Understanding Italian Expressions of L-O-V-E

There is no denying Italian is one of the most romantic languages in the world and I remember on my first trip back in 2000, being mesmerized by a guy who gave us walking directions to the Spanish Steps. Surely he said nothing more than “go straight, turn left, then keep on walking,” but his passionate expression and lovely rolling words made an impression.

However, as Lisa Fantino explains, passion and love can’t necessarily be summed up into one emotional expression. Here is her take on the three *biggies* of Italian love.


I grew up in New York, a proud Sicilian-American (OK, so I am also ¼ Calabrese but does that really count?) It was a loud childhood; Italians scream about everything – we are very passionate. Yet, I never learned that there was more than one way to say “I love you,” until I started dating a native Italian.

Now, you get involved with an Italian and this is where things get really interesting. You will quickly learn that there are several ways to say “I love you” and if you use the wrong form to express your emotions, well, you might face the malocchio or worse, his mamma’s wooden spoon!

In New York, as across most of America, we have all faced that dilemma of saying the “L word” too early in a relationship. In Italy, you don’t have to worry because they have categorized one strong emotion into several levels of commitment.

Ti voglio bene – literally translates to I want you well, from the verb volere

Ti amo – means I love you, from the verb amare

Sono innamorato di te – means I am in love with you

They all sound pretty passionate, don’t they? Well, holy macaroni, they don’t mean the same thing.

Ti voglio bene – you use with a friend, your parents, even a boyfriend.

Ti amo – is a passionate love and is only used between a man and a woman … generally those who plan to walk down the aisle toward wedded bliss (don’t forget the bomboniere!)

Sono innamorato – well, if you’re lucky, this is just the icing on the cake because there is love and passion all rolled into one big zeppole.

In Italy, where they speak the language of love, parlare con amore, the divorce rate is on the rise. Maybe that’s because they have complicated something that should be so simple. Ti voglio bene or ti amo shouldn’t be the question, amore should be the answer that is oh, so simple.

Lisa Fantino is an award-winning journalist and attorney and the Italy travel concierge and creative force behind Wanderlust Women Travel.

Traveling to southern Italy? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip.

Photo: Salvatore Vuono

3 Responses
  1. Great post! It does make sense that the world’s most romantic language has so many wonderful sounding ways to express amore…

    Yep …but it can be confusing when you are in that early dating stage with an Italian! he he

  2. Well, ‘Ti Amo’ is also used between men or women couples – but, I suppose you’re right for leaving them out of the equation — Italy is still deep in the back of their collective closet!!! LOL

    Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

    Definite oversight, Fran. Thank you for pointing that out!

  3. Chieko Zou

    Divorce causes major issues with health insurance benefits. Many families have employer provided and/or paid for health insurance benefits that cover the entire family. It is not uncommon to see situations where the other spouse is a stay at home parent, with absolutely no access to health insurance benefits, or employed at a job with either no health insurance benefits available or those benefits available at a substantial cost. After a divorce, the spouse with the family health insurance coverage can no longer cover the other parent. They are no longer “family” members who can take advantage of one health insurance policy. How to then ensure that everyone stays insured does become an issue for negotiation and/or divorce litigation.,`

    Have a good weekend

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