Italian is one of the romance languages. "Romance" means "Romanic" or derived from the Roman/Latin language rather than relating to courtship, although many relate Italian to a more relaxed lifestyle.
It is said once you learn one of the related languages, such as Spanish, Italian, or French, it is easy to learn others. Italian is an easy to intermediate language to learn as there are clearer grammatical rules than what exists in the English Language.
Vowels typically have one sound associated with each, except in the case of "adapted" words. Verb conjugation is also much easier than in Germanic languages, such as English. These features make it an easy language for a new learner to be understood, even if they are not fluent.
Learning Italian opens up one's understanding of many aspects of the fine and performing arts.
Some poetry and literature that was translated from Italian has new meaning or beauty, as wordplay and lyricism are something that is lost in translation. Opera is also discovered by the new learner in a whole different way. Instead of seemingly elite, one discovers how universal the stories truly are.
It is true, however, that not everyone in Italy speaks classical Italian. Modern colloquial Italian may confuse a visitor if they expect to only hear what is in a text book. The positive is that if you speak proper Italian, most everyone will understand you and be able to help you out.
Because there are is much history and natural cultural treasure in Italy, there is slim chance that what you have learned in school or language institutes years ago will become obsolete.