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Why do Italians gesticulate a lot?

Italians split many opinions and generate the feeling of "all or nothing": either you love them, or you hate them! There is no middle ground when it comes to them. Today we are going to try to better explain some attitudes of Italians that are cultural.


Why do Italians gesticulate a lot?

Italians split many opinions and generate the feeling of “all or nothing”: either you love them, or you hate them! There is no middle ground when it comes to them. Italians speak loudly, gesticulate, laugh loudly and when they are angry then: mamma mia! Help! Hahaha… The fact is: if you grew up in a family of Italian descent, you are probably used to having 30 people at the table talking about all matters at the same time and, impressively, everyone gets along. If you grew up in a family, so to speak, “normal”, you will find the Italian way a little strange. But why do Italians gesticulate? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”


It is important to remember that IT IS CULTURAL! It’s not something they do on purpose, it’s just their way. For those who are not used to it, it may seem impolite, inelegant and even a little rude, but after you get to know them better and know how generous and kind they are, your ‘pet peeve’ will surely pass (Lol) Read also Experience Tourism in Italy!

1) Why do Italians gesticulate a lot? BECAUSE THEY NEED TO EXPRESS BETTER

According to some studies, Italian gestures exceed 250! Well, there are some explanations for that. We will see some of them below.


The first one says that they gestured for commercial reasons. As they did not speak other languages ​​and the distant traders did not speak Italian, they made buying and selling gestures.

Coded Language

The second one: the desire not to be understood by the predominant populations like the Romans, Goths, Normans and all the other peoples that dominated the peninsula. In this way they ‘created’ gestural communication. The gestures ended up replacing the spoken word as a kind of coded language that only they understood.

Body language

Another very plausible explanation: Italians are outgoing, communicative and people with these characteristics ‘speak’, also, through body expression, especially with their hands. The hands that ‘fly’ back and forth and look like they’re going to drop something all the time, follow their agitated personality. They say that if you tie the hands of an Italian, he is speechless! It is well known that Italians have unique and characteristic gestures to communicate.

Roman Empire

There is also a theory that it all started in the Roman Empire: whenever the emperors made their speeches, the people, to make fun or to imitate them, repeated the gestures of the sovereigns and, thus, the ‘gestural culture’ passed from generation to generation! There is another version of this same story that says that the people imitated plays, ‘repeating’ the gestures of the actors.

Understanding the dialect

One more theory: make one understand the other’s dialect! Italy is full of dialects, each region has a different one, and some of them, like Sardinian, are considered foreign languages. To avoid possible misunderstandings, they say that the gestures were ‘universal’: everyone understood independently of the dialect spoken by them and this facilitated negotiations between the different regions and peoples.

Amphitheater Signage

There is also the story that gestures were used in amphitheaters to signal, authorize, give or refuse orders, since the noise was deafening within the arenas and there was no way to communicate either close or ‘at a distance’, so , gestures were the best way to ‘send a message’.

But where does this fame come from?

Much of this fame of the Italians ended up abroad and that was because of the gestures made by celebrities and, in particular, by representatives of the Italian political class. Also in the New York Times article, in fact, some gestures of public figures are revised, which for better or for worse, have fallen into history. The article includes the iconic middle finger episode shown by Umberto Bossi in 2008, during the performance of the Italian anthem and goes through the gesture of physical appreciation made by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Michelle Obama, former US First Lady at the 2009 G20 meeting.

Isabella Poggi

According to Isabella Poggi, professor of Psychology at the University of Rome, “there are gestures that express threat, desire, despair, shame and pride, among so many other feelings”. According to the psychologist what differentiates them from sign language is that they are used individually and do not have a complete syntax.

The philosopher Giambattista Vico

The philosopher Giambattista Vico defended the thesis that gestural communication took place in the most distant times, as in prehistory, since there are no records of verbal communication and, in addition to gestures, sounds were used that today would not make any sense.

(Source: The New York Times)

Did you know?

  • And, for those who HATE the fact of speaking with their hands, I have a very ‘boring’ news: the origin of our body language and our way of speaking is ALL Italian! So, before ‘condemning’ Italian friends, remember this information!
  • Other gestures that the Italians created: the middle finger, if we stop to think, there is no problem in showing someone a finger, but the middle finger. It is said that Emperor Caligula, who ruled Rome from AD 37 to 41, used to put a ring on his middle finger and make his subjects kiss him as a form of humiliation, since the upward finger resembled an erect penis.
  • But as not everything is as bad as it seems, Italians are also responsible for waving their hands to say goodbye, slapping their hands against their stomachs to say they are hungry, closing their hands with their thumbs extended towards their mouth to invite someone to drink, and another VERY well-known Italian gesture: close your hand and rock it back and forth, slightly, with your fingers together to show dissatisfaction.

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Why do Italians gesticulate a lot? The loud chatter, the laughter and the gestures, make the Italian people unique in the world, and even with that ‘askew’ way, they are incredible! Leave any and all prejudice aside and LIVE the Italians: get to know them, involve yourself in this lively and exaggerated environment; above all: understand that nothing will change them and respect them always!


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