Many people in the world are fascinated by the Italian peninsula: delicious food, nice weather, unique works of art and ancient architecture. Some brave people even get to try and learn the Italian language, with all its complicated grammar structures and curious pronunciation.
But there is a whole world in the field of communication that you are unlikely to encounter in class.
It’s the world of hand gestures: apparently senseless, agitated movements which can involve hands, arms, and even facial expressions and shaking of the head.
You might have noticed this during your last visit to the delicious pizzeria at the corner, or from some of your Italian friends, without really wondering about it.
Did you know that each of them has a definite and precise meaning?
And why do Italians move their hands so much? Do they have something extra to communicate?
Italians themselves never really learn about the rules behind this code: they just put it into effect without thinking about what they are doing. Most of the time, one is not really aware that he is actually making a lot of hand and arm movements until someone, perplexed, asks about them.
As Italy is quite a big country, their meaning may also vary from north to south, or even from one city to another. Different articles and books have been written about Italian hand gestures, referring to them as an enrichment and a precious addition to the communicative moment.
Of course, this behavior also has an obvious comical side to it; for example, did you know that each gesture has a definite and precise meaning, and that it is really important to use it in the appropriate context?
Why do Italians move their hands so much? Do they have something extra to communicate?
Find out in our weekly Video Fix!
- CNN Travel, Italian hand gestures everyone should know, May 2015, available here (accessed on October 2017)
- The New York Times, A short lexicon of Italian gestures, available here (accessed on October 2017)
- Blitz Quotidiano online, Il gesticolare degli italiani, un linguaggio nazionale in più, August 2013, available here (accessed on October 2017)
Written by Carolina Quaranta – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Student of Master in Public and Political Communication in the University of Torino, Italy; freelance journalist.