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60 Funny Italian Proverbs, Quotes, And Sayings (With Audio And English Translations)

60 Funny Italian Proverbs, Quotes, And Sayings (With Audio And English Translations)

A great way to boost your Italian skills and learn about Italian culture is to explore Italian proverbs and sayings. These short, memorable sayings not only offer sage advice but also give you a peek into the heart and soul of the Italian people.

That’s why we’ve gathered a list of 60 awesome Italian proverbs, quotes, and sayings—complete with audio recordings and English translations. You can use these proverbs to improve your Italian conversation skills or as a starting point for further research into Italian culture and traditions.

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We’ve broken them up into groups of 6 for easy perusing. You should also note that the translations aren’t necessarily literal—they’re meant to capture the proverbs’ overall meanings.

Andiamo! Let’s get started.

Beautiful women fall for ugly men

Italian Proverbs 1 – 6

Italian English
A buon cavallo non occorre dirgli trotta. No need to say “trot” to a good horse.
Chiama l’arbore, ama il ramo. Who loves the tree loves the branch.
Della sua istessa colpa amor è scusa. Love is an excuse for its own faults.
Il diavolo tenta tutti, ma l’ozioso tenta il diavolo. The devil tempts all, but the idle man tempts the devil.
Alle belle donno le più volte toccano i brutti uomini. Beautiful women generally fall to the lot of ugly men.
Non c’è il peggior frutto di quello che non matura mai. There is no worse fruit than that which never ripens.

Make yourself honey

Italian Proverbs 7 – 12

Italian English
Fatti di miele, e ti mangeran le mosche. Make yourself honey and the flies will eat you.
Piccola pietra rovescia gran carro. A little stone overturns a great cart.
Chi asino è, e cervo esser si crede, al saltar del fosso sè ne avvede. He who is an ass and thinks himself a stag, finds his mistake when he comes to leap the ditch.
Quando il tuo diavol nacque, il mio andava a scuola. When your devil was born, mine was going to school.
Di notte tutti i gatti sono neri. By night all cats are black.
Acqua, fumo, e mala femmina, cacciano la gente di casa. Water, smoke, and a vicious woman, drive men out of the house.

Don't bite till you know

Italian Proverbs 13 – 18

Italian English
Fra dir e far si guastano scarpe assai. Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.
Non mordere se non sai se è pietra o pane. Don’t bite till you know whether it is bread or a stone.
Accostati a’ buoni e sarai uno di essi. Associate with the good and you will be one of them.
Chi semina spine, non vada scalzo. He who sows thorns should not go barefoot.
Se ben ho perso l’anello, ho pur anche le dita. If I have lost the ring I still have the fingers.
E ardito il gallo sopra il suo letame. The cock is bold on his own dunghill.

The beggar's wallet has no bottom

Italian Proverbs 19 – 24

Italian English
Il sacco de’ mendici non ha fondo. The beggar’s wallet has no bottom.
Ad ognuno par più grave la croce sua. Every one thinks his own cross the heaviest.
Gli uomini fanno la roba, e le donne la conservano. Men make wealth, and women preserve it.
Quando tutti ti dicono briaco, va a dormire. When everybody says you are drunk, go to sleep.
Non dir mal dell’anno finchè passato non sia. Speak not ill of the year until it is past.
Dimmi con chi vai, e ti dirò chi sei. Tell me the company you keep, and I’ll tell you what you are.

All are not saints who go to church

Italian Proverbs 25 – 30

Italian English
A cader va chi troppo in alto sale. He who climbs too high is near a fall.
Si dice è mentitore. They say, is a liar.
A chi parla poco, gli basta la metà del cervello. Half a brain is enough for him who says little.
E bello predicare il digiuno a corpo pieno. It is easy to preach fasting with a full belly.
Non son tutti santi quelli che vanno in chiesa. All are not saints who go to church.
Chi compra ciò che pagar non può, vende ciò che non vuole. He who buys what he cannot pay for, sells what he would rather not.

The fly that bites the tortoise

Italian Proverbs 31 – 36

Italian English
Molti son bravi quando l’inimico fugge. Many are brave when the enemy flees.
Non si può cavar sangue dalla rapa. You cannot draw blood from a turnip.
A cavar di casa un morto, ci voglion quattro vivi. It takes four living men to carry one dead man out of a house.
La mosca che punge la tartaruga si rompe il becco. The fly that bites the tortoise breaks its beak.
Chi molte cose comincia, poche ne finisce. He who begins many things finishes few.
Taglia la coda al cane, e’ riman cane. Cut off the dog’s tail, he remains a dog.

It's easy to threaten a bull from a window

Italian Proverbs 37 – 42

Italian English
E facile far paura al toro dalla finestra. It is easy to threaten a bull from a window.
Non fu mai così bella scarpa che non diventasse brutta ciabatta. There never was a shoe however handsome that did not become an ugly slipper.
Se non puoi mordere, non mostrar mai i denti. If you can’t bite, don’t show your teeth.
A la barba de’ pazzi il barbier impara a radere. On a fool’s beard the barber learns to shave.
Chi due lepri caccia, l’una non piglia e l’altra lascia. He who hunts two hares does not catch the one and lets the other escape.
Tal ha belli occhi che niente vi vede. One may have good eyes and see nothing.

Man of straw needs a woman of gold

Italian Proverbs 43 – 48

Italian English
Mai si fa cosa ben in fretta, che il fuggir la peste e i rumori, e pigliar pulci. Nothing is ever well done in a hurry, except fleeing from the plague or from quarrels, and catching fleas.
Un uomo di paglia vuole una donna d’oro. A man of straw needs a woman of gold.
A chi fa male, mai mancano scuse. The wrong-doer never lacks excuses.
E meglio esser solo che mal accompagnato. Better alone than in bad company.
Fatta la legge, trovata la malizia. No sooner is the law made than its evasion is discovered.
Al lume di lucerna ogni rustica par bella. By lamplight every country wench seems handsome.

If you let them put the calf on your shoulders

Italian Proverbs 49 – 54

Italian English
Non si va in Paradiso in carrozza. There’s no getting to heaven in a coach.
E meglio stuzzicare un cane che una vecchia. It is better to irritate a dog than an old woman.
A can che lecchi cenere, non gli fidar farina. The dog that licks ashes is not to be trusted with flour.
Se ti lasci metter in spalla il vitello, quindi a poco ti metteranno la vacca. If you let them put the calf on your shoulders, it will not be long before they clap on the cow.
L’ospite, ed il pesce dopo tre dì rincresce. A guest and a fish stink in three days.
Ogni pazzo è savio quando tace. Every fool is wise when he holds his tongue.

It's not easy to show the way to a blind man

Italian Proverbs 55 – 60

Italian English
Ad un cieco mal può mostrarsi il cammino. It is not easy to show the way to a blind man.
E picciola la punta della spina, ma chi sente il dolore non se ne dimentica. The point of the thorn is small, but he who has felt it does not forget it.
Non può uscir del sacco se non quel che ci è. Nothing can come out of a sack but what is in it.
Fa bene, e non guardare a chi. Do good, and care not to whom.
Al bugiardo non si crede la verità. The liar is not believed when he speaks the truth.
Chi della serpa è punto, ha paura della lucertola. He who has been stung by a serpent is afraid of a lizard.

Did you enjoy these Italian proverbs as much as we did? We hope they’ve given you a better understanding of the Italian language and culture. Sprinkle your favorites into your next conversation with an Italian friend or practice using them yourself to impress native speakers.

Buon divertimento!