Learning Italian

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Date of travel

June, 2017

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On your own

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“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorders of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your monies to a monster ….. There is only one thing for it then – to learn.”

Starting to learn Italian several years ago was proving more difficult than I had imagined, although I had always found learning holidays a way to meet new people. When a friend mentioned a language school in Agnone, a small town in Italy off the beaten track, I signed up. This is a language school with a difference.

LiveandlearnItalian.com was set up by Jenifer Landor to provide students of Italian with daily language lessons, while being hosted in B&Bs by friendly townsfolk, enjoying cooking lessons and visits to historic sites and local places of interest. Also, very importantly, no-one in the town speaks English and Jenifer encourages students to become involved and converse widely in all situations!

This certainly happened to me on my visit in 2016 – my 5th time in Agnone. First of all, I ended up in A&E at hospital in Agnone where Dottore Severino saw me immediately, ordered a 12-lead ECG and a full blood count, and after 3 hours discharged me with some medication, dietary advice and a better knowledge of the language! Two days later on entering Cafe Letterario I was met by the Commissario of Police and his deputy in full uniform – “Buongiorno signora” they said and when I replied they said “Ah inglese” and proceeded to ask me why I was in Agnone – in English! I am glad to say that my Italian was better than his English so we continued chatting in Italian and I was offered coffee. A short but interesting conversation about his area of jurisdiction in Molise left me feeling I’d been in a scene from Montalbano!
At the end of the week I went to the hairdressers. A group of Italian, somewhat older ladies, were having their hair dyed and styled. They looked hard at me – a somewhat older English lady with grey hair – and finally one of them could stand it no more. She dug me in the ribs asking “Eta?” (Age?) I laughed out loud and told her. My hairdresser, Mina, seemed astonished at this and asked if she could take my picture with the new hairdo for Facebook as she “liked my English style!”

I love going to Agnone and will be back there in 2017. For me Agnone is the “real” Italy where after a lively breakfast-time discussion with my hosts, then a cappuccino on the terrace at Cafe Letterario with a newspaper in the sun – interrupted by a discussion on the latest football game or political upheaval – the morning continues with an Italian lesson. Later in the afternoon a trip or cookery lesson is followed by dinner at a restaurant or private home, and then perhaps an Italian film or local festival. Jenifer arranges everything, there are classes for different levels, and the price of the holiday is all-inclusive, you just book your own flights. I always leave fitter, speaking better Italian with a wider vocabulary as the above encounters illustrate, having enjoyed a holiday with lovely people, some of whom have become good friends.

You need to be able to walk for 20 mins minimum comfortably, as ambling through the town is one of the pleasures of the trip, and to enjoy good hearing to get the most from the lessons. B&Bs are all lovely with en-suite bathrooms, and the food is delicious – I look forward to seeing you there!


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