Italian Prepositions: An Introduction

Prepositions are words placed before a noun or pronoun to show its relation to the sentence and are often used to express spatial or temporal relations. Simple prepositions (preposizioni semplici) are those that only have one single element and are not compounded with any other word. In Italian there are nine simple prepositions: di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra. This page introduces the use of in and a when used as place prepositions (preposizioni di luogo), that is when they are used to determine the place or position of a person or thing.

Place Preposition “in”: When to use

When referring to a place or location, the preposition “in” is used in the following cases:

  • When expressing direction (to) the place, and when referring to the location or something or someone, for countries, regions, continents, big islands:


Sono andato in vacanza in Tailandia.

I went on vacation in Thailand.

Luca abita in Norvegia.

Luca lives in Norwey.

Pechino è una città in Cina.

Beijing is a city in China.


Firenze è in Toscana.

Florence is in Tuscany.

Domani torno in Lombardia.

I’m going back to Lombardia tomorrow.


Quanti Stati ci sono in Asia?

How many countries are there in Asia?

Big islands:

Giorgio ha una casa in Sicilia.

Giorgio has a house in Sicily.

  • With the following places: banca (= bank) , biblioteca (= library), classe (= class), città (= city), chiesa (= church), campagna (= country), piscina (= pool), ufficio (= office), albergo (= hotel), farmacia (= pharmacy), etc.

Dopo la scuola di solito vado in biblioteca a studiare un paio d’ore.

After school I usually go to the library to study for a couple of hours.

Place Preposition “a”: When to use

In Italian, the present tense is used in the following cases:

  • When expressing direction (to) the place, and when referring to the location or something or someone, for the name of cities and small islands:


Lucia abita a Milano.

Lucia lives in Milan.

La prossima settimana mi trasferisco a Firenze.

Next week I’m moving to Florence.

Small islands:

Il Sig. Rossi ha aperto un ristorante a Malta.

Mr. Rossi opened a restaurant in Malta.

  • With the following places: casa (= home/house), scuola (= school), teatro (=theater), etc.

Oggi non esco, resto a casa.

I’m not going out today, I’m staying home.

Prendi l’autobus per andare a scuola?

Do you take the bus to school?

Audio lessons to practice place prepositions

To practice place prepositions, take Lesson 9 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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