Guest Post: Italian Immersion with Studentessa Matta


studentessaMatta_7Tonight I have the pleasure of welcoming a guest post from a great Italian language learning blogger, Melissa of Studentessa Matta. Melissa runs some amazing Italian immersion holiday programs in il bel paese. I’m hoping to be able to drop in on one sometime soon! Buona lettura, happy reading. 

Crazy in love with the Italian language!

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Ciao amici! If you are here following Sarah’s blog, that means you are a fan of Italy and the Italian language. “Anch’io!” Me too! Although I don’t have a drop of Italian blood and didn’t grow up in a great big Italian family where my aunts, uncles and grandparents spoke Italian and served up heaping bowls of pasta on Sundays, that hasn’t stopped me from adopting Italy and her language as my own! In college I studied Art History in Florence because I wanted to learn abut Renaissance paintings and gaze adoringly at original works by Donatello and Michelangelo. I fully intended to explore every nook and cranny of the Uffizi gallery and climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo. I was also determined to spend long hours on Sunday afternoons sitting on the banks of the Arno River sketching views of the Ponte Vecchio. What I didn’t expect to do was to fall head over heels in love with Italy, let alone the Italian language.

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Italy casts spells and weaves magic over unsuspecting travelers! I am well aware, because when I returned home from Italy I felt a tremendous void inside of me. I began to realize that I missed the Renaissance palaces embellished with colorful frescos, the silky smooth marble statues that stand proudly in front of public buildings, the crenulated medieval towers that rise high into a piercing blue skies, the sun drenched ruby red tomatoes that drip with sweet juices, the church bells that sonorously clang and vespas that ferociously whirrrrrr, like the hornets that they are named after.

In Italian they would say “mi mancava l’Italia” or Italy was lacking to me. To remedy this “nostalgia”, or this “lack of Italy”, I started casting about for ways in which I could renew my ties to il Bel Paese. Due to family responsibilities and work obligations, packing a suitcase and running off to Italy just wasn’t an option. Then it came to me! If I couldn’t return to Italy, I would make Italy come to me. The only way I knew how to do this was to start learning the language at home. My decision to learn Italian filled me with energy and gave me purpose; instead of wistfully recalling past travel experiences, it gave me something actionable to focus my energy on and it gave me goals for the future.

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Over the past sixteen years I have discovered many wonderful tools to learn the Italian language and my language skills have progressed to the point where I now write a blog in Italian called “Studentessa Matta”. I chose the name “matta” or “crazy student” for a blog title, because I wanted to convey the idea that anything is possible if you go a little crazy and let go of inhibitions. In so doing, you are freer to take risks and achieve things you never thought possible. Life is an adventure and nothing can stop you, as long as the desire to fly is stronger than the fear of falling.

Through my efforts to learn the language, I found my way back to Italy. I now travel there frequently and all those empty spaces inside of me that were “lacking Italy” have been completely filled. Now I have so much Italy inside of me that I am full to overflowing and sharing it with the world! It is now my great pleasure to collaborate with partners in Italy to arrange small group language immersions for those who want to learn more about Italy and her culture from local Italians. We provide unique opportunities for small groups of language learners who want to practice their language skills in a relaxed and friendly environment.

I invite you to join us in 2015! I have designed three amazing opportunities in le Marche, Rome and Lucca.

LeMarch_BannerJune 26 – July 4th I will be co-leading a trip to Le Marche and Urbino with my partner Nadia Sparapani & Luisa Donati. We will be combining Italian language lessons with daily excursions to explore le Marche with native guides. We will live in a renaissance palazzo in the little town of Mercatello su Metauro. We will have daily Italian lessons, as well as cooking lessons, taste local wines and cheeses, learn to paint ceramics and even be entertained by a local madrigal group.

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June 5th – 15th I will be co-leading a trip to Rome with Kelly Medford, an American artist who lives in Rome. We will be combining language lessons at Scud’It and Italian school near the colosseum with painting and drawing lessons in the parks of Rome with Kelly as our teacher. Evenings will be spent as the Romans due, attending open air cinema on the island of Tiburtina and dancing under the stars in Trastevere. Roman friends will also be stopping by to participate furthering our conversation practice.

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September 11 – 25th I will be co-leading a trip to Lucca with the teachers of Lucca Italian School. We will spend morning learning Italian at the school and in the afternoons with the teachers as our guides we will explore Tuscany and the cinque terre. We will have cooking lessons and wine tastings, movie nights, and best of all… biking on Lucca’s famous wall!

I hope that you throw away your inhibitions and dive deeper into learning Italian language too! Perhaps I will even have the pleasure of your company next year and we can go a little “matta” in Italy together! A presto!

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Please visit the Matta web site for more information about Italian language trips and Italian Home Language Stays. Also be sure to check out the language learning tips under the tab “Ways to improve your Italian” for new ways and resources to jump start your Italian language learning motors. http://www.studentessamatta.com/

Blog Hop


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"What the heck is a “Blog Hop”? Yeah, I had the same thought.

The term “Blog Hop” was introduced to me by the ladies over at Florence For Free. Hannah and Meg create great content and give cool suggestions of what to see and do in Florence, for free. What could be better than some of their firsthand knowledge to help you spend your time in a great city?

Anyways, back to the Blog Hop. Hannah and Meg kindly asked if I’d participate in their “Blog Hop” and of course I said yes. The Blog Hop gives bloggers a chance to answer a few questions that help explain what they do and why they do it. And to promote some of their favourite blogs as well. Hannah and Meg chose me as one of their favourites (grazie, belle!) and included me in one of their posts here.

Now, it’s my turn.

1. What am I working on/writing?

I write anything that comes to mind here at Not Just Another “Dolce Vita”. My posts are usually tales about my adventures and mishaps in Italy, but sometimes they’re my general musings on travel and more recently, on this nomadic life I seem to be living. Right now readers are in the middle of my “How I Became A Nomad” series about, well, how I became a nomad!

The dream would be to write a novel (or series – dream big!) one day, but I just never seem to be able to have enough distraction-free time to get down to work on it seriously. In my mind, the novel would have the same flavour as some of my more popular blog posts: inspired by true events, embellished only slightly, told in an amusing style, and set in Italy.

2. How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
There are a lot of great, informative, Italy & general travel bloggers out there, and I’m so happy to be among their ranks. I think my style is maybe different because I try to be funny and informative at the same time, and I try not to complain too much. You won’t see any big, heavy, curse-word laden rants published on here, although I may want to sometimes. I am also not the most organized or theme-oriented blogger. On here, you get a hodgepodge of whatever I feel like writing about, which maybe makes my blog a place to find more dynamic and varied information and anecdotes. One day it’s a travelogue, then it’s a Word of the Day post, then it’s about travel in general, then it’s a hilarious anecdote, then a love letter, then song suggestions.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Because I want to.
It’s as simple as that. I started this blog purely for the pleasure of practicing my writing and to see if anyone out there might want to read it. I also wanted to document my travels for the folks at home. More than three years later, it’s no different. I write from personal experiences, and I like to try to have a life that’s interesting enough to write about. It’s a grand self-fulfilling prophecy.
I write what I do because you can only stand to read (or write) so many Top 10 lists or travel guides or recipes or grammar tips. I like to entertain. I come from a big family of jokers and storytellers, and I guess I’m not too different. So I write amusing anecdotes and idea-filled articles and hope that someone can take something from them.
4. How does my writing process work?
Process? Hmm… I get an idea or I have an experience. I find the time. I write a draft, revise as I go, and press “publish”. That’s pretty much how it works with me. It has to flow or else it’s not what I want to be doing.  When it comes to writing things like magazine articles or website copy, it’s a little different and I have a more structured approach. I do interviews, gather information, print it all out, highlight, make a few point-form notes, then get to it, writing in order from top to bottom. I’m not one of those writers who can write the end or the middle before the beginning. My brain needs to follow that yellow-brick road all the way from beginning to end. I also generally (unfortunately) write or revise right up until my deadline. Apparently, I work well under pressure.
If you’re looking for some other awesome travel bloggers, check out Orvieto or Bust, Sunshine and Tomatoes, and Thrifty Nomads.

How I Became A Nomad


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"“Oh yeah? Well you’re a nomadic Gypsy!” is a wannabe insult my brother often hurls at me. I say “wannabe” because it’s not really an insult to me, but I know he means it to be a little more derogatory than I take it. I like changing things up, moving around, seeing new things, breaking the routine. I like being a nomad.

I don’t want to cast my dear brother in a bad light here. No, not at all. We get along (pretty) well and have a loving, teasing, bickering older sister – younger brother relationship. (If only he would listen to me more!) But with me at twentysomething and him, still at twentysomething but three years younger, and our being different people and all, we have different ideas about the paths our lives should take.

Recent sibling selfie.

Recent sibling selfie.

Having recently graduated from college, my brother moved home, bought his dream car (a bright orange, ’69 Chevelle) and took a full time job working in the family business. He’s happy. He’s good at it. He’s needed. He’s got a plan to save for a down payment on a house and wants to buy one when he’s 25 or 26. I’m proud of him.

Now, we’ll take a look at me at his age. I finished school, started this blog and fled to Italy. I came back to Canada with no idea of what I’d do, but with the notion that I needed to find a job. So I found one, in an office. The job was stressless, the pay was decent for entry-level and it had the added bonus of being right across the street from my parents’ house. Ottimo. Great.

So I did that for a year, reading blogs by travel gurus like Nomadic Matt and Chris Guillebeau  when work was slow, slowly becoming bored and feeling trapped behind my desk. Luckily, the universe was on my side. The company downsized and let me go, which I documented here. Around that time, my first magazine article was published here, and I received my first cheque for writing. I took a month off, enjoyed Christmas and then went back to school for a semester to get a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. Then the adventure really started.

Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

I got a  job leading student groups around Europe for the summer and I did a bit of my own travelling. I came back to Canada and started teaching, both ESL and Italian. I did that for 8 grueling months (it’s not that the work was grueling, but the commuting was) and continued to write. In May, I went back for round two of students in Europe, scored a couple more writing gigs and did some more travelling. Now I’m back in Canada, teaching English for four months and preparing for my next trip.

Two Canucks and  the Kiwi hot air ballooning in Turkey.

Two Canucks and the Kiwi hot air ballooning in Turkey.

Oh yeah, didn’t I mention it? In December I’m heading across the world to New Zealand to be the maid of honour in my best friend’s wedding. She’s a bit of a Canadian adventurer too. So’s her Kiwi fiancé. (One day I’ll write their story on here and really wow you all).

I’ve currently got a one-way ticket to New Zealand, but it’s not going to stay that way. I wanted to make sure I’d get there in plenty of time for the wedding, so I booked my ticket back in the summer. Now I’m sorting out my travel details. I think I’ll hit up Australia and Hong Kong while I’m away, because, what the heck? Right? Right.

I’ll probably be gone for about 6 weeks, but it could be longer. How do I get this time off? I have a job that fortunately/unfortunately (but more fortunately, at the moment) is done by contract. Yep. 7-week teaching contracts. I’m here for two contracts, then I don’t give my availability for the next one. If I’m back before the start date of the March term, I’ll probably be able to grab some teaching hours then.

But that’ll all go up in smoke if my Italian work Visa comes through. Fingers crossed, and if the gods of bureaucracy smile upon me, I’ll be heading over to Italy in the spring for some undetermined amount of time. Until I get itchy feet again, and feel the need to go somewhere else.

People ask me all the time where I’m off to next and how I can make it all work for me. I’m still muddling through, making mistakes, but, at the moment I’m happy with this “nomadic” life I’ve created. It means I get to do interesting things, in interesting places, with interesting people.

Mud baths in Turkey! Photo credit: Lance Jackson

Having a mud bath in Turkey. Photo credit: Lance Jackson

This post is the intro to a short series I’m planning to publish here, entitled How To Become A Nomad (And Not Give Up Everything). I’m aiming to let you in on a few of the tips and tricks I use to juggle my life, pack in all this extended travel and not have to pawn all my possessions. Look for the first installments in coming weeks.