Although Italian is spoken by comparatively few people, the language is admired by many for its beauty. But few people know that today's written Italian goes back to the Florentine dialect and the Commedia by Dante Alighieri from the 14th century, which is regarded as the basis for today's official Italian. In addition, numerous dialects existed and still exist today in the various regions. Many Italians believe that it was only the advent of the television in the 1950s that led to a broader standardization of the language. However, it was not only the regional differences, but also the many occupations of Italy before 1871 that made it necessary for Italians to be able to communicate non-verbally as well.
That's why, when wanting to learn Italian as a foreigner, you should not only concentrate on vocabulary and grammar, but at least try to understand what the many hand gestures mean. It is, however, almost impossible to naturally imitate them yourself.
A study conducted a few years ago by Prof. Isabella Poggi from the University of Roma Tre categorized around 250 gestures that Italians use every day. And they don’t only use hand gestures, but their whole bodies to literally step into speech.
Which is the reason why my attempt to conduct a photographic "Interview without words" documenting Italian gestures with my former partner Luca got a little out of hand when he found more creative ways to express himself even outside the commonly known Italian gesture vocabulary.
If you are interested to learn more about dialects in Italy and actually listen to language examples, I recommend to visit the site of the VIVALDI project, an acoustic language atlas of the dialects and minority languages of Italy, developed by linguists at the Humboldt University of Berlin. They have been documenting respective dialects since 1992, which has resulted in a corpus of approx. 100,000 sound files and transcriptions with a total length of about 100 hours of sound examples.
To actually learn some Italian gestures yourself, I still like Carlo Aurucci's somewhat outdated Youtube video the best.