Wine is a part of the culture of the cuisine in Italy. A glass of wine is a common feature at both lunch and dinner, and let’s not forget the evening tradition of aperitivo. It is rare to drink to get drunk – that would be considered poor form or “una brutta figura.” But of course you drink for both enjoyment and, according to some, for health. If you are planning a visit, you should naturally be prepared to say cheers in Italian. There are two main ways to toast in Italian, and a few superstitions to be aware to ensure you cheers in just the right way.
Before preparing to cheers, be sure everyone has a little bit of wine (or another alcoholic drink). Even those who are abstaining typically pour a tiny bit of wine into their glass for the salute. It’s considered bad luck to cheers with water.
It is also bad luck to cheers with anything other than a glass. If you happen to have plastic cups, the best way to cheers is to say cin cin (“chin chin”) and touch the back of your hands as you hold the cup. This mimics the sound of glasses clinking together. Cin cin is the more informal way to say cheers in Italian. It’s appropriate also if you have real glasses but can’t reach each other to clink them together.
If you are going to be truly cheersing, another rule applies: never ever cross arms with anyone else who is also cheersing someone else at the same table. That would be terrible luck.
The most traditional way to say cheers in Italian is “salute!” (“Sah-lou-tey”). This is a toast to health.
Finally, if you a toasting a specific person and especially on their birthday, (or if you are feeling particularly nostalgic) you may want to offer the toast: “cent’anni” wishing them 100 years of life/happiness.
Whether you say salute or cin cin, be sure to cheers each person individually – looking them in the eye. That’s the final rule to saying cheers in Italian!
Want to know more about celebrating in Italy? Here’s more about Italian birthday celebrations and how to say Merry Christmas in Italian.