A Family Affair
Italian Language Immersion in Italy's Undiscovered Marche Region
Tuscany and Umbria may be the most popular Italian destinations of late, but the Casoni family of Castelraimondo, Italy runs its language school with the intention of acquainting students with the lesser-known delights of the Marche region through immersion in Italian language and culture.
Pierpaolo Casoni operates the Dante Alighieri School with his wife, Pina, and their daughter, Giorgia. A local builder and contractor, Pierpaolo owns the buildings in which the students are housed, and the three of them are involved in everything from picking students up at the airport and planning excursions to the preparation of school events such as an international potluck dinner.
Signora Poeti is responsible for the school’s academics. She heads a group of Italian teachers, all of whom are native speakers. On the first day, students are given a written and oral exam to determine their level of placement. There is a fair amount of homework, though the teachers are relaxed and flexible. Essentially, students determine the effort they wish to invest in the program. At the end of the 1-month course, there is a final exam and “graduation ceremony,” as well as a homemade farewell dinner. I interviewed seven of my fellow students, ranging in ages from 20 to 53, of both genders, from the U.S., Germany, France, Mexico, and Costa Rica, to find out their level of satisfaction. Like me, they were overwhelmingly pleased with the instruction and overall quality of the program.
The apartments are small and simple, but adequate, for those who do not require 4-star hotels. The apartments generally house three to four students. Couples may request a separate apartment, and single room options are also available. There is generally only one bathroom per apartment. This is ideal for people who don’t mind getting to know others from different countries and who genuinely want to become acquainted with the Italian way of living.
Everyone seemed happy with the varied, non-stop opportunities offered after school hours. Whether it was an afternoon excursion to the nearby city of Camerino, a “gelato party,” to a weekend bus trip to Florence, the activities involved were many and diverse. There was something for everyone—a night at the opera, lessons about Italian culture, a chocolate festival in Perugia, a train trip to Macerata, a lesson in making tiramisu, a visit to a winery, excursions to Rome and Venice. In fact, there were so many activities that I chose to skip a few just to catch up on my rest!
The town of Castelrai-mondo is small and easily accessible from the school by foot. There are banks, pharmacies, clothing shops, a post office, bakeries, and gelaterias, as well as the train station. (If traveling by train to other popular destinations without the school’s usual bus transportation, several transfers may be necessary.) At the same time, Dante Alighieri is in a quiet, residential neighborhood that has a supermarket, coffee shop, and a pizzeria.
For €1,098 (about $1,375 at the time of this writing, though you should check current prices on the website), housing, transportation, instruction and many other extras such as professional tour guides are included. Students pay for daily meals, special meals out, entrance fees to museums, and language books (these can be rented or purchased).
The Casoni family welcomes new and returning students from all over the world 11 months out of the year. December is the family's month of rest. What is difficult to describe is the family involvement and warmth of the Casonis when entertaining the students at their school and private home. Pierpaolo loves to sing and Pina is an incredibly gracious hostess.