Italians often express things differently compared to how we express them in English. They talk a little bit like yoda, and put the “of me” bit first. Then, in Italian, we say fare una foto (x2) , literally “to do” a photo. 

M: One common mistake learners make is to translate too literally from English. They say “take” a photo, using the Italian word for “take” which is prendere. But in Italian, we say “do a photo”: fare una foto. 

K: If you’re asking someone to take a photo of you, you’ll probably use a variation on this phrase. You might want to say “can you take a photo of us please”? In this case, the most useful phrase is: 

M: Ci può fare una foto, per favore? 

Ci – Us (“of us” in this case)

Può – you can, this time in the formal address (può). 

Fare – do 

Una foto – a photo 

Per favore – please? 

M: Ci può fare una foto, per favore? (x2). 

K: Where did I want to take the photo? 

M: Davanti al Duomo – in front of the cathedral

Davanti al – in front of the

Duomo – cathedral 

K: Then Matteo said: 

M: Nooo… fa caldo… – No… it’s hot… 

No – No 

Fa – it does 

Caldo – hot 

K: Here’s another common mistake! Learners often translate directly from English and say “it’s hot”: *è caldo. But in Italian, we say “it does hot”: 

M. Fa caldo (x2) 

K: Then Matteo suggested: 

M: Andiamo al bar? – Shall we go to the bar? 

Andiamo – we go 

Al – to the 

Bar – bar?  

K: Then I said: 

M: Ma qui uno Spritz costa tredici euro – but here a spritz costs 13 euros! 

Ma – But 

Qui – Here 

Uno –

Spritz – spritz 

Costa – costs 

Tredici  – thirteen 

Euro – euros 

K: As you probably know, in touristy places near the city centre, everything is more expensive! And you heard a couple of phrases learners often make mistakes with. 

M: I often hear people say *un spritz. But in Italian, it’s un o , with an –o at the end. Un o spritz (x2). 

K: This is because of a funny little rule in Italian. Usually, for masculine nouns, we use un, for example, un caffè. But if the word starts with the letter s plus a consonant, like sp in this case, sp… we say uno. 

M: Uno spritz. 

K: Another example is uno studente, a student. Or uno scontrino, a receipt. Don’t fret too much about this rule for now, if you like you can just learn the phrase: Uno spritz! 

M: The next thing you heard was the pronunciation of the word euro. Tourists often pronounce it like in English, with YUU at the beginning. But in Italian, it starts with EH. 

K: That’s right, it’s three syllables. EH–OO–ROH (X2). EH(x2) OO (x2) ROH (x2). 

M: Euro (x2). 

K: If you need some extra help pronouncing this, you can check out episode 101. Next,  Matteo said: 

M: Non c’è problema: offro io – No problem, it’s on me. Literally: 

Non – not 

C’è – there is 

Problema problem 

Offro – I offer 

Io –

K: A couple of things here. The first, is the correct way to say “no problem”. A common mistake is “no problema”. But in Italian, we literally say “there is no problem”: 

M: Non c’è problema (x2) 

K: Then Matteo said offro io. The word offro , already means “I offer”. Then he adds the word “I”, io at the end for extra emphasis. It’s me who’s offering, I’m the person who’s doing it: 

M: Offro io. 

K: Then I said: 

M: Ma siamo in due! – But there are two of us! 

Ma – But 

Siamo – we are

In – in 

Due – two 

K: Here’s a very useful phrase, and another funny quirk of Italian! To say how many people are in our group, in Italian, we say siamo in, literally “we are in” plus the number of people, in this case two, due. There are two of us, literally “we are in two”: 

M: Siamo in due

K: This is a very handy phrase for asking for a table when you walk into a restaurant. How would you say “there are three of us”. We are in three. 


M: Siamo in tre

K: There are four of us? 


M: Siamo in quattro 

K: Next, Matteo said: 

M: Nessun problema – No problem. 

Here’s another way to say it. 

M: Nessun problema (x2) 

K: Can you remember the first way you heard? Literally there’s no problem? 


M: Non c’è problema (x2) 

K: You can either say non c’è problema , or nessun problema . They’re interchangeable. 

M: The word problema can also cause some “problems” (see what I did there?) because it ends in –a , like most feminine words in Italian. But it’s actually masculine! This means we say ness UN problema, and not * ness una problema. 

K: But if these details feel too complicated, nessun problema! Just say nessun problema or non c’è problema and you’ll blend in with the locals. Then Matteo ordered: 

M: Salve, prendo uno Spritz – Hello, I’ll have a spritz. 

Salve – Hello 

Prendo – I take

Uno Spritz – a spritz 

K: Salve is a fairly formal way to say hello, perfect for greeting people in the service industry. And you heard another very useful word that people sometimes make mistakes with. Prendo

M: Prendo (x2). 

K: This literally means “I take”, but Italians use it like “I’ll have”, when ordering. The Italian word for “have” is avere (x2). However, we don’t use it for ordering. Instead, we use prendo (I take). 

M: Prendo. This is a very natural way to order that I’d suggest learning and using. 

K: Then I ordered, saying:

M: Per me un’acqua frizzante. – For me a fizzy water

Per – for 

Me – me 

Un’ – a

Acqua – water 

Frizzante – fizzy  

K: Here you heard another natural way to order in Italian. Per me, literally “for me”. Then Matteo said: 

M: Ma daiii – come on! Literally: 

Ma – but 

Dai – you give

K: We heard this expression in the last episode, too! Looking at the individual words, it doesn’t make sense. It’s another example of how, in certain situations, it’s best just to learn the little phrases so that they can roll off the tongue, without worrying about the logic. “Come on!”, in this case is: 

M: Ma dai! 

K: Unbelievable, I’m saving you money… 

M: And making me drink alone! 

K: Let’s listen to the conversation again: 

K: Mi puoi fare una foto davanti al Duomo?

M: Nooo… fa caldo… Andiamo al bar?

K: Ma qui uno Spritz costa 13 euro

M: Non c’è problema: offro io

K: Ma siamo in due!

M: Nessun problema. [...] Salve, prendo uno Spritz 

K: Per me un’acqua frizzante.

M: Ma daiii

K: If you want to see everything from today’s episode written down, and learn a few more handy phrases to use in Italy, you can head over to our website. 

M: You’ll also find bonus materials, like vocabulary cards and a quiz. Either follow the link in the description or go to italian.joyoflanguages.com/podcast and search for episode 142. 

M - See you next time.

K - Or as we say in Italian.

Alla prossima!

Time to check your understanding and remember everything you just learned! Below you’ll find a mini-quiz and some vocabulary cards to help it all go in.


How much did you learn? Find out in the quiz!

Click here to take the quiz for this episode: 9 Italian Travel Phrases Tourists Nearly Always Get Wrong


Prendo un caffè = I’ll have a coffee (lit. “I take a coffee”)

Nessun problema = No problem

Non c’è problema = No problem (lit. there is no problem)

Fare una foto = To take a photo (lit. to do a photo)

Ci puoi fare una foto? = Can you take a photo of us? (informal)

Ci può fare una foto? = Can you take a photo of us (formal)

Siamo in due = There are two of us

Uno spritz = A spritz

Uno studente = A student

Uno scontrino = A receipt

Prendo uno spritz = I’ll have a spritz (lit. “I take a spritz”)

Fa caldo = It’s hot

Flashcards: 9 Italian Travel Phrases Tourists Nearly Always Get Wrong

Not sure how it works? Click here to watch the tutorial

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