The italianissima subtle art of ‘Lo Scrocco’

Ciao a tutti! In my Lessons on How to Be Italian on Patreon, we have recently dived into a very typical Italian specialty all Italians master: the subtle art of ‘lo scrocco’.

What does ‘lo scrocco’ mean? According to the Garzanti dictionary, the verb ‘scroccare’ means ‘to obtain something at somebody else’s expenses’. Another definition from the Treccani dictionary goes: ‘getting to have something that usually implies a payment, without paying’. Examples are: ‘scroccare a meal’ or ‘scroccare a cigarette’. Another definition, my favorite because closer to how things actually go, is: ‘managing to obtain something for free having others pay for it or offer it’.

The real point of the art of ‘scroccare’ (otherwise it would not be an art) is having others spontaneously offer to buy you something or to offer you something for free, by subtly pushing them to do so using fine psychological tricks. The idea is: never ask anything openly and never have the other person think you do not want to pay for something (you don’t want to look like a jackass, do you?). You must actually act as if you wish to pay for your lunch and your friend’s; you must look very convincing  while you walk, head up, to the cash desk and you must pretend to take offense if the other takes out his or her wallet as if they want to pay for the both of you. You must even start a little argument with your friend or acquaintance. Why do they not let you pay for Goodness sake? You must dive into your role using the Stanislavski’s system. You really are an outraged person. You hold your wallet in your hand as if you were Wagner’s Siegfried going to slay Fafnir with that nobody-can-prevent-me-from-paying-the-bill look.

But – here comes the stroke of genius – all of a sudden, when the other person is surrendering to you, you shake your head and humbly say: ‘va bene, ok, sorry, I did not mean to offend you. I’ll buy you a coffee next time’. It is very important that, if you are man, you place your hand on your friend’s shoulder looking very earnest. After all, who are you to take away the joy of offering away from your friend? If you are a woman you are supposed to blush a bit (if you cannot do it – mostly because you fear to burst out laughing –  you just lower your eyes, that will do).

Those who really master the art of ‘scroccare’, manage to squint while their eyes start filling with (fake) tears. That’s the Art (and I hope you understand that I’m talking about ‘Art’ with a capital letter here) of ‘lo scrocco’.

For practical examples, go to my Patreon project 😉


  1. Io adoro lo scrocco! 🙂 Whenever we go back to our old place in Tuscany we manage to “scroccare” for the whole time we are there … just about to do this again in just over a week 🙂

  2. So interesting Simona!! We have a little different system with our Chinese relatives– they always always want to pay–even sneak off to pay the bill ahead of time. We have to be vigilant to take our turn! Hope all’s well with you and your family there– hugs!

    • My father must have Chinese ancestors then. He always tries the trick to pay before we get up at the restaurant, because he always wants to be the one offering the lunch or dinner. I know what you mean by ‘being vigliant’. So cool you have Chinese relatives. I wonder wether they taught you some Chinese words… You know I am fond of foreign langagues! Hugs (un abbraccio… in Italy for some reasons we say ‘one hug’… that’s the way we say it… hope it does not sound too cold!)

      • Hi Simona– No no! I’ve been to China 11 times (when our son lived there) and only have a short list of Chinese words I can use. It’s pathetic! Our son lived in Shanghai for 10 years and met Jodi, they married and have 3 girls– and are in California now! The family is coming this weekend with some Chinese visitors and I wish wish I could talk with them! Also our daughter Ani, married Brian from Hong Kong. So we are a real Chinese-American family! I’m not sure about your Dad though, I think generous people come in all cultures! hugs hugs!

        • Wow, 11 times to China… I only went to Shanghai once for my former job. You have such an international family! We Italians are so non-migratory and rooted here. Have a great weekend with your Chinese visitors! xoxo

          • Wow, that sounds exciting to travel around the world with your job! Were you working the whole time?? Or did you get to tour around a bit?? Take care friend… xo

          • Ciao Rhonda! Actually I was working for a public body doing internationalization for Italian companies. I travelled every time we had a fair going on or a EU-funded project. I did not travel much. However I did enjoy that part of my job a lot, even if my boss would take the best destinations (San Francisco, L.A., New York, Moscow) and leave to me Belarus, Ukraine, etc.). However, I loved Ukraine and its old churches and the beautiful monastery of Pecherska Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves). Hugs!

          • How intriguing Simona! I always thought it was so “glamorous” to get to travel for your work. Teachers just go to school every day! I’ve heard the Ukraine is so historically beautiful! so wonderful that you’ve seen so many places… (including your Berlin trip this year!!). xo

          • Yes, the Kievan Rus’ was once a great state! Unfortunately when Ukraine was in the former Soviet Union many religious buildings were demolished. And yet some have been preserved, and some others well restored. I don’t know but I am fond of Kiev. So glad I could visit for my work! Teachers do the more useful job on earth. What can there be better than helping children grow up, discover the world, give them the basis for their future life. I am not talking about giving kids an ‘education’. Teachers do much more: they teach them life, day by day. They help them build a critical conscience, they teach them how to think, how to explore the world, how to be free. I am fond of Costanza’s teachers. You really did the greatest of jobs, Rhonda! I still go and visit my English teacher who is 97 now. One of my life’s most important models. A teacher of life, not simply of English (even though he would criticize my English right now!)

          • This is so wonderful to hear Simona– it’s true the right teacher can really give so much to her students! I can imagine how much your older teacher loves seeing you and all that’s come in your life. I wonder about a lot of my past students… Happy weekend! xox

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