Spelling in Italian – Alfabeto Telefonico

Spelling in Italian - Alfabeto Telefonico

I still remember one of my first English lessons where we learned how to do the “spelling” of our names. That lesson came very useful years later when I found myself in the US trying to book a table at a restaurant on the telephone: “Sir, could you please spell your name?”

Even though the word “spelling” is nowadays recognized in Italy, the Italian language does not have a direct translation of the word, we more commonly say: “Come si scrive?”

In such situations almost all Italians rely on the “alfabeto telefonico” which is the equivalent of the most common Military Alphabet used in English-speaking countries (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.).

What is the Alfabeto Telefonico?

Alfabeto telefonico literally means telephone alphabet and is a series of words associated to the letters of the alphabet to help people understand the spelling of a word.

In Italy, when we have to spell hard names or words, we use the names of large or well known cities, possibly Italian ones (oh boy! Does that mean I need to learn some geography?? Yup!).

Below you can find the list of cities people usually use to spell words in Italy:

Letter  Italian Spelling

A          Ancona

B          Bologna

C          Como

D         Domodossola

E          Empoli

F          Firenze

G         Genova

H         Hotel (We don’t have a city starting with H!)

I           Imola

L          Livorno

M         Milano

N         Napoli

O         Otranto

P          Palermo

Q         Quarto

R          Roma

S          Savona

T          Torino

U         Udine

V          Venezia

Z          Zara (Why is a Croatian city here? Well, for some time it was part of Italy!)

As you might have noticed the Italian alphabet only has 21 letters. What about the other ones?

The letters J, K, W, X, Y are considered “foreing” letters and for this reason they have a separate spelling word:

J          i lunga

K          kappa

W        doppiavu`

X          ics or Xylofono

Y          ipsilon

Now for all of us who are overachievers, can you spot all of the above cities on the map? 🙂

Take some time to discover all of the cities, especially the ones you have never heard of!

Which ones have you visited? Which one you liked the most? Let us know in the comments below!

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