While we were traveling, we lived in four different countries (seven different cities) and experienced three different languages (Croatian, Italian, and Spanish). We learned a few words in Croatian and Italian (and always try to learn a few pleasantries like “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “may i have,” etc. no matter where we go). (Spanish is another story–because we were in Spanish-speaking countries for five months, we took classes and are still taking classes to try and get as close to fluent as possible.)
Anyway, people were always asking us if it was difficult to stay places where we didn’t speak the language, and the answer is yes and no. Sometimes it was mentally exhausting to leave the house when we knew we were going to struggle to communicate everything, but other places, we could get by with a little bit of English and a lot of made-up hand gestures. While we were staying in Bagnoregio, we took a day trip to this city, Orvieto, and it was the one day where not knowing the language caused a handful of confusing and/or strange moments. We couldn’t figure out how to use the bus (where to buy tickets, where to get on, where to get off, etc.) and had a truly strange encounter with a woman in a small store who literally refused to speak to us because we didn’t know Italian. 😀 You just have to learn to let go of embarrassment, though, because not speaking a language well or at all will leave you feeling constantly embarrassed if you let it.
In the end, it was still a fun day–we explored the town, found an amazing British photographer and bought some of his prints, ate life-changing gelato and pasta, and climbed to the bottom of a 16th-century well that’s something of an architectural wonder. See this city guide for the story behind the well and a bit of interesting history. Probably the best and most exciting part of the day was that we also made it back up and out of the well. 🙂 On to Rome then Spain!