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We would like to use the Italian names wherever possible in these pages.

It should be clear that when you come to Rome the names you'll find on street signs, on maps and in books and magazines will be the Italian ones.

Therefore it will be necessary to help interested people with the pronunciation of some of these names. Fortunately, Italian is written in a reasonably regular manner, so that you can look at a word that you've never seen and have a good chance of knowing how to pronounce it -- something you can't do often in English.

Most letters have only one pronunciation.
And you should always try to pronounce them this one way.

Letter Pronunciation Example Meaning
a "uh" as in cut "piazza" is "PYUHT-suh" (square/place)
b "b" as in bell    
d "d" as in dog    
e "e" as in egg "Tevere" is "TEH-veh-reh" (Tiber)
f "f" as in free    
l "l" as in like    
m "m" as in mine    
n "n" as in name    
o "o" as in hop (English pron.) not as in hope   "Roma" is "ROH-muh" (the eternal city)
p "p" as in pick    
q "q" as in quick    
r nice tongue roll    
t "t" as in top    
v "v" as in very    
x "x" as in box    
z "ts" as in cuts "palazzo" is "puh-LUHT-soh" (palace/building)

The letter "h" is used, but never pronounced.

Some letters are more complex, especially in combination with others.

Letter Pronunciation Example Meaning

"s" as in sun

"z" as in zoo

"san" is "suhn"
"presso" is "PREHS-soh"

"preso is "PREH-zo" ("s" between 2 vowels)




"g" as in go

"j" as in jet

gn = "ny-"

gli- = ly-"

-ggi- = -d-j-

"grazie" is "GRUHTS-yeh"

"giardino" is "jahr-DEE-noh"
"gentile" is "jehn-TEE-leh"

"Spagna" is "SPUHN-yuh"

"voglio" is "VOHL-yoh"

"loggia" is "LOHD-juh"




(I want)


"k" as in cat

"ch" as in chat

"colle" is "KOHL-leh"

"cento" is "CHEHN-toh"
"cinque" is "CHING-queh"



As in English "g" and "c" are changed when followed by an "e" or an "i". Italian does show the difference between pronunciations of the "g" in words like "gentle" and "get" by inserting an "h" between the consonant and the vowel to "protect" the consonant from change,
eg "ghetto";
"chilo" (kilo)

"I" and "U"

The double usage of the following letters is brought about because Italian has no letters for "w" or "y", so the nearest vowel is substituted in each case.

Letter Pronunciation Example Meaning

"ee" as in see

"y" as in yes

"piccolo" is "PEEK-koh-loh"

"piazza" is "PYUHT-suh"
"San Pietro" is "suhn-PYEH-tro"
"ieri" is "YEH-ree"


(Saint Peter)


"oo" as in put not as in cut

"w" as in way

"mura" is "MOO-rah"

"buono" is "BWOH-noh"
"uomo" is "WOH-moh"

(external wall)


Double consonants.

Italian uses double consonants as an important part of the pronunciation of the language. English speakers have a lot of problems with double consonants. This is because they rarely pronounce double letters, eg, "ferry" rhymes with "very". Yet double consonants do exist in English. "bookkeeper" is clearly pronounced with two "k". Can you hear the difference between "bus stop" and bus top"? When you say "tell Lloyd to come" you don't pronounce it "tel-oid.." but "tel-loid..". The major difference is that all double consonants written in Italian are pronounced,
eg, "bello" is "behl-loh" (beautiful/nice)
"Giovanni" is "joh-VUHN-ni" (John)
"rotto" is "roht-toh" (broken)

Vowel combinations (diphthongs!)

These are always pronounced the same in Italian and are a combination of the vowels indicated. For example "au" in "autobus", goes from "ah" to "u". Try and say the first then move to the second -- you finish with a sound like the "ow" in "town", so "auto" is pronounced "OW-toh".

Try these combinations:

Letter Pronunciation Example Meaning












oe eroe "e-ROH-eh" (hero)

In each case you are pronouncing the movement from one vowel to the other each time. In English look at the ways we write the sound of the letter "i": "I","my","eye","high","mine". WOuldn't it be simpler to have one way of writing it? The Italians simple use "ai".

Don't forget, however that in Italian "i" and "u" in combinations like "ia" or "uo" are usually consonants! (See above).

Ian Hutchesson



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