The Italian letter E has two pronunciations. The explanation and equivalents provided here are based on the closest sounds that exist in American English, which are sometimes not very close at all. IPA symbols are provided in [brackets].
1. The closed e sound (la e chiusa). Phonetic symbol: [e]. The nearest sound in English is the long a as in "name," but that’s a diphthong: [eI] which starts out like the Italian [e] but ends in a sort of y sound. In contrast, the Italian closed e sound is just the first part. Any "e" found in an unstressed syllable is closed.*
|the letter e|
2. The open e sound (la e aperta) is equivalent to English’s short e sound, as in "set." Phonetic symbol: [ɛ]
Hard vs soft
E is a soft vowel.