'Al Fresco' in Italy Has a Very Different Meaning Than Everywhere Else

Photo of Francesca Masotti
27 December 2017

Before travelling to Italy, you should know that there are several expressions that don’t mean exactly what you think. So, buy a dictionary and try to learn few sentences that you’ll need to use during your Italian tour.
Italian is a rich language with a lot of typical expressions. For strangers, it can be very hard to learn them all, but with a little help, it is possible to say the right thing. ‘Al fresco’, for example, is a typical expression used in Italian…but in two different ways.

Dictionary | ©PDPics/Pixabay

Italians use the expression ‘al fresco’ to mean ‘in the chill’ or ‘in the cool’. For example, when they want to convey keeping things in the right places, they’d say ‘keep the cheese al fresco’. But these words have also another meaning.

Cheese | ©5056468/Pixabay

When tourists are in a restaurant and want to eat outside, they usually say they want to eat ‘al fresco’. This is a funny mistake. In Italian, the expression has a completely different meaning. ‘Al fresco’ literally means ‘in prison’! The reason why it means that is probably because in the past, prisons were very cold places with thick walls (‘fresco’ means ‘cold’).

Restaurant all’aperto | ©Pexels/Pixabay

So, don’t be angry if, when you say: ‘I’d love to eat al fresco’, the waiter laughs, because you are actually telling him: ‘I want to eat in prison’!

Prison | ©go2locals/Pixabay

The right sentence you need to say is: ‘Vorrei mangiare fuori’ or, ‘I’d love to eat outside’. Note it down on your agenda to remember it for your next Italian trip, and let the waiter know that you want to eat in the open air and not in prison.

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