What do the Italians call themselves?

by Jessica on May 12, 2011

by | May 12th, 2011  

When you’re considering what to call people from Italy, it’s likely that you’ll know the English version – Italians. You may even know the Italian word – italiani – but the real answer is a bit more complicated.

(Just like Italy.)

Since Italy is has only been a concept as a unified country since 1861, most people think of themselves first as being of the region from which their family comes, and then secondarily as Italians. In some parts of the country, being Italian is actually the third identification after one’s region and the entire European Union. So when you ask someone where he or she is from, you’re going to get a more local answer than simply, “I’m Italian.”

Because the words used to describe people from each of the 20 regions in Italy aren’t always easy to figure out, I’ve included them on each of the region pages on WhyGo Italy. Click on any of the region pages and scroll down to the “Fast Facts” section to find a listing for what the people of that region call themselves.

>> Start on the main “Regions of Italy” page and click on any of the regions to find what the people are called.

The question of what to call someone is even more complex than that, however, as many Italians will invariably tell you they’re of the town or city their family comes from – even more specifically than their home region. Rather than calling himself lombardo, then, a man from Milan would more likely call himself milanese. It would take quite awhile, indeed, to list out the names for what every single town resident would call him or herself, but here are a few of the big cities and towns in Italy and what the people call themselves.

>> Note that in each case, I’m giving you the masculine singular version first. Plural and feminine versions are listed after. For words where the masculine singular ends in an “e,” there is no distinction between masculine and feminine – there is only singular and plural.

  • Bologna – bolognese (pl – bolognesi)
  • Florence – fiorentino (f – fiorentina; m pl – fiorentini; f pl – fiorentine)
  • Genoa – genovese (pl – genovesi)
  • Milan – milanese (pl – milanesi)
  • Naples – napoletano (f – napoletana; m pl – napoletani; f pl – napoletane)
  • Palermo – palermitano (f – palermitana; m pl – palermitani; f pl – palermitane)
  • Perugia – perugino (f – perugina; m pl – perugini; f pl – perugine)
  • Pisa – pisano (f – pisana; m pl – pisani; f pl – pisane)
  • Rome – romano (f – romana; m pl – romani; f pl – romane)
  • Turin – torinese (pl – torinesi)
  • Venice – veneziano (f – veneziana; m pl – veneziani; f pl – veneziane)

>> Want more fun Italian language tidbits? Read more about the “geographical alphabet” used when spelling out Italian words, and some of my favorite Italian swear words.

{ 4 comments }

fd May 13, 2011 at 11:06 am
Corner

Oh, it goes even further than that. For instance people who live in the Valtellina valley (province of Sondrio in Lombardy ) are called VALTELLINESI.
And not just people wo live in big cities are called Milanesi, Romani, and so on and so forth.
People who live in Como are COMASCHI (COMASCO-A) People who live in the town of Alcamo(Sicily ) are ALCAMESI (singular is ALCAMESE)
People who live in a village called Ardenno ( 3,000 people ) in the province of Sondrio are ARDENNESI.
Those who live in the nearby town of Morbegno are MORBEGNESI.
And I stop here because the list is huge and no one knows it all because no one could possibly know the names of all the 8,094 Italian COMUNI ( municipalities), could they ?
You had better ask the locals when you get there.

Corner

Jessica May 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Corner

Yes, that’s what I meant – that this wasn’t an exhaustive list, but an idea of some of the names for bigger cities and towns. It’s much too long a list to name all of them!

Corner

Alfee May 20, 2011 at 9:46 am
Corner

Isn’t it a European culture in general? If I’m not wrong, Germans will also identify themselves based on the town/city they’re from. Portuguese too?

Corner

Jessica May 20, 2011 at 10:30 am
Corner

Oh, yes – I didn’t mean to imply that no one else referred to themselves this way (we do it in the United States, too) – only that the Italian names aren’t always easy to figure out if you’re not Italian! :)

Corner

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