Your Pocket Guide to Italian on Your Ski Holiday

May 20, 2019

Let’s be honest, Brits aren’t best known for their linguistic abilities. Quite possibly the opposite, in fact.

Nevertheless, if you’ve ever been to Italy you may have succeeded in mastering a few phrases – only to forget them when you return home. Which is a shame, because you’re more likely to come across non-English speakers in Italian resorts than you are in France or Austria.

“Parla Inglese?” will always be your best bet on an Italian ski holiday, but if the answer is a dreaded “no”, then I’ve got you covered with Plan B.

Here are some useful phrases that will have you mingling with the locals and really immersing yourself in Italian culture.

After all, there’s no better way to make a good impression and to defy the English stereotype than to have an arsenal of authentic Italian phrases ready.

Italian dictionaries to hand? Bene allora, cominciamo!


Your Daily Basics

For the purpose of this guide, I shall assume you don’t yet speak a word of ‘Italiano’ (the Italian language). We’ll start with some conversational basics before moving on to scenario-based translations.

Worry not, you will be ready for your weekend break in no time!

Buongiorno = ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’ if used after lunch
Similar to the French ‘bonjour’, ‘buongiorno’ literally means ‘good day’. A key greeting if you want to make friends on the slope.
This changes to ‘Buona sera’ after dark to mean ‘good evening’.

Ciao = Hi / Bye
A familiar way to say hello or goodbye (or even both at the same time) and probably the most common word you will hear. If you only remember a handful of these phrases, make this one of them.

Non capisco = I don’t understand
I think this one will come in handy more often than you’d be willing to admit. Italians won’t expect you to be fluent in their language, but they’ll love you for trying. So always say if you don’t understand.

Per favore / Grazie = Please / Thank you
I always find it’s the little phrases that make a huge difference to locals. Just remembering the words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can put a big smile on someone’s face. Add ‘grazie mille’ if you want to sound extra grateful (literally: ‘a thousand thanks’).


In The Restaurant

Don’t let linguistics become an obstacle between yourself and well-earned Italian cuisine after a hard day’s skiing. ‘Il cameriere’ (the waiter) may speak English, but that shouldn’t stop you from attempting to impress whilst ordering your post-meal Italian coffee.

Vorrei prenotare un tavolo per due = I would like to reserve a table for two
There is nothing worse than looking forward to a heavenly Italian dinner after long day on the slopes and then finding that the restaurant is fully booked. I hope this phrase will ensure you can treat your loved one to the romantic dinner they deserve.
At lunchtime ask “Possiamo avere un tavolo dentro / fuori” if you want to book a table inside / outside.

Dov’è il bagno? = Where is the bathroom?
No matter your circumstance, this is a phrase everyone will need to know. It can also prevent you from depositing snow across the restaurant floor if you are coming straight off the slopes!

Io sono vegetariano / vegano / intollerante al glutine = I am vegetarian / vegan / gluten-free
For those who have more specific requirements of their diet, this can be helpful in trying to navigate often extensive menus.

Vorrei la mia carne al sangue / media cottura / ben cotta = I would like my meat rare / medium / well done
For the remaining meat eaters, this is another useful phrase to get across your preferences. Often, you’ll find the waiting staff will offer the chef’s opinion for how the meat is best cooked. Personally, they have yet to disappoint me!

Posso avere del olio picante perfavore? = Can I have some chili oil, please?
If you don’t think your dish is spicy enough 😉

If you’re feeling indecisive…

Che cosa mi consiglia? = What can you recommend?
How about asking the waiter to recommend a dish or wine? If in doubt, ask the waiter to make you a selection of antipasti, pasta and main courses.

Scelga lei = you choose for me
They love being asked this, especially for wine recommendations. Possibly add this to avoid any shocks when the bill comes: ‘non voglio spendere piu’ di euro xx’ = I don’t want to spend more than xx euros.

Possiamo avere un assaggio da dividere = can we just have a taste to share
For a more social experience which, after all, is what eating is all about in Italy!

Tris di primi = a trio of primi (pastas/risotto)
It is common to order a selection of different pastas to share.

Due cucchiai per favore = 2 spoons please
If your companion is too abstemious to order their own Tiramisu but you know they are going to want to try yours. It is a tricky one to pronounce but should be entertaining to try!

and finally…

Il conto per favore = Can I have the bill please?
The only bad thing about Italian food is that you can’t eat it forever! When you’ve undone the first button on your salopettes it’s possibly time for the bill.

Servizio incluso? = Is service included?
Find out if you need to add a tip to your bill or if it’s included.


On The Slopes

While conversation might not be so important whilst you fly down the slopes, you may almost certainly find that person at the ski hire shop does not speak English. To ensure you are given the correct set of skis you’ll need to know how tell them what level of skier you are.

Sono un principiante / una principiante = I am a beginner (male/female)
If it’s your first time on the slopes, this is definitely one to remember. Other skiers suddenly become a lot more forgiving when they realise it’s your first time. Make sure you don’t stand out by reading our bluffer’s guide to gearing up.

Sono uno sciatore medio / una sciatrice media = I am an intermediate (male/female)
This is especially useful if you don’t want to spend all day on the nursery slopes in the beginner ski class. Of course, you must have the skills to back up the statement…

Sono uno sciatore esperto / una sciatrice esperta = I am an expert (male/female)
A phrase that will come in handy if someone starts shouting to inform you that it’s a double black diamond run you are about to go down!

Mi scusi, sto ancora imparando = Sorry, I’m still learning
Perfect for diffusing any hostility after a collision or accident.

Mi sono perso = I am lost
If you find yourself separated from your group and without a piste map, this is the perfect phrase. Of course, if someone lends you their own piste map you still have to be able to read it.


In The Bar

No list of skiing phrases would be complete without a section devoted to après ski. Many people encountering foreign languages can find it intimidating to try out their new found phrases and often find that bars are the best time to practice when inhibitions are not as high. Especially if you’re having a big night out the following phrases will no doubt become useful.

Cosa vuoi bere? = What would you like to drink?
Because the best way to make friends is to buy them a round of drinks. And they’ll be even friendlier when you ask them in Italian.

Una bottiglia di vino bianco / rosso = A bottle of white / red wine
or Un bichiere di vino bianco / rosso = a glass of white / red wine
or Un terzo / quatro di bianco / rosso di casa = 1/3 or 1/4 litre of white / red house wine

An elementary phrase for those amongst you wishing to embrace one of Italy’s fondest ways of life.

Quattro Peroni per favore = Four Peronis please
Una birra media = a large beer (half litre)
If you decide to opt for beer instead of wine, this will certainly come in handy. Remember to always get a friend to help you carry the drinks back if you’re wearing ski boots!

E occupato? = Is it occupied?
If you need to ask if anything is taken, be it a stool, table or if someone is using the toilets.

Possiamo avere un espresso, un macchiato e il conto, allo stesso tempo per favore? = Please may we have an espresso, a macchiato and the bill at the same time?
If you are in a rush to make the last ski lift back up the slope this is the way to ask for it all at once. Also to note there are many more varieties of coffee to be enjoyed whilst you are in Italy, be sure to sample each – don’t forget our guide to drinking coffee like an Italian – and return home with a new favourite!


Practice Makes Perfect

From personal experience with foreign languages, I assure you it’s difficult to learn all these phrases if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try them out.

Hopefully, this has whet your appetite for a ski trip to one of Italy’s great ski resorts next season and perhaps you will have a chance to try some of these phrases out during a summer holiday as well. Just let us know if there are any other phrases you think would be useful.

Get in touch to talk about how we can start planning your tailor-made ski trip.

Amin Momen

Amin Momen