5 Things I Learnt About Italy (From Four Days in Venice)

So, I’ve been away for a couple of weeks now; I’ve been to Venice for a few days to visit friends, to Graz to do my job training and as I’m writing I’m sitting in the lobby of my hostel in Vienna – having found somewhere to live yesterday, wooh! I started writing this a couple of weeks after my arrival in Italy, and then promptly forgot about it/got caught up in trying to sort my life out. So it’s long overdue. This post is just going to be about my first four days in Italy, but I’ll have more done soon, hopefully.

So, it’s time to find out about Italy, and the five things I learnt there.

5. No one seems to have a perspective on the weather.

I went to Venice, which most people will probably know is in Northern Italy. Compared to the UK in September, the weather is amazing. It was warm the night I arrived and I don’t think it dipped much below 16 degrees in the following days – and that was at night. It was plus 21 in the day. Lovely.

Of course, for the Italians, we’re going into autumn. They seem to think it’s cold – I actually saw a girl wearing a full coat walking down the street one day when the sun was out.

Not just a light autumn jacket. A coat. In comparison, I was wearing a t-shirt and hoping I wouldn’t get sunburn.

Obviously, if you’re hitting temperatures in the mid-thirties in the summer, then it does feel a bit like there’s been a sudden drop coming into September – however, it’s not cold.

DSCF1481

See — nice!

Yeah, so if you’re from a colder country and fancy a warm holiday in September – go to Italy. You’ll find it warm, at least.

4. Italian drivers are (for the most part) scary.

I’m sure it’s a system that works for them. I’m pretty sure. And, luckily, I can’t drive – so I don’t have to worry about it that much. But Italian drivers are crazy.

I mean, despite not driving, I do still have to adjust to being on the wrong side of the car (especially when we’re turning left and have to wait for traffic), but there just is no time to adjust. Everyone’s going quickly and too close and you have to PAY to go on the motorway – but still. We did ride bikes into the town one evening and didn’t get hit by anyone, so I guess it’s not the end of the world.

Of course, if you're in a boat taxi, you might not have to worry about it so much.

Of course, if you’re in a boat taxi, you might not have to worry about it so much.

3. Italy looks expensive – but it’s really not so bad.

So, when I translate pounds to euros in my head, I try to keep it at about a 1:1 ratio, even though I know it’s not. That’s partly because the actual ratio hovers somewhere about 1:1.2 and that’s difficult to work out when you’re standing in a bakery early in the morning and just really need some pastry right now – but it’s also to keep an eye on how much I spend and not let myself go overboard just because I’m travelling.

Before I arrived in Italy, also, so many people were telling me it was expensive – and at a first glance, I can’t disagree all that much. Rome, certainly, I imagine, will be incredibly expensive when I go. Venice is too – in the tourist trap areas.

We went to Venice on the Thursday (I arrived on the Tuesday). We went St Mark’s Square, which was crammed

DSCF1499

No but seriously, look at that! (And that’s not even an especially demonstrative picture.)

– and then we wandered around all the little touristy places. I could hear other people from the UK, Americans, Spanish people – even the odd German (or Austrian?). And everything, everything was super expensive. Probably twice the price of the stuff we’d already seen.

See, we’d already had lunch there – about ten minutes’ walk from the square, down one of the alleyways. I’d had a (delicious) calzone and a coke, for less than 8€.

In Venice.

Italy is the same as everywhere – which won’t be a surprise to all of you, of course – in that, if you stay in the tourist areas, you’re going to get tourist prices. (Plus, a travelling tip from my friend – always check if there are menus outside the place; that way the price stays the same.) However, if you’re willing to wander off the beaten path, as it were, you’re going to find things that are just as good, but much cheaper.

2. If you want to spend any time in Italy, you’re going to have to learn Italian.

Just, take a look at this picture:

I mean, Italy isn’t the country with the worst English skills, not by a mile – but look at that.

According to this map, only 34% of the entire population of Italy will be able to hold a conversation in English with you.

I wouldn’t say it’s far off, either. I went to visit friends who have been there a while, so they handled anything I couldn’t (which was everything, due to my non-existent Italian skills), but every time it was mentioned that they were from the UK, you could see the panic cross people’s faces. Almost everyone I saw insisted that their English was bad and that they spoke practically nothing.

Of course, this isn’t 100% true and I’m sure if you’ve travelled a lot and are used to dealing with not understanding people you would eventually get your message across. And of course, I would bet that the level of English in Italy is generally much better than the level of Italian in the UK. However, it might just pay to learn a little Italian before you go. I almost always learn ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ before I go anywhere because it doesn’t hurt to try little phrases; and here’s a link to an online travel phrasebook in case you want to do the same.

The advantage to the lack of English is that, if you are learning Italian, you’ll definitely be able to find someone to practice with. If not, you might want to practice patience, pointing and friendly smiles.

1. Italy is just as beautiful as everyone says.

This is the one part everyone got right.

I mean, sure, I only spent four days there; and I only spent one of those days in Venice, so there are plenty of other places (Rome, Florence, Pompeii) that I still want to visit, but Italy is so beautiful.

I did especially love Venice and its windy little alleyways (and while I would love to live there someday, I feel like I would immediately get lost in that labyrinth and never emerge), but we visited Padua a couple of times as well, and although it’s smaller and less well-known, it’s still gorgeous.

:D Look at that!

😀 Look at that!

There will, of course, be parts of Italy that don’t look so great – but all in all, I had a wonderful time with two awesome friends, more or less everyone we came across was incredibly friendly and I can’t wait to go back and visit again. Maybe in the summer though, not sure I can withstand a chilly five degrees! 😉

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