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Italian conversation


I enrolled this morning in another Italian language class, after too long a hiatus. I've been focused in the last few years on improving my French, mostly through intensive, full-time summer classes. Now, I need a change and I need to do something to brighten up a dreary winter.

Now, I doubt my continuing education class is going to look anything like this photo! I suspect it will instead be a group of people more like me, ordinary folks who want to travel in Italy and understand the country a bit better. Or perhaps people who have married into an Italian family and want to better understand their in-laws!

The top photo is, of course, a "sacra conversazione" -- a sacred conversation. This is a very popular theme in Italian art, often involving Mary, the Christ child, assorted saints and hangers-on (such as the family that commissioned the work.)

This particular work is Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child with Two Saints, painted in 1490 and now hanging in Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia. Apparently there is another, autograph version at the Prado in Madrid. The two saints are traditionally identified as Sts Catherine and Magdalene, but it is more likely that these are two noble Venetian ladies who commissioned the painting.

Here is another kind of conversation I enjoy: in Letizia's kitchen at Alla Madonna del Piatto near Assisi. I took this photo during a recent cooking class in September.



This is another Sacred Conversation from Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia.This work is dated 1525 and is by the artist Jacopo Negretti, known as Palma il Vecchio.

I've taken only two previous Italian language classes and neither group looked anything like this! I've also been listening to Italian-language CDs and watching every Italian film I can get (reading the subtitles but also trying to hear the language.)

But, as any language student can tell you, the hardest part of learning is summoning up the courage to actually practice, to engage others in their native tongue. Here's hoping another class will help me practice, so I can put the lessons to good use next time I'm in Italy!

Comments (13)


Isn't that funny--tonight I'm going to a conversational Italian group that I learned about here on SlowTrav! And yesterday I got a subscription to the RAI channel on my Verizon FiOS. It's kind of tough keeping track of what's going on on those shows, but I found one that even has Italian subtitles as well as dialogue! It'll be fun if nothing else, right?

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, sounds like a great class. Great photos especially of your cooking class conversation...

I'm bummed because I don't remember seeng that painting in the Prado. Or maybe I did. There were so many and I only remember in detail a few. Beautiful piece.

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your class.

Well, I sure hope there won't be any naked babies in a class in the middle of winter in Canada! :)

Good for you for joining a class, they are usually a lot of fun. Enjoy!

A sacred conversation!
That's a lovely way to say it. AND, Italian lessons? Enjoy!


Vicky, that's a great find on RAI -- subtitles so you can see the words as you hear them. For me, half the battle in conversation is that few us articulate really well (except teachers in the classroom) so even when you know all of the vocabulary that is being used in conversation, you still can't always understand what was said because it flies by too fast!

Hope you're enjoying your ST conversation class, that sounds like a lot of fun.

Hi Kathy -- the Prado sounds like the sort of museum that is so rich, a person would have to return many times to really see and retain even the highlights. I envy you having visited it.

Chiocciola, I'm sure I'll enjoy the class -- especially the conversation. I took a beginners level college course in Italian 3 years ago and while I learned a lot of grammer that has stuck with me, it's the practice that I really need!

Thanks Brenda, it should be fun!

Way to go - I hope you enjoy your class. I bought some of those "learn Italian in your car" CDs and it's just so boring! A class will be more fun, I bet (but probably not as much fun as a cooking class!).

That room full of Bellinis in the Accademia is such an amazing place, and I love that one you posted so much.


Thanks Annie -- I put some of my Italian CD lessons on my iPod, so that's somewhat helpful. But heaven help me when I have to formulate a sentence on my own!

I have to return to the Accademia -- I've only been once and that just wasn't enough!

I'm so envious! I would love to take another class but all that is offered is beginner classes. I am sure your French will help you with the grammar.

Great news, Sandra! Your class sounds very exciting and it sure is a good way to brighten up the winter months. And there's nothing better than being in the company of Italophiles!


Girasoli, it's a shame that you don't have any more choice than that -- I know you're far beyond a beginner class!

Maria, you're right! There isn't any better company than fans of Italy.


An Italian class sounds wonderful, your post just might inspire me to sign up myself one of these days! I must and see what is available at Dalhousie. Love the paintings too!

Brad'll Do It:

Just had to cancel my renewal to the online subscription to the Rosetta Stone Italian course because my (old) laptop is too feeble to process the pages. It really sucks to wait 45 seconds for the second SYLLABLE of a pronunctiation. Tried an Italian class at the local community college, but it wasn't great. Hope your continuing ed class, and your Christmas, is all you hope for.

Good luck with the classes Sandra, and keep us posted on how they go. I'm always interested to hear about any good Italian learning ideas.


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