Watching Italian TV shows is a fantastic way to practice, because you can do ALL the following things at once:

  • Train yourself to understand native speakers better by listening to realistic conversations.
  • Get into Italian culture and “visit” different places in Italy, without leaving your couch!
  • Lose yourself in a story – you build an emotional connection to Italian which helps you remember words and grammar.

However, there are a few things to watch out for.

First, it can be difficult to find the right show. You might not know which Italian TV shows are available or where to start looking.

Secondly, Italian TV shows are made for native speakers, so they’re difficili, even if you’ve been learning Italian for a while. Without the right techniques in place, you might get discouraged and give up too soon, without getting the benefits of this fun and relaxing way to learn Italian.

So in this article, compiled by Ermy from the Language Rose and Katie from Joy of Languages, you’ll find two sections.

The first section will help you find Italian TV shows to watch. The second will show you what to do with the show, including step by step guides on:

  • What to do when you don’t understand.
  • How to use Italian shows to train yourself to understand and speak to Italians in real life.
  • Activities to feel like you’re making progress, with tips on how to remember the grammar and vocabulary.

Let’s start with our top 53 Italian TV shows. Cominciamo!‌

Italian TV‌ shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime

We’ll start with Katie’s list because you can find most of them on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Below, you’ll also find a list of Ermy’s favourite Italian classics.

A couple of pro tips…

1. Not all series are available in all countries because of distribution rights. To see what’s available in your country, try typing Italian language TV shows in the search bar.

Do a quick search for “Italian language TV shows” to see what’s available.

2. For some of the Youtube clips in this post, you can turn on the subtitles. They can be a little buggy because they’re autogenerated, but they’re still a great help in understanding.

For some Youtube videos, you can turn on the subtitles to help you understand.

Made in Italy

Set in Milan in the 1970s, this drama follows the lives of interns, journalists, designers, and models during a period when Italy’s fashion industry was becoming world famous.

Wrapped up in the exciting new world of fashion, the series explores themes of the changing times, including sexuality, women in the workforce and the lifestyles of the stylists who built up the industry in Italy.

The pretty cinematography pulls you in, making you feel like you just spent the last hour walking around the historical buildings and chic streets of Milano.

Where:‌ Amazon Prime

Rocco Schiavone

A vice police chief is transferred from his home city in Rome to the small mountain town Aosta under mysterious circumstances.

Based on the novels of Antonio Manzini, Rocco Schiavone is the ultimate antihero – a rule breaking, weed smoking cop, who you immediately warm to.

Where: Amazon prime

L’Allieva

Medical student Alice has doubts about her future plans. After the death of her grandmother’s carer, she discovers a new career path in forensic medicine.

Based on the book by Alessia Gazzola, this light and very watchable series follows the every-so-slightly goofy Alice as she tries to find her feet in the world of work and love.

The narrations and dialogues are clearer compared to some of the other series in this list, so this is a good place to start for intermediate learners. When you watch the series, I’d recommend turning on the Italian subs for a helping hand so you can read and listen at the same time.

Where: Amazon prime

L’amica geniale (My brilliant friend)

Adapted from the well-loved novel by Elena Ferrante, this coming-of-age drama set in 1950s Naples is perfect if you want to immerse yourself in beautiful Italy from your sofa.

Follow the story of two girls growing up in post-war Italy and the complications they face as their lives become intertwined between the Camorra (a mafia-style organisation in Naples) and communist ideals.

You’ll find a solid story, talented actors and a gorgeous cinematography that makes you feel like you’re looking out over Vesuvius and walking along the cobbled streets right next to the characters.

There’s one catch – a lot of the dialogue is in the Neapolitan dialect, so it’s not ideal for beginner or intermediate learners. This one’s best for for advanced learners who want to get used to hearing how people speak in different regions of Italy.

Where: Amazon Prime, HBO. You can also find some clips of My brilliant friend in Italian on Youtube.

Liberi sognatori (Ordinary heroes)

This touching series explores the lives and deaths of four courageous Italian citizens who stood up to criminal organisations in Italy. Based on true stories, you’ll learn more about:

Libero Grassi, a Sicilian clothes manufacturer who refused to pay il pizzo, the protection money demanded by the mafia.

Mario Francese, a journalist who was killed after exposing the criminal activity of Toto Riina and the Corleone clan, and his son’s fight for justice twenty years later.

Renata Fonte, a politician and the first female victim in Salento, who opposed corrupt property developers and fought to save Porto Selvaggio, a natural park in the South of Italy.

Where: Netflix

Baby

Inspired by a true case that happened in Rome in 2013,  this dark teen drama is centered on the lives of two young private-school students who become involved in a prostitution ring to gain financial independence and fund expensive lifestyles.

While the real events caused a scandal in Italy, uncovering a number of high profile clients, including government officials, the fictional series focuses more on the psychology and relationships of the two characters. What could have driven two girls to choose this lifestyle? What consequences will their secret have on the people around them and their futures?

Some of the characters speak in the Romanesco dialect, so it’ll be handy to turn on Italian subs for this one.

Where: Netflix

Il miracolo (The miracle)

A police officer finds a statue of the Virgin Mary crying blood, which laboratory tests confirm to be real, human blood. The series explores reactions of police, politicians and the church, as the statue leads to unexpected complications in the personal lives of those involved.

Celebrated Italian author Niccolò Ammaniti made his TV debut with il Miracolo which did not disappoint. I loved this series – it kept me awake as I couldn’t stop myself from watching the next episode!‌

Where: Sky Atlantic, Apple TV. Sorry I cheated, I wanted the whole list to be shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave this one out!‌

First team Juventus

This documentary series follows Juventus players on and off the field as they attempt to win their 7th consecutive Italian title and prepare for the Champions League.

Players include Federico Bernardeschi, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa and Gonzalo Higuaín.

If you’re into football, this is a great way to learn more about the team and brush up on your Italian at the same time.

Where: Netflix

Romanzo criminale

This cult series, based on the novel and film of the same name, tells the story of three friends who are members of the Banda della Magliana, a mafia-style group based in Rome. Things get messy as they attempt to unite and gain control of the various criminal organisations in the city.

Inspired by true events, this violent series is not for the faint hearted, but you’ll like it if you enjoy a good gangster story. A lot of the dialogue is in Romanesco, the local dialect spoken in the capital, which means that this one is probably best for advanced listeners.

Where:‌ Amazon prime video, Sky Arts.

Il processo (The trial)

Public prosecutor Elena Guerra finds herself working on the case of a murder of 17 year old Angelica, and it turns out she’s linked to the victim.

I highly recommend this one – the series is well made and the actors are great.

Where: Netflix

Boris

This comedy is probably my favourite Italian show of all time. Set behind the scenes of a popular fiction (soap opera), this parody makes fun of the daily goings on between the directors, actors and production teams.

It’s one of those classics you can watch over and over with your friends – years later our conversations are still peppered with quotes from this show.

If you like cult comedy series like Arrested Development or Modern Family, you might appreciate the dry humor of this Italian show.

I’d also recommend checking out the film with the same name.

Where: The series used to be on Netflix but since it’s been taken down it’s pretty tricky to find. At the time of writing, the series is available on Daily Motion with English subtitles.

Gomorra

Back in Naples, this series is based on the book of the same name, written by journalist Saviano who infiltrated and exposed the criminal underworld in his home city. Written like a novel, but based on true events, Saviano – who’s been living under police protection for over 10 years – created a new, gripping genre, that exposed the Camorra (the mafia in Naples) to Italians, and later to the rest of the world in a way that had never been done before.

The TV series doesn’t maintain much of the investigative journalism style of the book, but it does show the gritty realism of gang life in Naples.

In 2008, the book was turned into an award-winning film of the same name. Many actors were non-professional locals with real gang connections, and some have since been arrested for crimes including murder and drug trafficking.

I‌ wasn’t sure whether to include Gomorra because both the film and the series are in the local Neapolitan dialect, a language so different from Italian that even Italians need subtitles to watch it. But the book, film and series have been an important part of the conversation in Italy, so I‌ thought you might like to know more about them.

Here’s a little more about the writer, who collaborated with the makers of the series.

Saviano is a well-loved personality in modern Italian culture and if you’re interested in learning more about his life, you should check out the documentary made by the famous – and extremely likeable – host and director, Pif.

Where:‌ Depending on where you are, the series may be available on Amazon prime or Sky Atlantic. You’ll find the documentary about Roberto Saviano on Netflix.

I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone (The bastards of Pizzofalcone)

Still in Naples, in this series a team of police officers arrive to replace their colleagues caught up in a drug trafficking case. Fished from the rejects of other police stations, the new team earn themselves the name i bastardi.

Where:‌ Amazon Prime

Skam Italia

This Italian remake of the Norwegian high-school series explore the dark side of being a teenager in today’s hyper-connected world. Told between Instagram and Whatsapp, the realistic stories deal with friendship, fall outs, sex and religion.

Where: Netflix

Nero a metà (Carlo e Malik)

In this cheesy cop series, stuck-in-his-ways inspector Carlo is forced to adapt when he starts collaborating with Malik, a 28 year old deputy born on the Ivory Coast.

The way the show deals with race is clumsy at times, but it does a good job at exposing the old fashioned assumptions and challenges that adopted and second generation kids face growing up as Italians in Italy. For example, when investigating a crime scene:

Carlo: In Italy, we make scaffolding with these.

Malik: I know, I grew up here.

The series is easy watching, with intriguing cases and a blossoming love story between Malik and Carlo’s daughter, Alba.

Where: Netflix

Il cacciatore (the hunt)

Loosely inspired by the real life story of antimafia judge Alfonso Sabella, this series follows a young prosecutor fighting to put members of the Sicilian mafia behind bars following a series of bombings in the early 90s.

Where: Amazon Prime

Luna nera

Based on the novels by Tiziana Triana, young midwife Ade discovers witches in her family. To complicate matters, the father of her loved one becomes involved in the witch hunt, accusing her and her grandmother of witchery.

Where: Netflix

Suburra

This criminal drama series, inspired by the 2015 film and the book of the same name, is based on real events of the Mafia Capitale investigation, which exposed a series of corrupt relationships between politicians and the criminal underworld in Rome.

The first Italian language TV series to appear on Netflix, the series is a prequel, exploring the lives and power struggles of those involved before the events came to light.

There’s a lot of dialect in this one, so it’s not the best series for learning standard Italian, but it’s perfect for training yourself to get used to strong regional varieties of Italian, and an overall gripping story to get lost in.

Where: Netflix

I segreti di Borgo Larici (Secrets of Borgo Larici)

After years in Paris, Francesco returns to his home in Piedmont, Italy, after receiving a mysterious note claiming that his mother, who committed suicide years ago, is still alive. This mini series, set against the backdrop of social unrest in 1920s Italy, is full of drama, great costumes and of course, a star-crossed romance.

Where: Amazon prime. If you’re in Italy, you can find it on Mediaset Play.

1992 (Berlusconi Rising)

This series is based on mani pulite (literally “clean hands”), the investigation that shook the entire country by exposing political corruption in Italy in the early 90s.

A wealthy business man attempts to turn the events to his advantage and rise to power. Perhaps thinking that the allusion might be lost on foreign viewers, outside of Italy they added the subtitle “Berlusconi Rising”.

Whenever I ask Italians for TV show recommendations, this one always comes up. If you like dramas like House of Cards, Westwing or Madmen, you’ll probably really enjoy this one.

Look out for the follow up series:‌ 1993 and 1994.

Where: Depending on your location, you can look for this series on Sky, Amazon prime or Apple TV.

Celebrity Hunted: Caccia all’Uomo

In this Italian version of the hit British TV show Hunted, eight Italian celebrities go on the run for 14 days with nothing but an old cellphone and a card to withdraw €70 a day. A team of professionals, including criminologists, hackers, cyber security experts and ex-police officers are tasked with hunting them down.

A fun way to learn a little more about Italian culture, the celebrities include footballers, musicians and actors. Also, because it’s a reality TV show, there’s no script – it’s great for hearing Italians speak in a natural spontaneous way.

Where: Amazon prime

Francesco de Carlo: Cose di questo mondo

Warm, funny and a little politically incorrect, Roman comedian Francesco de Carlo talks life, politics and global travel in this stand-up comedy show.

There’s only one episode, so it’s not technically a series, but it’s all good Italian listening material. And if you can understand stand up comedy in Italian, you can follow anything!‌

Here’s an example of Francesco in action, talking about how Italians are seen abroad (turn on the subs if you need a little help).

Where: Netflix

Edoardo Ferrario: Temi caldi

Similarly, you can try watching this stand up from Edoardo Ferrario, the first Italian comedian to get his own show on Netflix.

Between impressions and observational humor, he deals with various temi caldi (hot topics) including life in his 30s, social media and craft beer.

Next, I’ll pass you over to Ermy, a native Italian teacher, so she can share some of her favourite classic Italian TV shows.

Ermy’s favourite Italian TV shows

When I’m in Italy visiting family, I still watch some of these series myself as they’re fairly recent and there are always new seasons coming up. And if there’s no new season, it’s likely that in summer, when most Italian channels are “on holiday”, they rerun.

If you’re in Italy or you have a VPN, you can watch these series on the official websites of the Italian TV channels. You’ll also find links to Youtube clips so you can check them out.

Che Dio ci aiuti

This series is about the adventures of Suor Angela, an upbeat and fairly nosy (in a good way!) Italian nun who get herself involved in all sort of things, from love stories to crime stories to random people’s family business.

Regardless of the religious setting, this is a fun and uplifting series to watch suitable for all ages. What I love the most about it is Suor Angela’s character: she’s an unshakable optimist and, at times, rebellious spirit.

Where: If you’d like to check this series out, here’s a youtube playlist with some episodes from the first series: Che Dio ci aiuti.

It’s also available in Italy on Rai Play.

I Cesaroni

The name of this series comes from the surname of the family starring it. The Cesaroni are an enlarged family, made up of two different families coming together after a second marriage. They all live in the Garbatella, one of the main neighbourhoods in Rome. Themes like love, friendship, brotherhood and marriage are all nicely depicted in this series and if you like love stories with a fun twist, this is the series for you.

Cultural tip: in this series you’ll not only hear standard Italian but also Romanesco, the dialect of Rome. So this may be the right choice for you if you are a more advanced learner and also a wonderful way to find out more about how people in Rome really speak to each other.

Personally, I love this series because most characters are quite loud and very amusing.

Where: Here’s a playlist on Youtube with some popular scenes from I Cesaroni. If you’re in Italy, you can find the series on Mediaset play.

Provaci ancora, prof

“Provaci ancora” means “try again” and “prof” is the short for “professoressa” which means “teacher”. If you’d like to find out what school in Italy is like and at the same time enjoy crime stories, this series is for you.

The main character is Camilla Baudino, a high school teacher that likes getting herself involved in some crime stories and collaborating with policemen to resolve a variety of cases.

You can find parts of the episodes on You Tube:

Il Commissario Montalbano

Il commissario Montalbano is the chief of the state police station of Vigata, a fictional town in Sicily. He investigates various crimes in his area, which he manages to solve thanks to his intelligence and the help of various characters he encounters on his journey. If you love detective stories, you should definitely watch this series!

Here’s part of an episode of Commissario Montalbano on YouTube:

Where: This series is popular all over the world, so you might be able to find it on a broadcasting service in your country. For example, in the UK, you can find it on BBC iPlayer. In Australia, it’s broadcast on SBS.

You might also be able to find it on Amazon Prime, or if you’re in Italy, you can watch the series on RaiPlay.

Un Medico in Famiglia

This series depicts an average Italian family and their busy and funny family life. The main character of this series is a doctor (“un medico”) who lives with his family in the same house where everyone gets involved in each other’s business and the concept of privacy doesn’t really exist! 

The lively, united and amusing family of un Medico in Famiglia will show you the way average Italians deal with daily life issues (love, school, career…) and will make you laugh, cry, and also understand that sometimes, “Una parola è troppa e due sono poche” (one word is too much and two are too few), as Nonno Libero says!

You can find some scenes from Un medico in famiglia on Youtube.

Where: If you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you’ll also find Un medico in famiglia on Rai Play.

Italian TV shows: Soap operas and reality TV

Note from Katie:‌ Confession time – I’m a big fan of using soaps and reality shows to learn Italian! These kinds of series have a few advantages:‌

  • Simpler language: reality shows and soap operas are based on everyday life, so you learn vocabulary that’s more useful for real conversations.
  • No complicated plot to follow:‌ you probably have enough on your plate with the Italian, so the simpler the storyline, the better!
  • Guilt-free: you can indulge in this guilty pleasure for as long as you like because you’re learning Italian at the same time!

There are a couple of advantages when it comes to listening too. In soap operas, the over-the-top acting can actually be helpful for learning Italian because the intonation makes speech clearer.

Conversely, reality TV shows are a great way to train yourself to understand natural Italian. You’re a fly on the wall, listening to how Italians speak in real life. This means you’ll learn lots of common little words, expressions and natural pronunciation points that might not show up in scripted shows.

Un posto al sole

From Monday to Friday at 20:45, millions of Italians sit down to follow the lives of the residents of Palazzo Palladini, a villa by the sea in Naples. Running for over 20 years, this soap opera is an Italian institution.

Based on the format of the Australian soap Neighbours, expect the usual plots:‌ love triangles, paternity tests, criminal activity and other family secrets.
To date, there are over 5000 episodes, so you won’t be short of listening materials!

Where: You can find parts of some episodes on Youtube, or if you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you can catch the whole series on Rai play.

Italian Masterchef

Join wannabe cooks in the kitchen as they’re put under pressure by famous Italian chefs.

I’m not normally a big fan of the Masterchef format but the Italian one is brilliant, perhaps because of the importance of food in Italian culture. Expect stunning locations, lots of laughter and a few tears.

Where: Check out the Masterchef Youtube channel here.

The real housewives of Naples

Set amongst the beautiful backdrop of Naples, follow this group of rich and brash women as they go shopping, eat in fancy restaurants and spend most of the time fighting and bitching about each other.

Where: If you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you can find the whole series on DPlay – the perfect platform for trashy Italian TV!

Il paradiso delle signore

This series is a hybrid between a soap opera and a period drama, which follows the lives and loves of a group of women working in the first big department store in 1950s Italy.

Where: Amazon prime, Rai play.

Grande fratello (Big brother)

You know the drill – put a bunch of big personalities in a small house for a few months and sit back and watch as all hell breaks loose. This is an especially good one for eavesdropping on Italian conversations.

Where: If you’re in Italy or you have a VPN, you can watch the whole series on Mediaset play.

Uomini e donne (Men and women)

Running since 1996, this dating show is another Italian institution. Originally a chat show where couples would discuss their problems in public, it took on the format of dating show in 2001.

There’s a tronista (person who sits on the throne) and gets to choose between various corteggiatori or corteggiatrici (male or female suitors).

Italian trash TV at its best, this one’s perfect for if you want to switch off your brain and focus on trying to understand colloquial Italian.

Where: You can find lots of clips on the Uomini e donne Youtube channel, or the whole series in Italy on Mediaset Play.

Amici

This talent show follows a group of young aspiring singers and dancers as they practice and perform for judges and a studio audience.

Maria De Filippi, who also happens to be the presenter of the previous entry, wrote and developed the show and is a household name in Italy.

If you like shows like X Factor and America’s got talent, you’ll love this one. Bonus: compared to similar shows, Amici focuses more on behind the scenes moments between the contestants, which gives you more opportunity to listen to natural Italian conversations.

Where:‌ You can watch some scenes on the Youtube channel or if you’re in Italy you can find the whole series on Mediaset play.

Temptation Island Italia

You probably know the drill for this one too – put some couples and some singles together on an island and things start to get interesting!

Where: You can find the Temptation Island Youtube channel here and watch full episodes in Italy on Witty TV.

Una vita in bianco

This web series follows the lives of three friends in their early twenties as they navigate life between social media and romance.

It’s light (and pretty cheesy!) and the episodes are around 6 minutes long – perfect for squeezing in a bit of Italian listening around your day.

Where: watch some clips on youtube here, or see the full episodes in Italy on Witty TV.

Italian TV shows: Youtube

The big Italian TV networks also have Youtube channels, so you can check out some clips and sometimes full episodes. You’ll get a nice idea of what’s available on the channels and the chance to dip your toe into Italian culture.

La7

On the Youtube channels of this Italian TV Network, you’ll find full episodes of a lot of their shows, divided by genre. For example, on their news channel, La7 attualità, you’ll find full episodes of current affairs shows such as Otto e mezzo, Coffee break and Omnibus.

For straight up news, try TG La7 and for something a little lighter, try their entertainment channel La7 Intrattenimento where you’ll find shows like Uozzap (a play on the Italian pronunciation of “Whats app”) or gardening show L’erba del vicino.

Finally, you’ll also find La7d, where the network publishes their daytime and reality TV such as cooking, chat and travel shows.

For more cooking, you can also check out their channel Food Maniac.

La Rai

Rai is the national broadcasting company in Italy. On the Rai Youtube channel, you’ll find clips and sometimes full episodes of shows across their full network, including radio shows.

To immerse yourself in Italian culture, look out for Italia sì, a show which covers mini stories in the everyday lives of the Italian public. Or hone your general knowledge and vocabulary with the game show L’Eridità.

You’ll also find some classic current affairs and daytime TV shows such as Report and La vita in diretta.

Mediaset

On the Mediaset Youtube channel, you’ll find light “daytime TV” style entertainment, such as dating, chat and cooking shows.

Full episodes on youtube

Here are a few other series that, at the time of writing, are available to watch on Youtube with automated subtitles:

Dov’è mia figlia: A 4 episode mini detective series in which a young girl goes missing.

Amore pensaci tu: a drama centered on four fathers and their family responsibilities.

Le tre Rose di Eva: a telenovela style show – expect lots of drama and over the top acting!

La squadra: a nostalgic cop show set in Naples

For more Italian Youtube channels, check out this post:

14 addictive Italian Youtube channels to learn Italian (with subtitles)

BONUS: Dubbed series in Italian!

Did you know that in Italy, foreign films and series are dubbed in Italian? This means that there are loads of shows with Italian audio that you may want to watch (or rewatch!) too!

It helps to choose a TV series or a film you already know and love – this way you’ll be able to follow the storyline better and pick up new words whilst developing your listening skills.

Here are some examples:

  • Friends
  • Orange is the new black
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Stranger things
  • Westwing
  • House of cards
  • Madmen
  • Una mamma per amica – the Italian version of Gilmore Girls!

The list is endless… whatever your favourite show is, you can probably find it dubbed in Italian. Do a quick search on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky or any other platform you use and you should find many more series that you can watch in Italian.

Also, have a look at the old DVDs you have at home and see on the cover what languages they can be watched in. If Italian is featured, you’re set!

If you need more advice on dealing with the kind of fast speech that you find in TV series and films, you can watch Ermy’s video on how to train your listening:

How to learn Italian by watching TV shows

The shows above are all aimed at native speakers, which means that it’ll be easier for you to watch them if you’re already at an intermediate level or above.

At this level, you’ll gradually be able to start picking up more and more of what’s said (especially if you can find them with Italian subtitles)‌ and you’ll get lots of exposure to grammar and vocabulary to help everything sink in.

Not there yet?‌ Non c’è problema! You can enjoy Italian TV‌ shows at lower levels, all you need are a few extra strategies in place.

In the rest of this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose the right TV shows for your tastes and level.
  • Strategies for when you don’t understand.
  • Activities to help you make progress as you watch Italian TV shows.

Which Italian TV show should I choose?

When thinking about which show to choose, there are two things to bear in mind.

  1. Do I like the show?‌
  2. Is the language the right level/useful enough?

It’s important to choose a show that you really like. Why? Learning to understand the dialogues in Italian TV shows takes a lot of patience and effort. If you don’t like the show, you’ll lose motivation quickly.

On the flip side, if you pick a show you really like, you’ll be motivated to try and follow what’s happening. You’ll be happy to dedicate more time and energy to looking up words and rewinding bits to make sure you understood. This means that you’ll learn more Italian!

How to choose an Italian show at the right level

I have a Brazilian friend Fabricio who speaks fab English. One of his favourite series is “Game of Thrones”. However, he pointed out that this wouldn’t be a very useful series for learners, for a few reasons:

  1. The speech is difficult to understand, with lots of strong accents. 
  2. The language isn’t very useful. When was the last time you heard someone use the words “jester” or “dagger” in a conversation?
  3. The episodes last for an hour, which is a bit overwhelming.

His advice? To find out whether an Italian TV show is the right level for you is to try it out!

Choose a show and play an episode. If you can, try to find one with subtitles in Italian. These will help you follow the speech more easily, see words you already know in use, learn new vocabulary and get used to the sounds of Italian. If you need to pause to catch up and read the subtitles, that’s fine.

If you understood enough to get the general gist of what was going on, ottimo!‌ When you come across new words and phrases, you can pause the episode to write them down or add them to a flashcard app to help you memorise the words later.

Pro tip: Focus on understanding the general gist. Don’t pause to look up every new word because that’ll get old quickly! I’d recommend just doing it for:‌

1. Words which are key to understanding the plot – you can’t understand what’s going on unless you find out the meaning of this word.

2. Words or phrases that you feel drawn to and think might be useful in your own conversations.

Over time, you’ll get faster at understanding (pausing less) and when you watch a lot of Italian TV, you might reach the stage where you can ditch the subtitles altogether. But don’t feel like you need to rush this – watching TV without subtitles is for very advanced levels, and you can still learn a lot with the subtitles on.

Aiuto! What if I don’t understand anything?

If you find that Italian TV is impossibile to follow, that’s ok, and totally normal!

Italian TV shows are designed for native speakers. People who’ve spent their whole lives – at least 105120 hours for an 18 year old – listening to spoken Italian. It’s normal that they’re difficult to understand for learners!‌ Even if you’ve spent a few hundred hours listening, it’s likely that you’ll need a lot more practice before you can comfortably understand TV shows.

So in this section, we’ll look at activities you can do to make the dialogues easier to understand.

1. Try the Language Learning with Netflix app

There are two main reasons that Italian TV is hard to follow. Either:

  1. You don’t know the words.
  2. They speak too fast.

There’s a brilliant Chrome extension that can help. It’s called Language Learning with Netflix and it makes Italian TV shows easier to watch because it makes the subtitles interactive. Just click on a word you don’t know and the definition will pop up!‌

There are loads of other settings designed to help you learn too, for example:

  1. You can press the back key to hear the same line as many times as you like.
  2. There’s an optional side bar where you can quickly compare the sentence to the translation in your native language.

If you only do one thing after reading this article, give language learning with Netflix a try – it might be the best thing you ever do to improve your Italian!

2. Use Italian TV shows as a study resource

You might not be able to understand the show if you kick back and watch it as you would in your native language, but as long as you have subtitles (almost all the Netflix series do), there are lots of study activities you can do with the series to improve your Italian.

Here are a couple of posts with ideas:‌

5 smart ways to learn a language by watching TV and films

Improve your listening skills in a foreign language – the ultimate guide

This option isn’t as relaxing as watching a normal TV show, but it’s still a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom memorising verb tables.

3. Start with Italian shows designed for learners

When you learn Italian, it’s important to be patient and forgiving with yourself. Give yourself permission to be a learner for as long as it takes.

If normal shows are too much of a challenge at the moment, look for simplified series aimed at learners. For example, the Easy Italian Youtube channel has subtitles in Italian and English, to help you understand what’s being said.

If you find that people speak too fast in the street interviews, you can try the Super Easy Series.

Here are a couple of other series for Italian learners on Youtube that you might like too:

4. Join a video immersion service

If you’d like something a little more structured, there are platforms that take Italian videos, organise them, and add lots of features to help you learn.

For example, on the Yabla Italian video immersion platform, you can watch Italian clips such as music, interviews, news and Italian TV series. The videos are organised into levels, which takes out a lot of the work of having to look for stuff that’s suitable. They also have interactive subtitles you can click on to get definitions and a player which allows you to slow down the audio and skip back a few seconds. Finally, there’s also a system where you can record new words and play games to help you review.

5. Watch the Italian TV show with English subs

The final option is to watch the show with subtitles in your native language, or another language you speak well. This option isn’t ideal, because it can be too tempting to focus on reading the subtitles without listening to the Italian.

However, it can be good for immersing yourself in the culture, picking up a few words and getting used to the sounds of Italian.

As you watch, try to listen actively to the Italian and pay as much attention to the audio as possible. When you focus in this way, you’ll hear lots of common words that are repeated by the actors and start to be able to link them to words in your native language.

You can also write the words down and study them later. If you can’t identify the words by ear, try flipping over to the Italian subtitles to see the word written down.

In the meantime, keep studying Italian. Over time, you’ll be able to make more links between what you’re hearing and reading, until you’re ready for the next step: watching the series with subtitles in Italian.

Activities to boost your learning with Italian TV shows

Watching Italian TV shows is fantastico. You can get cosy with a glass of vino or a gelato and learn Italian at the same time. It’s a win.

But sometimes you might find a doubt creeping in…

  • Am I doing enough?
  • Shouldn’t I be “studying” harder?‌

Watching TV in itself is a great activity to boost your listening skills, vocabulary and grammar, but if you want to do something that feels more focused, there are some great activities you can do to boost your learning.

And the best bit – they still involve watching TV!

Check out the post below for some handy study strategies you can use to learn Italian by watching Italian TV shows:

Read this article for 5 smart ways to learn Italian by watching films and TV.

For more ideas on how to use TV series to learn Italian, you can check out Katie’s talk at the polyglot gathering in Bratislava:

Over to you

Have you seen any of these Italian TV shows?‌ What did you think‌?‌ Do you know any other good Italian TV shows or series dubbed in Italian that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below and let’s add to this list.

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Guest Post by Ermy Pedata

Once my English friend invited me to a karaoke night. I accepted straight away.

I love karaoke so it was going to be fun for sure, I thought.

Little did I know that at the end of that night I would feel singled out and a bit embarrassed too.

Reason: while everyone was singing full out all those English songs, I didn’t know a single lyric.

I am Italian. I was raised in Italy. Yes, I learned English as a second language but I had no idea about the kind of songs you can find at a British karaoke night. I felt like I was missing a huge piece of a cultural puzzle.

My English friends had grown up with those songs and they knew all of them because those songs had been the soundtrack of their lives in that country. Which was completely different from mine.

Which brings me to you, and the reason why I wanted to write this article.

If you’re learning Italian and want to understand Italian culture, it helps to know a bit of Italian popular music.

These kinds of songs are such a big part of Italian culture that it’s not rare to make reference to popular songs in the middle of conversations. For example, I don’t know how many times one of my friends, called Laura, has heard a joke about her name with reference to Nek’s song “Laura non c’è”.

Or how many times I heard my Italian friends use the refrain of the song “Perdono ” by Tiziano Ferro to apologise for something in an amusing way! (more about this song and the singer later).

Plus, Italians love singing. In the 90s, we had a very popular TV show called Karaoke where the host Fiorello used to travel around Italy hosting massive karaoke parties in the main Italian cities ( I went to one of those myself!). A huge crowd of people would gather to sing along and everything would be broadcasted on TV. Because we Italians are not embarrassed about showcasing our singing skills!

So, today I’d like to invite you to an Italian Karaoke Party and introduce you to some popular Italian songs.

And, if you’re looking for strategies about how to use songs to develop your language skills, you’ll find a few helpful ideas in this article: 

Learn a language through songs

But for now, let’s get to know a little bit more about the Italian culture through some of the most popular Italian songs, the kind you’ll be very likely to hear at a karaoke night in Italy. Some of the songs and singers mentioned in this article can be found on LyricsTraining, a great website where you can train your listening skills and have fun with popular Italian songs of every genre.

You’ll also find a Spotify playlist of these Italian songs, put together by Rebecca from Irregular Endings.

So let’s get this karaoke party started.

Songs to learn Italian #1: 50 special 

This one is one of my all time favourite songs. If you go to an Italian karaoke night you can be sure you’ll hear (and sing!) this song.

As you may know already, 50 Special is a kind of Vespa, the popular Italian scooter manufactured by the Italian brand Piaggio, which has become one of the symbols of Italian culture. This super cheerful song sings about the good times you have when riding a Vespa and the singer, Cesare Cremonini also celebrates and sings about the beautiful, summery, landscape of his native Italian region, Emilia Romagna. I bet you’d love to travel around the “colli bolognesi” with a Vespa too!

You can sing along here:

And here’s the English translation of 50 Special 

 

About the singer 

50 Special is sung by the Italian group Lunapop, which split up a few years ago. But the main singer, Cesare Cremonini, is still very active on the Italian music scene. His songs have often a very relaxing rhythm, and the lyrics can be at times deep, but also inspiring, like this one:

Songs to learn Italian #2: Mondo (World)

 

Songs to learn Italian #3: Ragazzo fortunato   

Ragazzo fortunato means “lucky boy” (in Italian the adjective goes after the noun!). It tells the story of a young boy who feels lucky and grateful for the little things in life. A song to sing when you feel happy about life, and we Italians love celebrating life, aka the “dolce vita” (sweet life). Personally, I love this line of the song ” Se devo dirla tutta, qui non è il paradiso ma all’inferno delle veritá, io mento col sorriso,” (If I have to say it all, here’s not the heaven, but in this hell of truths, I lie with a smile.).

About the singer

This song is by Lorenzo Cherubini, aka Jovanotti, who is a famous Italian rapper. Despite having a cheerful and upbeat rhythm, his songs often carry an important message to make people aware of social issues and injustice. A very popular song that does this is: 

Songs to learn Italian #4: L’ombelico del mondo 

This song by Jovanotti can be translated in English as “the belly button of the world”

 

Songs to learn Italian #5: Ligabue certe notti

Certe notti means “some nights”.  This song describes a seemingly lighthearted Italian night amongst friends. In a way, this song has different levels of interpretation. On the one hand, it celebrates the lightheartedness of Italian people, on the other, it draws attention to the shallowness of some people’s lives. This song is so popular that has been parodied many times.

Here’s the English translation of Certe Notti

About the singer

Ligabue is one of the most famous Italian pop-rock singers, second only to Vasco Rossi (more about Vasco below). Ligabue has been on the Italian music scene since the 80s and if you love his voice and his songs, you can find quite a few of them on LyricsTraining. 

Ligabue songs on Lyrics Training

Songs to learn Italian #6: Vado al Massimo 

“Vado al massimo” means “I go full out” and is an evergreen Italian song by Vasco Rossi which you always find at Karaoke night. This is the kind of song that you’d listen to to give yourself a boost of energy and enthusiasm. The lyrics of this song are not particularly meaningful or deep but they play a lot with word sounds and assonance of words.

A little cultural anecdote about this song: The Italian world champion racer Valentino Rossi told in a few interviews that one of his rituals prior to a race is to listen to this song to get a boost of motivation…so he could go full out!

Here’s the song’s translation: 

English translation of Vado Al Massimo

About the singer

Vasco Rossi is a real rockstar in Italy and if you like pop rock music,you should definitely listen to his songs. Some of them are also on LyricsTraining for you to get some practice too.

Vasco Rossi songs on Lyrics Training

Songs to Learn Italian #7: Nel blu dipinto di blu

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” literal means in “The Blue Painted Blue”.  This is a very classic Italian song, which is super popular abroad too. You may have heard it in its English version (with the title of “Volare” or “Fly” too.). The singer, Domenico Modugno, born in the Italian region of Puglia, was inspired to write this song to celebrate his land, its sea and blue sky. Personally, I love this song because its lyrics conjure up a feeling of freedom and light heartedness.

You can find it on lyrics training here: 

Blu dipinto di blu on Lyrics Training

And here’s the song’s translation 

Translation of Blu dipinto di blu

About the singer

Domenico Modugno is considered one of the fathers of Italian music. He was born in Polignano a Mare, in Puglia, one of the most beautiful Italian towns, today Unesco world heritage. I travelled a few weeks ago to his birthpace (and I took a photo under Domenico’s statue) and if you get the chance I’d advice you to visit his town too as it’s stunning and one of the most perfect places to speak Italian (I wrote about it in this article)

Songs to learn Italian #8: Ma il cielo è sempre più blu 

Sticking with the blue theme, let’s listen to this song by Rino Gaetano . The title means the sky is always bluer. Once again, this is a controversial song. At a first glance, this song seems to be optimistic and lighthearted. At a deeper level, this songs actually highlights the issues and problems of Italian society in the 70s, such as corruption or social injustice – and some of the issues mentioned are unfortunately still true today. There is also a cover version of this song by Giusy Ferreri which I find energizing and upbeat.

Here’s the recent cover of this song by Giusy Ferreri 

Here’s the translation: 

Ma il cielo è sempre più blu English translation

About the singer

Rino Gaetano was an Italian singer famous for his rough voice and he used his songs as a way to report social and political issues. He also wrote a book with the same title of this song, “Il cielo è sempre più blu”, in which he collected some of his songs; some of these songs were dedicated to important historical personalities like Louis Armstrong, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Martin Luther King e Mao Tse-tung. A pretty cool guy, Rino, who used his art as a mean to serve society and so many Italian singers went down that path after him (see Jovanotti, above)

Songs to learn Italian #9: Perdono 

Perdono means “forgiveness” or “sorry” and, as you may infer from he title, this song is all about forgiveness within a love story. Most Italian popular songs are love songs because, you know, Italian people are fairly romantic and passionate. By the way, from a linguistic point of view, if you can sing this song at its real speed, you’re an Italian pronunciation master.

Here’s the song’s translation

English translation of perdono

About the singer

Tiziano Ferro is the author and singer of this song and is a worldwide famous singer, who has sung not only in Italian but also Spanish, French and Portuguese. When he first started his singing career, he was fairly innovative as he managed to bring a mix of different genres into Italian popular music, like Pop, Blues, Soul, Rhythm and blues.

So, did you like these Italian songs? They by no means reflect the vast and varied landscape of Italian music, but I hope they’ll give you a sneak peek into the way Italians think. In popular Italian music, you’ll often find the lighthearted Italian way of looking at life but you may also find more meaningful songs with lyrics which talk about social issues or rave about the beauty of our Italian land. And, yes, we have some love stories here and there too!

Over to you!

Do you know an Italian song that you love and you’d like to share with us? What do you like about it and how did it help you learn the lovely Italian language?

Share it in the comments below as I’d love to sing it along!

Keep singing and enjoy your learning,

Ermy

 

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