We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Learn Italian before you go

Which Rome hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Miami
Level Contributor
73 posts
12 reviews
Save Topic
Learn Italian before you go

Let me give you a bit of advise, learn italian before you go, unless you are travelling with an escorted tour, you need to speak the language. We recently came back from Italy, drove all around from Rome- Tuscany- Florence - Venice and believe me that you need to speak the language. I was very disapointed with the italians (northern part), they were rude and not helpful at all, eventough I tried to speak the language and have a very friendly attitude, this was a very rude awakening. This was my dream trip and looked forward to this trip all my life, but was very dissapointed when I encountered that 80% of the people we met were not friendly at all and very rude.

Havertown...
Level Contributor
881 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: Learn Italian before you go

Wow .. sorry to hear about your bad experience. On both of my trips I found the people to be generally very friendly. Rome can be an exception simply because it's a large, fast paced city (similar to NY), and it's easy to mistake haste for rudeness.

In my experience, you really only need to know the basics - grazie, prego, bongiorno, bonasera, etc., however there certainly are instances where there are communication breakdowns, especially if you're off the beaten path.

Ravenna, Italy
Level Contributor
9,377 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Learn Italian before you go

Where did you find these rude people? I live in the northern part of Italy and although hardly anyone speaks English where I am they try to be helpful when tourist ask them questions.

Oh my this is a sad story.

Cambridge, United...
Level Contributor
2,966 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Learn Italian before you go

How strange, and how unfortunate for you. I'm puzzled, because I know when I've been in all of the places you mention, a lot of people spoke English - despite the fact that I speak good Italian, when they heard me speak to my friends or just saw that I didn't look Italian, they would very often reply in English (or German, when they guessed wrong ;)). So it's odd that you say you really need to speak Italian before you go, because in the major tourist cities I don't think that's really true. Obviously it's good to learn a few words to be polite, and it is *easier* if you speak and understand Italian, but a lot of people who work in the tourism / services industry in those cities do speak at least some English.

Cambridge, United...
Level Contributor
2,966 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Learn Italian before you go

As an afterthought, I wonder if the "rudeness" is actually just a cultural difference? It's hard to tell, but for example, the American style of service in restaurants just isn't found in Italy. The "Have A Nice Day!" and fixed grinning that are (probably unfairly!!) satirised as "typically American" in the UK don't really happen in Italy, at least not to the same extent. I've never found it unfriendly, but then I'm not used to American-style service, so I have different expectations.

In the really tourist-oriented restaurants I can well imagine the waiters etc being quite "short" with customers - and as a previous poster said, some of it is simply haste. Sometimes you're going to come across a person who is simply rude (and sometimes just prejudiced against tourists, perhaps specifically American tourists), but I've never found those people to be the exception rather than the rule.

And there are little things that tourists often don't realise that make a difference to how you are perceived. For example, it's polite to say hello to the shop owner when you walk into their shop, it's polite to greet people before launching into a request for help / information. It can be easy to forget that sort of thing, particularly if you've got your rehearsed phrase in perfect Italian, and it will make people less inclined to be friendly towards you.

Montreal
Level Contributor
1 post
6 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Learn Italian before you go

I spent 8 days in Rome and 1 in Florence this February and I the locals wouldn't even let me speak Italian. It seems like EVERYONE in the city spoke English. In less touristy areas there were some people who didn't speak English but they were very friendly and we mimed our way through our transactions. :)

Havertown...
Level Contributor
881 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Learn Italian before you go

Vicki - you just reminded me of a funny story from our last trip. Well, not a story as much as a realization ... during general chit chat in English with one of our waiters in Amalfi, he asked if we were from England. It just kind of struck me at that time that people who do not speak English have a hard time distinguising english, american, irish accents, etc.

Ravenna, Italy
Level Contributor
9,377 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Learn Italian before you go

Just like you cannot hear Italian accents. We all have them ! That is why I often wonder about the posting of people who say "the restaurant was packed with locals". Well, if you dont speak good Italian you have no idea if they are locals or from 300 miles away and also on their Roman holiday!

United States
Level Contributor
9,599 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Learn Italian before you go

Michael,

I have to opposite experience. I'm learning Italian and it all sounds the same to me but my teacher keeps pointing out the differences in accents when we watch video clips. She keeps saying, Can't you hear the difference? And I keep saying, NO.

When I was in Siena with an Italian friend, he told me the waiter had a better Sienese accent than he did. I still couldn't tell the difference. (The waiter was not from Siena but my friend was.)

TAB

Canterbury, United...
Level Contributor
1,534 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Learn Italian before you go

This issue is a hardy perennial in these forums. There is no doubt that a little effort on the part of the visitor to have some rudiments of the language of the country he/she visits pays off.

But it would be impossible to ask people who are frequent travellers to many parts of the world to learn a bit of each language they may encounter.

Indeed those of us who have English (with any of it's variants)as their main language are fortunate.It is the likeliest of languages to be understood and spoken in all parts of the world.

You can safely go to Italy without speaking Italian.

Naperville, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Naperville
Level Contributor
919 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Learn Italian before you go

This post about learning Italian made me smile as it reminded me of my dear Italian mother who has passed away. Many years ago when my husband and I were planning our first trip to Italy I told my mom that we were trying to learn Italian. She said not to bother because every town has its own dialect and I wouldn't understand anyone, anyway. Maybe mother knows best after all.