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Report 472: Back to Uni to Learn Italian - A Month in Perugia

By Pamela R from Sydney, Australia, Fall 1998

Trip Description: A month in Perugia, learning Italian and trying to blend in!

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Umbria

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Language Classes; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 31: Tuesday 1st September

After a two-day sojourn in Rome, our wake-up call came at 5.30 and after packing and taking our bags down to the foyer, we drifted across the road to the café which had agreed to open early especially for us. The next, and perhaps the most daunting stage of the journey was about to begin.

Italo was on hand at the cafe to gather his flock together and as we were all present and correct, the bus left at 7.10 for an easy drive through the picturesque countryside of Lazio and Umbria, arriving in Perugia just on half past nine.

We scrambled across Via della Pergola to the apartments and swarmed through the building scanning the Post-It stickers on the doors as we looked for our own names. The approval level and exclamations were many and varied, as we each compared our rooms with those of others. Our bed was a rather low, flimsy convertible type which didn’t look particularly inviting. And we were a bit surprised at the lack of kitchen utensils. But our main disappointment was the kitchen itself – really just a cupboard with gas burners, a sink and a small fridge inside, but no working bench – especially after we discovered that all the other rooms, without exception, had proper built-in cupboards and drawers, and marble benches. (Many people were lucky enough to have a beautiful valley view, but that was just the luck of the draw.)

But first things first. We were scheduled to reassemble at the entrance to the University at 10.15 to complete registration details, and – for those who had elected to do so – to sit for the test to gain a grade other than Primo Grado (beginners).

Eight of our Aussie contingent were candidates for the test, but as we’d just missed the 10 o’clock sitting we had to wait until 11 o’clock, which also happened to be the final sitting. Those who weren’t ‘sitting’ enjoyed themselves in the café in Piazza Fortebraccio, while the eight sweated it out in Aula VI, our introduction to the panelled, gilded and decorated style of the Palazzo Gallenga, the main building of the Università per Stranieri.

The single test, which covered all grades up to 5, was not all that easy. After reaching and completing your level of ability, you handed in your paper and waited in the ante-room until called to receive the result.

One by one we were called, to learn that four of us – another Pamela (later to be identified as Pamela Due), Maureen, Suzanna and Pamela (aka Pamela Uno) had been placed in Secondo Grado. Angela and Krystyna had succeeded in achieving Terzo Grado while two (Gary, and Angela’s partner Peter) were placed in Primo Grado. We regrouped with the coffee drinkers and shared our news while Italo handed out schedules for the various grades.

Secondo Grado had classes beginning at 8 o’clock the next morning, but Primo had a free day, with their classes starting on Thursday. The schedules were quite different and, unfortunately for us, didn’t coincide very well. Primo had three mornings with classes from 8 till 1 which, while rather long, left nice chunks of free time remaining. Secondo, on the other hand, had two- or three-hour classes every morning, but with the other, shorter classes sprinkled throughout the afternoons, leaving less usable time for other activities.

As some of the classes would be held on a different campus, Italo offered to take us there for an orientation. Palazzina Prosciutti was about 15 minutes walk from the apartments, out through the walls at Porta Pesa, and then down a steep zig-zag path towards a lush green valley. A newer, more modern building, it had stunning views from the upper floors. On clear days Assisi was easily visible, some 25 kilometres away across the valley.

There was also a student cafeteria in the adjoining building and as we were all starving by this time, we decided to stay and eat, so we farewelled Italo who had been so helpful to us, and we were now on our own. We were quite impressed with the canteen’s excellent two-course meal with fruit for just L.8.000, but somehow we never seemed to get back there for lunch again – either because our schedules didn’t have us there at the right time, or perhaps because there were so many other possibilities. We also tended to eat our main meal in the evenings.

As we were not particularly pleased with our room we decided not to unpack but to await the arrival of our landlady, who we understood would be visiting during the afternoon, in the hope that there might be another room available. When she hadn’t shown up by evening, we decided to go out and explore the town. We joined the passeggiata along the Corso Vannucci (our first of many) and were completely knocked out by the magical view of the sun setting over the valley, from the belvedere at its end.

After visiting the Standa department store and the supermercato for some food supplies and wine, we phoned Dottoressa Santucci who said she had no spare rooms but would do what she could to make things better – someone would visit to assist. (In fact, nothing was ever done, despite this and several subsequent promises.)

So we finally unpacked and cleaned the flat before visiting Suzanna, Pamela and Ellie on the top floor for some wine and grub and chat before falling exhausted into bed at 10.30.

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