Italian Accent or Italian Accents?

Discover the most popular Italian accents and learn some tips to sound more Italian!

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By Laura Pennacchietti · March 14, 2024 · 16 minute read

When learning Italian, many language learners aim to speak with a correct Italian accent. After all, good pronunciation is key to improving your communication skills.

An obvious way to improve your pronunciation and move away from the sounds of your native language is to try and copy the sounds of the language you are learning – in other words, to copy the accent. This is even more important for Italian, which as everyone knows, is a musical language with very unique sounds!

However, one thing you need to consider is that in reality there isn’t just one Italian accent, but many different accents corresponding to the various regions and dialects. In this article we’ll give you a few tips to improve your Italian accent, as well as an overview of the features of the most well-known Italian accents.

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The Italian accent

When you learn Italian and study Italian pronunciation, you normally learn pronunciation rules for ‘standard’ Italian. In reality, most people in Italy speak a variety of Italian that is more or less influenced by their dialect or local community.

However, standard Italian, in terms of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, remains the reference point for Italian learners. In this section we will give you a few tips on how to speak with a standard Italian accent.


If you are reading this article, you are probably interested in the question of how to do an Italian accent. The main secret is the pronunciation of the vowel sounds, which is crucial. When you manage to get the vowels right, your imitation of the Italian accent will be well under way.

The good news is that Italian only has five vowels, all with very well-defined and contrasting sounds which hardly change according to the context.

Three of these vowels (a, i, u) are one-sound vowels, which means they only have one possible pronunciation. Two (e and o) are two-sound vowels, so their pronunciation can vary slightly. This means that Italian has a total of seven vowel sounds – for comparison, English has about twenty!

Italian vowel sounds are single sounds and do not go beyond that. In contrast, English vowels are complex ‘blends’ that in most cases consist of more than one sound, where the voice has to move from one sound to another.

Forget about those complex English vowels! With Italian, you really need to focus on stretching your mouth and lips all the way and getting exactly the right sound – and when you find it, hold it there because it never changes!

Tips on how to pronounce Italian vowels

Italian ‘a’ is similar to the ‘a’ in ‘father’ or the vowel sound in ‘lot’ pronounced with an American accent, although it’s not exactly the same sound as in Italian pronunciation. Here are a few nice words for you to practice this sound: amare (to love), gelato (ice-cream) and Italia(Italy).

Italian ‘i’ is similar to the vowel sound in ‘see’ or the ‘i’ sound in ‘ski.’ To pronounce it well you need to stretch your lips, as in a half-smile. Here are a few words containing this sound: riso (rice), spaghetti (spaghetti), and Dolomiti (Dolomites).

Italian ‘u’ is similar to the vowel sound in ‘boost’ or ‘food.’ In order to pronounce it well, you need to create a little circle with your lips. Practice with the words università (university), blu (blue) and lupo (wolf).

Italian ‘e’ can be pronounced with the mouth slightly more closed, similar to the pronunciation of ‘a’ in the word ‘sail,’ or slightly more open, like the ‘e’ sound in ‘let.’ There isn’t a rule to know when to use the first or second pronunciation, but the difference is not huge.

However, one rule that can help is that unstressed syllables will always have the ‘closed’ sound. Words that contain the more closed ‘e’ sound are perché (why, because), spaghetti, gelato (ice cream) and grazie (thank you). Words that contain the more open ‘e’ sound are caffè (coffee), presto (soon, early) and re (king).

Italian ‘o’ can also have two slightly different pronunciations. One is more open, similar to the sound of the word ‘awe.’ One is more closed, and basically doesn’t exist in English on its own. It’s the first vowel sound in the word ‘no’ – to produce this sound, try saying ‘no’ without moving your lips.

You can find the more open ‘o’ sound in the words però (but), nonna (grandma) and all the first person forms in the future tense, such as mangerò (will eat), farò (I will do) and andrò (I will go). The closed ‘o’ sound can be found in the words Napoli (Naples), gelato (ice cream) and vino (wine).

One final tip on vowels. In practice, Italian doesn’t have any diphthongs, which are combinations of two vowel sounds that together produce a third, different sound. An example of this in English is ‘au’ or ‘eu’. In Italian, when there are two vowels in a row, they are pronounced basically the same way as they would be if they were separate.

A small exception to this is the sounds ‘i’ and ‘u’ when they come before another stressed vowel. In this case, their pronunciation changes slightly to sound similar to English ‘y’ and ‘w.’ Here are a few examples:

  • ‘ie’ in cielo (sky) is pronounced like ‘yeah’
  • ‘iu’ in fiume (river) is pronounced like ‘you’
  • ‘ua’ in quando (when) is similar to the vowel sound in ‘wham’
  • ‘uo’ in fuoco (fire) is similar to ‘whoa’

Other than this, vowels are always pronounced in the same way, regardless of their position in respect to other vowels or letters. This is another aspect that makes pronunciation easier – but you have to go all the way with those vowel sounds, with no fear!

Practice with the following words: autunno (autumn), Australia (Australia), Europa (Europe), dinosauro (dinosaur), euro (euro), leone (lion), and finally the Italian word with the highest concentration of vowels – aiuola (flower bed). If you’re emphasizing the vowels so much that you feel a bit ridiculous, you’re doing a good job.

Double letters

Another important aspect when you’re trying to mimic the Italian accent is the pronunciation of double letters. Vowels cannot be doubled in Italian, but consonants can.

Unlike other languages like English or French, double consonants are pronounced longer or more emphasized than single ones. This is one of the factors that gives the Italian language its rhythm, because you have to dwell longer on those sounds that correspond to double letters.

As with vowels, this crucial aspect of the Italian language needs a bit of practice, especially for native English speakers, because it’s very different from English pronunciation habits, where consonant sounds are effectively always single.

Here are a few examples of double consonant sounds in Italian:

  • azzurro (light blue), where the ‘z’ is pronounced as ‘dz’ and the ‘r’ is rolled
  • pazzo (crazy), where the ‘z’ is pronounced as ‘ts,’ like in ‘pizza’
  • gatto (cat)
  • tonno (tuna)
  • mamma (mom)
  • raggio (ray)
  • laccio (lace)

It’s also a good idea to practice with pairs of words that only differ by one double letter, so you can really hear the difference between single and double sounds. Try the following word pairs:

  • pala (shovel) and palla (ball)
  • seta (silk) and setta (sect)
  • rosa (pink) and rossa (red, feminine)
  • capello (strand of hair) and cappello (hat)
  • cane (dog) and canne (reeds)
  • sera (evening) and serra (greenhouse)


Finally, an essential part of the Italian accent is its intonation, or the way that the voice rises and falls when speaking based on what you intend to communicate.

Intonation is one of the most unique elements of any language, and even more so for Italian, which has the reputation of being a very ‘musical’ language. Therefore, in order to really speak with an Italian accent, it’s a good idea to listen to the rhythm, the intonation and the music of the language, and try to copy it.

How can you do that? Luckily there are tons of resources readily available for you to listen to Italian, including resources for learners such as videos or podcasts. If they are intended for learners, they are often organized so that you can listen to words and phrases and repeat them.

Another option is to watch films and TV series in Italian – this will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the language for a significant stretch of time. There’s nothing to stop you from repeating the words or phrases that you hear spoken in a TV program, especially if you turn subtitles on!

Another great strategy for listening and repeating Italian sounds and intonation, and for getting feedback, is of course to talk with a native speaker. You could also use a language learning app which features specific pronunciation activities, like Busuu. In addition to including many activities focused on pronunciation within every lesson, Busuu allows you to record phrases or short texts and get feedback from native speakers!

As you can see, the internet, TV and apps offer you plenty of opportunities to listen to the sounds and intonation of Italian. Of course, a trip to Italy would be ideal to fill your ears with Italian sounds and repeat them back! And based on where you go in Italy, you will hear some very different varieties of Italian. Read on to learn more about different accents in Italy!

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Accents in Italy

How does an Italian accent sound? In reality, like in other countries, few people in Italy speak with a ‘standard’ Italian accent. Each region has a unique accent, and often several different accents coexist even in the same region.

Take Lombardy, one of the biggest regions in Italy – Milan and Bergamo are only about 50 km apart, but the accents in the two cities are completely different. Normally these accents come from the local dialects spoken in each region. In this section, we will give an overview of some well-known Italian accents.

The Neapolitan accent

This is one of the most picturesque Italian accents, made famous by classic actors like Totò but also by more recent TV shows like Gomorrah and The Sea Beyond, where most characters speak a mix of Neapolitan and Italian with a Neapolitan accent.

Neapolitan is a very lively language in itself and as such it is still widely spoken nowadays. However, it is also a very distinctive accent that characterizes the speech of people from Naples. Here are some features of this accent:

  • The letter ‘s’ becomes ‘sh’ before other consonants. For example scuola (school) becomes ‘shcuola’ and sposa (wife) becomes shposa.’
  • Final vowels are changed into the ‘neutral’ sound [ə] (similar to the English sound ‘uh’). For example, parlo (I speak) becomes ‘parlə,’ fatto (done) becomes ‘fattə’, and pizza becomes ‘pizzə.’
  • Many words, especially names, are cut off after the stressed syllable. Gennaro, a typical Neapolitan name, becomes ‘Gennà,’ Rosanna becomes ‘Rosà’, and compare (appears) becomes ‘compà,’ to name a few.
  • The sound ‘gl’ is not pronounced like in standard Italian, but more like English ‘y.’ For instance, the end of the word moglie (wife) sounds similar to ‘ye’ in ‘year.’

If you’re curious, you can hear an example of the Neapolitan accent in this video, where a journalist interviews one of the most famous Neapolitan actors, Massimo Troisi. You could also listen to the song O Sole mio, which has made Neapolitan famous all over the world!

The Roman accent

The Roman accent in Italy is generally considered genuine and down to earth. This accent has also been popularized by Italian films and TV series, being the most common accent in TV productions. The recent TV series Skam Italia, for example, very popular among young viewers, features a fully Roman cast.

Here are some of the most distinctive features of the Roman accent:

  • As with Neapolitan, words (especially verbs) are often cut off, usually (but not always) after the stressed syllable. For example, “Mi fa ridere” (It makes me laugh) becomes “Me fa ride", and “Devo andare” (I have to go) becomes “Devo **anna**’.”
  • The standard Italian structure ‘stare + gerund’ (to be doing) becomes ‘stare + a+ infinitive,’ so “Che stai facendo?” (What are you doing?) becomes “Che stai a fa’?”
  • The consonant ‘l’ becomes ‘r’ before another consonant, so alzati (get up) becomes ‘arzati,’ falso (false / fake) becomes ‘farzo’ and the definite article il (the) turns into ‘er.
  • The consonant ‘r’ is pronounced as single even when it’s double – terra (earth / land) becomes ‘tera,’ guerra (war) becomes ‘guera,’ and so on.
  • Other consonants like ‘b’ and soft ‘g’ are doubled where possible, so libero (free) becomes ‘libbero’ and logico (logical) becomes ‘loggico.’
  • The sound ‘nd’ becomes ‘nn’ – quando (when) is pronounced as ‘quanno,’ andiamo (let’s go) becomes ‘annamo,’ and so on.
  • Like Neapolitan, the sound ‘gl’ is pronounced differently from standard Italian, similar to English ‘y’ (see the section on the Neapolitan accent above).

Here’s a video where you can listen to the Roman accent spoken by Gigi Proietti, a famous Roman-born actor.

The Sicilian accent

Sicily is a big island, and the dialects spoken in its cities can be very different from each other. However, there are similarities in the accent of Sicilians when they speak Italian.

Among other TV productions, the Sicilian accent has been made famous in Italy and abroad by the crime series Inspector Montalbano, based on Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri’s detective novels. Following are some of the most prominent features of this accent:

  • The distinction between open and closed ‘e’ and ‘o, which we’ve described above, does not exist. The vowels ‘e’ and ‘o’ are always pronounced as open and never as closed. The vowels ‘i’ and ‘u’ are also pronounced as more open than they are in standard Italian.
  • Vowels, especially the vowel ‘i,’ are dropped when they come at the beginning of a word: importante (important) becomes ‘mpurtanti,’ americano (American) becomes ‘miricanu,’ and so on.
  • The consonant groups ‘str’ and ‘sdr’ change their pronunciation to something like ‘shr,’ where ‘t’ and ‘d’ disappear and are replaced by a sort of whistle – strada (street) becomes ‘shrada,’ sdraiato (lying down) becomes ‘shraiato,’ and so on.
  • When ‘r’ comes at the beginning of a word, it is pronounced as double – romano (Roman) becomes ‘rrumanu,’ and the name Rosa becomes ‘Rrosa.’
  • The vowel for masculine singular is ‘u’ rather than ‘o’ like in standard Italian, and u is also the masculine singular definite article ‘the’ (in standard Italian it’s il). So il tavolo (the table) becomes ‘u tavulu,’ il vino (the wine) is ‘u vinu,’ and so on.
  • The sound ‘ll’ turns to ‘dd’ – bello (beautiful, masculine singular) becomes ‘beddu’ and cappello (hat) becomes ‘cappeddu.’

If you are curious, you can hear different Sicilian accents in this video. Here’s another short video taken from an episode of Inspector Montalbano where you can hear the Sicilian accent!

The Tuscan accent

Historically, the Tuscan dialect formed the basis for standard Italian. But languages evolve quickly, and nowadays the Italian varieties spoken in Tuscany have some unusual characteristics that make them a little different from standard Italian.

Like Sicily, Tuscany is a big region where each city has a different accent and way of speaking. But again, there are some similarities among these varieties, and we illustrate the most important below.

  • The most distinctive aspect of the Tuscan accent is the so-called ‘Tuscan gorgia,’ in which the ‘c’ is aspirated when it comes before ‘a,’ ‘o’ and ‘u’ and becomes similar to English ‘h’ – la casa (the house) becomes ‘la hasa,’ la formica (the ant) becomes ‘la formiha,’ and so on. This language feature also affects the consonants ‘t’ and ‘p,’ which are pronounced similar to English sounds ‘th’ and ‘ph’ when occurring between two vowels – Italia (Italy) becomes ‘Ithalia,’ la porta (the door) becomes ‘la phorta,’ and so on.

  • ‘C’ and ‘g’ before ‘i’ and ‘e’ are pronounced with a softer sound than in standard Italian, similar to English ‘sh’ and French ‘je’ – cena (dinner) becomes ‘scena,’ gente (people) becomes ‘sgente,’ and so on.

  • Possessive adjectives are shortened, so il mio lavoro (my job) becomes ‘il mi’ lavoro,’ la tua macchina (your car) becomes ‘la tu’ macchina,’ la sua ragazza (his / her girlfriend) becomes ‘la su’ ragazza,’ and so on.

  • The verbs faccio (I do) and vado (I go) are shortened to ‘fo’ and ‘vo.’

  • The negative word non (not) is pronounced ‘un.’

If you’d like to hear an example of a Tuscan accent, you can listen to Roberto Benigni, the famous Italian actor and director who won an Oscar for Life is Beautiful, speaking in this video.

Wrapping up

If you’re wondering how to get an Italian accent, listening to the sounds of the language and trying to imitate an Italian accent is a great way to practice. Bearing in mind that the Italian accent is more like a range of different accents across the Italian peninsula, there are many things you can do to get closer to speaking with an Italian accent.

Pronouncing vowels correctly is the most important trick – it’s essential to do a lot of practice with vowel sounds as they are quite different from English ones. Don’t be scared of sounding ridiculous – if you do, you’re doing it right! Pronouncing double letters correctly is another trick that will make you sound more Italian. Finally, imitating the intonation and rhythm of Italian is key to really nailing the Italian accent.

By focusing on these tips and tricks, you can certainly improve your Italian accent. And who knows? You might even one day be able to pass for a native speaker!

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