In autumn 2005 I got my first job in Italy, teaching English to a group of undergraduates at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana’s Istituto Comprensivo. The course was funded by the EC and the pay was very satisfactory. Clearly part of the reason why I got the job was that the course was held in the afternoon and most Italian “professori” prefer just to teach in the mornings since the majority of college subjects are taught at that time.
I returned after the Christmas break to continue the enjoyable course with the enthusiastic students. On the last day it started to snow quite heavily and I was very kindly met at the station by the course director who personally chauffeured me to the class. The snow continued to fall and the director decided to cut the lesson short so that everyone would have a chance to get home before road and rail conditions worsened – home for many students (and me) doesn’t mean a local bus ride but a demanding journey to a hill-top village.
I got to the station and found it had been transformed into something out of the trans-Siberian railway. Romantically I thought of certain scenes in the film of Doctor Zhivago. Through the blizzard a train appeared like a ghostly apparition and I did manage to get back to Bagni di Lucca. There a lone bus transported me to the centre of town only to find all services back to Longoio had been blocked by snow forcing me to spend the night in a little hotel (which fortunately had kept open outside the tourist season.)
The following morning I read that the weather had been the coldest for some years in this part of the world. It seems quite different eight years on. The winter so far has been surprisingly mild, persistent rain has fallen throughout the night and it’s debatable whether I shall light the log fire during the day. Global warming rearing its ugly head again? I hope not too much – I do prefer the classical winter scenario of snow and sun.
I hope also that students living in hill-top villages managed to get back to their homes without too much difficulty, that evening. What sacrifices are made in the interests of English language education!