One of the beauties of Italian is that it is a very specific language. I would say I love that, but that would be very un-Italian indeed.
For example, there are different words to indicate playing a sport (giocare) versus playing an instrument (suonare). Or for painting a wall (tinteggiare) versus creating something with paint — like a masterpiece — (dipingere).
So it’s no surprise that in Italian you wouldn’t just express your feelings for say, a pizza, or a movie, or any of the countless other things we English speakers “love” using the same word that we would use for the love of our lives.
The word love is reserved for romantic love only, used exclusively to describe your feelings for your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. Other things which you feel strongly about, instead, are pleasing to you: mi piace la tua macchina nuova (which more accurately translates as “I like your new car.”) Or, you could adore something: adoro il caffè. But certainly, you don’t love whatever that thing is.
Knowing this distinction makes expressing your love in Italian even more powerful. Ready to give it a try? Italian phrases are linked to Google Translate so that you can hear the pronunciation, and I hope the pictures transport you virtually to some of Italy’s romantic spots!
I love you: Ti amo
Kiss me: dammi un bacio
Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Image Credit
Fun fact: Legend says that kissing under the bridge at sunset on a gondola will bring eternal love and bliss. However, the Bridge of Sighs (Il Ponte dei Sospiri) was named for a different kind of sigh. Long ago, the bridge connected the prison to the interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace. When prisoners where taken to their cells, the last glimpse they would see of Venice came while crossing the bridge…hence…*sigh*.
I’m falling in love with you: Mi sto innamorando di te
Fun fact: Verona is home to Juliet’s balcony, and La Casa di Giulietta is one of the most popular attractions in Verona. Three of Shakespeare’s works are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew. Read more about Verona here.
You are my treasure: sei il mio tesoro
You are my life: Sei la mia vita
‘I love you’ for family and friends: ti voglio bene
Ti voglio bene, or simply TVB, technically means I want you well, and is the commonly used I love you for friends and family.
“Italian parents and children as well as boyfriends and girlfriends express affection with ti voglio bene, which translates literally into “I want you well,” but conveys an entire universe of best wishes: “I want the best for you.” “I want all good things for you.” “I want what you want because I care so much for you.” (Dianne Hales)
Infusing Italian into your day is fun, lighthearted and joyful. So go ahead, pick a phrase and surprise a loved one with some Italian romance today.
Resources (featuring many more ways to express love): Italy Magazine and Becoming Italian Word by Word.
For more on Valentine’s Day: Of Saints and Chocolates.
This post first appeared on Prayers and Piazzas in February 2016. For much more on Italy, please join Prayers and Piazzas at Facebook.
6 Comments Add yours
Ciao cara, complimenti per un bel post!
Volevo offritti un osservazione: sei il mio tesoro, oppure sei un tesoro, o semplicemente tesoro, rimane sempre al maschile inquanto e` una parola maschile, nonostante il soggetto dell’affetto sia maschile o femminile.
Ah, mille grazie, Jodina! Mi piace ‘tesoro’ per tutti. Piu` facile! xo
When I visited my friend’s cousins in Abruzzo one summer, they told me just what you have written in this blog! Use “Mi piace” for something insignificant and reserve the word “love” for your true love. That really made me think about how we Americans “misuse” this word “love” every day and I was really impressed by the Italian way of thinking. Great blog!
Thank you, Kathryn! I’m impressed by their way of thinking too, I think it’s nice to not “water down” the word love. So glad you enjoyed the post!
The Italian language is so musical even saying something mundane like ‘I have to take out the garbage’ sounds romantic❤️. I always sign off emails to mio innamorato with ‘Baci infinitissimi, Cristina’❤️