Hello <3

Hello and nice to meet you again! I hope this update finds you and the ones you love healthy and well. I have really missed connecting with you all, seeing what’s going on in your lives by what you write about and post on your blogs, and bonding over our shared love of Italy!

It’s been a strange couple of years, no? In January 2020 when Italy was the first in the world to shut down for the pandemic, my heart ached for all of Italia, for my sweet friends and family living there, and for you writers that I’ve connected with here, knowing that a place we hold very dear was experiencing something so frightening and unprecedented.

Then March 2020 arrived, and after weeks of rumors, California shut down, with our schools leading the way. Going into lockdown felt at once terrifying and oddly, a welcome relief. For some reason, my brain led me to believe that we would all hide in our houses for two weeks while the virus zipped through our community, and then back we’d go to our regular lives. As long as we all stayed healthy, it sounded kind of peaceful. I had slowly stocked our pantry at the possibility of lockdown coming our way, and so, we hunkered down. Hibernated. Rested. But also, we worried. Checked emails often; checked in with our loved ones. Watched the news constantly.

As time went on and it became clear that two weeks would stretch into many, many more, the creative in me started deflating, particularly as it related to Italy. It was such a frustrating conflict, as someone constantly yearning for more time to devote to creating, writing, learning. Suddenly, long stretches of time presented themselves, to be filled in with that of my choosing. But in such an uncertain and worrisome time, and with so much sadness coming from Italy itself, I didn’t have the focus or concentration to create, nor the heart for the joyful endeavors of writing about Italy and learning Italian. Italy — and its lighthearted joy — felt impossibly far.

Two years away from all that, and I am grateful to be on the other side (*insert crossed fingers and praying hands emojis here). I am back to studying Italian (evviva!), I did write a fair bit about Italy during our downtime after all, and I launched a completely new business project that I want to share with you.

So here we go. 🙂

How I study Italian right now

If learning Italian is one of your resolutions or goals from quarantine, this next little bit is dedicated to you. To re-visit some tips from my earlier language learning days, click here, here and here.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

The short version of my current study plan is that I try to listen to Italian every day, and speak in conversation whenever I have the chance. Reading books or articles in Italian on a regular basis is also very helpful. Over the years, I have learned to weave Italian into the bits of downtime that most days inevitably present. Here’s how that looks for me right now.

Every day, I listen to a podcast in Italian! Some of my favorites are Italiano con Amore, Italiano Bello, Italiano Automatico. All of these are available wherever you listen to your podcasts. I enjoy both the content and the voices/presentation of these creators, and that’s really key to your listening choice — to find subject matter that is appealing and interesting to you. I’m also listening to the Audible version in Italian of The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone, which I read first in English. That’s a new trick that I’ve added to my language learning bag, and I have found it useful to listen to the Italian of a text I’m familiar with. It helps me get away from the word-by-word translation that, as a linear person, I really want to do when reading new material. But it’s better for your brain if you just enjoy the text, and try to get the gist of what’s being conveyed, rather than an exact translation. This keeps your brain and focus in your target language (rather than abruptly going between Italian and English looking up words), and this is also very good for your language acquisition.

Every week (mostly!), I meet with Beatrice, my amazing Italian tutor based in Florence. Thanks to Zoom, we have 30 minutes of friendship and conversation (oh, and also grammar), all in Italian. Bea puts out amazing content to language learners of all levels, including a monthly digital magazine Allora which is fantastico! I encourage you to explore all that she has to offer on her website and social channels (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube). If you can find the time for a private or very small-group lesson on a regular basis, I highly recommend it. The opportunities for live language learning have really exploded during the pandemic, and there are many options available. If you have questions or need some help navigating the world of online lessons/classes, leave me a comment or email me at prayersandpiazzas@gmail.com.

For a structured program, I started Italiano per la Vita created by Italiano Automatico. This is a membership-based program with new content, study tips and student support provided weekly, but creator Alberto puts out great, free content on Italiano Automatico’s YouTube channel. Content here is geared towards learners with a base knowledge of the language, as his videos are all in Italian, but there is a wealth of information available, and you can always utilize subtitles in your first language if needed. (Pro tip: utilize the subtitles in Italian first if you can, you may realize you understand more than you give yourself credit for!)

Last is a fun connection that grew from the pandemic — I found a language learning partner across the world! Fellow Italophile, writer and language learner Ishita, creator at the popular site Italophilia, and I, have been using What’s App to trade messages in Italian and encourage each other in our learning. We have mixed it up for the past year, sometimes sending each other Italian articles or videos we find interesting and then commenting on them; doing a chapter or two from the same workbook; answering prompts from conversation cards; watching the same movie on Netflix. I have long wanted a language exchange partner, and to have one who has also become a friend provides twice the joy!

Writings about Italy

Photo by Fede Roveda on Pexels.com

The good news is, that I finally started writing on a book concept I’ve had for a while (Romancing the Renaissance: Italian History for Travelers). The bad news is that after drafting the first section, I realized that my vision is far more ambitious than my current knowledge and expertise! And although I’ve shelved the book manuscript, I do have some nice pieces in the arsenal that I plan to share in installments here on blog, as I aim to at least post something monthly. I’m also working to be more engaged on social media (Facebook & Instagram), because I love (and need!) the connection with other people who love all things Italian.

Paperback Sanctuary

And now for something completely different…

In January 2021 I had an overwhelming (and somewhat irrational) desire to start a small, local bookstore. I have never worked in a bookstore, nor have I run my own retail establishment. I’m just a book lover who wanted my “next” — in terms of work — to involve books somehow.

Wouldn’t my own little book store be so much fun? Playing with the books all day, stacking and re-stacking, directing customers to their next beautiful read? Still my heart skips a little beat at the thought. But then I remembered that Daughter, my youngest, will be off to college in just a couple of years (!), and, after raising up children for the past 25 years, it occurred to me that my schedule will open in ways I hadn’t really considered. Maybe being tied to a retail endeavor (and the reality of the very hard work it would take to make it a success) might not be what I would want to do once my nest empties.

So I put my thinking cap on, and came up with something that combines my love of reading with my passion for book hunting, and allows for flexibility. It’s Paperback Sanctuary, a monthly book subscription service where I get to know you as a reader, and then I personally select each book to match your specific preferences. I’m really excited about the whole thing! And, not to be too sales-y but this is going out on social media next week, and I want you to see it here first… as part of my community, I’d love to have you as one of my early customers, if you want to give it a try! Use ITALY as the promo code at checkout for a little discount. ❤

And unbelievably, travel

After a year and a half of barely leaving our street, Husband, Daughter and I found ourselves abroad last summer! And so, just for fun, I leave you with a few photos from our trip (that we still can’t believe came to fruition). Not gonna lie, it was equal parts amazing and stressful to take on such a big journey with the worry and restrictions of covid dictating every move. But such a blessing. Photos below from Oxford and Bath in the UK, and Iceland.

Thank you with love

If you’ve made it all the way to the end here of this rather stream-of-consciousness update, I want to say thank you with love and gratitude! Connecting with you all, from around the globe, has filled me with incredible joy throughout the years. I hope to not be such a stranger going forward. I wish you joy, happiness, and health as you walk through your corner of the world.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Ciao Stacy…It’s great to know how you have branched out in so many different ways to follow your passions. Great post!

    1. Thank you, Margie! Nice to hear from you and I hope you are well. ❤️

  2. Ciao di nuovo Stacy! I just came across your blog today and am so happy that you and the family are safe and well and have been able to travel. And of course that we will be hearing from you regularly again! You have given such wonderful advice on how to learn Italian in this blog and as a fellow life-long learner of Italian I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve mentioned. I do have to say, though, the most difficult part of learning any language is getting started. My “Conversational Italian for Travelers” books are too basic for you, but I feel really helpful for the adult who is starting to learn Italian. No prior knowledge of any other language than English required and all information written in a friendly way. I know you’ve visited my Conversational Itailan! blog and hope we can keep in touch. I’d be happy to send you my books if you want. Teniamoci in contatto! – Kathryn Occhipinti

    1. Hello and sorry for the late reply! Nice to hear from you, I have been away from my blogging community for too long! I very much enjoy your books, which I have as a gift from you a few years back. Thank you again for sending them to me! I have been barely holding on to my practice of learning Italian, the pandemic took the wind out of my sails a bit, to be honest. But I still love Italian and it still brings me joy, whenever I’m able to spend time in the language. Hope you are well! xo

  3. Ciao Stacy e bentornata nel mondo dei blog! So nice to hear about what you have been up to. It has been a crazy 2 years, hasn’t it? I’ve continued blogging, but nowhere near as much as I’d have liked. I’m an essential service worker and have also been working as a covid immunizer, so I’ve kept busy working. I’ve also wanted to write a book for a long time, but can’t focus on a topic that doesn’t morph into something unmanageable! I’ve written enough art history posts to understand the issues you are facing. Mannaggia! Glad to hear you are studying with Ishita-learning is so much easier with amici! Hope there are many more travels coming up for you this year! I’m off to Italia twice, starting in June. Yipeeeeee! A la prossima, Cristina

    1. So nice to hear from you as always, Cristina! I remember your post about being a Covid immunizer — such a brave and wonderful thing to do. I’m thankful for people like you who have been working hard to be a part of the solution! I’m cheering you on for that book if you end up finding the right fit for you! And Italy twice this year – evviva! 🎉 un abbraccio!

  4. I understand how book projects can quickly turn massive. Congrats on your language study and new Paperback Sanctuary endeavor!

    1. Thank you, Karen! Did I scan your FB correctly … it looks like you led a trip in Calabria recently? Sounds absolutely wonderful! Cin cin 🙂

      1. Yes, thanks, my Calabria Cultural Tour was a great success this past fall and it was such a relief to travel after so long. Since then, I’ve returned to lockdown mode, but I’m looking forward to doing another tour in the spring!

      2. I hope you stay healthy and have a successful spring trip!

    2. Oh and yes, the book became a monster at section two which started with the Palazzo Vecchio. So much information to digest from afar! 🙂

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