Guide to Italian Hand Gestures

Tori Torn8 min
Created: Feb 13, 2024Last updated: Apr 11, 2024
Italian Hand Gestures

Body language plays a massive role in our daily communication, which is why it’s so important to consider a person’s emotions and gestures. Italians always use their hands to express feelings and complement what they say. Natives use dozens of gestures daily, and you should also master this art if you want to reach a particular level of fluency. Knowing what Italian hand moves mean will help you better understand your interlocutors. 

The country’s residents use hundreds of different gestures, and exploring them helps learners understand culture, history, and traditions. This topic is as essential as knowing greetings in Italian. It’s time to learn the roots of these customs and find out more about the most widespread hand signs Italians use daily.

The Historical Roots of Italian Gestures

Talking with their hands has been customary for Italians for centuries. Native speakers often say “un gesto vale più di mille parole” [ˈun d͡ʒˈɛsto vˈale pjˈu dˈi mˈille paɾˈɔle], meaning “a gesture is worth a thousand words.” Italians are known as passionate and emotional people. Many would definitely wonder why someone would use body language instead of words. 

Hand gestures were widespread long ago, and their appearance and evolution were impacted by numerous factors. One of the most common reasons to use them is that the country faced multiple invasions and wars with different nations, and gestures were the top means of communication for those who never shared a common language. Since then, gestures have become an integral aspect of people’s lives, regardless of their cultures and origins.

Nobody is invading Italy now, but the habits are what stays with people for decades and even centuries. Therefore, the country residents continue using the common gestures and gladly describe what they mean to foreigners. It’s time to explore the Italian body language to be more flexible when communicating with natives.

Decoding Popular Italian Hand Gestures

Overall, there are hundreds of gestures that Italians use daily. Currently, body language may vary in different country’s regions, but some of them are popular throughout the entire territory. Let’s discover the most common Italian hand gestures meaning and the best instances to use them:

  1. Non mi interessa [nˈon mˈi interˈes͡sa], meaning “I don’t care.” It implies flicking fingers under the chin. This body language sign is always called “chin flick” and is common in countries outside Italy.
  2. Così così [kozˈi kozˈi], meaning “so-so”. Turn the palm up and down to use this gesture. It’s a non-verbal way to express your dissatisfaction with something or show that you weren’t impressed.
  3. Occhio [ˈɔkːio], meaning “watch out.” This gesture implies opening up your eye with a finger. The sign shows the interlocutor that they should be attentive or aware of something important.
  4. Il gesto del furto [ˈiːl d͡ʒˈɛsto dˈel fˈurto], a stealing Italian hand gesture. It implies lowering the palm and moving fingers as if you would like to grab sometimes. It’s not used when a person actually wants to steal something; instead, this sign demonstrates they would like to take something and ask for permission in such a way.
  5. Non ti sopporto [nˈon tˈi sopːˈɔrto], meaning “I can’t stand you.” It implies putting the arm horizontally near your stomach and is a way to show disrespect and unwillingness to communicate with the person.
  6. Che capolavoro [kˈe kapolavˈoro], meaning “what a masterpiece.” This sign implies putting five fingers together and touching your mouth to show a symbolic kiss. The gesture has become international and is a way to demonstrate your satisfaction and appreciation.
  7. L’ombrello [ˈɛlle’ombrˈɛllo], translated as “absolutely not.” This common gesture imitates putting an umbrella on a hook. It’s a rude gesture, aiming to show disrespect to a person and unwillingness to fulfill their requests.
  8. Ti prego [tˈi prˈɛɡo], meaning “oh, please.” Put your hands together like you are praying, which is a widespread gesture when asking someone for assistance. This sign is popular far beyond the Italian borders, so it will hardly surprise foreigners.
  9. Non lo so [nˈon lˈo sˈɔ], meaning “I don’t know.” It implies opening your arms with both palms up. It’s used to demonstrate you know nothing about the issue. In addition, Italians often use this sign to say, “It’s not my fault.”
  10. Ma va va [mˈa vˈa vˈa], meaning “Get lost.” In this sign, you should stretch your arm and move it up and down, which is used to show you are not happy to see this person. It’s often used sarcastically when the interlocutor says something that another individual doesn’t want to hear.
  11. Vattene [vˈatːene], meaning “get out.” Flatten all the fingers of one hand and cover them with the other hand at a 90-degree angle. This sign demonstrates that someone wants others to leave them alone and quit immediately.
  12. Si vabbe [sˈi vˈabːe], meaning “yeah, right.” This gesture implies moving the hand in different circles and upping your eyebrow simultaneously. It’s a sarcastic body sign demonstrating mistrust. Italians often use it when listening to stories that don’t seem realistic.

Now, you know what do Italian hand gestures mean. Of course, these are only some of them, and learners have yet to explore many more aspects of body language. Remember to complement your speech with the above signs, which will help you speak like an Italian and dip into the country’s culture.


The Global Influence of Italian Fingers Gestures

Italians are the trendsetters in many aspects, including fashion and their worldwide famous cuisine. The trend for using body language is spreading across multiple countries, but we shouldn’t forget where this custom originated. For instance, the “Ti prego” gesture is universal and is used globally to ask for something or pray for forgiveness. Therefore, non-Italian residents will understand it without even saying a word. 

“Che capolavoro” is another Italian hand sign that is used worldwide. People in different states put their fingers to their mouths to show their impressions and mark high quality. It’s especially widespread among tourists visiting local restaurants; the gesture is the best way to compliment the chef and show how much a visitor enjoyed the dish. 

Overall, the traditions of non-verbal communication will always retain their relevance. People speak different languages, but the hand signs are universal and timeless across cultures. Therefore, it’s better to master Italian gestures meaning to get more freedom when communicating with the country’s residents. Moreover, this knowledge will help you avoid misunderstandings; you will always know what a person wants to say without words.

Learning Italian Gestures: A Practical Guide

The number of Italian hand signs is amazing, and memorizing them might be challenging for learners. Of course, immersing yourself in the language environment is the best way to explore all its peculiarities. Communicating with native Italians will help you navigate gestures and ways to use them properly. Following others’ behaviors is a suitable strategy to dip into the country’s culture. However, not everyone has the possibility of visiting Italy immediately, but luckily, there are still some tips to master the gestures. 

First, take advantage of movies to explore how Italians behave and communicate. Watch them in the original and use subtitles, which will also be helpful in terms of enriching your lexicon. Choosing movies with complicated vocabularies is optional, as beginners can start with the most uncomplicated videos. Take time and don’t hurry up to learn everything at once to achieve the best results.

Moreover, you can find special guides from Italian speakers who gladly explain gestures and their meanings to viewers. You can search for short records on social media; for instance, subscribing to Italian lifestyle bloggers will help you discover their culture and communication manners in real time.

Master Italian Gestures and Many More with Promova

Learning a language on your own is possible, as you can find multiple helpful resources and guides online. However, additional tutor assistance will come in handy for those who would like to reach the desired level of fluency as soon as possible. In this case, Promova will become your one-stop solution. The platform offers guided courses developed by experienced teachers, which you can enjoy in the web version or downloadable app.

You can join Promova with a few clicks; choose the free version or get a Premium subscription to receive even more useful materials. The platform offers multiple new words, exciting quizzes, and many other benefits to master Italian wherever you are.

Additionally, you can find more useful insights like how to tell the time in Italian, what’s the difference between different languages, or even some slang words. We also share practical vocabulary and interesting cultural facts on our social networks, including Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. So follow us to immerse yourself in language learning to the fullest.


Body language goes hand in hand with verbal communication, so exploring Italian gestures will be beneficial for every learner. The country’s residents use them during every conversation, so knowing the meaning of the basic signs will help them understand the interlocutor better.


How can I boost my language knowledge, and what are the best resources to use?

You can find plenty of online materials to strengthen your skills; these include workbooks, manuals, guides from tutors, etc. In addition, online dictionaries are indispensable assistants for every learner. WordReference and Collins are among the best options students can use. These tools are the best for exploring Italian hand sign meaning and discovering plenty of new words and collocations.

How many people speak Italian globally?

Italian boasts around 61.7 million speakers worldwide. People from Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Belgium, the US, Croatia, Monaco, and other countries use it. It’s in the sixth position on the list of most common languages in Europe, but its popularity in the world is overestimated.

Why should I use the Italian hand language?

Gestures and signs are cross-cultural, as they’re a way to understand your interlocutor or express your thoughts without saying a word. The body signs are a great tool when you don’t speak the language but still need to communicate with people around you. Some gestures are versatile and understandable globally, so keeping in touch with Italian residents will be easier.

What are the tips for mastering Italian faster?

Immersing yourself in the language environment and communicating with natives is the best way to learn Italian. However, you can still use other tips that don’t require traveling anywhere. Read as much as possible; start with the simplest books or online articles to boost your vocabulary. In addition, watch movies or videos to help you explore correct pronunciation and hand gestures used by natives. Finally, try to speak aloud and practice your skills regularly to reach the desired result.


PromovaFeb 22nd, 2024
Many nationalities around the world use hand gestures when speaking, including Italians, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and many more. Hand gestures are often used to emphasize points, convey emotions, and enhance communication. They can vary widely in meaning and significance across different cultures.
GALEFeb 22nd, 2024
Cool! What other nationalities use hand gestures when speaking?