Personally I found that having studied Italian for four semesters in college was a great help although, by the time I started doing microfilmed research of the Italian records, it had been many many years since I had studied the language. If you are familiar with some of the vocabulary and rules of grammar, I think that is one good starting point, as sometimes you can make out some of the words and guess at some of them and get the meaning. You also need to learn that sometimes old Italian script is such that there may be no separation between words. One word just runs into the next making some records extremely difficult, but not impossible, to decipher, once you realize this. In the days when I started, which was back in the Spring of 1997, I wasn't aware of the aids now available such as Trafford Cole's book. I've actually only owned that book for a little over a year, as one of my sons wanted to get me a gift and I figured I should finally own a copy of it. I never use it though to help me with deciphering the documents. My ability to decipher the old handwriting is l based on my many years of experience in working with records from over twenty towns, and that excludes the volunteer work I have done on this forum for records from other towns. The more you work with these records, the better you get at deciphering them, although I think that even T will probably tell you, that there will always be documents that will have sections in them that will be difficult to decipher. Sometimes just the poor quality of the document can make deciphering it with any degree of accuracy difficult.
Handwriting varies from one person to another, as you well know, so there is no hard and fast rule as far as the script is concerned, although there are websites on the Internet that will show you individual letters in the old script. For me, it's more about reading the words as a whole than deciphering each individual letter in a word and having some knowledge of the Italian language helps with that. Also owning a number of good Italian dictionaries is helpful. I have increased my vocabulary immensely since I started working with these records. What I still find difficult is deciphering surnames and street names in towns with which I am not familiar. Once I work with records from a specific town for any period of time, however, deciphering those becomes easier. Peg
I want to add that aids such as the one that T has cited, or Cole's book that I mentioned, are really important in helping newbies learn where to find pertinent information in the various types of documents. Italian records have a lot of information in them which is unnecessary for family history research. So, if you learn the organization of each of the types of the documents, and key words to look for to find the information about your specific ancestors, that is also a big help in deciphering and understanding the documents.
I learned with out the help of any guides, because they did not exist. I find my self asking questions all the time in the state archives of Italy, when I am dealing with 17th century documents. There is always someone there that knows the time period of the documents.
I am currently assisting about five people, just like your self, the process of finding and researching their Italain ancestry. Because the records all over Italy are so different, I recommend all of the students to get the help of the international Research Community on Italian genealogy.
There is another important Latin and Vogulare notes of handwritting examples. Its starts about half way through after the Latin.
Common expamples of Vogular is 7bre= September, 8bre= Ottober
9bre= Nov, Xbre=Dec. Thern there is the Batta=Battista and much more.
A very common version of Vogular is the quandom=fu or deceased. it may be written q., qne. and so on. I called this stuff SLANG LATIN, until I learned that it here was really a term for it.
I would also suggest at some point taking a look at Medival Latin, and just doing an overview of it, because many of its effects exist in various forms in the church records. I use it just to understand how abbreviature are formed.
Researching in the provience of Treviso, Italy, Provaglio Sopra, Val Sabbia of Brescia. Domege di Cadore
Forno di Rivara, TO, Canischio, TO
Surnames Melchiori of Oderzo, TV, Vendrame of TV, Rossi of Rai di San Polo, Bonotto of TV.