My week at the Todi Italian school

I spent a week in the lovely Umbrian hill town of Todi learning Italian with the La Langua La Vita Italian School. Here’s how I spent my week imparando italiano

Day 1 – Arrival in Todi

I arrived in Todi on a Sunday afternoon from Perugia. For details on travelling between the two towns, click here.

After dropping off my things, I found a staircase next to my apartment. Climbing it all the way to the top, for a total of 192 steps (I counted twice!), I turned around and saw this amazing view. Needless to say, not a bad start!

View of the countryside from Todi in Umbria
View looking down at my apartment. It’s down there somewhere.

Wanting to get my bearings in the new town before dark, I checked out my options were for dinner. Being Sunday night, a lot of the restaurants were closed and one was completely booked, but I eventually found Antica Hosteria Della Valle. It’s a small restaurant with five tables inside and a table for 12 was set up outside.

I had a lovely (though small) dish of ravioli filled with cheese with a sprinkling of mushrooms and truffle. For dessert I had a panna cotta covered in a fig jam. Very sweet but good! This was all washed down with a glass of vino rosso della casa (house wine).

A group of Canadians I’d met earlier told me they had two bad experiences in Todi’s restaurants. They thought it was because they didn’t speak English. My experience couldn’t have been more different in all the restaurants I visited. Everyone was friendly and willing to indulge me in my intermediate Italian!

Piazza del Popolo on a Sunday night in Todi
Piazza del Popolo on a Sunday night

In the evening, I tried having a shower and the water pressure was non-existent, making rinsing my hair impossible. I was surprised to find out that there was someone staying there the week before because there’s no way they could have showered with the limited water pressure!

I asked the school to let the owner know, and he came and fixed it the next day. Besides that minor issue, the apartment was lovely. Though I should mention I had trouble with the washing machine. I tried using it as instructed but four hours after I started it, it was still running. At this point it was 11pm. I finally shook it a bit (since the owner had moved it earlier when showing me) thinking it might be off balance. That seemed to work and by 1:30am my clothes were finally washed. Needless to say, I was tired in the morning!

Another view of the countryside surrounding Todi
Another gorgeous view

Day 1 – First day of class and walking tour of Todi

Having no internet in my apartment, I went to the school early to catch up on emails. My teacher, Donatella, came to the school at 9am and seemed to be tired from running. I found out that she’d purchased a ticket for the parking lot, but didn’t receive a ticket from the machine. So we went from the school, to an administration building, to another place and then finally to another building where some of the classes are taught. I didn’t mind all the commotion because it allowed me to experience (second hand) what Italian life is all about!

For my first class, the teacher thought I was a beginner, but fortunately she was prepared to quickly change her lesson plan! I’d asked if we could work on the use of passato prossimo v imperfetto (both verbs in past tense), so most of the two hours was spent working on exercises to learn that. We also had a chat and she asked what else I’d like to learn during the week.

Walking tour of Todi

Prior to staying in my apartment for the night, I joined the walking tour of Todi. The school hires a guide to provide the tour to the students starting their week. I was the only one going on the tour, so it was me and my 24 year old guide. We spent a couple hours walking around Todi, checking out the inside of the (many) churches and then having a drink at a bar in Piazza del Popolo. She was very friendly and spoke only in Italian to me (but could speak English) and I understood a large part of it.

Understanding the ‘church and long ago history’ words was a challenge, but I had a general idea about what she was saying. During our drink she told me what it was like being a 20-something living, studying and trying to find work in Italy. It was interesting to hear first hand how hard it is for young people to find work. I also found it a bit sad that it’s a very stressful time for many young people with uncertain work prospects. No wonder there are so many Italians in Australia!

The door of my apartment for the week while studying Italian in Todi
My apartment for the week

I had to be at the apartment for 7pm so the owner’s husband could fix the shower and then I was home for the night. In the afternoon, I’d walked down to the bottom of Todi to find a supermarket (which means walking uphill back to the apartment – urgh!) so I now have food!

The cute apartment I had for my week in Todi
My apartment for the week. Molto carino!

After eating, I worked on my homework, which I was more than happy to have. There’s not a lot for a person traveling solo to do in the evenings in Todi!

Day 2 – More classes with a short trip to Orvieto

My second day at the school started a lot less frantic than the first! My lessons were in a different building to the main building where the administration staff work. That building has some classrooms but for reasons not explained to me, there are also other classrooms in a different building. My teacher told me she does three lessons each day and they’re all in different places. It all sounds a bit too complicated for such a small school. It’s a good thing the town is small!

For the lesson, we spent more time going through the differences between imperfetto and passato prossimo. We also read a text for comprehension and pronunciation practice and started on pronoun combinations. One of my goals for the week was to improve my use of simple direct and indirect pronouns. But since she figured out I’d understood them, we went straight to the combinations. For example, I give it to her = Gliela da. Just writing that makes my brain hurt a bit!

As part of my class package, I had a trip to a different town each afternoon. The walking tour of Todi was the trip on the first day, then Orvieto on the second, Spello on Wednesday, Assisi on Thursday and then there was a cooking class arranged for Friday. I was surprised to see no trip planned for a different town on Friday and was disappointed to see that Orvieto was on Tuesday.

A few months earlier I’d asked if I could go somewhere different as I’d been there previously, and the schedule I’d originally seen said we’d go to Gubbio at some point. I was also surprised to see that if more than one person went on the trip, the cost dropped to 35 euros a person and for three or more people, the cost dropped further to 30 euros per person. When I did the math and saw how much more I was paying per day trip in addition to the apartment and private lessons, I saw it was considerably more than 30 euros a person and thought that was a bit strange …

To read more about our afternoon trip to Orvieto, click here.

Day 3 with a short trip to Spello

After a few days in town, I started to get into a routine. I’d start with a relatively early wake up (at 7:30am .. hey I’m on vacation!), a quick breakfast, a hike up the 192 steps into town, a cappuccino at my favourite cafe (Bacio Di Latte – located in Piazza del Popolo) and then over to my private lesson from 9 – 11am.

I really enjoyed the private lessons. After the previous two weeks of group classes in Lucca, I wasn’t sure whether the private lessons would be too intense. But after my third day, I thought it was the perfect choice for me.

My teacher Donatella kept the lessons interesting and the two hours seemed to fly by. I liked that I had some homework to do each night. It wasn’t too strenuous but good practice and left my time with the teacher to correct my mistakes or learn new topics. I don’t think having her watch me trying the exercises would be a good use of my money!

wine cheese and homework
Wine is always helpful when it comes to homework

I was also able to sort out my registration issue with the school. It turned out that the person who arranged the course had intended that the day trips each day were private trips accompagnied by a guide. That person was on maternity leave and the person taking over her role wasn’t aware of the arrangement. The course I selected must not be very popular!

Speaking with the school’s manager, we were quickly able to sort out what I owed after joining the day trips with the other students and was refunded the difference. In the end, this worked out perfectly for me, as I was able to see Umbria but I was able to enjoy the day trips with other students.

I think going on the trips with a guide would have been a bit boring. And because I was travelling alone and taking private lessons, it would have been very difficult to meet people.

While the day trips were fun and I would have easily ran out of things to do in Todi after my first day, my full day schedule is starting to get exhausting!

In the afternoon, we went on a short trip to Spello. Click here to read about our afternoon trip to Spello.

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The street in Todi on my way to my apartment. It’s not what I’d call ‘busy’!

Arriving home, it was time for some homework, and an appetizer of cheese and wine.

After finishing my homework, I decided to treat myself to dinner at one of the restaurants in town. I found that the streets feel a bit dodgy when walking through town once it’s dark since there never seems to be any one walking on the street I live on after about 7:30pm.

I should also note that the town is incredibly safe and I don’t think anything bad would ever happen, but feeling unsafe at night is a preoccupation of the solo travelling female! The main street is almost always ‘busy’ (Todi style), but my apartment is off of the ‘main drag’. Though the alternative is to walk down the 192 stairs that are only partially lit up at night. Though I don’t feel unsafe, any female travelling alone knows the feeling all too well of ‘you never know!!”.

I’d read some good reviews about Enoteca Oberdan and I’d tried to eat there earlier in the week but it was fully booked, so I thought I’d give it a try and I’m very glad I did. While I was eating there were only a handful of other couples at the restaurant. Though I sometimes feel weird eating along, I find a glass of wine always helps!

The restaurant has quiet a lot of character, there was jazz music playing in the background and my waiter was very lovely and seemed happy enough to let me practice my Italian (I should also mention he was rather cute!).

Hand written menu at Enoteca Oberdan
I loved the idea of the menu! Menu di oggi (today’s menu). Not a word of English in sight 🙂

The food really just topped off the experienced and I enjoyed the wine so much, I bought a bottle to drink when my mom meets me in Rome! 🙂

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Sformafo di melazane. So good!
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Polpette di manzo (meatballs)
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I loved this wine and wish I could find it in Perth!

Day 4 with an afternoon in Assisi

After my morning lesson which focused on various prepositions (so confusing!), the afternoon’s trip was to the very religious town of Assisi. The town is a Unesco heritage sight and is best known as the birthplace of Saint Francis. Located a bit closer to Todi than Spello, and less than a half hour from Perugia, it was a fairly short drive to and from Todi.

Click here to read about our afternoon trip to Assisi.

After soaking in the religious atmosphere in Assisi, we headed back to Todi so we could meet up with the students from the previous day’s trip for dinner. Before finding out about the group dinner, I had been planning on visiting Trattoria Da Piero e Silvana on my own. So when the ladies announced that was where we were going, it worked out perfectly.

Homemade pasta with wild boar ragu

To start, we ordered a (seemingly small, but ended up being a rather large) carafe of house wine and a share plate of meat, cheese and a variety of yummy goodies, including prosciutto, boar sausage, truffle and salami and everything else in this picture.

Antipasto plate at Trattoria Da Piero e Silvana

We had a jug of wine to get through and we did a pretty good job of it, I might add! We even gave the teenager a small glass to sip on and I don’t think he’d drank much wine before that night! For a main, I had a lovely dish of pasta. By this time we were pretty full and very cheery. We all strolled back up the hill together after a fabulous day and night out and maybe a tad too much wine 🙂

Day 5 with a cooking class in the evening

Today was my last class for the week. It was bitter sweet since I really enjoyed the lessons, but I was also excited to be meeting my mom in Rome on Sunday to continue south to Puglia!

After my two hour class, I had to return to the school at 1pm for the end of the week ceremony. I wasn’t sure what this entailed, but I found out that it’s a certificate ceremony. Come to find out everyone gets a certificate showing their course completion. We also all sang a song together twice (in Italian of course)! I know Italians like to sing, but I thought it was a bit strange!

After an afternoon of last minute Todi sightseeing and packing up my stuff for an early departure in the morning, I met the other students taking the cooking class in the evening. The couple running the cooking class host the lesson at their parents’ farmhouse, about a 10 – 15 minute drive from Todi.

Cooking class in a country farmhouse

Our evening started with a glass of wine and nibbles outdoor in their back garden with the sunsetting in the background. Then we got to work!

Starting off with a white

We started by making a sweet pastry for the crust of a jam pie. The crust was more finicky than I thought it would be but with a lot of help by the cooking teacher, we got the job done!

Drinks in the garden before the cooking begins!

Our primo was spaghetti alla carbonara, which started with the biggest, fattiest piece of porchetta I’d ever seen (see below). It was then mixed with cooked spaghetti, eggs and lots of cheese. With ingredients like that, it was sure to be delicious.

The teacher then cooked the chicken for the secondo of scaloppine ai funghi, which was basically thin cut chicken covered in cooked mushrooms and garlic. YUM! The chicken was served with pomodoro prezzemolo e agilo, tomatoes, parsley and garlic. Then to finish off the meal, we ate our oven baked pies.

Most of the cooking other than the pies was done by our host, which meant we had a lot of time watching and drinking the various wines on offered. This worked extremely well for me!

The conversation throughout the night was very entertaining (and all in Italian of course). I spent a large part of the meal laughing, and at times laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.

Here are pictures of the molto buono evening!!

The evening’s menu
Keeping the chicken warm sitting on a 2,000 year old Roman artefact from the owners’ property!
Now that’s a piece of meat!
And the finished product – carbonara!
Fruit jam pie, made by yours truly!
A selection of the drinks consumed! Blueberry flavoured liquor was surprisingly good! When I mentioned how much I liked it, our host gave me the rest of the bottle to take with me. Now that’s hospitality!
Group photo after lots of wine and other miscellaneous liquor!

After a week of sightseeing and learning, I have to admit, I was rather exhausted (and tipsy from all the drinking!). Farewell Todi, I may very well be back someday 🙂

Review of the Todi Italian School

For my review of the Todi Italian School, click here.

How does this school compare to Lucca Italian School?

My week in Todi was completely different to my two weeks studying Italian in Lucca. Firstly, in Todi I took private lessons for two hours in the morning, whereas at the Lucca Italian School I was taking group classes with 7 – 10 others which went for about 4 hours (including a break). The school in Todi had a total of 10 students during the week I attended compared to over 50 in Lucca. In Lucca, I stayed in a house with a local Italian lady, whereas in Todi I had an apartment to myself.

For after school activities in Todi, I paid for daily excursions with the school to various Umbrian towns which started at 2:30pm. In Lucca, the activities were varied and only one trip a week involved travelling to another town. Another noticeable difference is that Todi is quite a small town, whereas Lucca’s a small city.

Both experiences were great, but very different. Click on the following post to see what you should consider when selecting a language school in Italy.

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