Learning Italian is a pleasure no matter what country you live in.
And if you find the right learning materials, you can get a little taste of life in Italy.
Indulging in world-renowned Italian cinema, clicking your way to competence with intuitive Italian language learning apps and kicking back with some dramatic Italian TV are all options without borders.
But at the end of the day, there’s one clear goal: to hop off a plane and plant your own two feet on the cobblestones and sandy beaches of the world’s most beautiful peninsula.
Italy: The World’s Top Italian School
What could be a better way to learn the Italian language than by putting yourself in the thick of it?
This approach is called full immersion, and studies have shown that it’s the best way to learn a new language. Why? Because it replicates how we learn our native tongue: by seeing, touching, hearing, tasting and receiving immediate, real-life feedback every time we speak.
If you make a mistake in your Italian workbook, you may not realize it for another week, whereas if you do the same in an Italian deli, you might get handed a red bell pepper instead of the salami you wanted! Which do you think will better motivate you to learn?
If you choose to travel to Italy to learn Italian, it’s recommended that you find a school to attend.
“But wait,” you say. “I thought immersion was about living in the country, not going back to school!”
Yes, well immersion is about living among the Italians, true, but immersion isn’t the same as osmosis! You need to find a proper program that supplies you with the tools you need and puts you in situations where you’ll flourish.
There are courses organized all over the country and the programs vary in size and length. Most programs feature intensive courses and plenty of time in the local city or countryside to practice. They’re also very socially oriented and involve excursions, meals and parties with classmates and staff. Typically, you’ll even have the option to live with an Italian family!
Basically, immersive language programs aren’t your average language schools.
How to Choose the Right Italian Program for You
Choosing the right Italian immersion program depends on your personality and your goals. Here’s what you need to take into account.
- Size of the Program/School — Do you want to be in a small, tight-knit group or have a bunch of friends to hang out with? Are you looking for more features, class options and goodies? Small programs can be more intimate, while bigger ones sometimes offer a wider range of amenities and courses.
- Location — Where do you want to go? Big cities are lively but have more tourists and more English spoken out and about. Small towns offer beauty and authenticity, but not much in the way of nightlife!
- Intensity of Course — How much time do you want to spend studying? Make sure to check if your program requires a half or full day in the classroom, how many days a week the course goes (Italians go to school on Saturday!) and how much homework you’ll have to do.
- Qualifications of Staff — This is important. If the website of your program says nothing about the qualifications of the staff, don’t go there! Immersion programs should employ teachers with language teaching certifications or teaching degrees.
- Amenities Provided — What comes with your course, and what costs extra? Airport transfer, room and board, excursions, meals, social outings and seminars are common extras.
- Level of Leisure — If you find yourself sharing a classroom with diplomats and Ph.D. students, you’ve probably chosen a course that’s more language-oriented and less vacation-oriented. If you want to have a nice mix of vacation and study, be sure to ask about the opportunities for free time and what there is to do.
5 Spectacular Programs for Learning Italian in Italy
La dolce vita means “the sweet life.” And that’s exactly what you can expect from the upcoming schools.
But no matter what level you are, before you start packing it’s a good idea to brush up on your Italian. Immerse yourself at home to get ready for real immersion in Italy. And no one does immersion better than FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons, as you can see here:
FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday Italian by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles.
Tap on any word to instantly see an image, in-context definition, example sentences and other videos in which the word is used.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.
Once you’ve watched a video, you can use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
FluentU will even keep track of all the Italian words you’ve learned to recommend videos and ask you questions based on what you already know.
Plus, it’ll tell you exactly when it’s time for review. Now that’s a 100% personalized experience!
The best part? You can try FluentU for free with a 15-day trial.
After much research, investigation and a bit of wine, we’ve compiled a list of five of the absolute best language programs in Italy. These programs vary in levels of intensity, size and services provided, but all of them are guaranteed to be qualified and dedicated to making their students fall in love with Italian!
1. Il Sasso, Montepulciano
This program has been churning out Italian speakers for nearly 35 years, and it just keeps getting better. Located in the heart of Tuscan wine country, Il Sasso features peaceful surroundings and excellent facilities.
A typical course consists of about four hours of lessons per day, but they also offer single-day courses for survival Italian, in case you just want a taste! Speaking of taste, you can expect excursions to local wineries and restaurants. On weekends, Florence, Pisa and Sienna are just a short train ride away.
What’s unique about Il Sasso: The variety. They offer history, business, music, art and wine courses in Italian, as well as a language course that’s done exclusively while hiking in the countryside.
2. Terramare, Orbetello
As one of the highest-rated programs in the country for years, Terramare guarantees the ultimate immersion experience. Located in Orbetello, a picture perfect Italian village on the sea, students attending Terramare can expect lessons indoors and out among the people, bars and piazzas. That said, Orbetello isn’t too far from Rome, so don’t feel like you’re going to miss out on city life!
Despite its growing reputation, the school has remained small and is dedicated to building close relationships with students to guide them based on their specific needs.
What’s unique about Terramare: The cultural program. Terramare’s renowned cultural program gets students out and into the real Italian world at least 3 times a week. This happens in the afternoons (after lessons) and is included in the price of the course.
3. Sardinia Italian Studies, Cagliari
Ever wanted to get away from it all? Sardinia is the perfect place. Sardinia Italian Studies is based in an old palace on the sea in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. They provide Italian courses at all levels and excursions to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
If you have time restrictions or particular interests, Sardinia Italian Studies will even create a course catered specifically to your needs or desires. Some included extras include cooking lessons, kayaking, hiking adventures and archaeological explorations.
What’s unique about Sardinia Italian Studies: The staff. Not only are they super cool but they all hold post-graduate degrees in Italian language instruction, making them one of the best qualified programs in the country.
4. Scuola Palazzo Malvisi, Bagno di Romagna
Having trouble deciding on a week at the spa or a language immersion vacation? Your dilemma is over. Bagno di Romagna is famous for its natural hot springs, and if you bet that the school hadn’t designed a course around going to the spa, you’d be wrong.
To add to the luxury, Scuola Palazzo Malvisi also features courses based on the famous truffle mushroom of Northern Italy, wine, cooking and hiking. Just because they offer some delectable courses doesn’t mean they skimp on the quality of the lessons. Scuola Palazzo Malvisi boasts one of the more intense courses on this list, with 26 immersive lessons per week.
What’s unique about Scuola Palazzo Malvisi: The students. Most students who attend this school aren’t from English-speaking countries, which means you’ll be pressed to use Italian as the common tongue in and out of the classroom.
5. Piccola Università Italiana, Tropea
If you’re fascinated by the rustic beauty and intense flavors of Southern Italy, then there’s no better spot than Tropea. The town is built on a cliff overlooking a turquoise sea, and its small winding streets will make you wonder what century you’ve been transported to.
The Piccola Università Italiana can be found in a stately, 18th-century building in the center of town, and from its balconies and grandiose windows you’ll be able to feel the sea air and hear the bustling streets below. Courses are very sea-centric and some focus specifically on sailing, windsurfing and scuba diving. You’re also sure to taste some fantastic seafood.
What’s unique about Piccola Università Italiana: The class size. Piccola Università Italiana restricts its class size to six students, meaning you’ll get personal care and attention.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Adventure Learning Italian in Italy
These programs are all dedicated to delivering the thrills, flavors and comforts of a perfect Italian vacation, but keep in mind that doing an intensive language course is hard work! Remember that immersion isn’t automatic. You have to have the drive to study, practice and endure a bit of mental strain if you want to walk away with some language skills in your pocket.
The most important thing you can do is to avoid speaking English as much as possible. Speak Italian to your teachers and classmates in and out of school, and if possible, choose to lodge with an Italian family or roommate.
When school lets out each day, make sure to manage your time properly. Too much sightseeing may keep you up late doing homework, but too much time with your nose in a book won’t give you adequate time to practice what you’ve picked up at school.
And lastly, when your course ends, although you may have to say arrivederci (goodbye) to Italy, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep what you’ve learned. Consciously decide to continue your studies and to bring home some of the good habits and new hobbies you picked up while studying Italian in Italy.
This way, you’ll be able to start right where you left off when your next adventure begins!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.