In Italy , the gestures of the shrug of a shoulder, the flip of a wrist, the twist of the index finger into
the cheek, or the lift of an eyebrow says more than a “sacco di parole” (A LOT of words).
We Italians like to say that a gesture is more valuable than a thousand words. When it comes to
body language, we simply rule.
Hand gestures are to Italian conversation and Italian culture what punctuation is to writing. Hands
become exclamation points, periods, commas, question marks. Italian gestures are a huge part of
what makes an Italian, well, an ITALIAN!
As we talk, our hands fly in the air making unmistakable signs, our faces twist into funny
expressions. Our hands move just as quickly as we speak — a kind of conversational dance.
Theories persist as to the exact origin of hand gestures as a method of communication in Italy,
however it is likely that they emerged through necessity as a universal, non-verbal method of
communicating across different Italian local languages and dialects. Despite the majority of today’s
Italian population speaking Italian, hand gestures have persisted as a method of expression to
accompany verbal speech in many regions of Italy, particularly in the Southern regions.
Around 250 specific hand gestures (few conversations are ever complete without one) have been
identified, with the belief that they originate from a long history of Italy being invaded by many
tribes (Germanic ones, I mean, Vandals, Ostrogoths and Lombards,then the Moors, Normans,
the French, Spaniards, Greeks and Austrians) that imposed their languages, cultures and
mannerisms. This meant there were language barriers, so people had to come up with other ways of communicating.
A "gesture frontier" exists in Italy which separates the gestures used commonly in Southern Italy
from those used in Northern Italy. This frontier is evident in the differing meaning of the"chin flick"
gesture. In Northern Italy, this gesture generally means "get lost'" whereas in Southern Italy it simply means "no." According to research, this is due to the ancient Greek colonization of Southern Italy, as Greeks also use the "chin flick" gesture to mean "no."
What are these classic gestures’ meanings?
Here are some of Italy’s best-known hand gestures… but, please, remember that gesticulating isn’t
just about the hands; it’s also about facial expressions and posture.So stretch out your neck and
shoulders, open your eyes, warm up your eyebrows, and get ready to move your hands like never
Don’t worry, with a little bit of practice you will soon become a master of Italian gestures.
The beauty of gestures lies in the fact that you don’t really need to learn Italian to know what’s
going on, so keep on practising, and before you know it you’ll be able to show everyone how Italian
you really are!