North Beach
May 20, 2024

Getting to know our neighborhood: North Beach and Festa Italiana

North Beach is renowned for its Vibrant Italian Heritage.
Take a look at its perks with us!

Nestled in the heart of San Francisco, North Beach, also known as “Little Italy“, is famous for its rich Italian heritage, lively atmosphere, and cultural charm. This neighborhood celebrates its Italian roots through a myriad of traditions, culinary delights, and annual events, including Festa Italiana. 

Istituto Italiano Scuola organizes periodically a tour of North Beach (enroll here) that allows our students to stroll through the bustling streets of North Beach, where you are always surrounded by the tantalizing aromas of authentic Italian cuisine wafting from quaint cafes and bustling trattorias.  

One of the highlights of North Beach’s cultural calendar is Festa Italiana, a lively celebration of Italian heritage that takes place annually in the heart of the neighborhood. This famous event draws locals and visitors to indulge in a day of Italian music, food, and entertainment. 

IIS team at Festa Italiana last year

At Festa Italiana, you can sample a diverse array of Italian delicacies, from savory pizzas and handmade pasta to creamy gelato and decadent cannoli. Local vendors line the streets, offering an abundance of artisanal goods, Italian wines, and traditional crafts. In addition to its culinary delights, Festa Italiana showcases the vibrant culture and traditions of Italy through live music performances, dance demonstrations, and cultural exhibits. From lively tarantella dances to passionate operatic performances, the festival offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Italian arts and entertainment. Among the vendors you can also find Istituto Italiano Scuola; at our stall you can get to know some of our teachers and collect information on our classes and events. 

Beyond Festa Italiana, North Beach allows visitors to enjoy some time off with its array of charming cafes, historic landmarks, and picturesque alleyways. It is always a pleasure to leisurely stroll down Columbus Avenue, where admiring iconic landmarks like Saints Peter and Paul Church and Casa Fugazi where the Italian Community Services is located.

Whether you’re savoring a piping hot espresso at a local cafe or dancing the night away at Festa Italiana, North Beach offers an immersive experience that celebrates the timeless allure of Italian culture.

With its lively atmosphere, delectable cuisine, and rich heritage, North Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a taste of Italy in the heart of San Francisco. And here you can also find our school, where you can learn Italian with our teachers or join one of our events aimed at introducing you to our Italian heritage and traditions.  

North Beach isn't just a neighborhood; it's a way of life.
Herb Caen
About IIS
Apr 29, 2024

Meet our Executive Director: Martina Di Biase

Martina is the soul of IIS, the mind behind all the project IIS offers to the members of our community.

We’ve had the pleasure of introducing several of our teachers to our blog readers, but now it’s time to learn more about Martina Di Biase, the Executive Director of IIS. Martina is a charismatic leader who is guiding IIS towards new goals and greater visibility and achievements. In addition to her role as Executive Director, Martina also teaches our popular Leggiamo Insieme online group, and you can always find her at our events and in our offices.

Let’s hear directly from Martina and discover more about her.


  • How long have you been the Executive Director of IIS? What is your goal in managing the school?

I became the Executive Director of the Istituto Italiano Scuola (IIS) in October 2021. My start also coincided with a significant change in our Board of Directors, which allowed me to completely renew the image, brand, and strategy of the Institute. Together, we established that our main goal was, and still is, to follow our mission to promote the Italian language and culture in the Bay Area and beyond, moving away from the stereotypical image of Italy that many are commonly exposed to. Moreover, we aim to create a community, either in-person or online, of people who want to have an immersive experience in contemporary Italian culture, not only through language but also through all the cultural events and workshops we organize.


  • What do you think is the main reason for a student to choose IIS instead of other schools?

The main reason a student chooses IIS over other schools is that IIS is not just a school. IIS is an open window to Italy, where one can have immersive experiences, not only in person in the heart of North Beach in San Francisco but also online. All our teachers are native Italian speakers with degrees from Italy, which is not something all schools can claim. And let’s not forget that being part of the IIS community opens the door to numerous discounts at our many partners across the United States. To call it merely a school is an understatement; IIS is much more—it’s a truly immersive experience in Italian language and culture.


  • What do you look for in a teacher to become member of the IIS team?

To become part of our team, you need to be an extraordinary teacher because, as I’ve mentioned before, we don’t just teach a language; we are ambassadors of authentic ‘Italian-ness.’ We have the highest number of special classes in the United States, ranging from art and literature to geography, cinema, and music. To be one of us, you certainly need professionalism, but also passion and creativity, because we don’t limit ourselves to just studying a couple of grammatical formulas.


  • You are a teacher yourself, with several years of experience. What made you choose to become a teacher? Which is, in your opinion, the best way for a teacher to have a successful outcome within a class?

I began teaching Italian to foreigners while I was still at university, initially thinking of it as a hobby, which then became my main profession and for which I earned specialized degrees. I loved teaching in Italy to foreigners because each person brought a piece of the world with them, helping me to broaden my cultural horizons. Now that I am the ‘foreigner,’ I enjoy bringing my piece of the world, my Italy, to my students.

In my class Leggiamo Insieme, we do just that: we read Italian novels together, and through the books, we learn about Italian history, society, and culture.

I think that to be successful in a class, a teacher must be interesting. There is nothing worse than a boring, rigid lesson where phrases and grammatical rules are listed impersonally and without context. Languages are alive and learning a language means learning to think in another way. A teacher must convey this; otherwise, it becomes just a transfer of knowledge, which nowadays can be done by AI.

  • Where are you from? What do you appreciate the most about your hometown?

I am from Pescara, in Abruzzo, a city I left after high school to attend university in Bologna. Pescara is a small city on the Adriatic Sea, home to great writers like Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ennio Flaiano. It’s a quiet place, definitely off the tourist trail because, for being in Italy, it’s a relatively new city. It’s a lively seaside city, especially in the summer when it transforms into the epitome of the Italian summer—filled with swimming, walks on the beach and along the main street, aperitifs, ice creams, and stylish clothes. What I love most about Pescara is its carefree holiday vibe. Pier Paolo Pasolini once said of Pescara, ‘Pescara is splendid. I believe it is the only case of a city, a real city, that exists entirely as a seaside city. The people of Pescara are proud of it,’ and I agree with him.


  • Is there a monument or place that you recommend our students to visit if they go to Italy?

I love Bologna, the city where I studied and where my son was born. I recommend it to everyone who visits Italy because it’s an extraordinary city, full of history, culture, and phenomenal food. The University of Bologna was the first university in Europe, and this has always given Bologna a place at the forefront of culture—modern, liberal, transgressive, and at the same time classically beautiful. Walking from the city center, through the longest portico in the world, to the church of San Luca, and from there looking over the city and its beautiful surrounding hills, is an experience I highly recommend.


  • What is your favorite Italian dish? Do you like cooking?

I love to cook, but above all, I love to eat, and it’s hard for me to think of just one favorite dish. In fact, there isn’t a single dish that I don’t like. If I really had to choose, I am very fond of the simple dishes of Abruzzese tradition, as my grandmother used to cook them, like timballo, sagne with chickpeas, pasta and peas… very simple things that remind me of my childhood.

“La letteratura è un’immortalità all’indietro”.

Umberto Eco
Apr 8, 2024

A symbol of the Italian literature: “Canne al vento” by Grazia Deledda

The book will be at the center of our
Spring Term’s Classic Book Club

Grazia Deledda‘s masterpiece, “Canne al Vento,” stands as a beacon of the Italian literature, weaving a rich tapestry of life in Sardinia with the universal themes of love, loss, and resilience.

While reading this novel, we also step into a celebration of the Italian culture and language at Istituto Italiano Scuola. Our Classic Book Club is on the horizon, offering a joyful journey through Italy’s literary treasures, starting with Deledda’s iconic work.  

Set against the rugged backdrop of Sardinia, “Canne al Vento” tells the story of the aristocratic Pintor sisters, living in a world where tradition clashes with the winds of change. Throughout their lives, Deledda paints a vivid picture of Sardinian society, its struggles, and the indomitable spirit of its people. The novel’s beauty lies in its simplicity and the profound moral questions it raises, making it a compelling read for anyone fascinated by the complexities of human nature and the eternal battle between duty and desire. 

Cover of the book "Canne al vento"

Grazia Deledda was born in Nuoro, Sardinia, in 1871, and her work often drew upon the life and traditions of her homeland. In 1926, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her richly woven narratives that capture the spirit of Sardinia and reflect the complexities of the human soul. Deledda’s stories are a testament to her deep connection with her roots and her keen observation of human nature.

Deledda, with her deep understanding of human emotions and societal constraints, crafts a narrative that transcends the boundaries of time and geography. “Canne al Vento” is not just a story about Sardinia; it is a universal exploration of the human condition. Deledda’s ability to blend the local with the universal makes this novel a pivotal work in Italian literature and a perfect starting point for our book club discussions. It opens a window to Italian culture, history, and the enduring power of storytelling. 

Grazia Deledda’s legacy in literature is monumental, not only in Italy but around the world. Her themes of moral conflict, the struggle against societal expectations, and the portrayal of rural life have inspired countless readers and writers. By bringing the specificities of Sardinian life to the global stage, she has contributed to a broader understanding and appreciation of Italian culture through literature. 

We’re excited to start our next Classic Book Club, kicking off with “Canne al Vento.” It’s a unique chance for Italian literature enthusiasts to gather, share thoughts, and appreciate Italy’s literary gems.  

 At Istituto Italiano Scuola, we are passionate about the Italian language and culture. Our approach to teaching goes beyond the conventional, immersing students in the richness of Italian heritage through literature, conversation, and art. We aim not only to teach Italian but to foster a deep love and appreciation for Italy’s cultural contributions. 

 Join us to explore the depths of Italian literature, where every page turns into a discovery, and every discussion brings us closer to the heart of Italy. 

Take a look at all our adult courses, we are sure you will find one that suits you!

“...siamo proprio come le canne al vento, donna Ester mia. Ecco perché! Siamo canne, e la sorte è il vento.”
Grazia Deledda, "Canne al vento"
Apr 1, 2024

Discovering Italian traditions: Pastiera Napoletana

On Pasquetta, Easter Monday,
many Italians enjoy this delicious dessert

Imagine a day when vibrant Italian culture comes to life, not just through words in a classroom but through the delicious aromas of traditional pastry and the shared joy of community gatherings. This is the essence of Pasquetta in Italy, a day that extends the Easter celebrations with outings, picnics, and, of course, the iconic Pastiera Napoletana. 

At the Istituto Italiano Scuola, we believe in diving deep into the heart of Italy through its language and culinary wonders, which is why we love to share stories and traditions with you. Just a few days ago, in fact, in collaboration with our dear pastry chef, Giovanni Liguoro of Poesia Caffe, we set out on an educational and delicious journey, creating the perfect Pastiera in an experience that left our students thrilled and eager for more gatherings together. 

During the workshop, which was more than just a simple cooking lesson, we delved into the complex process of creating the perfect Pastiera. The air was filled with laughter, the rich aroma of oranges, and the warmth of shared experiences. Each step, from mixing the ricotta to shaping the pastry crust, was a lesson on the Italian history and a testament to the art of traditional baking. Our students, from beginners to advanced Italian speakers, found common ground in their passion for culture, proving that language learning is most effective when it touches the heart. 

And they also learnt a lot about this time of the year in Italy. 

But what is Pasquetta? 

Pasquetta, or Easter Monday, is celebrated the day after Easter Sunday.

While Easter is steeped in tradition and religious ceremonies, Pasquetta is all about enjoying the arrival of spring in the company of friends and family. Throughout Italy, people head to the countryside, the sea, or city parks, equipped with baskets full of food, ready to spend the day in joyful picnics. This tradition beautifully illustrates the Italian ethos of community, leisure, and the simple pleasures of life.

It’s a day that reminds us that learning Italian isn’t just about mastering verbs and vocabulary; it’s about embracing a culture that finds joy in being together and in celebration.

At the heart of Pasquetta’s celebrations lies a dessert as rich in flavor as it is in history: the Pastiera Napoletana. This beloved Neapolitan sweet combines a fragrant mix of ricotta, candied fruit, and grains soaked in orange blossom water, enclosed in a buttery shortcrust pastry shell.

Legend says that the Pastiera was first created by a Neapolitan mermaid, who mixed the sea’s most beautiful voices with flour, ricotta, eggs, and wheat, creating this divine dessert as a gift to the people of Naples. The preparation of Pastiera is an art, a ritual that begins on Good Friday to allow the flavors to blend and mature by Easter Sunday. It symbolizes rebirth and abundance, resonating deeply with the spirit of spring. Through the Pastiera, we learn more than just a recipe; we immerse ourselves in Italian traditions, understanding the stories and love poured into every ingredient. 

Are you ready to embrace our Italian way to learn Italian?

Join us for our next adventure into the heart of the Italian traditions. Whether it’s with an Italian course or one of our Events, we have something to ignite every passion. Contact us to learn more about our upcoming offers. Let’s begin this beautiful journey together. 

Pastiera Recipe by Giovanni Liguoro

Pastry Dough


  •  500 grams butter 
  • 200 grams sugar 
  • 140 grams whole eggs 
  • 3 grams salt 
  • 750 grams flour 

Start by mixing butter and sugar until well combined. 

Add whole eggs and continue mixing. 

Gradually incorporate flour and salt until the dough is homogeneous. 




  • 300 grams boiled soft wheat 
  • 300 grams ricotta cheese 
  • 300 grams sugar 
  • 5 eggs 
  • Zest of 2 lemons 
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
  • 3 drops orange flower essential oil 

Blend the boiled soft wheat, ricotta cheese, and sugar until smooth. 

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly. 

Combine the beaten eggs with the blended mixture. 

Add lemon zest, orange zest, and orange flower essential oil to the mixture. Mix well. 

Note: Be sure to mix the eggs thoroughly before adding them to the other ingredients. 


Assembly and Baking 

 Preheat the oven to 370°F (190°C). 

Roll out the pastry dough and line a baking dish with it. 

Pour the filling mixture onto the pastry-lined dish. 

Bake the Pastiera cake at 370°F (190°C) for 15 minutes. 

After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 290°F (145°C) and continue baking for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. 

Once baked, allow the Pastiera to cool before serving.

Enjoy your traditional Italian dessert! 

Buona Pasqua from the IIS Team!
Mar 11, 2024

La Lingua La Vita: a thriving local school in Todi

A 35-years' experience in
promoting the Italian language

Embarking on a linguistic and cultural journey, over two million individuals worldwide choose to study Italian. Drawn not only by the allure of Italy’s artistic heritage but also by the globally appreciated excellence of Made in Italy, enthusiasts seek a connection to the collective imagination encapsulated in the concept of “Italian living.” 

In pursuit of a holistic approach to learning Italian, Istituto Italiano Scuola (IIS) has proudly partnered with “La Lingua La Vita” in Todi, a picturesque medieval town nestled in the heart of Umbria. Much like IIS, La Lingua La Vita is dedicated to promoting the Italian language through immersive classes and cultural experiences. 

In this exclusive interview, Stefania Belli, the Director of La Lingua La Vita, shares the evolution and vision behind her school. Join us as we delve into her insights, exploring the cultural treasures of Todi, and discovering how La Lingua La Vita endeavors to create a transformative journey for language enthusiasts. 

  • What makes your language school unique? 

La Lingua La Vita has been organizing Italian language and culture courses aimed at students from all over the world and of all ages for over 35 years. Our classes are small, ensuring individual attention, and we offer a variety of extracurricular activities to enhance the learning experience, such as excursions to the most beautiful art cities in Umbria, cooking classes, afternoon seminars on art, opera, cinema, and theatre.  We also offer accommodation with selected families and comfortable apartments in the city center. 

  • What makes your special programs so important for your students? 

Our success is grounded in student centrality, with a focus on each participant’s needs, interests, and objectives. Through art, history, cuisine, day trips and personalized lessons, our students will have the opportunity to learn about the Italian culture and language in their favorite setting and enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience.  Additionally, our students can experience unique opportunities for cultural exchange and networking, enriching the overall learning experience. 

  • What was the main reason for the opening of the language school? 

We wanted to fill a gap in the local educational landscape. We noticed a demand for high-quality language instruction that prioritized immersion and cultural understanding. We wanted to create a space where students could not only learn a new language but also connect with the culture and community in a meaningful way. 

  • Could you tell us something peculiar and unknown about Todi? 

Founded by the Etruscans and developed by the Romans and halfway between Florene and Rome, Todi is a very charming medieval town in Umbria and the Region is called “The Green Heart of Umbria”. Thanks to its quiet Renaissance squares and the beautiful panoramic surroundings, Todi provides a perfect backdrop in which to learn Italian and meet people. The rhythm of life and the welcoming atmosphere facilitate a relaxing and enjoyable cultural and linguistic experience. 

  • Could you tell us something about the relationship between American people and Umbria? 

The relationship between American people and Umbria is one characterized by a deep appreciation for the region’s natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Many Americans are drawn to Umbria for its picturesque landscapes, charming hilltop towns, and delicious cuisine. 

“Italian culture is so deeply soaked in an appreciation of the good things in life".
Mariska Hargitay (American actress)
Feb 19, 2024

Discovering the book “La ricreazione è finita”

The book will be part of 'Leggiamo Insieme' Program

In the cultural melting pot of San Francisco, Istituto Italiano Scuola stands as a proud emblem of Italian language and culture. Here, we are more than just a school; we are a community of learners, thinkers, and dreamers, united by our passion for Italy and its rich heritage. It is with great enthusiasm that we introduce our students and the broader community to thr book “La ricreazione è finita” by Dario Ferrari, a pivotal addition to our “Leggiamo Insieme” program for the Spring Term. 

Dario Ferrari’s “La ricreazione è finita” is an intricate exploration of human relationships, set against the backdrop of contemporary Italy. The novel unfolds the story of a protagonist caught in the web of modern life, where connections are often fleeting, and genuine communication is increasingly rare. Through a series of dialogues and encounters, the book delves into the art of conversation, questioning the very essence of human interaction in today’s world. 

Cover of the book "La ricreazione è finita” by Dario Ferrari

Here’s why “La ricreazione è finita” is a compelling read for anyone interested in Italian culture or learning the Italian language: 


  • Deep Cultural Insights: The novel provides a window into the Italian psyche, offering readers a chance to understand the societal shifts and challenges facing Italy today. It’s an invitation to explore Italian culture from a nuanced and contemporary perspective. 


  • Language Enrichment: For students at our Italian classes in San Francisco, the book is a treasure trove of linguistic gems. Engaging with the text allows learners to encounter new vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and complex sentence structures, enhancing their comprehension and fluency. 


  • A Sense of Belonging: By participating in “Leggiamo Insieme,” readers join a vibrant community that values deep discussions, shared insights, and the joy of discovering literature together. It’s an opportunity to connect with fellow enthusiasts and broaden one’s understanding of Italian literature. 


  • Support for Italian Authors: Choosing to read “La ricreazione è finita” is a gesture of support for contemporary Italian literature, helping to bring the voices of modern Italian writers to a global audience. 


Join our “Leggiamo Insieme” program and be part of a community that celebrates the Italian language and its literature: Leggiamo Insieme | SFIIS

For more details about our adults programs please visit Adults programs | SFIIS, and for our local events check Events | SFIIS.

“E mi sento invecchiare e più all'orizzonte vedo stagliarsi la mia personale visione dell'orologio biologico: l'immagine di mio padre che vuole che io erediti il bar di famiglia”.
Dario Ferrari, "La ricreazione è finita"
About IIS
Jan 29, 2024

Path to the Italian Citizenship

Mastering the B1 Italian Exam with Istituto Italiano Scuola

Achieving the Italian citizenship is a dream for many, whether because married to an Italian or because having Italian ancestors. For all the final goal is to be able to interact with confidence using the Italian language when visiting Italy to connect with their roots and family.  

Istituto Italiano Scuola (IIS) offers a unique opportunity to make this dream a reality, by helping our students master the B1 Italian language exam, a key requirement for getting the Italian citizenship. 


B1 Italian Exam – Your Gateway to Citizenship: 

The B1 Italian language test is a crucial step for those seeking Italian citizenship through marriage or residence. It assesses intermediate language skills, ensuring you can effectively communicate and integrate into the Italian society. 


IIS’s Tailored Approach: 

Our specialized program is designed for students with an intermediate understanding of Italian. Through Zoom classes, we provide comprehensive training in all aspects of the language – reading, writing, listening, and speaking, aimed at ensuring success in the CELI B1 exam. 


Why Choose IIS? 

Expert Instruction: Our experienced instructors are adept at guiding students through the intricacies of the Italian language. 

Convenient Learning: With online classes, you can learn from anywhere, ensuring flexibility and comfort. 

Focused Curriculum: Our courses are specifically tailored to prepare you for the B1 exam, enhancing your chances of success. 


Join us at IIS to navigate the path to Italian citizenship with confidence and ease. Our dedicated program ensures you are well-prepared to pass the B1 Italian exam and take a significant step towards your Italian citizenship goals. 

Take a look at our offerings on our website page dedicated to the Citizenship: Citizenship | SFIIS 

We offer 2 different types of group courses, 8 weeks long, meeting once a week to review and practice with key grammar points (Preparation Course – Grammar Boost | SFIIS and Preparation Course Convo Pro | SFIIS) 

We also offer our students the possibility to practice the test, with a 2-hours dedicate test simulation (B1 Exam Simulation | SFIIS). 

And once a month you can also enroll in a workshop to get a better understanding of the B1 exam, where we’ll go over an overview of different exam sections, focusing on the written test by completing an exam writing task and revising it (B1 Test Overview | SFIIS). 


Start your journey towards Italian citizenship today. Embark on this exciting journey with IIS! 

“Citizenship is the chance to make a difference to the place where you belong."
Charles Handy
Jan 8, 2024

Cittavino & Co: cultivating a sense of community.

Wine is for the people.
Getting to know Cittavino, one of our partners.

In the long and varied history of Italian culture, wine has always represented an element of great importance. Not only as an agricultural product or drink, but as an authentic symbol of a gastronomic and social tradition that has its roots in antiquity. This precious nectar of the vines, in fact, has played a fundamental role in configuring our national identity, profoundly influencing habits, customs and way of life. 

In Italy, wine at the table represents a real ritual, a moment in which we rediscover the pleasure of being together and share the experience of taste. It is no coincidence that, in our country, great importance is given to choosing the right wine for each dish, in the search for perfect pairings, which is a real art. 

Because one of the main claims of the school is “Taste Real Italian”, and the wine culture is embraded in our roots, we created a partnership with Emilia Aiello, the owner of Cittavino & Co, an online wine company dedicated to the study and promotion of lesser-known southern Italian wine regions. 

Emilia is a Californian native, born to an immigrant Italian family.  


What makes your business unique? 

Cittavino & Co. focuses on southern Italian wine, a rather underrepresented wine region of the world. The website is not only an ecommerce platform, but a resource for consumers and wine professionals alike. The material I write is based on my personal studies, from reading technical texts in Italian to continuous travel to Italy, meeting with producers, perhaps even working harvest with them. In choosing such a specific area, I have the possibility to delve into the intricacies of a highly nuanced part of the world. My goal is to offer information on those intricacies in a palatable manner, making wine and wine language accessible. Beyond the hyperfocus on southern Italian wine, my hope is that Cittavino & Co. reconnects us with our consumerism. We live in a world where the things we buy, even our food, are a mystery to us. We can’t all be farmers, but humans are suffering from their lack of connection to the earth. In my view, the next best thing is to know where our products come from, especially food- know the farmer, how the product is made, and support the values we want to support. Our purchase is political.  


Which are the pillars of your business? 

The three C’s: Consumo Critico (Critical Consumption); Customer Service; Community 

The Consumo Critico is an Italian term for Critical Consumption. There is such a lack of transparency in our supply chains to the point where we accept it as unavoidable and that it just is the way it is. But that’s not true! We can make choices based on our values and we should feel empowered to do so. Cittavino & Co. sources small production, minimal intervention (no additive) wines, and not because those are buzz words, but because I am able to learn more working with smaller producers. They have more control over their product and often, it’s not just about making wine, for them it’s about an entire lifestyle. I have since expanded Cittavino & Co. to include food products and pantry items, because wine is food. It’s a whole ecosystem and the Consumo Critico isn’t just about purchasing organic products, it’s about humanity too- who are you supporting, who are you connecting with? 

Customer Service- I grew up in my wine career in New York City, where the stakes are high and customer service is #1. I view Customer Service as I do the Consumo Critico- it’s about making a human connection and knowing the people behind your purchase. I’m online based, but I want people to know who I am, to know it’s me on the other side of the e-mail. I also want people to know that I value them- spending money with someone means something, and I want my customers to know that when they order with me, there is a quality guarantee. If it comes from my shop, you know it will be special.

Community. The three C’s are all linked and one cannot exist without the other. Ultimately, it all comes down to building a community of people with similar values. I make a big effort to go out in person, host tastings, and have opportunities to interact on a face to face, personal level with my customers. Additionally, finding the intersection of social justice and wine/food is a constant practice of mine. Again, it’s about the entire ecosystem, which does not just pertain to plants and animals, but humans as well. Cittavino & Co. regularly partners with non-profits and makes wines from community driven wine producers the center of our focus. It’s a loaded term, but for me that means really honing in on producers that have values and who make wine not just as a business endeavor- perhaps they have created their own consorzio/consortium of sorts to support one another, maybe they grow grapes on confiscated Mafia land, etc. 


What were the challenges of the Wine Industry? 

The challenges I face are mostly amongst other wine professionals, who are indoctrinated with certain ways of thinking about certain wines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told another industry professional that I focus on southern Italy, and someone asks, “what, you mean like Puglia?!” (because Puglia does not have a reputation as a great wine producing region). But that’s precisely why I’m here- yes even regions like Puglia make great wine.  

Being so niche has also been difficult on the actual business side- it’s not a category that has a pre-existing demand, like Burgundy or Sancerre.
With that said, I have also met extremely supportive and interested wine professionals, and they have really given me inspiration to keep going. Imposter Syndrome is a personal challenge of mine. I suppose that would be true in any industry, but the wine industry has a reputation for being comprised of “know-it-alls” and admitting you don’t have the answer or someone else, professional sommelier or not, might know more than you on a certain subject is tough for the ego. Confronting ego, my own or others’, has been the biggest challenge about starting this business. 


Which are the secrets for maintaining a successful business? 

Still figuring this out but in the spirit of curiosity and admitting I don’t have all the answers, I think it’s just that- knowing that there is no magic formula and you have to be willing to observe, gather information, and pivot. You also have to be willing to work harder than you ever have before, not just in hours, but mentally, because confronting yourself and your insecurities, and knowing when you are making decisions based on those insecurities, is the most exhausting part. What’s a risk, what’s a calculated risk- nothing is certain.
Lastly, tracking your finances! Not just your purchasing and sales, but all of it. Profit margin, sales goals, making sure every receipt is accounted for, keeping track of your inventory… making decisions based on your financial information is perhaps the most concrete and secure thing you can do.


Can you tell us what are the reasons you linked your business to our school? 

Well, the focus is on Italian wine of course, but I also speak Italian. I had to learn and study it for a long time, so I am a success story about how persistence is really the key to language skills. It takes a long time, but if you’re committed you’ll get there! And speaking Italian fluently is why I can do what I do- I gain access to all kinds of people and information. Language really is the key for creating connection when you’re travelling. Even if just a word or two, approaching someone in their native language might just be the thing that helps you discover a detail, or connection you might have otherwise missed.
Personally, it’s also great practice for me and my vocabulary- I want to be able to toggle back and forth between English and Italian, and teaching the lessons keeps me on my toes. 


Tell us one thing our students absolutely need to know about you… 

Making genuine connections with people has been at the forefront of my entire life. I suffer from anxiety, certainly triggered in social situations, and seeking out a real, vulnerable moment with someone brings me back down. Ultimately, that’s what Cittavino & Co. is all about. Through a very niche lens, but I really want it to be about genuine human connection. 

" Wine brightens the life and thinking of anyone”.
Thomas Jefferson
About IIS
Dec 4, 2023

Meet our teachers: Alice Rocchi

Alice is an exceptionally talented teacher, consistently forming strong and meaningful relationships with her students.
They enjoy working with her
both in group settings and private sessions.

If you consistently read our blog, you might know that in our previous blog posts we already introduced some of our teachers. We believe that getting to know them better is crucial for the success of our school. We are fortunate to have highly prepared and talented teachers, not only proficient in teaching Italian but also exceptional in creating the perfect atmosphere for our classes. They make learning fun and engaging, which we acknowledge is not always easy, especially in evening classes after a long day of work. 

To learn more about the entire team of teachers at IIS, please visit the following page on our website: About us | SFIIS. 

Among our outstanding teachers, Alice excels at making learning in our classes both enjoyable and engaging. Today, we take the opportunity to get to know her better. 


  • How long have you been teaching Italian? How long for IIS? 

I’ve been teaching Italian after my Master Degree at University of Genoa in 2011. I wrote and presented a Thesis of Literacy and Italian Teaching to Foreign Adults. My first experience was in a special school for adults who wanted to study Italian for their own business and to be more integrated to the country. And I also joined a Research project at University of Genova to teach Italian to African and Afghanistan refugees fleeing from war and violence suffered in their own home country. 

I started teaching for IIS in May 2022. My best work experience ever! 

  • Where are you from? What do you appreciate the most about your hometown? 

I’m from Genoa, a beautiful city by the Ligurian Sea, close to Cinque Terre. I love living in Genoa. It has many things to see and visit: the most important Historical Monumental Cementary and the biggest old town in Europe. It’s the perfect city if you like to chill out on the beach or go for a hike in the mountains. Or you can lose yourself in the narrow streets, vicoli, looking at ancient monuments, towers and beautiful palaces as if you were in Medieval Age. 

And if you come to Genoa, don’t forget to eat the authentic Pesto and Focaccia.

  • What made you choose to become a teacher? 

I chose to become a teacher of Italian as a Second Language because I’ve spent most of my life studying English as a foreign language and I understand how it can be frustrating studying a foreign language, but how beautiful and satisfying is speaking in a non-native language. Thinking and dreaming. It’s like having a superpower! 

  • What is your favorite Italian dish? Do you like cooking? 

I like eating pizza but I don’t like cooking. When I was a child, I liked observing my grandmothers making gnocchi, tagliatelle or tortellini from scratch. Not having learnt their cooking traditions is my biggest regret, but I’ll have these memories for the rest of my life as a precious legacy. 

  • Can you share with our students some tips for learning Italian faster? 

Be completely involved in the Italian culture thanks to our team of teachers. Ask many questions and be curious!!! If you deeply understand a culture, you can have the best and strongest motivation to be a perfect Italian speaker! 

  • Is there a monument or place that you recommend our students to visit if they go to Italy? 

As a Genoese I recommend visiting the biggest Lighthouse in Europe, the Lanterna di Genova, symbol of my city and a special place to see the Liguria cost from East to West. If you are lucky, it’s possible to see Corsica Island and France from its top too.  

And acqua in bocca! The Lanterna is taller than the Statue of Liberty!! 

“Great teachers have high expectations for their students, but even higher expectations for themselves”.

Todd Whitaker
Nov 16, 2023

What makes Italy worth travelling to? Discovering Catanzaro

The peculiarities of Southern Italy

Italy is one of the countries where each region is recognizable and unique because of its own traditions, customs, and typical food.  

Beyond that, Southern Italy cities are well known to be very different compared to other cities in the country.  

For instance, don’t expect everyone to speak English. Unlike many parts of Europe where everyone speaks English, in Southern Italy, English is not very common. Southern Italians speak in a dialect that is very difficult to understand even for most Italian speakers. That’s why at Istituto Italiano Scuola we believe it’s important to seize the opportunity to learn some practical Italian phrases to help you start a conversation with the locals. 

But don’t worry about messing up when speaking, because the locals in the South will make sure you feel welcomed and taken care of through copious generosity and friendliness.  

Furthermore, what makes Southern Italy so beautiful is that it’s surrounded by medieval mountain top towns with tiny streets that may or may not accommodate a car. Plus, you may also stumble upon a castle or an ancient church everywhere you go.  

Thanks to this cultural, linguistic, and landscaping diversity, we interviewed our teacher Valerio Mirarchi who is native from Catanzaro, a city located in the Calabria region of Southern Italy.  


What makes your city unique? 

Catanzaro is unique for several reasons. Firstly, it is perched on 3 hills overlooking the Ionian Sea, offering stunning panoramic views of the coastline. This picturesque setting gives the city a distinctive charm. Additionally, Catanzaro is often referred to as the “City of the Two Seas” because it is located between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, making it a strategic and historically significant location. 


What are the hidden gems of your city? 

Catanzaro offers a wide variety of attractions and sites. For those who are interested in historical structures, you may want to walk and admire the Viadotto Bisantis (or Fiumarella bridge), the greatest concrete arch bridge ever built in Italy. It’s an important connecting route between the center of Catanzaro to the Strada dei Due Mari, and either side of the bridge reveals a fantastic scenic view for visitors. 

For those who are interested in nature, you may want to visit Cascata Campanaro Zagarise, a great waterfall with only a short walk to arrive. It is a truly stunning and wonderful spot in the middle of mountain forests. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the area.

What are the cultural traditions of your city? 

Catanzaro, like much of Calabria, has a rich cultural heritage. Some of its traditions include “Tarantella Dance,” the traditional Southern Italian dance often performed at celebrations and festivals in Catanzaro. The city also celebrates various religious festivals with processions and events dedicated to patron saints. The most famous one is, “A Naca.” It involves the procession of a life-sized, wooden representation of the body of Christ in a glass casket, accompanied by somber processions and hymns, typically held during Holy Week leading up to Easter. It is a solemn and deeply symbolic event that draws locals and visitors alike to witness this elaborate and emotional display of devotion. 


What is a traditional dish of your city? 

One of the most famous traditional dishes of Catanzaro and the Calabria region is Morzeddu. Morzeddu is a hearty dish made from lamb or pork meat and innards, often prepared by slowly cooking the meat with a rich tomato sauce, onions, and a variety of herbs and spices. The result is a tender, flavorful, and aromatic dish that is a true taste of Calabria’s culinary heritage. It is a favorite during special occasions and family gatherings, reflecting the region’s love for hearty, slow-cooked dishes. Morzeddu showcases the Calabrian tradition of using simple yet delicious ingredients to create a memorable dining experience. 


Catanzaro’s unique location, hidden gems, cultural traditions, and delicious cuisine make it a fascinating destination for those interested in exploring the culture and history of Calabria. 

" Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life".

Anna Akhmatova