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Wouldn�t it be great to be able to brush up on your Italian language skills for a few hours and spend the rest of the day sunning at the beach? Or drive to the nearby Roman baths, ancient towers and breathtaking seascapes? Or walking among the ancient churches in the city dubbed �The Florence of the South�? I had the chance to do just that at the Apulia Domus school in Lecce.
Students can choose from several accomodations. You can stay in student housing (my choice), which means you can stay in a single or double room with a private bathroom. The kitchen, dining and TV area are shared with the other students in your section. There�s a clothes washer (which really comes in handy) but no dryer. Thankfully, almost every day was sunny so hanging the clothes outside on the line was pretty easy. The rooms are inexpensive but there are not many creature comforts. The beds are comfortable but the rooms are Spartan by American standards but don't worry... you won�t be spending a lot of time in your room.
Students can also select from the private apartments available on the campus or arrange their own accomodations right in the center of town.
My typical day started with breakfast in my dorm and a visit to Giardino Ristorante. It�s a little caf� in front of the school that serves wonderful pastries and light lunch food. They bake small batches throughout the day so everything is always fresh out of the oven, whether you pop by 8:00 or 10:30 in the morning. It�s a popular and busy place, but they focus on the individual customer. By my third visit, the barman started brewing my cappuccino as he saw me enter the caf�, and served it with my preference of one packet of cane sugar. I usually had cornetto con crema -- always warm from the oven. The flaky crust of my cream-filled croisaant was the perfect complement to the velvety cream inside. If it weren�t for attending class, I could have eaten pastries all morning!
The first day we each took a proficiency test to determine our levels of comfort with Italian. Then we were placed in the appropriate class level. My class had a total of 4 students representing England, Germany, Austria and the US.
Attuned not only to the formal rules of grammar, the instructors kept us up to date on changes in Italian and its dialects. Like every language, Italian evolves. Some of the expressions and rules that I learned 5 years ago are obsolete. We left the course ready to speak Italian in a modern, conversational style.
The school also sponsors day trips to surrounding areas such as Bari, Santa Maria di Leuca, Gallipoli and Otranto. One afternoon was set aside for a guided tour of the historic center of Lecce. Then, one evening staff and students had dinner together at a local restaurant which was originally a convent, built deep into a forest long ago to be undetected by enemy factions. They serve the kind of meals you read about and salivate over but don�t know if you can actually eat� plates made their way around the table filled with succulent antipasti, mouth-watering pasta, meat and fish creations, vegetables, bread and wine; followed by luscious desserts, coffee, grappa and vin santo. The entire meal took hours and (oh yes) you can eat it all!
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