Europe Update, Part 1: Italian gestures

Blogs. Sometimes the posts come easily, sometimes not. I haven’t written a post in a while – I got a bit sick of writing about LinkedIn – but I’ve been doing some travelling in Europe, and that has given me some fun new material to write about.

Today’s subject: Italian gestures.

Italians are known for their gestures and hand signals – comedian Russell Peters once said it’s “like everyone was deaf at some point.” And it’s all true, as I saw when my mom and I traveled to Italy recently.

Here are a couple examples. Hope you enjoy.

Scene 1: Easter Sunday, in a church in Monterosso al Mare, a small town on the Ligurian coast.

Since it was Easter, the church was packed and standing room only. I stood at the very back because in Italy I am tall (not true in Holland, where the men are giants, but that’s another story). The kids who could not be controlled by their parents were quarantined behind me, and every so often they would bump me as they were playing. But since kids are usually in their own world, I figured it was unintentional and didn’t think much of it.

However, I soon realized that this little kid named Giacomo was actually kicking my foot! Not in a bad way, more like touching than kicking, really. But he was definitely trying to get a rise out of me. So I turned around and waved to say hi…then his Mom saw what was happening and admonished him, which is how I found out what his name was. I then turned facing forward, and saw Giacomo’s dad looking at me apologetically. He proceeded to give me the biggest torso-neck-head shrug I’ve ever seen. Here’s my attempt to recreate it:

Well, I totally failed there. But basically the look said, “what do you want me to do? that Giacomo, he’s a precocious little bastard.”

I found it all hilarious and burst into laughter, which wasn’t really appropriate in the middle of a church service, but hey, it was Easter Sunday and Christ is risen! Why not be joyful?

But I can’t help but be impressed and just how much information he communicated – that I understood – without him speaking a single word.

Scene 2: dinner at our hotel, also in Monterosso al Mare.

At dinner one night, my mom and I got to talking to a married couple at the next table. They were middle-aged and only spoke Italian, so our conversations were a lot of fun.

They wanted to know about the rest of our travel plans, so we told them that after Monterosso, we would be going to “Firenze” (Florence) and then “Roma” (Rome). From there, my mom would fly home, while I would stay in Europe for a while longer and do some more travelling on my own.

There was some difficulty in communicating that, but suddenly the husband seemed to get it. His face lit up, and he said “Roma – Fiumicino?” (which Google has since taught me is the main airport in Rome), and then did this:



Hope all of you are doing well, wherever you are. Stay tuned for some more updates from Europe!

Leave a comment


  1. Hey Dave, Europe sounds like a lot of fun. It seems like I’ll be doing more of what you’ve been doing haha. Beyond Borders and travel Europe… I’m going to be in France next year so I’ll definitely be asking you about suggestions on where to go! Where are you going anyway? What’s the itinerary? Sounds like you’re getting a whole another type of cultural immersion. Hope all is well. Enjoy Europe!

    • @Karsten, yes I have been living in Germany for a while now! There are some fantastic travel opportunities for you to take advantage of, and if you do it right, they’re not that expensive. I can definitely give you more info if you want – let’s talk some time 🙂

  2. Batour

     /  May 16, 2012

    is your last gesture suppose to mean your an airplane lol?

    • @Batour, yeah that’s exactly what he was trying to convey. He even twirled back and forth a bit…still laughing at the memory now lol


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