We have done language courses in four languages in various cities across five countries so we have some experience of how a course should be. This year it was Italian's turn again and we wanted to go to the South of Italy, particularly to Puglia where we'd never been. As capital of Puglia the beautiful city of Lecce was a logical choice, and Lecce it would have been had we not stumbled across, on the internet, a series of reviews of l'Acanto School in Mesagne. All reviewers were loud in their praises; one, a fellow Australian, had taken the trouble to fill out an entire page of positive comments and on contacting him for confirmation it was apparent that for him, a seasoned language course goer as well, this was the best language schooling he'd ever had.
That was enough for us: we scuttled the Lecce plan and embraced Mesagne and l'Acanto School.
We could not have made a better choice. What we wanted was the best possible opportunity to improve our Italian inside school and out, in a town that was undemanding, not tourist jaded and with access to traditional Pugliese sights, wine and cuisine. And that's exactly what we got.
So far as regards the school part of the eduction we said what our priorities were at the outset and almost without noticing it, we were delivered what we'd identified. But the much more subtle and probably effective part of the instruction came via the contacts we established in the town, almost without exception through the school principal, Michela and her colleague Anna Rita but in a way that seemed remote from a staged meet-the-people; instead a natural flow on from our presence in the town.
No doubt that aspect of the school's services is made easier by the attitude of the townspeople. This is the South where (perhaps almost incomprehensibly to Anglo-Saxons) welcoming strangers is a way of life. Even more so in a town where outsiders are relatively rare and no one is tired of the tourism thing. From (newly made) friends, people in the street and shopkeepers we received warmth, often generosity and sometimes an embarrassing excess of the latter.
Mesagne is an unpretentious town. We hope it will stay that way until we do a follow up course at l'Acanto.
Michael & Margaret R., Adelaide, South Australia,