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When I lived in Italy, I lived in an apartment that was alongside one of the main roads that went into town.
Every day, in order to get into town, I’d have to walk along a precariously thin sidewalk to Porta Romana as Fiats and Vespas whizzed dangerously close to me.
One day, as I was making the trek into town, a man pulled over and asked me “Dov’è la stazione di Porta Romana?”, meaning “Where is the Porta Romana train station?”
Luckily for the both of us, it was close enough for me to give comprehensive two-step directions. “Vada dritto e poi giri a sinistra,” I told him, which meant “Go straight and then turn left.”
He thanked me and sped away.
I’d never felt confident that I “knew” Italian until that moment, and I proceeded to brag about it to everyone I knew.
Instead of being the lost American, for once, I was the knowledgeable local.
I was proud.
In this article, you’ll learn how to ask for and give directions so YOU can have your proud moment too.
The first thing you’ll need to know about giving directions is that you need to use the imperative mood to give them. If you need a refresher on how to use it, go here.
The most common verbs you’ll need are:
– Andare – to go
– Girare – to turn
– Camminare – to walk
– Guidare – to drive
– Fermare – to stop
The imperative forms of these verbs are:
– Andare – va’, vada, andate
– Girare – gira, giri, girate
– Camminare – cammina, cammini, camminate
– Guidare – guida, guidi, guidate
– Fermare – ferma, fermi, fermate
You’ll also need the words for directions:
– A destra – right
– A sinistra – left
– Nord – North
– Sud – South
– Ovest – West
– Est – East
– Dritto (or diritto) – straight
And finally, you’ll need the words to describe where something is in relation to other things:
– All’angolo con – at the corner of
– Vicino a – near
– Davanti a (or di fronte a) – in front of
– Dietro a – behind
– All’incrocio con – at the intersection with
Learning those last five were a challenge for me, so here’s a picture to help you remember how to describe where exactly something is.
In this picture…
– La macchina è davanti alla scalinata. – The car is in front of the staircase.
– Non c’è niente all’angolo della piazza. – There is nothing at the corner of the piazza.
– L’uomo che sta leggendo è vicino alla fontana. – The man that’s reading is near the fountain.
– L’edificio è dietro alla fontana. – The building is behind the fountain.
– La macchina è parcheggiata di fianco alla fontana, di fronte al negozio, davanti al furgone, parallela alla scalinata e dietro all’uomo che legge. – The car is parked beside the fountain, in front of the shop, in front of the van, parallel to the staircase and behind the man that reads the newspaper.
Now all you need to do is put the verbs and directions together!
It would look something like this:
– Va’ sempre dritto, la chiesa è all’angolo della piazza. – Keep going straight and the church is at the corner of the piazza.
– Va’ dritto, poi gira a destra, cammina per 25 metri e trovi la stazione. – Go straight, then turn right, walk for 25 meters and there is the station.
Remember that Italians use the metric system, so you’ll have to get used to directions being given in meters and kilometers.
– Fa’ un’inversione a U, guida per 10 chilometri, gira a sinistra e fermati alla stazione di Porta Fiorentina. – Make a U-turn, drive for 10 kilometers, turn left and stop at the Porta Fiorentina station.
To make a U-turn is fare un’inversione a U.
The directions you may have to give will be different based on where you are, so feel free to experiment with different combinations so you get used to using them.
Sometimes, however, you’ll have to ASK for directions instead of GIVE them, and that’s okay.
Being able to understand the directions a police officer or random citizen gives you on the street can feel equally as exhilarating as giving understandable directions.
Since you already know how to GIVE directions, you’ll just need to know how to ask for them.
Asking for Directions
Here are some phrases you’ll need:
– Mi scusi, dov’è ________? – Excuse me, where is ________?
Plug in whatever you’re looking for after dov’è.
– Questo treno va a _______? – Does this train go to ________?
The trains in Italy are sometimes tricky, and you might not know if you’re on the right one. You can ask someone on the train if it’s going to wherever you’re trying to go.
– È vicino? – Is it near?
– È lontano? – Is it far? (Hopefully not.)
– Come posso arrivare a __________? – How do I get to the __________?
– Quanto ci vuole? – How long does it take?
Remember, it’s always polite to add Mi scusi or Scusi before you ask for directions.
If you would love to know more phrases so you can navigate your upcoming trip to Italy totally in Italian, check out the Not Your Typical Tourist Workbook.
Practice giving directions from your house to your local grocery store and post them in the comments below!