"The Passion for Italian that Makes Retirement Even More Fun"
March 2013
John Sadler, M.D.

Some consider a synonym for "retirement" to be "opportunity." About 12 years ago my wife, Ami, and I decided to "do something different together." We chose to study Italian and not only do we have no regrets, we are still stimulated by Italy, the language, the culture, the history, the music? what can I say? It has become my passion, which Ami shares. We decided to study by immersion and started during a Spring Time in Montepulciano, a lovely hill town south of Florence, where we had heard that Italian was spoken "standard" without dialects, etc. Also the people of Montepulciano have an agreement with the school there to speak only Italian, so one cannot order a panino, pasta, or un dolce (desert) without saying in Italian what one wants. Ami survived quite well as a 'principiante', which means, frank beginner. The Montepulciano Nobile wine did not hurt our studies in any way. Since then we have studied in Florence and Rome several times, but now in Bologna, our favorite place, several times a year.

Life Member LogoThe advantage of Bologna is that everyone speaks Italian and the wait persons do not try to practice English (since they don't really know it), as is so common in Florence. Also there are really no tourists in Bologna, even though it is the home of the first University in Europe, founded in 1088, widely recognized as the oldest university, whose motto is "Alma mater studiorum", (Latin for "nourishing mother of studies"). It is quite fun being around university students, and "we" do not go out to eat before 9:30 or 10:00 pm. I have rarely studied with another American at our private school, La Cultura Italiana, but instead, usually with Japanese, Germans, Austrians, French, Swedes and Danes, and some from Latin America. Ami and I also have been studying at the university level at the University of Colorado in the Italian Department, with studies in Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Renaissance Art studies, you name it.

We also study privately weekly with one of the professors, who is from Milan. We are actively involved in the Italian Theatre Program, and this year's program being put on by the students is around Orlando Furioso, written in the 1500's. I shouldn't forget to mention the history of Italian movies from the "Neorealismo Film" period after WW II to the present.

Fortunately, after having "failed retirement" several times, taking mini-sabbaticals in between times before returning to work, I have been able to enhance these studies as I can go to Italy several times a year and study from one to 2 weeks at a time in whatever school I choose. Now with Locum Tenens opportunities, I can work a defined period of time and before signing a contract I let them know my dates available, which of course, means I block out time for being in Italy weeks at a time. And yes, we do VACATION in Italy, so it is not all study. We like hiking in the Dolomites, where I have also skied, even though we have a ski area 30 minutes from us in Colorado.

One time early on in our studies in Italy, we took a trip to Sicily to explore Sicily on an Italian tour involving a Pullman Bus, on which there were 45 Italians, all speaking various dialects with different accents. (Think of the movie called "Bread and Tulips.") What a challenge! Having breakfast, lunch and dinner together and doing all the site seeing in Italian to all the famous places in Sicily, we came back a bit overwhelmed but fortunately, without full blown signs and symptoms of PTSD. Now we are at a pace where we enjoy watching Montalbano detective movies together with our friends.

Anyone who knows me understands that I am an avid cyclist, and my cycling trips take me to all kinds of new and interesting places which do not involve formal study. But with the language now, it gives me the freedom to cycle into rural areas of Italy without worrying about getting around in the language. I have had many interesting encounters with Italian cyclists on these trips, but that would be another article.