Italian Conversation: Culture and Cuisine of Italy

You are here

Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

This course is intended for Intermediate and Advanced Italian students. 

Additional student cost: 

100 euros


This course gives students the opportunity to practise Italian language while helping them approach one of the most important and world-­renowned aspects of Italian culture: la cucina italiana. Classes will alternate conversation sessions, where students will use the language to explain recipes and to exchange information about Italian regional characteristics, with practical cooking lessons. Classes at the IES Abroad Center will be focused on Italian language practise: students will be asked to discuss Italian recipes, cultural differences in cooking and in the approach to food. We will also discuss idiomatic expressions related to food, together with historical and cultural reasons behind the development of different cuisines, ingredients and cooking practises throughout the country.

Cucina In is the cooking facility where the practical lessons will take place (Piazza Gerusalemme 7, Passante Ferroviario-­‐Domodossola Stop). Practical cooking lessons at Cucina In are based on Italian regional food preparations. A skilled chef will introduce the class to the recipes from the different regions. Students are required to use their hands in the food preparation, as well as to take notes on the ingredients and procedure, and to use only Italian (no English allowed, except for clarifications). When the cooking is over, students, instructor and chef sit around the table and eat while discussing about the food and other matters in Italian.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.

IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will have learned:

  • the main Italian cooking methods and the appropriate terminology of food and food preparations
  • Italian cooking traditions (what Italians eat during the holidays), and Italian habits related to food, eating and food preparations
  • most of the Italian regions along with information on typical food products, main food preparations from the different areas of Italy and their historical origins
  • detailed information on food culture in Italy by reading selected newspaper articles
Method of presentation: 

The uniqueness of this course derives from the combination of a communicative approach to language teaching in class with hands-­on-lessons at Cucina In. The course offers insights into Italian culture related to food and cooking habits. The vocabulary used in the course will cover ingredients, kitchen tools, verbs relating to preparing meals, food-­related adjectives, idiomatic forms and expressions, etc. There will be in-­class discussions, students’ presentations, field studies, hands-­on lessons. 

Pledge for Italian-­only in class. Students are invited to formally commit themselves to use only Italian in class. The teacher will reward the respect of the pledge for Italian only (regardless of linguistic accuracy).

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Midterm exam - 15%
  • Final exam - 20%
  • Oral presentation 1 & 2 - 15% each, 30% total
  • Final Essay - 15%
  • Video - 10%
  • Active participation through discussion, reading and writing - 10%

Oral Presentation
The oral presentation 1 is the research on the Italian region assigned to the student by the teacher and it is due during the semester according to teacher’s directions. Oral presentation 2 is a personal research that students conduct throughout the semester on a specific topic that particularly interested them.

Final Essay
The final essay is a paper on any subject related to Italian cuisine: students are expected to discuss their topic showing familiarity with it, both from a linguistic and content prospective. The paper has to be submitted as a typed text, the format is 1000 words.

The video is a group project that will be explained in class by the teacher.

  • A 100-­‐93: excellent; A-­‐ 92-­‐90: very good performance
  • B+ 89-­‐88: good; B 87-­‐83: nearly good performance; B-­‐ 82-­‐80: more than adequate performance;
  • C+ 79-­‐78 / C 77-­‐73: adequate performance; C-­‐ 72-­‐70: not completely adequate performance; D 69-­‐60: inadequate performance;
  • F 59 and below: really unsatisfactory performance. 

Regular attendance and active participation in class (both at IES Abroad Center and at the Cooking School) will be fundamental for grade assessment. No excused absences will be allowed. Students are required to assimilate the new vocabulary and information presented during class and demonstrate how they are able to apply it during the practice lessons and in-­class conversations. At home they will be asked to complete exercises, to read and comment texts, to do research work for in-­class presentations and to use the language to interview Italian speakers. Homework assignments not completed will result in the loss of points. Written quizzes will test grammar, idiomatic expressions, vocabulary and the topics covered in class.





Introduction to the course


L’Italia a tavola; lessico: cucina, attrezzi. Storia della cucina italiana


Hands-­on lesson at Cucina In– Ricette Lombarde


Tradizioni lombarde. L’aperitivo


I primi (pasta, riso, zuppe). Field study at Peck 


Hands-­‐on lesson at Cucina In– Ricette venete e trentine


I secondi e i contorni. Students’ presentations of Veneto e Trentino Alto Adige and their culinary traditions


La dieta mediterranea


Hands-­on lesson at Cucina In– Ricette toscane e liguri


Midterm Exam


I dolci. Students’ presentations of Toscana and Liguria


Hands-­on lesson at Cucina In– Ricette emiliane e piemontesi


La pizza. Students’ presentations of Emilia Romagna and Piemonte and their culinary traditions


Il caffè


Hands-­on lesson at Cucina In– Ricette della Sicilia e Puglia


L’Italia in festa. Students’ presentation of Sicilia e Puglia and their culinary traditions.


Il pane. Field study to a bread factory


Le buone maniere a tavola


Video assignment due – Eating traditions during the holidays


Oral presentations 2


Pre-­final review


Expo Day


Final Exam


Required readings: 
  • Massei G., Bellagamba L. 2012, Sapori d’Italia. Viaggio nella cultura gastronomica italiana, Eli Edizioni, Recanati.
  • Articles and materials posted on Moodle.