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Some suggestions for spring or summer courses in Italy

Students ask us for advice on where to go to improve their Italian during the breaks or over the summer. The best advice (on where to go, and not to go) can obviously come from those who tried schools in Florence, Livorno, Viareggio, Rome, etc, and can tell their stories. Thank you to all who co-operated, and to those who will send us new information.

We'll start with a report written in 2013, by Emer Gerrard (European Studies):

Summer in Italy - Scuola Dante Alighieri, Camerino


Getting off the plane in a stifling Rome, I was nervous but excited about my upcoming two months in Italy.  I had taken up Italian as a beginner the previous September and had very little practice in the language. My experience of Italy was also very limited as I had only been once before for a week’s holidays by Lake Garda with my family. Once I had collected my bag I quickly found the representative from Scuola Dante Alighieri at the meeting point which had been well described in an email from the school. As I began chatting with the others in the group, I started to realise how diverse all the students were. They came from Turkey, Ecuador, Russia, the US, Thailand and Argentina, but to name a few. The journey from Rome to the village of Camerino in Le Marche seemed endless as we drove through tiny mountainous roads through the scorching July heat. However, once we arrived, it was all worth it!
In fact, I could not believe my luck as the bus headed up a hill on the edge of the mountain range. If you close your eyes and try to picture the perfect Italian village, this is what I began to see as we drove into the town. Despite its small size, Camerino boasts a small university and a beautiful theatre. Once we had gotten off the bus in the main piazza of the town, we were assigned our apartments and flatmates. I was brought to a second floor apartment on a little street in the centre of the town and introduced to two of the girls I would be living with. Both in their early twenties, they came from Georgia, a small country wedged between Russia and Turkey. At first I was slightly overwhelmed as they nattered away in the unusual Georgian tongue! Later that evening I decided to find something to eat and I soon bumped into some people I had met earlier on the bus. We bought some pizza and made our way back to where some of them were living. We sat out in the small orchard-like garden and admired the truly spectacular view.
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The next morning was begun with a short test which would decide which classes we would be put into. I was delighted to meet Jessica, my friend from European Studies who had also received a scholarship to Camerino. That afternoon we were taken on a tour of the town which included a visit to the theatre, welcome drinks and snacks and a trip to the supermarket, which was reached on a bus as it was outside the town. With my Russian roommate Valeria, who had arrived late the previous night, and the two Georgians, we negotiated some sort of shopping list in an Italian/Russian/English/Georgian mix of languages!
Jessica and I were happy to be both placed in the same class, though we agreed the level was quite advanced for us as although we had covered a lot of grammar in Trinity, our ability to actually speak Italian was limited compared to the Argentinians, Portuguese and Brazilians in our class. Later that day we visited the town’s university. It was closed for the summer which meant that the village’s population consisted only of us foreign students and the elderly Italians who lived there. The university was beautiful and again, the views from it were breath-taking.
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The next few days were filled with exciting travel and culture. We visited Gubbio, another beautiful town from which we could travel up the side of a mountain on a cableway, we watched a film in the university’s courtyard underneath the stars, a trip to the beach and that Sunday, a visit to Rome!! Despite the heat, it was a fantastic day. We were guided around much of the city, taking in sites including the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican.
The next three weeks went by in a flash. Some of the highlights were the party in the Castello di Caldarola, a visit to the city of Bologna, which has the oldest university in the world, the cena internazionale (Jessica and I provided a culinary treat from Ireland in the form of scones!), a trip to the historical, picturesque town of Assisi, a visit to the Caves of Frasassi, making tiramisu in class, a karaoke night, a beach party on the night of Ferragosto and unforgettably, a day trip to Florence. Each of these trips and events really deepened my appreciation for Italian life and culture and made me never want to leave! However, perhaps what I enjoyed most of all were the days spent in Camerino itself. Each weekend a few of us set off for a long walk from Camerino into the surrounding countryside. From the large sunflower fields and the amazing views to the tiny little villages we passed through, these walks were magical!
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All in all, my experience in Camerino was without flaw. Nowhere else could I have found a more interesting group of people, a better organised school, more engaged teachers or a place more beautiful. As for the language, I think I greatly improved while I was in Camerino. I would advise anyone going to try to keep away from those who speak English as their second language and who seem to go to practise their English! I was lucky as the girls I lived with did not speak much English so we all felt more comfortable speaking Italian to each other. After my month in Camerino, I went to au pair in Northern Italy, by Lake Maggiore, for another month. I was very lucky to find a friendly and welcoming family and it was great to be able to practise what I had just learnt. Overall, I would most definitely recommend the course offered by Dante Alighieri in Camerino as for me it was probably the most enjoyable month I have ever spent!
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Ciao Luciano!!Well I know that Niamh has already written to you about the course that we did in Castelraimondo, in Le Marche in 1st Year. Anyway just to back her up and encourage more students to go I thought that i'd write you a few lines. I spent an amazing month in Castelraimondo. Firstly the place is really nice, in what is a fairly unknown area of Italy for most Europeans. However Le Marche is definitely one of the most beautiful regions of Italy that I have seen so far, and the school must have brought us on a different trip to the suurrounding area every 2nd day!! In addition to this we were brought to Rome and Florence, all with organised tours by the teachers. It was such a great way to be shown around. The class themselves were excellent, groups of about 8 students, i learned SO SO SO much, and it was great to use Italian all day every day (practically) with the other students from around the world. Most evenings there was something planned, a film, a party, a trip to a concert or the cinema, and we even held our very own St. Patricks Day Party for them since we were there in March! All in all it was brilliant, the only thing is that it is quite expensive... we got a borsa di studio from the school, this was organised through Gianni Pillonca, however it was worth every penny. it really gave me a love for Italian, and we even went back to work in Le Marche the following Summer for 3 months.... such was our love for the place!! If you need any more information, please let me know. Saluti da Pavia. Elaine (4/12/02)

I went to the Istituto Italiano in Florence for three weeks this summer and highly reccommend it. The teaching staff were excellent and very helpful. I did the "Classico" course, which is four hours every morning, 2 of grammar and 2 of conversation. My italian improved so much over the three weeks, i came back to ireland feeling much more confident in my written and spoken italian. There's also the option every week of having a free one-to-one catchup session with a teacher in case you have any problems. They have a range of different courses and several people i know have been there and everybody has come back with nothing but praise. Hope that helps, Kind Regards, Marielle (28/11/02)

My name is Neil, I am a JF european studies student. last summer I spent a month in Florence, where i attended the Istituto Italiano on via martelli. It was a great experience as I had no italian at the beginning but at the end I was in the intermediate class. they offer different options depending on how serious you want to take it, for the example between 2-6 hours a day, i would recommend 6 hours, although it is hard work. the school also organises many events, such as dinner in restaurant, trips to Pisa/Siena etc., cultural nights, lectures on italian art/history, and films in italian. these are very helpful in improving your italian. the school was very well organised, small enough that the director knew everybody's name, but large enough to offer you the course you wanted. overall i think it is a great language school, and i would strongly recommend it to anyone who wishes to improve their italian. Yours, Neil (28/11/02)

I'm not a student in the italian department but i'm doing my erasmus year here in florence. I've attended both the universita' per stranieri, perugia and the Istituto Italiano in florence and found the teachers and teaching at both wonderful though i would say the smaller class sizes at the istituto was definitely of benefit. Regards, Celia (10/12/02)

I don't know if it's still relevant, but before Christmas you requested info on Italian Language schools. I spent the summer at an excellent school in Florence called Centro Linguistico Italiano Dante Alighieri, based in Piazza della Repubblica. It works out at about Euro 1000 per month for accommodation and school costs, however I cannot recommend it strongly enough. All info is available at http://www.clida.it. Regards, Bryan (14/1/03)

This Summer I attended the Michelangelo School of Italian Language and Culture in Florence and would highly recommend it to all. It is open all year round and caters for all nationalities and for students of Italian at all levels. It is based right in the centre of Florence (within 10mins walk of il Duomo). The school I found to be very accommodating and very helpful in all aspects even in finding you accommodation for your stay. They keep the clases very small (I think there is a max. no. of 10 students and a min. of 6 per class) this ensures that no-one is left struggling with s/thg at the back of the class. They also offer afternoon classes for those students who feel they need particular help (with a certain aspect of the language for example). To ensure everyone goes into the right level of class, on the first day they have a test which judges fairly accurately and they are then placed accordingly. If anyone wishes to contact me about any aspect of my stay I would be more than willing to talk to them about it, to give them teachers' names who I found to be particularly good or the name and no. of the man who owned the apartment I was staying in, which was particularly nice, very resonably priced and ideally situated right beside Ponte Vecchio and and the shops and was only 10 mins walking dist. from the school! They offer Italian Language and Culture courses with 6 different levels of difficulty; Specialisation Course in Italian; Individual intensive Courses; Supplementary Courses in Italian Culture incl. Italian Literature, Italy today and a cooking cours among others; Art History Courses. During your stay with them they also offer visits to museums, out of town excursions, evening get-togethers, school parties and Sport. At the end of your stay you also recieve a certificate according to what level you attended. Michelangelo website: michelangelo-edu.it. I hope this is of help to someone, Clíona (28/11/02)

Luciano, Just to let you know about the language schools in Italy. I have attended two different schools. One in Firenze called Leonardo Da Vinci which does have its own website. (not sure exactly what it is). You can do from a week long course to however long you want it to be. I really enjoyed it there and know other people who did too. I met some wonderful people who I still keep in touch with all around the world. The course was good. They give you all the materials and you do a test when you are there to put you in the right standard group. They organise loads of trips and things everyday if you are interested so you really don't have to do too much work finding out things for yourself. The only thing I would say, especially being somewhere like Florence is that because the school is so international and if one's italian isn't that advanced you will ending speaking english out of class as it is the universal language. Of course that depends on one's discipline but particulary in such a touristy place it is easy to forget you are there for italian immersion. However I did have a brilliant time and would definitely recommend it to anyone. You also get a certificate at the end of whichever course you do! The other school was called 'LinguaDue' in Milan. It was quite different there because I only went for a week and I had private lessons because it was just before my exams. I'm not sure about group teaching but the standard of teaching that I had was really high and the teachers were very friendly. It did improve my italian a lot. The only thing is that if you do have single lessons it is harder to meet people. There are some fantastic websites for Italian language scools. A very good one is www.it-schools.com. Or if you go to Yahoo and type in 'Italy language schools' then there are copious amounts of pages that will help. If someone wants to go to a particular area then you can click on 'List Italian language schools by location' (once you have got the Yahoo page up) and it will list each region and you just click where you want to go and it will list the schools in that area. 'www.LinguaItaliana.com' is also a good website.If anyone has any information on cookery courses, wine courses or working on an Italian vineyard in Italy then I would be very interested. Hope this helps. Sophie (2/12/02)

I attended Scuola Brunelleschi in Florence for the month of Sept 2000. I thought that it was a good school,well organised, with four levels of instruction. Please let me know if you want any more information Seán (10/12/02)

Gargnano

Hi Luciano, after second year I did the University of Milan run course at Gargnano on Lake Garda (Palazzo Feltrinelli) and i would highly recommend it. You can find information on-line by going through the University of Milan website: www.unimi.it. I thought the course was very well-run and the standard of teaching was excellent. They also have 'borse di studio' available. Kind regards, Eimear (28/11/02)

Perugia

 

I spent a month at the Università per Stranieri in Perugia which was wonderful. The accomnodation service is attached to the school, so they find you an apartment (€200 per moth, sharing) and the course itself is fantastic, covering literature, grammar, history, economics, film...the possibilities are endless. The teachers are extremely dedicated and very enthusiastic. Perugia is kind of dead during the summer but livens up considerably during September. The social atmosphere wasn't fantastic but if you were to go with a gruop of friends, that would be different. There is a real mix of cultures (German, French, English, Israeli) and I was the only Irish person so I spoke either Italian or German constantly. It is also very central, 2 Hours from Florence, Rome, 1 hour from Siena etc..I'm sure you know all that. One drawback for me in Florence, for example, was the amount of tourists, when all I wanted to do was to speak Italian,so it's definitely a good choice. Also, costing €309 for the intensive course which has 33 hours a week is fantastic value for money, Regards, Brid (28/11/02)

Perugia

I'm a Junior Sophister student, and last year I took a year off books, spending three months in Perugia at the Universita per stranieri, doing an intensive language course. I found it very enjoyable, and not too expensive. The only problem was that I met a lot of foreign students and did not get much of a chance to meet many Italians. It was great craic though, and a beautiful place.... Philippa (28/11/02) .

Venezia

I went to the Italian Institute in Venice for a while over the summer. It was pretty average really, and a bit expensive (E160 for 5 half days), but not bad overall. They can set up accommodation for students which others told me was good, although I didn't need it myself. Lots of people doing the course from lots of different places, like Canada, Germany, Poland, but most were quite a bit older than me. They did organise great trips to other towns and cities, as well as different things in Venice itself. Hope this is some help, I have some more information from there if you need it, Ciara (SF TSM) (28/11/02)

Viareggio

 

It's Alex here from Bologna. I just saw your message on language schools.I was in the Language School in Viareggio a few summers ago and i would definitely recommend it. It is not only a good school for learning but it is brilliant and fun. It's two weeks long or longer if you wish and you virtually live on the beach.Classes are in the morning from 9 till 12 and the rest of the day is free to spend wherever you want.You are given apartments for your stay and the nightlife is great crack(this means depending on how serious one is you dont make school till 10.30).when i did the course i was there more for the crack but still learned alot of italian.If you are determined in your studies there you could really make drastic improvements in your Italian. As far as i can remember it was at a very reasonable price too. The only downside for those who really want to improve is that you will find yourself speaking english on the beach every afternoon as all the students are obviously foreign and this is the common language. My advice to someone would be to do this course for two weeks (anymore and you would probably get bored of the place) and then go work somewhere when you can practise what you learned, something I failed to do and subsequently forgot it all. You can book places on the internet. All the best, Alex (28/11/02)

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