Unforgotten Italy

By Martha McPhee
The scenic Todi landscape
Photograph: Photo by: Bobby Fisher

But it is in Assisi where this story ends, in the upper basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, surrounded by Giotto and Cimabue frescoes, where I sat in a pew next to Christina in the airy, light-filled interior while Mark and my mother studied the paintings and the children roamed about. As churches will have you do, I began to reflect. I had thought that having a family had placed Italy and my enthusiasm for it deep in the past. But here I was relearning it, speaking it, using it to inspire my family with the passion that fueled me as a teenager, opening up our world, making it wider and more profound. Christina had made this possible, and I felt grateful. Just then, Livia and Jasper quietly came up to us, pointing to a group of about 40 nuns in their gray habits, awed by the concentration of them. The nuns had just finished a tour led by a priest who stood now before them, thanking them for coming. As he bowed, the nuns began to sing a prayer of thanks. They filled the church with song, and when they finished, Livia, her eyes wide, mesmerized, said, “Grazie.”

Learn Italian in Todi

How to enroll Speak! Language Center’s annual trip, "Two Weeks in Todi," takes place from June 20 to July 4 in 2009 (about $2,200, including classes, lodging and most cultural events). The   school also offers customized trips year-round.

How to get there  If you fly into Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Todi is easily reached by bus (the trip takes three hours and costs less than 20 euros). Flying into the smaller Perugia  airport is also an option. For more information, click here.

Where to stay Speak! Language Center will do the booking for you, but there are a number of hotels to choose from: In central Todi, try the charming and historic  San Lorenzo Tre, a bed-and-breakfast with views of the surrounding hills, located on a side street just off the main piazza. Just outside Todi, consider the elegant boutique hotel Roccafiore, which also houses a spa and winery. My favorite, of course, is Acquaviva, where we stayed in the countryside, surrounded by gorgeous views of Todi.

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