Skip to main content
By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.

The real meaning behind Italians’ hand gestures

Living in Italy has taught me there’s a gesture for almost everything

This is the fifth comic in a series on moving to Italy. Read the first, second, third and fourth.

One of my favorite things to do in Rome is sit at a cafe on the piazza, sip on a spritz and watch Italians talk to each other. Their hands move just as quickly as they speak — a kind of conversational dance. I was eating gelato when I learned that some of these gestures actually mean something: A new friend twisted their index finger into their cheek while saying “che buono!” meaning “It’s so good!” I soon discovered there’s a gesture for almost everything: being scared, telling someone not to worry, spaghetti and (of course), some ruder ones. While I still struggle with the language, learning gestures along with the words has made it a little more fun.