Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

19 Embarrassing Mistakes That are Easy to Make In Italian


When we flatulate, we can pray

Stay with me on this one guys..

I love getting emails from people because it makes posts like this possible.

When it comes to learning languages on this blog, you know I have been more than open regarding my own linguistic mishaps – this show no sign of slowing down as I attempt now a third language to further my masochistic life journey with languages.

Thanks to Italian teacher Roberta who was nice enough to share some of the most common mistakes that her students makewe have another list of “interesting” Italian word-play that are super easy to confuse. You can inadvertently tell someone you want a message instead of a message and everything seems to mean sex/male genitalia (or female ones for that matter).

Enjoy Roberta’s own words below… 

You know that Italian can pose many traps and embarrassing risks: blending or mixing up letters can have potentially disastrous consequences. FIGS!

As an Italian teacher one of my responsibilities is, of course, to correct (without laughs) the most enjoyable and funniest mistakes than Anglophones often do when they try to learn my difficult language!! Today I want to share some of them with you.

The following list is based on real facts-questions-sentences.. Have Fun!

-“scopare” can mean both “to sweep” and the vulgar word for having sex. Pay attention on the context when you say: ho bisogno (I need to) di scopare!; also don’t confuse “scopare” with “scappare”, to “escape”;

-“penne/pene/penna/pane” -penne is the most people’s favorite “pasta”, pene refers to male “genitals”, penna is “pen” and pane is “bread”: make sure you know the difference when you are talking with an Italian man or waiter because “vorrei un po’ di pene” means “I would like a little bit of penis”..(maybe that is served in your country not in mine!:)

 -“anni” and “ani” -the fist one means years, the second means anus, don’t forget it especially when you write a letter to your lover;

– “piacere” and “mi piace”: don’t confuse “nice to meet you” with “I like you or you are pleasing to me”, what a nice introduction!

-“quando scorregiarci, possiamo pregare” When we flatulate, we can pray”? or is it better “When we are discouraged “scoraggiati”, we can pray?”

-“message” is “messaggio”, “massage” is “massaggio”, so “ho ricevuto un massaggio da Paolo” is “I received a massage from Paolo”;

-“oggi ho mal di tetta” means “today I have a tit-ache”, not head-ache, testa is head!

-if you say “gli americani usano molti preservativi” you are saying that “Americans use a lot of condoms”, not prevervatives ,”conservanti” in Italian;

-at the supermarket it’s really important to remember the difference between “tocca a me, per favore” it’s my turn and “toccami, per favore” that is “touch me, please”!

-foglio-figlio –“vorrei un figlio” is “I would like a child”, not a paper… ,one is easier than the other!;

-un albergo “lussurioso” insted of “lussuoso” -if you ask for a lussurioso hotel it means that you want a “lustful hotel”, not a “luxury one”…. your travel agent will have a strange reaction..

-“glande” is different from “grande”, the first one is “glans”, the second one is “big”; (if you don’t remember the meaning of glans take a look, but not in your computer at work!).

-“non mi piace la polluzione” is not “I don’t like pollution”.. you are saying that “you don’t like nocturnal emission”;

-“Il giorno del Ringraziamento mangiamo la Turchia” means “the day of the Thanksgiving we eat Turkey (the nation)”: “tacchino” is the Italian word for the animal;

-“succo di pompino-succo di pompelmo”: it’s true that succo is juice but “pompino” is what Monica Lewinsky gave to Bill in the Oval office”,  “grapefruit” is “pompelmo”;

-with this one I have to admit that I laughed: if you say “ho incontrato i genitali di Paolo” you are telling me that you met Paolo’s genitals not his parents, “genitori”;

-“riposata-risposata”: “mi sono riposata” is “ I rested” but “mi sono risposata” is “I remarried”;

-“cane-carne” don’t want to eat a dog (cane), you love meat (carne)!

Last but not least…

-“mi servirebbe un pisellino” mean “I would need a little penis”! “Pisolino” is the right word for nap!

If any of you have any stories to share on these kinds of mistakes, please comment below, I’d love to hear them! 

Roberta Zarantonello is an Italian teacher for foreigners (experienced and qualified). In particular she creates personalized courses or conversation lessons for people that are into discovering Italian culture, food, art, architecture, life style – but are too often bored by standard grammar lessons held in a classroom. She provides a different opportunity to learn Italian, because as she said “I realized that learning Italian where it’s really spoken (in a bar, market or in an informal ambience) is much more motivating, inspiring and fun and you can understand how Italians speak, gesticulate, eat, drink…..”

Email Roberta to start your own language learning journey to avoid the above messy mishaps and have fun while learning [email protected]. Grazie ancora Roberta! 


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27 Responses

  1. These are brilliant. I recall the director of the study abroad school I worked for years back made a speech to the whole town in which he said he was proud to have been there already for five anuses.

    1. You are KIDDING! I wish I could have been there for that. Of course, I have said my fair share of anus-loving talk in fun talks with my ex’s family. Che palle.

  2. umm you know I have something to say since I spent a year in Florence! 🙂

    First I love this: “non mi piace la polluzione” is not “I don’t like pollution”.. you are saying that “you don’t like nocturnal emission”; (what the second one isn’t true too?)

    Second: Facciamo una torta (let’s make a cake) = Let’s have a threesome (in Florence). I learned this from my boss at the bar I worked at in Florence…..

    and the anni ani thing my goodness I have that problem now in Spanish because I say the n like the Italian word for year and here that sounds like anus.

    laughing out loud right now

    1. Haha kind of amazing that we spent that year together eh Brooke? Actually the “torta” one is something I didn’t know before I talked to Roberta! LOL I feel like I have used that many a time (hangs head in shame). Funny that things can change dramatically from Italian to Spanish, lets leave the anuses for where they belong.

      thanks for commenting!

  3. Ha! I almost feel like I need to hear some of these spoken aloud so I don’t make the same mistakes. Oh, and I popped over to your other post about learning languages. Hilarious! After many attempts to learn Italian over the last couple of years, I finally found a method that resonates with me. It won’t make me fluent, but I recommend it to anyone who’s just starting to learn a language. I’m addicted to a website called Skillshare and there’s a guy named Kieran who teaches “3 minute language” courses on there. His method focuses on speaking and listening (not writing) skills, but it’s brilliant. Never have I learned — and retained! — so much so quickly when it comes to language learning. I can’t gush about it enough.

  4. Goodness, I’ll never have the nerve to speak Italian again. Not that I could speak very much of it in the first place. I remember a shopkeeper burst into laughter in Spain when I tried to say that their cake was delicious! Still don’t know what I actually did say but later on that week I asked for a bunch of eggs when I wanted grapes! As long as it makes people smile, guess I’ll keep on trying!

    1. That’s the right attitude Kathryn, you have to go for it no matter what faux pas might happen. At the end of the day, people are more than understanding and go out of their way to understand you. It definitely should be a model some people I know should keep in mind with non-native speakers back in the USA.

  5. Lol! love looking forward to the many, many pitfalls I am going to fall into when I move to Italy! Imagine – how will I ever have the language to career coach in Italian – any thoughts on work based gaffs I might make?!!

    1. It’s all pretty casual in the language mistake arena :). When it comes to work, you just want to remember to stay on the formal “lei” side until your counterpart insists on using the more casual form in Italian. It’s hard for us English speakers to remember that. Good luck!!

  6. One of the errors I did for MONTHS and no one corrected me was “per carita'” I used to think it was a nice way of saying “per piacere” but it means “for god’s sake” so I would ask for a coffee, for god’s sake. I.e. Posso avere un cafe’, per carita? It wasn’t until I was with some friends that I asked for something, “for god’s sake” that they busted up laughing and then explained my blunder, by which time like I said I had been using for months :/ Great post and funny anecdotes, too!

    1. For god’s sake Coral! haha, thanks for sharing your experience and know we’ve ALL been there. It’s good that your friends correct you, I’m constantly asking Nico to check my Italian lol, he’s way too nice…

  7. My American friend did the funniest thing, we were invited to a formal dinner with professors and other foreign students and one professor asked what we missed most from our respective countries. After some of us said typical things (il pane tedesco, i croissant francesi etc) my friend said confidently and clearly “Mi mancano i cazzi americani!” Everybody went silent and she tried to explain further “Per davvero, li ho cercato dappertutto a Siena, ma qui non esistono i cazzi come ce l’abbiamo nei Stati Uniti. Da noi, ci sono molto di piu resistente.” —— She meant CALZE because she was looking for these typical American tennis socks and was only able to find those of a finer material in Italy. (Cazzi means penises). Omg that was so embarrassing!! (Sorry for any mistakes in the Italian part..)

    1. HAHAHAHAH! Ok that absolutely just made me spit out my coffee on my computer screen (the laptop is fine) but that I haven’t heard before. I mean let’s be honest, that’s a pretty easy one to mix up as well.

      If it makes your friend feel better, me after 10 years here says “anuses” instead of years just the other day. Damn that double n..

  8. A few years ago I accompanied my Ex to Milan to visit family one night we all went to dinner in this rather classy restaurant. Having to use the facilities, when the owner approached, who the family knew very well, in my best Italian I said”Ma scusi, dove il cesdo?” Needless to say everyone was on the floor! And my Ex is my Ex. Lol

  9. I am trying to get my toddler to go to sleep, so I’m lying here reading your posts about Italy while I wait for him to doze off. And then I got to this one. Even though I’m trying to be quiet so I don’t disturb my toddler, try as I might, I cannot stop laughing! The comments on here are hysterical! I laughed till there were tears in my eyes.

    I’m learning Italian, but have only been studying for a few months, so I am a complete beginner. Reading this made me even more nervous to try out my Italian on a native speaker– but I guess I’ll just have to create some of my own embarrassing moments in the process of learning.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  10. Do not use the verb “eccitare” to say you are excited (about an event, etc). It is used in a sexual way in Italy!

  11. I was just learning Italian when I met my ex-father-in-law, a retired Colonel in the Italian air force. I started to say something but it came out hoarsely and therefore was unintelligible. I explained it by literally translating ‘excuse me, I have a frog in my throat’. I couldn’t remember the word for frog so I went with toad (rospo) and I blanked on throat so I went with neck (collo). I didn’t manage to say that though. Instead all I managed to utter was ‘Mi scusi, ho un rospo nel culo’. In other words, ‘excuse me, I have a toad in my ass’.
    He didn’t bat an eye, just looked at me, expressionlessly, and said ‘Accidenti!’ (Wow!)

  12. These are brilliant. I recall the director of the study abroad school I worked for years back made a speech to the whole town in which he said he was proud to have been there already for five anuses.

  13. I thought I was simply saying really ….ma va in a shop when the lady owner told me the crystal was not an antique. She was indignant asked ” where did you learn grammar ‘ saying that in English . I think I may have said excuse me as I quickly exited the shop ! Now that was in 2010 my second trip to Siena. I was told last September by friends in Firenze that I am much more polite than Italians. I really know very little Italian still, but I do make an effort to be polite . I love everything you write ! Grazie !

    1. haha that is an understandable mistake! We’ve all been there Peggy!Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog btw, I really appreciate it!

  14. Brought a smile to my face on a grey, cold and very ‘routine’ Lockdown morning in Tuscany. Thanks you. Funny how so many relate to ‘private parts’!

  15. Hi Georgette,
    I have been following you on Instagram for a while as I plan on moving to Florence in September (fingers crossed!). Decided to take a proper look at your blog and hours later I am still reading articles! This one made my day. I have learnt some many Italian slang / swear words. Hopefully I’ll remember how to avoid using them!

  16. Thanks for sharing this informative travel guide on not making the above-listed mistakes for a memorable journey to Italy. I have noted down all pointers in my travel diary because next month I’m planning to travel to Italy.

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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