How To Ask For Directions in Italian

Nothing can be more irritating than not knowing how to ask for directions in a foreign country. Once you're out of the comfort zone that is your home town or country, it's not that easy to wing out the directions to wherever you want to go to. If you ever find yourself in Italy, for instance, and you can't find your way around the Coliseum or the other architectural wonders of the Roman civilization, it would be very advantageous if you could ask the locals in their own language. To make this strategy more productive, one should also be familiar with the possible answers to your query.

Here are the questions that you may ask Italian locals when lost in the streets of Rome, Naples or Sicily.

To know how far it is to a certain location

Quant'e lontano a ... ?

One may use this question to inquire how far a certain place is from another location. To know how far the Colosseum, you may say Quant'e lontano a Collosseum?

To look for a toilet

While traveling, a public toilet could literally be a lifesaver that could save you much stress and inconvenience, especially if you're traveling with children or elderly people. To ask where the nearest public rest room is, you can use the question Dove sono i gabinetti? To ask for the location of the nearest private toilet, you may say Dove il bagno?  Another alternative is Posse usare il bagno? 

To have someone identify a place in a map

A map could be very useful while traveling, but if you can't decipher the streets, having a map isn't really that helpful. To have a local help you read a map and point out the place you want to go to, say Mi indichi sulla carta? Be sure to say please by adding per favore.

Possible answers

If you ask a question, you should expect to receive an answer. Since you asked in Italian, the answer that you would likely receive would also be in Italian, unless you can explain to the other person that you'd rather be spoken to in English. Before heading out to the streets of Italy, familiarize yourself with the various possible responses by the Italians to your inquiries.

The Italian term a destra means right. A sinistra means that one would have to turn left. Vicino means that the location in question is near or in the vicinity, while the term lontano means far. The expression gira a translates as "turn to."

Il primo or la prima a destra means that one has to take the first turn to the right.

Il second or la seconda a sinistra means that one has to turn the second turn towards the left.

Accanto a means that the place in question is right next to another place of interest or landmark.

Di fronte a means across from, while the term vada oltre means go past the location.

With a good understanding of the questions that you can ask and the answers that you might receive, it might become easier for you to find your way and get your bearings again, should you become lost in Italy.


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