Discovering Florence by way of Gelato

Written by: Colin Grant, a team member of The Italian Language Foundation, earned a Bachelor of Arts & Science from Indiana University.  He majored in Media Advertising with a Minor in Italian.  Colin utilizes his creative skills in media, advertising and Italian to support ILF’s social media and website content.

Gelato in Florence

In the summer of 2019, I had the pleasure of being able to study abroad in Florence, Italy.  After moving into my new home for the summer, I discovered that I was staying in a part of the city that I would describe as “touristy.”  Walking around the crowds in the Piazza Del Duomo you hear countless different languages spoken as people come from all over the world to see Florence’s beauty.  A goal of mine was to see as much of Florence as possible, so after classes would end, I began taking a few classmates with me to explore parts of the city that we didn’t know.  It was in these quieter areas with fewer tourists that I was able to meet and talk with more people, usually in the piazzas.  This not only helped me improve my Italian language skills but also allowed me to connect with people and see Florence as more than just a beautiful city.

One person I talked with commented that outside of the busy city center, the gelato shops are both better and less expensive.  This gave a few of my classmates and me the idea to try and find the best gelato shop in Florence as we continued to learn our way around.  Luckily gelato shops were a common sighting, and it was never too difficult to find a new one as we walked through the narrow cobblestone streets that often seemed to wind and curve.  After several weeks of exploring new parts of the city and new gelato shops, I began to feel like I knew my way around town.

Arno River, Florence

On my last night in Florence, I went for one last walk and ended up at my favorite gelato shop along the Arno River.  It’s a small shop with only enough room for the counter, which had around twenty flavors of gelato on it.  There was gelato in every color and flavor from traditional gelato such as stracciatella to less traditional flavors like Oreo and mint chocolate chip.  Walking home with a cone in my hand, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful Renaissance architecture.  I passed by the Uffizi Gallery, several churches, and buildings that I couldn’t identify.  While taking my phone out to take a picture, I heard a voice behind me “scusi scusi.”  I turned around to see an older man holding out a map, “sai dov’è la stazione di Santa Maria Novella?”  He asked for directions to the train station and luckily we were not far away.  We talked briefly and I pointed out on his map the upcoming intersections that he needed to turn at.  I realized this was the first time I had given anyone directions while in Italy, and Florence felt like much more of a home than a foreign city.


Italian Language Foundation reaches Matching Grant goal with Giambelli Foundation

PRESS RELEASE, April 13, 2021, New York, NY

The Italian Language Foundation recently qualified for a matching grant from the Francesco & Mary Giambelli Foundation, and matched a $125,000 donation from the Foundation. The Italian Language Foundation (ILF) is dedicated to the promotion and support of Italian language education nationally. It motivates and rewards students of Italian from middle school through college and offers free professional development workshops to teachers of Italian, and rewards outstanding teachers. Awards for Excellence are offered to qualifying AP Italian students.

Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., President of ILF, notes: “With the generous support of the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation, and all our donors, the ILF is expanding its programs for students and teachers of Italian. Internships for students of Italian, AP Italian exam prep webinars, and new teacher workshops enhance the learning and teaching of all Italian nationally.

Louis Tallarini, Chairman of the ILF, sees a positive trend in the diversity of students that enroll in AP Italian in the USA and Canada. “Through our goal of preserving the AP Italian program at the high school level,” Mr. Tallarini stated, “we are able to award excellence to an incredibly diverse group of students.

Roughly one-third of the AP Italian students in the US are Hispanic, and Italian language study is also incredibly popular with Asian-Americans. It’s wonderful to support such a multicultural group of students who are linked by their study of the Italian language.”

Angelo Vivolo, a Trustee of the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation, had this to say about that Foundation’s matching grant: “The Giambelli Foundation carries on the legacy of philanthropic giving that Francesco and Mary Giambelli established during their lifetimes – and we are so happy to support the Italian Language Foundation in their strategic approach to keep study of the Italian language alive and well.”

For further information, and to support ILF’s efforts, please visit the website of the Italian Language Foundation at www.italianlanguagefoundation.org.

MORE ABOUT THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE FOUNDATION The Italian Language Foundation is dedicated to promoting and sustaining Italian language education in the United States and supporting the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program in Italian Language and Culture. The Foundation is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation qualified by the Internal Revenue Service to receive tax-deductible contributions.

PRESS CONTACT: Jefferson Wilson, Marketing & Communications, Phone:(347) 581-6722, Email: info@italianlanguagefoundation.org


A Living Link to Childhood Bari and the Countryside

Written by Margo Sorenson, author of over thirty traditionally-published books for young readers. Margo Sorenson spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speaks (or tries!) her childhood languages. Her most recent Adult/YA novel, SECRETS IN TRANSLATION (Fitzroy Books, October 2018), takes place in Positano, with plenty of Italian countryside highlights. www.margosorenson.com

Castello Svello, Bari

Bari? Who goes to Bari? It’s not on the usual tourist’s agenda—so “boring”! But, as a five-to-seven-year-old, living there, my senses were always on high alert with the wonderful sounds and sights and tastes.

Castel del Monte, Bari

Hearing the warm sounds of Italian swirling around me and seeing castles, like Castello Svevo and Castel del Monte, were a part of everyday life. Picnicking on rocky beaches (I had no idea there were sandy beaches!) next to the Adriatic, with my favorite mortadella sandwiches (no peanut butter in Italy!) was a weekend outing. If my parents, who grew up on peanut butter in the U.S., wanted peanut butter sandwiches, we’d get a gallon can of it from the U.S. Navy ships in the port, but mortadella was perfect for me.

Margo, Port of Bari

It was fun going to the Port of Bari, because my parents rented me a little car that I could “drive” around the port. Once a year, the Festa di San Nicola would light up the entire port of Bari.

Feast of San Nicola, Bari

For this celebration for the patron saint of sailors, (his relics were brought by sailors back to Bari in the 11th century), many decorated boats sailed into the harbor, and one boat transported the relics around the port. The fact that holy “manna” appeared upon the relics, I took for granted.

Nilla Pizzi

On Saturdays, instead of going to the movies, (a typical activity in the U.S.), we would go to the opera, which was, in Bari, a pastime of ordinary people, not “high-society people.” Seeing a real elephant lumber across the stage in “Aida” made me gasp in amazement. Opera singers were rock stars, and when we went to the Albanese luggage store in Bari, I was in awe, hoping we might catch a glimpse of Bari-born, famed opera star, Licia Albanese. We were told it was owned by her brother—but, I never had a sighting. The hit song drifting through the air in Bari was Nilla Pizzi’s “Papaveri e papere,” and it became my favorite childhood song. Our grandchildren now sing it, with their amiable grandfather contributing the quacking sounds like the duck, at their request.

Sometimes, we would take a day trip to Alberobello. On our drive through the countryside, we would pass houses with strings of garlic and red peppers hanging from doorways and window ledges, and tomatoes drying on the roofs. The scent of fresh tomatoes on the vine brings all that vividly back to me. I loved the looks of the trulli; they looked as if elves could have lived in them.

Margo in Sicilian cart

One of our favorite vacations was to drive to Messina, take the ferry to Palermo, and stay in Taormina. I will always remember visiting the royal palace in Palermo and seeing the King of Sicily’s red-velvet-covered toilet seat! We’d picnic at the ancient ruins of the Greek theater in Taormina, with a view of snowy Mt. Etna, and, in town, I would get a ride on a brightly painted Sicilian carreta, a model of which sits on my desk today. In our hotel’s restaurant, we would dine late, as is Italian custom. Once, some American tourists came over to our table and gushed to my parents about how well-mannered a child I was, even at the “extremely late” hour. I was completely puzzled. Late? It wasn’t even ten o’clock, yet!

So many of my vivid memories are linked to the melodic sounds of Italian, and the sights and sounds and tastes of my special childhood in Bari come flooding back, when I’m lucky enough to hear it spoken.

Sicilian Carreta

Una Scelta Profonda

Written by Dominic Amara, for the Italian Language Foundation

Bristol Central High School

As I strolled down the hall I continued to recite my course selections for freshman year:. “Geometry, Foods, Info Processing, World History… Geometry, Foods, Info Processing, World History.” As I repeat them for what seems like the hundredth time, one question plagues me the entire length of the hallway. “What language are you going to take?” Often students reply, “Spanish”, as it is practically required in middle school across the country, but as I kept thinking I was drawn to a different path. When I first had thoughts of enrolling in Italian, I was a bit hesitant to say the least. After taking nearly four years of the Italian language at my high school, much to my surprise, I’ve gained more as a student and as a person than I could have ever thought possible. 

Dominic as he won the UConn sponsored Italian quiz bowl

Italian was extremely difficult and frustrating in the beginning; I had barely any base knowledge of the language, the rules were confusing, and I was a poor reader. It took me a while to learn the true beauty of the course; it wasn’t just in the words and sentences but in the lifestyle, in the culture and the essence of Italia. We ventured into music, history, art and so much more. With every activity I gained lessons that transformed my character. I learned patience and hard-work from the career of Leonardo Da Vinci, we learned about patronage and the importance of art with the reign of the Medici, and most recently we connected classical literature to the Covid-19 pandemic. We delved into the importance of family, and the meaning of true happiness.

I may not be able to listen, read or write like the perfectionist in me would like,  but I realize that isn’t at all what taking Italian is about. I have learned to communicate my thoughts, ideas and opinions in an authentic way. We’ve read about ten or more stories, watched at least five films, and done so many hands on activities I can’t even count. Through every activity we’ve gained more lessons and more knowledge regarding not only Italian lives but our lives as well, from stereotypes in all cultures, to the mysteries of our families’ immigration. The amount of substance behind each lesson stretches farther than I could have ever imagined when I first told my eighth grade teacher, “um I think I’ll go with… Italian.”


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