Learning Italian

Every time I have come to Italy, my trip always begins with “I’m gonna learn Italian” but then it never happens.  More pressing issues take priority and then before you know it, there you are in Italy and “Non capisco l’italiano. Mi dispiace”

Google Translate has saved me countless times.  Pro tip:  you can download the entire Italian dictionary to your phone so that you can translate when you in airplane mode (or have no internet connection).  I find myself typing in phrases to prepare myself for whatever situation I’m about to find myself in.  It’s true, though.  It’s much easier to learn once you get here.  Especially since I’ve spent the last four days on my own, I’ve relied on my own tiny vocabulary and strategic hand gestures to communicate with the locals.  Today I practiced a phrase that I was looking forward to telling my AirBnb host.  “Primo, una doccia”  that’s me trying to say I want to take a shower first.  

One of my favorite things to do is throw myself in conversations with people.  I approached a cyclist outside a bar and asked him where he was riding and then tried to explain where I was going and why I was doing this ride.  I’m not sure if he understood the concept of “Bike the US for MS” but I gave him one of our business card/sticker combos, hoping he will stumble through our website and learn about our mission.  Everyone seems so impressed by Kip and all the stickers and bags on him.  I’ve only seen two other people that were traveling fully loaded like myself.  Last night I rolled through Tolentino with Kip all lit up.  I have the monkey-lectric lights that make the cool, colorful shapes on the wheels while I ride.  And it seemed like everyone was out last night – are around 10pm when I was heading back, people were cruising the streets and hanging out on patios.  

Another fun conversation was outside a different bar during a rest stop.  There was a group of 8 or so people hanging out, drinking prosecco and having a good time.  They had a dog with them, so I asked if I could give the dog a treat ( I always travel with dog treats, duh!).  She said he had food allergies and I said it’s okay, this is a natural food for dogs.  The dog was shy but I handed the lady the treats for the little pupper which he enjoyed.  They they started asking me where I was riding to, where I was from, etc.  I think it might be just as fun for the locals to try to talk to me as it is for me.  In these small towns, they are not so used to American tourists and it is very difficult to find someone that speaks English.  They always apologize for not speaking English.  What?  I’m in Italy — you don’t have to apologize!  I should be speaking your language!!  I’m fortunate that they have been very patient with me.  ????

So my advice for those traveling to a foreign country is to learn the basics before your trip.  These are the things I wish I learned before:

  • Numbers (for money, for road names, numbers of miles, phone numbers, etc)
  • Food.  I don’t have any food allergies but if I did, I would need to know exactly what I’m eating before bravely shoveling it in my mouth.
  • Directions.  North, south, east, west.  Left, Right.  Essential to touring by bike.

That’s all for now.  Gotta hit the road before it gets too hot.


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