Learn Italian in the Real Rome: The Best Schools and Local Spots for Language Learners
For most students of Italian, it doesn’t take long for Rome’s towering ruins, vivacious piazzas and ancient cobblestone streets to start beckoning.
Unlocking the doors to this timeless city requires more than just a guidebook and a sense of adventure. Knowing the language is a must.
As you progress toward fluency, it’s a good idea to do some self-studying, pick up a good dictionary and start getting acquainted with Italian culture no matter where you are. But if you want to get the true Roman experience, there’s only one way: close your eyes and dive straight into Italian immersion with an Italian course in Rome.
In this post, we’ll show you some of the best schools to learn Italian in Rome. We’ll also offer some sage advice from real locals on the city’s conversation hot spots where you can use the skills you pick up in the classroom.
Why Learn Italian in Rome?
Rome is a sacred site not only for religions modern and mythological, but also to pilgrims seeking the pinnacle of art, history, fashion, food, design and much more. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time to get into all of the many reasons to visit this fantastic capital, so we’ll just focus on the benefits for language learners:
- Ultimate Italian immersion: This is what it’s all about. Living in an environment where Italian is the primary language, you’ll be listening to it and speaking it constantly, with no excuse to lapse into your native tongue.
- Live with Italians: Many Italian schools in Rome give you the opportunity to live with locals during your stay. Take that opportunity! It’s not just great for your language skills but also for getting local insights into the city and making new friends in a new language.
- Intensive Italian courses: The language programs and courses you can take here typically consist of four to six hours of Italian each day, not including excursions and cultural events. This means you could potentially learn in a few weeks’ time what would take you a year to learn at home.
It’s also unlikely that everyone in your classroom will share a common language, so you’ll be forced to use Italian as your primary means of communication even with your classmates.
- Practice what you learn immediately: Living in Rome means you’ll be able to head out each evening and weekend and practice your new skills right away. This will provide you with instant feedback and allow you to correct grammar mistakes and refine your pronunciation quickly.
Later in this post, we’ll show you some of the best local spots in Rome for putting your classroom skills to use in real life.
The Best Schools and Off-the-grid Hangouts to Learn Italian in Rome
Language Schools in Rome
Koiné Italian Language Centre
This school offers the best of both worlds: an extremely central location in the heart of the city and a small school environment that prioritizes personalized student attention.
The Koiné Centre teaches listening, speaking, reading and writing, but puts its primary focus on conversational skills. Students are encouraged to start expressing themselves in Italian from the start. The Koiné Centre also prides itself on the qualifications of its native-speaker teachers, who have a variety of prestigious degrees and certifications.
If you’re looking for an intense Italian experience, Koiné is an excellent choice, but if you’d like something a little lighter they have options for you as well. Try one of their Italian cooking or Italian language by bike courses to spice up your holiday, or sign up for private lessons if you want to move at a pace that’s just right for you.
Scuola Leonardo da Vinci
Just a hop and a skip away from Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps, Scuola Leonardo da Vinci offers an authentic Roman experience in every detail.
The school is located in an antique aristocratic villa in the historic center and gets you immersed right away with activities like conversation with locals and dinner at authentic restaurants. They also host some excellent free events such as guided art history tours and movie nights.
But don’t let all this fun stuff fool you. Scuola Leonardo da Vinci is still serious about its dedication to language learning. Their wide range of course offerings include intensive small group courses, Italian for business courses and preparation for studying in an Italian university.
Club Italiano Dante Alighieri
Small class sizes and immersive learning practices are only some of the aspects of this school that make it one of Rome’s best for learning Italian.
The central location is used to enhance the school’s course offerings with unique cultural programs and excursions. You can even merge your language course with opera singing lessons!
Quality over quantity is the key to the success of Club Italiano Dante Alighieri, which has made it a welcoming and successful school for more than 20 years. The needs of each individual student are taken into account in a friendly but serious teaching environment.
DI.L.IT International House
This school is focused on a communicative approach to language education, with new Italian concepts always presented in the context of real-life Italian situations. Not only are they passionate about the art of language teaching but they’ve also designed some of the most interesting course programs at any school we’ve seen.
Their Italian cinema course isn’t just centered around learning about Italian film. It’s actually taught by a professional director and the students create their own film during the course! And the Italian theater course? Yep, you guessed it. You read, write and act on stage in Italian.
There are a number of special courses, but if you’re just looking for a lighter language course you won’t be let down. You can sign up for a few daily courses and spend your evenings in the city center, which is conveniently right outside the front doors of the school.
Off-the-grid Spots to Learn and Practice Italian
Finishing your lessons for the day—or even your entire course—is only the beginning. Now it’s time to venture forth into the streets of the Eternal City and bust out your language skills with the locals.
There’s just one problem; sometimes the locals are tough to find in a city so full of tourists! It might be hard to believe, but real Italians do live in Rome, and luckily for you, we’ve got them to tell us where they like to go when they hit the town.
Mercato di Testaccio
Once the sun sets, the Testaccio district features the hottest nightlife in the city, but by day, it’s got a flourishing market filled with grannies and haggling locals looking for the freshest produce, the crispiest bread and the saltiest salami they can find.
This is a great place to practice questions with potere (can), vorrei (I’d like) and quanto (how much).
This very popular theater located just behind Piazza di Spagna regularly hosts productions of the most famous Italian drama and comedies, as well as modern shows looking to become new classics. Locals come here for a taste of culture and nostalgia, so they’re likely to talk your ear off once they’re done wiping the tears from their eyes.
Teatro Sistina is recommended for upper-intermediate and advanced Italian students, as it involves a more sophisticated listening level. Try looking up the storyline of the production you’re going to see beforehand so you can more easily follow along.
On the Rox Rome
We find ourselves back in Testaccio, but this time at night. On the Rox Rome is an affordable and rowdy rock bar in the midst of some of Rome’s most exclusive clubs.
Locals and tourists alike come here for cheap beer, shots and a little flirty fun. The locals will surely want to hear your life story, so come ready to practice using your past tenses.
Mercato Campo de’ Fiori
Another market? Why?
Italians still eat and buy local. They shop daily and are very picky about where their food comes from. As a result, markets are some of the best local hangouts.
This market in the Trastevere quarter is one of the oldest in Rome and has the unique ability to make you feel at home as soon as you find yourself among its many booths. Gather a selection of local cheeses, jams and produce and take a seat with the locals in the square to enjoy. You’ll need all your food vocabulary (including adjectives) to find the tastiest fare.
One resource that you could try using to learn Italian food vocabulary and other essential words and phrases is the FluentU program.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
This pastry shop and gelato bar has served Rome for more than a century, and it just keeps getting better. The creamiest gelato, the most heavenly cannoli and the flakiest pastry can be yours after a long wait in a line of locals.
Practice small talk as you wait and don’t forget to ask the locals for their recommendations on what to order! (Local insight: Italians love talking about food just as much as they love eating it!).
Rome has a reputation for being static; the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Sistine Chapel—all frozen in time and surrounded by flashing cameras and sweaty tour guides. But as amazing as all the reputable Roman sights are, they’re not all there is to Rome.
Rome, called the Eternal City, is simultaneously a living dedication to the genesis of western civilization and an ever moving, ever changing crucible of all things Italian.
During your stay, don’t forget to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, but remember that learning Italian in Rome gives you the chance to interact in a very real, modern and diverse Italian culture. Don’t be afraid to communicate and make your mark! Indeed, most of Rome’s history has yet to be written.
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