Telephone calls - Lesson 1 - Conversation:

Una telefonata

(A telephone call)

(photo by  Stefano Mortellaro used under terms of Creative Commons license.)
una telefonata


Tenente Smith:

Pronto! Quartier Generale NATO?


Si, Signore. Chi parla? ,

Tenente Smith:

Il Tenente Don Smith. Vorrei parlare al Capitano Gentile.


Un momento, vedo se c'è. Resti in linea, per favore. Pronto! Mi dispiace, Signor Smith. Il Capitano Gentile non è in ufficio. Sara qui in mattinata verso mezzogiorno. Vuole lasciargli un messaggio?

Tenente Smith:

Non importa. Gli dica che ho telefonato. Richiamerò più tardi.


Senz'altro. Arrivederci.

Tenente Smith:

Grazie, Signorina. ArrivederLa.



Lieutenant Smith:

Hello! NATO Headquarters?


Yes, sir. Who's speaking?

Lieutenant Smith:

Lieutenant Don Smith. I would like to speak to Captain Gentile.


Just a moment. I'll see if he's in. Hold the line, please.


Hello! I'm sorry, Mr. Smith. Captain Gentile is not in his office. He'll be here toward noon. Do you want to leave him a message?

Lieutenant Smith:

It doesn't matter. Tell him I called. I'll call back later.

Secretary: Sure.


Lieutenant Smith:

Thanks, Miss. Bye.


Notes on conversation

1. Resti. Command form of the verb restare, "to stay." Literally, "Stay on the line" or "Hold the line."

2. Sari, "He will be," is the future tense of essere, "to be."

3. Mattinata, like mattina, means "morning." Mattinata implies duration or unspecified time in the morning. The same applies for giornata from giorno, "day," serata, from sera, "evening;" nottana, from notte, "night." Compare, for example:


Vorrei vederLa domani mattina.

I'd like to see you tomorrow morning.


Vorrei vederLa_in mattinata.

I'd like to see you (sometime) in the morning.


4. Lasciargli un messaggio, "to leave him a message."

5. Gli dica, "to tell him." In Italian the verb dire, "to tell" requires the preposition Q, "to," before the noun.

6. Chiamare is "to call." Richiamare "to call again." Richiamerò, "I'll call again," is the future tense.

7. Because the central telephone circuit in Italian cities is overcrowded, applicants may have to wait as long as four or five months for a telephone. Embassy and consulate personnel requesting phones for official purposes will probably receive them within a month.


Two kinds of lines are available: a private line (simplex) and a party line (duplex) for half the price. Two customers with different numbers share a duplex, but neither user can hear or intervene in the conversations of the other.


Services, billed once every three months, include one and a half local calls a day; each additional call costs 100 lire (approximately eight cents).


Long-distance (on the continent) calls can be dialed directly or put through an operator. Clicks registering units of time and distance (scatti) record direct-dialed long-distance calls. Bills show the number of scatti but no dates, number of calls, or places called. Only by placing the call through an operator is it possible to request this complete record. Operator-placed calls are also cheaper than those dialed directly. The disadvantage is that a caller may have to wait hours for his turn.


Overseas calls can be placed only from large cities. Local international operators in towns must connect with an overseas operator in Rome or another large city. It is possible to call collect from Italy to the United States and vice versa. The cost is slightly lower when paid in the United States.


Public telephones, found in cafés, tobacco shops, subway stations, and in all branches of the telephone company, require tokens purchased from a vending machine next to the pay telephone. To place a local call, lift the receiver, wait for the dial tone, insert the token, and dial the number. If there is no answer or if the line is busy, hang up and press the red knob on the telephone to retrieve the token. Pay telephones marked interurbana are for long-distance calls. Initially you have to insert at least six tokens, and if you expect the call to be a long one, it is advisable to use even more. When your tokens have been used up, you will hear a beep on the line. This means that the call will be cut off if more tokens are not inserted immediately. If the conversation ends and you still have time left, press the red knob on the telephone for a return.


Most Italians now have telephones in their homes, but some farms and country houses do not. To get in touch with someone who hasn't a telephone, give the operator his/her name and address as well as the time you think he/she might be available. The telephone company will send a messenger to notify the person when to receive the call at the nearest public telephone booth. Also, it is possible to call someone who has a telephone but is hard to get in touch with. Once again the telephone company notifies the person that he/she will be receiving a call at a certain time. This kind of call is una chiamata con prenotazione.


Other services provided by the telephone company are weather forecasts, time, road conditions, current radio news reports, and wake-up calls. These services cost the same as a local call, 100 lire or eight cents.