While cultural immersion is key to the successful study of any language, it could arguably be even more so for Italian, a language that has to be felt as much as spoken. Italians, after all, speak with their hands as well as their mouths. That’s the sort of thing you can’t learn from a textbook alone.
Beyond bolstering your budding language skills with real conversation, listening to Italian-language podcasts is an excellent way to immerse yourself further in the language and get a feel for how Italian is actually spoken — not to mention cultural topics and current events that matter to Italian people. If you’re on the hunt for some engaging and helpful shows, here are five of the best Italian podcasts for language learners.
1. News in Slow Italian
Get your regular news — and have it spoon-fed to you at whatever speed you’d like. News in Slow Italian is exactly what it sounds like: weekly Italian lessons tailored to the listener’s comprehension level. You can choose from beginner, intermediate and advanced recordings, and each episode comes with a transcription so you can read as you listen. It’s not just news, either — you’ll get mini lessons on Italian grammar and expressions.
If you like getting your information in bite-sized chunks, the manageable pace of the Caterpillar might be up your alley. The show is an afternoon radio program that airs on Italy’s Rai Radio 2, featuring hosts Sara Zambotti, Paolo Maggioni and Paolo Labati dishing on the latest happenings in a sort of “cliffnotes” version of what’s what. They also aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty from time to time. In 2015, the hosts petitioned the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize of 2016 to the bicycle.
3. I Provinciali
Dreaming of pastoral Tuscany, or the small-town Italy of your (likely Hollywood-influenced) imagination? This podcast can take you there. I Provinciali is another Rai Radio 2 program that focuses squarely on the provincial life of Italy beyond Rome and Milan. For those eager to diversify their exposure to Italian, this is a great way to absorb regional differences in accents, traditions, food and culture.
4. Senza Rosetto
Currently in its third season, Senza Rosetto (“Without Lipstick”) is an Italian podcast about feminism; namely, the various kinds of issues women must navigate in the modern world (think: everything ranging from the wage gap to the successful expression of one’s needs and wants). The podcast was first launched on the 70th anniversary of the first political referendum that included women (June 2, 1946).
5. 30 Minute Italian Podcast
This is an Italian podcast geared expressly toward language learners, but it’s got a bit of spunk and personality, too. Host Cher Hale delves into everything ranging from culture to personal travel stories to practical grammar guides (and “sometimes sexy grammar,” at that). Sample episode topics of 30 Minute Italian include “How I’ve Been Preparing for the CILS Exam” and “20 Phrases for Telling a Captivating Story in Italian.”
6. 4 Verticale
Shameless self-promotion plug here, but we’d be remiss not to tell you about Babbel’s own Italian podcast, 4 Verticale. Listen to the show for the engaging dynamic between hosts Giulia Depentor and Stefano Nucera, and also for the entertaining stories they tell in Italian. This is “the podcast that breaks the monotony of learning made up of only books and professors,” instead focusing on funny anecdotes about living abroad and vintage Italian insults.