Italians are famous because of their use of hand gestures. There are several types of gestures (more than 250 according to Prof. Isabella Poggi, University Roma Tre) and, through gestures, Italians may have discussions on several subjects such as cut a phone call to go for lunch or the need of money because there is nothing left.
This phenomenon, which has a long history, is very interesting since it is part of the non verbal communication i.e. the body language which, according to accredited studies (by Prof. Albert Mehrabian), counts for the 55% of our communication (whereas words would count only for 7%). Hands cover an important part of non verbal communication because, for example, when we speak we may move hands in a manner corresponding to what we are saying and show openness or we can braid hands due to tension.
A very well known Italian gesture is the "hartichoke" (or "tulip") hand. This gesture may have two meanings: the first one is "what did you say?" or "what do you want?" and the other one meaning is "what are you talking about?", "I do not agree" so it is a critique. How to understand which meaning is? It depends on other elements: if the hand moves up and down quickly two or three times, its movement is short and the look is a questioning one the meaning is "what did you say?". Whereas when the hand moves up and down slowly, its movement is long and the look is skeptical we refer to the second meaning.
Of course, this is the Italian version: in certain Middle East countries the artichoke hand means "wait a moment". This is why all language courses must include gestures!