If there is one word that I could call quintessentially Italian, surely there are few candidates to rival the ubiquitious ‘allora’. This word, which your stereotypical Italian seems to say after every few words, can correspond to the English words ‘so’, ‘well’, ‘now then’, or ‘right now’.
What I particularly enjoy is the way that the word will often be stretched out into ‘aaalllloooora,’ depending on regional accents. Thinking about it in English makes it sound funny, since if someone were to stretch out “so”, or “noooow then,” at the start of a sentence, it would be assumed that they were about to make a joke or light-hearted remark of some kind. In Italian, saying ‘allora’ in practically any shape or form seems to be a perfectly accepted part of both formal and informal speech.
Here are some ways to use ‘allora’:
Say “allora…” with a sigh when you are about to start a new task, e.g. “Allora, mettiamo questo qua…”
Say “E allora?” when someone says something that is of no consequence.
Say “Allora!” when you are about to address people and tell them what to do or what you are going to do, e.g. “Allora, possiamo fare cosi…”
Say “allora” at the end of a sentence in which you have decided what you or the group will or should do. For example, “andiamo al cinema allora.” (“Let’s go to the cinema then.”)
Two allora-replacements are ‘quindi’ and ‘dunque’, both of which mainly mean ‘so’ or ‘now then’. However, they are a bit more formal and you can’t always use them in the above examples. Allora is also a much more forceful expression. If you are having a heated argument with someone, you might shout “E allora cosa faccio?!” (So what do I do?). You probably wouldn’t want to use “E quindi cosa faccio?” as it gives the air of capitulation (since you are being formal, you have accepted they are in the right).