Italian Word of the Day: Valigia (suitcase)

Most people  – with perhaps the exception of my minimalistic father who only ever travels with a teeny tiny bag – pack their belongings inside a valigia (feminine, plural: valige or valigie) when they go on holiday.

The word derives from the Latin valisia, which possibly came from the Gaulish *valisia meaning leather bag.

italian word for suitcase

Some verbs you’ll frequently see paired with valigia include:

  • fare / preparare la valigia = to pack a suitcase
  • disfare la valigia = to unpack a suitcase
  • aprire la valigia = to open the suitcase
  • chiudere la valigia = to close the suitcase
  • mettere (qualcosa) in valigia / nella valigia = to put (something) in the suitcase
  • caricare / mettere la valigia (in / nel) = to load / put the suitcase (into)

Chiudi la valigia e caricala in macchina per favore.

Close the suitcase and put it in the car please.

cat inside a suitcase
Il gatto si nasconde nella valigia. – The cat is hiding inside the suitcase.

Fare la valigia can also be used in a figurative sense to mean to pack up or to leave (either willingly or against one’s will).

The most popular kind of valigia for travel is the trolley which is a suitcase with two or four wheels (ruote) and a telescopic handle (maniglia telescopica).

Businessmen, who might just spend a day away from home, tend to carry a briefcase, which is known as a ventiquattrore (literally ’24 hours’) or valigetta (literally ‘little suitcase’) in Italian.

Può tenere la ventiquattrore con sé signore, ma quella valigia deve andare nella stiva.

You can keep the briefcase with you, sir, but that suitcase needs to go in the cargo hold.

Other popular types of bags used for travel are borsa or borsone, sacca and zaino. Italians also use the English term beauty-case (or the short beauty). They are all classified as bagagli, the plural of luggage or baggage. A bagaglio a mano is carry-on baggage or hand luggage.

Valigia can also translate as bag when referring to, for example, a computer or projector bag (valigia del computer / del proiettore).

Did you know…?
In the past, valigia had a broader meaning in relation to things that were moved from one country to another. For example, the valigia postale (lit: postal suitcase) was the bag where all the correspondence was kept during transportation. The valigia delle Indie (Indian mail) was the postal and passenger service between England and India, via rail and sea. The valigia diplomatica (diplomatic bag or pouch, still in use today) contains official mail between a diplomatic office in a foreign country and the government it represents.

Another related term is valigeria which can denote a shop that sells bags, a factory that makes bags, or quite simply, an assortment of different bags.

If you’re a high intermediate / advanced learner interested in reading so-called “slow news” in Italian, a website we subscribe to and read often is Valigia Blu (Blue Suitcase). They abide by three core values in their journalistic approach: verification, context, and in-depth analysis. Many articles are accompanied by a podcast which you can listen to as you read the article. Be sure to check it out!

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