Pulsar36, firstly I never really had to learn Italian since we spoke it at home, so you're probably better off taking advice from someone who has learned the language intentionally. But imo the best way to learn about a language or a culture would be to immerse yourself in it as much as possible in a natural setting, especially if you find going to formal classes boring.
Spending time in Italy would be your best bet in this regard, but since you don't have time or money that may not be an option. If you live in New York, you could be in luck anyway though, since there are literally millions of Italians and there descendants there (but they've been there for a long time now so i'm not sure how many of them still speak any Italian). there must still be places around NYC were it is spoken fairly widely and you could maybe get some practice there. btw is it true that Chinatown has practically swallowed Little Italy alive?
it's not the hardest language anyway, and learning to pronounce things, and make some sentences is probably easier than it would be for someone learning English. plus they use the same letters, similar grammar and due to the French/Latin origin of many English words sometimes even similar expressions. I guess the main reason it isn't taught extensively in schools is that it isn't really considered an important world language like some of the other ones, but it isn't inferiority or that it's considered too difficult or anything like that.
Learning it while watching soccer or doing something else you're interested in, is also good. like if you can get Italian commentary or something, so you can be exposed to the language without getting bored if you don't understand much when starting out.
also knowing Spanish will definitely help you out a lot. a lot of phrases are very similar, and some words are exactly the same so you have a head start. Italians who haven't learned any Spanish can still understand a fair bit of spoken and written Spanish, and vice-versa. Certainly from hearing a lot of interviews with Spanish speaking South American players in Serie A it sounds like they learn Italian pretty quickly and lose their accents more readily than players from other backgrounds.
what an essay