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Italian Travel Is Enhanced by Learning the Italian Language

A cafe scene that typifies the magic of Italian travel.

Traveling to Italy and learning the Italian language are two of the biggest joys in my life. Ever since studying in Florence when I was a college student, I have had a passion for all things Italian. I must have been inhabited by an Italian “fantasma” as I traveled along the back roads lined with cypress trees, roads that wind between Montepulciano and Pienza, because I am certainly possessed by a desire to learn the language and visit every remote corner of il bel paese.

The best part about knowing Italian is that whether you are navigating the streets of Rome on a Vespa or meandering on foot through a sleepy hill town in Tuscany, it enhances your Italian travel experience considerably. By knowing the language you are more in tune with the Italian culture and people and you will see and discover things an average tourist might miss.

I think I fully realized this a year or so after I started to learn Italian. One evening while traveling in Italy, my husband and I found ourselves in a pub in Gubbio, a little town in northern Umbria. Seated next to us was an Italian gentleman with a charming smile. Wanting to test out my language skills, I gathered up my courage and began a conversation in Italian with him. I was delighted to discover that he was a cacciatore di tartufi (a truffle hunter) and excited to be able to carry on a meaningful conversation; I was conjugating verbs correctly, my tenses were making sense and my adjectives, well for the most part, were in agreement with my nouns! Despite the fact our Truffle Hunter knew no English, we were getting along famously and after about half an hour he sprang out of his seat and exclaimed that we must follow him!

Trustingly we tagged along after him through the winding, darkened streets of Gubbio to his shop, which he unlocked with a key from a large key ring. Our new friend opened a bottle of wine and poured two glasses for us and then he opened jars of his marmalades, cheeses and salsas made from his unique truffle recipes. To this day I remember that moment with extreme pleasure, because in the middle of the night, in the heart of Gubbio, we had our own “festa privata” with a man who didn’t speak a word of English. If not for my ability to speak Italian we would never have experienced this man’s hospitality and learned about truffle hunting. It was the first time that knowing the Italian language took me off the beaten tourist path and literally unlocked doors for me. Since then, I have had many similar experiences making friends and seeing and enjoying things that I never would have, if not for being familiar with the language.

Since you never know when you will meet a Truffle hunter in Italy, I highly recommend learning a little of the language before you leave on your next trip! Knowing Italian, while not necessary, especially on a guided tour, will certainly enhance your Italian travel experience.

In my next post, I will review some of my favorite books and sites for learning Italian. In the meantime, please visit my blog, which I write in English and Italian.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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