My Three-week Italian Language Learning Adventure

The next day it was back to school, and Alessandro, the director of the Babilonia language school, gave me a personal history lesson about Sicily and also explained the origins of that famous Sicilian institution, the Mafia, to me in detail. That evening I joined in a cooking class in a private home offered by the language school. I was going to see first-hand how a real multi-course Italian meal was prepared, using authentic, locally grown ingredients. And of course, I would have a chance to taste the finished delicacies afterwards and partake of a nice meal with other language students and the local Ferrari family.

Rocella Valdemone – a typical Sicilian village

My language studies the next day were followed by a visit to a local pottery painting artist, as Babilonia also offers pottery decoration courses, in addition to hiking, biking, golfing and diving programs. Perched on the rooftop patio of a Taormina hotel, with a perfect view of an ancient palazzo right next to Mount Etna, I learned about Sicilian pottery painting techniques. In the late afternoon I joined another excursion to hike up the southern flanks of Mount Etna. A visit to a winery and a nice dinner followed.

A interesting cooking lesson and a great meal

Then I had reached my last day in beautiful Taormina and after my final language lessons it was time to say goodbye to the folks at Babilonia, and to my co-students, whom I had gotten quite fond of. With the exception of the occasionally grey and drizzly weather, my experience in Taormina had been great: the language learning, the interesting excursions and activities and the interaction with my international co-students had been a really great experience. I was a bit sad to leave Taormina where I had gotten so comfortable.

Coastline in Mazzaro, at the foot of Taormina

But a new adventure was about to begin: I took the train to Milazzo on the northeastern side of Sicily, where the next day I would embark on a seven-day sailing trip through the beautiful Eolian Islands, offered by Laboratorio Linguistico, a Milazzo-based Italian language school. After meeting some of my six shipmates, who were really cool by the way, we were off on our sailboat, the 4 cabin “Solitaire II”, to our first destination: the island of Lipari, the largest of the Eolian Islands, and an extremely scenic place.

Sailboat harbour of Lipari

Our expert skipper Francesco, a licensed captain, also happened to be the co-owner of the language school, and one of our two resident language teachers on this sailing trip. After Lipari we continued our sailing trip to Salina, a neighbouring island, where three of us went on a driving tour to see local villages and also the house where “Il Postino” was filmed. An Italian lesson on the backyard patio of a bar was our first introduction to Laboratorio Lingustico’s language teaching program. Of course Francesco and Franco, our second teacher and co-owner of the school, conducted all conversations during the entire sailing trip in Italian only, which allowed us to be fully immersed in the language all the time. After we had nourished our brains, a Sicilian seafood feast capped off our second day on the boat.

Church in Salina

On the third day we set sail for the island of Stromboli, which is still an active volcano. The town of Stromboli features such narrow streets that they are impassable to regular vehicles. No wonder the local “carabinieri” (Italian police officers) have to ride in golf carts.

Isn’t that a great police vehicle?

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