What to Say at the Hair Salon or Barbershop in Italy

| Wed, 08/18/2021 - 05:47

Do you have a special evening coming up in Italy but a day at the beach has made your hair a mess? Unless “beachy waves” are your beauty goal, you may want to tame them as soon as possible to avoid fare una brutta figura” (making a bad impression). A hairdresser is a person who can both perform miracles or cause complete disasters, especially when it comes to working with a foreigner who doesn’t speak any Italian. But don’t worry, this article will help avoid falling victim to misunderstanding and come out a winner in this delicate but common situation.

First of all, you have to find your hairdresser. They are not always located in easy-to-spot locations, so our tip is to look up when you are walking around town. You’ll have to look for a sign saying “parruchiere” for a woman’s (or unisex) hairdresser or “barbiere” if you need a men's barber. Many hair salons provide services for both men and women and sometimes you can also find an esthetician working there for a quick mani-pedi.

You can request an appointment, but sometimes you can simply walk in for an immediate blow out or other simple service. As with all social interactions, start with “buongiorno” or “buonasera”. If you want an appointment, you’ll need also to know the days of the week:
Lunedì – Monday
Martedì – Tuesday
Mercoledì – Wednesday
Giovedì – Thursday
Venerdì – Friday
Sabato – Saturday
Domenica – Sunday

The stress is on the final ì for lunedì – venerdì and on the first syllable for sabato. Italians usually use the 24-hour clock. They will use “alle” before the time, so, for example, at three o’clock would be alle tre or alle quindici. Half past is “e mezzo” or “trenta”, quarter past is “e un quarto” and quarter to is “meno un quarto”. 

Let’s see how your dialogue may go:
- Buongiorno. Posso prendere un appuntamento, per favore? (Good morning. Could I take an appointment, please?)
- Buongiorno. Quando vorrebbe venire? (Good morning. When would you like to come?)
- Venerdì pomeriggio sarebbe perfetto. (Friday afternoon would be perfect.)
- Cosa vuole fare, Signora?  (What would you like to do, ma'am?)
- Vorrei un taglio e una piega. (I’d like to get a haircut and a blow-dry).
- Vediamo…Venerdì ho posto alle quattordici e trenta o alle diciassette. (Let’s see…I have time on Friday at half past two or at five.)
- Alle diciassette va benissimo. (Five would be great.)
- Ottimo. Come si chiama? (Great. What’s your name?)
- Mi chiamo Julia White. (My name’s Julia White.)
- Bene, signora White. Ci vediamo venerdì alle diciassette. (Very well, signora White. See you this Friday at five o’clock.)
- Grazie! Arrivederci. (Thank you. See you then.)

The day of the appointment has come and you’re a little nervous about the possible outcome. The best way to get what you want from your hairdresser or your barber is just to show one or more pictures of your dream haircut, but you should still know how to explain the exact look for service you want. If you opt for a cut (taglio) be precise, as precise as you can, when describing it because the details are important:
Vorrei tagliare solo le punte / le doppie punte. – I’d like just a trim.
Solo una spuntatina! – when you really just need to have your hair slightly trimmed and you want to point it out.
Un taglio corto – short haircut, a sort of pixie cut in all its variations.
Un taglio scalato – layered cut
Un taglio pari – blunt cut
Un taglio a caschetto – bob haircut
Un taglio medio-lungo – long bob 
La frangia/frangetta – bangs (fringe)/ light bangs (light fringe)

If you're courageous (or curious), you can tell your hairdresser "Faccia Lei!/Fai tu!”, giving him or her the liberty to do with your hair anything he or she thinks would suit you. 

If you want to add a touch of color to your hair or opt for an entirely different color, you may want to ask your hairdresser to “fare il colore” or “tingere i capelli”. Your hair can be:
capelli biondi – blonde hair
capelli castani – brown hair
capelli rossi – red hair
capelli neri – black hair
capelli grigi – grey hair
Let’s see what you can do with it:
schiarire i capelli – to lighten your hair
scurire i capelli – to darken your hair
diventare bionda – to go blonde
Of course, you can ask for whatever color you have in mind or simply “fare i colpi di sole” (to add highlights)...always a good idea when you want to just add something new to your look without risking too much. You may also want to cover your roots (coprire la ricrescita) or freshen up your current color (fare un ritocco).

The final step on your way to a perfect style is having a blow-dry (fare la piega). Your hairdresser will probably ask you “Come li asciughiamo?” (How shall we dry it?) and the options are:
lisci – straight
ondulati/mossi – wavy
ricci – curly
pieni – full
morbidi – soft
con le punte girate all’ingiù/all’insù – with the ends going under/upwards

You will also hear the question “Da che lato porti la riga?” (Where do you wear your part?) It can be:
riga in mezzo/centrale – central part
riga a destra - right side part
riga a sinistra – left side part

Let’s see some expressions used mostly when you go to the barber:
Mi può fare la barba, per favore?” – Could you shave me?
Vorrei accorciare la barba.” – I’d like to have my beard trimmed.
Vorrei fare un taglio a spazzola.” – I’d like to have a crew cut.
Vorrei rasare i capelli.” – I’d like to shave my head.
Vorrei modellare i baffi.” – I’d like to shape my mustache.
Vorrei fare il pizzetto.” – I’d like to get a goatee.

Got your hair done in a perfect manner but still don’t feel pampered enough? You may want to go to an esthetician (estetista). Sometimes you can get a manicure at your hairdresser, but you generally have to make an appointment at a beauty salon (salone di bellezza or centro estetico)...now you know how to do it! A tip from us: some chemists (pharmacies) also offer this kind of service, so you can stop in and ask for a price list. You can do the following things:

fare la ceretta – waxing
depilazione mezza gamba – half leg waxing
depilazione gamba intera – full leg waxing
depilazione dell’inguine – bikini line waxing
depilazione ascelle – underarm waxing
depilazione braccia – arm waxing
fare la manicure – to get a manicure 
fare la pedicure – to get a pedicure
fare le sopracciglia – to get eyebrows threaded/shaped
fare il make-up/il trucco – to do make-up
fare un trattamento corpo – to get a body treatment

The list goes on. Make sure you know exactly what kind of service you want to get before entrusting your hairdresser or esthetician with the task. As you already know, explaining your needs in Italian is a huge bonus.

We hope this article will be of help to stay polished and well-groomed in Italy...remember that going to the hairdresser to farsi bella (make yourself pretty) is a good opportunity for practicing Italian! 

(Note: This article was originally written for Italy Magazine by Pat Eggleton on August 12, 2010. It has been updated and expanded.)


This language article is curated by the expert instructors from L'Italiano Porticando Italian language and culture school located in the heart of historic Turin. Accredited by the ASILS (Association of Schools Teaching Italian as a Second Language), L'Italiano Porticando offers individual and group lessons, themed courses, and cultural classes on everything from Italian cinema to Turin’s famed chocolate.