Italian conversations are never complete without a hand gesture. There are nearly 250 hand gestures used by Italians every day. It is believed that the gestures originate from the Italians’ love for dramatic representations. 

Also, the hand gestures are thought to result from the long history in which Italy was occupied by people from other countries that forced their languages, culture, and mannerisms on the locals. As a result, language barrier issues were forcing the Italians to innovate different ways of communicating.

Here, you’ll learn about 10 Italian hand gestures that your friends should know. However, before you start learning, it is essential to note that gesticulating is not restricted to the Italian hand only; it’s also about facial expressions and body posture. 

You’ve got to do some neck and shoulder stretches and warm up your eyebrows to be ready for some Italian gesticulation.

10 most common Italian hand gestures

“From Riches to Rags” Gesture

Hand gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

Place your hand palms facing down. Then, as you speak and get to the subject of the chat, you turn over your hand so that your palm faces up. It is a more straightforward hand gesture.

You use this Italian hand gesture to demonstrate how a situation or person has changed significantly. A disappointed or sad facial expression also accompanies it. 

This Italian hand gesture is used together with the Italian phrase E cambiato or cambiata da cosi a cosi!” That means he/she changed from this to that!

Cultural tip – you should use this gesture when you’re feeling sad or disappointed with someone else’s conduct.

“What Torture!” Gesture

“What Torture!” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

Clench your hand into a fist and bite the index finger. Alternatively, you can flatten your hand and bite the top part of your index finger. Italians usually use this hand gesture when they want to desist from uttering words they’ll later regret. You should squint your eyes as you make the hand gesture for the expression to be complete. The Italian words and phrases associated with this hand gesture are Porca misera!”Which could be translated as “What the heck!” or Cavolo! Meaning, “No way!”

Cultural tip – use this Italian hand gesture when you want the other person to know that you are having difficulty staying calm. You’ll use it when things don’t go as anticipated or when someone does something wrong.

“Anti-evil Eye / Horns” Gesture

“Anti-evil Eye/ Horns” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

Draw out your pinkie and index fingers with your hand facing down; to look like horns. You use this Italian hand gesture to protect yourself from the “evil eye.” 

It is mainly used against someone that is badmouthing you or close to you. A worried facial expression accompanies it. The Italian phrase that accompanies this gesture is Tie!”  Which means “Take that!”

Cultural tip – the gesture is usually referred to as fare le cornato do the horns.

“Pinecone Hand” Gesture

“Pinecone Hand” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

This is perhaps one of the most classic Italian hand gestures. Make this gesture by gathering your fingers into an imaginary point and ensure that your fingers are stretched out.

Italians use this gesture when someone says something ridiculous. You can also use it when sarcastically questioning a friend’s sanity. For the motion to be complete, you should have a confused or facial expression of disagreement. 

The gesture is used with phrases such as Ma Che Fai”?- But what are you doing? Or Ma dove vai”? – But where are you going?. 

Other phrases include Ma chi sei”? – But who are you? Ma Che Vuoi”? – But what do you want? And “Ma perche”? – But why?

Cultural tip – this famous hand gesture is self-explanatory.

Spaghettata Gesture

“Spaghettata” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

Use your middle and index fingers to imitate a fork picking up spaghetti with your elbow facing sideways. It would help if you used this Italian hand gesture when you are hungry and craving some spaghetti. 

Have a self-satisfied facial expression to make the gesture complete. You can accompany the motion with the word Spaghettata – a round of spaghetti.

Cultural tip – Italians love pasta, and spaghetti is the essence of Italian food. Whether it is during lunch or dinner, proposing to have a spaghettata is an excellent idea.

“Let’s Get Out of Here!” Gesture

How to do it

This Italian gesture has a friendly version and a not so friendly version.

Friendly version – Flatten your fingers with the palm facing inwards, lifting the thumb only. Move your hand in an up and down motion several times in succession. 

Use it when telling someone that you’d like to leave or that you should leave together. The facial expression in this Italian hand gesture is neutral. The Italian word used with this gesture is Andiamo”! – Let’s go!

Cultural tip – this gesture usually comes in handy when you are uncomfortable and want to leave.

Not so friendly version – is the same as above but uses the other hand to slap the back of the moving hand. This Italian hand gesture is used to tell someone to leave. 

Your facial expression shows you are fed up and bothered. The phrases used with this gesture are Togliti”! – Move! Or “Oh, vattene”! Go away!

Cultural tip – you should only use this gesture with people you know well and those that can take a joke. The motion is basically telling them to disappear!

“Aumm, Aumm” Gesture

"Aumm, Aumm” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

Move your hand to the sound of “aumm aumm.” Lower your palm and move your fingers, starting with the pinkie, the progressively move the others. It’s like you’re playing the harp. 

Use this Italian hand gesture when you feel something that’s not right is happening. You should spread your face as if you are forcing yourself to smile and stretch your lip so that the lips are nearly invisible. 

You can also raise your eyebrows as if you are aware of what is happening. The word associated with the gesture is aumm, aumm.”  

Cultural tip – the important thing during this gesture is the synchrony between the hand’s movement and the word’s pronunciation.

“I Give Up!” Gesture

How to do it

This is the classic Italian “whatever” sign. If you have an Italian girlfriend, you must have seen this! To do it, fold your arms by the elbow and spread your fingers out. 

Stretch your lips as if you’re forcing a smile and raise your eyebrows. You can also use the phrase mi arrendo” – I give up!

Cultural tip – what makes this gesture be communicated clearly is the hand gesture and the facial expression.

“Watch Out” Gesture

“Watch Out” Gesture, Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

How to do it

This is a very straightforward gesture in which you use your index finger to point to your eye. As you point to your eye, you can say Occhio”!  

Whose literal meaning is “eye” but in this gesture, it means to watch out. You can do it to a friend who is about to cross the road or kids playing on the playground.

Cultural tip – to make the gesture complete, you must have a serious facial expression to communicate the situation’s gravity to the other person.

“How Boring!” Gesture

How to do it

In this Italian hand gesture, your facial expression is essential. First, roll your eyes and inflate your cheeks. Then, cup your hands as if holding imaginary balls on each. Move them up and down. You can use the gesture with the words Che Palle”!palle means balls.

Cultural tip – this Italian hand gesture is not recommended for your teacher.

Italian Hand Gestures Your Friends Should Know - The Proud Italian

Summary

Your Italian is not fluent until you learn some Italian hand sign gestures. Once you’re well-versed with the most common ones, including those used with Italian curse words, you’re ready to have a full-on conversation with Italians.