I spent the summer in Italy on the Salem State program in Florence at the Centro di Cultura per Stranieri (Culture Center for Foreigners; www.unifi.it/ccs/index.html). Salem State arranged lodgings for the program participants at the Hotel Masaccio about five minutes on foot from the Centro which is across from Piazza Savonarola – a fifteen-minute walk or short bus ride from the center of Florence. Classes ran from 8:45 until 1:30 every day from Monday through Friday. My instructor was an Italian woman that works in the Italian school system from September through June and teaches this class for foreigners every summer.
It was great fun for me as a foreign language teacher to be behind a desk in a classroom once more. Italian, like every language, has its strange quirks. The word for “the” with masculine nouns is normally “il”, but for masculine nouns that begin with gn, ps, s + a consonant, and z, the article is “lo”. “Il padrone” means “the godfather”, but the word “zaino” takes “lo” to formulate “the knapsack”. Such are complexities of the language of Dante. Italian is more difficult for its smaller words than its larger ones which immediately call to mind English derivatives and cognates.
The staff at the Centro speak English, French, German and Spanish. They are affable, agreeable persons. During our first days there, they would speak to us in our native languages and then gradually switched into Italian. Their relaxed manner made our transition to Italian life much easier. The family that runs the Hotel Masaccio also spoke Italian with me at first. When they saw that I was trying to learn their language and was feeling more comfortable, they switched into Italian. They offer breakfast every day and then supper in the evening for an additional charge. It is a comfortable hotel with a very friendly staff.
The afternoon lectures at the Centro encompassed everything Italian from Etruscan civilization to Renaissance Art to Tuscan cuisine (Tuscans love beans which they brought over from the New World) to Modern Italian Cinema. The Centro arranged afternoon and weekend day-trips to sites in and around Florence. One such was to the grounds of the city’s museum for archeology. The web-site for the museum is: www. firenzemusei.it/00_english/archeologico/.
To avoid the long, long lines at the museums, plan a guided tour or pay a few extra euros at the advance ticket counter at the church on Piazza San Marco. This extra fee lets you select a day and time for your visit. San Marco is a ten-minute walk from the Duomo, the cathedral on the city’s geographic center.)
Florence is well-situated for brief trips to many fine neighboring cities such as Pisa, Bologna, Siena and the Cinque Terre region. Attending the Salem State program in Florence, one will have many opportunities to learn about Italy and the Italians on an economical program that fits in nicely with the academic year schedule of both students and teachers.