What are the perks of knowing a native speaker, when it comes to learning a language?
Well, there are quite a few, actually. You can obviously practice your speaking skills, get feedback on your mistakes, improve your pronunciation, and learn a lot of interesting and useful sayings.
Therefore, since I am your dear Italian friend, I decided to write a list of Italian idiomatic phrases for you, so that you will have a handful of sentences and words you can use when speaking Italian – and maybe impress your fellow students in your Italian class or your Italian friends in Italy.
Since there are a lot of idiomatic phrases and sayings, I made a choice and selected only the ones that have something to do with food, mainly because I love food – but you know that already, right?
I have to admit that this was one of the posts I had the most fun writing, because – in order not to miss some important phrases or words – I asked my Facebook friends for help and they gave me a ton of suggestions. We actually came up with 50 sayings, but they could have been more because I decided not to include a few of them as they were strictly regional or a bit off-topic.
This definitely shows the important role played by food in almost every aspect of Italian culture.
You’ll find the list of food-related Italian sayings here below. For each of them, I listed both the literal meaning and the actual one. Since 50 of them would have made this post way too long, I decided to split the list in two. So don’t forget to come back next week and check the second part of the post. There’ll also be a surprise, so I wouldn’t miss the post if I were you.
But let’s focus on the phrases now!
C’entra come i cavoli a merenda!
Literal meaning: it is like cabbage as a mid-afternoon snack
Actual meaning: it has nothing to do with it, it doesn’t match something, it is off-topic
Salvare capra e cavoli.
Literal meaning: to save goat and cabbages
Actual meaning: to get out of a situation saving the interests of both parties involved
Farsi i cavoli propri
Literal meaning: to mind one’s own cabbages
Actual meaning: to mind one’s own business
Non m’importa un fico secco!
Literal meaning: I don’t care a dried fig
Actual meaning: I don’t give a damn
Essere come il prezzemolo.
Literal meaning: to be like parsley
Actual meaning: to be everywhere
Tutto fa brodo.
Literal meaning: everything makes broth
Actual meaning: everything could be useful, anything goes
Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo.
Literal meaning: old hen makes good broth
Actual meaning: it used to describe the positive aspect of a relationship with an older lady
Lascialo cuocere nel suo brodo!
Literal meaning: let him boil in his broth
Actual meaning: do not help him, let him fix things on his own
Se non è zuppa, è pan bagnato!
Literal meaning: if it is not soup, it is wet bread!
Actual meaning: used to describe two things or situations that are just the same
Essere buono come il pane.
Literal meaning: to be as good as bread
Actual meaning: to be a very good person
Essere un pezzo di pane.
Literal meaning: to be a piece of bread
Actual meaning: to be a very good person
Trovare pane per i propri denti.
Literal meaning: to find bread for your own teeth
Actual meaning: to find someone who is as good as you at something
Rendere pan per focaccia.
Literal meaning: to give bread for focaccia (type of bread)
Actual meaning: to repay someone who has done something bad to you in the same way
Dire pane al pane, vino al vino.
Literal meaning: to say bread to bread, wine to wine
Actual meaning: to be frank and open, to express your opinion openly
Chi ha il pane, non ha i denti.
Literal meaning: those who have bread have no teeth
Actual meaning: referred to people who possess something but don’t know how to use it or are not interested in using it
Tanto fumo e niente arrosto!
Literal meaning: a lot of smoke and no roast
Actual meaning: all talk and no action
Rompere le uova nel paniere.
Literal meaning: to break the eggs in the basket
Actual meaning: to upset someone’s plans
Cercare il pelo nell’uovo.
Literal meaning: to look for hair in the egg
Actual meaning: to be very fussy
Ridi, ridi, che la mamma ha fatto i gnocchi.
Literal meaning: laugh, laugh, you mother has made gnocchi
Actual meaning: to be said to someone who laughs but does not realize that there is nothing to laugh about
O mangi la minestra o salti dalla finestra!
Literal meaning: eat the soup or jump out of the window
Actual meaning: you have to do something no matter what, there is no choice
Non c’è trippa per gatti.
Literal meaning: there is no tripe for cats
Actual meaning: there is no chance to do a certain thing
Non tutte le ciambelle escono con il buco.
Literal meaning: no all ring-shaped pies turn out with a hole
Actual meaning: not everything turns out as expected
Essere alla frutta
Literal meaning: to have reached the fruit (referring to the fact fruit comes at the end of the meal)
Actual meaning: to be exhausted, to be really tired, to be at the end of something with no possible solution
Non è farina del tuo sacco.
Literal meaning: that flour doesn’t come from your sack
Actual meaning: this is not your thought or your work (you copied it from somebody else)
Vestirsi a cipolla
Literal meaning: to dress as an onion
Actual meaning: to dress in layers
That’s all for today. Don’t forget to come back next week for the second part of this list of food-related Italian sayings!
I have prepared a pdf file with all the Italian idiomatic phrases you’ll find in this post. You can find it in Your Italian Toolbox, a section of Instantly Italy where you’ll find Italian learning materials. You can get access to it by subscribing here.
If you are interested in improving your Italian language skills, I’d suggest you check Chiacchieriamo, your way of chatting with an Italian without moving from home.
Chiacchieriamo is a Skype chat which helps you practice and improve your Italian with a native speaker. If you want to give it a try, you can request a 30-minute free chat, so that we can meet each other and see if you like the service.