Cheers in Italian: The Art of Celebrating 


In the heart of Italian culture, where tradition and celebration intertwine like the vines of a lush Tuscan vineyard, raising a glass and offering a toast—known affectionately as “fare un brindisi”—occupies a revered place. More than just a few words uttered before a drink, this gesture encapsulates the essence of Italian conviviality, respect for traditions, and, most importantly, the universal wish for good health.

The Essence of “Fare Un Brindisi”

To say cheers in Italian, “fare un brindisi,” is to participate in a ritual steeped in history, extending back to ancient Rome and beyond. This practice, deeply embedded in Italian tradition, goes beyond mere celebration; it is a form of art, an expression of goodwill, and a testament to the enduring spirit of Italian culture. This ritual involves clinking glasses, fostering connections, sharing in the joy of Italian celebrations, and honouring moments that matter.

Italian Cheers in Everyday Life

Italian friends and families often say cheers for various occasions, from Italian weddings, which are elaborate and heartfelt affairs, to simple gatherings around the dinner table. In every setting, the essence of Italian cheers—be it a grandiose declaration at a wedding or a simple “alla nostra salute” (to our health) at an Italian dinner party—remains constant: it is an expression of camaraderie, affection, and best wishes for good health and happiness.

The Italian language enriches the act of toasting with its melodious cadences and expressive nuances. Phrases like “alla tua salute” (to your health) for one person, or “alla nostra” (to ours) when addressing more than one, are not just common phrases; they are imbued with the warmth and sincerity characteristic of Italian interactions.

Navigating Formal Settings with Italian Toasting Rules

The etiquette surrounding how to say cheers in Italian becomes more pronounced in formal settings. Understanding and adhering to Italian toasting rules reflects not only respect for Italian etiquette but also an appreciation for the subtleties of Italian culture. For instance, making eye contact while clinking glasses is not just proper etiquette; it’s considered a gesture of sincerity and trust.

Additionally, in a formal event, it might be the dinner host who initiates the toast, often with a heartfelt “vorrei fare un brindisi” (I would like to make a toast), signaling to guests the start of a shared experience.

The Language of Italian Cheers

Learning Italian phrases related to toasting enriches the experience, making it more authentic and engaging. Expressions like “alla tua salute” or “alla nostra salute” are staples at any gathering, embodying the collective wish for wellbeing. These simple yet profound phrases are a testament to the Italian way of life, where good health is cherished above all.

For those new to Italian traditions, understanding these expressions’ literal and figurative meanings can add depth to the experience. For example, “chin chin,” often heard at Italian celebrations and mistakenly thought to be an Italian expression, is borrowed from Chinese sayings and adopted by Italian culture through historical interactions with Chinese sailors at European ports. Its use, perfectly acceptable among friends, carries the universal goodwill message.

However, its pronunciation, often humorously mistaken as “chin chin,” is correctly pronounced as “chin chin,” literally means health, highlighting the global influence on Italian toasting traditions.

Celebrations, Traditions, and the Joy of “Alla Nostra”

Italian celebrations, from birthday parties to office parties and from college degree celebrations to New Year’s Eve, all share the common thread of toasting to someone’s health and happiness. “Alla nostra,” a phrase resonating with warmth and inclusivity, is often heard, encapsulating the spirit of collective well-being and shared joy.

Whether it’s wishing “cento di questi giorni” (a hundred of these days) at a birthday party or saying “viva gli sposi” (long live the newlyweds) at an Italian wedding, the sentiment remains the same: a celebration of life, love, and the moments that bring us together.

The Etiquette of Clinking Glasses

Clinking glasses, an act integral to toasting, is surrounded by its own set of rules in Italian etiquette. It’s not just about the physical act but about what it symbolizes—unity, celebration, and a shared moment. However, there’s a “big no no” in Italian tradition: never clink glasses with water, as it’s considered bad luck. Instead, Italian toasting rules emphasize the importance of eye contact, ensuring that when people clink glasses, they do so with sincerity and intention, thus deepening their connection.

Journeying through the intricacies of offering cheers in Italian, from the vibrant avenues of Rome to the tranquil vistas of rural areas, we immerse ourselves in more than just words or actions. We delve into a deep-rooted heritage, a fusion of history, culture, and genuine wishes for well-being and joy. Such is the quintessence of Italian toasting—a perennial practice that unites individuals, marking life’s splendid occasions with a lifted glass and the earnest words “alla nostra.”

Embracing Traditions: Italian Cheers Across Settings

The Formal Flair of Italian Toasts

The art of Italian cheers takes on an additional layer of grace and sophistication in a formal setting. Here, the words spoken and the manner of delivery are imbued with the richness of Italian tradition and the depth of the sentiment being expressed. To say cheers in Italian within such contexts, phrases like “alla salute” (to health) are voiced with a reverence that reflects the occasion’s solemnity, whether it be a business event or a significant celebration like a milestone anniversary.

The literal translation, “to health,” underscores the universal desire for well-being, making it a fitting tribute in any gathering.

Moreover, in formal gatherings, toasting can serve as a bridge between cultures, offering a moment of unity and shared human values. It’s common for a toast to be tailored to the occasion, such as offering a “merry Christmas” in the season’s spirit, with “alla salute” echoing the sentiments of joy and good health.

Toasting to More Than One: A Collective Celebration

When raising a glass in the company of more than one person, Italian cheers become a chorus of goodwill, multiplying the joy and shared wishes for health and happiness. “Beviamo alla nostra” (let’s drink to ours) exemplifies this communal spirit, extending the toast to encompass everyone present. This phrase, rich in inclusivity, highlights the communal aspect of Italian celebrations, where every toast is an invitation to participate in a moment of collective appreciation and bonding.

Historical Echoes: Spanish Troops and Italian Toasts

The history of toasting in Italy is peppered with fascinating anecdotes and cultural exchanges, such as the influence of Spanish troops stationed in Italy. Their interactions with local populations introduced new layers to the tradition of toasting, blending languages and customs in a way that enriched Italian celebrations. This historical mingling underscores the adaptability and openness of Italian culture, where even the simple act of saying cheers can embody centuries of shared history and cultural synthesis.

“Alla Salute”: A Toast to Health and Happiness

“Alla salute,” repeated with affection and hope at gatherings, captures what it means to come together and share in life’s joys and challenges. This phrase, perhaps one of the most heartfelt among Italian cheers, reminds us of the priorities that unite us—health, happiness, and the company of loved ones. It’s a testament to the Italian philosophy of living a life full of passion, warmth, and connection.

In Conclusion: The Heart of Italian Cheers

To engage in the tradition of Italian cheers is to step into a world where words carry weight and gestures speak volumes. From the informal gatherings of close friends to the grandeur of formal events, the spirit of “fare un brindisi” weaves through the fabric of Italian life, binding moments of celebration with threads of shared humanity and warmth.

Italian cheers are more than just a ritual; they are a celebration of life, a wish for good health, and a testament to the enduring strength of Italian culture. As we clink glasses and look into the eyes of those around us, we’re reminded of the beauty of connection, the joy of shared moments, and the timeless wish for “buona salute” that resonates in hearts across Italy and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of saying “alla salute” in Italian cheers?

“Alla salute,” translating to “to health,” is a foundational wish in Italian cheers, symbolizing the universal value of good health and well-being. It reflects the Italian priority on health, happiness, and celebrating life’s moments with sincerity and depth.

Why is it important to make eye contact when clinking glasses in Italy?

In Italian tradition, making eye contact when clinking glasses is a sign of trust, respect, and sincerity. It ensures that the toast is not just a gesture, but a meaningful exchange between individuals, reinforcing the connection and the expressed shared wishes.

How does the tradition of toasting vary in a formal setting compared to an informal one?

In a formal setting, toasting in Italy involves a deeper adherence to etiquette, emphasising the choice of words and the manner of delivery, reflecting the occasion’s significance. In contrast, informal settings allow for a more relaxed approach, though the underlying sentiments of health, happiness, and community remain central.

Can you explain the historical influence of Spanish troops on Italian toasting traditions?

Through their prolonged presence in Italy, Spanish troops contributed to the cultural exchange that influenced Italian toasting traditions. The merging of different cultures has enriched Italian toasting, introducing novel customs and expressions. This highlights cultural traditions’ fluid and evolving character, emphasizing their capacity to grow and adapt through mutual exchanges.

Why is it considered bad luck to clink glasses with water in Italy?

Clinking glasses with water is seen as bad luck in Italy because it deviates from the tradition of toasting with wine or other spirits, symbolising celebration and joy. Water, lacking the symbolic richness of wine, is thought to dilute the sincerity and potency of the toast’s intentions.