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Christmas, il Natale, is all about family, eating and chatting together with family and friends.

Italians love to eat and the Italian language is packed with proverbs and idioms related to food. Learn the most famous ones listen to the podcast and surprise your friends with some funny Italian sentences.

  • Al contadino non devi far sapere quanto è buono il formaggio con le pere

 

Don’t tell the farmer how good is cheese with pears. Don’t tell people how good are your ideas, someone will take advantage of it.

  • A tavola non s’invecchia

 

 

You don’t get old at the table. Initially, this proverb meant that who eats too much, dies young. Nowadays, the meaning is totally different. Enjoying good time at the table keeps you young.

  • Bacco, tabacco e Venere, riducono l’uomo in cenere

 

Bacco (Roman god of wine), tabacco and Venus (women) turn men into ashes. Live a balanced life.

  • Bisogna mangiare per vivere, non vivere per mangiare

 

Eat for living, don’t live for eating. Don’t mess with food, it’s dangerous. This sentence dates back to Cicero, the famous Roman lawyer and philosopher.

  • Chi mangia da solo si strozza in solitudine

 

Who eats alone dies chocking alone. Don’t be greedy.

  • … come il cacio sui maccheroni

 

… like cheese on pasta. Something happens at the right time and adds value to a situation.

  • Chi c’ha il pane non c’ha i denti, chi c’ha i denti non c’ha il pane

 

Those who have bread don’t have teeth, those who have teeth don’t have bread. Sometimes good opportunities come to people unable to handle them.

  • Chi la sera non cena, tutta la notte si dimena

 

Who doesn’t eat in the evening, can’t sleep at night.

  • Chi non beve in compagnia o è ladro o fa la spia

 

Who doesn’t drink socially is a thief or a spy. Distrust people who drink alone.

  • C’entra come i cavoli a merenda

 

It’s appropriate like eating cabbage at teatime. So, it’s not appropriate.

  • Dopo i confetti, si scoprono i difetti

 

After the wedding, couples find out flaws. Confetti in Italian are typical wedding candies with almond. What people call confetti in English, in Italian are coriandoli. Learn more about false friends, words with the same origin but different meaning in Italian and English.  

  • E’ meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani

 

Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow. Don’t waste opportunities for empty promises.

  • È inutile piangere sul latte versato

 

Don’t cry over spilt milk. Same as in English.

  • Finisce  tutto a tarallucci e vino

 

It all ends with tarallucci (Italian savory biscuits) and wine. A complicated dispute is solved friendly.

  • Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo

 

Old hen makes good stock. Experience pays off.

  • Gli zuccherini non sono fatti per i somari

 

Don’t give sugar to donkeys. Don’t waste energy and resources with people who can’t appreciate it.

  • Il vino è come l’amore, scalda la testa e il cuore

 

Wine is like love, warms up head and heart.

  • Il vino è il latte dei vecchi

 

Wine is old people’s milk.

  • L’appetito vien mangiando

 

Appetite comes eating. Enthusiasm grows only by doing things.

  • La prima gallina che canta è quella che ha fatto l’uovo

 

The first squawking hen is the one laying an egg. The first person pointing fingers is the guilty one.

  • L’ospite è come il pesce, dopo tre giorni puzza

 

A guest is like fish, after three days it smells.

  • La bocca porta le gambe

 

Mouth (eating) makes your legs walking.

  • L’amico è come il vino, se è buono col tempo migliora

 

A friend is like wine, it becomes better with time.

  • La fame aguzza l’ingegno

 

Starvation makes you smarter.

  • La pera quand’ è matura cade da sola

 

When the pear is ripe, it falls by itself. Sometimes you just need to wait for things to happen.

  • Nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono

 

Good wine is in the small barrel. Short people are the best.

  • Non c’è trippa per gatti

 

There’s no food (tripe) for cats. In the past, people used to buy meat for the family and tripe for pets. This idiom means that additional resources are finished or there are no alternatives.

  • O mangi la minestra o salti la finestra

 

Eat the soup (minestra) or jump out the window. You don’t have alternatives.

  • Pancia piena non pensa a quella vuota

 

Full stomach doesn’t think about the empty one

  • Quello che non strozza, ingrassa

 

If you don’t choke it’ll make you fat. What doesn’t kill you…

  • Sul piatto dove si mangia, non ci si sputa

 

Don’t spit on your own plate.  Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  • Tanto fumo e niente arrosto

 

All smoke, no meat. All hat and no trousers.

  • Pane al pane e vino al vino.

 

Bread to bread, wine to wine. To call a spade a spade

 

 

Special thanks to our teacher Alessandra for reading the proverbs and recording the podcast. Ciao!

 

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