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A quote from Treccani:

fam. iron., va’ là che vai bene!; va’ là che stai fresco!, continua pure così e vedrai che cosa ti succede, o sim.

Searching for these phrases in Google Books doesn't allow me seizing the correct connotation. The question is whether there is a kind of negative connotation: continue this way and you'll get into some trouble. Or otherwise, it can be something like continue this way and maybe you'll succeed.

Searching for the phrases in other academic dictionaries did not yield any results. Something similar can be found in Tommaseo-Bellini:

  1. [M.F.] Va' pur là suol dirsi a chi va incontro ad un pericolo da lui non pensato. Ricciard. 28. 31. Egli la segue e dolce le favella: Ma va' pur là che ti darà il san Biagio.
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Actually the connotation depends from the mood of the person who told you such a sentence, could be positive as well as negative.

Both your translations are fine, you have to understand from the context which one is the most coherent.

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    Benvenuto su Italian.SE! – Charo Mar 31 '19 at 19:30
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Treccani's explanation "continua pure così e vedrai che cosa ti succede" literally means "keep this up and you'll see what happens". It does have a negative connotation.

Let me give you an example: your friend is doing something bad which could easily hurt them. You try to warn them, but they don't change their behavior. You could tell them "continua pure così e vedrai che cosa ti succede" which in this context means "if you keep this up, you're in for a surprise".

I have to say though that I've never heard of "va' là che vai bene" used in a negative way, I've only used it in a totally different, positive context. It could be a dialectal expression. "Va' là che vai bene / stai fresco" used in a negative context sounds a bit sarcastic.

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    Welcome to Italian.SE! – Denis Nardin Apr 3 '19 at 13:37
  • In fact, Treccani's dictionary says it is used in an ironic way. – Charo Apr 3 '19 at 16:08
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I second @Giovanni's answer: the meaning is context dependent, the expressions can be either positive or negative.

anyway I would handle 'va là' by itself, because it is an exclamation that can be complete, can be coupled with other words and usually does not have the literal meaning of 'go there' (vai là); moreover 'va là che vai bene' and 'va là che stai fresco' have different meaning.

va là!

can be used to stop someone talking; with a refrained smile could be a dad asking a son to stop telling a lie or with a more dry tone could be the final warning after that lie went too far.

non ce la faccio più! non arriverò mai in fondo!
va là che vai bene!

I'm exausted! I can't get to the end!
keep up the good work! you'll do that!

or could be the light answer to a rant or a complaint, to imply that the situation is far better 'stop whining: it is not that bad!'. OTOH the very same expression could mean 'stop whining, your situation could be far worse'.

va là che stai fresco!

I know 'stai fresco!' as 'good luck waiting for that to happen!' but coupled with 'va là' does not sound 'right' to me, so I can't make an example or suggest a proper translation/usage.

to provide some context, I live in northern Italy; I don't have any online references to back my post, that's the usage of these expressions that I'm aware of.

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This expression is not used in all Italy I think, where I live we don't use it much but I have heard it. They don't have a negative attitude, they are incitement expressions, like "you can do it, keep it up!", but is not used when someone is already sure of himself, is to help someone get motivated. If I use it (I don't really use that particular accent, I would say something like "Vai tranquillo che vai bene", which basically means the same thing, the expression you are asking is more used in northern Italy) I would mean it (most of the times) to tell a friend that he (or she) is nice enough to go out. Maybe a girl could say "sto malissimo, sono brutta" (which means "I am dressed very badly, I'm ugly" or that her makeup is bad or something like that), than I can use that expression. It could also be useful if someone sends you some photos of himself, you could incite them by telling "Vai bene in questa foto!" (you are nice in this photo). "Stai fresco" instead is really something that you don't hear much in all of Italy, I basically heard it only on TV or by people that live in, as I said before, northern Italy. I feel like it is used very much in Emilia Romagna, but I'm not sure of this. Also you would never write it in a text or use it in a formal discussion, it is informal.

TL;DR Is not a bad expression and it is used to incite someone. It is informal.

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    Welcome to Italian.SE! – Charo Mar 26 '19 at 18:06
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    I am a Roman and find Stai fresco perfectly normal. What makes you think that it is more of a Northern Italy phrase? – DaG Mar 26 '19 at 18:49
  • I don't know, just an assumption – Emanuele Ungaro Mar 26 '19 at 18:57

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