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Originally posted by fgstsa1 at 2006-12-17 16:53
Is there any Italians available on the forum at the moment? It seems those that offered infor are not familiar with the country. I've been trying to help, but can do nothing before I get a chance ...
I am Italian :) !!! Unfortunately the realty is that in Italy English is not spoken so much.... the same situation as in China: you must find some very young guys, maybe a student, to translate for you when needed in a shop or to ask transport information. Among the common people, especially when not so young, english is not well known. The good news however is that whoever works in the touristic field can speak English: especially in the train stations employees can often speak english as well as the museum assistants and the central restaurants assistants.
There are also many many Chinese living in Italy, so you can enter a Chinese restaurant and talk to the owners: they will speak Italian and Chinese (sometimes they actually speak only the dialet of their Chinese original province).
I suggest you to visit Rome if you have only two days. Of course Italy would take much longer to be visited and understood better.... but I can imagine there are many other European places you must include in your short trip. I guess Rome can offer you a good sight of our history and, as far as I know, it should be open to tourists in Christmass. The only period when everything is really close in the big Italian cities is the central week of August: during those days Italian are all on holiday along the seaside or up to the northern mountains...
I hope you will enjoy and you will meet kind Italians.... pay attention to prices and try to get off the most touristic places for eating: the quality is lower and the price higher. Many Italians don't expect Chinese people to be tourist, as most of us still consider ALL the Chinese not rich enough to travel, so that most of the Italians will consider you Japanese (don't get offended for this, we don't mean to offend you as we don't even know the historic problems between the two countries). The Japanese are often rich and easy to cheat with money, so many taxi drivers and other people will try to cheat you with prices and money thinking you are a Japanese. Always read the written prices on products and menu and, if you don't understand anything, just act like you were checking, sometimes it works even though actually you are not understanding: they will be afraid to be discovered.
Be ready for walking a lot, as Rome is big and there are many things worth a visit! An alternative place to see, in my opinion much better than Venice, is Florence....it's up to you.