Italian language schools

I began learning Italian in my late 50s by taking a class at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. However, I did not really start learning and using the language until I began attending a variety of private and state language schools in Italy, taking classes in Rome, Puglia and Sicily. When I visit Italy now, I can understand movies and theater in Italian, read standard newspapers, magazines and books, and speak the language better.

I attended the first private school for one month in the summer of 2002. It was Training Scuola di Lingue (Via del Corso 303, 00186 Rome, Italy; phone 066979211, fax 0669792114 or visit, located near Piazza Venezia in the heart of Rome. Staff was welcoming and not only arranged for me to attend intermediate-level classes but helped locate a homestay for me in Testaccio, a working-class area in Rome.

I find that the average daily cost of a hotel in Rome is €70 (near $92). The combined daily cost of language instruction and homestay in Rome averages less than this, and I can improve my Italian at the same time.

I subsequently returned to this school for a week in the spring of 2003 and three weeks in December ’04. Each time, I took intermediate/advanced classes for four to six hours per day with a variety of instructors as well as art history classes and cooking classes, all in Italian. I enjoyed both the instructors and the other students in the classes and became friends with several from Europe as well as India. Rome is a wonderful city, in fact, my favorite in Europe.

In Taormina I attended the Babilonia Centre for Italian Studies (Via del Ginnasio, 20, 98039 Taormina [ME], Sicily, Italy; phone/fax +39 0942 23441 or visit www., another private school, for one week in April ’04. It has an excellent program of instruction, with multiple interactive courses for various language levels. There is also a program offered for adults over 50, in May and October.

The school found me an inexpensive studio overlooking the Gulf of Messina, and every evening I would pinch myself that I was actually living in such a beautiful spot. Tuition at Babilonia cost €350 ($461) for 30 hours a week plus €150 for six nights at the roomette.

I attended two private schools in Puglia (or Apulia, at the heel of southern Italy) in the summer of 2006 and also arranged private tutoring. For a week in June I enjoyed studying four hours a day in the advanced-level classes at Scuola Porta d’Oriente (Via Antonio Primaldo, 70-73028 Otranto (Lecce), Italy; phone 0039 338 4562722, phone/fax 0039 0836 804431 or visit This school is located in the easternmost city in Italy, Otranto, a holiday town that was full of families enjoying their summer vacation.

Porta d’Oriente charged €250 ($329) for 20 hours a week. I rented an apartment for one week at €300 (high season) privately through an agency, but the school can assist in arranging shared or private housing for less.

The school did organize a variety of optional excursions, which included a very interesting visit to the Griko-speaking area of Italy. The population speaks a dialect of Greek dating from Byzantine times and even earlier, dating to the first Doric settlers.

In July ’06 I attended three weeks of classes at Apulia Domus Aurea (Via Adriatica, 10/12, Lecce, Italy; phone/fax +39 0832 39 03 12 or visit Ten hours of conversation per week (two hours per day) were offered at the intermediate level at a cost of €200 ($263). The school owns apartments, one of which I rented with two other classmates for a modest €210 for one week.

I also added several tutoring sessions at the state University of Lecce, to help me read a book written in both standard Italian as well as one of the local dialects. I liked the instructors at the university so much that I returned there for three weeks in December ’06. Scuola di Italiano per Stranieri (School of Italian for Foreigners) (Via Carluccio 2, 73100 Lecce; phone +39 832 244220 or 247531, fax +39 832 247531 or visit offers a variety of smaller classes during the fall and spring semesters plus assistance with finding housing.

Here I paid €135 for 20 hours’ instruction per week plus, arranged on my own, €140 a week in a bed-and-breakfast (in December, low season). The school assists with housing, which can cost only €100 per month, first come, first served.

The university charges less money than the private schools I have attended (one-half to one-third the cost of private schools), and I found the instructors excellent.

In addition to classes at the university, I also arranged for private tutoring with Carlo Spinelli (, a gifted teacher in the local school system, who offered lessons not only on Italian theater and literature but Italian diction, which helped my pronunciation. He charged me €20 ($26) per hour for two to three hours per day for three weeks, plus we took some trips out of town, for a total of €938 ($1,300) — worth every penny.

Carlo knows his local area well and took me on several reasonably priced day tours of the Salentine area south of Lecce which I found most interesting.


Salem, OR