We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your Italian customers. A web presence that is in tune with Italy’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them confidence to do business with you. By understanding these little yet important details, you'll be in a good position to not make costly mistakes in your new market.
2 The main language
Italian is the main spoken and written language.
A 2016 Italian Institute of Statistics report shows that 56% of Italians between 18 and 74 years old do not speak English.
The majority of online searches are in Italian.
Research has shown that Italians are not confident in speaking other languages.
Should you be formal or informal when addressing your Italian customers?
In Italy, most products are written about online in an informal way. At times this can verge on playful. Products with this informality include YouTube, Gmail, and Google Play.
If you have a financial product, a legal service, or are talking about money, you should adopt a more formal tone and style.
Ease of doing business in Italy
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report ranked Italy as 58th out of 190 countries.
4 Numbering systems and formats
- This is a comma (,)
- e.g. 1,5 hours.
- The thousand separator is a full stop (.)
- e.g.1.524 people.
The country code is +39. Landline phone numbers have the prefix 0. All mobile numbers have the prefix 3.
Phone numbers are separated by spaces as follows: (+39) 02 12345678.
The numbers after the initial two digit numbers can range from 8 to 11 in number.
Freephone numbers have the prefix 80.
5 Currency format
Italians trade in Euros. This is represented by the euro symbol € and its trading three letter code EUR. The € is placed after the figure. The coin denomination is the cent represented by a c.
The note denominations are 500€ 200€ 100€ 50€ 20€ 10€ 5€. The coin denominations are 2 €, 1 €, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c.
When writing an amount in a contract or legal document it is compulsory to write the figure in the following format: EUR 200 e.g. “the amount to be paid is EUR 200.”
6 Date format
The date format is DD/MM/YY or DD/MM/YYYY, e.g. "24/03/17" or "24/03/2017"
7 Hour formats
The 24-hour clock is widely used in Italy in both written and spoken communication.
The 24-hour format is favoured on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the standard format on Android where the separator is a colon, e.g. 14:24.
8 Working days
Standard working days are Monday to Friday.
9 Things to avoid in the Italian market
Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market.
Italians consider the numbers 13 and 17 to be unlucky.
10 Important localisation tips
Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in Italian market in no time:
Take a note of differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements and terminology.
Avoid, where possible, the use of English words when an Italian word will work just as well. Learn more about the 300 Italian words which are often misused when translating.
Take account of cultural differences so you don’t confuse or offend your Italian audience. For example, don’t mention Boxing Day in a promotion or assume that it will be understood.
Marketing copy will always sound better after an Italian speaker has reviewed it. Machine translations will miss the subtleties in your communication.
Use pictures and graphics as much as possible to aid understanding.