The Best Ways To Learn Italian At Home For Cheap

How is your quarantine coming along? Are you getting bored with Netflix yet? This might be the perfect time to learn a new language. We have endless free time and most of us are looking for something to occupy our minds. Plenty of us are out of work and can’t spend the money on expensive lessons, but if you are interested in learning Italian I have some great options for you.

Capri June 2018 Glam Italia Tour

When I started learning Italian I couldn’t afford to take classes. I was a single parent, working 7 days per week to keep a roof over our heads and there wasn’t any spare money, let alone spare money to spend on myself to take classes. Also I didn’t have time to commute across town to physically go to classes. But I really, really wanted to learn the language, so I had to get creative.

RELATED POST: 5 Fabulous Museums In Italy With Free Virtual Tours

3 Ways To Learn Italian While We Are On Quarantine.

If you are planning a trip to Italy at some time in the future you might enjoy using some of this down time to learn some Italian. Now that I’m no longer flying to Italy next month I decided to use this time to improve my language skills, so this weekend I pulled out my Italian text books and am committing to spending a half hour per day learning Italian. (No matter how good you are at a language there is always room for improvement)

Marina Grande, Capri

1. Listen

When I started learning Italian there really weren’t podcasts like there are now. I did manage to find a couple of lightweight, fun podcast-like audio programs on iTunes that I would listen to on my commute. There are some great podcasts to help you learn Italian available now. Although they aren’t enough by themselves they are still really helpful!

RELATED: How To Plan A Trip To Italy

 At home I played Radio Italia on my computer while I was working or writing my blog posts. Listening to easy voices talking about music and ordering coffee (rather than politics or anything heavy) got me used to the sing-song sounds of the language and the rhythms of conversation. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, but as I started learning the language it started making sense.

2. Use Books

The cheapest way for me to start really learning the language was to buy some inexpensive workbooks and see A) if I could do it and B) if I was really interested in pursuing it or if it was just a phase I was going through.

Barron's Italian Now! Text book
Italian Now! is a great place to start

I bought three Italian text books that became the backbone of me learning the language. Italian Now, Italian Verb Drills and Italian Grammar Drills. These were fantastic. I would always have one of them with me and work away on it during downtime on photoshoots, at my son’s music lessons, or anytime I had a free moment. The books are full of exercises and have a marking key in the back of the book, so you can check on your progress each day.

Nanni Tate Italian Verb Drills
Italian Verb Drills is the best book I’ve found for learning and practicing Italian verbs

I advise starting with Italian Now and Italian Verb Drills.  Italian Now is a good all round beginner book and gives you some structure to follow.

Italian Verb Drills in my opinion is an essential book for anyone learning the language. Italian is a very verb driven language, so it is important to learn the main verbs and how to conjugate them. The exercises in this book are very repetitive but you’ll find that in no time your brain just automatically conjugates the verbs without you even thinking about it.

Italian Grammar Drills is also really helpful and is full of exercises to do to get you in the habit of using good grammar. In my opinion as a traveler it doesn’t really matter if your grammar isn’t so good. No one is expecting you to speak grammatically perfect Italian on your vacation. If you have a decent understanding of verbs and know some vocabulary you will do just fine, but if you can start learning grammar from the beginning it will become automatic and is so much easier than trying to add it in later.


Multi Media

Once I realized that I was going to see this learning Italian thing through and not give up after a couple of weeks, I saved up and bought Rosetta Stone Italian. Initially I just bought the first level, but later bought the entire set.

Rosetta Stone Italian Level 1-5
Rosetta Stone Italian

I’ve done languages my whole life and I really think this is the best system I have ever seen or used. Rosetta makes your brain learn the language the same way a baby or a child learns. Most language programs have you learning by translation, memorizing vocabulary and translating from your language into the new language. This is a really difficult way of learning as you are perpetually translating, so in real life situations you are a couple of seconds behind as your brain moves words from English over to Italian.

Rosetta Stone screenshot

Instead of translating, Rosetta teaches your brain to recognize pictures and identify them in the new language. You see a picture of a house and your brain immediately says Casa rather than house = casa. In each learning block they teach you visually then give you an audio section where you keep repeating the words in that lesson until your pronunciation is correct. Then it takes you into reading and writing the words and phrases.

It’s the same way you learn your own language growing up. You go at your own pace, so there’s no pressure, and the program keeps giving you tests along the way so everything stays current in your brain.

It’s easy to see why international businesses and government agencies like the CIA use Rosetta Stone to teach their people languages. I’m a huge fan!

Rosetta Stone teaches lots of different languages, so if you want to learn French or German or Spanish or any other language during this quarantine break, you really can take your pick.

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5 Fabulous Italian Museums With Free Virtual Tours

Whether your summer travel plans have been postponed by the Coronavirus, your kids are home all day and need new entertainment, or maybe you just want to relive a trip from the past, you can get yourself a little taste of Italy by exploring the museums that offer virtual tours.

Italy has sensational museums, many of which get missed while tourists wait in long lines to visit the main attractions. Here is your chance to explore ancient Rome and Renaissance Florence from your laptop with a virtual tour. Four of these museums are written about in detail in my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, giving you specific things to look for and fascinating stories behind the people and pieces involved.

1. The Capitoline Museums

Capitoline Museum Rome, virtual tour

Perched on the hill overlooking the Roman Forum with a view along the Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world. With so many treasures from Ancient Rome to be discovered you can lose yourself here for hours, whether in the real world or the virtual one. There is a well laid out floor plan and it is easy to find your way around the virtual tour. Check it out here

2.Trajan’s Market

Across the street from the Capitoline Museum and the Roman Forum you can see another massive forum complex, Trajan’s Forum and Market. This one was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, (the same guy who designed the Pantheon) and inaugurated in 112 A.D.

Trajan was the Emperor of Rome from 98 A.D until 117 A.D. The Empire’s most expansive growth happened during his rule.

At the end of his Forum stands the semi circular building of Trajan’s Market. This 170 room structure standing 35 meters above the level of the forum was actually used as offices and shops, nearly 2000 years ago! Part of the building is now the museum of Trajan’s Market and again, it is fantastic. You can take a virtual tour both of the museum and of the forum itself here.

Trajan’s Forum and Market are directly in front of one of my favorite places to visit in Rome, the Ancient Roman houses at Palazzo Valentini. This is an absolute must see when you are in Rome. You can read about it here.

3. The Ara Pacis

This is one of those fabulous secrets hiding in plain sight in the heart of Rome. Very few tourists seem to know about it, but once again it is one of my absolute favorites. Interestingly this is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to a single object, in this case a more than 2000 year old altar to peace.

The Ara Pacis in Rome. Augustus's altar to peace
The Ara Pacis in Rome

Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome. After centuries of war with other countries and decades of civil war at home he eventually brought peace to Rome. To celebrate this peace in 13 B.C. he built this huge marble altar. I wrote about it here and at length in Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome. The altar originally stood in the Campus Martius, but when the Tiber River was expanded a few centuries later the Ara Pacis became submerged under 4 meters of mud, disappearing for 1000 years.

Now restored to much of its old glory and housed inside a modern Richard Meier building full of natural light, it is a pretty incredible museum to visit. Part of what makes the altar so amazing is the carvings that cover the marble walls around it. Again they are detailed in my book, but you can still enjoy meandering around inside the museum looking at thm with the virtual tour, here.

4.The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums virtual tour
The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house some of the greatest collections (of pretty much everything) in the world. Unless you are in Rome in the off season it is impossible to see much in the museums, and in all honesty you really need multiple days there. But lucky for us the Vatican has created some wonderful videos of the most famous rooms across the various wings of the complex. You can spend ages wandering through the virtual tour here. Even if you have been to the Vatican Museums before you will really enjoy this!


5. The Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery Florence Virtual Tour
The Uffizi in Florence

Just a quick train ride from Rome or a mere mouse-click on your laptop and you are in Florence, the heart of the Italian Renaissance and home to the best collection of Renaissance Art anywhere in the world. Florence has a tremendous virtual museum offering through a website called Hyper Visions. It takes you though the different artworks in a variety of ways. be sure to click into the Factories of Stories section (my favorite). While on the Hyper Visions site be sure to look at the Pitti Palace section too. At this time the Vasari Corridor section isn’t showing the artworks inside, but do click around on it as well as the Boboli Gardens section.

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How To Buy A House In Italy

Have you ever dreamed about owning a home in Italy?

I dream about it every day. Literally. In fact I figure that if I sell about a million more books I can actually buy a place in Italy!

Realistically you can buy a home in Italy and in many cases you really don’t need a fortune to be able to do it. You just need some really good guidance.

Bramasole Frances Mayes house in Cortona, Tuscany
Bramasole, Frances Mayes’ home in Cortona, Italy

For me the dream of owning a home in Italy started in 1998 when my mother gave me a copy of Frances Maye’s iconic book Under The Tuscan Sun. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, a city where anything is possible, so I let myself fall under Frances Mayes’ spell and imagined having my own house in a little Tuscan town. From then on I read every book I could get my hands on about buying and renovating homes in Italy, or more to the point, books where other people had done it.

Spello Umbria flowers cobblestoned street
Beautiful Spello in Umbria

Then in my endless travels to and from Italy I wound up meeting plenty of expats who had done it themselves. Bought old homes, renovated them and now are living there either part time or full time. One of my very dear friends bought a 1000 year old abandoned house in Basilicata, did an unbelievable renovation on it, making it into apartments, one of which she lives in and the others she made into Airbnbs.

Spello in Umbria, Italy
Spello, Umbria

I think that more than anywhere else in Europe Italy affords us unbelievable opportunities to buy a home in an incredible old town with sensational views, a history that goes back to the beginning of time and a chance to really take part in the dream.

La Rabatana, Basilicata
The little town of La Rabatana in southern Basilicata

There are so many little towns and villages all over Italy that are slowly becoming abandoned or where the population is drastically diminishing. The young folk move to the big cities for work, or leave the country altogether and there is no one left to take over the properties. The property values drop as the population dwindles and more and more homes becomes available to buy.

 Some of these towns try to entice buyers with offers of homes for 1 euro or other incredibly low rates paired with a commitment from you to invest a set sum of money into renovating the property or into settling there for 5 years and opening a business – there are lots of variables.

Villa in Tuscany
Living the dream in Tuscany

I have a friend who bought a rundown house for 8000 euros and then spent around 50,000 euros on the rebuild, not only getting an incredible home to live in at a totally manageable price, but also being able to generate income from it with a seasonal bed and breakfast business.

I have other friends who are wealthy enough to buy whatever they want, so a massive villa in Tuscany is an easy purchase.

Villa on the Amalfi Coast of Italy
Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast

Obviously if you are planning on buying a house in Venice or Florence or Rome or any highly populated place the costs will be sky high. On the other hand if you buy in Puglia or Abruzzo or Molise for example it can be incredibly cost effective.

The Downside Of Buying Property In Italy

In reality buying a property in a foreign country can be fraught with pitfalls, money traps and nightmare scenarios. Even if you speak the language well chances are you don’t speak real estate Italian or legalese Italian or renovation Italian. The system for buying property there is different, the taxes are different, the rules are different.

For example you can buy a home that had an unapproved addition put on generations ago. The addition doesn’t come to the attention of the authorities until the property sells, and now you are legally responsible for removing it and returning the property to its “legal” state at a crippling expense.

Burano, Italy

A New Service Available To Foreign Buyers

A friend of mine from Australia who lives in Italy has recently been getting written up in magazines and publications all around the world for a new service that she provides to foreign property buyers in Italy.

Nikki Taylor has created a program called How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy.

Using her extensive knowledge both in Italian Real Estate and in investment banking she has created a service that helps guide foreign buyers to both understand and streamline the property buying process.

What The Program Covers

*The property buying procedure in Italy

*Where in Italy should you be looking, based on your lifestyle requirements

*How to avoid very common and very costly mistakes when buying property in Italy

*The additional costs and taxes that come with buying property in Italy

*How to mitigate currency exchange risk

*How to arrange an effective buying trip from your home country.

On top of this her program has a team of bilingual professionals to help you navigate the big stuff. She offers an Italy based property lawyer, an accountant, Visa and Immigration expert and a Currency expert. Each of whom can guide you through the complexities and hidden loopholes that come with buying property not only in a foreign country but in a foreign language.

Rather than being specific to one area or town Nikki’s program is designed to help you wherever you are looking to buy in Italy.

Her service runs as a 5 week course you can take with weekly live question and answer sessions. She also has a book available on Amazon called How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy that goes into much more depth about the service she provides. The book is available on Kindle or if you don’t have a kindle (like me!) you can get the book on the Kindle App.

It’s easy to see why major publications around the world are writing about her brilliant program and service. The main stumbling blocks that were deterring me from seriously contemplating buying property in Italy have all been addressed by Nikki, so now I know that when the time is right for me I can step into her program and confidently buy a home in Italy.

Get your copy of How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy on Amazon HERE

Nikki in Bolzano, Northern Italy. She now lives in sunny Puglia in the south of Italy

Want more information about Nikki, buying houses in Italy and her world renowned program? You can contact her via her website here

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How To Buy Your Dream Home In Italy