The Visual Poetry of Italian Body Language

As an artist and photographer, I find people watching here in Italy to be a source of great inspiration and education.

This recent photo, captured on the streets of Cefalù, Sicily, shows one of countless snippets of the dance of Italian body language.

For most of my life I’ve thought I reveal much about myself through speaking with my hands and my body language. Now, in contrast to the effusive and rich vocabulary of Italian body language, I realize just how restrained I am. I ask myself, just how much energy is locked up in my more Americanized style of expression, and ponder whether the incredibly natural flow of energy in Italian expression (verbal and body language) is more freeing, and thereby healthier.

As I watched this particular Italian gentlemen go about his morning, I watched him have a lively encounter with a friend and shop owner. The moment captured in this photo is just seconds after his friendly exchange and demonstrates how the dance of expression continues and flows.

Perhaps, one day, I will attempt a photographic journal, or concise visual dictionary, of Italian body language. I would only do this through the guidance and tutelage of my Italian partner who, constantly and justifiably, warns me of the dangers of foreigners thinking such forms Italian “speech” are easy to understand and emulate. Italian expression contains many important subtleties which, if missed or not understood, can be dangerous in inexperienced hands.

In closing, I have included a YouTube video, posted by, which demonstrates some of the most often used Italian hand gestures. I can’t help but smile when I watch these native Italians sharing their rich skills in speaking with their hands.

To see other photos, be sure to check out my online gallery.


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By |2019-05-20T13:20:43+02:00February 9th, 2016|Italian Culture, Speaking Italian|7 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. royane mosley May 19, 2020 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I was so happy to receive your latest posting. Your painting is lovely and so dramatic . My husband and I of course could not return to the south of Italy and so we now just sit and wait not knowing when it will be safe..

    • Jed May 19, 2020 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Royane. Let’s hope people behave responsibly since that will be largely what determines when will be able to open up more freely. Just today the major of Venice was warning people that he’ll enforce strict lockdown again after seeing people congregating, elbow-to-elbow out having apertivi like nothing had happened.

  2. Tammy bell May 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    Beautifully captured, Jed. Spero che continui a fare le memorie meravigliose in Italia.

    • Jed May 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, Tammy. Proverò!! Bacioni!

  3. Anita February 10, 2016 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed! I love it the gestures hit a nerve I grew up with old country Italians therefore I talk with my hands constantly! Part time I live in a little Finnish village I’m one of the only Italians. My friends have threatened to tie my arms back! Of course I won’t be able to talk!! Grazie for this nice piece as I can totally relate! Apresto Anita

    • Jed February 14, 2016 at 2:51 am - Reply

      Never tie your hands back! The hands communicate with such artistry. Glad you can relate and hope life is good! Baci, Jed

  4. Stephanie Meisel February 9, 2016 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    I love the hats too! Makes me smile big!

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