tips and advice

An Easy Way To Learn Italian

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

Learn Italian the Easy Way

Is learning a second language on your to-do list ? So when are you gonna do-that?

The cry for manners illustrated above might make you smile. My mom and I spied this beauty above some stairs in Venice and we laughed for days. But the lesson learned from the clean freak who crafted the sign is this: despite the mistakes, it still manages to convey a very clear message. You can do that.

I know from experience it can be very intimidating. But wanna know the best way to learn? Just like anything you accomplish in life it takes the critical first move; the starting. If your going to Italy it starts with words you already know like ciao and grazie. Then day two you add a sprinkle of this and a pinch of that. Then after week one you’ll be speaking a full sentence out of pure exasperation. But only if you start.

My first full sentence in Italian was dov’è la stazione, (where’s the train station?). I was so lost and exhausted that my first real Italian sentence was driven by pure frustration. It worked though, on my second try. The man understood me and started speaking back, gratefully tossing in various emphatic hand gestures. I was on my way to the station. Someone understood me! If I had never started I would not be where I am today. And while my Italian needs a generous helping of wax and polish, I am damn proud of just being able to speak a second language. Just jump in and make yourself understood.

Are you scared? Of what? Looking like an idiot? Making a mistake? Just remember that the person you may be talking to likely only speaks one language. That will make you feel the bigger woman for trying in the first place.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” -Elbert Hubbard

No, learning correct Italian is not an easy ride. But remember that starting is the worst part and that a glass of wine and a great smiling face with a go-to attitude will have you more fluent than 95% of the tourists you encounter.

Now go out and be amazing!

But wait, paint me a picture of your favorite language learning moment in the comments below.

6 Things Not To Bring To Italy

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

1) A new haircut. Rushing around before your trip shouldn’t include a haircut. Get one in Italy. Besides it being a new experience it is a great opportunity. Think about it; you have a local trapped while they trim your locks. You can ask where the best places are to eat and go dancing or where to take the kids the next day. Bring your map and get them to mark it off. Then while you’re on the subject ask where you can get a facial or spa treatment. If they send you to an esthetician frequented by Italians (not big hotel spas), you pay a fraction of what it costs at home. I used to get facials in Italy using the same expensive french products I used in Canada for 32 euros! A bargain even considering the exchange. Tipping is not normal but if you’ve just been given tons of great info don’t be a cheap ass. Your hotel/guesthouse front desk could point you to a hairstylist or a parrucchierre.

2) Running shoes/ sneakers. Really my friend, unless your actually using them to exercise: leave them at home. Big white sneakers are comfortable but unfortunately they are also hideous. I am not a proponent of traipsing around for 10 hours in lame ballerina flats, but there is a middle ground. On that note, leave one  pair of shoes at home because you will definitely be buying a new pair in Italy. Sorry, but the odds are stacked against you that you won’t succumb when you encounter the best shoe shopping worldwide.

3) More baggage than you can carry. I said carry, not roll. Because I know your gonna want to stay in that fabulous little guest house near the castle on top of the cliff looking towards the French coastline. There are like 50 million stairs to climb so if you have a mammoth rolling bag then you will be crying. Or not staying there, or for that matter anywhere outside the 100 metre radius of the train station. That sucks.

4) Too many gadgets. If you want to bring your camera and laptop and iphone and ipad and kindle and battery chargers with converters for European voltage then you may find yourself in situation #3 above. Pick one or 2 things that could multitask. Still can’t decide? Bring the thing that would cause you the least grief if it disappears or breaks.

5) Travellers cheques. My god, no! I am surprised to see this advice still given. Italy operates primarily in cash, which is a real surprise when we are slowly forgetting what it looks like.  To cash a travelers cheque at an exchange kiosk on the street can be legal robbery. The banks  charge less, but the hours and lineups will kill you. I’ve been burned myself and that’s why I advise against it. Take cash out of a bank machine once or twice a week using your bankcard, as you get charged a service fee from your home bank (around $5). Use plastic for bigger purchases. It’s the simplest and cheapest way to go.

6) Dirty Bra Straps. My friend in Italy told me you could always tell the tourists by their yellowing bra straps. Damn her, as I looked at my own unsightly straps. Not that being a tourist is bad, but being known for having dirty bras is not exactly the look we shoot for.

Of course the list could go on but generally packing smart from the start will keep you agile so you can worry less about “stuff’ and worry more about all the cool experiences waiting for you.

I would love to hear what you think about this list. Do you have anything to add?