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First trip to Italy

Two questions for my first trip to Italy. I am going just for 10 days. We have a hotel in Rome the full time and will be taking a couple trips from there and also seeing everything we can in Rome.

  1. how much Italian language should I go prepared to speak? Is the perverbial "please" and "thank you" enough, or would it behoove me to learn more? if it's "learn more", what is the best method to do that?
  2. outside of activities in Rome, does anyone have any recommendations on some close (within a few hours or so) excursions that are good to do? we are a group of four in our early thirties, so we're up for hiking or any other activities, but especially interested in wine and food.

thanks in advance for everyone's replies. Happy Travels!

Posted by
1738 posts

You are going to get an earful from this bunch on RS site!

From Rome, plan a trip to Pompei and Mt Vesuvio. You will love it. (it's a bit more than an hour, but worth the time)

Get a CD with some basic Italian on it. In Rome, you won't really need a lot of Italian, it's a big city and they really do speak English (unless you get into a really small neighborhood, but even then, I'm betting you'll find a college student that speaks English) Learn a few phrases, or at least be able to recognize words like "right, left, straight, please, thank you, room, etc. Or buy a phrase book that you like and try to learn some that way.

Food and drink....get off the main streets to find authentic food, not "Americanized" Italian. Find places that don't have "us" there! You might also try Chinese or other ethnic foods. We've found some of the best ethnic resturants in Italy! (and I don't mean McDonald's)

Go with an open mind, watch your wallet (i.e. wear a money belt ) and have fun!

Posted by
73 posts

As the poster above has suggested, 10 days in Rome is too much for your first trip. If you have 10 days ideally you should do 3 days in Rome, 2 days in Venice,2 days in Florence and may be a day in Siena or in Sorrento so you can see Pompeii.
You have not mentioned why you have decided to stay all that time in Rome. Sometimes when I accompany my spouse on a conference trip, I get stuck in one place. If you do not have any such restrictions, I urge you to see more of Italy. Going just to Rome would be sort of like someone visiting only New York city in the US. And there is so much more to Italy!
Having said all that, if you are in Rome for that period, do Pompeii and Naples in a day from Rick's book. There is also Tivoli with Hadrian's villa and Villa d'Este. I have not been there may be someone else can tell you if it is worth it. There is also Ostia Antica.

Posted by
2 posts


Thanks for the response. I guess to clarify, we'll be based out of Rome for a full 8 days. We decided to do it that way since we want to see as much as possible in Rome and the surrounding areas. We fully intend on going back, which is why we are not hopping around and only seeing hi-lights.

The suggestions you make are exactly what I'm looking for; we need some names of places that other travelers recommend and we will get ourselves there and eat, drink and see our way around.

Thanks again!

Posted by
705 posts

OK I'm going to be different. I'd love to have that much time based in Rome. You will have ample time to do all the 'must dos' at your own pace and not feel rushed. Also just walking the back streets in Rome and observing the locals over a glass of wine in a cafe is just as good as seeing the sights. Do try to get away from the tourist areas for good local food. A few phrases won't go astray and they do on the whole appreciate you trying to speak a little of the language. My Italian is super average but I manage. A smile always seems to work well too.

Posted by
216 posts

Ostia Antica is interesting and is easy to get to from Rome. It doesn't cost anything extra if you have a multi-day metro pass. Pack a lunch and bask in the serenity of the ampitheatre. (Ostia Antica feels a lot like Pompeii, but is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Rome.) See Rick's Italy book for details.

As for language, English is spoken widely, but I'd suggest picking up a copy of Rick's Italian phrasebook--if for nothing more than the fun of trying to speak the language.

Posted by
14 posts


I would day trip out to Tivole and see Vila De Esta. The garden's are really beautiful and the town is cute. VERY authentic food!

I really loved Pastimun (about 1 hour from Rome). They are accient Greek ruines, and they are really something to see. Casserta, is also a fun 1/2 day trip...but go in the mornings b/c they often close the gardens early, and really they are the best part.

As fas a the's a good idea whenever you are going to someone else's country to at least try and learn basic language. Directions and money terms are the most important.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
4 posts

I would recommend Siena. It's beautiful. It's a good 2 or 3 hours (I think about 150 miles or so) but definitely worth it.

Posted by
5 posts

Since you plan on returning to Italy, I would save Siena for another trip. Getting to Siena is a bit of a chore, so it's best to do on a Tuscany trip.

Posted by
192 posts

Be sure that you keep your arms over your camera bag. My hubby had his stolen, out of a closed case, out from under his zipped-up jacket, while on a bus.

Now then...a day in Pompeii is worth the trip down. Be sure to take a tour when you get there, as it makes for greater understanding of what you are seeing. It's a LOT of walking, and very few places to sit down, but it's really something to see. Most of what they took out is in a museum in Naples, so leave time for that if you can.
The train trip down from Rome is comfy and enjoyable.

Try to get your museum, etc. tickets before you go...saves you endless hours of standing in lines.
Palatine Hill is worth the climb.
We managed on very little Italian--just the basics--but be careful not to lapse into Spanish, they don't appreciate that!

Posted by
26 posts

Chris, learn how to say: please, thank you, hello, good morning, good evening, excuse me, check please, and maybe some numbers. Every thing else, and they speak a lot better English than you could learn Italian.

Posted by
239 posts

Definitely learn numbers one through ten and then the tens (twenty, thirty, etc)! Your main interaction with locals will probably have to do with shopping and eating, and knowing how many euro someone wants you to pay them is really helpful!

Posted by
10 posts

I started listening to a CD in my car every day for a month before I went on my first trip to Italy a few years ago. Even though I wasn't looking at the words as I drove I found that I started to get an ear for the language and had a better understanding when I heard it later. I could then look at the book that came with the CD with a bit more clarity (for the pronunciations). I also started getting a word a day in my email from It is an easy way to see and hear a few words at a time. When in Italy I found that knowing a little Spanish helped me to decipher some of the language as well (Latin based languages). Learn as much as you can- "When in Rome... do as the Romans"...