75 Vocabulary Words for Playing and Talking About Sports in Italian

'Lo sport' is more than soccer in Italy

Supporters cheering on the Italian soccer team
GiorgioMagini

When you think about sports and Italy in the same sentence, the infamous calcio is the first to come to mind. And if you have spent any length of time following Italian soccer and Italy's obsession with its teams, names like Juventus and gli Azzurri will come to mind. But beyond calcio, Italians practice and are interested in many other sports, and if you want to be able to talk in Italian about the sports that you practice or practiced and love—or, while you are there, you are interested in picking up a hoops game or taking a yoga class—here are 75 useful phrases about lo sport.

Lo Sport: Fare and Giocare

Sports in Italian (plural gli sport, pronounced with a rolling r) are expressed with two verbs you should know: fare—to do—and giocare—to play. You use giocare for most team sports and you use fare for most other athletic activity, though there are some exceptions.

Fare and Giocare
Fare  Giocare
fare sport: to pratice a sport giocare a uno sport: to play a sport
fare ginnastica: to do aerobics giocare a calcio: to play soccer
fare yoga: to practice yoga giocare a tennis: to play tennis
fare palestra: to do weight-lifting giocare a golf: to play golf
fare ciclismo: to do cycling giocare a pallacanestro: to play basketball
fare nuoto: to swim giocare a pallavolo: to play volleyball
fare canottaggio: to do canoeing  giocare a rugby: to play rugby

Other sports that use fare are fare danza (to dance/study dance), fare motociclismo (motorcycling), fare equitazione or andare a cavallo (horseback riding), fare surfing, and fare pesca sportiva (sports fishing). Others use the plain verb—for example, arrampicare (to climb). All of it amounts to fare sport.

When you are speaking of being someone who practices these sports, these are the words you use:

Gli Atleti: The Athletes
un calciatore/una calciatrice a soccer player
un/una alpinista a climber
un/una ciclista a cyclist
un/una tennista a tennis player
un sollevatore pesi/una sollevatrice a weight lifter
un ballerino/una ballerina a dancer
un nuotatore/una nuotatrice a swimmer 
un pugile a boxer
un/una surfista a surfer
un/un'atleta an athlete

By the way, if you are a professional you are un/una professionista; if you are a champion you are un campione or una campionessa; if you are an amateur, you are un/una dilettante.

  • Quando ero piccola facevo danza, poi ho cominciato a giocare a tennis. When I was little I took dance, then I began to play tennis.
  • Io gioco a pallavolo due volte a settimana. I play volleyball twice a week.
  • Mio fratello è il campione regionale di ciclismo. My brother is the regional cycling champion.
  • Sono stato un calciatore tutta la vita; adesso faccio equitazione. I played soccer all my life; now I do horseback riding.
  • Mia figlia è una seria alpinista. My daughter is a serious climber.
  • Faccio boxing, ma così, per divertimento; sono un dilettante. I do boxing but for fun. I am an amateur.

I Giochi di Squadra: Team Sports

Of course, il calcio—soccer—is at the top of the list. Even if you’re not a big sports fan, attending a calcio game in Italy is a cultural must, so when you do that, here are a handful of words that may be useful to you.

La Terminologia del Calcio: Soccer Terminology
la porta the gol
segnare to score a goal
gol!  score! 
la partita the game
il portiere the goalie 
i giocatori the players
l'arbitro the referee
i tifosi the fans
  • Dove posso vedere la partita? Where can I see the game?
  • Chi è l'arbitro? Who is the ref?
  • Chi gioca oggi? Who is playing today?
  • Amo giocare a calcio. Ci sono partite tra amici qui? I love to play soccer: Are there any matches among friends here?
  • Posso giocare? May I play?
  • Possono i miei figli giocare a calcio con gli altri bambini? May my children play soccer with the other children?

If you love soccer and you happen to be spending June in Florence, you should read up on calcio storico, or historical football, that dates back to the 16th century, and go see the game.

For more detailed soccer vocabulary, check out this article.

Il Ciclismo: Cycling

Cycling is a huge sport in Italy, cultivated and followed through the generations. The Giro d’Italia (also simply called Il Giro) is an annual bike race that takes the top professional cyclists in the world all throughout Italy over three weeks. It starts in early May and is one of professional cycling's three grand tours, alongside the Tour de France and Spain's Vuelta a Espana. Beloved Italian cycling champions such as Gino Bartali have indelibly colored national sporting lore.

Of course, Italy has become a major cycling destination, and magnificent biking tours can be taken all over the country. If you are interested in cycling, know at least these few words:

Andare in bicicletta: To ride a bike
la bicicletta (la bici) bike 
la bicicletta da corsa  racing bike 
il ciclismo su strada road cycling
il ciclismo su pista track cycling
mountain biking mountain biking
la sella bike seat 
la gomma tire 
la ruota wheel
il freno brake
il telaio frame
il cambio gears
il casco helmet
la borraccia water bottle

Useful Sentences

  • Dove posso affittare una bici? Where can I rent a bike?
  • Che tipo di bicicletta mi suggerisce? What type of bike do you recommend for me?
  • Voglio iniziare a fare ciclismo, ma ho bisogno della bici giusta. I want to start cycling, but I need the right bike.
  • Preferisco una mountain bike. Dove posso andare a fare un po' di mountain biking? I prefer a mountain bike. Where can I go mountain biking?
  • A che ora è il Giro d'Italia? Posso guardarlo al bar? At what time is the Giro d'Italia? Can I watch it at the bar?

Swimming and Skiing

If you like swimming (nuotare/il nuoto) and skiing (sciare/lo sci), both are pretty big sports in Italy and you can find plenty of places both to watch and practice. Of course, you know that Italy has some of the best skiing in Europe, with famed spots such as Cortina d'Ampezzo, Madonna di Campiglia, and Cervinia.

Il Nuoto: Key Swimming Vocabulary
il costume da bagno swimsuit
gli occhialini goggles
l'asciugamano towel
la piscina pool
il bagnino lifeguard

Useful Sentences

  • C'è una piscina da queste parti? Is there a pool around here?
  • È una piscina riscaldata? È gratis o a pagamento? Is it a heated pool? Is it free or with a fee?
  • C'è un istruttore di nuoto per mia figlia? Is there a swimming instructor for my daughter?
  • Non so nuotare! I don't know how to swim.
  • Possiamo affittare degli asciugamani? Can we rent some towels?
  • Possiamo guardare i campionati di nuoto alla televisione? Can we watch the swimming championships on TV?
Lo Sci: Key Skiing Vocabulary
gli sci skis 
le bacchette rods
gli scarponi da sci ski boots
la tuta da sci ski suit
la pista da sci ski trail
la discesa  descent 
la montagna mountain
la sciovia  ski lift 
l'impianto sciistico ski station
lo sci alpino alpine skiing
il salto  ski jumping
la discesa libera downhill skiing

Useful Sentences

  • Vorrei la pista da sci più facile. I would like the easiest ski trail.
  • Voglio fare la pista da più difficile. I want to do the hardest ski trail.
  • Vai a sciare sulle Dolomiti quest’anno? Sì, infatti ho comprato un nuovo paio di sci. Are you going skiing in the Dolomites this year? I’m going, in fact, I bought a new pair of skis.
  • Mi piace sciare, ma a dire il vero, preferisco fare snowboarding. I like to ski, but to tell you the truth, I prefer to snowboard.
  • Possiamo affittare gli sci? Quanto costano? Can we rent the skis? How much do they cost?
  • La neve non è granché quest'anno. The snow is not great this year.
  • Dov'è la sciovia più vicina? Where is the nearest ski lift?
  • Chi è il campione Italiano nella discesa libera? Who is the downhill skiing Italian champion?
  • A che ora c'è lo slalom alla tele? At what time is the slalom on TV?

Italian Baseball and Others

Baseball isn’t hugely popular in Italy, but it is present—with roots dating back to World War II—and there are leagues and a championship. There is an Italian baseball and softball federation, with a growing number of baseball and softball fields. Volleyball (pallavolo) is very well established, and there is also great interest in basketball (pallacanestro, often called simply basket)—also cultivated since World War II, brought by the U.S. military—with teams and facilities in many cities and one of the best national teams in Europe. Interested in watching a game or picking up a game? Ask someone local:

  • C'è una squadra di basket qui? Is there a basketball team here?
  • C'è una squadra di baseball qui? Is there a baseball team here?
  • Si può vedere una partita? Can we see a game?
  • Ci sono partite di basket tra amici? Posso giocare? Are they pickup games among friends? Can I play?
  • Dov'è il campo da basket? Dov'è il palazzatto dello sport? Mi può dare le indicazioni, per favore? Where is the basketball court? Where is the arena? Can you please give me directions?

L'Atletica e La Corsa: Athletics and Running in Italy

Athleticsl'atletica—is the term used to describe the ancient sports of the famed Greek athletes. It includes such things as cross-country speedwalking (la marcia), cross-country running (la corsa campestre), and marathons (le maratone).

  • Faccio due maratone all'anno. I run two marathons a year.
  • Amo la marcia perché mi fa meno male alle ginocchia. I love speed-walking because it hurts my knees less.

Beyond the strict terminology of Greek athletics, the runners among you will care to know about correre (to run), fare il footing (to run), and camminare (to walk).

  • Io cammino dieci chilometri al giorno. I walk 10 miles a day.
  • Andiamo a correre! Let's go running!

If you want to go running in Italy, you might find these useful:

  • Dove posso andare a correre qui? Where can I go running here?
  • C'è una pista da corsa qui? Is there a running track here?
  • Cerco una strada senza molto traffico. I am looking for a road without much traffic.
  • Ho bisogno di strisce catarifrangenti per correre di sera. I need reflective straps for running in the evening.

Beware: Italian drivers are not as vigilant or accommodating to runners as others might be.

Fare Ginnastica: Gymnastics as Exercise

For those of you not involved in organized sports there's the whole broad world of la ginnastica, which in English translates to the technical world of so-called gymnastics, but that in Italian is thought of as exercise in general. Basically, it substitutes for fare sport.

This includes things such as fare ginnastica (to do something like aerobics, or aerobica), andare in palestra (going to the gym), praticare yoga (to practice yoga), and fare lo stretching (to stretch).

These sentences might be useful if you are trying to keep up with your exercise regimen in Italy:

  • C'è uno studio di yoga qui vicino? Is there a yoga studio nearby?
  • Mio marito vuole andare in palestra. C'è una palestra nel nostro hotel? My husband wants to go to a gym. Is there one in our hotel?
  • Io faccio molta ginnastica per stare in forma. E tu? I exercise a lot to stay in shape. And you?
  • Dove posso trovare un negozio di articoli sportivi? Where can I find a sports goods store?
  • Ho bisogno delle scarpe da corsa nuove. I need new running shoes.
  • Posso affittare un tappetino da yoga? Can I rent a yoga mat?

Of course, if you like watching the Olympics or maybe are a gymnast yourself, there is la ginnastica aerobica (aerobic gymnastics), la ginnastica ritmica (rhythmic gymnastics), la ginnastica artistica (artistic gymnastics), and la ginnastica acrobatica (acrobatic gymnastics).

  • Hai visto la ginnastica delle Olimpiadi ieri? Gabby Douglas era fantastica! Did you see the gymnastics events of the Olympics yesterday? Gabby Douglas was amazing!

Buon divertimento!