We asked Helen to tell us why the programme in Agnone was crucial for her to learn Italian. 

First thing you do when you arrive back in Agnone?

Wander up to the Caffe Letterario in the centro storico to see friends – like sisters Ilenia and Luciana  who work there – and always have a welcoming hug and smile as they serve the first prosecco. Then I know I have arrived!

What advice would you give to a tourist?

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Agnone is and has cobbled streets, passageways, fabulous views and dozens of small family-run shops. So wear comfortable shoes, have your camera in your pocket and just wander – it’s the kind of place that if you take a break on a town bench, someone will come and start chatting to you.  

If you had to be locked in a building overnight, which would it be?

Right at the end of the town there’s an old palazzo with breathtaking views over the valleys – worth waking up early to watch dawn break on the countryside.

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Where else would you visit in the area?

Pietrabbondante is a pre-Roman archaeological site with small but spectacular ruins which you can explore in peace. And there are medieval walled towns such as Vastogirardi and Belmonte to discover. Personally, I’d make a beeline for one of the small family dairy farms to watch them produce caciocavallo and stracciata cheeses.

Earliest Agnone memory?

The immediate sense of welcome I felt from everyone I met has brought me back each summer – though this year I’m trying September for a change.

Best meal you’ve had in Agnone?

Too many to pick one in particular – the quality of the food is stunning. But maybe the most special was being taught to cook (stuffed zucchini and melanzane, vegetarian and regular) by Maria in her home and then eating every crumb with her family in the garden, by candlelight on a balmy summer’s evening.

If you could buy any building in Agnone, which would it be?

It would definitely be somewhere romantic in the old town  But do you know what? I would rather just stay as a guest – the history of the place is amazing and I’d love to see it sustained and kept within local families.

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What are your favourite late-night hangouts?

Agnone isn’t really a late-night place, but we sit as late as we like in Caffé Letterario drinking in the atmosphere and maybe something stronger…

What is your favourite Agnone discovery?

I know gelato is an Italian invention and found everywhere, but as it is in rich dairy country, the ice cream and cheese in Agnone are both truly special. Just visit one of the gelaterie or cheese shops selling local homemade produce and you’ll see what I mean.

Best advice for students of Italian

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On every language holiday you get classes plus trips around the area. But the special thing about Agnone is the opportunity to talk to local people, and practice your Italian. No-one is bursting to try out their English on you, but they are so friendly and love to chat – and everyone wants you to enjoy their magical town. So don’t be shy!

by Helen, student in Agnone

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