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Is there any general rule to decide between using the preposition "a" or "in" with "andare" and places ? Some examples:

  • andare in biblioteca
  • andare a scuola
  • andare al parco
  • andare al cinema
  • andare al mercato
  • andare all'aeroporto
  • andare in ospedale
  • andare in albergo
  • andare in montagna
  • andare al mare
  • andare in spiaggia

The rules of using "in" for countries, states, regions, continents and big islands, "a" for cities and small islands and "da" when the place refers to a person (eg house/office of somebody) are clear and they are out of the scope of this question.

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Most rules about how to choose which preposition must be used with "andare" are already mentioned in your question. There are a few others:

  • with a street or a square, use "in": Laura abita in via Buozzi.

  • with a shop or a store, use "in": Devo andare in farmacia. However, if the name of the shop or store is followed by some specification, use the articulated preposition "a" or the articulated preposition "in": Ho comprato queste pillole alla farmacia dei Quattro Cantoni.

The cases which are not covered by these rules, such as almost all the examples in your question, must be learned by heart. A list with more cases can be found at Preposition "a" or "al"?

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  • “with a street or a square, use "in": Laura abita in via Buozzi.” This is actually very place-dependent: in Rome that sentence sounds either bureaucratic or Northern, and you'd more often say Laura abita a via Buozzi or, for a more typical example, ...a viale Trastevere (...in viale Trastevere sounds almost wrong to a Roman ear). – DaG Sep 23 '19 at 17:50
  • @DaG Very interesting. I would never use anything but in with road names, a sounds very wrong to me (I am from the North-East). – Denis Nardin Sep 24 '19 at 16:12
  • @DenisNardin: I perceive this alternation a / in as quite a strong a difference in Northern versus Central Italian in other contexts too. For instance, I hear Northern people saying such things as vado in stazione or lavoro in [company's name], while Central Italian uses vado alla stazione or lavoro a(lla) [company's name]. (I'd be interested in Southern Italian's uses; I'm less conversant with them.) (I know: I'm being quite unfair to all Italian speakers by vaguely dividing them in just a few large categories.) – DaG Sep 24 '19 at 18:39
  • @DaG Since I found this phenomenon intriguing I decided to ask a question about it. You are welcome to try to answer it with what you know about the difference between North and Center, although I hope someone else will chime in with a more refined analysis. – Denis Nardin Sep 24 '19 at 20:08
  • Good idea, @DenisNardin. I too hope in a some wide-ranging, sourced answer. – DaG Sep 24 '19 at 22:04

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