Italian is the official language of Italy, but there are also
hundreds of different dialects. In 1992 it was estimated that 86% of Italians use both
Italian and a dialect, while 13% can speak only in dialect.
Italian was originally the dialect of Tuscany. In the 14th century, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy in Tuscan, instead of Latin. Petrarch and Boccaccio followed Dante's lead and the Tuscan dialect eventually became the literary language of Italy. It is also the language of many operas and of musical expression.
During the Second World War many Italian soldiers could not understand each other because they spoke different dialects. Since the arrival of television in the 1950s the language spoken throughout the peninsula has become more uniform. Standard Italian is taught and spoken in schools. Italians like to use their whole body to express themselves. They often use gestures to add emphasis to their words.
Italians enjoy using proverbs and sayings to get certain ideas across.
Often these sayings warn about certain behaviour. The proverb Le bugie hanno le gambe
corte means "Lies have short legs, so they'll never get you very far"