Italian in a Nutshell

Origins of Italian

Ciao, bella! is what you might most often hear at the main piazza of most Italian cities today. It was not always the case though, as you might have guessed.

Around the 5th century it wasn’t La dolce vita any more for the Roman Empire and after its fall Latin began withdrawing from the position of a predominant European language.

Although it was widely used for official documents and the texts of the church all the way through the Middle Ages, since the beginning of the 13th century Italian slowly began infiltrating the speech of the local population.

Great deal of this development was made possible due to the big impact of firstly Sicilian and then Tuscan poets (the likes of Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio) who drew Italian out of the market streets and spread it through the power of art and literature.

It is safe to claim that it’s those poets who laid the foundation of modern Italian and their influence remained overwhelming up until the Unification of Italy in 1861 when it was namely the Tuscan dialect which was chosen as Italy’s official language.

Regardless of Italian’s consolidation, rural areas kept their authentic traits and to this very day, one can easily detect nuances in accent or different dialects from places in the same Province, just some kilometers away from each other.

Italian around the world

When we say Italian most likely “the boot” is the first thing which comes to mind.

Although it is not nearly as spread as English or Spanish, Italian is still an official language in two (technically three) more countries other than its homeland – Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. Some regions of Slovenia and Croatia also have recognised it as their official language.

Whilst roughly 63 million people speak Italian as their first language, its message is spread like a wildfire and reaches the hearts and the minds of millions more through the message of the Vatican, the Pope and the Catholic church.

Fun Italian Facts

It’s not hard to have jolly good times in Italy, which is confirmed by the staggering 62 million international tourists which visited the country in 2018 – almost as much as its first language speakers in total.

You might be one of them, so the sound of Italian is probably not foreign to you. Here are some curious traits, we bet you missed.

  • Italian language has no J, K, W, X and Y letters in it, so it might be unnatural for an Italian to write a “Don’t joke with the X-ray” type of phrase.
  • It might have not been discovered by an Italian, but America is named after the 15th-century Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first to acknowledge that North and South America are indeed not a part of Asia.
  • The longest Italian word consists of more letters (30) than the whole Italian alphabet (21) – psiconeuroendocrinoimmunologia – meaning Psycho Neuro Endocrine Immunology.
  • Next time your toaster burns due to high voltage think of pasta or pizza, as the word volt comes from Italian, more specifically from the creator of the Voltaic pile – Alessandro Volta.


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