Wondering where to go for your next Italian sojourn or for your first taste of learning Italian?
Disappointed with the last Italian school for foreigners you attended? Looking for something different from the tourist traps of North and Central Italy? Well here is the solution.
L’Acanto: Soggiorni di Lingua e Cultura
8 weeks at L’Acanto
I’ve just returned to Australia after spending an unforgettable eight weeks at L’Acanto at Mesagne in the Puglia province of Italy, or, as the locals would prefer, in the Salentino. I’ve been travelling to Italy for over thirty years and have frequented quite a few Italian language schools in Umbria, Tuscana and Le Marche. I’ve always avoided the South, considered it economically backward, little to see of interest compared to Central and Northern Italy and lacking in culture and intellectual stimulation.
Well how wrong can you be to believe the stereotype that labels the south of Italy? I made the decision to spend eight weeks at the L’Acanto school in Mesagne based on reviews I had read on their web site and a detailed examination of other language schools on offer in Puglia. I wasn’t disappointed.
First, I must admit that I’m not a real beginner in Italian; with a bit of effort on my part I could easily pass for a local, although the local dialect was a bit beyond me. Second, Mesagne is not anything like the tourist spots of Tuscany or Umbria but it offered an alternative, somewhat subtle and different.
Let me tell you about the school. It is located in the Centro Storico of Mesagne in a building that was already old before my country was turned into a convict settlement. The school is quite small; able to accommodate 5 to 6 students at a time in each of the two well appointed classrooms, although in my stay 4 students was the maximum number. It is within easy walking distance of anywhere in Mesagne.
Next, let me tell about the Director and the teachers at the school. The Director is a truly amazing lady, with the ability to relate on all levels with the guests at her school. I use the term guests rather than students or participants because that’s what you are. She has an uncanny ability to determine your level and needs and adjust the lessons to suit the individual or to tailor the lessons to fulfill your needs or wishes. For myself, I admit that I was a bit lazy and not really interested in complex grammar (I learnt all that thirty years ago and do remember most of it); I was mainly interested in having some stimulating conversation. I come from a science background and the last three weeks I had there with Mimmo, my teacher, who has a classics and history background, were among the most entertaining and fruitful times I’ve had at a language school. Even if we didn’t agree on all topics, he at least opened my mind to the richness and splendour that once was the Kingdom of Naples.
What is there to see and do in Mesagne? Well more than first meets the eye. Mesagne is on the railway line from Brindisi to Taranto, as well as being serviced by a reasonable bus service. It is easy to travel to see the sights of Lecce or go to the beach at either the Adriatic or Ionian Seas. For me, I was quite content to wander around Mesagne or accompany one of the other students on a trip to a nearby site such as Otranto or Grottaglie. In fact, I didn’t have to arrange much at all as the marvelous Director took us on trips to see the trulli (stone houses) in Alberobello, off to Lecce for a Notte Bianca or a day trip to the family beach house, and trips into the country side to view the olive trees or an agricultural farming operation.
I am an enthusiastic amateur musician and enjoy immensely playing in the local town band. The Director arranged for me to meet the Band Maestro and I had a very enjoyable time playing with the City of Mesagne band. I was also fortunate to have a lesson with the Maestro most mornings before school as well, a real bonus.
What’s the food like? I was extremely fortunate to have lunch with the Director’s parents every week day during my stay. In eight weeks I was absolutely spoilt with the quality and array of dishes, simple Puglian cooking accompanied by chilled Malvasia wine. An extra bonus, apart from the conversation over the dinner table, was the occasional quotation of Dante by Gianni, the Director’s father.
I spent some wonderful evenings eating out with the Director and her friends and was constantly surprised by the excellent food, at very reasonable prices. I stayed in a small apartment during my stay, but there are some good B&B’s in Mesagne at very reasonable prices. The Director arranged all the details and I was very comfortable for the whole of my stay.
So for a quick visit or an extended stay I have no hesitation in recommending L’Acanto. The tuition is excellent, the food and accommodation are great, there’s plenty to do and see, the classes are very small and the most important thing is that the Director cares about you. She goes out of her way to make sure everything is right for you.
Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

Terry J., retired Operations Manager, Australia,