The Most Popular Italian Proverbs
Italian is the language of love and poetry. And much like their culture, the language of Italy is very expressive. Italian people communicate not just with plain words but with animated symbolism and sayings. Especially when it comes to teaching life lessons.
Italian proverbs (adages or expressions) use metaphors to give still relevant and sage advice on life. From the mundane everyday tasks to specific and sometimes dramatic situations in life, the Italians have a colorful way to say just about anything. There are Italian proverbs about life, strength, friendship, and love – even food and wine!
While some of the most popular Italian proverbs can be rather traditional, these short and sweet (and often funny) sayings are still very much a part of the daily Italian vocabulary. So, whether you’re trying to learn the Italian language or not, here are some of the best Italian proverbs you should know.
Italian proverbs about life
“In bocca chiusa non entra mosca”
Literal translation: No flies enter a closed mouth
A nice way of saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”
“Il tempo passa e non ritorna” = Time passes and doesn’t return
So, the life lesson here is “use your time wisely”
“Non puoi avere sia una botte piena, che la moglie ubriaca”
Literally translates to “you can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.”
The best way to sum this one up is – ”you can’t have everything!”
“Il Buongiorno si vede dal mattino” is another commonly used Italian proverb that basically means if a day starts well, it will most likely finish well but unfortunately the same thing goes for mornings that start off on the wrong foot. So the point is – make sure you start your morning on a positive note!
“Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio” or “the wolf loses its fur but not its vice” is similar to many famous English expressions: “old habits die hard”, “a wolf can’t change its spots”, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, which are all a nice way to say – you can’t really change a person’s true nature.
Italian proverbs about strength
“Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco”
Literal translation: Not all doughnuts come out with a hole
Or in other words, “Not everything goes as planned”
“Se sono rose, fioriranno” translated to English means “If there are roses, they will bloom”
or like the common saying “Only time will tell”
Italian proverbs about love and relationships:
“Tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito”
Literally: Don’t put a finger between a husband and wife. You shouldn’t come (or put anything) in between a husband or a wife or similarly linked bonds.
In short…Stay out of if!
“I Panni sporchi si lavano in famiglia” (dirty clothes are washed in the family) is another Italian proverb warning people not to get involved in another person’s family affairs.
Italian proverbs in English
The Italian equivalent to the popular English proverb “the early bird catches the worm” would most likely be: “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca” (which in English translates to “the morning has gold in its mouth”).
Or “Chi dorme non piglia pesci” (those who sleep don’t catch any fish). “You snooze you lose!”
This famous Italian proverb about friendship comes straight from Dante, father of the Italian language:
“Noi non potremo avere perfetta vita senza amici” – We really can’t have a perfect life without friends.
And last but not least, this timeless Italian proverb:
“Una cena senza vino è come un giorno sensa sole” which translated into English is – a meal without wine is a day without sunshine.