Italian Word of the Day: Tempesta (storm)

In Italian, the word tempesta (feminine, plural: tempeste) refers to any violent storm and may be characterised by strong winds (venti forti), thunder and lightning (tuoni e fulmini), heavy rainfall (forte pioggia), ice (ghiaccio), or winds carrying sand (sabbia), snow (neve) or hail (grandine).


There are numerous names and varieties of tempeste in the Italian language, some of the most well-known being:

  • Temporale = A thunderstorm consisting of thunder, lightning and intense precipitation.
  • Bufera = A storm characterised by the presence of very strong winds, snow, rain and hail.
  • Tormenta = A very violent snowstorm or blizzard accompanied by strong winds.
  • Tromba d’aria / tornado = A tornado
  • Tempesta di ghiaccio / grandine / vento / neve = An ice / hail / wind / snow storm
  • Ciclone tropicale / uragano = A tropical cyclone or hurricane
  • Tempesta magnetica = magnetic storm
lightning on a metropolitan area
Il fulmine colpisce la città. = The lightning strikes the city.

La tempesta ha provocato tanti danni.

The storm caused lots of damage.

Below are a few common verbs you’ll often see used with tempesta:

  • superare la tempesta = to ride out / weather the storm
  • affrontare la tempesta = to brave the storm
  • si scatena la tempesta = the storm blows up
  • essere travolto dalla tempesta = to be overwhelmed by the storm

When the sky goes dark and you can smell rain in the air, you may also hear Italian people say C’è aria di tempesta! (lit: there is air of a storm) which is how you’d say A storm is brewing! Figuratively speaking, it means that a big argument is about to start.

Another meaning of tempesta in Italian is turmoil, especially when referring to a violent contrast of inner feelings or desires.

Ho l’anima in tempesta.

I’m in a state of inner turmoil.

It may also be used when talking about an onslaught or bombardment of something physical, such as bullets, or metaphorical, such as telephone calls or questions.

man speaking on the phone in the office
Ho ricevuto una tempesta di telefonate stamattina. = I was bombarded with phone calls this morning.

Two other possible translations are:

  • a heated quarrel between people with strongly opposing ideas (e.g. una tempesta in famiglia = a heated family argument)
  • times of hardship or adversity (e.g. le tempeste della vita = the adversities of life)

In both English and Italian, you’ll hear the expression la quiete prima della tempesta (the calm before the storm).

Idioms featuring the word ‘tempesta’

Una tempesta in un bicchier d’acqua

Literal translation: A storm in a cup of water
English meaning: A storm in a teacup

Chi semina vento raccoglie tempesta

Literal translation: Who sows the wind reaps the storm
English meaning: You reap what you sow

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