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I am planning a trip to the Italian Lakes (specifically, Lake Como) and I am wondering if English is widely spoken / accepted around these areas.

  • 3
    Prepare to talk with your hands. – gsamaras Aug 9 '16 at 17:16
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    Twenty-five years ago (which is why this is not an answer) I found English minimal at two-star establishments. I tended to speak modified Spanish. Tourist attractions and four-star establishments, lots of English. Police roadblock, no English whatsoever; I still have no idea what they wanted after they waved me on. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 30 '16 at 19:26
  • last year on lake trasimeno i hadn't any problem, but some don't understand complex things, like in many non-english native places. but i speak spanish and catalan too so i could understand them when they didn't knew something in english. – CptEric Aug 31 '16 at 8:42
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I haven't been there in a while, but from past experience I would say "sort of". Typically you can get by with English but not a lot of Italians would be able to engage in a nuanced discussion. In general, English is more prevalent in Northern Italy than in Southern Italy.

The north tip of Lago di Garda borders on the province (or autonomous region) of Alto Adige. This is still closely connected to Austria and there is a lot of German spoken (or at least a local dialect that's recognizable to German speakers)

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    As an Italian I agree with this answer. The average Italian is not a good English speaker. Things like asking for directions are generally fine, but more than that and you'll have troubles. Younger people are much more likely to know it since it's been a mandatory school subject for quite some time now. Tourists' areas generally have English speaking staff that at least knows enough to do their job. Obviously there are exceptions. – Bakuriu Aug 9 '16 at 8:23
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    My experience visiting Italy as an English-speaker who speaks no Italian, is that lots of people speak English, but certain critical people don't. And have every right not to, since it's not part of their job description to speak English. My trickiest case for example was a guy supervising a village train station in Tuscany where I wanted to buy a ticket for a service that wasn't running that day so the alternative was a bus. He didn't speak any English at all and nobody else was around, so we had to make do :-) – Steve Jessop Aug 9 '16 at 10:35
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    Having recently visited the area, I agree with the answer and the other comments. Basic communication in English is usually possible, a detailed conversation or a conversation about something out of the ordinary is difficult, and occasionally you run into people who don't speak a word of English. Knowing some very basic Italian goes a long way. – DUman Aug 9 '16 at 14:38
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I've just returned from a trip to Lake Como. In Como city itself, English was spoken very widely, especially among people who might expect to interact with tourists such as waiters and public transport staff. So much so that most people I spoke to in my fairly limited Italian just immediately answered in very good English.

In the smaller towns up the lake, it's a bit different. It's still not particularly hard to find English speakers but they're rarer and less skilled. Most of them will appreciate attempts to communicate in even basic Italian.

  • How was your experience at Lake Como? Is it worth a 2.5 day visit? Have been to Lake Garda a couple of times and loved it. Is Lake Como comparable? – alwayslearning Apr 18 at 14:04
  • @alwayslearning I haven't been to Garda so I can't compare. We had a wonderful time although a whole week was perhaps too long. 2.5 days should pay off handsomely. – Bob Tway Apr 19 at 18:51
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My experiences are mixed: Many times one finds people who speak a bit of English and some times not. However, they were always helpful to me in order to understand and find a way out. That holds for basic interactions. For discussions etc I think basic knowledge would help.

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