On Saturday mornings, over one hundred fifty students from around the Greater Boston area come to the Saint John School in the North End. There, professional native-born Italian teachers provide serious, well-structured courses in the Italian language.
Few Italians in Massachusetts are aware that the Italian government has been supporting an Italian cultural program Boston and enriching thousands of students in the Italian language, culture and history in Boston for over 30 years.
The Pirandello Language Center (PILC) was founded in 1973 when the Italian Foreign Ministry approached Boston high school teacher and immigrant from Vicenza, Ernesto Valdesolo, to start a cultural program for Italians living in New England. But with one caveat, financial assistance was promised only if Tino could put the whole program together for an entire year. “Tino” applied himself passionately to the task and succeeded in convincing Scalabrinian priests, Father Joseph Fugolo and Father Dominic Rodighiero to host the program at the Sacred Heart Parish in the North End. The PILC has been hosted there and Tino has been managing it continuously ever since. Since then, direct financial support from Italy has subsided but Tino has overseen the classes supported by growing yearly participation and Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Ministry still provides textbooks and teacher training.
Originally developed for children of Italian descent, between the ages of 4 and 16, the program is now open to everyone. Students from a broad range of nationalities and intentions attend classes like a Korean family planning to send their children to Italy to for their music studies, Colombians, Brazilians, and many more. In addition to language teaching, the overall focus of the program is to present the Boston Italian community a realistic and contemporary image of Italy as a progressive and dynamic country.
Professoressa Anna Maria Camillo, originally from Abruzzi, is the senior teacher among the language instructors and has been teaching at the PILC for the past 35 years. The rest of the teaching staff consist primarily of well educated professionals from Italy residing in the Boston area. The PILC currently employs 12 teachers and can accommodate about one hundred fifty students with classes distributed on the basis of language proficiency and chronological age.
At the heart of the PILC is the Sacred Heart Italian Church; adjacent to the school on North Square. It hosts many of the PILC cultural events including the yearly Christmas Mass as well as the opening and end of the year graduation exercises. Students are expected to learn traditional songs, poetry, and language skits. The program also runs a yearly trip to Italy.
Thanks to committed people like Tito Valdesolo, his assistant Rosario Cascio, also an educator in the Boston School system, and a group of enthusiastic and dedicated teachers, that the program has thrived for 40 years. Tino holds a Doctorate in Science Education, between coordinating classes, producing school related cultural events and filling in for teachers, he runs a successful import/export company in partnership with former students of his.
During the past 40 years the interest in learning Italian has grown significantly; the PILC has succeeded in filling a real need and doing it so that it has brought a bit of real “italianita” among the bistros, bars and cafés of Boston’s North End. Many parents drop off the older children and spend some time shopping at Haymarket and North End’s world famous bakeries, or relax at the many cafes on Hanover Street. Many of the families enjoy an Italian lunch together after school gets out.
2013-2014 Pirandello Italian Language Center Schedule
- The PILC (Pirandello Italian Language Classes) school year 2014-2015 started Saturday September 13th, with class registrations at Saint John’s School in the North End.
- This is the 42nd year Italian Classes are offered at Saint John’s School.
- Children between the age of 4 and 16 can register in one of six language levels
- Adults, 20 years and older, can register in one of two language levels.
- Classes begin September 20 from 10am to 12noon
- There are two sessions of 15 classes. Following the Boston Public School calendar:
- First Session ends January 11th, 2014
- Second Session ends May 10
- Children: $175.00 for 30 weeks
- Adults: $300.00 for 30 weeks