Book Review: 5 Reasons ‘Conversational Italian For Travelers’ is Your Best Bet

Although I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of traveling through Italy many times, I firmly believe that the Italian language will be an eternal challenge to adequately grasp and understand. Everyone learns differently, but for me, I need total immersion and that means living among the Italians. However, with each new experience conversing with them while I’m in Italy, I learn a little more. They are so encouraging with my efforts to communicate and they make me feel good for putting my best efforts into it. It is such a rewarding experience to say the right words in Italian and to join in the conversation while making good sense.



I always make it a rule to travel extremely light. That means just one small pull-bag and a knapsack. As most of us, I had to learn the hard way. So when Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti, author of “Conversational Italian for Travelers ~ Just the Important Phrases” approached me with her lightweight pocketbook, I was eager to look it over. I’ve had the book now for a few months and honestly, I am very impressed. Would I choose this particular pocketbook over any other similar one? Yes, absolutely. I’ve compared it to Rick Steves’ “Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary,” one I’ve used and loved, but Kathryn’s is my favorite for a few reasons.

  1. It is nearly one-fourth the thickness which makes it much more pliable and lightweight
  2. The basic phrases are all covered which includes everything from transportation, city life, hotels, and restaurants.
  3. A few pages are dedicated to explaining the Italian alphabet, sound combinations and general pronunciation for speaking the words.
  4. A vocabulary is included at the end of each chapter.
  5. On the back of the pocketbook is a colorful regional map of Italy that I love.

In all fairness, Rick Steves’ Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary is more complete, with the addition of finding help when you need it, major rail lines and maps. But for the pure essentials to function adequately within an Italian community, with the addition of the pocketbook’s slim dimensions, Conversational Italian for Travelers-Just the Important Phrases is my top choice.

Author Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti says, “As a physician, I am considered a third-generation Italian-American success story; on the other hand, despite the fact that I was raised with Italian food and celebrating Italian holidays, the Italian language remained a mystery.  At home, Italian was a “secret language” spoken between my parents and grandparents.  I was to be “American,” and this meant no home instruction in my family’s native language. Later in life, I realized that this phenomenon had happened to an entire generation of Italian-Americans!”

Kathryn Occhipinti
Kathryn Occhipinti, photo credit,

During her first trip to Italy, she had to use a phrase book to communicate and realized upon her return that she deeply wanted to learn the language. She began teaching informal group Italian lessons for the Italian-American society. As a result, after 10 years she began to develop her series of books based on learned techniques that worked best among her students.

Conversational Italian

Simple to understand and comprehend, this little pocketbook will get you a long way into your journey of communication among the Italians.


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