Scuola Toscana 2.0: The making of

“We invest in people” (not in fancy decor) is the slogan of Scuola Toscana, who became almost a mantra -but in the last 10 years – in spite of a couple of updates – the whole structure of the school has become a bit obsolete…

All of us, directors, teachers, secretaries, agreed: we need to renovate !
So this february is dedicated to change the image of Scuola Toscana: new flooring, new desk, new spaces for the students, new curtains, new recycling bins, new signs…

many things to do, we need our student’s patience, but we promise that a 22 years-old school will become a brand-new Scuola Toscana 2.0 !

Palazzo Medici Riccardi

one january afternoon with your school; four centuries of the history of art, architecture and collectionism in Florence… winter can be the best season to explore Florence, and Palazzo Medici Riccardi is the perfect place to visit on a Monday – when most of the artistic highlights are closed …

Notte prima degli esami

Traditionally, the night before the exams can be a troubled night for students. It can be troubled as well for whom is in charge of the exams, too.

Being involved with the preparation of the exams of Accademia Italiana di Lingua since 1985, as examinator, expert, internal supervisor, external supervisor, and exam centre in-charge, the night before the exam I always worry. Especially if – like this time – I have a good number of students, three rooms, three supervisors, three commissions of exam, and especially given that the exams are at my school , and everything must go smoothly.
I work hard in advance, to prepare the lists, the rooms, to fix the supervisors, the experts and the examiners. Of course, I have people who helps me, but, at the end of the day, I am the only responsible.
I want to be sure that everyone knows her/his part, and we go over and over the schedule, step by step.
And then, I go over the whole schedule again, to find out what could go wrong. Double check the lists, no name misspelled, noone forgotten, double check the CD for the audio test (CD tends to give bad suprises if you trust them too much), double check the CD players if they do work. Count and recount the exam booklets, one for every student – plus two or three more, just in case – see if the questions match with the answer’s papers .
A plan B is always necessary, even if you do hope to never use it. Backup for CD players, backup for examiners, copy machine at the ready… and then, if a snowfall hits and half of the teacher cannot come… Okay, goodnight, see you early in the morning, tomorrow will be a big day.

Activities at Scuola Toscana: orientamento

The first day at Scuola Toscana all the new students are invited to join the “giro di orientamento“, where an italian language instructor, who happens to be also an expert in art history, and a lover of Florence, shows you the most important monuments and where you can find them… the center of Florence is not too big, and you can always refer to the “Cupolone” (Brunelleschi’s Duomo) if you get lost !
When you participate to this activity, my advice is – try to ask as much questions as possible (in Italian, of course, prepare in advance) so that you can really enjoy the walk.
Ah, it is for free, by the way !

DILC: B1 level exam of Italian for commercial purposes

Nowadays there are many different institutions offering examination in Italian language, mostly the Italian Universities which offer courses for foreigners (Siena, Perugia, Roma); in their offer we find basicly one exam each per ELP (European Language Portfolio) level, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
The Accademia Italiana di Lingua (AIL) a free association of private schools in Europe, has in its catalogue also two exams of Commercial Italian, the DILC (Diploma Intermedio di Lingua Italiana Commerciale) and the DALC (Diploma avanzato di lingua italiana commerciale). Next week a group of 23 students coming form a “Lycee” in Geneve will sit for the DILC at Scuola Toscana.
A B1 Exam in Commercial Italian is quite an exclusivity of AIL – usually the commercial exams are at the top of the range, you are supposed to be already very fluent in Italian – and after that can start with the business Italian.
But, as a matter of fact, reality is often different, many people do not have too much time to study, and must start using Italian in their work as soon as possible ; Europe is full of small business where the knowledge of another language – even an approximate knowledge – can be a competitive advantage. Think of all the people working in the tourism business, or in touristic places, think of members of various family businesses which export their goods, thimk of professionals who go abroad… DILC is designed for them, the syllabus was created on their needs.
In this exams there are small (but real) texts to be understood in their general meanings, short communicative sentences to be written (memos, signs, etc.) and a short letter (or email), there is a bit of technical lexicon. The comprehension texts are real exchanges where you have to gather the important information ( a telephone number, a price) and then there is the spoken part, where the students work in pairs ( so they can help each other – and the exchange “inter pares” is more realistic ) and they have to roleplay some typical work situation (negotiating, convincing, etc)
It is definitely my favourite exam – probably the most useful – as a matter of fact, more than 300 students did it since its creation in 2006 and has been recognized by the UFFT (Swiss Federal Office for professional education and technology) as final Exam of Italian as second national language for all the professional commercial schools of Helvetic Confederation.

A classic

It is a sad thing that nowadays in the bookstores you find every week myriads of new books in huge piles, while it has become impossible to find a book which was published just one year ago.
Also among the publishers, the new has taken the place of the meaningful, and who cares about the readers, this is the trend and let’s follow it, whatever.
Too bad that this illness has spread also to our cozy niche, the books of Italian language for foreigners; once upon a time the shelter of the “Italian for foreigners” books was almost forgotten, stocked with always the same books – boring but reassuringly. When you needed a copy of some classic, you just went to the bookstore and bought it.
Now even in this field there are new books every month, the new book push away the old, and the classic which you have been finding for more then 10 years suddenly has disappeared.
Among the best in my personal ranking are the three booklets “l’italiano per stranieri” by Katerin Katerinov, known in the field as the “katerinov grigio, katerinov verde, katerinov marrone”, from the colour of the cover.
The “katerinov grigio” and “katerinov verde”, the grey and the green booklets, contain the whole of the Italian grammar for foreigners, the necessary blueprint to build your Italian language, nothing less and (very important) nothing more.
They are concise but complete, with good charts and nice examples; a buy, if you want a grammar book, also for self-study. The “katerinov marrone”, the brown one, is an exercise-book, it is a good complement to the other two, but you need a teacher to work with it.
If you want to see the world as a travelling teacher of Italian for foreigners, just pack these three booklets, and your creativity – it’s everything you need !

books to study Italian

Learning Italian at the Bargello

This is the reason you came to learn in Italian here in Florence.
To connect to the Renaissance place, to experience the masterpieces.
On Friday a group of Scuola Toscana students went with their teacher Caterina to visit the Bargello – one of the “top 10” places to visit in Florence. Donatello, Della Robbia, Michelangelo, and more (find the details here)
At Scuola Toscana we decided since the beginning that the guides to our activities should be the same instructors of Italian – this way the museum becomes a dydactic material, the lesson continues out of the classroom, and the students are sure they can fully enjoy the art, because the guide knows their level of knowledge of Italian.
It is a privilege – and a responsibility – for us to show the art of past centuries to people from allover the world…
In our business, we owe everything to this city, its artists and their patrons


exercise with collage

The author of these books was Mr Alessandro Soriani, a teacher of Italian in Denmark.
As far as I know, there are two “Soriani” books, basic and advanced.
The advanced one has many pages with pictures, mostly sort of collages in an avantgarde style (they remember me of some work of the visual artists of “Gruppo 63”, like Pignotti or Ori).

There are many exercises with self-correcting schemes, which were quite used in the seventies. You had a question with two or three possible answers. If you hit the right one, you went forward, to the next question – if you hit a wrong one, according to the type of mistake, you were re-directed to a grammar explaination, or a conjugation chart, etc. and from there you could start again.

a self correcting exercise

It is a “if…then goto…” scheme that you were going to find some years after in the basic programming, ervidently the computer revolution was in the air, but the hardware was still not available to the masses.


Some of you asked me about this exercise… it is one of the nicest in this nice book, I like it because you do not need to do copies, and you can do it also by yourself (in these old books there are many exercises you can do without the teacher, probably they were meant also for self-teaching).

Here you have a small story, and then the story is repeated with some blanks in place of some words, then is repeated again with more words “erased” and so on, until in the end there are more blanks than written words. The idea is every time to cover the previous text and try to figure out the missing words, and again and again until you are almost able to remember the whole text. It is very good to learn words, lexical chunks, and grammatical modules. It is not so different with the things you used to do in the language laboratories…

You can do it very easy in class, or even alone, with some text you like, erasing the words every time.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Minty-Fresh™.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 11 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 17 posts. There were 15 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 27mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 15th with 34 views. The most popular post that day was foto 4.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for scuola toscana, toscana blog, famous italian desserts, florenz uffizien, and scuola.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


italian language course in Italy March 2009
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