In the Italian language, degrees of affection matter. Despite the reputation Italians have garnered as passionate people, the language makes distinctions between romantic and familial love that are important to understand. If you trust Google translate to give you a straightforward interpretation of how to say “I love you” in Italian to English, you’ll miss all the lovely, fascinating nuance. And buy yourself a little embarrassment into the bargain.
As a romantic language, there are plenty of affectionate Italian sayings that run the gamut from cheesy to cute. Below you’ll find a deep dive into some of the most popular ways to say “I love you” in Italian accompanied by the social cues and niceties you should observe for each phrase.
1. Ti amo is “I love you” in Italian
Ask a translation engine to give you the phrase “I love you” in Italian, and it’ll point you towards ti amo. There’s just one tiny problem. This Italian phrase is specifically used to reflect romantic love for a significant other such as a spouse or fiancee. Ti amo implies lots of commitment and a level of intimacy that, like Parmigiano Reggiano, should never be thrown around casually in the Italian language. However, use it correctly as part of a couple, and you’ll definitely be rewarded.
2. Ti voglio bene is an Italian phrase for close friends and family
The close bonds siblings, parents, and other family members have for one another is no less significant than romantic devotion. Italians have their own expression for this kind of familial love, and it’s Ti voglio bene. Translated literally, ti voglio bene means “I want you well” which may not make much sense to an English speaker but is intended to communicate you care deeply for someone in a platonic way.
3. Add enthusiasm with molto or tanto
If ti amo doesn’t feel passionate enough, you can bump up the intensity by adding molto or tanto. For Italian speakers, it’s the equivalent of saying, “I love you lots” or “I love you very much.” If you’re not quite ready for that sort of intensity in your relationship, you can also opt for mi piaci molto which is “I like you lots.”
4. Sono innamorato (innamorata) di te is “I’m in love with you” in Italian
This Italian saying is for a specific kind of adoration, the kind that comes when you fall in love. Take the plunge and express your adoration with sono innamorato (innamorata) di te (“I’m in love with you”). If this particular phrase doesn’t strike the right mood, there are some variations of such as sono attratto/a da te (“I’m attracted to you”) or sono pazzo/a di te (“I’m crazy about you”).
5. Sei il mio tesoro is an Italian saying to treasure
The Italian phrase Sei il mio tesoro means “You’re my treasure,” and while it might sound a bit strange to your ears, it makes perfect sense to Italians. It’s a phrase that implies you cherish someone and is often used between parents and children or an older married couple, who understand the value of spending a lifetime together.
6. Amore mio is an Italian phrase with a playful side
The Italian phrase amore mio literally translates to “my love” and can be used as a term of endearment between sweethearts. However, it’s also commonplace as a playful expression exchanged between close friends or even children.
How do you express love in Italian?
There are more ways to express love than tossing a few Italian phrases around. Italians are family-focused people who engage in cheek kissing and embrace public displays of affection. While you may not want to jump right into grandiose public gestures with your beloved that make you uncomfortable, learning how to participate in the Italian custom of cheek kissing or il bacetto is a good place to start.
What is the meaning of bellissimo?
You may hear bellissimo, the Italian word for beautiful, bandied about quite a bit even towards strangers in the street. It’s intended as a gesture of politeness, specifically towards women, to complement their beauty. Beauty is a critical tenet of Italian culture and while the body positivity movement and feminism continue to gain traction in the region, Italians struggle with a history that has celebrated appearances.
Want to expand your expressions of love? Check out our video playlist to learn how to say “I love you” in 5 more languages.