Learning Italian in Orvieto, Italy

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Luigi had just announced that he had booked our flights to Italy in the fall. That’s when I got the “good” idea of searching for language school in Italy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… why can’t Luigi be my teacher. We tried. It was safer for our marriage to forget that idea.

We planned to return to one of my favourite towns in Italy, Orvieto, so I explored the internet for a language school. I found LinquaSi. Perfect. With just a few emails, I was registered for four days of language school.

Orvieto in the evening

Do you remember your first day of Kindergarten? You don’t know how to read or write, and it all feels so foreign that you just want to go home to your security blanket?

Luigi walked me to my first day of Italian Kindergarten, and as we walked down Corso Cavour towards my school, my insecurities kicked into fourth gear, maybe even in overdrive. Besides, WHY do I need to learn Italian? I have a translator! I reminded myself that it would be nice to, at the very least, understand some of the language.

At best, I could follow a conversation. Italians are verbose. So, even if Luigi asks for directions from a stranger, the conversation could last a good twenty minutes. After a few more minutes, the only two words I recognize are sinistra or destra (left or right) and my eyes begin to glaze over.

Back to my first day. Luigi leaves me as we enter the front gates and I am now on my own. It’s a new feeling for me in Italy. Luigi is my security blanket and I take him everywhere. My security blanket just walked away to enjoy an espresso and brioche. What? Whose idea was this anyway?

Going to Lingua Si in Orvieto

To my relief, the school is small enough to make it feel safe, and Chiara, the secretary is a friendly face. I am shown to my classroom. Oh no! I am the ONLY student. I want to be having that espresso and brioche with my security blanket. My teacher, Alessandra enters and life at LinguaSi begins.

Just my luck…one of the first lessons Alessandra stresses is the correct pronunciation of Italian words. Especially those with what I call the “drum roll” R’s. I have never been able to drum roll my R’s. She repeats the lesson a few more times. I try again. It starts to feel extremely warm in the room. Okay. Forget the drum roll R’s.¬†Alessandra moves on to simple phrases and the room temperature returns to near normal. I almost enjoyed the rest of the class.

After my first day of class, I left my security blanket at home and walked to school by myself.¬† I left early so I could saunter and enjoy morning life in Orvieto. I walked by “our” pizzeria and saw pizzas already made for the mid morning snack. As I passed a barber shop, I observed locals loudly solving the political problems of the day (one was waving a newspaper). I walked behind an older lady dressed in heels returning home from the grocery store and thought, “If I have to wear heels to shop for groceries, I guess I will never look like a local”. Sigh.

My classes at LinguaSi were from 9:30 – 11:00. Alessandra conducted the class solely (almost) in Italian, with her perfect rolling R’s, only interjecting English when I looked lost. At the end of class, she would assign homework, which got stuffed into my bag until much later in the evening. Our afternoons and evenings were my “total Italian immersion” time: eating Italian food, drinking Italian wine, walking with the Italian locals of Orvieto, Assisi, Spoleto, Deruta. Homework? Did I have homework?

My Lingua Si teacher Alessandra

After four mornings of classes, with an exceptional teacher I wish that I could report that I can utter a few words in Italian. Well…I am working on it. Now, where did I put my security blanket?


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