Why Do Italians Talk With Their Hands?

why do italians talk with their hands gesture

La gestualità Italiana, or Italian hand gestures, is a common way of expressing emotions and ideas when speaking Italian. This unique form of body language has been used for centuries in Italy as a way to communicate, with gestures often being used as punctuation for words and sentences. But still, at some point, you might have also wondered why do Italians talk with their hands.

I’ll come to that a bit later. First, let’s talk about the most common Italian hand gestures.

The Most Common Italian Hand Gestures

Here are some of the most popular hand gestures used by Italians. They’ve even given names to these:

Mano a Mano

The most commonly recognized Italian gesture is the “mano a mano,” which is the act of gesturing with both hands in the air. This gesture can express a variety of emotions and meanings, from joy to frustration. Italians love using this gesture to emphasize a point or to show that they are in agreement with someone.


Another common gesture is the “figuraccia,” which literally means “ugly face.” This gesture is used to express surprise, disbelief or annoyance. It’s done by making a facial expression and raising your eyebrows.


The “tiratore,” or finger-pointing gesture, is an Italian classic. This gesture is used to express blame towards someone and is usually accompanied by a stern look.

Braccia Alzate

The “braccia alzate,” or arms in the air gesture, is a way of expressing enthusiasm or excitement. It is often used to indicate agreement with a statement and can be seen as a sign of joy in Italian culture.


Another popular gesture is the “figurina,” which is a handclap made by cupping your hands together and then throwing them apart. This gesture signifies agreement or excitement in Italian culture.


Similarly, the “miglio” is a finger-pointing gesture used to indicate disbelief or annoyance. This gesture is often made with a raised eyebrow and can be seen as a sign of disapproval in Italian culture.

Here is an amazing book if you want to become an expert in Italian hand gestures!

So, Why Do Italians Talk With Their Hands?

Body language experts have offered several explanations for why Italians talk with their hands. One explanation is that Italian culture is based on the idea of “la bella figura” (the good image) and that hand gestures are used to emphasize one’s point as a way of conveying respect.

Another explanation is that Italians are very passionate and expressive people. Hand gestures can help them express their emotions and ideas in a more vivid manner, making conversations more interesting.

hand gestures italian

Finally, Italians also use hand gestures to help them remember key points when speaking. Gestures can help anchor ideas in the mind, making them easier to recall at the moment. No matter if it’s a business deal or just a casual conversation with a friend, Italians love to gesture to emphasize their point of view and make sure it is heard.

Italian Accent, Hand Gestures, and The Hollywood Cliché

It’s no secret that Italian accents and hand gestures feature prominently in Hollywood films. This has led to the generalization that all Italians talk with their hands when in fact, it is only a small minority of Italians do so.

Still, the stereotype remains strong, and hand gestures are used by many Italian-Americans to emphasize their point of view or simply as a way to show their enthusiasm for something. Robert Di Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci are just a few examples of well-known Italian-American actors who often use hand gestures to express their emotions on the big screen.

Why Do Italians Look Cool While Talking With Their Hands?

italians talk with their hands

In Italian culture, the use of hand gestures is seen as a sign of confidence and sophistication. The ability to express oneself through body language is considered an art form and is used to convey respect and admiration. Italians often use hand gestures as a way of making their conversations more lively, which can make them appear more attractive and confident.

Hand gestures also help to make conversations more memorable, as people tend to remember things better when they are accompanied by body language. Whether it’s to emphasize a point, show agreement or express surprise, Italians use hand gestures to give their conversations more color and life.

Can You Adopt the Italian Accent, Hand Gestures and Coolness?

italian gestures meaning

If you want to adopt some of the Italian accent and hand gestures, why not give it a try? Learning the various hand gestures and expressions can help you to understand Italian culture better.

With practice, you too can master the art of the Italian accent and hand gestures and perhaps even some of that famous Italian coolness to go along with it. Who knows, maybe you will become the next Italian-American Hollywood star!

Beware! Some Italian Hand Gestures Are Rude in Other Cultures

It is important to note that while many Italian hand gestures are commonplace, some can be viewed as rude or offensive in other countries. For example, the Italian hand gesture known as “the figa” is a sign of good luck in Italy but can be seen as offensive in some cultures.

Another example is the gesture of spitting. This can be used by Italians to emphasize a point or express disagreement but should not be used outside of Italy as it is seen as disrespectful.

To avoid any potential misunderstandings, it is best to learn the customs of the country you are visiting before using any hand gestures. This will help you to stay on the right side of cultural etiquette.

What Other Nationalities Use Hand Gestures in Conversation?

While Italians may be the most famous for using hand gestures in conversations, many other cultures use body language to express themselves as well. For example, in the Middle East, hand gestures are often used to emphasize points or express emotions such as happiness and sadness.

italian hand gestures

In some parts of Asia, finger-pointing is considered rude and can be seen as aggressive. Instead, people from these cultures often use more subtle hand gestures, such as clasping their hands or folding them in front of the chest.

No matter what culture you come from, using hand gestures in conversation is a great way to express yourself and make your point more memorable. Why not give it a try?

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