How to say 114 beautiful geographical features on Earth in Italian

Tinamaria Colaizzi

Mount Vesuvius in Naples. Historical canals in Venice. Tiber River in the Roman capital. These are just three examples of Italy’s rich geography.

In fact, Italy has a little bit of everything when it comes to landforms and bodies of water! There are beautiful sights to experience in every region, so it’s only natural to talk about all that the most beautiful peninsula has to offer.

Maybe you’re learning Italian as a hobby, or perhaps you’re planning a trip to Italy and want to brush up on some vocabulary and phrases. Whatever the reason, it’s important to be able to talk about different landforms in Italian. Geography is so ingrained in Italian history and way of life, and understanding it can only help you get better acclimated with the language and culture.

This boot is made for…

Just think about it: even the shape of the country itself is unique: a boot! This boot isn’t made for walking, though. It’s made for kicking! If you look at the map, you’ll notice that the mainland seems to be “kicking” one of its two separate islands: Sicily. Italy is a peninsula - or a piece of land almost surrounded entirely by water while remaining connected to a mainland. Although 116,350 square miles might not seem that big, the Italian peninsula contains a wide array of geographical features.

The Italian peninsula is easy to spot on a map because it is shaped like a boot.

Before we journey into the different landforms, let’s take our first step by looking at some basic terms. Keep in mind that the Italian language takes masculine and feminine articles, which will be used throughout the article.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
LandformMorfologia Terrestremorfoloˈdʒia terˈrɛstremor-phoh-lo-gee-ah teh-res-tre
Bodies of WaterMassa d’acqua'masːa di 'akːwamas - ah - dee - ahk - wa
GeographyGeografiadʒeoɡra'fiaje - oh - gra - fee - ah

Features of Earthly geography in Italian

With some of the most beautiful geographical wonders at our fingertips, we need to start somewhere! First, let’s cover the most common landforms and bodies of water that you should know. Even if you’re not a geography buff, this list will prove useful whether you’re learning about Italy from home or actually touring around the peninsula.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
RiverIl fiume‘fjumefee-ew-meh
MountainLa montagnamon'taɲamon-tan-ya
ForestLa forestafo'rɛstafoh-res-ta
OceanL’oceanoo'tʃɛanooh-sheh-ah-no
ValleyLa valle'valːevah-leh
DesertIl desertode'zɛrtode-ser-toe
HillLa collinako'lːinakoh-lee-na
IslandL’isola'izolaee-so-la
BeachLa spiaggia'spjadːʒaspee-ya-jah
VolcanoIl vulcanovul'kanovul-cahn-oh

Going forward, keep in mind that there will likely be some overlap between words included in certain sections. Ready to go into more detail? Get your geology hats on - it’s time to adventure out into Italy’s beautiful landscapes!

Coastal and oceanic landforms in Italian

Coastal and oceanic landforms are all about where the land meets the sea. Italy is home to many rocky coasts as it looks out into the Mediterranean Sea, and boasts a coastline of almost 5,000 miles!

Whether you’re driving along the Amalfi coast or near the high point of the Adriatic Sea, the Italian coastal landforms are definitely worth noting. Here are a few words that pertain to coastal and oceanic landforms, along with some pronunciation tips.

Aerial view of the Amalfi coast Italy.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
Archipelagol’arcipelagoart∫i'pelaɡoar-key-pe-la-go
Atolll’atolloa'tɔlːoah-toll-oh
Barrier IslandL’isola barriera'izola ba'rːjɛraee-so-la bah-ree-eh-ra
BayLa baia'bajabay-ah
BeachLa spiaggia'spjadːʒa spee-ya-jah
Bight/BendLa ansa'ansaahn-sa
ChannelIl condottokon'dotːocohn-dot-oh
CapeIl capoˈkapocah-poh
CliffLa scoglierasko'ʎɛrasko-lee-er-ah
CoastLa costa'kɔstacaw-sta
Continental ShelfLa piattaforma continentalepjatːa'forma
kontinen'tale
pee-at-ta-for-ma kon-ti-nen-tal-eh
Coral ReefLa barriera corallinaba'rːjɛra koral’linabah-ree-eh-ra
coh-rah-lee-na
CoveL’insenaturainsena'turaeen-sen-a-two-ra
DuneLa duna'dunado-na
EstuaryIl estuarioestu'arjoes-two-are-ee-oh
ForestLa forestafo'rɛstafo-res-ta
GulfIl golfo'ɡolfogol-fo
HeadlandIl promontoriopromon'tɔrjopro-mon-to-rio
InletL’insenaturainsena'turaeen-sen-a-two-ra
IslandL’isola'izolaee-so-la
IsletL’isolottoizoˈlɔttoee-so-lot-toe
IsthmusL’istmo'istmoeest-mo
LagoonLa lagunala'ɡunala-goo-na
Oceanic basinBacino oceanicoba'tʃino otʃe'anikobah-cee-no oh-she-ah-nee-co
PeninsulaLa penisolape'nizolape-neen-so-la
River DeltaIl delta del fiume'dɛlta del fjumedel-ta del fee-ew-meh
Sea CaveLa grotta marina'ɡrɔtːa
ma'rina
grot-ta ma-ree-na
SeaportPorto di mare'pɔrto di marepor-toe di ma-reh
ShoalLa secca'sekːasek-kha
ShoreLa costa‘kɔstacaw-sta
StraitLo stretto'stretːostret-toe
Tide PoolLa pozza di marea‘potːsa di ma'rɛapoz-zah di ma-reh
Volcanic ArcL’arco vulcanico‘arco vul'kaniko ar-ko vul-cahn-ee-ko

Erosion landforms in Italian

Erosion landforms are pretty rough and rugged thanks to natural damage from water or air, but they’re breath-taking all the same! This group contains some important examples, like canyons and caves.

Fjord in Italian.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
BadlandsI calanchika’lankika-lan-kee
CanyonIl canalonekana'lonekan-ah-low-neh
CaveLa cavernaka'vɛrnaka-ver-nah
CliffLa scoglierasko'ʎɛrasko-lee-er-ah
FjordIl fiordo'fjɔrdofee-or-do
GullyIl burronebu'rːonebur-oh-neh
HogbackIl dorsaledor'saledor-sah-leh
PedimentIl frontonefron'tonefron-toe-neh
RidgeLa cresta'krɛstakres-ta
Ridge crossingLa traversata di crestatraver'sata di 'krɛstatra-ver-sah-ta di kres-tah
ValleyLa valle'valːevah-leh

Fluvial landforms

A fluvial landform is shaped by various types of running water, including streams or rivers. They can range in size from small to large, as you’ll see in our examples below.

Group of people white water rafting down rapids in Italian.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
BayouLa paludepa'ludepah-loo-deh
BenchLa panchinapan'kinapan-kee-nah
CanyonIl canalonekana'lonekan-ah-low-neh
ConfluenceLa confluenzakonflu'ɛntsakon-flu-en-za
FloodplainLa golenaɡoˈlɛ.nago-leh-na
GorgeLa gola'ɡolago-la
GullyIl canalonekana'lonekan-ah-low-neh
LeveeL’argine'ardʒineare-gee-neh
MarshL’acquitrinoakːwi'trinoak-wee-tree-no
MeanderIl meandrome'andromeh-an-dro
RapidsLe rapide'rapidera-pee-deh
River IslandL’isola fluviale'izola flu'vjaleee-so-la flu-vee-ah-leh
SpringFonte‘fontephon-teh
StraitLo stretto'stretːostret-toe
StreamLa correnteko'rːɛntecore-en-toe
TowheadIl banco di sabbia'banko di 'sabːjaban-ko di sab-bya
WaterfallLa cascatakas'katakas-ka-ta
WatershedIl spartiacquesparti'akwespar-tee-akwe

Impact landforms in Italian

Have you ever heard of an “extraterrestrial impact”? It’s actually really cool to picture! You can think of these as landforms that were created by something “extraterrestrial” and have eroded over time.

English ItalianIPAPronunciation
CraterIl craterekra'tɛrecra-teh-reh
Impact CraterIl cratere da impattokra'tɛre da im'patːocra-teh-reh da eem-pat-toe
Pit CraterIl cratere a pozzo kra'tɛre a potːsocra-teh-reh a pots-so

Mountains and glacial landforms in Italian

This section is particularly important for Italy! Whether you love hiking, skiing, or just hanging out in the ski cabin, you’ll never be bored in Italy. The Italian Apennine range extends more than 600 miles across the peninsula, and the famous Alps act as a beautiful border to France.

Hikers reach the summit in Italian.

English ItalianIPAPronunciation
CrevasseIl crepacciokre'patːʃokre-pach-oh
GlacierIl ghiacciaioɡja'tːʃajogyach-ay-oh
Glacier CaveGrotta del ghiacciaio'ɡrɔtːa
del ɡja'tːʃajo
groht-ta del gyach-ay-oh
HighlandL’altopianoalto'pjanoall-toe-pyan-oh
HillLa collinako'lːinakoh-lee-na
MoraineLa morenamo'rɛnamoh-reh-na
MountainLa montagnamon'taɲamon-tan-ya
Mountain PassIl passo di montagnapasːo di mon'taɲapas-so di mon-tan-ya
Mountain ValleyLa valle laterale'valːe late'ralevah-leh la-teh-rah-leh
SummitLa cima 'tʃimachee-ma
ValleyLa valle'valːevah-leh

Volcanic landforms in Italian

Italy has some of the most active volcanoes on Earth, and if you’re familiar with Italian history, you’ve probably learned about Mount Vesuvius’ catastrophic result on Pompeii. Although its volcanoes could erupt at any time, Italians hold a deep respect for these volcanic landforms.

English ItalianIPAPronunciation
CalderaLa calderakælˈdeə.rəkal-der-ah
Fissure VentLa fessurafe'sːurafess-oo-ra
GeyserIl geyserˈɡaizərgai-ser
LavaLa lava'lavalah-vah
Lava LakeIl lago di lava'laɡo di 'lavalah-go di lah-vah
Pit CraterIl cratere a pozzo kra'tɛre a potːsocra-teh-reh a pots-so
VolcanoIl vulcanovul'kanovul-cahn-oh
Volcanic ConeIl cono vulcanico'kɔno
vul'kaniko
coh-no vul-cahn-ee-ko

Bodies of water in Italian

The Italian peninsula is not afraid of water, that’s for sure! The country has many large, freshwater lakes, like the famous Lake Garda and Lake Como. Plus, there are approximately 1,200 rivers all throughout the country!

Venice canal in Italian.

English ItalianIPAPronunciation
CanalIl canaleka’naleka-na-leh
ChannelIl condottokon'dotːokon-dot-toe
CreekIl ruscelloru'ʃɛlːoru-schel-low
DamLa diga'diɡadee-gah
DeltaIl delta'dɛltadel-ta
Hot SpringLe terme 'tɛrmeter-meh
LagoonLa lagunala'ɡunala-goo-na
LakeIl lago'laɡolah-go
MangroveLa mangroviaman'ɡrɔvjamahn-grow-vee-ah
MoatIl fossatofo'sːatofoss-ah-toe
OceanL’oceanoo'tʃɛanooh-sheh-ah-no
PondLo stagno'staɲosta-nyo
PuddleLa pozza'potːsapoz-zah
ReservoirIl serbatoioserba'tojosur-bah-toy-oh
RiverIl fiume'fjumefee-ew-meh
SeaIl mare‘marema-reh
SinkholeLa dolinado'linadoe-lee-na
SourceIl fonte'fontephon-teh
SwampIl pantanopan'tanopahn-tah-no
WetlandLa zona umida'dzɔna 'umidozo-na ew-mee-da

Phrases or idioms that contain landforms and geography in Italian

Incorporating geography in Italian via idioms and phrases into conversation is one of the best ways to master not only vocabulary but cultural elements, too! And as you’ll see in the table below, some common Italian idioms creatively use some of the words we’ve just learned. You might even notice that some of these idioms have an English equivalent!

English Italian IPAPronunciationMeaning
The sea lies between saying and doing somethingTra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare. tra il ‘dire e il ‘fare ˈtʃɛ di 'mɛdːzo il 'maretra il dee-reh ke dee metz-zo il ma-rehThere’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lips. (Even if a good outcome seems certain, anything can happen)
Carry water to the seaPortare acqua al mare. por'tare 'akːwa al 'marepoor-tah-re ak-wa al ma-reBringing coals to Newcastle. (a popular coal mining town) - Doing something redundant.
Stir the watersSmuovere le acque.'zmwɔvere le ˈak.kwesmuo-veh-re le ak-qweTo stir the pot and create trouble.
Sailing in bad watersNavigare in cattive acque.navi'ɡare in katˈti.ve ˈak.kwena-vee-gah-reh in cah-tee-veh ak-qweGoing through a difficult time.
No man is an islandNessun uomo è un’isolanesˈsu.n wɔ.mo e un 'izolaness-un uo-mo eh ee-so-laNo one is self-sufficient.
The island that doesn’t existUn’isola che non c’è.un 'izola ke non ˈtʃɛ un ee-so-la ke non cheNeverland - a place that doesn’t exist.
Moving oceans and mountainsMuovere mare e montagne'mwɔvere 'mare e monˈtaɲ.ɲeMuo-veh-reh ma-re eh mon-tan-yaTo move heaven and Earth to make something possible.
The mountain gave birth to a mouseLa montagna ha partorito un topolino.la mon'taɲa ha parto'rito un to.poˈli.nola mon-tan-ya ah par-tor-ee-toh un toe-poh-lee-noIt was all flash and no bang.
To come from the Soap MountainVenire dalla montagna del saponeve'nire dal.la mon'taɲa del sa'poneveh-nee-reh da la mon-tan-ya del sa-poh-nehTo be wet behind the ears. Gullible
To go to MonteAndare a montean'dare a 'monteahn-da-reh a mon-tehWhen something goes awry or comes to nothing.
The last beachL’ultima spiaggia.l`ultima 'spjadːʒaul-tee-ma spee-yah-jaThe last resort.

Exploring all that Italy has to offer

If you find yourself traveling throughout Italy, eager to explore the stunning landforms it has to offer, make sure to do your research first. If you’re interested in lakes, the Spring (April to June) and Fall months (September to October) are perhaps the best time to go, offering travelers more enjoyable climates and fewer crowds.

Skiing, on the other hand, is best enjoyed during the Winter months (December to February) - just make sure you don’t mind sharing the slopes with visitors from all over the world.

No language learner is an island: Keep practicing!

As we know, “nessun uomo è un’isola” - and that goes for everyone studying the Italian language, too. Check out our other articles ranging from Italian vocabulary to pronunciation here, and keep practicing until you’re as fluent as le rapide, as confident as una montagna, and…well, you get the point!

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