The great Italian writer, Italo Calvino, wrote: “You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours”. With this quote, we begin our interview with Barbara Livolsi, Director of Europass Italian Language School in Florence. The Florentine mother-of-three is passionate about yoga and has been behind the creation of Europass to teach, spread and promote the Italian language, since 1992. During this period of Covid-19, she went beyond any logistical limits and created online courses to be close to foreigners who could not come to Florence.
The Florentine: How important is Florence to you?
Barbara Livolsi: In Florence, I’ve come across many different faces and I have discovered lots of beautiful things. My relationship with the city has changed at every stage of my life. It’s the place where I was born, where I studied German language and literature at university and it’s also where my children grew up. It’s where I started to teach Italian at Europass, which is where I met and continue to work with many wonderful people that hold a special place in my heart. There’s also a lot of great art in Florence that brings people together. The city is so much more than what you see on postcards. There is so much life here, that I would love for people to see more of.
TF: Tell us about the part of Florence that you love the most.
Barbara: It has to be the hills. The nature that surrounds Florence, is part of what defines it. I love telling our students, who come from all over the world, about the many parks along the Arno River that they can visit. I like to ride past the river on my way to work in the morning. I get to see the city as it sleeps and is lit by the morning sun. I pass by beautiful places like Piazzale Michelangelo, as well as lesser-known places like via dell’Erta Canina and Costa San Giorgio. These, to me, are some of the most beautiful parts of the city.
TF: How has the work at Europass changed following Covid-19?
Barbara: This year, more than ever, we have built a close relationship with our students and others that want to learn Italian. We are now able to show students the beauty of Florence virtually as our wonderful teachers have created an online, self-paced course called Europass Agile. On top of that, we offer group online courses, individual lessons and courses that focus on specific themes. Next month, Maurizio, one of our teachers, will start to teach an online course about Italian art history. In Florence, we have also socially distanced our classrooms so that students have a safe learning environment. So now, a student can start one of our online courses and then come to Florence to continue learning, and vice versa.
TF: Right now, the city is getting ready for Christmas, what projects do you have planned for the end of the year?
Barbara: You can really feel the Christmas magic in Florence, from now until the New Year. Between church services, carol singing and live music, there’s something for every kind of tourist. But when Florentines think of December, they think of the many Christmas markets. Here at Europass, we’re already in the Christmas spirit. Students have started to book courses to give to their family and friends as gifts, which is definitely a unique and unforgettable gift. We’re also starting to get ready for 2021. Right now, students can sign up for a 4-month course on Europass Agile for only €99 and whenever they decide to come study with us in Florence, they can pick up from where they left off. I encourage everyone to start learning a new language next year, I’m sure it will give you a new outlook on life.