By providing interesting insights into a culture, idioms and sayings add color to a language. Obviously, this also happens with the Italian Language. L’Italiano presents many common proverbs and idiomatic expressions, used so often by people in everyday talk that you can use just the first fragment of the sentence (maybe accompanied by a specific gesture), because everyone understands what you mean.
What happens in Italy is that food plays such an important role in our society that a lot of our idioms and sayings are food-related and we really compare all sort of things to food or condiments.
Here you will find a selection of the funniest with their literal translation and meaning.
Tutto fa brodo
Its literal translation is “everything makes broth, soup” and isn't a cooking reference of course!
It means that “every little bit helps” as improvements made step by step or small everyday savings will allow you to go one day on holiday in Italy.
Sei sempre in mezzo come il prezzemolo
Its literal translation is "You are always in the way like parsley!". It deals with the common use of parsley in Italian recipes and, in other words, it is an euphemism to say that you mingle in things that are not your own, that don't concern you.
C’entra come i cavoli a merenda
Its literal translation is “It fits like cabbage in an afternoon snack”. Well, don’t worry, we don’t usually eat cabbage as a snack”! It means that something is inappropriate.
Avere il prosciutto sugli occhi
Its literal translation is “to have ham over your eyes”. Even if sometimes the evidence is so obvious (especially in matters of love), you are unable to see the truth. Maybe your friend is explaining to you that somebody is trying to trick you and you can’t see it.
Buono come il pane
Its literal translation is “As good as bread”. It means “being a good person” as in English you say “as good as gold”. Bread is one of the staples of the Italian diet and, especially in times of war, nothing was as good as piece of bread.
Avere le mani di pastafrolla
Its literal translation is “To have pastry dough hands”. It means that you are unable to hold something without dropping it, in other words… you are clumsy, such as “butter fingers” in English!
È andato liscio come l’olio
Its literal translation is “It went smooth as oil” and it is the Italian version of “ It went as smooth as silk”. So, it means in both cases that there weren’t any problems.
Capitare a fagiolo
Its literal translation is “It occurs like a bean”. This idiom originates from ancient times when beans were essential for the diet of many poor Italians and it means indeed that something turns up at exactly the right moment, like a bean just in time for a (probably much-needed) meal.
Sono pieno come un uovo
Its literal translation is “I am as full as an egg”. This expression is very useful if you are having lunch or dinner in Italy and someone is trying to fill your plate yet again and again… It means that you are stuffed and can’t eat anymore.
Rendere pan per focaccia
Its literal translation is “To give back bread for focaccia”. A focaccia is something similar to soft bread, very typical in Liguria. This funny expression means metaphorically payback for a suffered wrong. It is very similar to “an eye for an eye”.