Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Laura Teso
You’re in Italy and you can’t wait to enjoy your refreshing sparkling wine glass. You wish to mingle among the locals. But, when you raise your glass… you have absolutely no idea what to say! What is Italian for cheers? Well, there’s more than one way to say it. Of course, it couldn’t be too simple.
Etiquette… or not
But first I feel like I have to warn you that, according to etiquette experts, toasting is considered quite boorish. At least if it’s too loud. You should never touch someone else’s glass and most of all never say Cheers or something. So, in high end places, this practice could be frowned upon.
But the truth is that actually the majority of people in Italy do toast, touching glasses and expressing a good wishing word. So I also feel it’s my duty to inform you about those.
How to say cheers in Italian
You can toast at the beginning of a meal with friends or family. Or during a wedding toast to wish the newlyweds a lifetime of happiness. At a party. When celebrating a special achievement or milestone. In short, anytime you want to raise your glass and share your joy with others. Let’s see the most common forms.
One of the most popular toasts in Italy is Cin Cin [pronounced CHIN – CHIN]. People usually raise their glasses, making them clink together, and exclaim “Cin cin”. It seems it derives from Chinese “ch’ing ch’ing”, meaning “please please”. It was once used among Canton sailors as a good omen. This expression is quickly losing ground though.
Another way to say Cheers in Italian is Salute [pronunciation: sah-LOO-tay]. This word literally means “health”. And so it’s a super nice thing to say and to wish for one another while toasting.
Variations: Alla tua!
You can also be more specific and say: “Alla tua salute” (To your health). Or simply “Alla tua” (To yours). Or “Alla nostra” (to ours).
Sometimes you can just say or reply “Cin”, without repeating the word 2 times. I think this is the version I personally use more. Because I want to say something, but Cin Cin feels so old-style, while Salute feels sometimes a tad too “cerimonial”. So, in order not to remain silent and participating to he joy of a toast, I say Cin.
How to say to toast in Italian?
In Italy toast means a wholly different thing. It’s a sandwich made with two slices of toasted bread, usually filled with ham and cheese. It’s a common choice for a quick lunch at the bar (which is Italian for Cafè).
A toast is brindisi. Accent on the first i. I know, it’s difficult. While the verb to toast is brindare. Accent on the a. Usually, the majority of Italian words come from Latin. Well, in this case no. From the German language. Precisely from the expression (ich) bringe dir’s, I bring to you (the glass). As to say: I drink to your health.
In Italy, more precisely in Apulia, there’s also a city called Brindisi. But the etiology is totally different. The area was once inhabited by a population of Balkan origin, the Messapi. They nicknamed the city Brindisi, Stag head, referring to the form of the city’s harbor.
One of the most famous melodies of Italian opera is Traviata’s “Drinking song”, the Brindisi. In Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece, people are gathered at Violetta’s house for a party. Alfredo is charged with encouraging people to drink and so he begins singing: “Libiamo nei lieti calici” (Let’s drink from the joyous glasses).
Toasting in the Veneto region
Of course I have to add something about the toasting traditions of my region, the Veneto. Which is commonly known as a hard drinkers area. So you may find this interesting if you travel to Verona, Venezia, Vicenza, Padova, Treviso, Rovigo, and Belluno.
I actually don’t drink… and get mocked a lot for this. Think that on family gatherings I’m basically forced to have a tad of wine just for toasting. Because you have to, it’s bad luck to toast with water. In those rare occasion, I take a sip and stop. It’s not that I have something againts it, but I don’t particularly like the taste (except that of sweet wines). But I never feel like it. Plus I love water, still water (best thing in the world). I hate sparkling water. Like Ted Lasso (I finally found a charachter who loves water and is not portrayed as lame).
Well, let’s go to the list. The following habits may (or may not) be the same in other areas of Italy.
How to toast in the Veneto
- As you can guess from the thing I just said about me having a tad of wine, even if I don’t like it, you have to know that some people may refuse to toast with you if you have water or other soft drinks in your glass. They say it’s bad luck.
- No crossing allowed! If two people are toasting, you cannot reach for another diner to toast with him/her passing with your arm above or below the other two persons toasting. Also considered a bad omen. So you have to go around them. Or you can wait.
- While clincking the glasses with another person, you must look him/her in the eyes. As a token of sincerity. Someone says it’s also bad luck if you don’t do it. Here we go again with the bad luck.
- After clinking, you slightly knock the glass on the table. Not everybody does that. But many do. And this is another superstitious gesture. Cause rumor has it that those who do not knock do not get lucky. Yes, in that way.
In Italian culture, saying “Salute” is not just a simple act of toasting. It’s a way to celebrate life, good company, and the pleasures of the table. Whether you’re sipping a glass of fine Italian wine or enjoying a delicious meal, knowing how to say “cheers” in Italian will help you connect with the warmth and conviviality that are integral to Italian hospitality. So, the next time you’re in Italy or sharing a meal with Italian friends, remember to raise your glass and say, “Salute!”. Or “Cin!”