It’s a poetic tongue which is rich with colourful proverbs that are used across the Belpaese, passed down through the generations.
While some sayings have an English equivalent and won’t seem too unfamiliar to non-natives, others are more unique and, at times, downright bizarre.
Proverbs have played a fundamental role in the Italian culture for centuries, many of them metaphorical in nature and used to impart wisdom, often in a charming, honest or humorous manner.
Italians have a proverb for everything, from love and friendship to money and work, and of course, food and wine.
Discover some of our favourite quotes at IL GLOBO headquarters, and what they mean to us.
Margherita Angelucci, Deputy Editor:
- “Casa nasconde ma non ruba”
My grandfather used to say this all the time. It means that if you lose something in your house it’s never really lost.
- “Chi non ha testa ha buone gambe”
This saying means that if you generally forget things, you will have nice strong legs as you’ll have to walk more to go back and get them. I think of it every time I leave the house and forget my Myki!
Tiberio Paoli, Production:
- “Chi vive sperando muore sperando”
This saying translates to: “Live in hope, die in hope." Every time I hear it I think of the poor suckers that have been playing Tattslotto for decades using the same numbers, and they still persist even though they’ve lost thousands!
- “Hai voluto la bicicletta, ora pedala”
This saying literally translates to: "You wanted the bike, now pedal." The English equivalent to this proverb is: “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” I heard this many times from my parents growing up.
Mary Zuppardo, Proof Reader/Contributor:
- “Ogni impedimento è giovamento”
This is my go-to saying, especially when things go “wrong”. The closest English proverb to this is: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” It’s like a mantra and it gives me hope that the obstacles that come my way may have a positive outcome.
Roberta Vitello, Community News/Contributor:
- “Ògne scarrafóne è bbèllo ‘a màmma sóia”
This is one of the most popular Neapolitan sayings. In Italian it is: “Ogni scarafaggio è bello per la propria madre.” This proverb implies that no matter how many flaws they have, a child is always perfect in their mother’s eyes. The saying became famous when Italian singer Pino Daniele dedicated his song ‘O Scarrafone’ to it.
Laura Egan, Online Editorial Coordinator:
- “Meglio un giorno da leone che cento da pecora”
This saying translates as: “Better one day as a lion than a hundred as a sheep.” This is an inspirational proverb, meaning that it’s better to be a courageous leader for even just a moment than to be a fearful follower for your whole life.