Italy Travel Tip: How To Learn To Speak Italian Confidently

This is Silvio. I met him in Sovana walking down the street with zucchini flowers he had just picked from his garden.

Whether you have a trip to Italy coming up and want to learn a few things to say, or whether you are moving there for work and need to dial up your Italian skills, or maybe you just want to learn the language for fun, today I want to tell you about some of the ways I learn and improve my language skills, and also the online course I use to learn and practice Italian at home.

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Why Learn Italian?

I have a slightly different approach to most people. I’m not trying to be perfect at the language, and don’t stop to think how to conjugate a particular verb, or what is the grammatically correct way to say something. Although I have been learning both along the way, and definitely am 1000x better than I was before. My entire goal with learning Italian is to be able to participate.

I want to be able to join the conversation, chat back and forth with anyone and everyone, and understand what’s going on. This to me is where the fun lies in a new language and in traveling to a country that uses that language. And I have to say, I have no end of fun practicing my language skills on anyone who will let me!

Italians are really fun loving, gregarious people, so when they see you making an effort they are more than happy to help you out.

In the picture above I was talking to a lovely gentleman, Silvio. He talked to me about his zucchini flowers, his garden at the end of the street, and then over coffee he told me all about growing up in this little town in the Maremma (southern Tuscany). He told me about his brother walking home from the war after being a prisoner in Russia, arriving home barefoot and just skin and bone. And he told me about his wife who died 32 years ago.

Part of the reason I could talk to him about so many diverse subjects was the online course I use to learn Italian. It’s called Italian With Davide.

Speaking The Language Adds To The Fun

In another little town nearby, the lady in the cheese shop was great fun and loved that I was at least trying to speak in Italian. She taught me a bunch of cheese related words, then put me behind the counter to prank some of the locals. (My friend Anna video’d it)

https://vimeo.com/767903605
My 3 minute job in the cheese shop!

Anyone who speaks Italian will pick up on the mistakes I made, but it’s a great example of the fun you can have even just speaking a small amount. In this case all the other shop owners along the street could hear us all shrieking and laughing and came in to join the fun. I ended up making loads of friends, which was handy because I was staying there on my own for several days.

You may not want to be pretending to be working in a cheese shop, but you can see how using the language adds to the experience!

What Else Do I Do?

Taking a course isn’t the only thing I do to learn Italian. I watch Italian movies and TV shows with subtitles on (Prime, Netflix, You Tube). I also do Italian Reader books like this one and this one and this one. (I have them on Kindle/the Kindle App, so can read a little bit or do some comprehension questions while out and about/on a lunch break/while I’m getting an oil change etc.)

But those things only work if you have something more structured going on as well, which is why Italian With Davide course work so well for me.

The Courses

Italian With Davide has three courses based on your level and ability. The courses are Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

Each course is broken up into lots of small modules. You do them at your own pace, and you can reach out for help when/if needed. There are even chat rooms where you can practice with other learners around the world who are doing the same course as you!

I normally only have time to do a couple of modules at a time, but I do them most days. When I get to the end of a course I often start back over, and keep repeating modules. For me and for the way I learn, this is super helpful. Once you’ve bought a course, you own it and can do it as many times as you want.

Lots of course members do it on their phone while they commute to work. I prefer to do the course at home, but you have all kinds of options.

Some of What You Learn

What I have found super helpful is that you learn real world things that you can actually apply to real life when you’re there.

One example for me was on a boat excursion in Abruzzo this past summer. (If you belong to my newsletter you will already know this story)

On the boat in the Tremiti Islands, the bridal part behind me. It was a super fun day!

I was the only English speaker on the boat. Apart from the captain and the first mate there was a group of 4 women about my age, and then another group of girls doing a bachelorette party day. In one of Davide’s modules you learn about weddings, and the vocabulary of weddings. I had never thought I would actually use those words, but then here I was, on a boat with a bridal party, able to participate in a conversation about the dress, the bridesmaid, the ring, the flowers, the cake – you get it.

What’s In The Courses

You learn all kinds of things that you actually use in real life, and each lesson is broken down so that you learn to pronounce things properly, learn the vocabulary, grammar and expressions. It’s wonderful!

How To Get The Course

Italian With Davide opens for registration several times each year, for about 5 days at a time. If you are reading this before Black Friday 2022, there is a HUGE sale coming up. The biggest discount Davide has ever given. (I, of course, bought all of mine full price a couple of years ago.)

Because the registration is only open for 5 days normally and 3 days over Black Friday 2022, if you are interested or want more information, you should get on Davide’s email list, so that you get notified. For most of the year I don’t pay attention to when the course opens – I already have mine. So being on his email list is the best way to stay informed.

If you want more information about travel in Italy, places the tourists don’t know about, what to eat in Italy, and endless Italy travel tips, join the thousands of people worldwide who get my monthly newsletter. It’s free and it’s really cool! Get the newsletter here.

How To Learn Italian And Speak It Confidently Before Your Trip!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you will already know that I have written 4 best selling books about traveling in Italy. I also lead private tours of Italy every summer. So I have a vested interest in A) learning Italian and B)being comfortable speaking it with Italians while I’m there. I use multiple methods to improve my Italian language skills:

  • I watch Italian movies with subtitles on
  • I read Italian learner books like this one, this one and this one
  • I do an online course that I can keep repeating. I do this one.

Italian With Davide

If you belong to my newsletter you’ll already know that 2 years ago I bought my first Italian With Davide course. I love Davide’s program and have been telling everyone about it!

Davide is young and fun and lives in Milan. He totally gets it that the old-school way of teaching Italian doesn’t really work with the modern traveler’s needs. We really don’t need to learn to say things like “Mr. Smith walks his dog around the block.”

We need to learn things that we can apply while in Italy, that let us participate in local life.

So he developed a language learning program that is perfect for anyone traveling to Italy as well as for professionals going there for work. His courses are all online and are done in your own time, when it works for you. If you have a busy schedule it can be really difficult to get to a class at a set time each week. This makes it easy because you do it at your own pace, when it works for you.

The courses are broken down into small modules so that busy people can do 15 or 20 minutes at a time if that’s all they have time for. Some days I do more, other days I just get one 20 minute module in.

I have spells where I don’t do any, but then pick it back up when I have time again. I love this about the program! Once you’ve bought it, you own it, and can go back and re-do modules as often as you want. I find this incredibly helpful as it really gets you learning on a different level.

You Learn Really Useful Things

Learn More here

With this program I’ve learned all kinds of useful things I never knew I would need. For example, this past summer at the end of my tours I spent 5 days the beach in Abruzzo. It was fabulous!

One of the days I took a boat excursion out to the Tremiti Islands. I was the only English speaker on the boat other than the captain who knew how to say “Absolutely! Yes!!” He learned that when he asked me if I wanted a glass of Prosecco and I said absolutely – yes!!

One the boat trip to the Tremiti Islands. The girls behind me are the bridal party. This was one of the most fun days of my life. I told the whole story in one of my newsletters. If you want to know more just bounce me back a reply from any newsletter and I’ll email you a copy!

There were 2 groups of women on our boat. One was a group of local women who were about my age. The other were a bridal party doing a bachelorette day. I was only able to understand what they were talking about because Davide has a module about weddings in one of his courses!

I know I will have made tons of mistakes throughout that day, but everyone could understand me, and more importantly I could participate in conversations. I wasn’t sitting off to the side by myself, instead was included in the fun. Rather than my brain being full of useless phrases, I was able to apply things Davide taught me and more importantly have the confidence to just jump in and be a part of it all.

Course Registration Is About To Open

Davide only opens course registration a few times per year, and only for about 5 days each time.

The course is really popular, so the open spots sell out fast. You are able to interact with Davide (if you want to) so he keeps the numbers somewhat contained.

Italian With Davide is opening again on Cyber Monday. You can either register then, or get on the email list now, and you’ll be notified when the course opens. I had several of my Glam Italia Tour travelers try to sign up when they got back from their tours this summer, but they missed the registration cut off, so will have to try again this time.

I think he also offers one on one training if you need extra help, but I haven’t used this myself.

Check out the courses here

Italian With Davide comes in three different courses, marked beginner, intermediate and advanced, so there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on your Italian language journey. Several of my newsletter members bought the course for Christmas gifts last year.

If you are planning a trip to Italy in the future you will find it so much more fun being able to say even a handful of things with confidence. I heartily recommend at least checking out Italian With Davide.

If you want to learn how I’m able to get a free flight to Italy every year, and how I have been able to travel every year on a super tight budget for the past 12 years, check out this episode of the Untold Italy Podcast where I explain my favorite travel strategies: Untold Italy: How To Extend Your Italy Travel Budget With These Travel Hacks.

You can join my monthly newsletter (sometimes it comes out twice a month) for more insider tips about Italy travel, and places you may not know about, here.

I also recommend checking out my Italy travel guides, available worldwide in paperback and in digital form on Amazon.

9 Foods You’ll Absolutely Fall In Love With In Venice

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll already know I absolutely LOVE Venice!

In Burano this summer with one of my Glam Italia Tours

Venice is not only the most spectacularly beautiful city in the world, and the most unique city on earth, it is also an absolute foodie heaven.

Unfortunately most tourists who come here have no clue about the foods of Venice and end up ordering the wrong things at the wrong restaurants. My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) goes into depth on how to choose a killer restaurant anywhere in Italy, and how to avoid dining at an overpriced, under quality tourist trap.

Today I want to tell you about 7 foods you MUST eat while in Venice.

Pastries

Venice is famous for its pastries. Which is handy when you consider the Italian breakfast is a cappuccino and a pastry. In my Venice book I tell you about specific places to go for a coffee and a pastry, and get into more depth on some of the really famous pastries of Venice. If you see frittelle (pictured below)in a pastry shop window you must try them. These are traditionally available during carnevale, but sometimes you can find them during the year as well.

Frittelle in Venice. Image via VeryEatalian

Venetian/Italian croissants come plain, whole wheat, or filled with jam, Nutella, cream or my favorite, pistachio cream. Most of my days in Venice start in beautiful Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo at Rosa Salva, with a cappuccino and a pistachio croissant.

Tremezzini

You will find these triangular crustless sandwiches all over Italy, but in most places I avoid them. Typically there are about 1000 other things in any eatery that are more appetizing than tremezzini. In Venice however, all of that changes.

Tremezzini at Rosa Salva in Venice

The food pairings of Venetian tremezzini are out of this world, even when they don’t necessarily sound exciting. The one in the photo above is asparagus and egg, which sounds meh, but is actually fantastic.

I get tremezzini at Rosa Salva all the time. The waiters know which are my favorites but also come over to tell me about something fantastic that’s on the menu that day. They recently had a porchetta and eggplant tremezzini that was to die for.

Breakfast at Rosa Salva, this time the porchetta and melanzane tremezzini.
It doesn’t look like much, but lord it was fabulous!

But trust me on this one – try tremezzini in Venice and you will be hooked! (Just don’t get them elsewhere around Italy.)

Related Post: 5 Ways To escape The Crowds In Venice

Cicchetti

I always recommend you bookend your Italian days with a killer coffee in the morning and an outstanding aperitivo at the end of the afternoon. Venice takes this a step further with their finger food snack culture, the incredible cicchetti.

Cicchetti at a foodie walking tour in Cannaregio

These delicacies are once again food pairings specific to Venice and designed to be enjoyed with an ombra of local wine from the Veneto. An ombra is a shadow of wine – I tell you the full story about it in my Venice book. I take all my Glam Italia Tour groups on a cicchetti walking tour with a foodie guide, so the photos here are from guided walks where we split items on the plate. 

Another cicchetti assortment on a cicchetti walking tour

Normally you would order 2 or 3 pieces of cicchetti (at about €1,50 each) and an ombra of wine for €2 or €3. Cicchetti are available most of the day and all evening, so they can be a very inexpensive snack, late lunch, or sometimes I’ll even have cicchetti for dinner. It’s fabulous!

Sard in Saor

This is a traditional Venetian dish that you may find in cicchetti bars and also on regular menus as a starter.

Sard in Saor on polenta with a balsamic reduction.

There are variations on the recipe, some featuring raisins and pine nuts, some served alone, others of slices of polenta. But at its core local sardines are floored and fried, layered with caramelized onions and pickled in vinegar. It can be an acquired taste and not everyone will love them (I love them!) but you must at least try them once while you’re here.

Octopus and Moeche

Octopus

My favorite dish in Venice is octopus on a bed of whipped potato, at Jonny’s.

Baked Octopus at Jonny’s in Castello

In the U.S. octopus generally resembles chewing on an old bicycle tire, but with less flavor. Not so in Venice! (Or anywhere in Italy) Here octopus is delicious and prepared to perfection. My tour group travelers tend to fall in love with it too – even those who cringe at the though of eating octopus! The texture is sensational, the flavor is amazing, and it’s hard to only order it one time.

Moeche

Moeche in Burano

This one is seasonal but if you’re in Venice when they’re on the menu you must try the local soft-shell crab. It too doesn’t taste like any other soft shell crab you’ve ever tried, no doubt because of the parts of the lagoon they’ve grown in, and the way Venetians prepare them. They tend to be expensive but are so worth it.

Related Post: 10 Fabulous Books Set In Venice

Seafood Pasta

Seafood pasta in Venice

Venice is of course the city on the water, in a lagoon separated from the Adriatic Sea by a series of long, thin barrier islands. That means seafood is king here. Everywhere you go there are amazing fish options on the menu. You can’t come to Venice and not have seafood pasta at least once!

Nero di seppia

One of the most famous pasta (and risotto) dishes in Venice is al Nero di Seppia, made from black squid or cuttlefish ink. It tastes delicious but does color your teeth and lips black while you’re eating it.

Risotto

Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not the main carbohydrate here. It is definitely on every menu but so is rice (risotto) and polenta.

Seafood risotto in Venice

Even if you don’t like risotto at home you must give it a try here in Venice, at a real Venetian eatery, not a tourist joint. Here in Venice risotto is cooked to perfection. Whether you opt for the delicate Go risotto in Burano or a seafood risotto (my favorite) or even a simple mushroom risotto, it just doesn’t get creamier, more perfect, more delicious than in Venice.

Gelato

Fig and Ricotta flavored gelato at La Mela Verde in Castello

You just cannot beat the perfect cup or cone of gelato in Italy. In all of my books I talk about why you should only ever eat artisan gelato. This is gelato made by hand using local, seasonal ingredients instead of mass made chemical laden ice cream found in the tourist shops. Just a heads up: Italians wouldn’t be caught dead eating the color added, chemical added fake stuff.

Related Post: How To Find The Best Gelato In Italy

Real, artisan gelato is out of this world, and Venice has multiple artisan gelato shops spread out all over the city. Typically they will only offer a handful of flavors each day, based on what is in season. When you buy a gelato at one of these shops you not only support the owner and the staff who made the gelato by hand, but also the local fruit growers and the local milk producers in the Veneto.

The gelato in the picture above was fig and ricotta

Everything You Need To Know About Venice

My newest book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Venice gives you an insider’s perspective on amazing things to see, do and eat in Venice. I take you away from the tourist crowds and into the Venice you’ve been dreaming of. I also point out loads of details you won’t find in any regular tourist guide book, details that will make you fall in love with this spectacular city. This book is available worldwide on Amazon.

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