In actual fact, I did a lot this summer to complement and enhance my academic studies. Having studied ancient Rome and history of art as outside courses, I went to revisit many of Rome's ancient ruins, churches and Florence's galleries. Being in Italy of course I could just walk past architectural marvels everyday. A week in Athens and the surrounding areas gave me a taste of the ancient grand tour, whilst staying in Italy for all the summer allowed me to quickly build vocabulary and become more confident at speaking and listening comprehension. Attending the istituto italiano for a month in Florence was a great way for me to study more in depth the grammatical difficulties of the language, besides practising it in day to day life. The 2 week but more intensive Centre international de Antibes was a great starter for learning French. Being a definite elementary level in the language, it enabled me to learn at racing speed. Thank goodness it is so similar to Italian.
With regards to the two schools, whilst the Italiano Istituto was well located and the teachers were kind I would say that the Centre International de Antibes was more professionally run...
The Istituto Italiano
First of all with regards to this school, I got to study for free. Thanks to the Italian institute in Edinburgh the entirety of the course fee was paid for. I did the classic course, four hours a day five days a week. The day I arrived alongside the other new students, we were asked to do a test in both oral and grammar to assess our level. To my surprise, I was in the superior class in the entire school, C1 level. That said, the class was definitely of mixed levels. Whilst one or two had very little prior knowledge of the subjunctive (like myself at the time), others were very confident at using every conjugation. Quickly our levels became more alike, as we reviewed the more difficult aspects of the language for 'stranieri', like verbi pronominali and il congiuntivo. Aside from the very interesting speaking class on dialects and languages, I would say the main fault of the speaking classes was the lack of interesting material. If there is an interesting topic I can speak about it a lot, but debating about single parents or recycling really was not such a stimulating subject. The grammar classes on the other hand were very useful, given that I now feel I can use the past, imperfect and present forms of subjunctive, when I think about it at least!
My one real issue with the school, the false advertising. The website boasts a wide array of free extra curricular activities and cheap additional courses. I would have loved to study Italian literature and cooking but these course prices were ludicrous. There were trips to Assisi and Siena, both of which cost in the vicinity of 90 euros, again crazy when I did the same excursions with public transport for less than 20 and fit more into my day. I decided to go on a tour of the best gelaterias in the city, which turned out to be a joke. We visited three icecream parlours, which I guess had all paid commissions to the school, one of which was the widespread GROM chain, which as good as it is, can not really be considered local. My favourite ice cream parlours were not visited. I would recommended the gelateria neri and fiorentina, cheap considering normal Florentine prices.
The positives, the school was located in the centre right next to the duomo. The staff spoke ONLY in Italian providing a handy immersion and the teachers were very kind. The class sizes were perfect for the first two weeks, 6 people in the class but for the last two weeks rose to 12, too many for an expensive language course I think. The school provided the text books and the notepads, another helping hand. Florence, however touristy it is, is a very beautiful and culturally rich city. Not only that, it is perfect for a central base to explore Tuscany and surrounding areas like Liguria, Umbria, Lazio. One of my favourite days of the summer was spent in the Chianti region with my boyfriend, we went to Monteriggioni and Siena. Monteriggioni is an obscenely cute little medieval hill town, crowned with towers with have unfortunately been damaged. It is less touristy than many other towns like this in Tuscany and surrounded by the famous green rolling Tuscan hills, dotted with vineyards and little idealic farm houses. It is also mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy:-