Home Language HacksItalian 45 Italian Sayings About Life and Other Nuggets of Italian Wisdom

45 Italian Sayings About Life and Other Nuggets of Italian Wisdom

Boost your Italian by using the most common Italian sayings about food and love, family and friendship, and much more.

by Michele
0 comment
Italian Sayings About Life
The Intrepid Guide contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I will earn a commission which helps reduce the ever-increasing costs of keeping this site active. Thank you for your support.

Once you’ve built a solid foundation in Italian grammar, you’ve refined your Italian pronunciation and listening skills through Italian podcasts, it’s time to take the next step and learn some Italian sayings about life that will make you sound like a native!

Italians are very expressive people and often dress up their conversations with idioms, proverbs, slang, terms of endearment and other common Italian expressions. By learning Italian sayings about life, love, family and many other important themes, you will not only sound more natural but also gain a deeper understanding of the Italian mindset and psyche.

This guide reveals 45 of the most common Italian sayings about life and more. Categorized by topic, you’ll also find learn inspirational quotes from famous Italian celebrities that have become part of everyday use in Italy. Each saying is accompanied by its English counterpart and an explanation of the life lesson it conveys. Cominciamo! Let’s begin!

Keep practising!
45 Everyday Italian Sayings Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to common Italian sayings.Includes the literal translation and English equivalent. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

By the way, did you know you can learn Italian anytime, and anywhere? Yep, it’s true! Go here to find out how you can learn Italian more efficiently using my unique 80/20 method.

Table of contents

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

9 Italian Sayings About Life

Italian Sayings About Life, Love and MorePassed down through generations, this collection of life sayings in Italian explores the heart of what gives life meaning.

1. Il mondo è bello perchè è vario

Literal translation: The world is beautiful because it is varied

“Il mondo è bello perchè è vario” – similar to the English “It takes all sorts” – is often used playfully when we see someone doing something we might not fully understand. It’s like a reminder to stay open-minded and acknowledge that everyone has their own perspective and way of looking at the world.

2. Finché c’è vita c’è speranza

Literal translation: While there is life, there is hope

“Finché c’è vita c’è speranza” is all about staying positive when things get tough. Interestingly, it originates from a Latin phrase in one of Cicero’s letters – “Dum spiro, spero” (while I breathe, I hope). So, in simpler terms, as long as we’re alive, there’s always a chance for things to get better.

Italian Sayings About Life - Finché c'è vita c'è speranza3. L’abito non fa il monaco

Literal translation: A dress doesn’t make the monk

It’s easy to rely on first impressions, but Italians have a saying: “L’abito non fa il monaco,” which means that you can’t judge someone solely by their appearance. This sentiment aligns with the English expression, “The cowl does not make the monk,” emphasizing that there’s usually more to a person or situation than what you see at first glance.

4. Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca

Literal translation: The morning’s got gold in its mouth

Italian has a beautiful way of encouraging us to get up early and make the most of the day. The saying, “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca,” paints a picture of a mouth full of gold, highlighting the importance of winning the day by waking up early. Another Italian saying with a similar sentiment is “Chi dorme non piglia pesci” (literally, those who snooze miss out on the fish). In English, we’d say, “The early bird catches the worm.”

5. A mali estremi, estremi rimedi

Literal translation: To extreme evils, extreme remedies

This is pure survival advice – when life gets tough, Italians have this saying: “A mali estremi, estremi rimedi,” which is kinda like the English saying “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” It’s basically a nudge to do whatever it takes, even if it feels a bit bold or unconventional, in order to figure things out.

6. Se non hai mai pianto, i tuoi occhi non possono essere belli

Literal translation: If you have never cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful

This lovely quote from Sophia Loren delves into the heart of true beauty – the kind that embraces life’s deep experiences, even the tough times. And coming from someone like her, who dealt with money problems in her early years and then made history as the first actress to win an Oscar for a foreign language film, you know it’s absolutely true!

7. Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio

Literal translation: The wolf loses its fur but not its vice

Changing our nature and getting rid of bad habits can be really tough. That’s why Italians say, “Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio,” which translates to “A leopard can’t change its spots” in English. Another way to express a similar idea is with “Chi nasce tondo non può morire quadrato,” which means “He who is born round cannot die square.”

8. Abbiamo fatto trenta, facciamo trentuno

Literal translation: We did thirty, let’s do thirty-one

The Italian saying “Abbiamo fatto trenta, facciamo trentuno” traces back to 1517 when Pope Leo X originally uttered these words after unintentionally leaving out someone from his new list of cardinals. Nowadays, it serves as motivation to aim for greater heights, similar to saying, “We’ve reached this point, let’s take one more step forward.” A fitting translation would be, “We’ve come so far.”

9. Chi la fa l’aspetti

Literal translation: Who does it, expects it

Watch out for the karma police – if you put out negativity into the world, or deceive others, expect it to come back to you. As Italians wisely put it, “Chi la fa l’aspetti,” which means “What goes around comes around” in English. Consider this a friendly heads-up!

6 Inspirational Italian Sayings About Success

Italian Sayings About Life and SuccessNeed some positive vibes? Keep these uplifting Italian phrases in mind for those times when you could use a little boost.

10. Chi fa sbaglia

Literal translation: He who does, makes mistakes

In the quest for success, it’s essential to be proactive and take action. This aligns with the Italian saying, “Chi fa sbaglia,” which implies that those who take the initiative, even if they make mistakes along the way, are likely to reach greater heights compared to those who are held back by the fear of making mistakes.

Italian Sayings About Life - Chi fa sbaglia11. La pazienza è la virtù dei forti

Literal translation: Patience is the virtue of the strong

In a world that always urges us to solve problems almost instantly, there’s the Italian saying “la pazienza è la virtù dei forti,” which means patience is a virtue for the strong. So, let’s embrace waiting, because when the universe gives us the green light, we’ll be prepared to grab those well-deserved rewards!

12. Chi fa da sé fa per tre

Literal translation: Who does for oneself does for three

The Italian phrase “Chi fa da sé fa per tre” suggests that tackling tasks on your own can be just as effective as the combined efforts of three people. This translates to the English saying “If you want something done, do it yourself.” So, channel your inner boss, toss your hair back, and take charge!

13. L’unione fa la forza

Literal translation: Unity makes strength

While the previous saying focused on doing stuff independently, “L’unione fa la forza” highlights the strength of working together as a team. It’s kind of like saying, “United we stand, divided we fall” in English – in other words, we’re a total powerhouse when we stick together.

14. Il tempo è denaro

Literal translation: Time is money

Time is a valuable resource, therefore every second counts and therefore it’s better to do things as quickly as possible. As Italians would say, “Il tempo è denaro” (time is money). So, if you aim for success and prosperity, it’s essential to speed things up.

15. Patti chiari, amicizia lunga

Literal translation: Clear agreements, long friendship

“Patti chiari, amicizia lunga” is an expression Italians casually use to convey the idea that having clear guidelines is the key to building lasting connections. Being upfront and having open communication, especially in business relationships, helps avoid misunderstandings in the future.

5 Italian Sayings About Family

Italian Sayings About Life and FamilyItalian culture places a strong emphasis on close-knit family relationships and loyalty to one’s family members. This emphasis on family ties is reflected in various aspects of daily life, including cultural traditions, values, and social norms, as has even made its way into many Italian sayings.

16. Tale padre, tale figlio

Literal translation: Like father, like son.

“Tale padre, tale figlio” is the Italian way of saying that children often adopt their parents’ quirks and habits. This phrase is commonly used when pointing out traits that may or may not be positive. Another similar Italian expression is “La mela non cade mai lontana dall’albero” (the apple never falls far from the tree). In other words, you can’t escape your roots!

17. I panni sporchi si lavano in casa

Literal translation: Dirty laundry is washed at home

The Italian saying “I panni sporchi si lavano in casa” finds its English counterpart in the expression “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” In simple terms, it means that family problems should be kept private and dealt with at home, rather than making them public knowledge.

18. La famiglia è la patria del cuore

Literal translation: Family is the heart’s homeland

Giuseppe Mazzini, the brilliant politician who played a key role in Italy’s unification, came up with the phrase “La famiglia è la patria del cuore,” which beautifully captures the idea that our hearts truly find a home in the family. Even though family life has its ups and downs, lets us down, or makes us feel unhappy at times, it always remains loyal.

19. Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire

Literal translation: No matter where you go or turn, you will always end up at home

The age-old Italian saying “Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire” means that no matter how hard we try to escape our origins, destiny has a knack for bringing us right back to where we began.

Italian Sayings About Life - Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire20. L’affetto verso i genitori è fondamento di ogni virtù

Literal translation: Affection towards parents is the foundation of every virtue

Italians often say that “L’affetto verso i genitori e fondamento di ogni virtù,” meaning that expressing love and gratitude towards our parents is not just a box to check; it’s a virtue that stands out above all others. In simple terms, it’s a crucial aspect of being a good person.

Keep practising!
45 Everyday Italian Sayings Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to common Italian sayings.Includes the literal translation and English equivalent. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

 5 Italian Sayings About Friendship

Italian Sayings About Life and FriendshipWhether you’re sharing a laugh or letting someone know how important they are to you, these sayings will add more flavor to your conversations.

21. Gli amici sono la famiglia che ci scegliamo

Literal translation: Friends are the family we choose

Family is something we’re born into – we can’t choose them. But Italians say that “Gli amici sono la famiglia che ci scegliamo,” which means that our friends are the special people we get to pick to be a significant part of our lives.

Italian Sayings About Life - Gli amici sono la famiglia che ci scegliamo22. Dagli amici mi guardi Iddio che dai parenti mi guardo io

Literal translation: Lord, protect me from my friends that I can take care of my relatives

“Dagli amici mi guardi Iddio che dai parenti mi guardo io” is a famous line from Totò, the iconic Italian comedian from the 1950s. In simpler terms, he says that while we may anticipate some betrayal from family members (unfortunate but often true), what truly surprises us is when our friends disappoint us. So, we sort of rely on divine protection to shield us from those unforeseen betrayals.

23. L’amico vero si vede nel momento del bisogno

Literal translation: A true friend is seen in the moment of need

There’s no better way to tell if someone’s a real friend than when times get tough. As the Italians wisely put it, “L’amico vero si vede nel momento del bisogno,” which translates to “A friend in need is a friend indeed” in English.

24. Prima di scegliere l’amico bisogna averci mangiato il sale sette anni

Literal translation: Before choosing a friend, you must have eaten salt with them for seven years

In this Italian saying, the act of eating salt together serves as a metaphor for getting through tough times. Simply put, it suggests that real friendships develop over time as you go through challenges and shared experiences. This saying has been around for centuries and even found its way into Giovanni Verga’s famous novel “I Malavoglia.”

25. Sai cos’è l’amico? Un uomo che ti conosce a fondo e nonostante ciò ti vuole bene

Literal translation: Do you know what a friend is? It’s someone who knows you deeply and still loves you

This beautiful Italian quote about friendship is from the movie “Scent of a Woman” by the talented Vittorio Gassman. According to Gassman’s wisdom, a genuine friend is someone who fully embraces and loves you just as you are. There’s no judgment and no attempt to turn you into someone else.

6 Italian Sayings About Food

Italian Sayings About Life and FoodIt’s no secret that food takes the crown in Italy, and everyday conversations are seasoned with a delightful mix of amusing sayings about it.

26. Raccontare la rava e della fava

Literal translation: To talk about the turnip and the broad bean

“Raccontare la rave e la fava” is an Italian phrase commonly used to describe “going into every little detail.” It’s like when you’re breaking down a topic and delving into the nitty-gritty details, to the point where your listener feels bombarded with information!

27. Andare/filare liscio come l’olio

Literal translation: To go smooth like oil

“Andare/filare liscio come l’olio” is what Italians say when everything goes really smoothly, without any complications. Both “andare” and “filare” can be used interchangeably, but “filare” perfectly captures the idea of things going without a hitch. In English, we would simply say, “Go smoothly.”

28. La vita è una combinazione di pasta e magia

Literal translation: Life is a combination of pasta and magic

This lovely quote from the maestro of cinema Federico Fellini really nails how life is an amazing mix of simple pleasures, like enjoying a plate of pasta (who doesn’t love that?), and awesome, unexpected surprises – like a touch of magic! Don’t you totally agree with that?

Italian Sayings About Life - La vita è una combinazione di pasta e magia29. Essere alla frutta

Literal translation: To be at the fruit

Drawing on the tradition of finishing a meal with fruit, the Italian saying “essere alla frutta” is a common way in everyday language to express feeling tired, worn out, or completely drained of energy. It’s kind of like saying “to be at the end of one’s rope” in English.

30. Far venire il latte alle ginocchia

Literal translation: To make milk come to the knees

The Italian saying “far venire il latte alle ginocchia” comes from the old-school way of milking cows, where milk was gathered in a bucket positioned between the legs. People had to endure the process until the milk reached knee height. Nowadays, the expression is used to describe something or someone extremely boring. In English, we might say “bored to tears” or “as dull as watching paint dry.”

31. Tutto quel che vedete lo devo agli spaghetti

Literal translation: Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti

Again, we owe these wise words to the legendary Sophia Loren. It serves as a wonderful reminder that true beauty comes from eating delicious food and relishing life! It’s a refreshing perspective in a world that often places emphasis on being super slim.

Here are 26 more Italian food-related sayings

8 Italian Sayings About Love and Relationships

Italian Sayings About Life and LoveNo matter what kind of romantic mood you’re in, there’s an Italian saying for it. When you’re done with these, brush up on your Italian terms of endearment.

32. Il primo amore non si scorda mai

Literal translation: The first love is never forgotten

Ah, the allure of first love – a feeling so profound that words hardly do it justice. I mean, who could forget that crazy mix of emotions when you fall for someone for the very first time?

33. L’amore si misura in piatti cucinati

Literal translation: Love is measured in cooked dishes

“Love is measured in the dishes you cook” – isn’t that just so Italian? So, the next time you find yourself in the kitchen whipping up a tasty masterpiece for your special someone, remember – you’re not just cooking; you’re showing them the depth of your love!

Italian Sayings About Life - L’amore si misura in piatti cucinati34. L’amore non è bello se non è litigarello

Literal translation: Love is not beautiful if it is not a little quarrel

This catchy tune was beautifully sung by the legendary Jimmy Fontana back in the cool 1970s. It suggests that a little disagreement can actually spice things up and strengthen love in a relationship.

35. Occhio non vede, cuore non duole

Literal translation: Eye doesn’t see, heart doesn’t hurt

“Occhio non vede, cuore non duole” is another well-known Italian saying that basically suggests that ignorance about certain things, such as betrayal or uncomfortable truths, can sometimes save us from heartache. The English equivalent is “What you don’t know, won’t hurt you.”

36. Chiodo scaccia chiodo

Literal translation: A nail drives out another nail

“Chiodo scaccia chiodo” sums up the common belief that the most effective way to mend a broken heart and move forward is by replacing the old with something new. It’s like removing a bent nail by using a fresh one. In simpler terms, it’s like saying, “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

37. Sfortunato al gioco fortunato in amore

Literal translation: Unlucky in the game, lucky in love

Italians often say the phrase “Fortunato al gioco fortunato in amore” as a lighthearted way to comfort someone when their gaming luck isn’t on point. It’s a playful remark that if things aren’t going well in the gaming realm, there’s a good chance something fantastic is unfolding in their love life. The English equivalent is: Unlucky at cards but lucky in love.

38. Chi si somiglia si piglia

Literal translation: Whoever is similar gets along.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” right? Well, that’s the English translation for “Ch si somiglia si piglia,” which means we often form connections with people who are like us – you know, in how we go about things, our values, and our personalities.

39. Gli opposti si attraggono

Literal translation: Opposites attract

“Gli opposti si attraggono” takes on a completely different stance, suggesting that we’re attracted to people who are completely different from us.

Latin Sayings About Life Used in Italian

Italian Sayings About Life - Latin sayings about life used in ItalianAs the land of the ancient Romans, it’s no surprise that Italians still use plenty of Latin expressions in their everyday conversations. Take a look at these gems!

40. De gustibus (non est disputandum)

Literal translation: There is no arguing about tastes

Attributed to Julius Caesar (who supposedly said it to express his displeasure with an inedible dish of asparagus drowned in butter!), “De gustibus” is commonly used in everyday language to highlight the importance of individual preferences, no matter how unconventional or peculiar they may appear.

41. Per aspera ad astra

Literal translation: Through hardships to the stars

“Per aspera ad astra” is a beautiful Latin saying that’s about how aiming for success often involves facing difficult situations. So, when life throws challenges your way, try to keep things in perspective and see them as stepping stones toward your goals.

Italian Sayings About Life Per aspera ad astra42. Do ut des

Literal translation: I give so that you give

“Do ut des” is a Latin saying that captures how most people operate. It’s all about the idea of doing something for someone with the expectation of receiving something in return, whether it’s tangible goods or a favor. In simpler terms, it’s like saying, “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” or “Quid pro quo” (Latin).

43. Lupus in fabula

Literal translation: The wolf in the story

So, you’re casually chatting about someone, and bam – they appear out of nowhere! That’s when you drop this Latin saying, which means “Speak of the devil,” and comes from the days when the wolf rears its head in fairy tales and would hush everyone up. Italians would also say “Parli del diavolo e spuntano le corna” (speak of the devil, and he shall appear).

45. Carpe diem

Literal translation: Seize the day

Ah, those wise Romans! They really had life figured out, didn’t they? Their “Carpe diem” still teaches us a valuable lesson. It tells us to enjoy the present, make each moment count, and to not worry about the future.

45. Ad maiora

Literal translation: Towards greater things

The Latin phrase “Ad maiora” is commonly used to wish someone a lot of success. Italians typically use it during toasts or on cards for significant occasions such as graduations, promotions, or landing a new job.

Want more? Don’t miss my guides where I share everyday phrases used by Italians, popular Italian expressions, and some hilarious Italian sayings. With these, you’ll sound like a true Italian in no time!

Keep practising!
45 Everyday Italian Sayings Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to common Italian sayings.Includes the literal translation and English equivalent. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

Intrepid Italian - Learn with my 80/20 methodAre you a beginner or an intermediate Italian learner? Got a trip coming up or want to communicate with your Italian partner or relatives in Italian? Learn Italian with my unique 80/20 method

Registrations are now open to join Intrepid Italian, my new series of online video courses that use my unique 80/20 method. You’ll go from a shy, confused beginner to a proficient and confident intermediate speaker, with me as your trusty guide.

You’ll finally be able to connect with your Italian partner, speak to your relatives and enjoy authentic travel experiences in Italy that you’ve always dreamed of, and so much more.

As a native English speaker who learned Italian as an adult, I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and lack the confidence to speak. I know what it’s like to start from scratch and to even go back to absolute basics and learn what a verb is!

Intrepid Italian was created with YOU in mind. I use my working knowledge of the English language to help you get into the ‘Italian mindset’ so you can avoid the common pitfalls and errors English speakers make – because I made them once too! I break everything down in such a way that it ‘clicks’ and just makes sense.

No matter what your level is, there is an Intrepid Italian course for you, including:

You can join 1, 2, or all 3 courses, it’s entirely up to you. The best part is that you have lifetime access so you learn anytime, anywhere and on any device.

As your guide, I walk you through each lesson, step-by-step, using my unique 80/20 method. My approach is different from traditional methods because I teach you the most important 20% of the language right from the beginning so you can start to speak straight away.

Each course includes video lessons, audio exercises, downloadable worksheets, bonus guides, a private support community, and lifetime access all designed to streamline your learning while having fun.

It even comes with my famous “Celebrate with a Spritz Guarantee”. After 30 days of using Intrepid Italian, if you don’t want to celebrate your new-found Italian skills with an Aperol Spritz, you don’t have to pay a penny! Cheers! 🥂
Join Intrepid Italian here and start learning today! Ci vediamo lì! (See you there!)

Learning Italian? Check out these Italian language guides

Like it? Pin it for later!

45 Italian Sayings About Life and Other Wisdom

Over to you!

Did you enjoy this lesson? Do you have a question? Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media @intrepidguide or @intrepiditalian to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Like what you see? Subscribe using the form below to have all of my posts delivered directly to your email.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.