top of page
  • Writer's pictureTeacher Stefano

10 ITALIAN hand gestures you MUST know 🤌

It is known that we Italians like to move our hands a lot! And while I try to limit it when I make videos not to distract you, surely speaking Italian without moving your hands is really difficult. That's why today I want to teach you some of the most common gestures we Italians use!

I would also like to remind you that if you are interested in receiving interesting content every Sunday to study Italian, you can subscribe to my newsletter!

Before we begin, let's try to understand why Italians move their hands so much. It is not clear why but it is thought that during the period of foreign dominations by the Spanish, Austrians and French the Italians were looking for alternative ways to communicate with them. This is probably why they developed these gestures that not only made communication easier with other people but also between "Italians" since before 1900 everyone spoke different languages in Italy.

There are others who think that gestures also date back to ancient Greek and Roman traditions because for them body language was fundamental.

Anyway, regardless of the real reason why we Italians move our hands so much, it is important to say that gestures are part of Italian culture and language and therefore it is essential to know at least the most important ones! So let's get started!

1. Che cosa stai dicendo?

Everyone will be familiar with this gesture. Used to express dismay, astonishment at something that has been said or done. It is quite a negative gesture to tell the other person "what are you talking about?". When someone says "you can learn Italian in just 3 months" I usually reply saying "what the f**k are you talking about?!"

2. Vai via!

Do you dislike that person and want to invite them to kindly (or maybe not so kindly) leave your house? Then make this gesture to tell that person to go away. This gesture can also be meant as a threat such as saying "go away, or there will be trouble!"

3. Ti picchio

But if we reverse the direction and go from the bottom to the top, the same gesture totally changes in meaning and means "I will hit you," "I will hit you." You see your child that is about to write on the wall with markers? Then you look at him and say, "If you try to write on the wall..." and make this gesture! Your child will be terrified and will never write on the wall again!

4. Non c’è niente

Let's pretend that you and I live together, you come home and ask me, "Stefano, what are we eating tonight?". I look at you and move my hands like this. That means there is nothing, the refrigerator is completely empty unfortunately. So whenever there is nothing of anything you can use this gesture and the Italians will understand!

5. Perfetto!

Did the pasta dish you made taste great? Was the speech you gave beautiful? Was the project you were working on at work awesome? Then we can say it was all PERFECT. So put your index finger and thumb together and draw a beautiful line! That means perfect!

6. Sei furbo/a!

Have you met a smart person who knows what he is doing and always knows what to say? Then that person is clever, smart! For example, did our friend Anna manage to open a small jewelry company and become rich? Well, Anna is just that-smart, clever! Remember that this gesture can also refer to a bad kind of "clever" when maybe someone achieved amazing results not being exactly honest.

7. Aumm aumm

Now let's imagine that you come to Italy and want to go eat at a great restaurant in Rome. Unfortunately, that restaurant is fully booked but you know the best friend of the owner's wife. So you call her and ask her for a favor. This is not really an honest thing to do because if the restaurant is full it will be difficult to get you a table. But the best friend will not let you down, in fact she will tell you "Let's find a solution, aumm aumm." Although "aumm aumm" is a Neapolitan expression to refer to something shady, sketchy, secret, this gesture is used throughout Italy to indicate a certain complicity between two people to find a solution to a problem, not in the most honest way possible though.

8. Ti faccio un culo così / Mi sono fatto un culo così

Did you make me angry? Then "Ti faccio un culo così / I'll kick your ass," this is clearly a threat. However, if I worked hard I can say that "Mi sono fatto un culo così / I worked my ass off," I worked hard to achieve good results! So be careful with this gesture because it completely changes meaning depending on the context and it is always good to associate it with a spoken sentence to understand its meaning 100%.

9. Hai paura?

You've just started to study the Italian congiuntivo and... you're scared? Well, you can use this gesture and open and close your hand to ask someone if they are afraid of something. Don't be afraid of congiuntivo though, because I'm here to explain it to you! I'll leave you the link to the playlist so you can learn lots of new things!

10. Rubare

You are at the beach with your friends and the beach is very crowded and you are afraid that someone might steal something from you or your friends. So you want to tell all your friends to be careful and not to leave their backpacks unattended. However, you don't want to shout out the fact that you are afraid someone might steal something from you. You're going to say "Guys be careful because I know that here..." and move your hand! This way you will be very discreet and tell your friends to be careful!

Fantastico! Do you like these gestures? How many did you know and how many are new to you? And do you know any others? These are just some of the Italian gestures, but they are definitely the most important ones!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you have any questions, please contact me by sending me a message in the contact section of my website!

Un abbraccio,

Teacher Stefano



bottom of page