8 phrases you need for getting romantic in Italian

With Valentine’s day just around the corner, here are some essential phrases to help you woo your Italian lover.

Here are some choice phrases for declaring your feelings to your Italian lover.
Here are some choice phrases for declaring your feelings to your Italian lover. Photo by YURI CORTEZ / AFP.

1. Mi piaci

Let’s start at the more casual end of the romance spectrum and work our way up from there.

Mi piaci simply means ‘I like you’ – while it’s often non-romantic, it can definitely also mean ‘I fancy you’. Instead of ‘like’ though, Italian uses the verb ‘please’ and inverts the subject and object, so in purely grammatical terms the literal English translation of this expression is more like ‘you please me’. 

READ ALSO: 11 of the most romantic places in Italy to escape the crowds

Don’t let this reversal trip you up: this means ti piaccio doesn’t mean ‘I like you’, but ‘you like me’ (literally, ‘I please you’) which would be a pretty presumptuous thing to say to your crush.

2. Mi sono preso/a una cotta per te

Speaking of crushes, there’s an easy way to tell someone they’re yours: mi sono preso/a una cotta per te means ‘I’ve got a crush on you’ (the o/a past participle ending changes depending on whether the person speaking is a man or a woman).

To simplify things a bit, you can just say sono cotto/a per te, turning cotta from a noun into an adjective.

READ ALSO: Five ways to have the perfect romantic weekend in Rome

And if you really want to ramp things up a notch, you can say sono innamorato/a cotto/a di te – I’m mad about you.

3. Sono pazzo/a di te

If you are mad about someone, you can tell them exactly that. Sono pazzo/a di te – ‘I’m mad about you’ – is one phrase that directly translates between Italian and English. Just like in English, in other contexts pazzo literally means ‘crazy/mad’.

A couple kiss as they enjoy a private beach in Fregene, northwest of Rome.

A couple kiss as they enjoy a private beach in Fregene, northwest of Rome. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

4. Mi sono innamorato/a di te

When you’re telling someone you love them, sometimes it’s best to be direct about it.

Mi sono innamorato/a di te means ‘I’ve fallen in love with you’/ ‘I’ve fallen for you’; if you want to take things even more back to basics, you can go with a simple ti amo – ‘I love you’.

READ ALSO: Three stories of finding love in Italy that will restore your faith in romance

One phrase you want to avoid is ti voglio bene. You may have heard that this means ‘I love you’ in Italian: it does, but only in a platonic/familial sense. If someone says this to you, it means they love you as a friend, but nothing more.

5. Colpo di fulmine

Literally a ‘lightning bolt/strike’, a colpo di fulmine is the Italian way to talk about love at first sight: it’s as though you were struck by lightning, and haven’t been the same since.

This phrase obviously needs to be used in combination with other words – you might say la prima volta che ti ho visto è stato un colpo di fulmine (‘the first time I saw you it was love at first sight’).

READ ALSO: Did Valentine’s Day really originate in Italy?

A less poetic alternative is amore al primo sguardo/amore a prima vista, which translates directly as ‘love at first sight’.

 Ti amo is the simplest way to tell someone you love them in Italian. Photo by MICHAL CIZEK / AFP.

6. Sei la mia anima gemella

Buckle up, because we’re really heading into intense territory now. A soulmate in Italian is an anima gemella – literally, a ‘twin soul’.

You’ll want to make sure you’re deeply in love – or at least a couple of glasses deep into your Sangiovese – before telling your love interest sei la mia anima gemella: ‘you are my soulmate’.

7. Siamo fatti l’uno per l’altra

Really want to turn on the cheese? You could say siamo fatti l’uno per l’altra – an almost direct translation of ‘we’re made for each other’.

That’s if you’re a woman talking to a man or vice versa – if you’re a man talking to a man, you can say siamo fatti l’uno per l’altro (confusingly, this formula can also be used in a man <–> woman context); for a woman talking to a woman, you’d say siamo fatte l’una per l’altra.

8. Mi sono perso nei tuoi occhi

You’ll want to know your audience here: for some this expression might represent the height of Mediterranean romance, while for others, it’s really going to up the ick factor.

Mi sono perso/a nei tuoi occhi is ‘I’m lost/ I got lost in your eyes’. A pick up line version is mi serve una mappa, mi sono perso nei tuoi occhi (‘I need a map, I’ve got lost in your eyes’), but you’ve got more dignity than that.

The phrase has inspired at least one Italian love song:

Enjoy using these expressions with your Valentine’s – and if you’re not currently with anyone, know that your time is coming: Italy makes up for having a day dedicated entirely to couples by making February 15th, La Festa di San Faustino, a celebration of singleness.

READ ALSO: San Faustino: Why February 15th is ‘Singles’ Day’ in Italy

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REVEALED: The Italian versions of 11 famous English sayings

From full barrels and drunk wives to catching fish, the Italian language has its own unique way of expressing the sentiments behind some of the most popular English sayings.

REVEALED: The Italian versions of 11 famous English sayings

Though lots of popular English sayings are largely similar (or even identical) to their Italian equivalents, that’s not always the case. 

In fact, some Italian translations of famous English idioms can leave language learners perplexed.

Here are a few of our favourite examples.

Non dire gatto se non ce l’hai nel sacco

We all sometimes get ahead of ourselves and start making plans based on something that’s not happened yet (and in some cases may not be likely to happen). 

While the English ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ is as good a self-reminder as you’ll find, you may also add the Italian version to your repertoire: ‘non dire gatto se non ce l’hai nel sacco’, which literally means ‘don’t say cat if you haven’t got it in a bag’.

READ ALSO: ‘Anglicismi’: The English words borrowed into Italian – and what they mean

Why anyone would want to get a cat into a bag eludes us, but here’s an iconic clip of Giovanni Trapattoni using the expression when manager of the Republic of Ireland’s football team:

In alto mare

If, with just one week to go till the start of your summer holidays, you still have no idea what you’re going to do or where you’re going to go, you could definitely say that your holiday plans are ‘in alto mare’.

While literally translatable as ‘on the high seas’, the idiom is the equivalent to the English ‘up in the air’. Same issues, different natural elements.

Due gocce d’acqua

While an English speaker may describe two people that are closely similar either in appearance or character as ‘two peas in a pod’, an Italian would scrap the grocery reference and describe them as ‘two drops of water’. 

Vuotare il sacco

If you’re organising a surprise birthday party for a friend of yours, you may ask all guests to be extra careful and ensure they don’t ‘spill the beans’. 

READ ALSO: Etto, ino, ello: How to make Italian words smaller

But if you’re throwing the party in Italy, you’ll have to ask them not to ‘empty the bag’, or ‘vuotare il sacco‘, with the sacco figuratively protecting the big secret from indiscreet ears.

Prendere due piccioni con una fava

The Italian ‘prendere due piccioni con fava’ is actually very similar to the English ‘kill two birds with one stone’, except that the former specifies the type of bird – two pigeons – and uses a different hunting technique: a trap using a fava bean as bait. 

An Italian hunting masterclass, clearly.

Pigeons in Milan's Piazza Duomo

Catching ‘two pigeons with one fava bean’ will save you a lot of time in your Italian daily life. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Ogni morte di papa

The death of a pope is not something that happens very often. Actually, you might even say that it happens ‘once in a blue moon’.

Chi dorme non piglia pesci 

Here’s one of Italian dads’ favourite sayings as they try to impress upon their children that much more is achieved by early, decisive action than by idleness. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’m not Onassis’: Seven things Italian dads say and what they mean

‘Those who sleep don’t catch any fish’ is the Italian equivalent of the well-known ‘early bird gets the worm’.

Per il rotto della cuffia

If someone made three mistakes in their Italian driving licence theory quiz, you may say they passed by the ‘skin of their teeth’ as only three errors are allowed.

But an Italian might say that they passed the exam ‘per il rotto della cuffia’, literally meaning ‘thanks to the rupture of the helmet’.

A knight on horseback

Popular Italian expression ‘per il rotto della cuffia’ stems from a mediaeval game known as Saracen Joust. Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP

The saying stems from an old medieval game, the Saracen Joust, where a knight on horseback would have to hit a target with a swinging arm. If the arm hit the rider’s helmet and broke it but did not unseat him, the rider would have gotten away ‘per il rotto della cuffia’. 

Come il giorno e la notte

When two things are nothing alike, you might say they’re like ‘chalk and cheese’, but an Italian will surely say they’re ‘come il giorno e la notte’, that is to say ‘like day and night’.

La botte piena e la moglie ubriaca

Sometimes, you just can’t have everything you want at the same time and you must choose between one or the other. 

So, you ‘can’t have your cake and eat it too’ in pretty much the same way Italians might say you can’t have ‘a full barrel and a drunk wife’. 

Non sputare nel piatto dove mangi

In Italian, someone who ‘spits into the plate they eat from’ is ungrateful or behaves badly towards the people they receive help from, much like someone who ‘bites the hand that feeds them’ does.