IIS Blog
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
IIS Blog
Oct 26, 2023

“La Grande Bellezza” (The Great Beauty)

Discover Contemporary Italian Cinema: "La Grande Bellezza" (The Great Beauty) by Paolo Sorrentino

“La Grande Bellezza” (The Great Beauty) is a modern masterpiece of Italian cinema directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The film was release in 2013. This film takes viewers on a visually stunning journey through the decadent world of Rome’s high society. 


Why “La Grande Bellezza”?

“La Grande Bellezza” is a visually captivating and intellectually stimulating film that explores the themes of art, culture, and the search for meaning. It follows the life of Jep Gambardella, a writer reflecting on his past and the fleeting nature of beauty and desire in contemporary Rome.

Here’s why we recommend “La Grande Bellezza” to students and film enthusiasts:  

  1. Contemporary Insight: The film provides a contemporary view of Italian society, offering a glimpse into the vibrant and sometimes surreal world of Rome’s elite.
  1. Language and Culture: Watching “La Grande Bellezza” in its original Italian language allows viewers to immerse themselves in modern Italian culture and improve their language skills.
  1. Thought-Provoking Themes: The film delves into philosophical and existential questions, making it an intellectually rewarding experience.
  1. Acclaimed Filmmaking: “La Grande Bellezza” received critical acclaim worldwide, including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, making it a standout in modern Italian cinema.


Who Should Watch “La Grande Bellezza”?

This film is suitable for those interested in contemporary Italian culture and society. It offers a visually striking and thought-provoking experience for both Italian learners and film enthusiasts.  


Explore Contemporary Italian Cinema

In addition to its critical acclaim, “La Grande Bellezza” has made a significant impact on modern Italian cinema. By watching this film, you’ll not only enjoy a cinematic gem but also gain a deeper understanding of contemporary Italian culture and the complexities of modern life. 

So, if you’re looking for a more recent and less traditional Italian film to dive into, don’t miss “La Grande Bellezza” and experience Paolo Sorrentino’s storytelling brilliance.  

Buona visione! 


* This document is for informational and educational purposes only. The digital images used are widely disseminated on the internet and therefore considered to be in the public domain, but whose copyright remains the exclusive property of the right holders. 

“We're all on the brink of despair. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little... Don't you agree?”

Jep Gambardella in “La Grande Bellezza”
IIS Blog
Oct 5, 2023

Discover Italian Literary Excellence

"Il Gattopardo" (The Leopard)
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

“Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard) is a captivating masterpiece that invites readers to immerse themselves in the essence of Italian culture and history. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s eloquent prose paints a vivid picture of an era marked by profound change, making it an essential addition to the reading list of anyone interested in Italian literature.

Why “Il Gattopardo”? 

“Il Gattopardo” is a profound exploration of Italian society during the 19th century, a time characterized by political upheaval and societal transformation. The novel revolves around the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy and the dawn of a new Italy. 

Here’s why we recommend “Il Gattopardo” to our students:

  1. Historical and Cultural Immersion: The novel provides a captivating glimpse into the historical events and cultural intricacies of 19th-century Italy, enabling readers to gain a deeper appreciation of the country’s rich heritage.
  2. Language Enrichment: Reading “Il Gattopardo” in its original Italian allows language learners to enhance their Italian language skills while savoring the elegance of di Lampedusa’s prose.
  3. Complexity and Profundity: The characters and themes within the novel are intricately interwoven, offering a thought-provoking exploration of human nature, ambition, and adaptation to change.
  4. Literary Distinction: “Il Gattopardo” is celebrated as one of the most significant works of modern Italian literature, renowned for its lyrical writing and profound insights.


Who Should Read “Il Gattopardo”? 

This book is most suitable for intermediate to advanced Italian learners due to its rich vocabulary and historical context. While it may pose a challenge for beginners, the cultural significance and literary excellence of “Il Gattopardo” make it a valuable read for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of Italian history and culture. 


Join the World of Italian Literature 

In addition to its literary acclaim, “Il Gattopardo” has been adapted into a film and is widely studied in Italian literature courses. By reading this book, you will not only enhance your Italian language skills but also gain profound insight into Italy’s intricate history and cultural evolution. 

So, if you are eager to refine your Italian language skills and explore the intricacies of Italian culture, pick up a copy of “Il Gattopardo” and immerse yourself in the exquisitely crafted world of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s storytelling. 

Buona lettura! 


You can find this book at Libreria Pino: 

Il gattopardo – Libreria Pino

* This document is for informational and educational purposes only. The digital images used are widely disseminated on the internet and therefore considered to be in the public domain, but whose copyright remains the exclusive property of the right holders. 

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'è, bisogna che tutto cambi.”
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
IIS Blog
Sep 14, 2023

SFIAC Foundation: elevating the Italian community and culture

The role of a non-profit organization
with a clear mission and purpose

The San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, known as SFIAC, created the SFIAC Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on community events that enhances the Italian culture and history of North Beach, the neighborhood where the Foundation belongs. The mission is to strengthen the local community and its businesses, by sponsoring events that bring together family and friends through the Italian culture, language, and history in which it was rooted, and by investing in issues and endeavors that elevate local commerce and create opportunities for North Beach to thrive.  

The relationship between Istituto Italiano Scuola and the Foundation is very strong, we believe in the same values, leading to having not only Italian classes in their spaces, but also the classic “Aperitivo Sociale” where students can get the opportunity to know our teachers, our Board of Directors, and meet in person other students.  

To learn more about the SFIAC Foundation, we interviewed Keely Batmale, the Operations Manager of the Foundation. She joined the team in 2021 and she immediately found a family. 

Keely is a very enthusiastic person who shared important thoughts and topics for realities like the Foundation and our School. 


  • When and why did you decide to take part in this Foundation? 

I met the Executive Director in 2021 and heard about the SFIAC Foundation and all its efforts to elevate the community, culture, and history of North Beach and the Italian community in the Bay Area. Its mission stood out to me, also because their events and community have been so welcoming and fun for people of all ages. 


  • What makes the Foundation unique? 

We serve as a central networking station for all things Italian in San Francisco. We pride ourselves in not only knowing the history of North Beach, but also our community’s members and organizations and connecting them with the greater Bay Area community. 


  • Can you tell us a little bit more about the Foundation? Has it changed during these years? 

Our Foundation has been around for a while, but has really taken off in the last two years. This year alone, we are introducing five inaugural events, including the San Francisco Pizza Festival with 13x World Pizza Champion, Tony Gemignani! We have put together a top-notch board of Italian Americans on our Board of Directors, set-up strategic plans, and are about to launch our second Annual Appeal this Fall. 


  • Since we offer some Italian classes at your location, can you tell us about the relationship between the Foundation and our School? Are there other reasons why we are connected? 

Our Executive Director, Nick Figone, joined the board at Istituto Italiano Scuola because we share similarities in our strategic goals. The IIS hosts their Italian language classes in our building two time per week, year-round. We are so fortunate to be able to work together and reach the greater Bay Area community and educate them not only on Italian language, but the culture as well. 


  • In your opinion, which is the best art of representation the Italian culture and values? 

Architecture and design! It is always lovely to see buildings and structures here in San Francisco that remind us of the streets of Italy. Our Foundation works hard to encapsulate the Italian pride throughout the North Beach neighborhood and build off of the designs already here. Next time you are here, take a peek for the Italian flags painted on the street poles. And feel free to come help us repaint at the end of the year! 


  • Which are the most important Italian events in the Bay Area that everyone must attend? 

Our two-day street festival, Festa Italiana and Statuto Race, will be held on June 1st and 2nd, 2024. It’s free for everyone, please come out and enjoy! We are also hosting a Cornhole Tournament with the Olympic Club Foundation on October 20th, and a Christmas Concert on December 1st, 2023, with Pasquale Esposito. 


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

We love visitors! Come by and say hello and meet our Foundation team next time you are in North Beach. We know the best food spots, too! 

“Alone, we can do so little, together, we can do so much”
Helen Keller
IIS Blog
Aug 24, 2023

Meet our teachers: Giulia Clemente

Giulia has many years of experience and has been a teacher at IIS for 1 year. She is very loved by her students and is extremely passionate about teaching.
Read this interview to get to know her better.

Teachers are the key element in a language school and at IIS we take pride in our teachers’ experience and quality of teaching. All our teachers have been doing this job for some time and, most importantly, love teaching and are passionate about helping their students learn our beautiful language. Our students can feel this drive to quality teaching every time they have a class, being it a group class or a private class.  

Please remember that you can take a look at the entire team of teacher at IIS, on our website page About us | SFIIS. 

One of the teachers who is best at sharing her passion for teaching Italian with her students is Giulia. And today we are getting to know her better. 


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

I have been teaching Italian for over 10 years. I started by teaching Italian to immigrants in Turin while I was working on my research project for my master’s degree thesis. I joined the IIS about a year ago when I moved to California from Australia. 

  • Where are you from? How often do you visit your hometown? What do you miss the most? 

I am originally Italian, but I lived for the past 10 years in Sydney, Australia. My hometown is Turin, which I try to visit once a year. What I miss the most is the golden light of September over the river Po, the dehors full of people enjoying a drink and a chat, and being familiar with the faces that I cross on the street. 

  • What made you choose to become a teacher?  

I love all language related things, and I strongly believe that knowing the language of the place where you live, or that you visit allows you greater freedom and the opportunity of a deeper understanding of a culture. I want my work to be meaningful for others. Being a language teacher allows me to help people realize their dreams, whether they are moving to a new country, better connecting with their roots or improving their professional life. 

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

At present, I am obsessed with baking “baci di dama”, which are two melt-in-your-mouth hazelnut cookies held together with some dark chocolate.  Their name means “lady’s kisses” since the two halves of the cookies resemble two lips that come together for a kiss and are typical of Northern Italy.  Overall, I love cooking, I find it relaxing and enjoy inviting friends over for dinner. 

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

Set aside some time for Italian every day. Five minutes is enough. Listen to a song, or a podcast, read a news update, or a recipe, or combine Italian with other interests/activities you enjoy. Whatever works for you is the right way to improve. Try to meet and talk with native speakers and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Showing up every day: that’s the only way to learn. Have fun and be proud of being willing to learn a different language. 

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

Visit Turin, my hometown. Turin is full of castles, parks, beautiful museums, hip restaurants, cafés and bars. It is green, romantic, young… We call it the little Paris for a reason. And you won’t find it packed with tourists like other Italian destinations. Visit Palazzo Reale and the breathtaking collection at the Museo Egizio. Have dinner at Cianci and get a glass at Pastis to enjoy it like a local. 

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"
Ludwig Wittgenstein 
IIS Blog
Aug 3, 2023

Explore the undiscovered Italian countryside

The secret beauty you need to look for when travelling to Italy

At the Istituto Italiano Scuola we believe that the Italian countryside is a paradise that offers opportunities to relax in the middle of nature, while tasting delicious local food and wines.  

And in fact, the countryside of Italy is scattered with picturesque places: noble villas with beautiful gardens, vacation farms called “agriturismo” where you can stuff yourself up with genuine and self-produced food, perched villages dominating hilly landscapes, and forests where to hike.  

We believe that if you’re not looking forward to the Italian countryside, you will surely miss a lot in your trips to Italy. It may not be as famous as the biggest tourists’ cities but, it sure has exquisite beauty that cities do not have.  

Voghera is an example of this. It is the main town of the Oltrepo’ Pavese, a geographical area in the province of Pavia that gets its name to its location, in the south of the Po River, the longest river in Italy. Voghera is the native town of our teacher Jimmy. Visitors approaching Voghera pass through an extensive region of cultivated countryside and an uninterrupted set of historic villages and castles, the atmosphere that you breathe here today is still medieval. 

From the interview below you can get some more interesting facts about this town. 


  • What makes your city unique?
    Voghera is a small town, with approximately 40 thousand citizens, but despite that is very renowned in Northern Italy as its geographic position makes it an important railroad junction. On top of that, Voghera is also known for being a wine and industrial center.  


  • What are the hidden gems of your city?
    Voghera’s city center is characterized by buildings of historical interest such as churches and castles. Voghera’s most important and most significant church is the Duomo. The cathedral preserves inside gold brocades and precious furnishings. In addition, there are many fine sculptural and ancient pictorial works. Furthermore, very few people know that Voghera is the birthplace of the fashion designer Valentino. 


  • What are the cultural traditions of your city?
    The city of Voghera holds its patronal festival, referred to as “La Sensia” (the name in the local dialect), which is the oldest event in Lombardy every year. In its early days, it was a very important moment of the year as it was an opportunity for people to meet foreigners and discover new products from faraway places. Originating as a large livestock market and later becoming primarily an agricultural fair, today it is one of the most modern fairs for those in the industry, as well as a city-wide celebration that hosts many food stands and an amusement park with different rides and rollercoasters. 


  • What is a traditional dish of your city?
    The most traditional dish of Voghera is the “Zuppa di Voghera”. It is a cake prepared using two layers of sponge cake, which are later filled with pastry cream, custard, and coffee, then covered again with custard and decorated with chocolate. It might sound like a simple cake, but the traditional recipe is a secret that runs in the local families and with time this recipe was refined to the point that making the real traditional Zuppa di Voghera requires a long and elaborate process. Words can’t describe the taste of it, there’s only one way to discover its goodness and that’s trying it! 


Are you curious enough to plan a trip here? Our school believes that what Jimmy told us it’s the truly gem of an authentic educational experience in your Italian experience.  

“It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something.”
Charles Dickens
IIS Blog
Jul 14, 2023

Our Summer movies’ recommendation

“Pane e Tulipani” (Bread and Tulips)

If you’re an Italian language learner looking for a film to practice your skills and learn more about the Italian culture, we highly recommend watching “Pane e Tulipani” (Bread and Tulips). 

“Pane e Tulipani” is a charming romantic comedy about Rosalba, a housewife who gets left behind by her tour bus on a family vacation and decides to embark on a solo adventure in Venice. Along the way, she meets a cast of quirky characters and discovers new passions and possibilities for her life. Rosalba finds in Venice kindness, mystery and opportunities for self-expression; everything that had been missing from her ordinary life. 

Director Silvio Soldini turns Venice, the tourist mecca of piazzas, canals, and stone bridges into a quaint little village out of time telling a warmhearted story of second chances.  

This film is ideal for intermediate to advanced Italian learners, as the dialogue is natural and conversational, and the setting and cultural references offer insight into daily life in Italy.  

You’ll pick up new vocabulary and grammar as you follow Rosalba’s journey, and you’ll be entertained by the witty script and engaging performances. 

“Pane e Tulipani” received critical acclaim and multiple awards, including the David di Donatello award for Best Film. 

Overall, “Pane e Tulipani” is a delightful and entertaining film that is both enjoyable to watch and beneficial for your Italian language skills. Give it a try and immerse yourself in the beauty of Italy and its language.  

Buona visione! 


* This document is for informational and educational purposes only. The digital images used are widely disseminated on the internet and therefore considered to be in the public domain, but whose copyright remains the exclusive property of the right holders. 

“You can map your life through your favorite movies, and no two people’s maps will be the same”
Mary Schmich 
IIS Blog
Jun 22, 2023

A must-read classic Italian novel

“Se questo e’ un uomo” (If this is a man) by Primo Levi

“Se questo è un uomo” (If This Is a Man) is a powerful and poignant memoir that tells the story of Primo Levi’s experience as a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz during World War II. Levi’s writing is simple, yet eloquent, and he masterfully conveys the horrors and humanity of life in the concentration camp. 

While the subject matter of the book is heavy, it offers a valuable perspective on Italian history and culture and reading it in the original Italian can be an enriching and rewarding experience for Italian language learners. 

This book is best suited for intermediate to advanced Italian learners, as the language can be complex at times and the subject matter may be difficult for beginner learners. However, the emotional impact and cultural significance of “Se questo è un uomo” makes it a worthwhile and valuable read for anyone looking to improve their Italian language skills and deepen their understanding of Italian history and culture. 

In addition to its literary merit, “Se questo è un uomo” has been recognized as a significant work of Italian literature and is widely studied in Italian schools. By reading this book, you’ll join the ranks of Italian scholars and gain a deeper appreciation for the Italian language and its rich cultural heritage. 

So, if you’re looking for a book to improve your Italian language skills and enrich your understanding of Italian culture, pick up a copy of “Se questo è un uomo” and dive into the powerful and moving world of Primo Levi’s writing.  

Buona lettura! 


You can find this book at Libreria Pino: 

Se questo è un uomo – Libreria Pino


* This document is for informational and educational purposes only. The digital images used are widely disseminated on the internet and therefore considered to be in the public domain, but whose copyright remains the exclusive property of the right holders. 

“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable”
Primo Levi
a woman sitting at a table with a plate of food.
IIS Blog
Jun 1, 2023

The Power of Partnerships

Partnerships are an essential part of any successful business.

A stronger force comes from combined sources and contacts.

At the Istituto Italiano Scuola we believe that building partnerships is a form of successful education because you can learn from other realities that share the same values and principles. Having a strong community with common goals and working together is important to increase trust and success in your business too. That’s why we interviewed the owner of Sugo, Caterina, to learn about her business and the reasons that led her to interact with our school. 

Caterina has a huge passion for authentic and traditional Italian food. She moved from Italy almost 8 years ago and she decided to open Sugo, a small Italian food business, to sell her tasty lasagna, pasta and much more to all the pasta lovers in the Bay Area. Sugo means “sauce” and she prepares with her team every sauce with care, using only the best ingredients. The dough of her lasagna is rolled out exactly how her mom and grandmothers taught her, respecting the tradition of lasagna served at every family reunion. They sell their food in several farmers’ markets in the Bay Area, but also online through their website and they do caterings for companies and private parties. 


  • When and why did you decide to open Sugo? 

I opened Sugo in June 2018. I have a huge passion for Italian food, I love cooking (and baking) and I wanted to share my food with everyone. 


  • What makes your business unique? 

At Sugo we cook and prepare everything from scratch (even the pasta for lasagna!) using only fresh and natural ingredients. All our foods are made with passion and love. We cook the same way we cook for our families!

  • Why did you choose to sell your products through the Bay Area farmers’ markets? 

We started to sell our products at the farmers’ markets because we love connecting with people, we love the farmers’ markets vibes and it’s very important for us to build a solid relationship with our customers. Farmers’ markets are the best places for this and very soon we found out that they are also great to have immediate feedback from our customers.

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

We like being partner to Italian businesses in the Bay Area. We believe that joining our energies, abilities and skills is a great way to create something unique for everyone who is passionate about our beautiful country. 


  • In your opinion, what is the best representation of the Italian culture, art, and values?  

In my opinion, food is one of the best ways to deliver Italian culture and values! Good food is art, culture, lifestyle. Spending time with people around a table full of good food is probably the best way to know each other and build relationships. One of my favorite “weekend activity” is cooking with my best friends and eating together chatting for hours. 


  • Which are the secrets for maintaining a successful business? 

For me, “success” is to do what I like and do it the best way I can. This is my “philosophical” answer, but the real one is to work every day, try new activities, new markets, and new ways to do business and increase sales. And always check the numbers and cut whatever doesn’t bring profit and/or visibility. Customer feedback is always super important and something to pay good attention to. 


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

I started to cook when I was about 30 years old, and I never stopped. When I was younger, I didn’t even know how to cook an egg! I believe with passion and love; we can do anything we want.  

"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."
Henry Ford
a black and white photo of a man wearing a hat.
IIS Blog
May 11, 2023

Meet our teachers: Mattia Milone

Mattia has been a teacher at IIS for several years.

Read this interview to get to know him better.

Teachers have a crucial role at IIS, so we believe that helping our students to get to know them better is one of the main goals of our Blog. Starting from this article, we will introduce our teachers every few weeks, so that you can learn something more about each of them. 

To start, we recommend looking at our page About us | SFIIS. 

Today we got the chance to have a chat with Mattia Milone, who is teaching both group and private lessons at IIS, both online via Zoom and in person in our new headquarters. 


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

I’ve been teaching Italian for almost 10 years. I started at IIS 4 years ago. 

  • What made you choose to become a teacher?  

What I love the most about teaching my language is that I feel like a deliverer of new ways of communication for those who have never learnt it before. Learning a new language, most of my students say, is like discovering a new side of oneself. It is gratifying for me to witness the moment when they find that out. 

  • Where are you from? How often do you visit your hometown? What do you miss the most?  

I’m from Milano, but was born in Puglia, where now I visit the most when I’m overseas.   

Of Puglia, I miss a lot of things. The list is long: swimming into the sea -we have an Ocean here in Northern California, but we cannot really enjoy it!- certain flavors, sounds of the dialect, focaccia & raffo beer, vestiges of Mediterranean past civilizations… 

Of Milan, I miss going to La Scala – but I find the Symphony here in Oakland almost as great. I also miss the opportunity to walk and see lots of people in the streets, enjoying restaurants open till late. I miss my friends, my familiarity with people and places. I miss the beautiful unpredictability of certain events you can encounter only in Italy.  

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

It would be easier to ask me what is NOT my favorite Italian dish, and even then, it would be hard to find one. No, I do not particularly enjoy cooking. I enjoy my wife’s cooking. Even though she is American, she cooks like an Italian nonna: same rituals, same patience, same expression of creativity.  

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

There are many. But if I have to choose one, I would say Castel del Monte in northern Puglia. 

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

Do not get discouraged when grammar seems hard, or when you cannot reproduce the same exact phonetic sounds. Emancipate yourself from any sort of inhibition. Speak even if it is not always correct. The more you speak the more you learn. And, most importantly, have fun! 

“A language is not just words. It's a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It's all embodied in a language”
Noam Chomsky