Gabrielle Keller: Living and Learning in Lucca

My grandmother’s family came from Lucca, Italy, an historic town in Tuscany, 30 miles from Pisa and Viarreggio.  Lucca has pre-Roman origins and the old town is still surrounded by walls.  It is also the birthplace of Puccini.

Although I had travelled in Italy before, I had never studied Italian so I always spoke Italian with as many Spanish cognates as I could.  To prepare for my trip I practiced what little Italian I had at  When I finished their learning sequence, they considered me 60% fluent. For my summer grant, I enrolled in the Lucca Italian School for two weeks of intensive language learning. My program consisted of five hours of class with three or four others in the morning and a private tutoring session each afternoon. There were also field trips twice a week.  And to get the most benefit of my two week immersion I also stayed with an Italian host signora.

The classes were taught entirely in Italian which worked fine because of my preparation and my Spanish.  We had conversations, worksheets, songs and games.  My language learning style is grammar-based so in the private lessons I could ask about rules and conjugations.  The class was fun if not entirely challenging and I did find I could navigate around town fairly comfortably and tell my host lady what I had been up to. The field trips included visiting villas, taking cooking classes and listening to opera.

I came home very energized about learning Italian and took an extension night class at FIT to continue my progress.  I was able to adapt a few exercises and games to my Middle School classes as well, but teaching MS Spanish has always required singing, dancing and standing on one’s head so that has not changed.  It was a wonderful experience and I hope to return to the LIS in the future.