Top Tip: if you really want to make the shift from tourist to living like a local in Italy, you have to speak Italian. Not fluently of course. Even the basics are so much better than nothing. But it’s absolutely true that to really get under the skin of a culture, to really join the club, language is the key. Italy is already an amazing place without a word of Italian. It always will be. It’s just that being able to speak the language is like a zoom lens. It lets you get closer. You see more somehow, you notice more. And the really nice thing is that you get noticed in return. Language makes you visible.
But if you’re reading this, thinking about your own Italian odyssey, I’m probably preaching to the converted. I can imagine my future clients of a real full-immersion Italian experience will very likely be students, maybe even masters, of Italian already. They’ll probably have been to Italy before. They might have seen the big cities. Maybe they already have their own special memories of being invited to eat the most amazing pizza with strangers, or of turning a few humble tomatoes into a spaghetti al pomodoro like nothing they’ve ever been able to make back home before or since. But the thing about Italy is it’s hard to put away. It sticks, to everything. Even when you think you’ve had enough you see a film, or walk past a travel agent’s window, or read a recipe in a cookbook, or hear one of those wonderful, aggravating stories about the family from your suburb who sold up everything last term and have just bought a farmhouse in the hills just outside Lucca, and the whole thing starts over.