E&M demystifies the world of Italian gestures with the help of our friend, Giacomo.

Italians have an uncanny ability to communicate using only their hands. In Italy, gesticulation is an art. For us Europeans who do not hail from the Bel Paese, gesticulating as a sole means of communication can be somewhat baffling. To make matters worse, Italian gestures are more subtle than perhaps we presume.

E&M has enlisted the help of Giacomo from Milan to give you a flavour of some of the most used Italian gesti.  

First up, we have: ‘what on earth are you talking about?!’

The back-and-forth motion is pretty subtle and difficult to get right | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

Perhaps the most prominent of all, this particular gesture is used when something is unclear. Note the facial expression which, for every gesture, is as imperative as the hand movement itself. Use if you want to ask someone: what the heck do you want?!’

Another well-known Italian gesture is: ‘go and make sweet love to yourself!’

E&M makes no apologies for including crude hand actions – they are vital too | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

Simply make this gesture at the thought of Brexit.

Here we have: ‘I don’t care or me ne frego!’

Nothing says ‘I told you so’ like a well-polished Italian gesture | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

If someone does something you specifically warned them not to do, use to express indifference. You might tell a friend on a night out not to mix their alcohol. When they come to you in the morning with a hangover sob story, simply brush the underside of your chin in a flicking motion like this.

You might recognise this one too, it means: ‘to have sex’.

Another addition to the more unrefined of the gestures, this one comprises a back and forth motion | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

You can use your imagination, here.

This next gesture simply means: ‘nothing’ or ‘there is nothing left.’

Making an L-shape with your forefinger and thumb, jiggle your hand by pivoting your wrist | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

If at a house party someone asks you to get more beer from the fridge but the fridge is empty, instead of informing them verbally, why not let them down gently by showing off your knowledge of Italian culture?     

Next, we have: ‘I cannot stand that person!’

With your hand in this position, lightly tap your sternum | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

If you don’t want to verbalise dislike for someone (perhaps you feel they don’t even merit a spoken insult) this gesture is a quick way to communicate those adverse sentiments.

This next one is important. It means: ‘go away!’

Your hand must be perpendicular to the body with fingers extended and moved in a swinging motion | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

If someone is getting on your nerves, a simple wave of the hand up and down can be enough to tell them to ‘bog off!’ If you see an Italian making this signal it is advisable to depart as hastily as possible. You do not want to be on the receiving end of their wrath.

Last but not least: ‘I am alone.’ (In Italy they say: da solo come un cane – alone like a dog.)

Twist your wrist with your hand in the position pictured | Photo: E&M

When to use it?

Imagine a friend abandons you for half an hour on the dance-floor of a bar or club. Your solo dance moves have not been enough to woo anybody there and you are feeling disheartened. When you are reunited with the friend this gesture is the perfect way to let them know they left you ‘alone like a dog’.

And the list goes on… There is an abundance of these bodily expressions. To know them all one would simply have to be Italian. Give them a go—because sometimes words are not enough.

Feature image caption: Porto Garibaldi, Corso Como, Milano| Photo: E&M

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