Now that I have a good feel for what daily life is like for me here in Assisi, I thought I would share with you something of what happens each day.
Because I am here to study the Italian language, a good part of the day is spent seeking to learn this beautiful language. I am studying at the Academia Lingua Italiana Assisi, an academy that was established, if memory serves, twenty-five years ago and employs a style of teaching unlike anything I have experienced in my studies of Spanish, Latin, and Greek in the United States of America.
Rather than focusing on rote memorization and drills, the academia utilizes a communicative style and teachings Italian in Italian, using only a very few English words when absolutely necessary. For example, if we ask what a particular word means, the professor never gives us a literal translation of the word in English, but using mimes and other words in Italian to give us the general idea of what the word means. Initially, this was rather frustrating but now I can see the wisdom of it; it is one thing to know how to read a language but quite another to know how to speak it.
Last evening at dinner I was able to carry on conversation in Italian; it was very broken Italian, but it was a conversation nonetheless. More and more, I find myself thinking of things in Italian - nothing deep or of any importance, mind you, just names of things, etc. - without having to do an English to Italian translation in my mind.
The weekdays generally tend to follow a similar schedule.
I wake early here, about 5:30 a.m., both because my room is . warm and the sun is rising. After preparing for the day I celebrate Mass and spend some time in prayer before having a little breakfast at 8:00 a.m.
Typically, my class meets from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., with a 15 minute break at 11:00 a.m. I am in this class with about eight seminarians from the North American College and one Sister from India. In this four-hour session we learn knew grammar; currently we are focusing on learning more verbs in the present tense, which are helpful when trying to speak.
Lunch is served at 1:00 p.m., or very shortly thereafter when the other students who are also staying at the Casa Papa Giovanni return from the academy.
A second, smaller session meets in the afternoon from 2:30 p.m. until 4:20 p.m. I am in this session with three seminarians and the focus is much more specific and personal. I find this hour and fifty minute session to be the most fruitful.
However, from time to time, the afternoon session is cancelled and when we go on a tour of important sites in Assisi. We have had two such tours thus far: one of the library of the Sacro Convento of the Basilica of St. Francis and one of the Basilica of St. Francis itself, with a special focus on the frescoes.
After class, I generally go exploring and spend a good deal of time wandering about the streets and churches of Assisi and through the Spoleto Valley. Sometimes, though, errands must be run; this afternoon I will get a haircut.
Dinner is served at 7:30 p.m., after which I make my way to the Rocca Maggiore - the castle above the city - or to the Basilica St. Francis to watch the sun set behind the distant hills. I then return to the center of town to visit with some of the seminarians, eat a little gelato, and read in the piazza.
I return to my room about 10:30 p.m. and spend some time catching up on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and the like and go to bed around 11:30 p.m.
The weekends are completely free. I used this past Saturday to climb Mount Subasio twice and to visit the hermitage of St. Francis. Sunday I walked through the Spoleto Valley to visit the churches of San Damiano, Rivotorto, and Santa Maria degli Angeli, which houses the Portiuncola.
All in all, life here in Assisi is very good.