I am an Aussie who was living in the UK for a time. I think I have a pretty good attitude towards others' cultures and I went over especially keen on learning more about the Roman Empire, Catholic history etc. I learned a bit of Italian and I certainly don't expect anyone to speak English.
Thanks for the social science lesson Hillary, but I am twice your age and I am actually a qualified social science teacher!
My, my, my!
Just spent a month in Italy (Rome too). Most of the time I had very friendly people who helped me and gave me service in stores - a smile and a friendly request goes a long way!
In some cases I watched while loud, self-opinionated tourists demanded their requests - sorry, that's not the way to do it. nners maketh a man (or woman). Imagine themselves at the receiving end.
I can pick on my one hand the people who were rude:
elderly man on bus boat in Venice when he yelled "Permesso!" at me three times when I held on to the seat in front of him and he wanted to get off. When he realised I was also moving forward he was very sheepish and apologised.
man at Termini Tourist Centre - all queries were a pain to him! (guess it's the job, not the tourists)
lady at Tabachi, lower ground floor past bookshop - all requests for tickets were oh, so boring! (guess it's the job, not the tourists)
bus drivers (when they are in the bus) - less rude when they are standing around outside.
owners of dogs in Venice - don't even look at the dogs - the owners will tell you off (they are very haughty).
Hope the above also gave you a giggle!