Hand gestures are to Italian conversation what punctuation is to writing.
For Italians, hands can be used as exclamation points, commas, question marks and much more.
It’s estimated that 250 hand gestures exist in Italy.
Here’s a guide to five of the most popular ones.
This is by far the most famous Italian hand gesture and has become an international icon.
It basically translates to “What the hell are you doing/saying?”, “What’s going on?”, or “What the hell?”, and usually has a negative connotation.
Bunch your fingers together, with tips touching and pointing upwards.
Hold your arm around a foot from your body.
You can either hold your hand still or move it up and down at the wrist.
Just like any other Italian gesture, your accompanying facial expression is essential to show what you actually mean when you’re using your hands.
This is another popular gesture which has a whole lot of attitude.
The chin flick is very common among kids, but it’s not just restricted to the younger generations!
While it looks a little like an insult, it simply means “I don’t care/I don’t give a damn”.
Bend your arm at the elbow, palm and fingers facing your body.
Bring your hands to your throat and run your fingers lightly upward from your neck past the tip of your chin.
For the meaning of the gesture to be more effective, your mouth has to do a little reverse smile.
This hand gesture is used by both young and old in Italy.
Translating to “Delicious!”, parents often use this gesture to encourage children to eat.
Extend the index finger of one hand and corkscrew it into the cheek.
Accompany this gesture with a big smile to make it more effective.
Circle in the air
This classic is used to say “See you later” or “We’ll catch up/talk later.”
You might use it if somebody calls you while you’re in the middle of a conversation and you have to pick up, or if you see a friend across the street but can’t stop to talk.
With your hand at your side, extend one index finger and trace a small circle in the air.
Line in the air
If you feel like you want to compliment something that’s too perfect for words, this gesture says it all.
Literally meaning “Perfect”, it can be used in many different contexts and has positive connotations.
Form a circle with the thumb and index finger, extend the other three fingers and draw a straight line horizontally.