Italians are well famous for their hand gestures. We can go on and on talking only by using our hands and perfectly understand each other. It’s our “Trade mark”, we don’t even realize it until someone starts emulating us (see my boyfriend when I talk to my parents on the phone).
You are on a trip, in Italy: Sardinia, Tuscany, Rome…whatever! You meet an Italian. Do you want to make them laugh or impress them? Start to talk and gesticulate like them! You will see an instant smile on their face (and they probably will think you are a bit crazy, but that’s part of the game right?.)
So let’s get started with our Italian gestures crash course. After reading this article, you will finally understand what’s going on when two Italians are around. No more secret codes, I promise! You will even able to join the conversation and add some very deep meaning to it 😉
UPDATE 2017 – FOGNINI GESTURE AT WIMBLEDON –
This one made me laugh! When the famous tennis player Fognini put his finger in the mouth during his match against Andy Murray at Wimbledon, so many people started Googling “Fognini Finger in mouth gesture” “Obscene Italian gestures” “Finger in mouth meaning”, looking for an answer.
You even sent me numerous emails asking me whether or not he truly performed an obscene gesture. So what’s the answer?
Not really! Italians are famous for using their hands a lot but not all these gestures are either specific for a situation or offensive! Let’s say that we truly like to gesticulate a lot even if it doesn’t have a proper meaning.
In this specific case, Fognini’s gesture wasn’t obscene and it actually didn’t have any specific mean at all. If I had to guess, as an Italian who also gesticulates a lot, he did it probably out of frustration, or he was mimicking a gag reflex for a bad shot, who knows? But from what I saw (I’m a massive tennis fan and I was watching the whole thing when it happened) I didn’t really see anything obscene in his gesture.
For the records, I’m not defending him because he is Italian, as a matter of fact, even if he has some brilliance in his game, I am a die hard Rafa Nadal fan, so no conflict here 🙂
Now back to the main topic, the real, meaningful, Italian gestures you have to know… Read on!
TOP 17 ITALIAN GESTURES: (Featuring Clelia)
Disclaimer: These shots have been one of the most embarrassing things I ever did, as not only I had to perform some very silly faces, but I also had my boyfriend mocking me the whole time! 🙂
For every picture I will put a headline with the meaning and a quick explanation at the bottom. Note that to fully understand the meaning of an Italian gesture, you always need to pay attention to the face! Enjoy the silliness…
ITALIAN GESTURE N.1| DELICIOUS!
When to use it: Typically at the restaurant after a very good meal, or in a funny way to compliment a girl. Use it to impress the waiter/waitress (unless you are eating at a very posh place, in that case, it’s not very appropriate!)
ITALIAN GESTURE N.2: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!
Where to use it: One of your friends is saying something totally silly? or trying to bullshit you? Using this gesture will clearly state that you ain’t buying any of it!. Or you can even use it to simply piss them off even if they are talking about astrophysics. This is one of my favorites! really effective and straight to the point. Don’t forget to use a proper face!
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 3: YOU ARE CRAZY!
Where to use it: You’re on a vacation in Koh Tao, and instead of enjoying the beach, your friend has the very nice idea of swimming in a Piranha filled pool? That’s the time to use this hand gesture!! (No don’t try and look for it, there are many activities to do in Koh Tao, but nothing like swimming with Piranhas!!)
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 4: GO TO HELL!!
Where to use it: Your friend starts mocking you, as you refuse to go swimming with the Piranhas with him. He says you are a coward, and you don’t know how to have fun in life. Feel free to use this sign!
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 5: I GIVE UP!
Where to use it: After sending him to hell, unbelievably your friend is still trying to convince you about the Piranhas. You don’t want to argue with him anymore and want to drop the subject. This sign is perfect for the occasion!
ITALIAN GESTURE N.6: YOU ARE STUBBORN!!
Where to use it: Your friend keeps insisting over and over again. This is a good way to tell him that he’s stubborn and hard headed! (maybe use a less smiling face to be more credible).
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 7: YOU ARE BORING!!
Where to use it: You tried them all: you sent him to hell, said he is crazy and all, but your friend is persistent. He really wants you to swim with Piranhas with him. Tell him that he is getting boring by shaking your hands in front of you!
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 8: ENOUGH!!
Where to use it: You don’t want to hear another word about Piranhas.
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 9: I DON’T CARE, I DON’T GIVE A DAMN!
Where to use it: Your friend finally decides to go swimming with the damn piranhas by himself. He comes back, alive, with a half eaten bloody foot. This sign is perfect to tell him that you don’t give a damn.
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 10: I HAVE AN IDEA!!
When to use it: You want to dissuade your friend from proposing other rent-less adventures, and you had the brilliant idea of involving him in a scuba diving course.. go to him and, with an excited face, tell him that you had the most incredible idea by using this sign!
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 11: IF I CATCH YOU I KILL YOU!!
When to use it: After telling your friend about your idea, he confesses that he just signed up for another activity. He’s going to swim with big white sharks. This sign exactly “daammn, don’t let me catch you! Otherwise, I’ll ruin you with my hands!”
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 12: SIGNS AGAINST BAD LUCK
When to use it: Even with his absurd ideas you still care about your friend, so before he leaves for his next adventure you want to perform this sign to wish him good luck. This gesture means ” I hope nothing bad happens to you, I will exorcise the bad luck for you”!
You can also use this sign for the opposite reason. You are watching your favorite football game and the referee just gave a penalty to the other team. Before they try to score, you perform this sign to wish them bad luck.
Italians, football and superstition! 🙂 what a great combination!
ITALIAN GESTURE N.13: SILLY ME I FORGOT!!
When to use it: You finally signed up for the scuba diving course with your friend. The morning of your first lesson, you woke up at 10, and you suddenly realize that you just missed the 6 am immersion. That’s the face you will show to the world (if you are Italian of course) 🙂
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 14: SILLY ME! I REMEMBER NOW!!
When to use it: After all your lectures about Piranhas and attend the scuba diving course, your friend is really pissed off at you. He reminds you that you told him to get ready by 5:50 am for the first class.
You play dumb and pretend you were too drunk to remember what you said the previous night (if you are in Koh Tao he’s going to believe you eventually!). But, right now…He’s insisting. Now you can perform “The face” as you just remembered out of the blue! This can be a genuine face or a fake face, depending on the circumstances. Pay attention to catch the liar!
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 15: HE/SHE THINKS IT’S SMART!!!
When to Use it: Your friend believe your innocent face, you turn your face to your other friends and make this face as to say : ” He think he’s smart”. You can also use this gesture when you genuinely think that someone said something smart. Italians don’t always fake it! 🙂
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 16: COME HERE YOU!
Where to use it : You want to have a private chat with your friend before he goes swimming with the sharks. You can call him just waving your hand up and down. If you make little, almost invisible movements, it means that you need to tell him some sort of secret.
ITALIAN GESTURE N. 17: BE CAREFUL, WATCH OUT!
When to use it: Your friend comes closer to you and, after you performed the superstitious gesture for good luck, you add this sign, to warn him about the danger and to incite him to be extremely careful in his adventure. After all the lies and mocking, you still care about your friend!
So my dear friends! This shenanigan about Piranhas, sharks and bad travel friendship is officially over! I hope you appreciated my acting qualities and my vast knowledge of the Italian traditions and costumes! 🙂
For more information, or to attend one of my VERY popular courses in “Italian Shenanigan-ism/silliness volume 1” just contact me or feel free to comment on the space below!
Now you are officially ready to conquer the world!
Oh, and if you didn’t like my post…