Reflections on Summer 2018

The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops.

It’s a language and culture programme designed to help participants gain fluency, get lots of practise using what they kind of know, and to learn useful modi di dire. Getting out and about, communicating, losing inhibitions – that’s our focus.

This review from Joy Nash, a September 2018 participant gives a great flavour:

How do you imagine your Italian-language vacation? Dodging cars and busses in a big city, or strolling the lanes of a picturesque hill town? Elbow to elbow with tour groups and commuters, or enjoying the vista of a peaceful, ancient valley? Brief words with waiters and shopkeepers, or long conversations with local residents? Making only memories - or friends, too?

I chose Option B

Live and Learn Italian looked great online, and after some deliberation, I went for it. 2 weeks in a town where no one speaks English struck me as a great idea; ancient ruins, farm and vineyard tours, pasta making, festivals… a bell foundry - artisanal bakers, cheese-makers, and candy-makers, too.

I’ve travelled all over Italy, but I’d never heard of Agnone, in the region of Molise. Not surprising. Even some Italians have only the foggiest idea of its location, and there’s a joke going around that claims “il Molise non esiste…” Not true. Molise not only exists, it was once a vital centre of commerce, overflowing with coppersmiths, goldsmiths, and ironworkers.

Renowned for its artistic past during the time of the Bourbon kings, its history is reflected in the many Baroque churches. Home to Italy’s oldest bell foundry, since AD 1040, you can step even further back in time, and find the pre-Roman Samnites, a populous tribe who left behind some truly impressive ruins.

It’s not easy to get to, but it’s worth the effort. The Live and Learn Italian family starts with Londoner Jenifer Landor, whose ancestors hailed from Agnone, and continues with her delightful collection of teachers, guides, and residents - providing a stellar experience for participants. Everyone lends time and patience to helping students improve their Italian language skills, in and out of the classroom. Our group was small, and my fellow Italy-lovers an adventurous bunch; from the US, UK, and Canada, via birthplaces as diverse as Ireland, South Korea, and Syria.

Our daily schedule went like this: wake up to the sound of church bells, then breakfast accompanied by conversation - in Italian! - with B&B hosts. Maybe stop by the shops for lunch items (we had use of our B&B kitchen), or order a panini and/or salad at a coffee bar.

From 10:00 to 1:30, we attended fantastic Italian classes in an old monastery, with qualified native-speakers, then, for the remainder of the day, and on weekends, the schedule varied: a visit to a local specialist shop, a food artisan, or museum, a tour or lecture, maybe a festival or play, or pasta-making in a local home. Students, local guides and hosts dined together in the evening, sometimes at restaurants, other times in private homes. Meals often stretched to three hours, accompanied by excellent wine and conversation - in Italian, of course.

After two weeks, I was thinking and dreaming in Italian, and my conversation and comprehension improved immensely. I learned about all kinds of other things too: bi-yearly shepherd migration, organic farming and winemaking, the secret to perfect pasta from scratch, and how to make a church bell - to name a few. Even more rewarding were the people I encountered. When the program came to an end, I was sad to leave. Now I’m enjoying connecting with my new friends on Facebook and Instagram.

If Live and Learn Italian sounds like an experience you’d enjoy, “mi raccomando” (I’m telling you) - don’t hesitate! Do it! It’s only been a month and I’m already dreaming of going back.

Joy Nash is an architect and second generation Italian-American with a love of travel, writing, and the Italian language. Read her free short fiction at flashbynash.com or follow her wanderings on Instagram @joys_by_joy.

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