my two favorite places to learn italian in italy

With an independent spirit, a love for European languages, culture and travel and a passport tucked in my back pocket, I have discovered the  valuable experience of participating in a language and culture program abroad.  Over the last 15 years and after much research, I had the opportunity to enroll at language schools in the beautiful cities of Siena in the Toscana region and Verona in the Veneto region.

Dante Aligheri Society of Siena

I enrolled in my first study abroad program when I was in my mid 20s. I left a career job to spend four months traveling in Europe, partly alone and partly meeting up with friends and family. For one month of the trip I enrolled in the distinguished Dante Aligheri Society in Siena. The program included daily morning language classes and afternoon cultural excursions. While I had the option to rent an apartment on my own or with classmates, I opted for a homestay with an Italian family – a good choice as it allowed me the experience of living with an Italian family and practice of the language.

Siena is a wonderful, awesome city full of history – really, strangely frozen  in time. An ideal place to study Italian language, history and art, the excursions to Siena’s old churches and private buildings normally not open to the public were worth the program cost alone.  I was there during the Palio horse race, and the family I was staying with  gave me an unforgettable  private tour of their contrada’s museum with items dating back many centuries.

palio horse race, siena


I also won’t forget the must-do-at-least-once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Palio race while standing inside the piazza (worth the hours required to wait if you want a prime spot) or witnessing horses inside Catholic churches being blessed by priests before the race started as locals poured into the streets .  But don’t expect to immediately begin mixing with the locals. Siena locals or Sienese, to me, are quite reserved and I felt a distinct separation between students and residents.

Lingua It, Verona

Fast forward from Siena about ten years  and I find myself, in my 30s, living in Northern Italy not far from Verona, the beautiful city setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (the original “balcony” tucked in an alley is still a favorite of tourists).

juliet’s famous balcony in verona

By luck, I learn of the fabulous Lingua it Italian language school in Verona. There I took individual and group lessons on a weekly basis. Opened up by my Italian friend and his friends, the school has expanded from a wide range of language courses to guided tours and courses on art history, literature and cinema, cooking and more. Located in the historic center, Lingua it’s personable and passionate staff and my fellow students became  an extended family for me. In fact, the group of friends I met through this school eventually threw me a baby shower before my little girl was born. With the Roman Arena (we saw Aida there under the stars), symphonies at the local concert hall (Mozart once played there) to the numerous beautiful piazzas and gardens and nearby wineries, Verona has become one of my favorite cities in Italy.

Have you studied a language abroad? If so, where?  Do you have a favorite program to share?

Click here to learn more about the Dante Aligheri Society in Siena.

Click here to learn more about Lingua It in Verona.

Palio race picture credit:


10 responses to “my two favorite places to learn italian in italy

  1. I think studying a language abroad is the best way to learn it indeed. I studied Japanese here in Holland and was lucky to spend a couple of months right after that study. How I would love to learn Italian and Spanish for that matter. I should win the lottery and be able to spend lots of time abroad to study those fabulous languages!

  2. Oh this sounds so wonderful! Both these experiences that you had studying Italian in Siena and Verona. I have never done it but would love to. I loved the story about the horse race in Siena and the horses in the cathedral being blessed by the priest. Amazing. I would love to see that race one day. And Verona, another place I want to visit and see Juliet’s balcony. Thanks for these great Italian stories.

    • Yes, Sunday – these programs are worth a look. I know Lingua it in Verona attracts students of all stages (post college to retired) – and the other students taking courses with me were some of the most interesting people I’ve met.

  3. Fabulous! 🙂 It must be so amazing to learn as you go 🙂 Sadly I have forgotten Italian since I don’t use it at all…

    I miss Italy; I had my work placement in South Italy and travelled across to have a peek at the beautiful cities up in the North side of the country 😉 It was the most amazing and invaluable experience participating in Leonardo Da Vinci Programme, it I could go back in time; I would do it again and again 🙂 My teacher was my Italian boyfriend at that time (very short term sadly 🙂 ) he patiently taught me Italian every day and I taught him English 🙂 It was brilliant 🙂

    I loved Verona, it’s such a beautiful place, I think I left a little love letter under that balcony: D

    • So glad you had the opportunity to have those experiences Kristina! I haven’t heard of the Leonardo da Vinci program. And, I agree, Verona is a special place – as is juliet’s balcony.

  4. You’ve had such a wonderfully charming past in Italy. I would love to go to beautiful Verona someday! Who knows, maybe there’s time yet for me to learn the Italian language.

  5. I think you picked the two best spots, or at least two of the best ones, to study in Italy. Siena will always remain at the top, twenty years ago when I studied in Italy it dominated the stage, together with Perugia. Florence isn’t a bad option either (that’s where I studied). It can also be wise to pick a spot in a smaller, not so known place for foreigners, then you’ll have a better chance to only speak Italian.

  6. Hi! Just found your blog when searching for stuff on Verona. I’m actually going to study at Lingua It in September. Do you have any tips?

    • that’s fantastic! You will love Verona and the fabulous program at LinguaIt. Pls tell them hello for me! Verona was one of my favorite cities -we lived only 30 minutes from there and I spent a lot of time exploring the city (which is a perfect size, not too overwhelming) and taking lessons and hanging out with the friends I made at Lingua It. They have a facebook page you can follow to get a feel for the school before you go. You might want to check it out. Good luck and let me know if you have any specific qs on Verona.

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