8 Places to Visit in Italy if You Want to Practice Italian

8 Places to Visit in Italy if You Want to Practice Italian

You've taken all the community classes your town has to offer, chat with a language partner whenever you can, and listen to Italian music while you drive. Now you're ready to go to Italy and put all of your hard work into practice.

What's more, you've been to the bigger, touristy cities, like Florence, Assisi, and Pisa, which were all lovely, but you want to experience a side of Italy that's less populated by tour groups and their flags.

You want to spend time in a town where very few people speak English or where they're more willing to play along with you as you figure out this Italian-language thing that you've come to love.

If that's you, I've put together a short list for you of eight places to visit in Italy if you want to practice your Italian. Of course, there are thousands of towns, large and small, that I could have listed, and no matter where you go, you may still encounter the niece of the proprietor who spent her summer in London and wants to practice her English. I can't promise you a 100% English-free experience, but I can give you a fighting chance to avoid being “English-ed.”

8 Places to Visit in Italy If You Want to Practice Italian

Northern Italy

1. Bergamo

Bergamo is a city (just over 115k in population) in northern Italy that's around 45 minutes away from Milan by car. While it has a decent-sized expat community, you'll find less American influence and more Germanic influence. Past visitors recommend taking a walk at Città Alta (accessible both by way of the funicolare and walking), visiting Castello di Vigilio, and of course, il Duomo. If you're looking to try a traditional dish, the recommended one is casonsei alla bergamesca, also called casoncelli alla bergamesca.

2. Reggio Emilia

With just over 163k people, Reggio Emilia is well-populated, but don't let that fool you. I've been assured that there are plenty of opportunities to practice your Italian while also learning how to be buone forchette (good forks-those who eat plenty and well). If you have a full day at your disposal, start new conversations while you gawk at Santiago Calatrava bridges from the station, after having walked quietly through il Tempio della Beata Vergine della Ghiara, and as you lounge in Piazza Prampolini (also called Piazza Grande). Oh, and make sure to try l'erbazzone, a type of pot pie made with simple ingredients that's famous in the region. For more tips on what to do in Reggio Emilia (and to learn some new Italian vocabulary), check out this article from Tasting the World.

3. Ferrara

At just over 359k, Ferrara is no small town, but just like Reggio Emilia, there are numerous chances to stretch your Italian to its limits. If you want to hang out with the farreresi, take a passeggiata along le mura (the walls), eat il pasticcio di maccheroni (and about 47 other nap-inducing dishes), and then ask for directions to Via delle Volte, a characteristic alleyway of the city. For more tips on where to meet people and speak Italian, check out this article from Viaggiare, uno stile di vita.

Central Italy

1. Volterra

At just over 10.5k residents, Volterra is the third smallest of the places to visit in Italy to practice your Italian. This borgo in Tuscany has Etruscan origins and yep, it was used as the setting for the second Twilight movie (which, to be accurate, was actually filmed in Montepulciano-a town that made the honorable mentions list down below).

If you happen to find yourself in Volterra (whether you came hoping to live the magic of New Moon or not-seriously, no judgment), here are a few suggestions for making sure you open your mouth to speak-and eat, of course. First, to start the day off on a ultra positive note, chat about the devices used while browsing il Museo della Tortura, have some cinghiale alla volterrana for lunch, and then hang out in a local bar with the intention to start as many conversations as possible about calcio.  

2. Montefalco

You'll find the tiny town (just over 5.6k in population) in Umbria-one of, I might add, my favorite regions in Italy full of green rolling hills and truffles… but I digress. After visiting the main piazza, buy some pan mostato from a nearby panificio, do a tasting of the Sagrantino di Montefalco, and then check out one of the many pathways that hold the same name. Nearby you can also visit Spello and Bevagna.

3. Viterbo

While Viterbo-the city, not the province-does have some beautiful attractions, like Palazzo Papale and Le Terme, which are hot springs, the real beauty of this city in the Lazio region is in its ordinariness. While there is a university with plenty of international students and an exchange program for Americans, the majority of the people who live there don't speak English. If you're hanging out there for the day, go straight from the train station to Pizza DJ and grab a slice of the freshest pizza that you can get.

Then, take a walk down the corso, stop in a bar and start a conversation with whoever looks friendly. Before settling down for dinner at either the pizzeria Il Labirinto or pasta at La Spaghetteria-famous for having over 300+ types of sauces--pop in and out of the bookshops or grab a gelato from L'antica Latteria. For more suggestions on what to do in Viterbo, check out this article from Trekity.

Southern Italy

1. Scilla

This small town, or paese, in Reggio Calabria boasts a population of 5k. Besides having a mythologically-based name--the monster that was transformed by Circe--it's characterized primarily by small alleyways that, when followed, lead directly to the sea and houses next to the water that look perpetually sleepy.

Besides eating ridiculously fresh seafood on the terrace of a restaurant, the best way to spend your time here is by visiting il borgo di Chianalea, learning some Calabrian dialect from the locals at the bar, or take a dive and learn all kinds of marine-related vocabulary.

2. Lecce

Our final place to visit is Lecce, in Puglia, with a population of just over 94k. You can start your day on the more touristy side by having un caffè at Caffè Alvino, right in front of the Anfiteatro, or you can seek out a more local place to start your giornata leccese. Then, take a walk at one of the many beaches, get your fill of museums, and then try some sagne torte, or Sagne 'ncannulate in dialect--a pasta dish. For more suggestions, take a gander at this article from Vacanze Lecce.

In the event you're wanting to visit towns with a bit more activity and practice your Italian, here are five that are touristy, but may still play along with your attempts.

3 Other Italian Places to Practice Italian

1. Orvieto - Umbria: You can more about how you can learn Italian in this city in this article.

2. Montepulciano - Tuscany: If you're interested in learning Italian here, check out Il Sasso school.

3. Monteverde Vecchio in Rome - Lazio: While Rome can generally be categorized a very English-driven tourist city, there are zones, or neighborhoods, that will humor you when you make your best efforts to speak Italian, and Monteverde Vecchio falls squarely in that department.