Italian gestures collage

Top 17 Italian Gestures Explained. Including The Rude ones!




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 😉



Fabio Fognini’s gesture at Wimbledon 2017, obscene or not?

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 Gestures:delicious! keep calm and

Italian Gestures: 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 Gestures: What are you talking about??? are you serious?? Come on!! keep calm and travel

Italian Gestures: What are you talking about??? are you serious?? Come on!!


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 Gestures:you are crazy! You are nuts! keep calm and travel

Italian Gestures: you are crazy! You are nuts!


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 Gestures: Go to hell!! go fuck yourself keep calm and travel

Italian Gestures: Go to hell!!

Where to use itYour 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 Gestures: I give up, I don't know!

Italian Gestures: I give up, I don’t know!

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 Gestures: You are stubborn! hard headed.

Italian Gestures: You are stubborn! hard headed.

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 Gestures: you are boring!!!

Italian Gestures: 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 you hands in front of you!



Italian Gestures: Enough!! Stop it now!

Italian Gestures: Enough!!

Where to use it: You don’t want to hear another word about Piranhas.



Italian gestures: I don't give a damn!! I don't care keep calm and travel

Italian gestures: I don’t give a damn!! I don’t care

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 Gestures: I have a brilliant idea!!

Italian Gestures: I have a brilliant 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 Gestures: If i catch you i kill you!! keep calm and travel

Italian Gestures: 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!”




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 gestures:Damn, I forgot!! keep calm and travel

Italian gestures:Damn, 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 Gestures:yes! i remember now!

Italian Gestures:yes! 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:He/she thinks it's smart! keep calm and travel

Italian gesture: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 gestures:come here keep calm and travel

Italian gestures:come here

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 Gestures:Be careful! keep calm and travel

Italian Gestures:Be careful!

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…

Italian gestures: I don't give a damn!! I don't care keep calm and travel

Italian gestures: I don’t give a damn!! I don’t care



Comments 90

  1. Great stuff! My heritage is proudly Italian (family from around Avalino).

    One thing – just watched an Italian tennis player sanctioned for putting his index finger in his mouth (you can guess the motion, lol). Am I correct in my assumption that this is a major insult? 🙂

    1. Ahahah Graham! I am also watching Wimbledon and you are clearly referring to Fognini against Murray 😉 As I saw it, that is not a typical Italian gesture, nor a clear insult in any way. It might have been a gesture of frustration, possibly mimic a gagging reflex but I doubt it was obscene. Totti, the famous Italian football player, is (was…sigh as he just retired)also famous for putting his finger in his mouth and suck it but that was his signature gesture after a goal, in that case, it meant nothing more than mimicking the sucking of the thumb newborn do (and it was like an homage to his kids).

      These umpires in England are very strict, Fognini in that moment wasn’t insulting anyone 🙂 PS, just for the records, I’m not a Fognini fan, I’m a Rafa fan!

      1. Hi Clelia,

        Thanks for the quick reply! I do agree that I too have never seen this one before – it’s just that it seemed to be such a deliberate motion, lol.

        I remember Totti’s thumb-sucking trademark well. He certainly started a trend in football with that one, ha ha.

        Enjoy the tennis – Rafa’s looking good for sure.

        Great blog, G.

  2. I’m Matteo from Italy and this is brilliant! ahahahahahhaahaa You nailed them, I loved your works. Regardes from Naples!

      1. Hi, thank you it was very informative and entertaining! One of my closest friends is Italian I now know how to irritate her. By the way she keeps saying (spelling is obviously wrong) ‘fuculla’ any idea what she is saying? Ciao Tony

        1. Muahahaha OH MY, Tony!!! I’m pretty much sure that what she meant was “vaffanc….” (not writing the whole word in here but I think you get it 😀 It means, let’s put it nicely “Go to hell” but in reality, it’s more rude…Don’t worry, we say it a lot, almost never to insult people especially if they are friends who love annoying us!

  3. On or before New Years it was a custom to say “Bona mana mi”. Not sure if spelling is correct. What is translation in English and what is correct spelling in Italian?

    1. Ahahaha Honestly? I have NO IDEA! It’s definitely not an Italian sentence and doesn’t make any sense 🙂 Sorry I couldn’t help!!

  4. Hahaha as a Turkish I can say we have these gestures too but Italians use them a lot more than us. I have an Italian girlfriend I know

  5. Sorry for the jump in. I just started a facebook page that talks about italian, especially from an ironic standpoint.
    We talk abut stereotypes, and do you know how it’s simple to have fun with them?

  6. Pingback: 5 Curious Things You Didn’t Know About Italy | Trip and Travel Blog

  7. Pingback: Rome In Summer: Things To Do In the City & Surroundings! - KEEP CALM AND TRAVEL

  8. lol, I love this. My stepdad is Italian and I have seen many of these. Some I understood, and some I didn’t. Some I had never seen. I am going to test him and see if he knows, lol. Thanks for sharing. Made me laugh, especially the last one, lol.

  9. Pingback: What Being a Travel Blogger Really Means (To Me). Lessons From My 4 Favorite Bloggers. - KEEP CALM AND TRAVEL

  10. It’s really best blog site on travels. I’m going to the Italian cultures like that for experience in my life. This is likeable travel in best destination…………Thanks

  11. Haha I love this. I have only recently watched Eat Pray Love with the Italian hand gestures! I need to go to Italy so if I learn these I can just speak English and everyone will understand me right!?

    1. Ahhaha I remember the part wuth the Italian gestures in that movie, so funny 🙂 that’s all it takes to let Italian people understand you, trust me 🙂

    1. ahahahahah he’s sucking his thumb as to mime his children! it’s only a cute gesture really, no hiddeng meaning in there 🙂

    1. wooooh wait…I now realize that we don’t have a gesture for such word!! (not that I know of, at least…)…shame on us Italians! But we have many other way to express it 🙂

  12. Hi Klelia, I just found your site, and I love the post on Italian hand gestures! Please send me info on your Italian Shenaniganisms!

  13. I wish I can do the same like that , but i am just a man , who will give me sh**T but i did to traveling at the same time work but i can feel and see the world is small. now i am back to Bali and open the small business helping people for traveling u can see my site dikutabali so far for now just for domestic but i also help foregont also because i know how it feel when people help you !

  14. Very interesting gestures. I think that we use some of them here in Louisiana too, or perhaps it is just because I have a little Romano in mi. Great article! Thanks!

    1. Really? I’m discovering that many people know some of the gestures.. interesting. I guess it’s because you have some ITalian genes. The gesture are transmitted by a special Gene in your DNA 😛

      1. its true, in your genes. i have used my hands while talking since i was quite young. didnt even know i had some Italian blood at that time.

        1. Yep! Definitely is in the genes! We are super weird but funny! Glad you have a small part of our awkwardness in you 🙂

    1. Jeff, more than one year after I published this post, videos with similar Italian Gestures are appearing all over the internet… copy cats!

      Italian gesture appropriate in here: Hand in my mouth ” If I catch you I’ll ruin you”!!!!

  15. Loved this post! How did you come out with this Idea? I have a few Italian friends, will show them the article, they’ll be definitely amused 🙂

    1. I don’t Know Christopher.. sometimes i just have crazy ideas and i go for it! Glad you enjoyed it, and please show it to your Italian friends..i’m sure they’ll like it!

  16. Of course I am not asking you, dear, to make a video. Wouldn´t dream of it. BUT!
    If I play really daft, thick and stupid, perhaps you will feel sorry for me and do it anyway, since I am a bit in doubt about how to make number 1 and 11…
    Great job Miss K; loving every post, sentence, word, tale, story and laugh.
    Grazie di cuore.

  17. Brilliant Miss K…

    Tried to force an Italian to sit on her hands the other day…needless to say she could not continue “speaking” 😉

    Would be nice though, for a thick foreigner as me, to see you do them vivante, irl, so one can practise and rehearse in order to make them all spot on before going out and try them on the…Italians! 😉

  18. This post cracked me up!! ahahah i’m half Italian and half American and i know some of your signs 🙂 The piranha story was brilliant too!

      1. ok, here’s a lovely demo of moutza from old greek movies:

        Moutza can be super rude and insulting to a fun gesture between friends. Depends on the circumstances. f.e. it’s a perfect way to start a feast fight in an argument or you can do that gesture while frowning when a friend says a bad joke.

          1. in this case, i’m not that tempted to see ur vid becoming a reality haha!
            (you’re one cunning woman!)

  19. Haha, great article, will share it! Some of these gestures are not typical Italian i guess, we do them in Germany, too. Or maybe it’s only me, since I’m half Italian. I’ll pay more attention from now on.
    Anyway, thanks for this article! Grazie!

    1. Thanks Sab! Now i’m curious to know which gestures are “shared” with other cultures 🙂 I made a test on my Boyfriend (South African) and he didn’t know a single one! ahahah

  20. Thanks for a very entertaining and animated post! Well done for posing for all those gestures. And what is wrong with swimming with piranhas, it makes me swim faster 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *