Italian for Business Travelers

This guide will assist anyone visiting Italy for business or pleasure, with special attention given to those situations (i.e., the post office, making a telephone call) in which an English speaker would most likely not be present.

The Italians are a very accommodating and warm people who welcome stranieri (foreigners) with open arms. Your attempts to communicate will be encouraged, and if you keep in mind these few basic frasi (phrases), you'll be able to conduct your business with ease.


Say It Like You Mean It    to top

Italian is a phonetic language and with few exceptions you say what you see. Understanding a few basic rules of pronunciation will aid you as you sound out the words you read.


Vowels    to top

It is essential that you pronounce the Italian vowels correctly.

0.1. Italian Vowels

Vowel

Sound

Example

Pronunciation

a

ah as in "father"

artista (artist)

arteesah

e

eh as is "make"

elefante (elephant)

elehfahnteh

i

ee as in "feet"

isola (island)

eezohlah

o

oh as in "note"

otto (eight)

ohttoh

u

oo as in "moon"

Lucca

lookah


Consonants and Their Pronunciation    to top

Many Italian consonants are pronounced like their English equivalents. Outlined below are the different Italian letter combinations.

0.2. Italian Vowels

Consonant

Sound

Example

Pronunciation

C + a, o, u

hard c like cat

casa (house)

kahzah

C + e, i

soft c like cello

cena (dinner)

chehnah

Ch + e, i

hard c like cat

Chianti

keeahntee

G + e, i

j like jelly

giorno (day)

jornoh

Gh

hard g like giddy

spaghetti

spahgettee

Gl

ll like million

figlio (son)

feelyoh

Gn

ny like canyon

bagno (bathroom)

bahnyoh

H

silent unless used in combination with c or g

ho (I have)

oh

R

Trilled

Roberto

rohbertoh

S

s like sun

sole (sun)

sohleh

S (between vowels)

z like rose

rosa (rose)

rohzah

Sc + a, o, u

sk like scandal

scala (stair)

skahlah

Sc + e, i

sh like shell

pesce (fish)

pehsheh

Z

ts like rats

grazie (thank you)

grahtseeyeh

Z + e

z like zebra

zero (zero)

zehroh


The Nitty-Gritty    to top

After the hellos have been said, it's time to get down to business.

0.3.

English

Italian

I need ...

Ho bisogno di...

I'd like...

Vorrei...

Do you have...?

Ha...?

Is there.../Are there...?

C'è/Ci sono...

How much does it cost?

Quanto costa?

Do you have the time?

Sa l'ora?

When?

Quando

What?

Che cosa

Where is...?

Dov'è...?

Help!

Aiuto!

I lost my wallet/passport.

Ho perso il portafoglio/il passaporto.

I need a doctor.

Ho bisogno di un medico.

Where is the restroom?

Dov'è la toilette?


Getting Around    to top

You may want to consult an Italian phrase book for better directions. However, the following phrases will assist you in getting to many places.

0.4.

English

Italian

How do you get to...?

Come si arriva a...?

Where is...

Dov'è...

...a bank?

...una banca

...center (downtown)?

...centro

...the police?

...la polizia

...the airport?

...l'aeroporto

...the hospital?

...l'ospedale

...the train station?

...la stazione ferroviaria?

...the bus station?

...la stazione degli autobus?

Is it near/far?

È vicino/lontano?

Is the bus stop near here?

È qui vicino la fermata dell'autobus?

Is this the stop for...?

È questa la fermata pèr?

Is there a connection?

C'è una coincidenza?

I'd like a ticket, please.

Vorrei un biglietto per favore.

...one way.

...andata solo.

...round trip.

...andata e ritorno.

When does it depart/arrive?

Quando parte/arriva?

From what gate/track does it leave?

Da quale cancello/binario parte?

here/there

qui/li


Food    to top

Life in Italy revolves around the table. With the good food, fine wine, and elegant conversazione, it's no wonder. Most restaurants tack on una coperta (a cover charge) for service and bread. A 510 percent tip is customary for exceptional service.

0.5.

English

Italian

Waiter!

Cameriere!

I'd like to make a reservation for this evening.

Vorrei fare una prenotazione per stasera.

Can we sit...

Possiamo sederci...

...near the window?

...vicino alla finestra?

...outside?

...fuori?

Is there a non-smoking section?

C'è una zona per non fumatori?

A menu, please.

Una lista per favore.

What is the house specialty?

Qual è la specialità della casa?

The check, please.

Il conto per favore.


Telecommunications    to top

As soon as you arrive in Italy, it's a good idea to purchase a prepaid telephone card, called a scheda telefonica, for 5,000 or 10,000 lire. You'll have to break off the corner and insert the card as directed on the telephone. The small screen at the top of the phone will indicate how many units are available. (The longer and the farther the call, the more units consumed.) Most numbers in Italy start with 0 plus the area code, followed by the number. If you are calling from outside Italy, you do not need to dial 0.

Italian Tip
For a domestic operator, dial 15; for an international operator, dial 170; emergencies, dial 112 or 113. International rates are higher in Italy. If possible, charge your calls back home. Find out from your long-distance provider the Italian local access number before you depart. Toll-free 800 numbers do not function outside North America.

0.6.

English

Italian

Do you sell telephone cards?

Vendete schede telefoniche?

Hello? (used only for the telephone)

Pronto?

I'd like to speak with...

Vorrei parlare con...

This is... (your name)

Sono...

Is there a message for me?

C'è un messaggio per me?

I'd like to leave a message.

Vorrei lasciare un messaggio.

I'd like to make a...

Vorrei fare...

...collect call

...una telefonata a carico del destinatario.

...credit-card call

...una telefonata con carta di credito.

...long-distance call

...una telefonata interurbana.

...local call

...una telefonata urbana.

area code

il prefisso

Yellow Pages

le pagine gialle

Is there a fax machine?

C'è un fax?

I'd like to send a fax.

Vorrei inviare un fax.

I'm expecting a fax.

Aspetto un fax.

e-mail

la posta elettronica

e-mail address

l'indirizzo elettronico

Do you have Internet access?

Avete l'accesso ad Internet?

Where can I plug in my modem?

Dov'è posso collegare il mio modem?


At the Post Office    to top

Cartoline (postcards) and francobolli (stamps) can be purchased at any cartoleria (stationery store) and often at the tabaccheria (smoke shop), in addition to the ufficio postale (post office). In Rome, you can also send postcards through the Vatican (but make sure to buy Vatican stamps).

0.7.

English

Italian

Where is the ...

Dov'è...

...post office?

...l'ufficio postale?

...a mailbox?

...la buca da lettere?

I'd like to send this letter/postcard...

Vorrei spedire questa lettera/cartolina...

...by airmail.

...per posta aerea.

...by express mail.

...per espresso.

...by registered mail.

...per posta raccomandata.

How much does it cost?

Quanto costa?


Money Matters    to top

Florins (named after Florence), the currency used during the Renaissance, have given way to lire. There are several spiccioli (coins)of different shapes and designs, many representing the same amounts. For example, there at least three different 50 lire pieces, some no bigger than a dime, others the size of a nickel. ATMs, called Bancomat, are now commonplace. Make sure you have the proper access numbers before you depart, and be sure to notify your credit card company that you may be making purchases abroad. (For your protection, some companies will block a card if they see any unusual changes.)

Italian Tip
Shop around before exchanging your money into lire. Many of the currency exchange offices charge a standard fee, while others take a percentage. Not surprisingly, these charges can vary greatly. Shop around for the best prices and always count your change!

0.8.

English

Italian

automated teller machine

Bancomat

bank

la banca

bill

il conto

cash register

la cassa

change

il resto

coins

gli spicci

Do you accept credit cards?

Accettate le carte di credito?

What is today's exchange?

Qual'?? cambio oggi?

For more Italian to assist you on your journey, consult The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Italian by Gabrielle Euvino. You may also want to contact your local embassy or consulate for maps and event listings.


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