A Cask Full of Wine and a Drunk Wife: Fun Italian Phrases

Italian wine cask

When you are speaking to an an Italian, it won’t be long before they throw an expression at you.

It always starts with something like, “In Italy we say…,”  then they go into the translation, the meaning, and the relevance to the conversation. I love this about Italians!

My partner, Tommaso and his family own Bellavista Impruneta, a century-old hotel and restaurant in Tuscany. Beppe and Roberta, the mom and dad, run the show. It can get pretty crazy around there during high season.

If you are anywhere near the kitchen, you will hear Beppe say, with pure exasperation and certainly a hand gesture, “Che disperazione!”Oh! The despair! The desperation! In fact, he says it so much, one of the cooks thought he would be cheeky and got a t-shirt with this phrase printed on it.

Beppe and Roberta in Bellavista Impruneta

Roberta and Beppe in the sitting room at Bellavista.

Here are some of my favorite Italian idioms and expressions. I love they can be tied back to an expression we say in English. That’s the beauty of Romance languages- a common linguistic background.

Bread at a Tuscan villa

Buono come il pane!

“As good as bread!”

As you can imagine, many idiomatic expressions center around food in Italy. This literally means, “Nothing is better than bread.” We would say, “As good as gold.”

Ad ogni morte di Papa

“Every time a Pope dies”

Our equivalent would be, “Once in a blue moon.”

Chi dorme non piglia pesci

“One who does not catch the fish”

In English, we would say, “The early bird catches the worm.”

San Gimignano bicycle

Hai voluto la bicicletta? Allora, pedala!

“You wanted a bike? Now pedal!”

Or, “You made your bed, so you must lie on it.”

In Bocca al Lupo

“Into the wolf’s mouth”

Oddly enough, this means, “Good luck.” It doesn’t stop there, it is essential that you respond with “Crepi,” which means “die.” I hope this means the wolf.

Don’t judge, we say “Break a leg.”

Avere la Botte Piena e la Moglie Ubriaca

“To have the wine cask full and the wife drunk”

This has to be one of my favorites. It basically means to have your cake and eat it, too.

Dalle Stelle alle Stalle

“To go from the stars to the horse stalls”

Or to fall from grace.

Fuori di Testa

“Out[side] of your mind”

In northern Italy it is sometimes used in the phrase “Fuori come un balcone” – Out[side] like the balcony. In Tuscany they would say “Fuori come un terrazzo”- Out[side] like the terrace.

We would say “out of your mind” or “crazy as a loon.”

Peli Sulla Lingua

“Hairs on the tongue”

“He doesn’t have hairs on his tongue,” meaning, to tell it like it is, without flattery.

This next one could be considered offensive, so proceed with caution…

Amore in Cortona

Tira piu’ un pelo di fi*a che un carro di buoi

(* = g or c, depending on what region you are from)

“A ummm… woman’s vagina hair pulls [attracts] more than an oxcart”

Ok, the word is not vagina, but this site is PG! (Feel free to throw it into Google Translate.)

This is a really old saying, meaning, the sexual power of the woman overcomes all else!

If you learn some of these expressions and you follow my tips on how to be a traveler, not a tourist- you will fit right in with the Italians.

Do you have a favorite Italian idiom, phrase, or expression? Share it with us in the comments below.

Put your new Italian phrases to practice! Tour Tuscany with Capturing la Vita Tours . 

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4 Responses to A Cask Full of Wine and a Drunk Wife: Fun Italian Phrases

  1. wanderingeducators August 14, 2013 at 2:26 PM #

    I love how languages work, and how funny they can be. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Donna August 14, 2013 at 5:49 PM #

    I can remember my Italian grandfather and aunts with their phrases – here are a couple:

    Paese che vai, usanza che trovi.
    translation: The country you visit, the customs you find.
    better known as: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

    A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello.
    translation: To every bird, his own nest is beautiful.
    Better known as: There’s no place like home

    Another fun post, Laurel!

  3. Amy August 18, 2013 at 8:07 AM #

    Brilliant! Not sure about the last one though….

  4. Heidi Wagoner August 18, 2013 at 8:14 AM #

    This is great. These are the little things that make the difference from Tourist and Traveler. You have had the time to get to know these phrases.

    I love that you also added something similar in English. Who makes these up in the first place? :-) I think I like the bike and the wine.

    Now you have me thinking about the similar phrases in Spanish…. oh no! my brain is on overload. Thanks

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