Study Vacation in Tuscany - Experience the Magic of Manciano and the Maremma

The Maremma in Tuscany is the coastal plain that runs south from the Piombino headland. From the train window on my trip from Pisa to Grosseto, the sea often skirting the tracks on the right, I looked out to the left and marveled at the wildness I saw in the distance. The town I would eventually end up in to study Italian would be a tiny hill town, I knew, but as I traveled that Saturday afternoon, I felt small in the expansiveness of the landscapes that were flying by the train window. Occasionally a small coastal town train station popped up -- Cècina, San Vincenzo, Campiglia Marittima, Follonica -- punctuating the view of vast plains and tall scraggly mountains. As we flew by the grassy plains I squinted hard to see if I could see the butteri, the Italian cowboys, tending the horses and famous white cattle. I had had no idea that Tuscany offered such vistas, and looked forward with anticipation to my arrival in Manciano, where the Centro di Cultura Italiana Manciano offers study vacations to those wanting to experience small-town Tuscan life as they learn the language.

The school offers a variety of language courses, depending on the number of students and area of focus. The regular Intensive Course, the most cost-effective and popular, offers groups that are small (6-12 students). The teachers are very professional and accessible, anxious to help make the student's experience a good one. College students as well as adults of every age and background make their way to Manciano to learn Italian for any number of reasons. In fact, many students return over and over again because of Manciano's beauty and charm, as well as the possibilities to explore and enjoy the surrounding area. The Tyrrhenian Sea is a mere 20 miles away, for instance, and the thermal baths in Saturnia are a popular excursion. Lake Bolsena beckons, as do the mountain and nature reserves for hiking and bicycling.

The Centro can arrange various types of accommodation. The alternatives are a single or double room with a local family, an apartment with other course participants, an independent apartment or a hotel room.

Besides language classes, the Centro di Cultura Italiana Manciano's program includes activities designed to involve students in local day to day life. A series of excursions and activities revolves around the area's History and Art, Landscape and Environment, Current Events and Traditions and Politics and Social Life. For instance, some of the excursions might include visits to nearby Saturnia, Pitigliano, Tuscania or Vulci to view the Etruscan and Roman ruins. An autumn afternoon walk to evocative Montemerano could involve munching on succulent figs and sweet berries while enjoying fresh air, friendly banter and breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside. Visits to the studios of artisans or encounters to discuss politics and social issues with local representatives are also possible. Extra courses are offered. For instance, a cooking class and a wine seminar are available. The school organizes some social outings, and the spontaneous evening gatherings at local restaurants reinforce the comradery possible in small-town living.

On the September weekend I arrived in Manciano, the town was sponsoring a giant party. I found a paesi filled with music and games, wine and food. Each evening we wandered from cantina to cantina in the narrow, twisted streets of the various neighborhoods, sampled the wine and ate the local specialties that each offered. Singing and dancing did not just include the locals either. Often we were welcomed immediately and ushered to the center of the cramped "dance floor." For a token monetary contribution, we had the time of our lives (and the whole town, including us, slept very late the next morning).

When I look back at my sojourn in Manciano at the Centro di Cultura Italiana, I remember mostly the possibilities it offered to relax and slow down, to enjoy nature and to practice Italian in an accepting, friendly environment. Truly a study vacation, with a capital "V".

If you are interested in studying Italian in Manciano through the Centro Cultura Italiana, please contact the school directly.

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Last update: 20-Mar-2004 Page Author: Mary Tolaro-Noyes