This will be a short (for me) post in large part because the experience was not at all what I expected or wanted. I heard about the school several years ago while exchanging emails with the staff of a vineyard in the area. The school has good ratings among language schools and when I first decided to go, I thought it would also give me the opportunity to re-visit Cortona, Pienza and other towns in the area given that Montepulciano sits in the southeast corner of Tuscany near the border with Umbria.
When my sister asked if she could join me for part of this trip, including Montepulciano, we rented an apartment, the Nesthouse, (https://www.residenzastuart.com/en/2071337/nest-house—apartment-in-montepulciano) and planned for her to attend school activities in the afternoon. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as we had hoped.
I didn’t receive a list of activities until the week before I was to attend and they included a cooking class for 25 euros, what sounded like a walk in a field for 25 euros and a trip to Lake Trasimeno for 50 euros. The first two weren’t appealing and having been to Lake Trasimeno in 2018 (see Perugia, Lake Trasimeno, Assisi and Cortona post), I didn’t want to pay 50 euros to see it again.
I hadn’t realized until I got to the school Monday morning just how small it is; from what I could see there seemed to be fewer than 10 classrooms. And whether it was due to COVID or the time of year, there were only three classes: a beginner/beginner class, an intermediate class and what was supposed to be my class which was in between.
When I first arrived Monday morning, I was taken to a classroom with two chairs behind one table and a second table and chair. A few minutes later another woman came in, quickly telling me in fairly rapid Italian that she was from Canada and had just spent a month in Sicily studying Italian.
When our teacher, Francesca, came in, she and the other student began a fairly rapid fire conversation. By the time the teacher turned to me I was feeling incredibly self conscious and my ‘self’ introduction was far slower. After about 20 minutes, Francesca said she thought the other student should move to a more advanced class. They left and about 10-15 minutes later, Francesca returned and said there wasn’t another class for me; that she would check with administration at the pausa. We, then, had an hour of one on one which went better; e.g. she had me read an article about Italian music and fill in the blanks. I got everything right and we had a discussion about music.
Around 11:00 am another teacher, a young woman, Tatiana, came in. She informed me that I would have individual lessons for 2 ½ hours a day, alternating between her and Francesca. I felt so awful and self conscious I couldn’t remember anything. The last part of class was a listening exercise which I completely failed.
Let me take a moment and describe the two teachers. Tatiana was fairly young and from Naples. She was rather brusque and continued to give me listening exercises which I continued to fail. Up until the last day I wrote entries such as this in my journal: Survived the AM with Tatiana but made a fool of myself with the listening part. That continued to be our ‘mode’ up until Friday when I wrote: Tatiana was a bit nicer than usual and even complimented me a little.
Francesca is 50ish and very warm and sympathetic; what Italians describe as ‘molto simpatica’. I almost didn’t return Tuesday and told myself if the school asked for more money, I would quit. Francesca was my instructor for the second half of the morning and later I wrote: My 50 minutes with the other teacher went fairly well after I almost started crying over solo classes and Sue not feeling well. We actually had a good conversation about travel, places I’d been, the trip this summer, where she might like to go… and the 50 minutes went quickly.
Francesca frequently told me that I spoke ‘very precisely’ which I think was a euphemism for painfully slow. But in retrospect I learned a lot from her especially compared with my experience at Istituto Michelangelo a few weeks later. She is a far better teacher than my instructor at Michelangelo.
On my last day the school charged me another 98 € which really annoyed me since I received far less than the other students; e.g. I never met any of the other students, I had less class time than the other students and overall did not have the experience one would expect looking at the school’s website.
My original draft of this post was even more negative and angry. But in retrospect both teachers were very good in their own way. I not only learned how important it is to be constantly working on my listening skills but I learned a valuable lesson–to follow my own advice that I gave in Istituto Michelangelo, parte uno. Always make sure you find out how many students will be attending and how many levels of classes will be available.