A journey into the heart of a land that I have come to love. It is the only program I have found where I can touch the earth, eat the fruit of that earth, and learn from the people that toil that land and create living art. One accomplishes all this while completely immersed in the language: learning from amazing teachers each morning but so much more from a live classroom each afternoon.
Mei Lin & Lucrezia, teacher
The language is all around you: you hear it, think it, speak it and at times dream it. Every activity is planned with love and passion and Jenifer is thoughtful down to the tiniest detail of our stay. The bonus of the program: fantastic friendships that are forged.
Mei Lin with our wonderful driver, Fernando
I am a returning student because it is quite simply the best program that I have attended in Italy.
Sometimes you find a foreign place you feel you could live in forever because it seems to express and represent you so deeply.
I discovered my passion for Italy seven years ago. After having many experiences in Italian schools in Canada and classes with some fascinating private teachers, I decided to go to Italy to put what I had learned into practice.
In her bilingual book “In other words/In altre parole”, Jhumpa Lahiri talks about her own experience learning Italian:
“…to know a new language, to immerse yourself, you have to leave the shore. Without a life vest. Without depending on solid ground.”
Of course, in Italian it sounds so much better!
“Per conoscere una nuova lingua, per immergersi, si deve lasciare la sponda. Senza salvagente. Senza poter contare sulla terraferma”.
That’s what I decided to do: to leave the shore and speak Italian for real.
Andrea with teacher Simona
I found “Live and Learn Italian” via a YouTube video and after devouring information on the website I realized it was exactly what I was looking for. How wonderful to go to a place where no one could speak any other language. I would listen and speak Italian as much as possible, which, in my case, was all the time!
I embarked on this adventure not knowing what it would be like and to my surprise the experience exceeded expectations. I wanted to live as a local, to meet new people, to eat with them and learn about their culture and traditions. In Agnone, Italian is everywhere, and it doesn’t go away. Learning starts at breakfast and goes on until bedtime. The rhythm of the city is punctuated by the sound of church bells and people on the streets talking to neighbors. In the morning the TV news is in Italian while kindly and attentive B&B owner Tonina prepares breakfast and talks to us about life.
Then it’s time for class! The two teachers are amazing, so welcoming, helpful, and lovely. In a small class with few students there’s lots of in-depth conversation. At breaktime we have coffee at Caffè Letterario, a cute place close to the library where we have lessons. After class, I stop by the fornaio (bakery), caseificio (cheese store), or fruttivendolo (fruit store) to buy something to eat and talk to the vendors; taking in the many old churches, flowers spilling out of urns, lively birdsong, and colourful clotheslines, all things we have in mind when we think of Italy. In the afternoon, activities, tours, and little trips keep us busy until dinner, where we eat and talk more with local people and with the teachers.
Andrea with teacher Carla
I left Calgary really only expecting to improve my Italian. I found much more; affection, friendship, empathy, and joy. People proud of their region and so available to us. I found students eager to share thoughts and feelings through Italian words. I found love and attention from kind, generous people sharing the beauty in their lives and the amazing traditions of their culture. I found a passionate entrepreneur with a great idea and the determination to put into action a brilliant and unique concept : Jenifer’s attentive presence and the high quality of all the things we did really added to this experience.
Andrea with Jenifer, Live & Learn Italian owner
In conclusion, learning the Italian language is, for me, one of many ways to exchange life experiences, to meet awesome people and find new friends. In his book “L’appello”, Alessandro D’Avenia says:
“the subject I teach is not ‘science’ because the subject is always and only ever will be ‘life’, and ‘science’ is a way to understand something of this mystery.”
When I study Italian, I realise that the language allows me to know myself better and so to understand life better. I still make mistakes, but the most important things I have understood.
Pizza e minestra, or Pizza di granturco is a typical Molisana dish and a perfect example of la cucina povera.
With ancient origins, it’s basically a vegetable soup with softened cornbread. In Molise, corn ‘pizza’ has always been the daily bread of the poor.
Laura Collins was our guest in September and very much enjoyed this dish at La Piana dei Mulini in Molise. Once home, she contacted Alessandra, our host that day, to ask for the recipe. Laura has very kindly compiled an Italian and English version for us (both below).
She says, “I think one problem for non-Italian cooks could be the use of ‘quanto basta’ – ‘as needed’. If you’ve never had the dish, it might be hard to get the consistency right – it should be soft but not soupy.
The restaurant quantities below make a huge amount; for normal domestic use I suggest scaling it down to, say, 300g each of granturco/verdure.”
Recipe in English:
1 kg yellow cornflower
1 kg green vegetables (broccoli, chicory etc.)
warm water as needed
salt as needed
extra virgin olive oil as needed
3 cloves of garlic
chilli pepper as needed
In a bowl, mix the cornflour with salt, 3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil and warm water. The dough should be mouldable - like clay - not liquid, not too hard. Put it in a round baking tray. The “pizza” should be at least 2/3 cm high.
Don’t forget to put abundant olive oil in the tray, before moulding the pizza, and on the surface of the pizza.
Bake in the oven (180°C) for 50/60 minutes or till it’s cooked inside. Insert a wooden toothpick to check near the centre of the pizza. If it comes out clean, the pizza is done.
Lightly stew the green vegetables in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a little bit of chilli. Leave as much water in the pan as you can, the pizza will be like a sponge.
Crumble the pizza inside the pan, turn it in the pan till everything is well mixed and serve with abundant fresh extra virgin olive oil.
Laura’s questions for Alessandra:
Laura in Agnone cooking with Leo and Rosaria
Which polenta is best to use?
Neither too fine nor too coarse. If necessary, you can mix two flours.
Yellow or white corn flour?
The traditional pizza is with yellow corn flour!
Is this always a vegetarian dish?
More commonly (as a poor dish) it was made without meat but there is a version which adds bits of pork belly or chopped up pork sausage. Best with something fatty!
Recipe in Italian:
Pizza e minestra alla Molisana
Pizza di granturco
1 kg di farina di mais giallo fine*, o un misto di fine e grosso
acqua calda, quanto basta
1 cucchiaino di sale, oppure a piacere
3 cucchiai di olio extra vergine di oliva + extra per la cottura
Zuppa di verdure
1 kg di verdure verdi (bietole, broccoli, cicoria, cavoli…), finemente sminuzzate o tritate
3 spicchi d’aglio, tritati
peperoncino a piacere
olio extra vergine di oliva, q.b.
Preriscaldare il forno a 180ºC. In una ciotola mescolate la farina di mais con il sale, l’olio extra vergine di oliva e l’acqua tiepida. Impastare fino ad ottenere un impasto flessibile, né troppo duro, né troppo morbido.
Oliare abbondantemente una teglia da forno o una teglia rotonda. Aggiungere l’impasto, picchiettandolo. Segna un motivo sulla parte superiore, se lo desideri. La pizza deve essere alta almeno 2/3 cm. Spennellare la superficie della pizza con altro olio.
Infornare a 180°C per 50 - 60 minuti o fino a cottura. (Puoi controllare con uno stuzzicadenti. Se lo stuzzicadenti esce pulito, la pizza è cotta)
Minestra di verdure
Soffriggere le verdure in una pentola con olio extra vergine di oliva finché non iniziano ad appassire, aggiungere l’aglio e un po’ di peperoncino e far cuocere per un paio di minuti. Aggiungere solo abbastanza acqua per cuocere leggermente le verdure fino a quando non si saranno ammorbidite. Idealmente non si spreca nulla, nemmeno l’acqua di cottura delle verdure. La pizza lo prenderà come una spugna. Sbriciolare o grattugiare la pizza nel tegame delle verdure e mescolare. Aggiungere altra acqua se necessario. Dovrebbe essere non troppo asciutto, non troppo bagnato. Servire tepido con abbondante olio extra vergine di oliva fresco.
Tradizionalmente, si potevano aggiungere carni grasse, come pancetta di maiale o salsicce.
Questa ricetta è stata fornita da Alessandra, un’antropologa che fa da consulente sui piatti della tradizione per La Piana dei Mulini in Molise.
Maria Alice joined us from the US and fell in love with Agnone, as so many have done! She wrote this poem first in English and then worked on putting it into Italian.
This final version came to be with the kind help of Maria Alice’s teachers: Anna in Pennsylvania and Erminia in Isernia.
Here it is – Italian version only to give you some challenge!
Agnone, Città d’Arte Come ti troverò? Immersa quasi tra le nuvole Nella campagna italiana, La guglia di San Marco Un faro, un ponte, una speranza. Da quanto tempo cammino Per le tue antiche strade? I tuoi gradini scolpiti salgono Infinitamente su e intorno Attraverso strette vie tortuose. Case con tetti di tegole rosse Collegati tra loro Da centinaia d’anni. Fioriere illuminano facciate grigie, La biancheria fruscia nella brezza Dai balconi in ferro battuto, Gatti e gattini, grigi e neri, Prendono il sole in mezzo a te. Dove dovrei cercarti? Tutto intorno a te ci sono valli, Fattorie e colline lontane. L’aria così chiara che, Respirare è guarire. In lontananza, giacciono rovine Degli antichi sanniti che Commerciavano con la Grecia E costruivano grandi templi.
La tua gente, Agnone, Ha generato vita In cinque storici paesi, Paesi che si sono trasformati In una città - patrona delle arti. Ovunque c’è arte – La donna che cuoce il pane In un forno di duecento anni, L’uomo che alleva le api, I contadini con la vite, Con ulivi e fichi, La famiglia che fa il formaggio, L’artista che trasforma edifici E fotografie in arte, Il produttore di vino, Il fondatore della campana, Il fabbro, il confettaio, Il libraio, il macellaio, La nonna che fa la pasta, Insegnanti e guide, I venditori di frutta, I sacerdoti - ognuno Di questi lavora, cammina, crea, Ogni giorno una nuova pennellata Sulla tua tela dal vivo. Lontano da me adesso, Come ti troverò? Hai calmato la mia anima Con i tuoi modi semplici, Il tuo silenzioso legame Con la famiglia, con la gente, col passato. Come ti troverò mentre incontro Traffico e centri affollati? Ti troverò nel mio cuore,
Agnone, Pietrabbondante and the Sammnites - A territory rich in history.
One of the names given to the ancient town of Agnone is “L’Atene del Sannio”, Athens of Sannium. Athens - because of Agnone’s rich cultural heritage, and Sannium - because Agnone is located in the heart of the Samnite territories (Sannitico in Italian).
I’d never heard of the Samnites before I went to Agnone, but then, nor have most Italians. A pre-Roman tribe, the Samnites were sophisticated and cultured. Renowned for being fearless and proud warriors, they established a vast territory from which they travelled far and wide.
A very mobile people, they were receptive to other cultures; Etruscan bronze artefacts have been found in Samnite sanctuaries, Cicero recounted that a Samnite chief travelled to Taranto in Apuglia to discuss philosophy with Archita and Plato, they exported timber and livestock. Wine was imported for their sacred ceremonies from the Bosphorus and Agean Islands, and Samnite weapons and belts found in Tunisia (Ancient Carthage), Magna Grecia and other Greek cities, are evidence of their mercenary activity.
They spoke Oscan, an adaptation of Etruscan and Greek. The famous bronze tablet, la Tavola Osca, today in the British Museum, was Pentrian Samnite, and discovered by a shepherd in the fields outside Agnone (1840). It describes the internal organisation of the sanctuary of Ceres at Pietrabbondante, and the ceremonies that took place there. The sacred inscriptions on the tablet were fundamental in helping scholars to decipher the Oscan language. Excavations of the temples and amphitheatre at Pietrabbondante began in 1843, and by 1856 had aroused such interest that the site was granted government protection by the Bourbon King Ferdinand of Naples. Very rich in artefacts, excavations still continue today.
Identifying as one people divided into tribes, the Samnites formed an organised democratic republic encouraging freedom of expression. Totally different from the politics of Rome, which was influenced and led by patrician families, the Samnites favoured an equitable society, very advanced for the time. There were no powerful landowners, the land was free for everyone to use for grazing and farming. Nor did the Samnites keep slaves.
Their tribal structure made the territory difficult to penetrate, allowing them to control large parts of southern Italy for a long time. Their forms of settlement and land use can still be seen today in an impressive system of fortifications, forming a barrier that was very difficult for the Roman army to break through. It is said that the Samnites could have been masters of Italy had they formed a united or federal state, but unlike the Romans, they valued individual freedom much more than greatness or power, and more than the permanent preservation of their state.
Originally allied with Rome against the Gauls, the Samnites later became enemies of Rome, fighting a series of battles, known as the 3 Samnite Wars; in 343, 326 and 298BC. Despite early overwhelming victories, they were finally defeated, and so severe was their threat, that by 82BC the Roman dictator, Lucius Cornelius Sulla had subjected them to an ethnic cleansing campaign, after which the Samnites more or less disappeared from history.
They were predominantly shepherds and herders, a tradition that continued in the region long after the tribe had been destroyed. The tratturi, the wide grassy pathways that cut through Molise from the hills of Abruzzo to the plains of Puglia, were first established by the Samnites. Like the motorways of their time, these routes brought livestock to the southern plains for the winter and back to the mountains for summer grazing.
Many of the cultural traditions of Molise are rooted in Samnite history. It is a strong legacy of which the Molisani are very proud.
"The Romans' humiliation by the Samnites : Double-sided page [fol. LXXVIII, Do nun die Samnites ho[s?]teu / dal: Papirius"
Tap images for Full Size:
Contributors: Anonymous Printmaker Titus Livius Patavinus (Roman, 59 BCE-17 CE), Author Johann Schöffer (German, ca. 1468-1531), Publisher Bernhard Schöfferlin (German, ca. 1436-1501), Translator
Agnone welcomes the first group for a beautiful summer 2019 of Italian Language Holidays.
Saturday, June 15-29, 2019
Our drivers Fernando and Donatella brought guests to Agnone in 2 batches - from Canada, Australia, the US and UK.
Sunday, we went out to Marco’s, to hear about his honey and wine production.
Marco showing the group his honey
The pollen is extracted from wild fruits giving the honey strong medicinal properties.
Learning about wine production on Marco’s farm.
Some vines were planted recently, but many have been lovingly restored.
The day also gave the teachers a chance to meet everyone, and assess 1 – 1 before lessons on Monday.
Lunch was in the very cool stone cantina, with simple food from the garden. Different varieties of Marco’s fresh honey was drizzled over ricotta, we had a selection of other piatti tipici, and, of course, home made wine.
Lessons started Monday in Palazzo San Francesco, then for coffee to Letterario to get acquainted with the staff, and work out the many different ways to order coffee in Italy.
On an afternoon walk around the centro storico Walter’s group (surprisingly popular name in this region!) stopped by one of the most beautiful of the 16 churches. Before a chance encounter with a lady called Filomena, and Guido, il fabbro.
This led to hair appointments for Anne and Sally in the salon of Filomena’s daughter… funny how conversations segue, even in another language!
Cooking dinner with Maria is a good way to relax and unlock the tongue –
While Lucrezia and Francesca like to plan lessons together with a spritz, before joining the other small group dinner in famiglia with Rosaria and Leo.
Leo’s knowledge of history is extensive, and as natives of Naples, their love for Agnone comes with an outsider’s eye.
Before lessons a small group went to sample the focaccia, hot out of Mercedes’ forno alegno –
She told us about her daily work; the lievito madre, preparing the loaves, heating the oven, growing the grain, the stone grinding, old recipes passed down from her nonna.
And then, off we went down the mountain to her brother, Donato, making cheese, with milk from his 20 cows. The bocconcino he gave us to taste was warm.
A walk in the woods kept everyone shaded. Stefania pointed out wild flowers, and herbs and grasses used in local dishes.
Saturday evening we drove out to Sant’Onofrio for a talk about the ‘ndociatta festival; the origins and traditions, making of the torches, and careful processes of this ancient pageant. Dinner, a variety of local dishes, finishing with oven baked lamb and potatoes was prepared by Gino… and delicious vegetarian seasonal platters.
But we expired early; it’d been a full week, and this learning Italian every day is tiring – plus we had to get up early Sunday to get to Campobasso for la festa dei Misteri – a unique event with tableaus ( – real people) enacting the lives of the saints on Corpus Domini, 40 days after Easter.
A rooftop drink on the terrace at Tonina’s B&B – not 1, not 2, but 3 men in one session! Might be a first…. Welcome to the men!
At the little borgo of Marongoni, Nicola Mastronardi explained that the beautiful room into which we assembled was once animal stalls of the family small-holding.
His talk about the transumanza explored how profoundly this ‘migration’ has influenced the cultural life of the Molisani, before we gathered with all the family for a delicious meal.
PIetrabbondante is a site we never miss – even those who’ve been with us numerous times enjoy seeing it again and again; serene, majestic, and there’s always a mountain breeze which, this June, was most welcome.
Anna Maria had obtained black truffles from a local tartufaio, and the meal she prepared was a selection of local flavours. Describing the recipes of the simple dishes, she wove in stories about the land and harvests.
it was a packed 2 weeks with wonderful weather, if a little on the hot side - and the group left for Rome with a palpable sense of achievement. Tongues had definitely been loosened, and all had enjoyed meeting and engaging with this warm community.
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