English uses the word ride to mean different things, so when it comes to finding the right Italian word, we can easily be at a loss. Let’s look at some of the basic Italian words associated with “ride.”
The first installment of the new episode of Commissario Manara, starting this week, gives us one important example:
Ma sei sicura che non hai bisogno di un passaggio?
But are you sure you don't need a ride?Play Caption
If you ride in a car, or on a two-wheeler, but are not the “driver,” you are il passeggero (the passenger).
For those who are curious, it’s not readily evident why there is an “e” and not an “a” in this word. It comes from the French passager (passenger, passing/temporary) and in Neapolitan the spelling is passaggiere! But (going out on a limb), perhaps the adjective form passeggero (passing, temporary) might possibly have some connection with a passeggero (passenger) being a “temporary” occupant of the vehicle.
Attenzione! Don’t get confused between passaggio (a passage or ride) and andare a passeggio (to go for a stroll) with its verb form passeggiare (to stroll, walk) and noun form passeggiata (a stroll, a walk).
The subject of the new episode of Commissario Manara is il buttero, a sort of Tuscan cowboy, primarily associated with the Maremma part of Tuscany. What do these cowboys do? See this link for details about the butteri, but one thing is for sure. They ride horses.
We usually say andare a cavallo (to go horseback riding) to talk about riding a horse, but to be more specific, we use the verb cavalcare. The rider is il cavaliere. If you stay tuned for the next installment of Manara, you’ll be ready for this word!
We can also ride a bike: andare in bici, andare in bicicletta
If we go to the parco giochi (the amusement park), we may want to go on the rides. These rides are commonly grouped together with the merry-go-round, la giostra, and called le giostre (the rides, the attractions).
What about when we say, “let’s go for a ride”? In this case Italian uses the omnipresent giro. In English we usually put the means first, as an adjective: a train ride, a boat ride, a bike ride.
Ho bisogno di un bel giro in moto e di una birra.
I need a nice motorcycle ride and a beer.
Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Note that the most common verb to use when going for a ride is fare (to make, to do).
Ho proprio voglia di fare un bel giro!
I really feel like going for a nice ride!
Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di VetroPlay Caption
In a nutshell:
cavalcare (to ride a horse)
andare a cavallo (to go horseback riding)
andare in bici (to ride a bike)
fare il passeggero (to ride as a passenger)
un passaggio (a ride/lift as a passenger)
fare un giro (to go for a ride)
le giostre (the rides at an amusement park)
Walking and in general:
andare a passeggio (to go for a walk)
fare una passeggiata (to go for a walk or ride)
passeggiare (to stroll)
passare (to move from one place to another)
Just for fun:
Ieri ho fatto un giro in bici, ma poi ho forato, e quindi ho dovuto chiedere un passaggio ad un camionista. Non avevo mai fatto il passeggero in un mezzo così grande. Mi piace andare in bici, perché posso girare dove mi pare, usando le mie gambe. Mi piace pure andare a cavallo, ma non sono un cavaliere particolarmente bravo. Non cavalco bene come un buttero, ma, da più giovane, facevo delle bellissime passeggiate a cavallo in giro per la campagna toscana. Non era una passione passeggera, ma siccome sono caduto più volte cavalcando, ultimamente preferisco cavalcare i cavalli della giostra alle giostre o al parco giochi, oppure fare qualche passeggiata a piedi nel bosco, specialmente quando devo portare il cane a passeggio.
Yesterday I went for a bike ride, but I got a flat tire, and so I had to ask a truck driver for a ride. I had never been a passenger in such a large vehicle. I love going cycling, because I can go wherever I want, using my legs. I also like going horseback riding, but I’m not a particularly skilled rider. I don’t ride as well as a Maremmano cowboy, but when I was younger I went on some beautiful rides on horseback around the Tuscan countryside. It wasn’t a passing fancy, but since I fell several times while riding, lately I prefer to ride the horses on the merry-go-round at the carousel or amusement park, or else go for a walk in the woods, especially when I have to take the dog for a walk.