Every region in Italy has a distinct native Romance language in addition to Italian that may or may not be the native language of the locals depending on the area: in areas like Rome or Milan the spoken language is nowadays mostly Italian with slight local influence, whereas in southern rural areas the local language is more common; though people will usually be bilingual. Even though Italians call the native languages "dialects" they are in practice seperate languages, much like Chinese languages; they have their own way of writing and don't always belong to the same language family as Italian.
A good phrasebook will be very useful if you're going anywhere remote, while in most big cities you will find many people understanding English, Spanish or French. But even in those areas Italians will be happy to hear you trying to speak Italian or the local language, and will try to understand you even if you are making many mistakes. If you want your errors to be corrected to help you better learn the language, don't forget to ask before starting a conversation. Italians will rarely correct you otherwise as they consider it very impolite to do so especially since it's a second language for many of them. They also appreciate your efforts to speak their language, even if you do it badly, and won't make too much fuss about your mistakes.
With a 30 minute commute each way to and from work, I intend to use the drive to learn Italian. It should help that I'm an auditory learner!