Two weeks of immersion school at Dante Alighieri in Siena is complete, and I can say that my Italian has improved. While I may not be completely fluent, yet. I can hold a light conversation and understand what is being said. That is, if they don’t speak too fast. The classes went by quickly. I had class from 9 am (930 on Mondays, you know, it's hard to get motivated on Monday) till 1 pm. Homework except on Friday. Who wants to do homework on the weekend? Tuesdays and Thursdays, were cultural classes with my instructor. He accompanied me to the museums to discuss Italian culture while speaking only Italian. The first class it was about 50-50 Italian and English, the final outing was all in Italian. Later on that evening, I finished with a 3-course cooking class. I looked forward to the cooking classes. I love cooking. I learning new ways to cook food that I love. I have a another blog post about that coming up soon, as I am still processing the pictures.
My host family was an adorable couple, Anna and Marcello, married for 49 years and living in Siena for most of it. Anna who loves the country and Marcello who loves the city. They, both make me feel like one of the family straight away. Every morning, Anna knocks on my door in the morning to let me know breakfast is ready. Breakfast includes panini with ham and cheese, fruit, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and some type of baked good she baked fresh that morning. One morning it was an apple cake, another was doughnuts.
Dinner always included 3 courses, a pasta course, a meat course with vegetables and dessert. It is a wonder if I didn’t put on twenty pounds. Anna was helpful in my studies, always talking me through what she was doing in the kitchen even offered some of her recipes, and offering the books she had on the museums in the area.
Also included in the program was two wine tasting classes, it really ended up being three. As my fourth cooking class was cancelled. I was offered a wine tasting instead. The first one was on the weekend. I had taken a bus to San Gimignano on warm sunny afternoon, it had been raining off and on all week. When we had arrived, Carnevale had just started and there were kids running all over the town, throwing confetti and hitting each other with silly string.
Carnevale is like Their “Mardi Gras” and is similar to our version of Halloween for the kids. The kids were dressed up in costumes ranging from superheroes to dresses typical of the Venice Carnevale. A parade with large floats that you would not believe to fit through the narrow cobblestone streets. The floats pelted you with confetti as they made their way through main street of the town.
After enjoying carnevale in the town, we boarded the bus to Tenuta Torciano winery from 1720, Where we sampled a number of wines, Chianti, and Chianti Classico and a yummy Brunello. We learned that a true Chanti, only has the black rooster label on it. Food samples included a 20 year aged balsamic vinegar, that I am still dreaming about, it was that good.
The second wine tasting was in downtown Siena, at a local restaurant. One of the Sommeliers of Siena showed us some of the wines of the region and pairings, prosciutto, speck, cheeses, and a Tuscan bread soup typical of the region.
Lastly, a wine tour around Chianti country, with rolling Tuscan hills filled with vines. My favorite winery was the first one, Tenuta Torciano. The service, presentation and of course the wine and food was simply the best they made you feel welcome and were happy that you were there. You could see their passion for their wine.
I fell in love with Siena in my two weeks here. It was enough time to see the city and immerse yourself in the culture and the language. I wish I had more time here. The city itself, is beautiful with hills, cobblestones and the Tuscan country not far away. I would highly recommend immersion school, if you are debating. I do not believe I would have gotten this far without it. Prior to school. I had a tutor and was studying on my own, with very slow progress. I had a big vocabulary, I just did not know how to form a sentence. Staying with the host family was memorable as well. They were generous and helped me in my studies and made me feel as if I was one of the family. I will miss Anna and Marcello and also, Siena.