Learn Italian on the Beach
Combine Language Study and a Family Vacation in Italy
by Lucia Novara
The best classroom I’ve ever had was on the Italian Riviera in the Tuscan town of Viareggio. Spending three weeks there at the Puccini Language School improved my Italian to the point that I could communicate with my Italian relatives. It also provided remarkable opportunities to explore Tuscany and enjoy the Mediterranean coast.
The usual schedule includes class from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with a 20-minute mid-morning break five days a week. Class sessions range from two to 13 weeks. The time frame is typical of many language schools in Italy and it works well for a mix of travel and lessons. The basic 2-week course starts at €230 (approx. $306); the longest course costs €2,490 (approx. $3,314). Some schools offer housing as part of the package. Other schools allow students to choose their own housing but usually offer assistance in finding it. My family chose to find our own housing halfway between the school and the beach.
I took beginner classes while my mother and sister took intermediate. The Puccini school and many others offer a variety of programs from beginners’ courses to those for Italian teachers. Other courses available included cooking and singing. All the classes are taught completely in Italian. If my teacher knew a word of English, she never let on.
The students at the school came from all over the world, but were generally 20-something Europeans. Every day we all went to a little café on the mid-morning break and chatted over espresso and pastries. While the advanced students discussed their home countries and politics, my beginner class had slightly more cryptic conversations:
“Yes, shirt is purple. You yellow?”
“Yes! Good coffee, yes?”
We had a long way to go, but we were having fun working on it.
Besides the morning breaks my fellow students and I frequented the beach and the bar together. Many Italian language schools organize trips and social events for their students. The Puccini school provided a spagettata night on the beach once a week, which was a good way to get to know other students while eating amazing pasta and watching the sunset. You know you had a truly international learning experience when you come away from a trip being able to say “cheers” in eight different languages.
For More Info
Giacomo Puccini Centre, Viareggio (Tuscany); www.centropuccini.it; All levels offered from April through O ctober.