It’s no secret that Italian’s live an enviable lifestyle. They are known for their passion and celebration of life, their respect for family and friends, their enjoyment of great food, wine, beautiful people, and elegant things. Many people have tried to imitate this Dolce Vita, or ‘sweet life,’ with varying levels of success.
So we’re here to help you capture a little of the essence of that life. We’ve gathered words of advice from many wise Italians, everyone from medieval writers and renaissance heroes to icons of the silver screen and modern-day scientists. All to help you learn how the Italians come to do things so right!
Have a read through our list of 20 famous Italian quotes and their meanings. We think you’ll find plenty of inspiration to help you make your life a little more Dolce!
Table of Contents
Quotes About Wisdom And Learning
“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.” – Leonardo Da Vinci.
We said in our Greek quotes article that they were the ones to look to for knowledge. And while that may have been true for the ancient civilizations, as the world evolved and we reached the renaissance era, Italy took over as the center for new knowledge, philosophy, and scientific advancement.
So we’re starting our list of Italian quotes and their meanings with the original Renaissance Man, Leonardo Da Vinci. A man who gave the world so much in the realms of art, engineering, science, and philosophy and who lived by the theory that man’s capacity for learning was unlimited. There are many Da Vinci quotes to choose from, but we like this one, which implies that wisdom is something more than just knowledge, that it comes to us with age, and that we can continue to gain it and learn from it as we grow older.
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” – Leonardo Da Vinci.
And we couldn’t resist adding a second one. This one is about self-awareness and the importance of keeping an open mind. It’s about the dangers of clinging to our untrue beliefs instead of allowing them to be questioned and letting them go should they be disproved.
“I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.” – Galileo Galilei.
Another hero of the renaissance was Galileo, a man who has been called the father of modern physics and who made vast advances in our understanding of the universe. If he, with his immense capacity for original thought, believed that everyone is worth learning from, then we would do well to listen to him.
“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti.
We love this quote because it highlights something that many of us are guilty of believing. The idea that if someone is a genius, they can create greatness with ease. Michelangelo, a man no one would hesitate to call a genius, was a renaissance man, artist, and creator of the famous sculpture David. Yet, he repeatedly spoke in his life about the fact that so-called ‘genius’ requires a lifetime of hard work, training, and practice. To achieve mastery of anything is no simple task, even allowing for natural ability or skill. For example, arguably, Michelangelo’s most famous work, the frescoes painted on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, took four years to complete.
Quotes About Life And Death
“A good day starts in the morning”- Italian Proverb.
These simple words are all about getting things started in the right way. And although it can refer to a 24-hour day, Italians may also use it to talk about any event or occasion or indeed someone’s entire life. So where in English we might say, ‘all’s well that ends well,’ for Italians it’s more a case of what starts well, will continue well.
“We are all born to die – the difference is the intensity with which we choose to live.” – Gina Lollobrigida.
Not all of our words of wisdom come out of the past. This quote comes from an Italian woman still alive today and one who has certainly lived up to her own words. Once called The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Gina Lollobrigida worked as a model before becoming one of the most successful international actresses of the golden age of Hollywood. She enjoyed another career as a journalist and photographer, and then ran for political office. She has even had a vegetable named after her, the Lollo lettuce. There’s some debate as to whether the curly leaves were named for her trademark curly hair or the frilly underwear she favored in her Hollywood heyday, but either way, it’s a level of acclaim most of us will never reach!
“When the game ends, the king and pawn end up in the same box.” – Italian Proverb.
There are a few meanings attributed to this Italian proverb (as there are with many famous quotes), but, it is generally used to say that no matter how rich or powerful you may be in life, death is unavoidable, comes to us all, and is the ultimate equalizer.
Quotes About Friends and Family
“Family is where the heart is” – Italian Proverb.
This quote highlights how much Italians value their families. It is slightly different from the common English phrase ‘home is where the heart is,’ and although the meaning is the same, the difference in phrasing shows the importance Italians place on family.
However, this proverb can also be used to say that family is not necessarily about blood relations but about those for whom your heart feels the strongest connection.
“We cannot have a perfect life without friends.” – Dante.
The medieval writer and philosopher Dante wrote, amongst many other things, one of the most influential Italian literary works of all time, The Divine Comedies. From his many famous recorded quotes with meanings as varied as the nature of good and evil, love and death, heaven and hell, corruption in religion, and Italian politics, we’ve chosen this simple quote about the importance of friendship. We like that it has survived the years alongside his many more important musings and that it is still so true today.
“Better alone than in bad company.” – Italian Proverb.
Words that need little explaining but that will ring true for many people. Even for the Italians, who love nothing better than large social gatherings, it is preferable to stay home than be with people whose company you don’t enjoy.
Quotes About Bravery and Success
“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Colombus.
Italian-born Colombus lived quite literally by these words, traveling the seas extensively and leading several ocean voyages to the ‘unknown’ Americas. However, his words don’t have to be taken quite so literally. Instead, allow them to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and explore new things, not just geographically, but in all realms of life; there may be a whole continent’s worth of experiences awaiting you!
“Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.” – Rita Levi-Montalcini.
Another wise Italian who lived by their own words is Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini. As a female Jewish scientist in the early 20th century, Levi-Montalcini overcame innumerous obstacles to train in her chosen field of medicine. She went against her father’s wishes by attending university and lost her job because of the 1938 Manifesto of Race that prevented Jewish people from holding academic positions. She later set up secret laboratories in order to continue her experiments while living in hiding during World War II. If she was able to succeed despite her difficult times, and to see the good that came from them, then we should certainly follow her advice.
“If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful.” – Sophia Loren.
The second legend of classic Hollywood to make our list is the beautiful, talented and wise Sophia Loren. Here she speaks of her belief that suffering does not detract from a person’s beauty but instead adds to it. Her words tell us that through life, experience, sadness, and loss, we develop a depth that adds to both our inner and external beauty.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti.
We’ve included two famous quotes and their meanings by Italian renaissance artist Michelangelo. The first was about not overlooking the hard work involved in reaching success. And this one is a reminder to set big goals in order to keep on trying, learning, and achieving instead of settling for more attainable victories and never progressing further. So take Michelangelo’s advice and dream big!
“Those who sleep don’t catch any fish.” – Italian Proverb.
A simple yet truthful proverb on the importance of showing up if we want to achieve our goals.
Quotes About Food And Wine
“Life is a combination of pasta and magic.” – Federico Fellini.
This Italian scriptwriter and filmmaker is most famous for his film La Dolce Vita, following one man’s journey through the pleasure-filled streets of Rome. Like most of his work, this film is known for the way it blends elements of fantasy and reality together to create something extraordinary. And, it seems he believed that life is created in much the same way!
“You can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.” – Italian Proverb.
In English, we’d say ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too,’ because the British do love their baking. It seems the Italians prefer their wine, but despite their different subject matter, both famous quotes have the same meanings. It’s simply that you cannot have everything in life and must sometimes make choices.
“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei.
Galileo took a moment out from his astronomical observations and mathematical musings to give his opinions on the beauty that is Italian wine. And we would be lying if we said his description didn’t make us want to open a bottle!
“Eat well, laugh often, love much.”- Italian Proverb.
We’ve all heard the motto live, laugh, love, but in Italian, it’s a little different and proves (in case we needed any convincing) that for Italians, food is life!
“Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold.” – Mario Puzo, The Godfather.
Ok, so this quote did not originate in Italy; in fact, its credit probably lies with an 18th century Frenchman. But the line was made so famous by the Italian-American gangster franchise The Godfather that we’re giving it to the Italians. In Mario Puzo’s original Godfather novel, Don Vito Corleone delivers the iconic line about not acting in haste and anger but waiting to enact the perfect revenge when it is least expected.
Of all the famous Italian quotes and meanings we’ve listed, this is not the one we’d recommend living by. But, you’ve got to admit that it’s got style!