My Italian is not very good either: Two years in high. A year in college. and a smattering of a Neapolitan dialect.
Younger Italians, esp in urban areas, spoke English. The rural areas and/or older people, not so much.
A surprising amount of Italians thought I was Spanish (Probably due to a combo of my bad accent, Mediterranean looks, conservative dress of long sleeves and long pants and where I went off the beaten path at times).
Some American tourists in the Roman Forum complimented me on my English. :)
Until I spoke my bad Italian, the locals, again esp when off the tourist path, just assumed I was Italian and spoke Italian to me in train stations ,restaurants, grocery stores and so on. I remember one gentleman going "Americano? No! ". When I said my last name he smiled and said something along the lines of "Ah! Naturalmente!"
In any case, I wouldn't be afraid of not being able to speak Italian fluently. Even a little bit goes a long way, perhaps I have some ancestral bias, but I thought the Italians were beyond friendly and helpful.
If you can't tell, I'm envious. If you decided to do the GEA, should be a nice mix of beautiful mountains, warm people, wonderful culture and great food. Did I mention the food??? :)
EDIT: I went to the Appenines south of Rome. Northern Italy is a different culture..but I suspect the mountain cultures have more similarities than differences! :)