Romi's full interview

Kiwis in Italy!

I recently met Romi Patel at work and found we shared a common interest in Italy and the Italian language.  Romi and I used to greet one another and share short exchanges in Italian in the office and it was truly fun. After his assignment ended, Romi was off to Italy and what I heard he was doing was interesting.  So I 'interviewed him' for Notizie da Sogno d'Italia!

Read on....

Hi Romi, thanks for the time to chat today.  What are you doing in Italy right now?Romi and Gaynor at-Mt Mazzarone - A skifield close to Borgomanero

Gaynor and I are here in Italy for two reasons. Firstly to pursue our study of the Italian language and, secondly, to spend three weeks in vacanza, practising our Italian and travelling around Northern Italy.

Where are you from and what do you normally do?

I am, originally, from Auckland, but now live on a life-style block near Pukekohe (part of Auckland). I have lived there for the last 22 years and share it with Maximillian, the Orange Cat and Arnold and Eva, my two Kunekune piglets (all animals understand my Italian perfectly).

I don’t think there is a “normal for me”. My career spans law, broadcasting, and engineering. My current occupation is as a consultant in business growth.  I assist companies with things such as developing strategy, responding to tenders, project management, and mergers and acquisition.

What inspired you to go to Italy to learn Italian?

I suppose that I should answer this by commenting on why I decided to learn Italian in the first place. During previous visits, for both pleasure and business, I found that by combining English with my university French and schoolboy Latin I was able to communicate with the locals.  So, I said to myself, all those years ago, “one day I will learn this language; one day Roger Fitch, one day”. So, five years ago that “one day” arrived.
It was one of those mid-life crisis things, where I decided I needed a new challenge to keep the old grey matter functioning. Gaynor decided to join me in this pursuit and we enrolled at the Dante Alighieri (the Italian society) school in Auckland to commence our conoscienza of La bella Vita.
Everyone that knows me, knows that I am a pugnacious bastard, and that once I start something I want to master it. Learning once a week in class for two hours and using self-help aids, such as CDs, takes you only so far. So, we decided to bite the bullet and head off to Italy to do the ‘full immersion’ thing.
So, two years ago we attended the Edulingua school in Castelraimondo, a small town in the Le Marche region. This course was an intensive four-week exercise, which left us mentally drained.
Now, two years later, we decided to take it a bit easier and do only a week of “school” and three weeks of inflicting our newly-honed Italian skills on real Italians.

How long does the language school last?
To call this current experience a “school” is probably incorrect. There are just the two of us and we live in our teacher’s home (an apartment). So, from breakfast to nightcap we are constantly learning and strengthening our Italian. We have lessons in the morning with Lucia and then, in the afternoon and evenings she takes us on site-seeing trips in the area (and in the Lakes region of Italy, there is a lot to see), we go shopping, and we dine with her friends.
How much does it cost?
 Lago d'Orto - Borgomanero
All up, for two of us, it cost circa €1,800. This price included:
  • Being picked up and dropped off at Milan airport
  • All lessons and materials
  • Accommodation
  • WiFi (having WiFi is now one of our must-have criteria for selecting accommodation)
  • All meals, including eating out (we weren’t allowed to pay for anything), and the compulsory daily gelati
  • Wine and drinks with dinner (naturalmente)
  • Excursions and entrance fees
When you consider the average price for three star accommodation in Italy is 70-80 Euros per night, this is not bad value.

Where is the school?
Lucia is based in Borgomanero, a town located about 40 minutes from Milano

How did you get there from New Zealand? How long did it take?
Well, it is a long way from New Zealand to Italy and we spent 48 hours getting there via London.  However, we were picked up at the airport in Milan by our host Lucia and she drove us to her home where we were staying.  This was marvellous, as taking yet more public transport or worse trying to drive after such a long flight would have been so tedious.
Where do you live while studying in the language school?
In Lucia’s home. She has a large three bedroom apartment, located a short walk from the town centre
What is the best thing about doing this?
The concept of total immersion would have to be the highlight for me.  Lucia was available every waking moment, to guide us and, more importantly, correct us when we used our Italian.

Lake MaggioreWhy did you choose this school?
Our requirements were:
  1. A small town (I dislike large cities, especially Italian ones)
  2. One week long
  3. Southern Italy.
However, due to work commitments, we couldn’t get here until mid-summer, when it would have been way too hot in the South. As we have friends in Northern Italy, we decided to stay in the North and visit them (as it has turned out the average temperature here has been in the high 30s!).
We chose Lucia because of the following factors:
  • Her website ( was clear and concise. Most of the others were somewhat vague or confusing about what was included and what was not. A large number of teachers offer services through “bureaus”, which have websites that take too much effort to navigate through
  • It met out requirement for total immersion in a homestay (this narrowed the field)
  • We received a timely response (It’s amazing how slow some people can be to respond)
  • The price was all-inclusive (apart from personal spending money we didn’t need to worry about a thing)

Is there any preparation or something you need to do before attending?
Not really.  I would advise anyone thinking of taking the plunge to clearly communicate their objectives and learning preferences in advance of arrival.  We did this with Lucia and were able to focus on the areas we needed help with, rather than attending a standard Italian language course. One week is not a long time and it is important to have an advance idea of where you will need assistance.

How did you match the course with the level of Italian you have?
By clearly communicating with our experience and expectations.  Lucia customises her delivery accordingly.  She has taught people ranging from those with only elementary skills, through to those, like us, who need fine-tuning and more experience in using the language in real life.  Through several email exchanges she was able to sum up my expertise (or lack thereof) and tailor her approach to suit us. So, it was less of the Italian for travellers (such as asking, “from which platform does the train to Urbino leave?”) and more of participating in everyday dialogue.  Meeting her friend and having “normal” conversations over dinner and drinks is a great way to improve your Italian and to raise your confidence

Romi, thank you very much for your time and sharing your experiences with both me and the Dream of Italy NZ community.  We hope we will see you when you are back in Auckland again. Ciao for now!

If you are interested, you can follow Romi on his blog here:


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