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Italy question - Not dive related

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by DeputyDan, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. DeputyDan

    DeputyDan Great White

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: North Carolina
    3,893
    310
    83
    My daughter is going to do study abroad in Italy next summer.
    My wife and I are considering visiting her and we speak zero Italian.

    Question is - How difficult will it be for us to travel around the country using trains buses, etc. without knowing the language?
     
  2. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
    16,265
    7,657
    113
    Italian is not much different than Spanish. My advice would be to get an Italian /English phrasebook or dictionary. The words are spelled out phonetically. If in big cities there will be many who speak some English, countryside not so much. I would love to go to my ancestral country. I know enough Italian to find a restaurant, bathroom, hotel, and brothel. I can order some food safely. I can also get slapped. When I was a kid my papa tried to get me to learn the language. I didn't have time. Now I wish I did. We have a local Italian society( not the Mafia) where I can go and get free lessons. Wanting to do that this winter as well as learn an asian language. My son speaks, reads, and writes Mandarin Chinese. My grandfather dropped out of school in the 6th grade to go to work. He was a successful business man for 50 years and he attributed that to being able to communicate. At the time of his death that gradeschool dropout spoke English, Italian, Yiddish, Slovak, Russian, German, and a little Japanese picked up during WWII.
     
  3. annlaur

    annlaur Photographer

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Paris, France
    600
    141
    43
    I'd say the "difficulty" level is a very subjective feeling. I've been to Italy and didn't meet that many people that spoke English or any other language I can communicate with (except for hotel clerks, waiters, students…). I used lots of hand signals and gestures and somehow managed to get the info I needed. So if you're not afraid to make a fool of yourself or to go up to 6 different people until you find one that speaks English, you'll do just fine.

    Since you have lots of time before summer, try to learn a few very useful phrases such as "hello", "thank you", "please", "where's the bathroom?", "go left", "go straight"… And buy a traveler's phrasebook, they are small and you'll find all the sentences you need. Even if you can't pronounce them right, you can always point to the sentence and have them read it.

    Have fun, Italy is an amazing country not to be missed.
     
  4. herman

    herman Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh,North Carolina
    8,980
    1,291
    113
    How about one of the electronic translators. I don't have a clue of how good they are but it's got to be better than nothing.
     
  5. Eau_Girl

    Eau_Girl Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: London
    291
    0
    0
    Go for it! Your lack of Italian language skills will add to the adventure!

    My advice would be to arrange (before you go) a place to stay for your first night or two to get over jetlag. Once you're rested you'll be up for the challenge to explore. Where (as in which city) will she be studying?
     
  6. lulubelle

    lulubelle Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location:
    862
    95
    0
    I spoke not one word of Italian on my first trip there and had a ball. Honestly, my lack of language skills added to the fun I had. I did have a little phrase book with me which was helpful on occasion, but mostly I learned by listening, gesturing, trying, making mistakes, etc. 50 or so trips and one fiance later, I am much further along but still not fluent :depressed:

    In the Northern cities, nearly everyone speaks English, many of them better than the average American. The official language in many global corporate offices is English. There are also tons of ex pat Brits in the North, hence the nickname "Chiantishire" for the Chianti Valley. Small towns are more charming and there will be fewer English speakers there.

    The South still has a lot of people speaking not only Italian, but any one of a bazillion dialects. Still plenty of English speakers to be found in the cities, but not as ubiquitously as in the North.

    Some advice?

    1. BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR HANDS. :rofl3:I kid you not. Google hand gestures and you will see that gestures which are positive or neutral to us may not be to an Italian. :shocked2:

    2. DON'T say any FOOD words unless you are in the market or in a restaurant. Italians use a lot of food words to "stand in" for things they do not wish to say directly, like insults. :cool2:

    3. They will love you for trying, so do try. Learn a few key words and phrases, and even if you butcher them you will be seen as "simpatico" for the effort.

    4. Oh! And take your dive gear. I hear that the Portofino Marine Park is a good area for diving and it is in my favorite region (Liguria) of all!

    Buona Fortuna!
     
  7. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
    16,265
    7,657
    113
    The hands are very important! Forgot to mention that as being Italian/ Sicilian part of the language is in the hands and we just take it for granted. If the cops were ever to cuff me my vocabulary would be cut in half!
     
  8. ToddK

    ToddK Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Rio Rancho, NM
    250
    1
    18
    Definitely go for it. My wife and I were able to spend 6 weeks touring around Western Europe several years ago. We spent about 10 days each in Germany, France & Italy, without being speakers of any of these langauages. We found most people were very nice about it. We took the Rick Steve's guidebooks and phrasebooks with us, and at a minimum for each langauge we learned "please", "thank you", "one", "two, "three", and "do you have a room for the night?". Along with pointing & smiling, this will get you pretty far. We also rented a car, which I'd definitely recommend, except for in the center of Rome or Naples. :) I definitely second Lulubelle's point about having enough Brits for Chiantishire. When we stayed at Sorrento, there were huge numbers of British pubs.
     
  9. DiveNav

    DiveNav ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southern California
    3,823
    467
    83
    Where exactly in Italy?
    There is a big difference between North and South and between large cities and small towns.

    You will be surprised by how many tourists are there in Italy - at any given time ;)
    And You will also find out that Italians "take care" of their tourists.

    You will also be surprised by how many "illegal aliens" are roaming the country these days trying to sell you anything .... just keep them happy and buy their stuff:D

    Alberto (Italiano puro)
     
  10. DeputyDan

    DeputyDan Great White

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: North Carolina
    3,893
    310
    83
    Thanks to all.

    She is studying in Florence. We plan a week in Rome - a week in Florence and surrounding area and a week in Venice/Slovenia. Everyone wants to go to Venice but me - I want to go to Slovenia - so we will split the difference. OF COURSE THIS WILL ALL CHANGE!

    Fortunately we have over 300,000 Hilton points so at 30,000 a night we have 10 days covered as I type!
     

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