hand gestures

Talk to the hand: Decoding Italian hand gestures

Ask an Italian to sit on their hands and then tell you a story and they would probably struggle with the concept.

Not that that’s a bad thing.

Italians have a way of using their hands to add some physical exuberance to an already expressive and passionate language. So, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and you want to hit it off with the locals, forget your phrase book and check out these handy gestures.

And if Italy seems a long way to go, you might be able to try them out on one of your mates. According to the 2011 Census, 4.6% of Aussies have Italian ancestry (Source:ABS).


If you want to indicate that someone is quite the cunning schemer, you would place your finger below your eye, as if you were pointing at it.

This is also useful if you want to show that a certain act was particularly clever.

I’m bored

While many cultures use the fairly simple gesture of a pretend yawn to show their boredom, the Italians use both hands to communicate the same message.

Point out your thumb and index finger while curling in your middle, ring and pinky fingers – much like you would do to represent a gun. Then, hold your hands out in front of yourself with the index fingers pointing towards one another, palms inward.


The Italian love of a good moustache is evident in the gesture for ‘beautiful’ (or “Bellissima”, as your Italian friend will say if they’re sitting on their hands.).

To make this gesture, imagine you have a fine moustache that needs its ends slicked. With your ring and pinky fingers in the air, pinch together the other three fingers on one hand as if you were tugging at the end of your moustache with your hand about 20cm from your face.

There you have it, a few simple hand gestures to impress your date next time you go out for Italian.

Tell us when you discovered a local hand gesture somewhere in the world.

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