Learn the basics to understand ?and mimic Florentine dialect with Destination Florence.

Italy is famous for having 31 extremely different dialects. We’re talking (literally) about languages in their own right that clearly differentiate people from various regions and areas. Florence has its own lingo too, even though it would be more accurate to call it a cadence, given that it’s not really a dialect. Florentine speak is immediately recognizable. Let’s find out why.

Dimmi: una hoca hola hon la hannuccia horta horta? Your average Florentine will have heard this phrase an endless number of times, even in the most remote corners of the world! It’s a made-up sentence that puts the Florentine and Tuscan “c” to the test. What it actually means is, “a Coca Cola with a short short straw.” Seems easy, right? The point is that Florentines don’t pronounce the letter C! This phonetic phenomenon, known as “gorgia toscana”, is believed to have derived from the Etruscans.

We should however clarify that Florentine has the same phonemes as Italian, so we are able to pronounce the letter C if we want to and, in many cases, we do. For instance, when we mimic a Florentine, we tend to replace all the Cs with Hs, but that’s wrong! We correctly pronounce the Cs found at the beginning of sentences, such as Come ti chiami? Che fai? (What’s your name? What do you do?). Even a word like Carne (meat) is pronounced with the C, as long as it’s not preceded by Florentines’ worst enemy: the definite article. In which case, the pronunciation becomes La Harne (the meat). Because vowels make life difficult!

The secret of perfectly imitating a Florentine lies in the letter T. As much as it’s the “uncool” friend of the letter C (everyone only ever talks about C!), Florentines actually aspirate their Ts as much, if not more, than their Cs. Try asking a Florentine to say the word “matematica”. Mission impossible! What they will say, unless they are concentrating in a wholly unnatural way, is mathemathiha. It’s all down to “gorgia toscana”!

Florentine dialect loves to use the diminutive -ino. When you’re hanging out with a Florentine, things are never belle, povere or poche (lovely, poor or a little). They are belline, poverine (or rather poerine) and pochine (or better still pohine). Just to name a few. Even Tuscan surnames very often end in -ini. 

Last but not least, if you want to pass yourself off as a born and bred Florentine (AKA, a fiorentino doc), you’ll need to abbreviate a few definite articles and possessive pronouns here and there. For example: Come sta i’ tu babbo? (how’s your dad? – breaking off the “il tuo” (your), and always saying Babbo, instead of Papà, another hallmark of Florentine dialect). Oh bellino, che mi passi i’ pane? (Oi mate, will you pass me the bread? – we use bellino affectionately among friends). Here’s another one: la mì mamma stasera fa la rostinciana (My mum’s cooking ribs tonight) – note the abbreviated possessive pronoun!

Now you’re ready to try a little local lingo, both Florentine and Tuscany. A word to the wise, however: there are many different dialects in Tuscany. If you say Boia dè (it has a wealth of meanings depending on the context!) to a Florentine, they will almost certainly turn their nose up as it’s a phrase that’s only used around Livorno. Just stick to these few basic rules and you’ll fit right in!