A current episode of Provaci ancora prof brings to mind a noun that is easily mixed up with a similar one, by non-native speakers of Italian.
These are nouns Italians use a lot in day-to-day conversation. One is about money and one is about health (and money too, in a roundabout way), both very common topics of conversation. They're also hard to guess the meaning of.
This is a word you need if you want to buy a house, or just take out a loan from the bank. If you're buying a house, then people will understand you're talking about a mortgage. For any other use, it's the equivalent of a loan. We also notice that when mutuo means mortgage, we often use a definite article (il) and when we mean "loan," we'll likely use an indefinite article (un). To mean "loan," you can also use un prestito or un finanziamento.
Roberta mi ha aiutato quando ho fatto il mutuo sulla casa e sa... insomma, dovrà, dovrà riavere.
Roberta helped me when I took out a mortgage on the house and she knows... basically, she should, she should get it back.
Captions 36-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1 - Part 14Play Caption
Io ho ancora da parte millecinquecento euro, però dovrei pagare il mutuo alla banca.
I still have fifteen hundred euros put aside, but I should pay the mortgage to the bank.
Captions 54-55, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 3Play Caption
Il parrucchiere, quello più caro, quello in fondo al paese. Una messa in piega ci vuole un mutuo, eh. E poi non solo...
The hairdresser, the most expensive one, the one at the edge of town. To get one's hair done, you need to take out a loan, huh. And not only that...
Captions 37-39, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 4Play Caption
If you hang out in Italy long enough, like many ex-pats, you will get to know another important noun, la mutua. This is the national health service. You can benefit from this service if you are a legal resident. You don't need to be an Italian citizen.
Here's a scenario.
Devo fare un intervento al femore (I have to get my hip operated on).
-Costerà caro, no? (that will be expensive won't it?)
No. Per fortuna, paga la mutua (No, fortunately national health insurance will pay for it).
Here's another scenario.
Non vado al lavoro oggi. Sono alla mutua.
I'm not going to work today. I'm on sick leave.
This is an informal noun, and may not be used all over Italy, but it the common name Italians give to this service. There are rules for different kinds of jobs (state or private) whereby your sick leave is paid for if you are an employee, but you need a certificate signed by your doctor (il medico della mutua, or il medico curante) and you have to make sure to be home during certain hours of the day, such as from 10 AM to 12 PM, and 5 PM to 7 PM. That way, the health authorities can check to see if you are really sick.
Getting sick and making mortgage or loan payments are never divertenti (fun), but at least you know the words to describe these things now!
P.S. mutuo is also an adjective corresponding to "mutual."