I recently had an incredible week in September 2023, immersing myself in Italian with Sira.
I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was a tad nervous about conversing in Italian consistently with my beginner-level skills. Sure, I had previously taken a group class for two weeks in Puglia, but that felt easier because we mostly spoke English outside of the class.
When I arrived, after a slightly delayed flight, Sira whisked me away to a community Polenta Festival with her friends. They were warm and welcoming and did not pressure me to engage in endless conversation. The festival itself was delightful! And that’s what sets this course apart; it’s all about living everyday Italian life and participating in local activities. It’s like dropping into the life of a good friend and spending a week doing what they do.
Our typical day would start with breakfast at home, at a local patisserie, or sometimes both, depending on our morning plans. Sira would gently assist me in ordering coffee and pastries, allowing me to practice my rudimentary Italian with the locals. I was interested in Medieval history, and Sira has an excellent knowledge of it. So, in the mornings or late afternoons, we’d explore ancient villages while conversing in Italian. Afterwards, we’d head back for a late lunch and a much-needed “pisolino” (nap) and then venture out again in the cooler late afternoon to explore some more. In the evenings, Sira would whip up a delicious local Italian dish, and we’d savour it on the balcony as the sun set, often in the company of her friends, who’d share their stories and news.
A few things made this course stand out compared to my previous language school experience. Sira didn’t insist on bombarding me with endless grammar rules that I might or might not use. Instead, each morning, she tailored the lessons specifically to my needs, focusing on areas where I could improve or helping me practice what I struggled with the day before. It was all about relevance and making it easy to remember. Relevance, I think, is the difference between an experienced Italian teacher and a tutor who follows a rigid formula. Sira never overwhelmed me; she kept everything at my pace. She pointed out that I knew quite a few Italian words but lacked the confidence to speak everyday Italian. Within just two days, I shed my hesitancy and managed to converse in relaxed, albeit imperfect, Italian.
Sarzana boasts a stunning and historically rich Medieval centre, but beyond that, it’s a typical bustling small city with its fair share of noise and traffic. However, its prime advantage is its central location and many trains connecting it to Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Florence. Coming from Australia, I yearned for some green space, and Sira introduced me to a hidden morning walk, part of the Camino from France to Rome. This course represents excellent value, including full board and tuition, with minimal additional expenses. But the true gem is Sira herself, seamlessly immersing you in her and her friends’ everyday lives. Such an intimate and authentic experience is rare.