Ordering a coffee in Italy

Above: A classic caffè macchiato (not cappuccino).

In Italian, an espresso is called simply caffè or caffè espresso

A caffè can be served ristretto or corto (REE-streh-toh or COHR-toh), i.e., with less water, more flavor and aroma, and less caffeine.

It can also be served lungo, with more water, less flavor and aroma, and more caffeine.

A caffè can be macchiato (MAH-kee-AH-toh), literally “spotted” with a dash of steamed milk.

It can also be corretto (cohr-REHT-toh) or spiked with a distillate, often grappa but also brandy (fruit distillate).

And a caffè can also be served liscio (LEE-shoh), without the addition of anything. (In the morning, you’ll often hear the barista ask her/his patrons if they’d like their espresso liscio or macchiato (MAH-kee-AH-toh) since many people drink their coffee macchiato in the morning.

We’ll devote another post to the art of the cappuccino. But in the meantime, please remember: Italians never drink cappuccino after 11 a.m.! Live like an Italian: drink your cappuccino only in the morning (there’s a reason for this).

Mamma mia! Italian sayings…

Now that we’ve started some useful Italian lessons, let’s move on!

Italians are known for gesticulating emphatically while speaking. Here are our favorite Italian expressions that are just begging for the accompanying hand gestures.

1. Mamma mia! This means literally, my mother, but it is definitely a term that can express everything from exasperation to wonder. Your kid didn’t clean his room…again? Mamma mia!! The garbage stinks to high heaven? Mamma mia!! That Spaghetti alle Vongole just made you have a foodgasm? Mamma mia!!

Get it?

2. Basta! This means enough. You can say this (politely, followed by grazie) when an Italian mother has shoved a second heaping serving of spaghetti your way. You can also yell it when you just can’t take anymore of whatever you’ve had enough of (attitude, food, tickles, or inane conversation).

3. Uffa! There’s no translation for this, but it is yet another way to express that you are highly annoyed. The trains are on strike AGAIN? Uffa! Your feet hurt from walking around Rome in those new shoes you bought? Uffa! Flight delays? UFFFFAAAAA!!!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, stay tuned for more Italian lessons!

Image via ArtTrav.

Speak Like an Italian: (Avoiding) False Cognates

Above: In Italian a “camera” is a bed room. A “macchina fotografica” is a camera. Confused?

We want you to be able to speak like an Italian, but we must warn you that there are some pretty easy ways to stick your foot in your mouth if you’re not careful.

Today’s Italian lesson is on false cognates, or “false friends.”

Cognates are words that basically sound the same in both languages in question. For example, there’s intelligente (intelligent) and farmacia (you guessed it, pharmacy). But don’t get caught asking for pepperoni on your pizza if what you want is cured sausage because what you’ll end up with is bell peppers. This is why it’s called a false cognate.

We don’t want you to get caught in a sticky situation where either hilarity or calamity can ensue, so here’s our top ten list of false friends:

1. Sensibile: it means sensitive, not sensible.

2. Baldo: courageous (You can describe to the local authorities that the taxi driver who ripped you off is baldo, but you won’t be referring to his head.)

3. Collegio: boarding school or dormitory (Explaining your educational background might make your new Italian friends think that you are very rich.)

4. Morbido: soft (Your little brother’s obsession with horror movies is… soft? I don’t understand!)

5. Genitori: This means parents. Get your mind out of the gutter.

6. Fabbrica: factory (Farm is fattoria and fabric is tessuto. Confused yet?)

7. Camera: room (Want to take a picture with your… room? Instead, make sure and ask for the macchina fotografica.)

8. Romanzo: novel (No, you do not want to have a great novel on your vacation, you want a storia d’amore.)

9. Educato: polite (Telling someone that their children are so educated when you mean polite is not an insult, but it may be confusing when referring to a toddler.)

Guest post: A Kiss at Midnight by Brenda Hoops Rouse

Love like an Italian…

Another New Year’s Eve in Baltimore alone was not an option. It was time for a change, and before I knew it I had booked a trip to Genoa for a week. If all went according to plan I would arrive in time for dinner and fireworks. I had been to Italy before, and both times, I saw it through the eyes of the man I was traveling with. This time, I would see Italy through my eyes.

I had seen Italy (Rome, Florence and Carrara) through the eyes of my artist lover back in the 80’s. I had seen Italy (Bordighera, Italian Riviera, and Alba) through the eyes of my future husband in 1992.


Guest Blogger: Do Bianchi on Italian sayings

We’ve invited Italian culture maven Do Bianchi to contribute here occasionally here at Live Like an Italian. After all, he’s been living like an Italian for nearly twenty years! 😉

For my first post here, I thought it might be fun to offer up a simple list of Italian expressions. They are all what we call in linguistics optatives, a “mood” (as you say in Latin grammar) that expresses a desire that something be achieved, as in the case of buona giornata or have a nice day… Buona lettura! (Enjoy reading them!)


Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.


Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.


Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.


Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].


Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.

Which ones are we missing? Please feel free to add others in the comment section…

—Do Bianchi

Ciao vs. Buon Giorno

The famous “Ciao” moped was produced by Piaggio from 1967-2006.

Everyone knows the Italian word ciao: it’s become part of the cultural fabric of every English-speaking country.

What a lot of people don’t know is that ciao is used in Italy as both a greeting — as in hello — and a farewell — as in good-bye.

Although the expression is now considered standard Italian, it is Venetian in origin. It means literally slave or servant (from the Latin sclavus) and it was commonly used by courtiers in the sixteenth-century in greeting or saying farewell: [I am your humble] servant.

Another way that ciao is commonly mis- and re-interpreted in English-speaking countries is that in Italy, ciao is used strictly in informal settings. Outside of Italy, it is used regardless of the “register” of formality required by the setting.

For example, if you were to say ciao to a waiter in a restaurant, she or he would be offended by your presumptuously informal tone.

The proper way to greet a restaurateur or shopkeeper (or any other professional acquaintance for that matter) is by saying buon giorno (good day) or buona sera (good evening). And both can be used as both greeting and farewell.

Briciole, an amazing resource for Italian food and recipes

The photo above comes from Briciole’s Valentine’s Day post.

Friday has become Italian Food Lover Friday at Live Like an Italian…

The photo above comes from the number-one resource for Italian recipes and Italian gastronomy pronunciation, Briciole (BREE-choh-leh), meaning [bread] crumbs by Umbrian native Simona Carini who lives in Northern California.

Not only does Briciole publish Italian recipes and cooking tips, she also provides audio clips with authentic Italian pronunciations of the ingredients she uses and the dishes (Italian was Simona’s first language).

Click here to visit Briciole, one of our favorite Italian food blogs.

Buon weekend a tutti!