A nifty guide to Italian business culture, etiquette & vocabulary


Tinamaria Colaizzi

Whether you’re already working for an Italian company or interested in starting your career in Italy, knowing business Italian vocabulary is a step in the right direction.

Just a few key Italian business phrases can make a world of difference, and understanding the business culture in Italy can help you navigate professional relationships and career growth.

This guide will help you:

  • Understand Italian business culture
  • Use common greetings
  • Make business calls in Italian
  • Prepare for an interview with Italian business phrases
  • Engage in a meeting with Italian business words
  • Write an email with Italian business vocabulary
  • Make friends with colleagues

Now, let’s get down to business…in Italian!

Learning a few key Italian business phrases can make a world of difference.

Italian business etiquette and culture tips

This guide will cover Italian business culture, ranging from what to do to what to say. Before we delve into these details, though, we need to cover perhaps the most important Italian business etiquette tip: formalities. They are generally appreciated in the Italian workplace!

When it comes to Italian business culture, there are a few titles you should keep in mind:

Dottore / Dottoressa:

The “doctor” title isn’t just for medical professionals. In Italy, anyone who has a university degree has the title of dottore or dottoressa.

Signor / Signora:

This is the common “Mr.” or “Ms./Mrs.” formality. You’ll find both of these used throughout this guide. How else should you address these people? Using the formal Lei, of course!

Italian business etiquette

In Italian, the “you” form has three options: tu (informal), Lei (formal), voi (plural). And technically, you could even use the Loro (they) form for super-formal situations, but let’s not worry about that for now.

It’s polite to use the Lei form with people you’ve just met, people who are older than you, or in business interactions. In this article, you’ll see that most of the phrases use the formal Lei. However, if you feel comfortable with someone and want to make the switch to the tu form, you can ask using this format:

Italian English translation Italian example sentence Meaning
Dare del tu Speak using the informal “tu” Possiamo darci del ‘tu’? Can we speak using the informal ‘you’?

Often, the other person will probably agree (Certo!) and you can go on with your conversations using the tu form. But some people may prefer the formalities and say no. So, it’s always important to ask first without assuming.

It’s polite to use the Lei form with people you’ve just met, people who are older than you, or in business interactions.

Italian business culture

Italian business norms and culture have been gradually changing over the years, especially with the increase of multinational companies’ branches throughout the country. Even so, there are five golden standards that hold true when it comes to Italian business culture. It’s important to note that the following points are generally true, and will of course depend on the culture of a specific company.

1. Rapport goes a long way

Building rapport is a must if you want to excel at business in Italy. This is true at all stages, starting from the interview process to doing business with clients. If you’re looking for a job in Italy, it’s always a good idea to ask any contacts you have in the country first, instead of just going straight to LinkedIn or a recruitment agency.

In fact, one Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) study found that nearly fifty percent of jobs in Italy are landed through personal connections and networking. Although these norms have recently been shifting within younger generations, it’s definitely something to keep in mind when it comes to Italian business culture.

For those who are new to Italy (and, as a result, might not have many personal connections), don’t worry! Simply engaging with potential career connections can go a long way. Chit-chat at a networking event is a great first step at building rapport…just make sure to stick to the typical “small talk” topics, without delving into personal matters or politics. With that being said…

2. Have a sense of humor!

In general, Italian business culture isn’t “all work and no play”. Although there is a general respect for authority and formalities, it’s typical to engage in friendly jokes and banters with long-term colleagues and business associates. It’s also common to grab an aperitivo with colleagues after work and socialize.

3. Meetings: Patience makes perfect

Have you ever heard the phrase, “This meeting could have been an email?”. Well, don’t expect to hear it that often in Italy. Italian companies generally prefer having frequent meetings - often taking place in presenza, as there’s value placed on sharing feedback and ideas face-to-face. In fact, while COVID-19 introduced “smart working” (working from home) to Italian business culture, most companies still have a preference for working in the office rather than remotely.

During meetings, don’t be surprised if the language is direct and to the point. It isn’t uncommon to openly disagree with colleagues (respectfully, of course) and then grab a coffee with them afterwards. Business is business, and for the most part, it’s normal to leave business in the office while maintaining friendships with colleagues when you go home. Remember: life isn’t “all work and no play”!

Speaking of patience, don’t always expect meetings in Italy to start on time. Why? Well, one potential reason can be found in our next point…

4. There’s always time for coffee

Always. Even if you’re running late! Since the coffee culture in Italy is quick and to the point, you can always stop for one caffè to drink al banco and hurry on your way. In fact, my first “culture shock” while working in Italy involved a pausa caffè. It was 11:00 AM, the time that our annual company convention was set to begin… yet everyone was still in line for coffee at the bar across the street.

Internally, the American side of me was freaking out, but all of the employees (and convention leaders) from different branches enjoyed catching up while waiting for their espresso. The end result? The convention started half an hour late..but it wasn’t a big deal, and everyone was relaxed, happy, and caffeinated. Success!

5. Work-Ferragosto balance

Ah, Ferragosto, the beautiful holiday time for Italians. Typically, the two middle weeks of August are reserved for holidays, which dates back to the festivals of Emperor Augustus. You may see “chiuso per ferie” (closed for holiday) signs in shops and businesses throughout Italy. Those who work in tourism, however, are likely to work during this time in order to accommodate visiting tourists and travelers.

It’s also worth noting that this norm has changed quite a bit. In the past, it was common to see companies close for the entire month of August (or at least remain open for limited hours throughout the month). These days, it’s typical for companies to close for just a week - and in some cases, just on the holiday of Ferragosto itself (August 15th). Some larger companies have adopted a shifts system, where employees will alternate their vacation schedules so that offices can remain open throughout the entire month of August.

Italian business attire

Business attire? Business casual? Smart casual? This rule will depend largely on which area of the country you’re in, and which company you work for. It’s impossible to compare dress codes for small start-ups and large multinational law firms, for instance. Generally speaking, though, the best rule of thumb is: Dress to impress…but don’t overdo it.

“La bella figura” is taken very seriously in Italy. It translates to “the beautiful figure”, but what is it, really? Its cultural translation can get complicated, but think of it like this: presenting yourself in the best possible way, in all facets of life.

Couple dressed to impress in Italian business attire.

When it comes to business, that means being well-groomed and appropriately dressed. While that doesn’t necessarily mean wearing luxury, name-brand clothing, it also doesn’t mean wearing wrinkled shirts to work. Finding the delicate balance of “smart casual” and “elegant” can be a feat, but it’s definitely attainable for Italians!

Business Italian vocabulary

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Italian business culture and attire, it’s time to start learning some helpful business phrases in Italian. The following seven tables will give you a crash course in conducting business in Italian, starting from the networking stage up until making plans with your new colleagues.

There are just two things to note before we continue:

  1. The formal “Lei” tone is used in almost all of the examples. Remember, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use the “Lei” form with business acquaintances.
  2. A mix of indefinite and definite articles are used throughout the tables, based on which one is most likely to be used in that specific context. (You can read more about these here!)

So get your biglietto di visita out - our first stop is a networking event!

General Italian business greetings and networking

General Italian business greetings and networking.

Italian English translation Italian example sentence Meaning
Salve Hello (Formal) Salve, Signora Montessori. Hello, Mrs. Montessori.
Buongiorno Good morning Buongiorno, Dottor Cavalli. Good morning, Dr. Cavalli.
Buon pomeriggio Good afternoon Buon pomeriggio a tutti. Good afternoon, everyone.
Buonasera Good evening Buonasera, Signora Capaldi. Good evening, Ms. Capaldi.
Piacere It’s a pleasure. Piacere! It’s a pleasure!
Piacere di conoscerla Nice to meet you (Formal) Piacere di conoscerla! It’s nice to meet you!
Mi chiamo… / Sono… My name is… Mi chiamo Leonardo Rossi. My name is Leonardo Rossi.
Lavorare (v.) I work for…(verb) Lavoro per Synergy S.R.L. I work for Synergy Ltd.
Lavoro come… I work as a/an… Lavoro come dipendente in una agenzia di viaggi. I work as an employee at a travel agency.
Lavoro nel/nella… I work in… Lavoro nel settore di medicina. I work in the medical sector.
(il) mestiere Job / Trade / Craft Che mestiere fa? What’s your job?
Mi occupo di… I handle… Mi occupo della formazione degli insegnanti. I handle teacher training.
Faccio il/la… I’m a… Faccio l’insegnante. I’m a teacher.
(la/una) carriera Career La mia carriera è iniziata 10 anni fa. My career started 10 years ago.
cercare lavoro To look for a job Sto cercando lavoro come dipendente in una multinazionale. I’m looking for work in a multinational company.
(il) settore Industry Lavoro nel settore di ceramica. I work in the ceramics industry.
Dipendente Employee Cerchiamo un nuovo dipendente. Conoscete qualcuno? We’re looking for a new employee. Do you know anyone?
(il) Direttore / (la) Direttrice Director Sono la direttrice di una scuola di inglese. I’m a director of an English school.
Dirigente Manager Sono un dirigente. I’m a manager.
(un/una) stagista /tirocinante intern Adesso sono una stagista, ma cerco lavoro a tempo pieno. I’m currently an intern, but I’m looking for a full-time role.
(uno) stage / (un) tirocinio Internship Ho appena finito il mio primo tirocinio. I’ve just finished my first internship.
gestire (To) manage Mi piace gestire le persone. I like managing people.
(una) società / un’azienda / un'impresa A company Lavoro per un’impresa a Roma. I work for a company in Rome.
un’agenzia An agency (an advertising agency, a copywriting agency, etc.) Abbiamo lavorato con un’agenzia di marketing. We’ve worked with a marketing agency.
(un) ufficio An office Ci stiamo trasferendo in un nuovo ufficio. We’re moving to a new office.
(una) fabbrica A factory Apriamo una nuova fabbrica fra due mesi. We’re opening a new factory in two months.
Lavorare in proprio / essere un libero professionista / lavorare freelance Working for yourself / Self-employed / Work as a freelancer Sono un dipendente, ma il mio sogno è di diventare un libero professionista un giorno. I’m an employee, but my dream is to one day become self-employed.
(la) partita iva VAT Code / Company registration number Siccome sono un libero professionista, ho la partita iva. Since I’m a freelancer, I have a VAT code.
(gli) affari Business Come vanno gli affari? / Gli affari vanno bene! How’s business? / Business is good!
(il) biglietto da visita Business card Mi potrebbe dare il suo biglietto da visita? Could you give me your business card?
(un) recapito Contact information / phone number Posso avere un recapito telefonico? Can I have your contact information (phone number)?
Arrivederci Goodbye (Neutral / Informal) Arrivederci, è stato un piacere! Goodbye, it’s been a pleasure!
Arrivederla Goodbye (Formal) Arrivederla! Goodbye!

Italian business calls

Great job networking! It turns out you’ve made a great contact at the event who has mentioned a potential job opportunity at her company. Now, you’d like to call the offices to touch base. The following table has some phrases you’re likely to hear from the receptionist, and some ways to answer.

Woman on an Italian business call.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
Pronto? Hello? Pronto? Chi parla? Hello? Who’s speaking?
Chi parla? Who’s speaking? Pronto? Chi parla? Hello? Who’s speaking?
Come posso aiutarla? How can I help you? Salve, come posso aiutarla? Hello, how can I help you?
Potrei parlare con…? Could I speak with…? Potrei parlare con la Dottoressa Spilamberto? Could I speak with Doctor Spilamberto?
restare in linea (To) hold Hmm, resti in linea per favore. Hmm, hold please.
al momento… At the moment Mi dispiace, ma la Dottoressa Spilamberto è occupata al momento. I’m sorry, but Dr. Spilamberto is busy at the moment.
(essere) occupato/a (To be) busy Mi dispiace, ma la Dottoressa è occupata al momento. I’m sorry, but the doctor is busy at the moment.
(essere) disponibile / non disponibile (To be) available / unavailable Sarà disponibile fra un’ora. She’ll be available in an hour.
(lasciare) un messaggio (To leave) a message Potrei lasciare un messaggio? Could I leave a message?
Mi dica… Please, tell me. / Go ahead. (Formal) Certo. Mi dica. Sure. Go ahead.
ripetere (To) repeat Potrebbe ripeterlo, per favore? Could you repeat that, please?

Italian interviews

Your networking and following up has paid off: you’ve landed an interview! Ready to explore some Italian business words you’re likely to hear and use? In bocca al lupo!

Man has an interview in Italian.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
(il) colloquio (di lavoro) Job Interview Ho un colloquio di lavoro domani! I have a job interview tomorrow!
(il) curriculum CV / Resume Abbiamo ricevuto il suo curriculum. We’ve received your CV.
(una) lettera di accompagnamento Cover letter Ci ha mandato una lettera di accompagnamento? Have you sent us a cover letter?
studiare (To) study Ho studiato medicina all'università. I studied medicine at university.
(un) voluntario Volunteer Sono un volontario in un canile. I’m a volunteer at a dog shelter.
(i) requisiti Requirements Ha letto i requisiti per questo ruolo? Have you read the requirements for this role?
un annuncio / l’annuncio Job listing Ho visto l’annuncio sul vostro sito. I saw the job listing on your website.
(la) posizione The position Sono molto interessato/a alla posizione. I’m very interested in the position.
iniziare To start Quando potrebbe iniziare? When could you start?
(i) candidati Job Candidates Abbiamo tanti candidati per questo ruolo. We have many candidates for the position.
(le) referenze References Abbiamo parlato con le sue referenze. We’ve spoken with your references.
(gli) obiettivi professionali Career goals / Professional goals Quali sono i suoi obiettivi professionali? What are your career goals?
(essere) disposto/a a qualcosa To be willing to…(do something) Sono disposto a viaggiare per lavoro. I’m willing to travel for work.
(i) pregi / (i) punti di forza / (le) migliori qualità Strengths Quali sono i suoi pregi? What are your strengths?
(i) difetti / (i) punti di debolezza Weaknesses Quali sono i suoi difetti? What are your weaknesses?
(una) sfida a lavoro A challenge at work Potrebbe spiegare una sfida che ha affrontato al lavoro? Could you talk about a challenge that you overcame at work?
esperienza lavorativa Work experience Parli un po’ della sua esperienza lavorativa. Talk a bit about your work experience.
(un’) offerta An offer Siamo lieti di darle un’offerta di lavoro. We’re pleased to extend a job offer to you.
cambiare Change Perché vuole cambiare lavoro? Why do you want to change jobs?
sapere Know / Hear about Come ha saputo della nostra azienda? How did you hear about our company?
(essere) adatta a… (To be) suitable for… Sono adatta a questo lavoro perché sono appassionata del settore di fashion. I’m suitable for this role because I’m passionate about the fashion industry.
lavorare in gruppo / lavorare da solo/a Working in a team / Working on your own Cerchiamo qualcuno/a che può lavorare bene sia in gruppo che da solo/a. We’re looking for someone who works well in groups and also on their own.
assumere (To) hire Dovremmo assumere qualcuno il primo possibile. We should hire someone as soon as possible.
(il) welfare aziendale Corporate welfare Il nostro welfare aziendale include discount ai viaggi. Our corporate welfare includes travel discounts.

Italian negotiation, contracts, and salary words

Complimenti - you got the job! Now, it’s time to explore the wonderful world of contracts and salaries.

Italian negotiation, contracts, and salary words.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
(lo) stipendio / (il) salario Salary Il salario minimo è… The minimum salary is…
(un) compromesso A compromise Sono sicura che troveremo un compromesso. I’m sure we’ll find a compromise.
(la) trattativa Negotiation Come si è svolta la trattativa? How did the negotiation go?
(le) detrazioni fiscali Payroll deductions Sara, il VP delle Risorse Umane, le spiegherà le detrazioni fiscali. Sara, the VP of Human Resources, will explain the payroll deductions.
(le) tasse Taxes Se ha domande sulle tasse, chieda pure. If you have questions regarding taxes, please ask.
(la) busta paga The pay slip Riceverà una busta paga ogni mese. You’ll receive a pay slip every month.
(un) contratto determinato Fixed-term / temporary contract Lavorerò con un contratto determinato per tre mesi. I’ll work with a fixed-term contract for three months.
(un) contratto indeterminato Permanent contract Con la mia esperienza nel settore, vorrei un contratto indeterminato. With my experience in the sector, I’d like a permanent contract.
(un) lavoro stagionale Seasonal work Stiamo cercando qualcuno per un lavoro stagionale. We’re looking for someone for a seasonal job.
(i) turni Shifts Lavoriamo a turni. We work in shifts.
(il) carico di lavoro Workload Il suo carico di lavoro sarà più intenso durante l’estate. Your workload will be more intense during the summer.
(a) tempo pieno Full-time L’anno prossimo potremo assumerlo per un ruolo a tempo pieno. Next year we can hire him for a full-time position.
(il) periodo di prova Trial period Il suo periodo di prova durerà tre mesi. Your trial period will last for three months.
(le) ferie Vacation Questo contratto non include le ferie. This contract doesn’t include vacation time.
(un) giorno di malattia / giorni di malattia Sick day(s) Purtroppo dovrò usare un giorno di malattia. Sono malata. Unfortunately, I need to use a sick day. I’m ill.
(il) formazione Training La formazione inizia oggi. Training begins today.

Italian business meetings words and phrases to master

Now that you’re an official employee, it’s time to go to your first meeting. Make sure to grab a coffee beforehand!

Italian business meetings words and phrases to master.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
Benvenuti Welcome Benvenuti a tutti! Welcome, everyone!
Scusate il ritardo! Apologies for the delay! Scusate il ritardo! C’era un incidente stradale. Apologies for the delay! There was a traffic accident.
(la) riunione Meeting La riunione inizia alle 9:00. The meeting starts at 9:00 AM.
(la) presentazione Presentation Simona ha creato questa bellissima presentazione. Grazie! Simona created this beautiful presentation. Thank you!
Fissare una riunione Set the date for a meeting Fissiamo la prossima riunione? Should we set the date for the next meeting?
Cominciare Begin Chi vuole cominciare? Who wants to begin?
l’agenda The agenda Ecco l’agenda per questa riunione. Here’s the agenda for this meeting.
Condividere Share Adesso condivido il mio schermo…riuscite a vederlo? I’ll share my screen now…can you all see it?
Suggerire Suggest Vorrei suggerire qualcosa… I’d like to suggest something…
(la) scadenza The deadline La scadenza è fra una settimana. The deadline is in a week.
(il) budget The budget Il nostro budget non è ampio come quello dell’anno scorso. Our budget isn’t as big as last year’s.
Sono d’accordo / Non sono d’accordo I agree / I disagree Sono completamente d’accordo. / Purtroppo, non sono d’accordo. Ecco perche… I completely agree. / Unfortunately, I disagree. Here’s why…
(il) compito / l’incarico Task L’incarico è di Sara. It’s Sara’s task.
L’obiettivo Objective L'obiettivo è di vendere 100,000 borse. The objective is to sell 100,000 bags.
Ottimo lavoro! Great job! / Great work! Ottimo lavoro di squadra! Great teamwork!
Buon lavoro! Have a good work day! La riunione è finita. Buon lavoro! The meeting is finished. Have a good rest of your work day!

Business writing vocabulary

A colleague has asked you to send an email to a client. Here are some helpful Italian business words to help you out.

Woman typing a business letter in Italian.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
(una) mail (An) e-mail Mi mandi tutto in una mail per favore? Could you send all of this to me in an email, please?
e-mail / l’indirizzo e-mail Email address Potrei avere il suo indirizzo e-mail? / Potrei avere sua e-mail? Could I have your email address? / Could I have your email?
chiocciola At (@) La mia mail è cisco123, chiocciola (@)… My email is cisco123 at (@)...
punto Dot La mia mail è cisco123, chiocciola, gmail punto (.) com. My email is cisco123 at gmail dot (.) com.
(il) destinatario The recipient Chi è il destinatario? Who is the recipient?
(il) mittente The sender Io sono il mittente. I’m the sender.
L’oggetto The subject Che scrivo nell'oggetto? What do I write for the subject?
(il) corpo della mail The body of the email Spiego tutto nel corpo della mail. I explain everything in the body of the email.
L’allegato The attachment Ho dimenticato l’allegato! I forgot the attachment!
In allegato… Attached… In allegato troverà la nostra fattura. Attached you will find our invoice.
Gentile Dear Gentile Signor Ronchini Dear Mr. Ronchini
Egregio Dear (Formal) Egregio Dottore Marchi Dear Doctor Marchi
Spettabile Dear (Formal - used for companies) Spettabile Gruxis S.P.A Dear Gruxis Enterprises
Distinti saluti Sincerely Distinti saluti,
Clara Toschi
Clara Toschi
Cordiali saluti Best regards Cordiali saluti,
Clara Toschi
Best regards,
Clara Toschi
In attesa di un suo riscontro Looking forward to hearing from you. / Looking forward to your feedback. In attesa di un suo riscontro.

Cordiali Saluti
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards.
La ringrazio. Thank you (Formal) La ringrazio tanto. Thank you very much.
Grazie. A presto! Thank you, see you soon! (Informal) Grazie per tutto. A presto! Thanks for everything. See you soon!

Chit-chat with colleagues

We’ve saved the best for last: small talk and making connections with colleagues. Whether the printer isn’t working, or you want to take a break, here are some phrases you’re bound to use in the office.

Young interns having a chit-chat.

Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase) Italian example sentence Meaning
(la) collega / (le) colleghe / (i) colleghi Colleague / colleagues I miei colleghi sono simpatici. My colleagues are nice.
prendere un… Have a… Volete prendere un caffè? Would you like to have a coffee?
(una) pausa Break Dai, prendiamo una pausa! Come on, let’s take a break!
Avere un problema… To have a problem… Ho un problema con il mio telefono. Mi potresti aiutare? I have a problem with my telephone. Could you help me?
Ho bisogno di… I need… Ho bisogno di aiuto con la stampante. I need some help with the printer.
chiedere un favore (To) ask a favor Potrei chiedere un favore? Could I ask for a favor?

Other industry-specific vocabularies

To close out this guide, we’ve included a few common job titles based on their industry. Enjoy!

Industry Italian English translation (bold the word/phrase)
Sales (il / la) rappresentante Sales Representative
Sales (il) commesso / (la) commessa Cashier
Accounting (il / la) commercialista Accountant
Accounting (il / la) contabile Bookkeeper
Accounting (il) notaio / (la) notaia Notary
Legal l’avvocato / l’avvocata Lawyer/Attorney
Legal (il) giudice / (la) giudice Judge/Magistrate
Legal (il) pubblico ministero / (la) pubblico ministero Prime minister
Teaching l’insegnante (m/f) Teacher / Instructor (usually up until high school)
Teaching (il) professore / (la) professoressa Teacher / Professor (high school and university)
Teaching l’educatore / L’educatrice Educator / Instructor
Teaching (il) preside Principal
Healthcare (il) dottore / (la) dottoressa Doctor
Healthcare l’infermiere / l’infermiera Nurse
Healthcare (il) chirurgo / (la) chirurga Surgeon
Healthcare (il / la) dentista Dentist
Tourism l’agente di viaggi (m/f) Travel agent
Tourism (la) guida turistica Travel guide
Food/Service Industry (il) ristoratore / (la) ristoratrice Restaurant owner
Food/Service Industry (il) cuoco / (la) cuoca Chef
Food/Service Industry (il) cameriere / (la) cameriera Waiter/Waitress

Buon lavoro!

And just like that, our work day has come to an end! But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning about Italian language and culture. In addition to keeping this guide close for your Italian business needs, check out our other Italian blog articles to brush up on your Italian vocabulary and grammar. Arrivederci, e buon lavoro!

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