Renewing your Italian in Rome

A review of the Corso di aggiornamento di lingua italiana held in Rome every January.

As the first American ever to attend the Corso di aggiornamento di lingua italiana in Rome this January, I surprised my fellow course participants simply by crossing the Atlantic to attend the course’s fifth edition. My 25 classmates hailed from Germany, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain, France and Holland, and were mostly Italian C, some B, and a few aspiring B.

I, in turn, was surprised that many of the participants were course veterans who made it a point to attend each year in order to aggiornare their Italian skills and keep abreast of developments in Italian government, law and society. The second surprise was that each year one of the course participants inevitably realizes that life cannot be fully lived unless one resides in Rome and decides to stay. After a week in the Eternal City where top-notch speakers explained the intricacies of organic farming, the achievements of the woman’s movement in Italy (or lack thereof), and Rome as depicted in contemporary Italian literature, I understood both phenomena much better.

Our Italian colleagues from the Consorzio romano interpreti di conferenza, (CRIC) were continuously at our sides, keen on hearing our feedback for each speaker, and ready to ensure that all went smoothly. They also gave us tips on where to get good deals on shoes, and the best places to go dancing in the trendy Testaccio area. The 9:00 to 6:00 PM days were packed with lectures, but the CRIC also organised an outing to the Teatro Ambra Jovinelli to see “Scemo di Guerra,” a one-man performance recounting the last days of WWII that exposed us to a Roman dialect spoken at breakneck speed.

Most of us probably returned home with a few extra pounds, due in part to our lunch and visit to an organic farm right outside of Rome, and a farewell dinner at La Maremma restaurant, which served delicacies such as deep-fried olives and rice balls with a mozzarella core, and where the battle rages on as to whether Neapolitan pizza is better than Roman pizza.

My suitcase was heavy with new Italian dictionaries of course, but also the Italian novels recommended by the literary author and critic Filippo La Porta, who took us on an offbeat tour to the site of Pasolini’s film sets in a formerly shady part of town.

The highlight of the week was Penelope Filacchione, a vivacious archeologist clearly in love with her native Rome, who outlined the challenges involved in balancing the preservation of the city’s historical riches with the needs of modern city life. Building an additional subway line in a city overwhelmed by traffic and motorini, where practically every square inch underground holds the promise of archeological treasures is daunting. Since saving it all would mean total paralysis of any city improvements, one recent solution is the required presence of an archeologist whenever ground is first broken at a construction site. In this manner, the city can “musealizzare” any finds.

Dr. Filacchione then accompanied us on an exclusive tour of the Domus Aurea, the incredible underground summer palace built by Nero right before his death in AD 68. Amazing on its own, we understood the link Roman art had with the Renaissance when she explained how intrepid Florentine artists working for the Pope climbed down into its depths and later imitated the flowers and fruit borders that came to be known as “grotesque” (from grotto) from the palace’s frescos.

This was my first AIIC training experience and it reminded me most of a very intense week at a dream university where all the professors inspire you, even the one talking about “la devoluzione” of centralised power to the community level. As in college, much of what I learned was outside of the classroom, while striking up new friendships with colleagues, comparing notes on the vagaries of our changing and respective markets, and sharing anecdotes about funny blunders in the booth.

A warning is in order for those considering future attendance at this wonderful course and how it might affect not just your careers but your lives. True to the course’s legacy, by the last day of the course one colleague had decided to stay and is now searching for an apartment in Rome.

Marla Sanchez-Pietton is a freelance interpreter based in Washington.

The Italian refresher course was held in Rome from 18 to 22 January 2005 at the Casa Internazionale della Donna, a fully restored convent in the heart of Rome.

Recommended citation format:
Marla SANCHEZ. "Renewing your Italian in Rome". March 21, 2005. Accessed July 5, 2020. <>.