10 Italian sayings about animals

How to learn Italian? That’s a very complicated question.

When you study a language, starting from the very beginning, it’s always a good place to start. This means that, especially when you start learning, one must focus on studying grammar and vocabulary.

However, there’s a moment when books and Google translate simply can’t help you getting any more grasp on the language, and you must find a way to read between the lines.

However, if you want to know how to sound Italian when you speak, here’s an easy tip: use Italian sayings. Italian idioms are very colourful and most of the times they are impossible to understand by just literally translating their meaning. 

We have so many idioms that it would be impossible to teach you all of them right now. Let’s then focus on Italian sayings about animals – you can’t imagine how many we have and how weird they are!

Get ready for your next trip to the Bel Paese with some idiomatic phrases about animals that will definitely help you stand out from the croud!

1 – Prendere due piccioni con una fava – “catching two pigeons with one broad bean”

Let’s start with an easy one! English is more brutal when it comes to say that you’ve being able to achieve two things with one action – you simply “kill two birds with one stone”.

2 – In bocca al lupo – “in the mouth of the wolf”

“Good luck” or “break a leg” are just too straightforward for Italians and we actually use this idiom quite a lot!

3 – Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo – “the old hen makes good broth”

Nothing to do with a killer grandma, as one of my student once said. This saying is actually used to indicate that a person has the experience and age necessary to know how to do something the best way.

4 – A caval donato non si guarda in bocca – “if a horse is gifted, you don’t check its mouth”

What a life lesson: when something is given to you for free or it’s a gift, you should just be grateful of the present and don’t complain about the fact that it was not exactly what you wanted. I heard that a lot when I was little!

5 – Avere una gatta da pelare – “to have a cat to peel”

Absolutely the funniest idiom you’ll ever hear – have you ever tried to shave a cat? In Italy, we peel cats when we have a tricky situation to handle.

6 – Menare il can per l’aia – “to kick the dog in the garden”

No animals were armed to explain this idiom. When someone is going around kicking the dog in Italy, it means that they are going around and around without reaching the point of their argument.

7 – Tagliare la testa al toro – “to cut the bull’s head off”

Use this idiom to say “That’s it! I’ll take a drastic decision and resolve this situation.” Be a pro in Italian and save the day!

8 – Andare a letto con le galline – “to go to bed with the hens”

Something you will never do when you travel in Italy is going to bed early, only hens do that!

9 – Il bue che dice cornuto all’asino – “the bull that tells the donkey “horned””

Another powerful life lesson – never judge others for things you do yourself.

10 – Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio – “the wolf loses its fur but never its bad habit”

Last but not least! Always remember that if after years living in Italy you still put ketchup in your pasta, people will compare you to a wolf that loses its fur but never its bad habit, which means that people might change but bad habits are hard to die.


Mangiare carne di volpe – “to eat fox’s meat”

I’m vegetarian but I’ve been told to be eating fox’s meat so many times by my mum it might seems hard to believe! That’s just because I always try to outsmart her with tricks and complicated words.

She’s always been smarter than me, though.

What’s your favourite Italian expression? Have you ever heard one and wonder what it meant? Let me know in the comment and let’s see if I can help you!

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