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Travel vocabulary - 1: Trains and buses

When traveling, it's good to have a handle on the words we might need when getting around a new place. But depending on where we are and who we are talking with, we might hear different names for the same thing. 



Taking the train

The word for "train" is easy. It's il treno

Where do we catch or meet a train? Alla stazione. That's a good cognate, too. So already these two words, il treno and la stazione are essential to have in your toolkit.


One important question you might want to ask is: Dov'è la stazione (where is the train station)? Or you can keep it even simpler:

Allora, dico: "scusi, per la stazione?" Semplicissimo.

So, I say, "Excuse me, for the station?" Very simple.

Caption 18, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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We don't always need to speak in full sentences, and when we do try, we can easily stumble. You can even just say: La stazione?


The railroad

When we're talking about the railroad in general, however, we usually say la ferrovia. The rails are made of iron, and ferro means "iron." Via is "way" or "road," so it makes sense. 

Il ponte della ferrovia,

The railroad bridge,

Caption 45, Rosalba al parco della donna gatto - Part 1

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Ferrovia isn't too hard to pronounce, but when we turn it into an adjective, it's a bit trickier. 

...e la ricevuta di un biglietto ferroviario di sola andata Bologna-Roma.

...and the receipt for a train ticket, one way, Bologna to Rome.

Captions 16-17, Provaci ancora prof! S2E5 Vita da cani - Part 6

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Taking the bus

There are 3 different terms people use when they refer to a bus. The easiest one is autobus, as it contains the word "bus" we recognize. 


L'autobus often refers to local transportation within a city, but it's also used generally, especially by young people. 

Da qui partono gli autobus, tra l'altro, per gli aeroporti di Pisa e di Firenze...

From here, the buses leave for the Pisa and Florence airports, among other places...

Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia Firenze - Part 3

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La corriera is a term that's a bit outdated (and it was used for stagecoaches in earlier times), but if you are talking to someone of a certain age, or if you are in a remote village, corriera is a term they might use.

Mi scusi, la corriera per Milano?

Excuse me, the bus for Milan?

Caption 31, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 9

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Attenzione! Let's also mention that both la corriera (the bus) and il corriere (the courier) have the same origins. In earlier times, a stagecoach would carry passengers but also letters and packages. Nowadays, la corriera carries passengers and il corriere carries packages. We can detect the verb correre in the term, which hints at speed.


Usually, with la stazione, it is pretty clear you are talking about the train station, but if you are asking for the bus station, you will want to specify that. Il pullman, is a word you'll likely recognize from English. 

È arrivata zia, è alla stazione dei pullman.

My aunt has arrived. She's at the bus station.

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 11

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Note that la corriera is feminine and il pullman is masculine. Often, these two terms indicate buses that go long distances, from city to city (like Greyhound in the U.S). 


When there is a proper bus station, you can buy your biglietto (ticket) at la biglietteria, but more and more, there are self-service machines where you can pay in cash or by credit card. In some places, however, you have to buy your ticket at the bar or dal tabaccaio (at the tobacconist's). 


Taking the tram

Some cities have had trams since the 19th century. In some cities, they were once in vogue, then went out of vogue, but are coming back. Whoever is interested in an overview of the tramways in Italy can consult this Wikipedia article. It's called il tram in Italian (so that's easy!). It runs on rails and is (now) electric. 

Bene, una volta arrivati a Napoli, prendete il tram che vi porta al porto.

Good, once you've arrived in Naples, you'll get a tram that will take you to the harbor.

Caption 28, Marika spiega I veicoli

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Other cities have a kind of bus that's powered electrically, from above. It's called il filobus (the trolley bus). Il filo is the word for "the wire".




Here are the words we discussed in this lesson. In a future lesson, we'll dive deeper into travel vocabulary, as this list is only partial.


l'autobus (the city bus)

la corriera (the bus, the coach)

il corriere (the courier)

il pullman (the bus, the long-distance bus)

il treno (the train)

la ferrovia (the railroad)

il biglietto (the ticket)

la stazione (the station)

il filobus (the trolley bus)



Talking about the weather in Italian

When traveling in Italy, like it or not, weather conditions can be a concern. We like to imagine Italy being sunny and beautiful all the time, but purtroppo (unfortunately), especially these days, the weather can be capriccioso (mischievous) and imprevidibile (unpredictable). As a result, knowing how to talk about the weather like an Italian can be not only useful for obtaining information, but provides a great topic for small talk.

Che tempo fa?

In Italian, the verb of choice when talking about the weather is fare (to make). Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? Keep in mind that tempo means both “time” and “weather” so be prepared to get confused sometimes. If you want to talk about today’s weather, then just add oggi (today):

Che tempo fa oggi? (What’s the weather like today?)


An answer might be:

Oggi c'è un bel tempo, un bel sole.

Today there's nice weather, nice sun.

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Chiedere informazioni - Part 1

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And when talking about tomorrow, we use the future tense of the verb fare:

Che tempo farà domani? (What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?)


So our basic question is Che tempo fa? What’s the weather doing? What’s the weather like? That's good to know, and an important question to be able to ask, but when we're making conversation, we might start with a statement, to share the joy, or to commiserate.

Condividere (sharing)

We can start out generally, talking about the quality of the day itself.

Che bella giornata (what a beautiful day). 

Che brutta giornata (what a horrible day).



After that, we can get into specifics.

Tip: In English, we use adjectives such as: sunny, rainy, muggy, and foggy, but in Italian, in many cases, it’s common to use noun forms, rather than adjectives, as you will see.

Fa freddo (it’s cold)! Note that we (mostly) use the verb fare (to make) here, not essere (to be)
Fa caldo (it’s hot)!
Piove (it’s raining). Italians also use the present progressive tense as we do in English, (sta piovendo) but not necessarily!
Nevica (it’s snowing).
C’è il sole (it’s sunny).
È coperto (it’s cloudy, the skies are grey).
È nuvoloso (it’s cloudy).
C’è la nebbia (it’s foggy).
C’è l’afa (it’s muggy).


Piove. T'accompagno a casa?

It's raining. Shall I take you home?

Caption 3, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 14

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Il clima, eh... essendo la Lombardia quasi tutta pianura, abbiamo estati molto afose e inverni molto rigidi. Ma la caratteristica principale è la presenza costante della nebbia.

The climate, uh... as Lombardy is almost all flatlands, we have very muggy summers and very severe winters. But the main characteristic is the constant presence of fog.

Captions 70-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Lombardia

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Who knew?

We have the adjective chiaro that means "clear" and so when we want to clear something up we can use the verb chiarire (to clear up). We are speaking figuratively in this case. 


Incominciamo col chiarire una cosa: è per te, o è per tua madre?

Let's start by clearing up one thing. Is it for you, or is it for your mother?

Caption 8, La Ladra EP. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 5

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But chiaro also means "light in color."

Ci sono di tutti i tipi: maschi, femmine, occhi chiari, occhi scuri.

There are all kinds: males, females, blue [pale] eyed, dark eyed.

Caption 63, Un Figlio a tutti i costi film - Part 17

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When the sky is clearing up, we don't use the verb chiarire. We use the prefix s and chiarire becomes schiarire (to make lighter or brighter [with more light] in color). It can refer not only to color but also sound. It's often expressed in its reflexive form.

Il cielo si sta schiarendo (the sky is clearing up).


Al centro invece, abbiamo nebbia anche qui dappertutto, con qualche schiarita, ma nebbia a tutte le ore.

Towards the center on the other hand, we have fog all over, here as well, with some clearing, but fog at all hours.

Captions 58-59, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 10

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There's more to say about the weather and how to talk about it in Italian, but that will be for another lesson.


Diritto, Dritto, and Dritta

In a previous lesson, we looked at some Italian words that have to do with "right": retto and its feminine form retta. We mentioned that there are other words that can mean "right" and so in this lesson, we will look at two more: diritto, dritto. Sometimes they mean "right" and sometimes they don't, but they are very good words to know! 


If we look at the dictionary entry for dritto, we also find diritto, so they are very closely related and can often be used interchangeably. And sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is saying one or the other. But there are cases where you can't swap them. 


Diritto as a noun

When you have rights (or not), then you use diritto as a masculine noun. Dritto won't work in this case!


Mi dice con che diritto ha fermato Stefano?

Will you tell what right you had to detain Stefano?

Caption 48, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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As in English, we can talk about rights in general: equal rights, civil rights, etc., thus using the plural.


Anch'io ho i miei diritti e la mia dignità di lavoratore.

I also have my rights and my dignity as a worker.

Caption 6, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato

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While a single law is una legge, law in general is referred to as diritto or giurisprudenza. Here, too, dritto won't do.

Mi sono appena iscritto alla facolta di Diritto.

I'm just enrolled in Law school.


Dritta as a noun

Although dritta as a noun almost surely derives from the verb dirigere, it has become a colloquial but widely used feminine noun in itself. In this case, someone is heading you in the right direzione (direction) by giving you some good advice or a tip. Diritta doesn't work here.


Gli ho solamente dato qualche dritta su come tenere

I just gave him a few tips on how to keep

pulito il lastricato dalla gramigna. -Ah!

the flagstones free of weeds. -Ah.

Captions 53-54, La Ladra - Ep. 7 - Il piccolo ladro

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Further noun definitions of dritto and dritta.


We can use the noun form dritto/dritta to describe someone who is sly, a smooth operator.


La dritta can also indicate the right-[hand] side, the one used to direct (dirigere). On a ship, it's the starboard side. On a medal il dritto is the "front" side. In knitting, dritto is a plain stitch.


Dritto as an adverb


Just as with "right" in English, diritto can be either an adjective or a noun, but it can also be an adverb. 


One thing a parent might tell a child is:


Valentina, sta dritta.

Valentina, stand up straight.

Caption 10, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato

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As we found in the lesson on retto, "straight" and "right" are close cousins in English. Think of the word "upright."



Giving Directions

One way we use the adverb dritto or diritto is when we give directions, so this is super important. Whether you say diritto or dritto, people will understand you just fine.


Here, Daniela is teaching us about giving directions.


OK? Allora, andare a destra, andare a sinistra,

OK? So, "to go to the right," "to go to the left,"

andare dritto, andare sempre dritto, andare tutto dritto.

"to go straight," "to go straight ahead." "to go straight ahead."

Captions 53-54, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Chiedere informazioni

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Here's an expression we have seen several times in Yabla videos, used in association with former criminals, wayward policemen, or with kids.  


In the following example, dritto describes the way you draw lines--you draw them straight. You behave.


"Rigare dritto" vuol dire comportarsi bene.

"To toe the line" [to make a straight line] means "to behave."

Caption 14, Marika commenta -La Ladra - Espressioni idiomatiche

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Check out Marika's video where she says a bit more about the expression rigare dritto or filare dritto


In the following example, we could also say the shot went right to the heart.


Un colpo di pistola dritto al cuore a distanza ravvicinata, ma...

A gunshot direct to the heart at close range, but...

Caption 16, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso

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There is certainly more to say about these fascinating and important words, but your head must be full by now. Keep your eyes and ears open as you watch Yabla videos. These words will be peppered all through them. Let us know your questions and doubts, and we'll get back to you. Write to us at