Have you seen the movie “The fabulous world of Amelie”? Probably yes, considering that it was released several years ago and it has become a cult movie in many countries. Towards the end the film, there is a scene in which the good faith and honesty of Nino (the boy with whom the main character is in love with) are tested by one of Amelie’s friends according to his knowledge of Proverbs. The reason? “In my home we say that he who knows proverbs well, can not be completely bad …” asserts the girl.

This to say that in order to integrate well in Italy (as well as in many other countries) and to learn the language to perfection, it is essential to at least know the most common proverbs, being those also an essential part of the Italian culture. People often use Proverbs in sentences to express concepts in a concise and immediate way, making it really hard to fully understand what is being said.

We’ll review ten of the most common and loved ones, but there are many others:

  1. Una rondine non fa primavera – One swallow does not make a summer: you should not judge the trend of an event based on the first signal.
  2. L’erba del vicino è sempre più verde – The neighbour’s grass is always greener: it explains the tendency of seeing the lives of others as always better then ours.
  3. A caval donato non si guarda in bocca – Do not look a gift horse in the mouth: gifts are always to be accepted with education and gratitude.
  4. Tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino – The cat goes so often to the lard that it leaves its paw: to always desire more than what one has, entails risking bad consequences. It is an invitation to be moderate and avoid lust for possession.
  5. I panni sporchi si lavano in famiglia – Dirty linen is washed in the family: private, delicate and family matters should not be discussed publicly but in confidence.
  6. i panni sporchi si lavano in famiglia

  7. Non c’è peggior sordo di chi non vuol sentire – There is none so deaf as he who will not hear: explains how it is completely useless talking to those who have no interest in listening to what we are saying and thus not paying attention.
  8. Chi dorme non piglia pesci – He who sleeps catches no fish: to obtain results, you need to take action and make it happen.
  9. Del senno di poi son piene le fosse – The pits are full of hindsight understandings: it is easy to judge an event or a choice when its consequences have already occurred.
  10. Volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca – To want a full barrel and a tipsy wife: wanting two incompatible things, opposite one to the other and impossible to achieve at the same time.
  11. L’abito non fa il monaco/ non è tutto oro quello che luccica – A tunic does not make a monk / Not all that glitters is gold: appearances should not be trusted or used to judge people or circumstances, because they are often deceiving.


Obviously the list does not end here. Many are the Proverbs used in spoken language and we will continue to discuss them in the future. Meanwhile, practice!