What is a Meme? 8 Italian memes explained (HILARIOUS!)

In this article I want to talk to you about a funny and a bit unusual subject, but I’m sure you all know it very well: I’m talking about memes. Do you know any Italian memes?

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What is a meme?

Who among us has never met, in the meanders of any social network, an image with funny text? Now, those are memes. Or at least, memes as we know them today…

Maybe you didn’t know this, but in fact the word “meme” has a much older origin than you might think: the term was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to try and explain how cultural information spreads. Therefore, the word “meme” indicates precisely an idea that spreads in mass culture, usually by imitation, by suddenly becoming famous. By extension, in recent times the term meme has passed to indicate those images that, because of their irony, become famous and spread quickly on social media.

Basically, I’m sure that even in your culture there are a lot of memes, that maybe speakers of other languages wouldn’t even understand. Precisely for this reason today I want to show you 8 Italian memes among my favourites, and I will explain their meaning, which could be difficult to understand for those who are not native Italian speakers.


Mom memes

meme madre


The first two meme I want to show you are a perfect example of the typical Italian mom: from north to south, from city to country, the Italian mom is always the same. Because, deep down, you know it too: mummy is always mummy. Especially for Italians. And if there’s one thing Italian mothers can’t stand, it’s when you walk on a wet floor.

The meme says: “When your mother has just washed the floor… But you forgot your phone in your room”

I’m sure that many mothers, even non-Italian ones, would make you climb the ledges so that you don’t pass through the living room when they have just washed the floor.


papa meme


Another meme about moms is this one on the left, which says: “When your mom is on the phone with a relative… And you hear her say “yes, he’s right here, I’ll put him on the phone!”.

If there’s one thing we all hate, it’s when mom puts us on the phone with a relative.

And it’s even worse if they are relatives you never talk to, not even once, except for the Merry Christmas greetings, after which you forget they exist. I swear to you that my face in those moments is exactly the one Pope Francis makes in this meme!


Grandma memes

The third meme refers to grandmothers, a category ranking at a higher level of ineluctability than mothers: saying no to your grandmother is like making fun of Dave Bautista. You’d better run for your life. And in fact this meme represents Italian grandmothers very well. It says: “When you tell your grandmother: No thanks, I’m not hungry.”

meme nonna

Well, let’s just say Italian grandmothers are a little touchy when it comes to food, especially when they cooked it themselves. If you want to tell your grandmother you’re not hungry, just know that you do so at your own risk. No one will save you. If you want my advice, it’s better to eat anyway and possibly be sick all day long: it’s still less painful.

Beyond the irony of the sentence, I want to explain why this specific picture is used: the gentleman you see in the back, with black hair and beard, is Antonino Cannavacciuolo, a famous Neapolitan chef who hosted several TV series about cooking; in particular, Cannavacciuolo is very famous for his legendary “pats on the back”, which are quite… “powerful”. In this photo, he is about to throw one at a contestant of one of his TV series. Let’s just say it perfectly sums up a grandmother’s wrath.


Gerry Scotti memes

meme gerry scotty

The fourth meme features one of the most famous Italian TV presenters, also known for his facial expressions widely used on the web to create memes. His name is Gerry Scotti, born in the city of Pavia, in Lombardy, host of the famous “Milionario” and many other TV programs and talent shows.

The meme says: “When the waiter brings the pizzas and asks: Who ordered the Hawaiian?

Here lies another trait of Italian culture: the Hawaiian pizza, i.e. the one with pineapple, is considered by most people as an ignoble, unacceptable, unattainable version of our beloved pizza.

In short, according to many people, pineapple – on pizza – does not go. Hence, at the waiter’s question, the person who ordered the Hawaiian pizza but is ashamed to admit it, makes exactly the same face that Gerry Scotti makes in the picture. “ No no, I swear, it’s not mine!”

meme gerry scotty 2

Another meme with Gerry Scotti is this one, which says:

“When the teacher brought the tests to the class saying: They all went well except for one — My God, she’s talking about me!”

It is taken precisely from one of Gerry Scotti’s television programs, where he often repeats this sentence to brag, jokingly, about his own experiences. For example, if in a TV quiz question they talk about a famous actor, very rich and married to a beautiful woman, Gerry could comment: “My God, it’s talking about me!”.


Lockdown memes

The next meme concerns a particular event, which we have all experienced and unfortunately are still going through today: the coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of the tragedy, there is always someone trying to soften the mood. Well, one thing you may not know, especially if you have not lived through the lockdown in Italy, is that shortly after the start of quarantine, around March-April this year, there was a general shortage of brewer’s yeast in supermarkets. Imagine the scene: an army of moms and grandmothers in a state of total boredom decides to occupy their time kneading bread, pizza, cakes and any other food that includes the use of yeast in its preparation.

meme lockdown

And then, logically, brewer’s yeast starts disappearing from supermarket shelves. And you can’t find it anywhere. It is precisely from this situation that the meme I’m showing you now arises, in which the scary clown from the horror movie “It” comes out of the sewer and asks the child: “Do you want a stick of brewer’s yeast?”, as if we were talking about a precious treasure that cannot be found.

Another meme taken from the lockdown period in Italy is this one, which was actually originally a tweet from a guy who posted a picture of a supermarket shelf, where the only type of pasta that hadn’t been bought in bulk was “penne lisce”. And he comments saying: “I keep looking at this picture taken earlier at the supermarket and I think that the big loser of this virus are penne lisce, that Italians hate even when they’re panicking and preparing for the apocalypse”.

meme pasta

I mean, if you think about it, it’s quite curious: as you probably already know, Italians are very specific when it comes to pasta. Pasta exists in different formats, and each format has only a few specific destinations: for example, you can’t make penne in broth. It doesn’t exist at all. Eww. And so for each type of pasta there are some rules. However, it is curious to note that a particular pasta format, i.e. penne lisce, is not particularly loved by Italians, on the contrary it is often openly snubbed and even mocked. From what this post tells us, an Italian would not eat the penne lisce even if it was the last food left on Earth. In short, penne, for any respectable dish, have to be rigate. Only penne rigate deserve to be considered a real kind of pasta.

Oh, speaking of pasta, if you want to know all the types of pasta that Italians eat the most, I suggest you watch my video dedicated to this very topic!


An international meme

vestiti meme

The last meme I want to show you is not strictly Italian, in fact I’m sure you can all see yourselves in this situation: “the clothes on the chair during the day” vs. “the clothes on the chair at 3am”.

Who among us does not have a chair in the room that is punctually overwhelmed by clothes and at night, for some strange reason, assumes very disturbing shapes? Well, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.


One last thing: are mothers and grandmothers like Italian ones in your culture too? Or are they different? I’m really curious to know if you have found in these memes some traits of your culture. Please tell me in the comments!

And don’t forget to watch my video lesson on Italian humor, so that you can understand it better!

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