“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Born in: Stevens Point Wisconsin, US
Lives in: Louisville Kentucky, US
Age: 40 years
Italian Language School in Italy: Syracuse Academy – currently studies Italian with a private teacher from Mantova.
Anitya, you had a really cool approach to the Italian language. Can you explain to us how you found your Italian school in Sicily?
“I’ll start with the way I was introduced to Sicily.While I was at the hairdresser, I heard about this inexpensive one-week trip to Sicily for a cooking class in October of 2017 which was all inclusive: food, excursions, everything. I had the time and the money so I thought, “Just do it!”
During this trip, I fell in love with Sicily! I met some of the locals who became friends, and I decided to spend more time on the island because of its beauty, and besides, I now knew people in case I needed help. I decided to learn Italian because I love the culture, people, food, way of life and could see myself living in Italy in the future. I was looking for a place near Ortigia and did a Google search for Italian schools, and the Italian Academy in Syracuse came up and after exploring their very informational website, I reached out to them because it appeared to be the best Italian school in Sicily. I sent an e-mail and Arianna got back to me immediately, giving me all the information I needed. She is really good at her job, super friendly and was helpful with every detail. I took the onboarding test, which checks the initial level of the student’s Italian, and Arianna explained to me that they’re structured for several levels of classes. She also informed me that the opportunity existed to have an apartment. I was happy because I didn’t have to search for an apartment and that they were very inexpensive. My first trip to school was January of 2018, I was there for two weeks and by the time I left, I felt as though Sicily was my second home. The school organized my transport from the airport to my apartment which was only a fifteen-minute walk to and from school. Everybody associated with the school is really nice and I felt comfortable enough to call any of them if I needed something. Monday morning was my first class and I thought I had a good base of Italian, but I really didn’t! I studied Italian with Louisa for two weeks, and it was complete immersion; she really pushed me, which was what I was really looking for, and she made me speak and think only in Italian which is a true challenge. She also gave me suggestions about places to eat. I frequented the fantastic bar across the street with my colleagues and other students that were my neighbors in the apartments; we went for lunch and dinners to Ortigia! It was a great place to make new friends”.
After your first two experiences, you came back to Sicily for two more times…
“Yes! I went back at the end of May, and there were a lot of university students attending school there. I rented an apartment in Ortigia (through the school) so I did not have to walk in the dark back and forth from Siracusa for dinner. Ortigia was a totally different feel from my February trip because I was not wearing a coat– thank goodness– because it was almost summer, which brought out the tourists. The one similar thing in school was that I had the same teacher, Louisa! I enjoyed the terrific weather and the gorgeous park-like atmosphere around the Villa where the Italian classes are held at the Academy, which is in the middle of Syracuse. It’s beautiful because you can walk around the gardens when you are on a break. The experience with the location, the people and the education the school provided was fantastic; the school set up excursions for almost every day and every Wednesday we had the choice to attend an “aperitivo”, that included games and getting to know the other students. The excursions included Noto, where we had a walking tour of the town and then they took us to Zisola, a phenomenal winery. I also went to the Aeolian islands with an organized trip for university students. The school really wants students to enjoy a complete experience of what Sicily has to offer. They even organized a cooking lesson, which was fantastic because Amalia, the adorable lady who teaches the class in her home, does not speak one word of English, so it forces you to practice in the real world! That is the best way to learn! I did the cooking lesson twice. The first one, we made homemade “pasta”, and the sauce with aubergines and swordfish which is characteristic of Sicily, followed by “cornetti al pistacchio” it was all “delizioso”. We were in Amalia’s home, so we met her family and a friend that joined us for dinner, it made for a great experience. During dinner, I made a comment to Amalia that I’d love to live with her for the Italian experience (half kidding), and she actually invited me to stay with her! She hosts students in her home, and she said: “La prossima volta che vieni, mi piacerebbe che tu restassi con me”. (“Next time you come, I’d love to have you stay with me.”) So, due to the fact that the school can give you the options to stay with a host or in an apartment, the fourth time I went back, in October, I chose the host option and I stayed with Amalia for the week. We are now friends, so this is another experience you can gain if you want that option. As an American, you can have a completely immersive experience with the school and then with a host because they won’t speak English to you.
All of the teachers I had at the school during the three different experiences I had in 2018 were fantastic: good energy, very nice people and they teach very well. In my particular class, the first time, there were two students, one a man a little older than me, actually from the United States, with Sicilian origins, so he wanted to learn the language and experience the island. Then, there was a younger girl that came and joined the class for my second week, from America also. In the other classes, there were several nationalities. The second time I went, there was a student from London and another from the States. The third time, there were five of us, a couple from Australia, a girl from London, me from the States and another girl from Germany. Gabriella pushed us in class after her lesson to speak, we’d go around the room, speaking, speaking and speaking. We all became friends and would go all together to the bar during the break for a spuntino, caffé and then for lunch, always together talking in Italian when we could”.
You traveled around Italy. What are the main differences between the North and the South of Italy?
“I think that all depends on the timing of when I was there, with the change of the seasons, of the weather and the sea, and depending on the region, also the food. I think that the food in Sicily is out of this world. So fresh! It is incredible. I love all of Italy, but I have a special place in my heart for Sicily. During the excursions that I took, I really appreciated the architecture and all the historical parts of Sicily, in particular, the ancient temples and the sea. I have found that Italian people are very territorial. My boyfriend lives in Rome and while visiting him there as he was telling people that I was going to study in Sicily, and by their reactions, I felt the need to defend the island: “Why are you going to Sicily for language?”, he was also inquisitive but had trust that it must be special if I had been back so often. After he saw some pictures and heard about my experiences, he agreed to visit and agreed that Sicily is really beautiful and the people are so warm and welcoming. We will be back in April to explore Palermo and surrounding areas. I haven’t spent as much time in the North to form much of an opinion, so not to say anything against the Northerners… but I feel the South is more accommodating and welcoming versus the North where they are a little more reserved.
I continue to study the Italian language and currently study with a private teacher from Mantova once a week. My boyfriend messages me in Italian, I watch movies in Italian, listen to Italian music and podcasts as often as I can to make up for not being in the country learning. I would like to go back to school at the Italian Academy as soon as I can to continue the immersion experiences. They have quite a few students who go back to them, like a friend of mine from New York, who is going back there for the second time this month.
Eventually, I would like to live in Italy and perhaps even teach English there, as I just earned a certification to teach English as a foreign language. This may be the only work I can do there because for teaching English I don’t need to speak the Italian language fluently! For the moment, I’ll continue my position, which is as a pharmaceutical sales representative in the veterinary medical industry which allows me to travel to Italy frequently. I’ll end here and share my favorite quote: “You can have the universe if I can have Italy”! Grazie Mille!”.