04 August 2015

An infidel abroad -- request for info

It will probably be a year or two (if not longer) before I take another trip, but I believe in planning ahead -- at least insofar as deciding where to go is concerned. Long-term readers will be unsurprised that the places I'm considering visiting are Greece, Italy, and Iran.  The question is which one of those three.

If you have been to any of those three countries, I'd be interested in your impressions, especially concerning:

1) Attitudes of local people toward Americans (regardless of what the attitude of the government is).  Is it common to run into hostility or do most people accept having Americans visit the country?

2) Safety.  Is crime a problem?  In the case of Iran, is an American visiting the country likely to be targeted by the government or police in some way?

3) How commonly people speak English.  I can speak a limited amount of Persian, but no Greek or Italian.  I always try to learn some of the language of any place I go to, but some languages are more difficult than others and I don't have the same ability to assimilate them as I did when I was younger (as I discovered when I tried to learn some Russian before my last trip).

4) Cigarette smoke.  Is it easy to avoid in public places, restaurants, and the like?  And I do mean avoid it.  I have bad reactions to even a slight exposure.

5) Vegetarian food -- is it easy to get?

I realize that in a couple of years conditions could change in any of these places, especially with the economic upheaval in Greece and Rouhani's reforms in Iran, but anything readers have experienced will still be worth knowing.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I've never been to Iran or Greece, but I have traveled to Italy more than a few times.

Almost everyone in the big cities speaks some English. It was annoying when I spoke Italian to waiters or the desk clerks in the hotels to hear them reply in English. I wanted to practice the Italian language. In the smaller paesi, fewer people spoke English, but I found them to be helpful and very welcoming (maybe the fact that my parents were both born in Italy helped?) I spent a month working at a bronze foundry in Pietrasanta in Tuscany. By the time I left, I was very comfortable with the language.

I don't think you'd have a problem with finding vegetarian "cibo," since many pasta dishes are made with vegetables or beans or other non-meat ingredients (formaggio, uove, etc.). Italians love their verdure (greens) and contorni (veggies), patate, fagioli, etc.

I haven't been to Italy in a while, but I imagine not too much has changed since I was there in early 2005. Best time to go is October (porcini mushroom time) or early spring. Too hot and too crowded in the summer.

Whichever you choose, buon viaggio!

04 August, 2015 12:06  
Blogger KanaW said...

I spent four days in Rome (granted it was about 10 years ago LOL). At that time it was a wonderful experience.

1) Attitudes of local people toward Americans:
No problem. Met lots of nice people.

2) Safety.
I wandered all over the place by myself, and never had a problem. Even my first night there - it was raining, dark, and lousy visibility when I had to walk from the train station to my hotel 'cos I couldn't find a cab. Everyone I met tried to help me find it, even when they had no English!

3) How commonly people speak English.
At that time, it was about 50-50, at least in Rome.

4) Cigarette smoke.
Lots of smokers back then :(

5) Vegetarian food -- is it easy to get?
Every restaurant I went to had a vegetarian option or two.

04 August, 2015 14:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Grazie, both! That's exactly the kind of info I was hoping to get.

04 August, 2015 19:26  
Blogger mendip said...

Of the countries mentioned, I've only been to Italy, and that was many years ago. It was part of a family trip to Western Europe, and of all the countries we were planning on visiting, Italy was at the bottom of my list, (I just wasn't into the art, architecture, and sights that a tourist would see). But the Italian people were amazing. We met nice and not so nice people throughout Europe, but the Italians were by far the warmest and best. They completely won me over.

13 August, 2015 05:02  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

I went to Florence Italy a long time ago. I was a smoker at the time and I don't remember being restricted. I hung out with Americans and we were a little nutty so the Italians avoided us. The only problem we had was that one of us was a pretty woman with blond hair and the guys bugged her on the street. She had to really defend herself. I don't remember any rudeness otherwise.

01 November, 2015 05:52  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mendip & Lady A, thanks for the input.

04 November, 2015 03:35  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

My wife and I have spent a fair amount of time in northern Italy.

1. People were always very nice to us. But then, people were always nice to us in Paris, too, so maybe they didn't know we were Americans.

2. We never felt unsafe, and we were in a lot of different places. Maybe we were just oblivious.

3. We found that, except way out in the country, everyone spoke enough English, French and German to take your money. We never had any trouble with language at any restaurant, hotel, car rental agency, etc. In fact, the biggest language problem we ever had was in the Campo de Fiore, when we had to insist on the Italian menu, because the names of the dishes of the English one made no sense.

4 & 5. Never really had a problem with cigarette smoke (neither one of us smokes.) We aren't vegetarians, but in general, Italian food has a lot of non-meat options, particularly if you eat chicken or fish.

06 December, 2015 11:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just returned from a length trip to Italy. The people are wonderful, really warm and friendly. You encounter a few surly types, just as you would here. English is widely spoken in industries that cater to tourists. We encountered just one waiter who didn't speak any. And Italian is a relatively easy language in which to acquire a basic vocabulary. Although there is virtually no violent crime, there is rumored to be quite a lot of petty theft (we didn't encounter any), so it is a good idea to pay some attention to the safety of your belongings when you're out and about. Smoking was outlawed in public buildings (including restaurants and bars) several years ago, but it's permitted in the outside seating areas of restaurants, so you'll smell a bit of it. You can ask to be seated indoors if you're really sensitive to it. Vegetarian eating in Italian restaurants is harder than many people think. You'll find animal products - small amounts of pork,stock and non-vegetarian cheese - in many dishes that appear vegetarian. If you decide to go, you should learn to tell waiters in Italian that you're a vegetarian,and that you don't eat cheese (if that's the case).

06 December, 2015 12:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Green & Anon: Thanks, that's the kind of information I'm looking for.

06 December, 2015 14:51  

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