You don’t have to be fluent in Italian to visit Italy. And, unfortunately, you could get by without knowing a single Italian word. However, arriving in il paese (google translate that) without knowing at least a few basic phrases is a quick way to guarantee yourself a canned, tourist-trapping, inauthentic experience, that you are (hopefully) trying to avoid. Not to mention, it’s just rude.
Ok, enough with the unnecessary scolding . If you’re still with me, you’re likely a culturally-aware, curious, decent human being, looking to better connect with other decent human beings who happen to be Italian. As a reward, we’ve curated a list of our favorite podcasts (ranging from beginner to advanced) to help you learn, grow, or polish your Italian.
From “how will I order that fluffy pastry” to “I’m looking to debate the influence of Guicciardini on Machiavellian philosophy” …
Coffee Break Italian: A personal favorite, Coffee Break Italian teaches you the nuts and bolts of Italian grammar and vocabulary as if you are taking a course. It is formatted in such a way that a native English speaker (fluent in Italian) along with a native Italian, teach a beginner English speak. It’s great for learning the basics and practicing out loud.
30 Minute Italian offers lighthearted lessons on Italian language nuances – for example, “Italian Insults That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud” or “False Friends in Italian.” The host – Cher Hale – not only provides language tips you may not have learned in Italian class, but also shares interesting insights into the culture of Italy as well.
As you may assume from the name, 5 Minute Italian is perhaps the least intimating way to learn useful Italian phrases and expressions one bite at a time. Hosted by English-speaking Katie and Italian-speaking Matteo, the podcast is approachable, while providing the expertise and perspective of a native speaker.
Lucrezia is an award-winning blogger, youtuber, and podcaster who’s mission is to train our ear to better understand the language. Lucrezia’s podcasts are 100% Italian. But don’t fret! She speaks slowly about relatable topics (i.e. the fear of speaking Italian). The podcast even featured a conversation with our very own Well Traveled consultant and American expat, Abbie, about her personal journey to learn the language when she moved to Rome 4 years ago.
When I’m feeling especially ambitious, I get my headlines from News in Slow Italian. The podcast (also available in other languages) features global news headlines delivered to you in (you guessed it) slow Italian. This podcast is fantastic for learning sentence structures and general comprehension. The free portion of the podcast is relatively short, yet a helpful addition to your day as you prepare for fast Italian once you arrive.
Want to kick it up a notch? Francesco Costa discusses American politics in fast (well normal, really) Italian on Da Costa a Costa. Although Francesco isn’t cutting us any breaks by slowing down the pace, he is talking about familiar topics you’re sure to pick up on. Hang on tight and we think you’ll follow along just fine!
Senza Rosetto (without lipstick) is a podcast for women by women – Giulia and Giulia. The podcast was launched on the 70th anniversary of the first referendum that included women in Italy in 1946. It covers a wide range of feminist topics, from the wage gap in Italy, to dealing with mansplaining. The podcast is for the advanced speakers looking to fine-tune their conversational skills.
A friend once told me the best way to learn Italian is to speak it. He told me to not let the fear of conjugating a verb incorrectly, or emphasizing the wrong syllable prevent me from simply getting the words out. My Italian never was, nor ever will be perfect. But trying, opens me up to connect with Italians and their culture on a deeper level. We hope that with a little bit of podcast prep work, you can arrive in Italy with a few key phrases or more in your back pocket so you too can connect with il paese.