For NaBloPoMo, I’ve decided to do a “Friday five” where every Friday I’ll come up with a list of five things in some category. Today I figured we could take a look at five of what I consider to be useful words for when in Rome. Of course, I look forward to your suggestions as well as I know you’ll have some great ones!
And, I’m going to try to avoid the basics like ciao, arrivederci, etc., since you can find those in your guidebook or maybe already know them. These are helpful in everyday situations and maybe no one will tell you about them before you visit.
1. Scende? (SHEN-day?)
I found this to be very useful on public transport. Granted, with body language and context you could probably figure out the meaning, but when you’re on the bus and particularly when you’re standing in front of the exit doors (which are technically the middle doors, not the front and back doors, but find me a bus where everyone obeys this rule). If someone behind you plans to get off at the next stop, and you’re in front of the doors, they might ask you this. It means, “Are you getting off?” Kind of a courteous way to say, hey there, you’re blocking the doors so if you’re not getting off at the next stop, outta my way. You can say either sì or no, and if it’s no, plan to move. If the bus is really crowded, you might even have to hop off and hop back on.
2. Dica or Mi dica. (DEE-kah)
You’ll sometimes hear this when you go into a bar, or a gelateria, and it can take the place of “Prego.” When I first got here I thought it sounded so rude and abrupt! Basically it means, “Tell me [what you want].” It’s in the formal Lei form (otherwise it would be “Dimmi”). You probably won’t ever need to say it, and again, you could probably figure out from context what it means, but still, I’ll never forget the first time I ever had to order a sandwich at a bar and I was startled with the simple and direct command “Dica!” I got all panicky and had to point at the sandwich.
3. AHO! (AH-oh)
This one is certainly tongue-in-cheek. It’s like the all-purpose Roman way to say “Hey!” and I’ve mentioned it in prior posts, but it’s such a great typical phrase that I can’t help but include it here. You’ll here it when people are saying hi to each other, when they’re yelling at other drivers, when they’re surprised, when they’re confused… it runs the gamut. I myself have even been known to use it once in a while… which amuses everyone around me.
4. Cono and coppetta (COH-noh, cop-PEHT-tah)
Oh, please. As if one could go through an entire trip here without knowing how to order gelato in either a cone or a cup. I guess you could point. But knowing the words helps. Does anyone come to Rome and not try the gelato? Thinking back, when I got my first gelato I had no idea you could get more than one flavor. Seems absurd to me now, but I was so used to paying more in the States for extra flavors, that it seemed like such a treat! I think I did something like choose lemon and chocolate, which freaked out everyone around me. I hadn’t yet learned that you’ve got your fruits section and your chocolate/cream section, and very few of them can mix well. But I don’t remember it tasting that strange.
5. Spicci??!! (SPEE-chee)
Man, if this isn’t the most annoying one. As you know if you’ve been here, and as I’ve mentioned at least once in a former post, Romans are literally OBSESSED with exact change. Spicci is coins. Just try paying for something that costs €4.37 with a €50 note. They’ll love you for it! You’ll undoubtedly get the question at the supermarket, at bars, and maybe even at ticket windows. “SPICCI??” “HA SPICCI??!” If you don’t have the 37 cents, or better yet the two 2-Euro coins and 37 cents, you might get a disgusted look, a sigh, or any number of passive-aggressive reactions. I won’t even get into how puzzled I am that grocery store cashiers expect ME to be their bank. In Rome there’s a bank on like every corner! But if you’ve ever had a bank account in Rome, then you know that you can probably only do transactions on your account at the exact branch location where you opened your account. And did I mention my bank’s hours? (8:35 am to 1:15 pm, then 2:35 pm to 3:15 pm…. no comment).
Help me add on to my list… what are some of your most essential words in Rome, especially ones that aren’t commonly listed in guidebooks?