Store Lines Dont Exist
If you are trying to stand in line and a bunch of people seem to gather around and then cut in front of you, well, they are. Single file lines dont exist in grocery stores, markets, etc in Italy. I used to get ticked off at the Coop, La Standa, Scarpe Scarpe, and Mercatone Uno when everybody would cut in front of me. I eventually learned to treat the checkout line the way you do when you drive in Italy. --Whatever goes.
Love the Kids!
Do not be alarmed if you have small children and an Italian woman starts playing with, holding, talking to, and just loving on your child like she's known them all of her life. Italians LOVVVVVVEEE children. Their family lifestyle and culture is different than ours in America and they DO get attached to children of all races and ages. They will not run off with your children like we have to worry about here in the US, they just love children including American kids.
Can you survive not speaking Italian?
If you are reading this Aviano page, you are most likely getting stationed there because as I stated, this is not a tourist area. In that case, you need to learn Italian and FAST!! I suggest you buy Instant Immersion, Rosetta Stone, etc BEFORE you get there and take as many levels as you can with you.
Otherwise, if you are just a tourist going back for a short visit, dont bother learning it.
Please dont assume Italians will speak English just for you. Some will if they do. Some wont if they do. Some will try and its broken. Some wont at all. Some are American born that have moved back to Italy and speak English just fine. Some dont speak it but understand it because they took it as a course in school (usually the younger ones) But I found that ALL LOVE IT if you at least TRY to speak something more than just Ciao to them, show yourself friendly, and be open to them. It never failed me the entire time I was there no matter where I was.
I spoke Spanish and lots of Italians understood either certain Spanish words or spoke Spanish fluently when I was house hunting. However, my Spanish did not help me when I was trying to set up the home phone, cable, house alarm, and internet (which was not done through the base back then) because only certain Spanish words are similar to Italian and they dont mean the same thing. Nor did the technician understand English or Spanish. It did help me become fluent in Italian much faster (about a year or less) than someone that didnt speak a second language already. If you are going to be on base for your tour, which only airmen could be on base back when I was there, then gauge it according to your needs. But everyone else had to stay off base and not many people lived near the base due to the higher cost and smaller homes. But more Italians spoke English in the immediate base area.
If you have an emergency, (and I did once), you have to go to the local italian hospital in Pordonene, Maniago, etc. Guess what language they speak? I was able to expedite my situation drastically and was in and out of ER in about an hour after a car accident (which everyone has at least twice in Italy). I used to hear about Americans at the Pordonone ER, the hospital staff made them wait until the base translators could be contacted and they'd wouldnt get out of Pordenone ospedale for hours. I dont know anyone personally that it happened to but it was said alot on base and back then American support from the base was was terrible in italian hospitals. Hopefully now, they've gotten better.
I could give you example after example.
Another one. If your car breaks down, (and if you didnt ship it with you from the states, it most likely will) the tow company ACI doesnt speak English. (they didnt when I was there). You have to be able to understand what they are saying to you , even if you can communicate where you are and what happened to them. And then you need to be able to argue price because THEY WILL rip Americans off.
Some carabinieri (police) DO speak english. I was only pulled over once in 4yrs in Pordenone for having my fog lights on. But ensure you have your documents on you at all times. But in case you come across one that doesnt speak English, at least know what patente and documenti means. Your insurance card will be in the window so they'll see it.
Cell phone minutes are prepaid and you have to refill them in Italian. It used to be only Tim and Omnitel for service providers that were any good when I was there. The card and when you call to refill is in Italian. I believe the message with your minute balance was in Italian as well.
The farmacia. I had to go once when I was away from the base. Thank God I spoke Italian. I also had to go once in Madrid, Spain to the farmacia to. Turned out I had bronchitis both times but the stuff the farmacista gave me worked until I could get back to the base. Italy and Spain are very advanced in medicine so I wasnt worried.
At the end of the day, you will be at a disadvantage if you dont speak Italian.
I want to ensure it is understood that I had such a great experience and went so many places because I spoke fluent Italian. Like in the US, there will be opportunists that will take advantage of you on your phone bills, restaurant coperta, taxi, market, etc. If you cant speak the language, you'll just be ripped off. So learn the language.
English is not enough to survive on in Italy. Spanish is enough to get you started but when you hear "Vorrei burro?", you'll realize you might need to take an Italian class too.
Dont rely on credit cards
Just a small hint for preparation. If you travel to those villages and towns in Italy that are not tourist spots like Aviano, Maniago, Pordenone, etc, have plenty of Euro handy. ALOT of places in Italy even in tourist spots (like some stores in Venice, etc) do not take credit card.
However, they have ATMs just about everywhere for you to make the conversion. Know some italian before you use the machine so you can read what options to make what when withdrawing your money. You used to get a better rate if you withdrew the money from an ATM as opposed to getting the conversion done at a bank.
Dont get offended if the Italians get right in your personal space to talk to you. Personal space doesnt exist in Italy. They are very close when they speak to you and mean no harm.
Also, kisses are on both checks so be prepared.
Speaking of kisses. Ladies dont be surprised if you are walking along minding your own business and an Italian man walks by and plants one on that cheek and keeps going!
Women hold hands together in Italy and thats nothing homosexual intended about it. Its customary. Or it can be that. Depends on your particular situation at the time and how much wine you've had. LOL