Italian Idiom: Essere in alto mare (to have a long way to go / in difficulty)

Imagine you find yourself adrift on a choppy sea in the middle of nowhere, with no means to call for help. It’s from this vivid image that we get the Italian idiom essere in alto mare, which literally translates to “to be on the high seas” in English.

Italian idiom "Essere in alto mare"

This expression is used to describe a situation where someone is far from resolving a problem or completing a project, akin to being lost at sea with no land in sight.

For example, picture yourself on the brink of moving to a new house. While most things are moving along as planned, you’ve hit a snag in the closing process and uncovered some unexpected repairs that need attention. You’re optimistic that you’ll be settled into your new home by the end of the year, but you’re also aware that there’s still quite a journey ahead before that happens. In this case, you can use essere in alto mare to describe your situation.

Of course, the expression in alto mare can also be used literally to refer to a boat or ship that is far away from the shore.

One of Italian singer Loredana Bertè’s most popular hits is called In alto mare. If you have a few minutes to spare, why not give it a listen?

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