If you have an Italian character (or a character with Italian origins) and you want to point it out clearly, you're probably going to have him/her gesticulate every time he/she says something relevant.
However, it's not just a stereotype
Exaggerations apart, this trope is a case of Truth in Television
. It isn't strictly Italian, though, the custom being common around the Mediterranean (Greeks, Lebanese, Spaniards and Egyptians are all widely noted for their fondness for gesticulation), owing to a long history of trade and other interaction between peoples who speak different languages (gestures can get a message across well even with the most limited of speech). Note though that not only movies wildly exaggerate the whole thing but actually, most Italians don't gesticulate at all
; needless to say, this trope tends to annoy them quite a lot
Not necessarily related to Signed Language
Anime & Manga
- Italian comedies are full of this trope.
- Happens a lot, of course, in virtually any movie about the Italian Mafia.
- In Mission Impossible III, we see this outside the Vatican.
- The main character of Eat, Pray, Love is told that Italian is spoken with the hands.
- In Inglourious Basterds, the three American soldiers who have to impersonate Italians (without speaking a word of it) at a Nazi party punctuate every sentence with arm gestures. The guy they're trying to fool isn't (primarily because of his own mastery of the language), but goes along with the act since it's so funny.
- It is part of the OTT stereotype that Captain Bertorelli does this a lot in 'Allo 'Allo!.
- Desperate Housewives: Bree Hodge gesticulates while trying to impress some Italian clients of her catering agency.
- The Beverly Hillbillies: Jethro was dating an Italian woman and claimed he knew Italian because he could make the gesture pictured.
- In a Saturday Night Live sketch, January Jones as a House Wife from The Fifties advises viewers that if Italians come to your party, give them enough space to talk with their hands.
- During their trip to Italy on I Love Lucy, Lucy assures Ethel that she knows enough Italian to get by, by demonstrating the different hand gestures she's learned—including the ones for "wonderful", "who knows?", and "get me a large pizza". The latter gesture is then used by two different Italians later in the episode.
- Mario and Luigi can do this as part of their gestures whenever they "talk" in the Mario & Luigi games.
- The meme Philosoraptor once contained the question, "If an Italian is missing an arm, can we say he has speech impediment"?
- This video is about Italian gestures as seen by the English.
- In Italy itself, Southern Italians (and especially Neapolitans) are the ones said to be gesticulating, unlike Central and Northern Italians. Also, some gestures vary from zone to zone.
- In Argentina, there has been a massive cultural influence from Italian immigrants, including food and language. Gesture language included, and to this date a lot of Italian hand gestures have been adopted.