Tattoo Ideas: Italian Words + Quotes
Italian tattoos come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including the Italian cross, the Italian horn, and the green, white, and red Italian flag (including a number of variations of it, like the flag condensed in an outline of Italy or in an outline of stars). I've even seen a partially completed sleeve dedicated solely to Italian food; it features a plate of macaroni and meatballs, a jug of wine, and a cannoli.
Luckily, unlike Latin (which is an extinct language), or Hebrew, or Arabic (both very complex languages that use specific character sets in lieu of letters, requiring an exact knowledge of calligraphy), or Gaelic (which has numerous different dialects), Italian is a fairly easy language to translate, and most words that exist in English can be translated into Italian without much difficulty.
Getting the Italian Spelling and Translation Right
However, be extra careful to make sure you get the Italian spelling correct. Reverse two letters and your beautiful, inspirational tatt becomes nonsensica and silly. I once saw an episode of Miami Ink on the TLC channel where the customer wanted "per sempre" tattooed on his arm, which is Italian for "forever." It wasn't the tattoo artist's fault, because the customer had designed the lettering for the tatt himself, but when it was finished it read "pre sempre" instead. It's only one letter off but unfortunately means nothing in Italian.
Exercise caution when it comes to the popular Italian phrase "life is beautiful" which many people, including Lindsay Lohan, have been getting recently. "La vita e bella" is the correct translation, but some people have been getting "la bella vita" which translates as "the beautiful life" and is used in Italy to describe someone who is living a life of wealth and excess, throwing posh parties, and spending extravagant amounts of money.
As with any tattoo that is done in a language that's not your own, make sure you do your homework. Double-check your translation with several sources. A native speaker is your best bet, someone who speaks Italian as their first language and English as their second. If a native speaker is not available to you, your next best bet is a Italian scholar who has studied the language extensively. Last but not least, there are several online translators who offer their services for free. Although the automated translators can be very useful, keep in mind that it is important to ensure the translation is correct by either using several different online translators or confirming its accuracy with native speakers on an Italian forum or message board.
Italian Sayings and Phrases to Get You Started
Esse nufesso qui dice male di macaruni. (Who speaks badly of macaroni is a fool.)
Quest' la vita e qui il gioire; un' ora di abbrezzo e poi moire. (This is life and this is joy; an hour of embracing and then to die.)
L'amore domina senza regole. (Love rules without rules.)
Chi più sa, meno crede. (The more one knows, the less one believes.)
Finchè c'è vita c'è speranza. (Where there's life, there's hope.)
L'amore e cieco. (Love is blind.)
Meglio un giorno da leone che cento da pecora. (Better one day as a lion than a hundred as a sheep.)
Smuovere mare e monti. (To move heaven and earth.)
Tale il padre, tale il figlio. (Like father, like son.)
Tutto è permesso in guerra ed in amore. (All is fair in war and love.)
Val più la pratica della grammatica. (Experience is more important than theory.)
Vivi e lascia vivere. (Live and let live.)