Proverbs and Values

Italian proverbs are an important part of a culture’s tradition and history.  Proverbs teach lessons and values through language.  Through proverbs people can learn the aspects that compose their culture.  Italian proverbs range from topics of cheese to topics of discipline, but one can be sure to find an Italian proverb that relates to any situation or topic.  Common Italian proverbs discuss family, emotions, success, and cultural values that should be learned.

“Tal padre, tal figlio” (Like father, like son)

Family, food, women, the weather, love, and friendship are the most common topics discussed in Italian proverbs (  “Tal padre, tal figlio” expresses the importance of family.  The family is the most pervasive value in Italian culture. Italians love strong family ties, and they honor all family obligations (Culture Grams). The family is the anchor of the Italian social structure, and it serves to help its members both emotionally and financially (Culture Grams).  Families in Italy tend to have many children due to the strong Roman Catholic tradition of the country (Culture Grams).  In northern Italy, small families are more prevalent, and a great emphasis is not placed on the extended family.  In the south, families tend to be large, and include the extended family and even the community they live in (Culture Grams).  Southern Italy remains traditional and still puts the family first, as extended families throughout the country get together frequently to visit, or celebrate holidays.  Whether it is northern or southern Italy, the family is still very important to the Italian people.

“A tavola non si invecchia”
(At the table with good friends and family you do not become old)

Italians also take great pride in social interactions.  Italian people desire a good reputation and approval from their peers (Culture Grams).  Humor, agreeability, reliability, and success in business and in social life are valued over assertiveness, and health, family, serenity, and financial security are the highest valued attributes to Italians (Culture Grams).  Regional differences have made attitudes in the north and south differ greatly.  Italians in the north value punctuality, reliability, organization and economic success, while viewing time as something not to be wasted (Culture Grams).  On the other hand, southern Italians value friendliness and warm character, while enjoying a leisurely lifestyle and taking their time with different tasks.  Economic differences between the two regions have caused tension in the country, but Italians oppose any discussion of a political separation between the two regions, which would eventually divide up the country (Culture Grams).  Many Italian traditions still remain the same, yet economic and technological advancements have changed the values of many modern Italians.


“Con nulla non si fia nulla"(Of nothing comes nothing)

Italians are very conscious of their appearance.  Italy is the major center of the European fashion industry (Culture Grams).  Italians dress up for every occasion, because worn, dirty, and sloppy clothing is looked down upon.  What a person wears says a lot about their level of education, social standing, and family background.  Thoughts of others are usually decided by a first impression, making physical appearance extremely valued in Italian culture (Culture Grams).

“All'orso paion belli i suoi orsacchiotti”(Beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

Italy is also the center and birthplace of the arts.  The Renaissance began in Italy, in which the greatest artists, architects, painters, writers, and sculptors emerged.  Artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, and Modigliani created the most famous pieces of art still present in Italy today (Culture Grams).  The Romans played a key role in western architecture as they introduced arches, domes, and vaults (Culture Grams).  Italians also invented opera, and famous composers such as Vivaldi, Puccini, Rossini, and Verdi were first introduced in Italy.  Opera houses are very popular and are found in many Italian towns (Culture Grams).  Italy is also known for its contribution to world literature and film.  Today, museums in Milan, Rome, Venice, Naples, and Florence hold some of the world's most famous art works and architectures created hundreds of years ago (Culture Grams).  The artistic nature of Italy is very important to its culture.

“Chi dorme non piglia pesci”(He who sleeps, catches no fish)

Italians are very hard workers, but they also know when it is time to relax.  A typical work schedule is from 8am-1pm and 3pm-7pm Monday through Friday (Culture Grams).  They have a break in their work day for lunch, but then return back to finish up their day.  Most people tend to work 6 days a week, and businesses are typically closed on Sundays (Culture Grams).  When Italians are not working, they know how to have fun.  They love to go to the beach, the countryside, to the movies, to dances, or to sporting events.  “Bocce” is a popular game amongst Italians, and it is similar to lawn bowling (Culture Grams).  Music festivals are popular, along with going to the bars during the day to socialize with others.  Italians love their social relationships, so you will see them participating in anything that involves social interaction.


proverbs found at