Do you know the name of this mountain? (and why you should know local names)

Matterhorn, Italy

Photo by Björn S… via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Is it:

a) Matterhorn

b) Mont Cervin

c) Monte Cervino

d) all of the above


The answer is D. Asking Italians about The Matterhorn – a Swiss mountain also visible from Italy and France – will produce blank stares. I speak from experience. But ask about Il Cervino and you’ll be met with enthusiasm about its beauty. (To further confuse things, many people refer to it as Zermatt, which is actually the name of the town at the base of the mountain.)


Some place names are easy to figure out: you can infer that Roma is Rome, Napoli is Naples, and Milano is Milan. But many travelers are surprised to discover that there is no Florence or Venice in Italy. You’re getting off the train or exiting the highway at Firenze or Venezia, respectively. And some translations of place names are downright puzzling. I almost missed a flight once from Milan to Munich, Germany, because I didn’t know that in Italian, the word for Munich is Monaco.


Assume it’s lost in translation, not ignorance


As a exchange student at an Italian high school, I was surprised that the Canadian school curriculum had completely neglected to teach me about a famous and significant ruler in the Middle Ages, Carlo Magno. I was wowed by his achievements, and my Italian classmates couldn’t believe I had never heard of him. Pretty soon, the details started ringing a bell and I realized: it was Charlemagne! Giovanni Caboto was the explorer John Cabot! Yet for some reason I had learned about Marco Polo, and not Mark Pole. 


So whether or not you’ve learned the various ways of saying “hello” in Italian or perfected the rolling r’s in arrivederci, make time before your trip to review the Italian names of the cities you’re visiting. And once in Italy, while getting to know the locals remember that there are lots of Carlo Magnos out there. The Italians may have never heard of Charlemagne, but they may know more about Carlo Magno than you do. 


Photo by Dylan Marriott


Client Testimonials

"We had a wonderful trip! We did so many amazing things and experienced many wonderful places yet never felt like..."

"We thank you so much for all you gave us, guided us to, arranged for, and detailed for us. Not..."

"We are in love with Venice and the Dolomites. The ski adventure was amazing and beyond anything we could have..."

"Absolutely everything that you planned went off without a hitch. Every tour, every restaurant, every train and activity came through..."

"Thank you again from all three of us for your help in planning such a delightful trip. I know that..."

"Madeline carefully planned a fabulous, personalized 19 day itinerary (Lake Garda, Dolomites, N/S Tuscany, Rome) that enabled us to be..."

Read More Client Testimonials

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Join our mailing list to get the free Driving In Italy eBook

Your name(Required)

Going Somewhere Other Than Italy?

The Travel Expert Network

Check out the Travel Expert Network where you’ll find Certified Travel Experts™ like us ready to plan custom bucket trips for you all over the world!

Visit the Travel Expert Network →

Office Locations

San Francisco
+1 773 621-3024
Contact San Francisco

+39 320 028 6827
Contact Milan

+39 331 222 2349
Contact Rome

Free Driving In Italy eBook
Start Dreaming About Your Next Italy Trip

Start Dreaming About Your Next Italy Trip

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Your name(Required)