My Experience

My name is Danielle, the creator of Learn Italian for Travel. I am of Italian descent. My grandparents were both Italian immigrants, and I have always identified strongly with my Italian roots. As a child, I always felt strengthened in the lively home of my Nonni (Grandma-although the grammatically correct form is Nonna) and Nonno (Grandpa) whose kitchen always smelled of garlic and fresh coffee, and whose house exuded an ever present sense of vitality. I listened to my grandparents speaking to each other in Italian while growing up, but never learned to speak it myself.

When I was a freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I enrolled in my first Italian class. I studied it for two years, and then went to Padova, Italy for a yearlong study abroad program. This experience was pivotal for me in many ways, the two most important being that I was able to become fluent in Italian, and that I was able to connect deeper to my heritage.

Living in Italy, and being surrounded by Italians helped me to better understand my family, which in turn, allowed for a more integrated sense of self.  That year I was able to meet my Nonni’s brother and sister who didn't speak English.  Spending time with them and their families, and communicating only in Italian made me realize how important it was that I had learned the language.  This experience  gave me a strong sense of purpose about learning the language and making the journey to Italy.  At that time, I was the only member of my family living in America who had met these dear family members.  My great uncle passed away a few years after I returned to California, without ever having met his nephews-my father and his three brothers.  

A few years ago when my parents, children and I travelled to Italy we met many distant relatives on the side of my Nonno.  The experience was amazing life affirming, and again being the only American DiPietro who spoke Italian, I was able to provide a bridge for my parents and kids, and our Italian relatives.


Educational Background

As an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I studied Italian grammar for two years, and then departed to Padova, Italy for a yearlong study abroad program.

All of my classes that year were taken at the Italian University which was challenging. When I first arrived in Padova, I wasn't able to communicate very well. I had studied grammar at UCSB and was better at reading and writing than speaking. I went through the language learning process much like a child acquiring his or her first language.

After an entire year spent living in Italy, attending school, and interacting daily in Italian, I became fluent.  I returned home to finish my Bachelors degree in Italian Cultural Studies.  I was accepted into a Masters program at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and was given my first class to teach.

My first teaching experience was experimental and enjoyable. Being a non-native Italian teacher, I felt that a lot of my strengths as a teacher came from having gone through the language learning process firsthand.  I was also able to relay my experiences of Italian culture as an American.  I decided not to finish the Masters program at Notre Dame in Italian literature, but to return to California and pursue my stronger passion; a Masters degree in Teaching International Languages.


Teaching Experience

My first semester in the Masters program at CSU Chico, I was hired by the local community college to teach Italian conversation classes. These classes met weekly for three hours and focused on conversation.  They were geared for travelers and those interested in learning Italian but not in using the course for University credit.  Many students took my class in order to prepare themselves for travelling to Italy.

When my students returned, I was happy to hear back from many that my class had properly prepared them for their trip; my objective in teaching Italian conversation. I taught these classes for four years, before being given the two Italian classes offered at Butte College with University transferrable credit. I have taught these grammar classes; first and second semester Italian, for the past eleven years.  I really enjoy teaching!  I enjoy connecting with my students not only through the instruction of the Italian language and culture, but also, on a more personal level.  At the end of my second semester Italian class, I always have the entire class over to my house to make ‘gnocchi’ (potato dumplings) together.  Food is such an integral aspect of Italian culture, and I enjoy exposing them to such an experience. 

I have met and continue to meet very interesting people in my Italian classes.  Most people who are studying the language either want to travel to Italy, or are interested in some aspect of Italian culture such as art, opera, or architecture. I am passionate about the language and culture, and am always happy to engage and share this sentiment with others.