Italian Soccer, Anyone?

Juventus plays at Allianz Arena in Turin, Italy
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Italian football—what we call “soccer” here in the states—seems to be such an integral part of Italian life that I’ve made attempts to understand this world on and off for many years. In the last few months, as the 2016–2017 soccer season has come to a close, I’ve been posting trivia questions about Italian football for the Conversational Italian! Facebook group.

We’ve had lots of fun talking about the most famous and one of the oldest Italian soccer teams—Juventus, from Turin, Italy. We also have at least one Roma fan in the group! I’m hoping to hear from many more soccer club fans as the news continues to unfold when the new season starts in August of this year. 

Because our recent discussion has centered on Juventus, here are a few fun facts about this team:

Juventus was founded in 1897 by a group of male students from an elite school in the city of Turin, the Liceo Classico Massimo d’Azeglio. The Latin word for “youth” is “iuvenis,” and is where the name of this team comes from. For years, I wondered why the letter J starts the name of this famous Italian team when “J” doesn’t exist in the Italian language. It turns out that the name was translated from Latin into the dialect spoken in the Piedmont region of northern Italy at the time, which does use the letter J.

Over the years, the team has been called by many nicknames. Perhaps the most famous is “Vecchia Signora,” which means “Old Lady” in Italian. I’ve heard many explanations for this, but the most plausible seems to be that it is a reference to the history and greatness of the team—the team is like royalty over in Italy, and “signora” means “Mrs.” and “royal lady.” Of course, this name can also be taken ironically because the team includes young men.

Juventus, the most successful Italian soccer team of all time, plays in the top Italian football league, which is the Serie A League. The winner of this league is awarded the Scudetto (“little shield” or “coat of arms” of the Italian tricolors worn on the uniform the next season) and the title Campioni d’Italia (Champions of Italy), along with a trophy called the Coppa Campioni d’Italia. In the 2016–2017 season, Juventus made history with their sixth consecutive Scudetto. They went on to play in the European Champions Cup but did not win a European title this past season.

For a summary of the 2016–2017 Serie A soccer season and the players who made it all happen, see the Football Italia website.

Serie A games will start up again on August 20. A week-by-week schedule of games to be played is also found on the Football Italia website.

Below is a short list of some important Italian words to know if you want to start following Italian soccer.  

How many more nicknames for the different Italian soccer teams do you know? Please reply. I’d love to hear! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

If you need a travel companion to Italy, remember my Conversational Italian for Travelers pocket phrase book, “Just the Important Phrases,” on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


Soccer players at Allianz Stadium
Juventus soccer players at Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy

Calcio = Soccer or Italian Football

la palla soccer ball
il pallone soccer ball
la rete net used for the goal
l’allenatore coach
il giocatore soccer/football player
il calciatore soccer/football player
il portiere goal keeper/goalie
l’arbitro referee/umpire
la gara competition
fallo di mano foul for using one’s hands
fallo di reazione retaliatory foul
fallo da ultimo uomo last man foul
fallo a gamba tesa studs-up tackle
la scorrettezza foul play/rudeness
scorretto(a) improper/rude
l’insulto insult
il cartellino giallo yellow “caution” card is given for improper play, hand foul, or unsportsmanlike or rude behavior
l’espulsione expulsion from a soccer game occurs if a player receives two yellow cards
il cartellino rosso red “expulsion” card occurs for a serious foul using violence, a retaliatory foul, a last man foul, insults, or when two yellow cards have been received

8 Hot Weather Treats Italians Love—from Our Friends at Timeless Italy

Sicilian granita and brioche

I’ve often wondered how Italian mammas could endure boiling pots of pasta in their kitchens during those incredibly hot summer days. Surely they had an escape plan guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of their families at the dinner table. So what did they prepare? How did they escape the heat of their summertime […]

via 8 Hot Weather Treats Italians Love — Timeless Italy

Do You Really Know FCO?

We all have flown in and out of Fiumicino airport just outside Rome at one time or another. But the town is a wonderful place to visit as well! Read all about the wonderful experiences of one blogger and plan to stay for a while on your next trip to see for yourself!

Blogging In Italy

Looking back over the years, since my junior year of college in Rome, I’ve probably landed or taken off from FCO more than 40 times. The formal name of Rome’s largest airport is the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, but to many, the Rome Fiumicino Airport is simply known as FCO, short for Fiumicino.

Like most travelers, the less time spent at an airport the better, so at the end of each Cortona stay, we would leave in the wee hours of the morning to catch a late morning flight home. But last year, when the traffic stress got to be too much, we joined the ranks of those spending the night before departure near FCO.

Not wanting to stay at the airport, we did some research and much to our surprise, we discovered that Fiumicino is much more than an airport. Fiumicino is a town/comune in Metropolitan Rome, with a population…

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Learn Italian Expressions: Allora?

Italy, Stresa Promenade on Lago Maggiore

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.comMany of my friends in our Conversational Italian! group on Facebook have been lucky enough to travel to Italy already this summer, and I know more will soon follow. Some have also moved to Italy this year, and it is so nice to see their lovely photos and hear all about their experiences.

The news from Italy made me think about my past trips to Italy and the fun my children and I had learning the many Italian expressions we encountered for the first time. I distinctly remember my daughter, who knows only a little bit of Italian, asking me in an exasperated way one day, “So, Mom, what is this ‘allora’ I keep hearing all the time?!!!”

I’ve put together a quick list of some common, short Italian expressions that have meanings that seem to defy explanation to the English speaker at first. Many of these expressions also change their meaning depending on the context, which also makes them confusing! But just watch the expressions on people’s faces and, of course, the hand gestures that are an important part of the Italian language, and before you know it, you will be using these expressions yourself. Ma dai!

How many more Italian expressions can you think of that were difficult or funny to understand when you encountered them? Please reply. I’d love to hear! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

If you need a travel companion to Italy, remember my Conversational Italian for Travelers pocket phrase book, “Just the Important Phrases,” on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


(A Few) Italian Expressions for Fun and Travel 

Allora… Well, Well then, So, In that case…
Ebbene… So, Well
Figurati! (in response to thanks received for performing a favor):
No problem, You’re welcome, It was my pleasure
Magari! If only! I wish!
Magari fosse vero! If only it were true!
Ma dai! (persuading tone) Come on!
(encouraging tone) Come on!
(exasperated tone) Come on!
Ma quando mai? When did I ever? Since when?  
(meaning: I never!)
Ma va! But really? You don’t say?
Ma và! (incredulous) Go away! Go on!




Everyday Italian Phrases: What I Saw, What I See, What I Am Looking At…

Burano in Venice, Italy
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the fifth in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.

Another of our “commonly used phrases” that will help us talk more easily is
“What I saw…”
 which reminds us of phrases that describe

“What I see…” and “What I am looking at…”

 See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference book Just the Grammar on and Learn Travel

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel


What I Saw… What I See… What I Am Looking At…

in Italian

First, to review from our last blog post,“What I Saw…” in Italian.

The past tense for “I saw,” a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo past tense form, which is “ho visto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English form “I have seen.”  

A very common question/answer situation arises around “who” we “have seen.” How many times in a family situation does one ask, Did you see/Have you seen…?” The subject in the question is now the familiar “you,” so the Italian phrase will change to “Hai visto…?”

Let’s summarize the phrases used most often to describe what or who I saw… 

I’m also sneaking in a phrase here to describe what or who we have never seen. We start the negative phrase with “non” as usual, then insert the word “mai,” for “never,” between the two past tense verbs.

Ho visto… I saw…
I have seen…
Hai visto…? Did you see…?
Have you seen…?
Non ho mai visto…  I have never seen…  
L’ho visto. I saw him. I saw it.
(masculine thing)
L’ha vista. I saw her. I saw it.
(feminine thing)
Li ho visti. I saw them. (all male or male+female group)  
Le ho viste. I saw them. (all female group)

Of course, we can also discuss “seeing” things or people in the present or future, not just the past. In fact, the following expressions come up so often that it is helpful to commit them to memory.

Vado vedere. I’ll go see.
Faccio vedere… I’ll show you…
(literally: I’ll make you see…)
Vedrai… You’ll see…
Vedremo… We’ll see…

Now, let’s get to some important expressions that use the verb vedere, which of course means “to see.” The first two can be translated literally, but the others cannot and are what we can call “idiomatic.” This means that we must think of the expression in its entirety to understand the meaning, rather than string together a word-by-word translation.

A prima vista At first glance
Mai visto prima Never seen before
Non vedo l’ora di… I can’t wait to…
Non vedo l’ora di vederti! I can’t wait to see you!
Che piacere di vederti! What a pleasure to see you!
Mi ha fatto piacere vederti! It has been a pleasure to see you!
Mi ha fatto piacere conoscerti! It has been a pleasure to meet you!

Sometimes in America when we are recounting a story or an event, we may end with the phrase, “…and that was that!” There is an idiomatic expression in Italian for this phrase that also uses visto:  “…chi s’è visto s’è visto!”  

Finally, if we want to say we are “looking at” something, we can use the verb guardare, which means “to look at” or “to watch.” Notice that the preposition “at” is included with this verb!

Remember, we can “look,” or use our eyes, but not really “see” or understand! Italians use these two verbs the same way that we use them in English!

Use guardare to point out something to someone else, usually when it is in plain sight. In this case, we will often use the command form of the verb, which is signaled by an exclamation point when we write. The direct object pronouns that mean him, her, and it have been written in red and are attached directly to the verb for the command forms used as follows.

Here are some expressions to get you started.

Guarda! Look!
Guardalo!  Look at him! Look at it!
(masculine thing)
Guardala! Look at her! Look at it!
(feminine thing)
Guardo il televisione. I am looking at/watching the television. 

Remember these phrases, and I guarantee that you will use at least one of them every day!

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3): Important Phrases to Remember

Conversational Italian for Travelers Books, 2015

This blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, or il congiuntivo, is the third in a series on this topic that I’ve created for advanced students and teachers of Italian. Each blog post focuses on real-life situations and gives examples of when the subjunctive mode should be used.

Reprinted from the original blog post below is an explanation of why the subjunctive mode is important in Italian, as well as a list of Italian words and phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mode. This is the full list of phrases that were discussed in the series. I hope you find this list useful!

Visit the Learn Italian! blog post from July 17, 2016, to read the entire article and get started learning how to express yourself more naturally and fluently in Italian!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mode that is used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

The subjunctive mode is said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mode, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mode in the phrase to follow.

In our first blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Group 1  through Group 5.

In our second blog post about the Italian subjunctive mode, we discussed Groups 6 and 7.

These groups are again listed for review.

  1. Phrases that use the verbs credere (to believe), pensare (to think), and sperare (to hope). These verbs use the pattern: [verb  di + infinitive verb to describe the beliefs, thoughts, or hopes that one has. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to [verb + che + subjunctive verb].*
  2. Impersonal constructions that begin with “It is…” such as “È possibile che…”
  3. Phrases that express a doubt, such as “I don’t know…” or “Non so che…”
  4. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…”
  5. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…”
  6. Phrases that use the verbs volere and desiderare when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  7. Phrases that use the verbs piacere and dispiacere when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  8. Phrases that express feelings and use the pattern: [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb  +  di + infinitive verb]. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb + che + subjunctive verb].
  9. Sentences that begin with words that end in –ché, or complex conjunctions that end with che: affinché, perché (so as, so that, in order that), purché (as long as, provided that), a meno che (unless), può darsi che (it may be possible that, possibly, maybe), prima che (before that). Also the many words that mean although/though, one of which ends in -che: benché  (also sebenne, malgrado, nonostante).
  10. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of any in a description of a person, place, or thing: qualsiasi, qualunque (any), chiunque (whoever), dovunque (anywhere).
  11. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of nothing or only  in a description of a person, place, or thing: niente che, nulla che (nothing that), nessuno che (nobody that), l’unico, il solo, a che (the only one that).
  12. Phrases that begin with se (if) or come se (as if) in certain situations.

Click on the link to the original Learn Italian! blog post (Part 3) about the Italian subjunctive mode for an explanation of Groups 8 through 11. Group 12 will be the topic of a later series of blog posts on hypothetical phrases but is included here for completeness.

—Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of this material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on Special thanks to Italian instructors Simona Giuggioli and Maria Vanessa Colapinto.