The Pimsleur Italian CDs are very good. They have three levels, each consisting of 30 one-half hour lessons. As it is an immersion system of learning, readings are not necessary; however, the series does come with some written material. Italian with Michel Thomas is also highly rated - it consists of 8 one-hour CDs and is also an immersion system. I prefer the Pimsleur system, but the Michel Thomas series costs far less. There is also an online Italian class called BeginIt that can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beginit/. I believe there are five levels of classes, from Beginners to Advanced+. You can subscribe at email@example.com. A Beginner's Class started on January 3, 2006, but I think they are still on the first lesson and it should be easy to catch up. A combination of an immersion system and the BeginIt beginner's class would be a great start to learning Italian.
I'm about halfway through part II of Pimsleur Italian and love it. Each lesson is 30 minutes and it gives me something to do on my commute. It is outrageously expensive if you buy it. However, there are a couple of alternatives. Many public libraries carry it. You can also rent it through www.recordedbooks.com for about $15/segment plus shipping. Both RecordedBooks and libraries divide each level in half so you get either 14 or 16 lessons in a segment.
The site offered many courses........but I only bookmarked the Italian lessons...... .....now I do not remember how I got to the lessons..........not to worry.......I will try to find!!!
Google Toolbar has an option called WordTranslator, which will translate words on a web page into Italian when your cursor hovers over the word. [You have a choice of Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, or Spanish.] It's a great tool to expand one's vocabulary. However, there are privacy implications, so read the Google Toolbar Privacy Notice before enabling this tool.