Brush up your Italian language skills

Submitted by HedonisticHiking on 14 Apr 2023

If you're heading out to hike with us this year in Italy, and feel like brushing up on your Italian language skills, then watching TV can really help!

As well as listening to the spoken language, watching a film or mini series gives a good insight into Italian society and culture, and shows images of its famous cities and varied landscapes, helping to prepare you for your own experience.  There are lots of techniques to help you - whether you're a beginner or have been learning the language for while - and your time in Italy will be hugely enriched if you can speak just a few words to the Italians you meet along the way.

If you are starting out, then watch an Italian film or series with the English subtitles on. This will help you to listen to the language, it's pronunciation and rhythms.  On the flip side, you could watch a programme in your native language but show Italian subtitles, and then you will start to pick up the meaning of the written words and see how to spell them.

Another trick is to tune into a favourite show, the plot of which you are already familiar with, but watch it dubbed in Italian. You won't need to concentrate too much on what's happening but can give your full attention to the language being used.

With a bit more confidence, you can listen in Italian and have the Italian subtitles on, receiving the information both visually and audibly, and this has a greater impact on your learning.

With Hedonistic Hikers living across the globe, and with the huge number of streaming services that are available worldwide, it is hard to say exactly where you might find these shows, but we have put together ideas of films and mini series which we have viewed recently, which we think might have a broad appeal.

This series is about a girl named Blanca, who loses her sight at the age of 12 in a catastrophic fire which claims the life of her sister.  Driven by a strong sense of justice she works hard to fulfil her dream of joining the police force and achieves an internship in her local station, but this is a position full of challenges. Her heightened sense of hearing gives her a true talent for decoding and analysing sounds in wiretaps, and gradually she wins the respect and trust of her colleagues.

Incastrati (Framed! A Sicilian murder mystery)
A 2022 Italian comedy television series set on the beautiful island of Sicily. It stars popular Italian comedians Ficarra and Picone playing two TV technicians who accidentally find themselves at the scene of a crime. Worried that they will be viewed as prime suspects, they use their knowledge of TV criminal dramas to cover their tracks and clean up the crime scene so that they can never be accused. This leads inevitably to a series of hilarious events and twists and turns in their lives.

Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)
A 2016 film.  During a dinner party with a group of friends, one guest suggests a game involving all the mobile phones in the room being placed on the table, so that all calls and messages received during the evening are seen by the whole group. Far from being an amusing entertainment, the game quickly turns the evening into a series of misunderstandings, betrayals and revealing secrets that throw the house into chaos. 

The Neapolitan Novels - L'Amica Geniale (My Brilliant Friend)  Storia del Nuovo Cognome (The Story of a New Name) Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) There are now three seasons of this beautifully shot and stylish series, inspired by the hugely successful books of the same name by Elena Ferrante.  The series tells of the special bond that unites Elena “Lenù” Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo, two girls living in an impoverished neighborhood of Naples in the 1950s, and goes on to follow their lives as married women with careers, families, joys and sorrows.  Season 4 is currently in production.

Prima Donna (The Girl from Tomorrow)
Released in 2022 this film tells the story of 21 year old Lia in 1960s Sicily.  While her contemporaries stay at home to help with domestic chores, Lia chooses to work the land alongside her father. She attracts the unwanted attention of Lorenzo Musicò, son of the boss of the local town, and when she refuses him he takes by force what he deems to be his own property. She shocks the local community by refusing the shotgun wedding which would normally have followed and courageously fights Lorenzo through the courts to a successful prosecution. The story is based on true events and a landmark case in 1966 involving Franca Viola, the first Italian woman to refuse to marry her attacker to ‘uphold’ her family’s honor.

Le Otto Montagne (Eight Mountains)
This film was the winner of the Jury Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. It is based on the best-selling novel of the same name and tells the story of the friendship between Pietro and Bruno, who meet as children every summer in the Italian Alps.  As they grow into adults, Pietro travels the world but Bruno never leaves his beloved mountain. Through loves and losses their deep connection to the mountains and eachother lasts a whole lifetime. The filming took place in the gorgeous and striking scenery of the Monte Rosa National Park where we hike on our Best of the Italian Alps tour. 

Siccità (Dry)
This film won several accolades at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. The tragi-comic story is set in Rome after severe drought conditions have parched the city for over three years. The drama follows a disparate group of people, both innocent and guilty characters, who are all trying to survive life in these challenging conditions and searching for some kind of redemption.

Ice Cold Murders: Rocco Schiavone
Character-driven Italian crime TV series about a cranky and unorthodox detective who is exiled from his beloved Rome to the snowbound Val D'Aosta. There he is confronted with compelling cases involving deaths, kidnappings and even a mummified body. 

When you finally arrive in Italy, never forget that the Italians are very patient with people trying to speak their language.  They will smile and encourage you and if you have a chance to practise a few words then it will help to build confidence.  Restaurants or bars are great places to start flexing your linguistic muscles, even if it is just successfully ordering a glass of wine or an espresso!  In bocca al lupo!  (Good luck!)

Click here to see more of our favourite Italian films and some all-time classics at the end of our Reading List page.