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.
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.
Throughout the morning, 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.
For further information take a look at another Guest review:
I’m delighted to share a wonderfully written guest review of Live and Learn Italian this month, resplendent with added tales from further Italian exploration by Jenny Matthew. Many guests find incorporating 2 weeks with us in Agnone as a great way to hone conversational skills and practise with encouraging locals as part if their wider ‘avventura in Italia’.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now.” Goethe.
My tip for Francesco & Sandro
As the train neared Tiburtina station I went to retrieve my case - but it had vanished! A little alarmed, I turned to the two young Italians whom I had asked to guard it, and Francesco directed me to a different luggage rack. Relieved, I thanked him, and he then asked me where I was going. Five minutes later, we were still talking; about where I had been – Arezzo to see the frescoes of Piero Della Francesca - and where I was going – Agnone, to improve my Italian.
Arezzo > Roma > Live and Learn Italian, Agnone (click to view)
Francesco and Sandro were interpreters, en route to Naples for a wedding. In the course of our conversation I remembered the exhibition in Arezzo where I had learned the derivation of the Italian phrase ‘un altro paio di maniche’**, so mentioned it to them. They knew the phrase of course, but were not aware of its derivation, so I shared my discovery. They were amazed, “During a chance encounter on a train with an English lady, we learn about our own language!”
Learning, travelling and exploring
By the end of 2018 I had spent two months in Italy, discovering new cities, returning to people and places, seeing art, architecture, and sculpture, and gaining knowledge about the history of Italy. But even more memorable were the many enjoyable chance encounters: on the train with Francesco and Sandro – Maria, other students, and their art teacher in Bologna who told me their favourite places in the city which I was able to visit – Chiara, a teacher in Arezzo who invited me in to the grand palazzo to see her apartment - Ludovico, a Surrealist painter - Robin, a writer in Venice, with whom I drank prosecco - and finally Vera on my flight back from Genoa. She was reading Anthony Trollope in Italian, so obviously I had to talk to her!
Goethe, Jenifer Landor and i miei amici di ‘Live and Learn Italian’ ad Agnone!
When I started learning Italian I “dreamed” (as per Goethe’s quote) of being sufficiently fluent to be able to talk to whomsoever I met, wherever I met them. This level of fluency and confidence has taken much longer than I originally thought to achieve, and I credit Jenifer Landor’s Live And Learn Italian programme in Agnone for having contributed significantly to my success.
Learning in small groups and going out immediately afterwards to practice in authentic situations has no equal, especially if, like me, you start learning in later life. I also have a delightful store of special memories of Agnone and the people I have met there, but unfortunately there is not enough space to tell you more.
Come and join me this year when I go back to Agnone again!
**PS: The meaning of “Un altro paio di maniche”, now that’s quite another matter. In the 1400s, a woman of high birth would order an extra pair of sleeves for a new outfit so that she could change the sleeves for a completely different look. And the expression developed further fascinating meanings over time, including a romantic commitment to engagement, and the the Italian word for ‘tip’!
Live and Learn Italian offers you study with qualified teachers, while living and engaging with a small community. For more information, sign up to the newsletter below, drop us a line via the secure form, or tap here to email me.
Maria showing us how it’s done - we made delicious raviolli[/caption]
For example – and this is just a short list - our cooking lesson in Maria’s home had us all involved making ravioli, Italian empanadas and two fruit crostatas at Maria’s direction, and then enjoying our labours with lively conversation with her and her husband around their dining room table; the visit to the nearby archeological site at Pietrabbondante of the ancient Sanniti people (Samnites in English) featured a lecture at the site by the historian Nicola Mastronardi who has written books on the Sanniti; and the visit to the famous Marinelli bell foundry included a guided tour of the museum, an explanation of how a bell is actually made, plus a demonstration of the beautiful bell sounds by their bell ringer.
I Dragoni in rehearsal
The highlight for me, however, was the evening spent with I Dragoni, the local folk dance troupe, a group of about 30 people, some multi-generational, aged 6 to adult, who performed dances for us with such enthusiasm that it seemed the music totally transformed them. I was struck by the number of teenaged boys in the group, three of whom played the Organetto (small accordion), which along with the tambourines and guitar, propelled the dancers in their fast-moving steps.
Music and dance all together
After the dance performance, we were invited as honoured guests to join them for dinner with music in the adjacent hall. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bruno, one of the principal adult dancers, who explained the stories of some of the dances they performed. One, which was fun to watch, centred around boys and girls sneaking flirtations and kisses during the Vendemmia out of sight of their parents; at the time, the only way boys and girls could meet.
Talking to Bruno and Pepé at the Dragoni dinner
In discussing costumes, which the dancers didn’t wear that night, I mentioned our visit to the museum in Isernia to see traditional Molisani costumes and jewellery and how we had marvelled at the beautiful handiwork. Bruno said he had his grandmother’s costume at home, so off he dashed to get it, and when he returned, one of the dancers put it on and paraded into the hall to model it!
Alicia modelling the costume worn by Bruno’s grandmother
Bruno explained its history and the details of its handiwork. The entire hall of people was in awe with many phones snapping photos. He said it was the first time he took the costume out in public. It was quite a special moment for everyone and, for me, of Molisana heritage, to experience the strong pride these Molisani have for their traditional culture was an unforgettable highlight of my time in Agnone.
Barbara Gentile, USA
Thank you Barbara for sharing your impressions, and delighted you enjoyed the local folk dance troupe so much. You can read all about our guests experiences in our testimonials here.
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