Even though the verb amare is supposed to cover all meanings implied by the English verb to love, this is not how it is currently used. You would still say like this:

Ama il prossimo tuo come te stesso.

You are watching: What does ti amo mean in italian

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

You would start to sound slightly awkward, but still not necessarily incestuous, with a sentence like the following:

Amo mia sorella.

I love my sister.

But the serious problem arises with ti amo. This is a fixed way of saying I love you in a romantic sense, notwithstanding a long tradition of poor translations in movies. There are teens using the sentence in a "creative" way, like ti amo come amico or ti amo di bene, but it"s more a way of being silly or overly sentimental or it"s just a way of mocking wanna-be boyfriends being "friendzoned".

If you care for somebody in a non-romantic sense, go for the standard

Ti voglio bene.

I care for you.

This can be used in a romantic relationship, in order to highlight the more altruistic, tender (perhaps... extra-sexual?) side of the feeling felt for the other person.

Ti amo, ma ti voglio anche molto bene.

I"m in love with you, but I also care for you.

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Actually, you could contrast amore e voler bene:

"Ti voglio bene ma non ti amo più", un libro di Andrew G. Marshall

"I Love You But I"m Not in Love with You", a book by Andrew G. Marshall

Don"t be misled by the last example, though: to be in love is not always translated as amare, because the les-grizzlys-catalans.org language often uses essere innamorato as opposed to amare to express the nuanced difference between being in love and loving. The point here is that the underlying implication of using innamoramento vs amore by many speakers is that there are two distinct phases of romantic love: the early, exhilarating stage and the subsequent developments. I don"t believe that this distinction is as popular in English-speaking cultures where you are expected to fall in love and then stay... down there. Actually, the two-stage theory has supporters everywhere but not all languages have it embedded like les-grizzlys-catalans.org.

Summing up:

voler bene = non-romantic altruistic love, caring for somebodyamare = romantic love (in general or later, deeper stage of it) or old-fashioned description of caring for somebodyessere innamorati = romantic love (in general or earlier, honeymoon-like stage of it) or infatuation of any kind