Question and answer time again! Jewel has a few questions as she is planning a trip to Italy next year! This time she has asked me if you can get by in Italy with knowing only a small amount of the language.
The answer is yes. You can get by in Italy without knowing Italian. Of course it does help you to learn a few key phrases, and you'll find when you use them, (or when you get them wrong) people will be so endeared that you tried! I travelled alone in Italy for 4 weeks and at this stage I only knew the basic phrases. I somehow managed to get from the north of Italy up by the Lakes, all the way down to Calabria, detouring through Rimini, Perugia and Puglia...so if I can do it anyone can do it!
Truthfully a lot of Italians speak English, especially in the larger touristy towns. If you find yourself in a small isolated town, and no one can understand your bad Italian or sign language then I bet you anything that the town folk will run off, hunt down an English speaker and bring them to you... Really, they would! If you plan on getting off the beaten track and discovering places like Calabria, Basilicata etc... then a small Italian phrase book would come in useful but in other parts of Italy you can get by on English alone.
Some other questions courtesy of my customers:
Do Italians only eat piazza and pasta? People ALWAYS ask me this...always. The answer is "no you ignorant fools. NO! Do British people just drink beer all the time...NO! Let me make this easy for you, have you never heard of Jamie Oliver? He's British, like you. He did that great special on Italy, and even published that beautiful Italian cook book...so instead of asking me such brain dead, feeble questions go and do a bit of research, go and look at a menu at a restaurant...or if you cannot be bothered go and drink a beer and leave me alone." (if only I could answer like that.)
Italians eat so much garlic why do they not smell? A young customer who went to the emergency room here in Rome asked me this. Seems he has a garlic allergy and due to the amount of garlic in his garlic mushrooms he took a turn for the worse. (Yes - I know...why order garlic mushrooms if you cannot stomach garlic?) I had no answer to this question. I could tell him we eat lots of garlic to ward off vampires...but in the end I just sort of laughed his question off. I do that a lot of the time, as some of the questions my guests ask me a ridiculous.
Can I do a day trip to Sicily from Rome? It seems that most people do not even look at a map before coming on holiday. When I lived in Sicily people always were shocked when I told them it would take about 4 hours to drive from Taormina to Palermo. They thought Sicily was like a small Greek Island. Here in Rome it is even worse as they do not even realise that Sicily is the island, right down below Calabria. I tell them that a day trip technically is possible, but that had best book a flight as the train will taken them about half a day to get there. If I have a map of Italy to hand I get them to look so 1) they can see how silly their question was 2) they can see that Sicily is an island...and not really a 'day trip' from Rome. (People also often ask about trips to Venice...)
Any more questoins that anyone has?