Zero waste travel: {useful} Italian phrases

Bella Italia. Beautiful Italy. Spending the past few months here in Italy, I’ve reached a pretty proficient level with the language. One of my favorite things about Italian is that everything is bello, or beautiful. The drab word ‘nice’ has a contender in Italian: una bella macchina, una bella giornata, che bello! If you don’t speak Italian, you’re probably not going to fool anyone by memorizing helpful phrases. However, if someone doesn’t understand your request in English (or whatever language you decide to use), you may have luck repeating it in Italian.

I’m not a native speaker of Italian, but speaking the language all day, every day (and being understood) has been a big help. I’d also like to thank Celeste from la Rete Zero Waste and @the.ethical.choice on Instagram for her input on this post. If you’re going to Italy and are keen to avoid unnecessary waste, keep reading for Italian for travelers: zero waste edition!

No straw, please.

Straws aren’t going to be that big of an issue here unless you order many mixed drinks. It’s not so popular like in the USA, but nonetheless, it’s worth asking if you know a drink comes with a straw. It’s also worth saying that like in the USA, asking a busy bartender or server not to put a straw in your drink (when it’s automatic to put one in anyway) isn’t always successful.

Reusable bags

Can you put this in my bag?

I don’t want a bag; without a bag, please.

I already have a bag.


More iterations of the same idea. Mix it up.

Supermarkets here aren’t going to be throwing bags at you like in the USA, but if you buy other things, a bag is given out. I’m so used to not being given a bag, it sometimes ends up with me frantically waving my hands, holding up a reusable bag and saying “Già ho una borsa!”

Can you weigh it without a bag?

This is specific to buying at markets or by weight. If you don’t have your own bags or are buying a single item, you can always ask to have the item weighed by itself (naked). While I’ve had people treat it as an odd request, I’ve not been told no either.

ordering water

Is the water in a plastic bottle?

If you’ve been to Italy or read some of my zero waste travel posts about Italy, you know that bottled water is all the rage here, despite the perfectly safe tap water. It’s a cultural thing. If you order water a restaurant, they’re not bringing you a carafe or a glass of water; they’re bringing you bottled water. Sometimes it’s glass and sometimes it’s plastic. Ideally, it would be tap water, but working with what’s most likely, you can check first if it’s plastic or glass (vitro). While both are imperfect, glass doesn’t lose quality when recycled and some companies here with glass bottled water actually take the bottled back to refill them, meaning no resources were expended to recycle them.


Disposable items

Usa e getta

Use and toss, literally. Disposable cups aren’t common here for coffee, but some chains only give out disposable cups or have them available. If you walk into a typical bar there’s nothing to worry about, but traveling you don’t always know where you’ll end up. For a full phrase, you can say:

I would like the ceramic cup, not the disposable cup, please.


Refill a water bottle

Riempire la bottiglia

My experience doesn’t suggest you’re going to find many places that would willingly refill you’re water bottle. On the bright side, there are lots of fontanelle, or water fountains, in cities. If you ever need to ask about it: Where can I refill my bottle?



I’d like a cone.

Without a spoon or I don’t want the spoon.


If you’re here, you’re probably getting gelato at some point. Opt for a cone (cono) instead of a cup and make sure to say you don’t want the little (unnecessary) plastic spoon they stick in the gelato even when it’s on a cone.


Package free, package free, package free, package free! If you know nothing about Italian, those are all just ways to say package free, but describe different kinds of nouns (I love grammar). If you’re looking to buy something without packaging, this word is for you.

Vegetarian and vegan

Most restaurants will boast vegetarian or vegan options if they have them near touristy city centers. Just in case, these words are pretty easy to remember. It doesn’t hurt to double check and make sure what you’re ordering is meat/animal product free if it’s not marked as being so.

Remember, options with few to no animal products require fewer resources to produce and are generally more sustainable (and therefore zero waste) than animal products.

Safe travels!