Spicy Italian Proverbs

Dan Scopazzi performs as a stand-up comedian under the name Dan St. Paul

My good friend Dan Scopazzi and I worked on a novelty book project some years back called Spicy Italian Proverbs. Dan, whose parents were born and raised in Italy, speaks Italian fluently. In fact, he dubbed some Italian dialogue in the movie The Godfather: Part III. Dan, a professional (and very talented) comedian who lives in San Francisco, performs under the name Dan St. Paul.

I hope you enjoy Dan’s collection of spicy Italian proverbs. Most of them are followed by both a literal and a street-smart translation. With the right illustrations and packaging, I think this could be a wonderful little book!

SPICY ITALIAN PROVERBS

ITALIAN: L’acqua cheta rovina i ponti.
TRANSLATION: Silent running river water corrodes the bridge.
IN OTHER WORDS: If your wife isn’t speaking to you, you’re in big trouble.

ITALIAN: Paese che vai, usanza che trovi.
TRANSLATION: You go to different countries, you find different customs.
IN OTHER WORDS: Different strokes for different folks.

ITALIAN: Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo.
TRANSLATION: An old chicken makes the best broth.
IN OTHER WORDS: Older women make better lovers.

ITALIAN: Chi ha un buon marito, se lo sali.
TRANSLATION: She who has a good husband, keeps him under salt.
IN OTHER WORDS: Take good care of your husband or someone else will.

ITALIAN: L’ignoranza e vestita di rosso.
TRANSLATION: Ignorance is dressed in red.
IN OTHER WORDS: The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.

ITALIAN: Chi va con i zoppi impara a zoppicare.
TRANSLATION: He who walks with the lame, ends up limping.
IN OTHER WORDS: You are the company you keep.

ITALIAN: Le ragazze lo desiderano, le maritate lo provano, le risultati positivi.
TRANSLATION: In love, as in war, only person to person yields positive results.
IN OTHER WORDS: Facing problems head on makes for a good marriage.

ITALIAN: Se tutti i “becchi” portassero un lampione, mama mia, che luminazione!
TRANSLATION: If every cuckold had a lamp, boy, what a great light there’d be!
IN OTHER WORDS: Men aren’t the only ones who fool around!

ITALIAN: Chi ha buona cantina, non beve il vino all’osteria.
TRANSLATION: He who has a good wine cellar doesn’t go out drinking.
IN OTHER WORDS: If your wife loves you, you’d be a fool to be unfaithful.

ITALIAN: Le compagnie d’assicurazioni sono come le donne: concepiscono nel piacere, partoriscono nel dolore.
TRANSLATION: Insurance companies are like women: they love to take your money and they hate to pay off.
IN OTHER WORDS: If you take your girlfriend to an expensive restaurant, don’t expect anything more than a kiss goodnight.

ITALIAN: Soffiare nel flauto non e suonarlo: bisogna saper muovere le dita.
TRANSLATION: To blow on a flute is not enough: you have to know how to move your fingers.
IN OTHER WORDS: A life without passion is no life at all.

ITALIAN: Il diavolo insegna a fare la pentola, ma non il coperchio.
TRANSLATION: The devil teaches you how to make a pot, but not its cover.
IN OTHER WORDS: It’s easier to get into trouble than to get out of it.

ITALIAN: Lascia che scorre la cavallina.
TRANSLATION: Let him run the filly.
IN OTHER WORDS: A young man needs to sow his wild oats.

ITALIAN: Meglio puzzar di merda che di povero.
TRANSLATION: Better to smell like dung than of poverty.
IN OTHER WORDS: Shoveling manure is better than no job at all.

ITALIAN: Ragazzi e polli sporcan la casa.
TRANSLATION: Children and chickens will dirty your house.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t say anything around a child unless you want it repeated.

ITALIAN: Per compagnia prese moglie un frate.
TRANSLATION: For good company, a woman can marry a priest.
IN OTHER WORDS: Trying to change your husband is a losing battle.

ITALIAN: Donna pelosa, matta o virtuosa.
TRANSLATION: A hairy woman is either crazy or virtuous.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t judge people until you have all the facts.

ITALIAN: Ventre pieno fa la testa vuota.
TRANSLATION: A full stomach makes for an empty head.
IN OTHER WORDS: Never conduct business during dinner.

ITALIAN: Al contadino non devi far saper come sia buono il formaggio con le pere.
TRANSLATION: Don’t let the farmer know how good his cheese and pears are.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t tell somebody how much you want something until after they give it to you for a good price.

ITALIAN: Quando capita un buon boccone, chi non ne profitta e un coglione.
TRANSLATION: When luck comes your way, if you don’t capitalize you’re a fool.
IN OTHER WORDS: When opportunity knocks, answer the door.

ITALIAN: Val piu’ una mora sul balcone che cento rose su un cantone.
TRANSLATION: A brunette on your balcony is worth a hundred redheads around the corner.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t wait for the perfect woman or you’ll end up alone.

ITALIAN: Non lungo che tocchi, non largo che toppi, ma duro che duri.
TRANSLATION: Not so long that it touches, nor so thick that it fills, but rather hard that it lasts.
IN OTHER WORDS: Women value endurance more than size.

ITALIAN: Nelle botti piccole ci sta il vino buono.
TRANSLATION: Small bottles have the best wine.
IN OTHER WORDS: Short women make better lovers.

ITALIAN: Campa cavallo che l’erba cresce.
TRANSLATION: While the grass is growing, the horse will starve.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t wait until conditions are perfect or you’ll never get anything done.

ITALIAN: Le bugie hanno le gambe corte.
TRANSLATION: Lies have short legs.
IN OTHER WORDS: The truth catches up to you very quickly.

ITALIAN: La verita e’ come l’olio, vene sempre alla galla.
TRANSLATION: Truth is like oil, it always comes to the surface.
IN OTHER WORDS: Honesty is the best policy.

ITALIAN: Chi corre troppo casca al primo intoppo.
TRANSLATION: He who runs too much falls at the first obstacle.
IN OTHER WORDS: Patience and caution are more valuable than speed.

ITALIAN: La cortesia e noiosa per coloro che non la usano mai.
TRANSLATION: Kindness is bothersome for those who don’t practice it.
IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t ask a heartless man for a favor.

ITALIAN: Chi lascia la via vecchis per la nuova, spesso mal si trova.
TRANSLATION: He who leaves the old way for the new, often finds the worst.
IN OTHER WORDS: Look before you leap.

ITALIAN: Chi compra il superfluo, si trova senza il necessario.
TRANSLATION: He who buys the superfluous, finds himself without the necessary.
IN OTHER WORDS: Before you spend recklessly, make sure you’ll have enough money left to buy groceries.

ITALIAN: Chi ha un neo e non se lo vede, e’ bello e non se lo crede.
TRANSLATION: He who has a beauty mark that he can’t see, is beautiful and doesn’t know it.
IN OTHER WORDS: Humility adds to a person’s beauty.

ITALIAN: E’ felice chi si accontenta di poco.
TRANSLATION: The happiest is he who asks the least.
IN OTHER WORDS: A simple life is best.

ITALIAN: La gallina nera si risolve sulla sera.
TRANSLATION: The black hen doesn’t start pawing the ground till the evening.
IN OTHER WORDS: The early bird catches the worm.

ITALIAN: Tutti i nodi vengono al pettine.
TRANSLATION: All the snarls are found by the comb.
IN OTHER WORDS: Sooner or later, your sins will catch up to you.

ITALIAN: Chi vive di speranza, muore al vaso.
TRANSLATION: He who lives hoping dies on the toilet.

ITALIAN: Chi non in gioventu fa i suoi atti, in vecchiaia fa cose da matti.
TRANSLATION: He who behaves in his youth, misbehaves in his old age.

ITALIAN: Gonne corte, confessione lunga.
TRANSLATION: The shorter the skirt, the longer the confession.

ITALIAN: Se vuoi vendicarti dell’uomo che ti ha preso la moglie, lasciargliela!
TRANSLATION: If you want revenge on the man who stole your wife, let him keep her.

ITALIAN: La donna si veste a credito e si spoglie a contanti.
TRANSLATION: A woman buys her clothes on credit, but takes them off for cash.

ITALIAN: Le ragazze lo desiderano, le maritate lo provano, le vedove lo ricordano.
TRANSLATION: Girls want it, wives get it, widows remember it.

ITALIAN: Se il giovane sapesse, e il vecchio potesse, non c’e cosa che non si facesse.
TRANSLATION: If the young man had the experience and the old man the youth, there’s nothing they couldn’t do.

ITALIAN: Quando si e stat ministro o prostituta anche per solo un giorno, si ha diritto al titolo per tutta la vita.
TRANSLATION: If you’re a congressman or a prostitute for only one day, you hold that title for the rest of your life.

ITALIAN: Quando il letto non e sfatto, il matrimonio sara presto.
TRANSLATION: If your bed isn’t messy, your marriage will be soon.

ITALIAN: Le nazioni smaltiscono diversamente il dolore: Il tedseco lo beve, il francese lo mangia, lo spagnolo lo piange, e l’italiano lo dorme.
TRANSLATION: Each has his own way of coping with sorrow: The German drink, the French eat, the Spanish cry, and the Italians sleep it off.

ITALIAN: L’uomo si conosce in tre cose: alla collera, alla borsa, al bicchiere.
TRANSLATION: He can know a man by three things: when he is angry, when he is spending, and when he is drunk.

ITALIAN: Le statistiche sono come i bikini: rivelano cio che e suggestivo e nascondono cio che e vitale.
TRANSLATION: Statistics are like bikinis: They show what is suggestive and hide what is real.

ITALIAN: Con un po’ di saliva e di pazienza un provenzale incula una mosca.
TRANSLATION: With a little spit and a lot of patience you can even screw a fly.

ITALIAN: Non correte mai dietro una donna o a un tram; ne verrano sempre degli altri.
TRANSLATION: Never run after a woman or a bus; there will always be another.

ITALIAN: Solo in due professioni i dilettanti superano gli specialisti: la strategia militare e la prostituzione.
TRANSLATION: In only two fields do the amateurs perform better than the professionals: military strategy and prostitution.

ITALIAN: Moglie e fuoco, stuzzicalo ogni un poco.
TRANSLATION: A fire and a wife both need to be stoked once in a while.

ITALIAN: Se hai la moglie brutta, vai al letto al buio.
TRANSLATION: If you have an ugly wife, sleep in the dark.

ITALIAN: La donna deve avere quatro M: Messaia in casa, Matrona in strada, modesta in chiesa, e Matta a letto.
TRANSLATION: The ideal woman should have four C’s: Clean at home, charitable in church, cautious on the road, and crazy in bed.

ITALIAN: Le donne si lamentano spesso del poco, mai del troppo.
TRANSLATION: Women always complain about “how little,” never about “how big.”

ITALIAN: L’invenzione della minigonna e come quella delle navi a vapore: non ocure piu’ aspettare il vento.
TRANSLATION: The invention of the mini-skirt is like that of the steamship: you no longer need a breeze.

ITALIAN: Un amante amore. Due amanti temperamento ardente. Tre amanti, un commercio.
TRANSLATION: One lover, you’re in love. Two lovers, you’re hot. Three lovers, you’re in business.

ITALIAN: Alle donna piace quello che sentono, agli uomini quello che vedono.
TRANSLATION: Women love with their heart, men with their eyes.

ITALIAN: Non esistono donne frigide, solo uomini impotenti.
TRANSLATION: There are no frigid women, only impotent men.

ITALIAN: Dove entra il vino, scappa la vergogna.
TRANSLATION: Where wine enters, inhibitions escape.

ITALIAN: Le carne deve essere dura a letto e tenera sulla tavola.
TRANSLATION: Meat should be tender on the table and hard in bed.

ITALIAN: Ne’ a tavola, ne’ a letto non ci vuol rispetto.
TRANSLATION: There are two places where you’ll never grow old: at the bar and in bed.

ITALIAN: L’amore e come la biancheria, va cambiata spesso.
TRANSLATION: Love is like underwear, it often needs changing.

ITALIAN: Una giovane in mano di un vecchio, un uccello in mano di un ragazzo, e un cavallo in mano di un frate, son tre cose stra pazzate.
TRANSLATION: Three wasted things: a horse in the hands of a monk, a small bird in the hands of a young boy, and a beautiful young woman in the hands of an old man.

ITALIAN: Moglie e buoi, dei paesi tuoi.
TRANSLATION: To get a good wife or good cattle, go back to your hometown.

ITALIAN: Chi non ha quattrini, non abbia voglie. Chi non vuol pensieri, non prenda moglie.
TRANSLATION: He who is broke, has no desires. He who does not want worries, does not get married.

ITALIAN: Credere in Dio onnipotente, negli uomini poco, e nelle donne niente.
TRANSLATION: Believe in God, men very little, and in women not at all.

ITALIAN: Con i matti e con i padroni non si discute.
TRANSLATION: Lunatics and your boss are always right.

ITALIAN: Coi quattrini e amicizia si va in tasca alla giustizia.
TRANSLATION: With money and connections you can beat the system.

ITALIAN: Il gioco, il letto, la donna e il fuoco non si contentono mai di poco.
TRANSLATION: Gambling, sleep, fire and women are never satisfied with just a little.

ITALIAN: Chi piglia l’anguilla per la coda e la donna per la parola puo dire di non tener nulla.
TRANSLATION: He who takes an eel by the tail and a woman for her word ends up with nothing.

ITALIAN: Tre cose fan l’uomo ricco: guadagnare e non spendere, promettere e non mantenere, accettare e non rendere.
TRANSLATION: Three things make a man rich: earn and don’t spend, promise and don’t keep it, receive and don’t give.

ITALIAN: Val piu’ una bella donna sul paglione che tuuti i soldi di Salmone.
TRANSLATION: Better a beautiful woman in bed than all the riches of Solomon.

ITALIAN: Pan fresco, vin bon, e donna ben tornita corso lezione del letto e della vita.
TRANSLATION: Fresh bread, good wine, and a plump woman make for a good life.

ITALIAN: Si conquistano le donne come le fortezze: per le loro entrate segrete.
TRANSLATION: You conquer a woman like a fortress: you find the secret entryways.

ITALIAN: Il naso del cani e’ come il culo della donna – sempre freddo.
TRANSLATION: A dog’s nose is like a woman’s ass – always cold.

ITALIAN: Per l’impotente, anche i peli sono un’ostacolo.
TRANSLATION: For the impotent, even pubic hair is an obstacle.

ITALIAN: L’amore senza chiavare e’ come il culo senza cacare.
TRANSLATION: Love without making love is like having an ass without shitting.

ITALIAN: Chi va dall’avvocato, perde l’ultimo ducato.
TRANSLATION: He who goes to a lawyer, loses his last cent.

ITALIAN: Il riso abbonda sulla bocca degli siocchi.
TRANSLATION: The stupid person laughs the most.

ITALIAN: Ricchi si diventa, signori si nasce.
TRANSLATION: You can become rich, but you must be born with class.

ITALIAN: A sciocca domanda nessuna risposta.
TRANSLATION: A stupid question gets no answer.





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6 Responses to “Spicy Italian Proverbs”

  1. Serena Says:

    These proverbs are spicy and fun to read. :)

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m glad they added some spice to your day, Serena!

  3. Shady Says:

    Fantastic. I really enjoy reading things in foreign languages, and these are gold.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you enjoyed them, Shady! They are gold indeed!

  5. Francesco Maida (@fmaida) Says:

    > ITALIAN: Chi vive di speranza, muore al vaso.

    Well, actually it’s more vulgar than that. It’s: “Chi vive sperando, muore cagando”, that could be translated into English with a “Who lives hoping, dies [pooping]” ;-)

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yikes! Thanks fo chiming in, Francesco!

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