Random question for this site I know but I thought I would post in case anyone has any experience.
I am considering spending a bit of time in Italy to study Italian. There seem to be a lot of places advertising classes but I am not sure where to start.
I am a total beginner and am really just interested in being able to speak. I have never done anything like it before so would like to hear other people's experiences
I wondered if anyone had done anything similar and had any advice. I would like somewhere that caters for adults as I am not a student and am not looking to be part of a student scene.
I would rather learn in Italy as I would love to spend time there and think that's a much better way to learn a language
I'm half Italian.
My two pence worth. Anywhere but Milan. Seriously. I had a uncle there and hated going there to see him. I am yet to meet an Italian who likes Milan.
Depending the time of year and how well you tolerate heat, Naples is a hoot in a chaotic way that only neapolitans can pull off.
Sicily, Puglia or Calabria (but not Reggio Calabria, as it's a bit of a dump - my cousin who's from there would wholeheartedly agree) . Even if you dont learn Italian, you'll never eat better food in your life (I'm getting slightly tearful thinking about it after 2 years of covid)
Sorry I can't help on the language school side but as a general rule the south will be much cheaper than anything ooop north
Hi this is really useful thank you. Yes I wanted to be more south anywhere so wasn't considering Milan. I love the heat but I hear Neopolitan Italian is quite different - same with Sicilian. But yes the food is one reason I want to spend time there!
I wouldn't let the concern about regional dialects put you off Naples or the south in general.
In my experience, these are spoken by the older generations and even then between friends and close acquaintances.
It is highly unlikely that you will be addressed in a dialect off the bat (it's never happened to me).
A few years ago I went on a course in Bologna with Cultura Italiana - they have a huge range of options & are very well established:
Bologna is a very nice place to be - good food, architecture, relaxed.
I'd agree re not choosing Milan, probably not Rome either, even though it is very impressive.
Thank you. I have never been to Bologna so I will look into this. How long was your course? Did you feel like you learnt a lot. What makes you say that I shouldn't choose Rome?
It was quite a long time ago, and my language skills are pretty poor, but I did learn quite a bit at the time - I think it was a 1 week course. I think you would ideally spend longer though if you really wanted to learn a lot. I did a small group option, which did work well.
Rome is a bit mad, with lots of tourists, cars etc. Bologna is a much more pleasant place to spend a few weeks - still full of history and good food, but without so much hassle. I also suspect the teaching may be both cheaper and higher quality somewhere like Bologna vs Rome.
Useful to know thanks very much
I am Italian, and I suggest staying in a smaller city closer to a big one or very well connected. Trains in Italy are cheap. (You can go from Venice to Milan in 3hrs and less than 50 euros if you book in advance.
It depends what you want if you prefer the north with mountains/lakes if you prefer central Italy where the climate is milder all year round or the south where 18 degrees in December is considered chilly :)
I would also not worry about regional dialects. Also, here in the UK, there are dialects; however, in English language schools, they teach you standard English ( the same you would hear at the BBC before they made it more inclusive). It's the same there.
You could stay in Padua or Treviso in the north - small towns yet very connected with north-west/east. Milan is OK, and it has everything, but it's also very pricey.
I agree regarding Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. It's the land of rice, fresh pasta, cured meat, balsamic vinegar, parmesan and much more. It's very close to Florence (30 mins by train) and less than two hrs from Rome.
If you go south, Naples is beautiful yet a bit wild. It's a bit intense if you go there without doing a bit of research. It's full of history, fantastic food and super friendly people. However, it's more raucous than Milan. Going down, I'd also suggest Palermo or Trapani in Sicily or Olbia in Sardina.
Thank you VivA this is useful. I definitely want a milder or hot climate so I don't think I will head north but will explore the other options. I need to find language schools which is why I was thinking of cities rather than small areas. I need to be able to get around easily as I won't have a car
I'm biased, but it has to be Lucca.
In bigger cities you'll be lost among the mass of tourists. If you go down south (Naples or beyond) or to far north(e.g. Bergamo) the Italian you will hear on the streets is not what you will learn in the school. Lucca speaks (more or less) Tuscan dialect which is standard Italian. The city is contained within its 16th century walls, preserving its Roman and medieval origins (ok, it has sprawling suburbs beyond the walls, but the integrity of the city remains). Its appeal to me is that it has no distinctively 'big tourist draws' like the Leaning Tower or the Colosseum, yet it is full of interesting medieval detail if you are prepared to dig a little below the surface.
There are two Italian language schools in Lucca, and since Covid, many tutors offering face-to-face or zoom classes. i can vouch for the Lucca Italian School (https://www.luccaitalianschool.com/ and Facebook) which I have attended for a number of years. It is based in a beautiful late 19th c building just inside the walls (everything in Lucca is 'inside' or 'outside' the walls). It has extensive gardens, so it was able to hold fairly normal classes throughout Covid, weather permitting. In my experience it caters mainly for adults - people who have some experience of Italy and want to deepen their knowledge of the language and culture. The teachers are invariably experienced, flexible and engaging. Look up the reviews - they are uniformly positive.
Lucca is accessible from here, as it is only 45 minutes by frequent bus from Pisa airport, serviced by British Airways and Ryanair. It's flat, so everyone cycles, old and young - you won't need a car unless you want to do trips out of town. A train ride of 20 minutes takes you to the sea at Viareggio.
The walls are Lucca's most distinctive and appealing feature. They are not narrow battlements, but wide ramparts, providing a 4.2km tree-lined circular promenade for walkers, joggers, cyclists and strollers. I'm not a natural walker, but when in Lucca I can't resist the attraction of an early morning brisk walk with a view of the mountains on one side and the city roofscapes and towers on the other.
The school can provide details to arrange homestays, where you stay with an Italian host (family or individual) or an independent apartment. A homestay can be challenging if you are an absolute beginner, but you will learn more by interacting with a host than by staying on your own in an apartment watching iPlayer or Netflix in English. But if you prefer your independence, there are lots of apartments available to rent.
If you want to go clubbing every night, then Lucca might not be best for you, though there is a vibrant bar scene - tell Marco or Andrea at Café del Mercato (behind San Michele church) I sent you. At Porto dei borghi at the top of via Fillungo there's a lively craft beer and wine scene.
By train, it's only an hour and a bit to Florence and a couple of hours to Bologna, so it's possible to use Lucca as a base to explore other parts of Italy. The line through Viareggio offers cheap trains to Torino, Milano, Roma and Napoli. Via Florene and Bologna trains are faster but more expensive.
If weather is important to you, Lucca is at its best in spring and autumn. July and August are fairly hot (though less so that southern Italy), whereas May June, September October are very pleasant and bearable. I've just come back from a warm, sunny October.
I could go on,....
I would agree with the other respondents to avoid the bigger cities - Milan, Roma, Napoli - as language learning bases. if I had to choose somewhere other than Lucca, it would probably be Bologna. i have heard good reports of some schools in smaller towns in more out-of-the-way regions, but if you are just beginning, I would stick with a small city that can provide a range of facilities and experiences.
If you need any more information about Lucca or the school, send me a PM
This is brilliant Sean! Thank you so much for such a comprehensive reply! I have never been to Lucca before but you have certainly tempted me. I am definitely not after a party scene but nice bars and restaurants will be fine. I will definitely look into this school. And I may be in touch again for more information if that's ok
Certainly, happy to help.
Lots of good advice from other respondents here as well. As you can see, once Italy grabs you, it's a lifetime affair. It's not without its frustrations but the benefits make up for that.