Enjoy a unique, stimulating experience in Liguria near Cinque Terre by staying in your qualified and experienced Italian teacher’s own home.
Combine the study of the Italian language immersion with the pleasure to live and experience it in everyday authentic life, while reading a newspaper having a cappuccino, shopping, discovering artistic and naturalistic beauties of Sarzana and its unique medieval surroundings: that’s the best place in Italy to learn Italian
And finally enjoy dinners with my friends, chatting about different subjects such as history, local traditions, sport, movies, books in a friendly and homely atmosphere.
This Italian homestay language courses experience combines a tailor made Italian course with the opportunity of sharing your teacher’s everyday life and thus improving your Italian in a pleasant way.
“I am a long experienced Italian teacher as a foreign language; specialized in Italian classes for adults. I love my job, and I take pleasure in sharing my passion for Italian language and culture. Like a tailor I take care of everything, from global vision to little details; the result is a high focused Italian course for adults based on my student’s specific needs. Last but not least, I also appreciate the cultural exchange of a homestay language experience ”
Degree in Modern Languages and Literatures
Professional Master’s Programme in "Didactics of Italian as a Foreign Language" at Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice
33 year – experience as a French language teacher at a state high school.
15 year – experience teaching Italian as a foreign language.
Specialised in teaching Italian as a foreign language.
Specialised in adult’s teaching
Since 2007 registered with the national register of Italian teachers LS APIDIS
“My Italian courses are especially targeted at adult learners, wishing to learn Italian in Italy with a senior Italian teacher, totally customized to their needs and interests.
My living Italian language courses are always focused on the learner’s comfort, tailored on his own characteristics, constantly mixing quality, variety and pleasure of co-working.”.
“My home is 2 km from the centre of Sarzana, i live in a little comfortable loft with a beautiful view of the Apuan Alps. In my flat there are two cozy bedrooms, two bathrooms, a big living room with a fireplace, a beautiful terrace and… two cats: Briciola and Mucca. There’s a bus stop right across the road but the city centre is within walking distance.”
Sarzana is a little medieval town on the border between Liguria and Tuscany, not far from the sea and with the Apennines as a backdrop
Thanks to its wonderful location, you will have plenty of travel opportunities, including hiking along mountain trails (Montemarcello Park and Apuan Alps) relaxing on the beach, exploring tiny fishing villages along the Ligurian coast (Tellaro, Cinque Terre), admiring art treasures (the Cathedral of Sarzana; St Peter’s church in Portovenere), and visiting ancient archaeological sites (Roman city of Luni) and the castles of nearby villages (Castelnuovo and Fosdinovo).
In addition, during summer, Sarzana hosts several cultural events like “The Attic in the Street”, the Festival of the Mind, “Books along the Street”.
If your goal is to improve your Italian, whatever your grade: beginner, intermediate or advanced, a homestay course with Sira Gheller will definitely move you to the next level
Living with your teacher is to fully immerse yourself in the language; it's wasn't just the 20 hours of formal lessons per week that I undertook, but the fact that even when not in the 'classroom' I was still learning - over breakfast, over dinner or when we were travelling to a destination, as Sira continued to actively engage me in conversation - all in Italian, of course! Sira offers a learning by doing method of learning Italian - I was not only introduced to all her friends, but we spent time together over lunch or over dinner, thus exposing me to native Italian speakers who may not be quite so clear in their pronunciation! We went for coffee and read the papers together, went to local markets and went hiking in a group, as well going on excursions to places such as the marble quarries of Carrara and to some of the mediaeval hilltop hamlets in the area. Time off was arranged during the week so that you could visit local towns and other places of interest (there is a very good train service along the coast) or so that you could spend time consolidating your learnings.
Sira is an excellent teacher - very patient (despite repeatedly making the same mistake she corrected me gently until I started to self-correct and finally got it right!) and very good at explaining grammatical points as well as words that I didn't already know the meaning of. By the end of a fortnight, we were watching the telegiornale (TV news) together with Sira asking me questions about what was going on in the world and me summarising events in Italian!
Be aware that Sira is an early riser, and therefore goes to bed early, so don't expect any evening entertainment; there is no television in her apartment, but the wifi is excellent so you can watch programmes on your iPad or laptop, if you take one. I took advantage of being here to catch up on some much needed sleep!
I was looking for somewhere to go that would make me speak and learn Italian. Many courses I looked at were ‘college’ based, which meant after the lessons it would be so easy to slip into speaking English even with foreign students.
Sira’s course was exactly what I was looking for. One to one tuition and immersion in Italian life.
The course structure is excellent.. a great mix of lessons, practice, and day to day speaking and visits to some beautiful places ( all part of the learning process even admiring amazing scenery out would come a quick lesson ! But what better way to learn)
Sira is a superb teacher, with a well planned itinerary to suit individuals interests and abilities. She is great fun and a very easy person to spend time with.
I was fortunate to be asked to be her guinea pig for a new course, she is planning to do with her friend who is a chef. Learn Italian and experience Italian cooking. We had a hilarious afternoon making tagliatelle and sauce. Just what you need to lose any inhibitions.
Location ... great . Direct train from Pisa to Sarzana and a great hotel Bologna within easy walking distance to the train station if you have to overnight or like me you want to extend your stay and see Pisa and put into practice your Italian.
I would recommend Sira’s courses to anyone who wants to have that one to one experience of learning/improving your Italian. Thanks Sira for a fantastic week.
Thank you very much for y wonderful week with you (and the cats). You are a great teacher and I learnt a lot
Realizing I needed a one-on-one 'kick start' I found HMST Italia on line; Sira answered my queries quickly and thoroughly - having filled in a short questionnaire in order for Sira to assess my level I set off for Sarzanna really not knowing what to expect but hoping to come away with some basic conversation.
My welcome by Sira was warm and the apartment cosy and comfortable and I found myself being tutored immediately in the basic greetings.
As promised Sira had compiled a schedule of both lessons and leisure activities based on the information I had given her about my interests.
In the first hours Sira ascertained what I actually wanted to achieve and why and set out a way to accomplish this.
I found her teaching thorough, informative and sensitive, giving me not just the framework to learn but also, from the very beginning, the confidence and assurance to speak in Italian.
Sarzana is a beautiful medieval town in one of the most naturally beautiful and historic areas of Italy and through Sira's guidance I came away with not just far more Italian than I thought I could possibly learn in such a short time, but an experience of the culture of the area. I couldn't have asked for more.
Thank you very much for y wonderful week with you (and the cats). You are a great teacher and I learnt a lot
A great week with Sira - I learnt so much, and so much fun too! Thoroughly recommend it.
Thank you for a wonderful, memorable two weeks. Il tuo bellissimo modo di insegnare, hai dipinto per me un quadro affascinante e memorabile di una belle cultura , la sua terra e la sua gente. Non ti dimenticherò mai.
Two weeks with Sira did wonders for my Italian -- and my pleasure in speaking it! Sira understood exactly what I needed at every step, and she made the process so much fun that our time flew by. When I started, my conversational Italian was painfully slow and self-conscious. Sira promised to "unblock" my ability to speak and she did exactly that. Intuitively, she knew when my brain was ready to be challenged and when it needed rest. I always felt stimulated but never overloaded. Our conversations were so engaging that I almost forgot I was "studying." Instead, I felt I was spending time with a wonderful friend. I can't wait to go back!
It was a lovely week at Sira's, and Sarzana is a cozy town which is lovely to walk around. Sira always managed to adapt the teaching to me and what I needed to learn. She made me understand new aspects of learning a language, how important pronunciation and the melody of the language are. And then it's great that the lessons can also take place on the beach, in the supermarket, in a cafe and for wine tasting. I am definitely considering coming back.
With Sira as your guide, you will genuinely learn by doing and have lots of fun in the process! Her warm personality made me feel right at home, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for the area allowed me to experience Sarzana like a local. I will never forget the charming city, beautiful panorama, or the variety of daily adventures with Sira and her friends From castles to card games, Sira thoughtfully considered my interests and went above and beyond to create the perfect week-long itinerary. As for my Italian, Sira naturally met me where I was and appropriately challenged me with engaging lessons in a variety of skills, topics, and settings. I never thought I'd have an Italian lesson on a mountaintop or an historic pilgrim trail! She is a truly gifted and intuitive educator, which I can appreciate as a fellow language teacher. I was sad to leave Sira and Sarzana behind, but I left with a greater understanding of the Italian language, culture, and people--and lots of wonderful memories of my new friend in Sarzana!
Spending a week with Sira, totally immersed in Italian life, was an amazing experience. Sira is a wonderful teacher and I felt so much more confident speaking Italian by the end of the week. If, like me, your Italian is at beginner level, there is no need to worry. Sira will identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus on them. Her lessons are informal and she will make you feel very relaxed but you will always be learning I booked some 1:1 online lessons before my stay with Sira and this allowed us to get to know each other and for her to get to know my level of Italian. This was good because she knew what areas I needed help with before I arrived. Sarzana is in a lovely area of the country and we visited some beautiful places. We had dinner with some of her friends who were very friendly and welcoming. We cooked pizza, made Tiramisu, walked on the beach, had lessons at a beach bar (il Bagno) and I learned a lot about the history of the local area and Italian culture in general. If you want to live like an Italian and improve your Italian language skills, I would highly recommend a stay with Sira. You will not be disappointed.
I had been thinking about learning Italian and experience a homestay program in Italy for few years and found Sira's website last November. Sira responded quickly and has become my teacher whom I trust because of her professionalism and commitment to teaching. After 4 months of weekly lessons, I finally met Sira in person last May in Sarzana, a beautiful city with full of history. Sira created a lesson program for my level (beginner) based on my interest in history and cooking, took me to beautiful places in the region, and introduced several places to explore on my own as well. She is the most patient and thoughtful teacher who really loves teaching, and treats her student with respect. I truly had the best time of my life in learning Italian and Italian culture with Sira, and now I can call her my lifetime teacher and friend.
I spent a week with Sira in Sarzana in May 2022. A visit that had, sadly, been delayed by two years because of Covid. After trying to learn Italian for several years, I had got stuck in a rut and was making no progress....
The week with Sira was a fantastic experience and really, really good for my Italian. She is a truly excellent teacher, a wonderful host and enthusiastic tour guide for this very special part of Italy called Lunigiana. We some formal lessons, but most of the time we spoke Italian. Not a word of any another language was spoken, which for me was what was needed.
Sira is very knowledgeable, passionate and interested in a wide range of things so we had no shortage of topics for discussion, debate and sharing.
The weather was really nice and I like the outdoors, so we spent a lot of time walking in the lovely countryside around Sarzana up into the Apuan Alps and by the dramatic coast (Golfo della Spezia). The footprints of past writers and poets were all around from Shelley and Byron to DH Lawrence.
As it happened, the Giro D'Italia (a famous cycle race) was passing by during my stay. Sira gladly humoured me, so we spent a day out driving through the gorgeous Appennine mountains to see the Giro go over a mountain pass. Together we were real cycle fans (“tifosi di bici”) for the day.
An added bonus was meeting several of Sira's friends who came round for dinner. I was a bit nervous at the prospect of trying out my Italian on other people. However, they were all extremely friendly and it was interesting to get (and share) a wide range of views and perspectives on life, wine and Italy and other important things.
By the end of the week I was really sad to say goodbye to Sira as she had become a good friend as well as my teacher (“Profe”). I will always remember with fond memories my week in Sarzana.
Ciao Sira and Ciao Sarzana
My Homestay spent with Sira simply flew past far too quickly……she's a great teacher, considerate, sympathetic, encouraging and very patient. The lessons were interesting, suited to what she felt would be of most help for me The excursions were varied, all most enjoyable enabling me to experience something of everyday Italian life...as was sharing meals with some of her friends and meeting her daughter. Sira made me feel most welcome, her flat was very comfortable so I was sad to leave but feel encouraged and determined to continue her good work to improve my Italian.
I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my homestay with Sira. She is an excellent teacher – well-prepared, attentive and flexible. There was a good mix of more formal “lessons” and local trips out which facilitated more natural conversations based on what we were doing. I also appreciated meetings some of her friends and family...which was both interesting and a rewarding challenge in terms of hearing different accents. All the practical aspects of my stay were well-organised and clear and by the end I also felt that I had experienced a real insight into Italian life and culture. Thank you for everything!
Meeting and studying with Sira was a truly transformative event in my life. Sira is a uniquely dynamic woman of great warmth, kind patience, and a knowing and fantastic sense of humor. I first studied Italian language thousands of years ago and have been working to regain that foundation over the past few years. Choosing to travel to Sarzana to study with Sira was... a leap outside of my comfort zone even though I'm a fairly adventurous person. Sira understood my interests and created a schedule that was idiosyncratic and dynamic. Our excursions and hikes were perfection. Sira shared her life and her friends and I truly felt — and feel — welcome in Italy and included by Italians. I know that Sira will forever be a friend in addition to a supportive coach of my language abilities.
Learning Italian with Sira is like meeting a friend for coffee.Sira is patient , professional , flexible and always on time. I always look forward to my lessons and I am looking forward to continuing to work with Sira!
Sira is a fantastic teacher !!
I can certainly recommend Sira as an Italian teacher. Her manner is very kind and not at all frightening. The benefits of being taught by a native speaker I think are great as you get to hear correct pronunciation at your own pace. The other benefit is one-to-one tuition based on your own development. This is very useful... if you have been doing a lot of self study as I have, and don't know what level you are at. Sira uses a lot of media to help you learn - video's with questions and charts, going over language you find hard until you have learnt it. Lessons are very interactive. The content of each lesson is emailed to you too. Videos are something I had not looked at before on my own and may not have chosen to do. Reading books - although necessary are not enough on their own. Sira's teaching methods have encouraged and motivated me greatly. I looked forward to my lessons each week. I would not hesitate to have further lessons with Sira.
I can't think of a single thing that would make this course better. Sira is a very talented teacher who clearly enjoys sharing her knowledge and the intricacies of her language with students. She listened to the goals I shared in our first interview and personalized a program that was captivating, challenging, and perfectly... tailored to me. Her use of diverse media—including conversations, videos, news and magazine articles, songs, etiquette, grammar lessons, and both oral and written exercises, among others --made the class interesting as well as extremely educational. She far exceeded my expectations and made the financial and time investment very worthwhile. I look forward to my next session with her and highly recommend her to anyone interested in beginning or refining their knowledge of the Italian language and culture.
I discovered Sira's Homestay Italia quite by accident while reading Italy Magazine. We had a Zoom introduction and she interpreted my needs perfectly. I am approaching the end of my 12 lesson conversation course, and I can only say that it has been a wonderful experience which I will certainly repeat...I would rate the course excellent in every way. Sira has the capacity to interpret exactly what is needed while keeping you relaxed without stress (which I experienced with other courses). She makes learning a foreign language fun. In a very short time, she has accomplished what no other Italian teacher has....breaking my fear of speaking Italian. She is warm, intuitive, intelligent, and extremely competent in her teaching method. It has been a great pleasure to know Sira. She has become a good friend.
In January, 2020, I traveled from California to Italy, in hopes of having a positive cultural/ language/immersion experience. Seldom are hopes so completely fulfilled!Grazie mille to Sira, for her hospitality, nourishment in food and spirit, patient and personal language instruction, cultural education, and lasting friendship...Grazie mille, to her close Italian friends, who welcomed me, escorted me, and made me feel so special.
Finally, Grazie mille, to the smiling people of Sarzana, who were always there to say “Buon giorno!”
My visit to Italy was un'avvenura perfetta!
If you want to fine tune your Italian, live like a local and discover things you never knew, look no further. Sira is patient, flexible, well organized, lively and funny. She is passionate about her native language, and also about Italian history and culture. My brief four day stay turned into an immersion course in all aspects of Italian Civilization...An unexpected bonus is the town of Sarzana. Only a stone's throw from the immensely popular Cinque Terre, it has escaped the tourist hordes and maintains its natural charm and beauty.
All in all, a very rewarding experience!
I had an incredible experience of doing Homestay with Sira in Sarzana. I expected to have a good time, learn some Italian (I was not highly optimistic as to how much can one learn in five-six days?!) and, maybe, do some sightseeing.
What has happened, in reality, was full immersion in Italian language, including meeting three of Sira's friends...and her daughter, a new destination to explore every day (I visited Cinque Terre, Pisa, Porto Venere and ended up in Florence, which is only two hours by train away). I was received as a friend and left feeling myself as part of the family. As to speaking Italian, by the end of my Homestay I started thinking in Italian. I am planning to return to Sarzana and do Homestay again. I know there are other places and other good teachers but I think I have found the best teacher for me. Thank you Sira!
I arrived home from Italy 2 days ago after an amazing 5 days in Sarzana doing a Homestay with Sira. I am still talking about the experience to everyone. I was a little nervous before setting off as I didn't really know what to expect other than a few hours of study each day. Within seconds of meeting, it was clear that italian would be the only language spoken... but that my teacher was clear, patient, understanding and a great deal of fun. I felt warmly welcomed and put at ease very quickly. Each day began with a delicious breakfast on the patio with stunning views and in total tranquility so that I could gather my thoughts. What followed was a study programme totally tailored to my specific needs and then a lovely lunch with plenty of relaxing chatter. In the afternoon I was taken to various incredible places - sometimes with friends of Sira and always with plenty of chatting. I met several friends and also her daughter who is a totally fabulous cook. Sira appears to be surrounded by warm, friendly people who are all fun to be with. By the end of my stay I felt much more confident in conversing and now, at home, find that I accidentally slip into italian-speak whilst talking to my family. I even use italian gestures which causes some amusement here. I was genuinely sad to leave and definitely hope to return. Sira is not just a teacher - she is un'insegnante straordinaria. Grazie mille di tutto
Sira's experience as a language teacher of many years was very evident. She had an expertise in how language works and was able, throughout, to make interesting observations about how Italian operates as a language. I also enjoyed her explanations of aspects of Italian culture / politics. She was very organised and had prepared a varied and interesting selection of things... for me to do, which included some challenging and thoroughly enjoyable work on works by de André, each of them very different types of text, presenting different challenges. This is very much the kind of exercise I enjoy. Also a challenge – but very good for me, given my particular needs (I find it hard to hear what is being said sometimes) – was listening every morning to the news and explaining the different items. Sira is a very special teacher. Sira was incredibly hospitable, encouraging and friendly. She had also organised several experiences (trips out, dinner with friends etc), designed to expose me to other people's spoken Italian. All her friends were lovely too. I had a lovely lunch every day, each thing something typical of the area. All in all, the home stay in Sarzana could not have been a better experience.
This was a very valuable experience for me for a number of reasons. My experience with Sira Gheller was excellent. She is an extremely experienced teacher. She was also very patient and an extremely pleasant person who was very compatible with me. She loves languages and teaching and so was extremely patient with my questions and continual elementary mistakes... We got along very well (she had a 2 bedroom apartment so we were almost always together) and in the afternoon she took me on tours, had a some friends over for dinner and one day had her daughter over for lunch. Her food was simple, local, and tasty. I would highly recommend her for anyone. I really cannot say enough good things about her.
Thanks to Sira, I had a great summer vacation this year. I wish I could have stayed longer there! She is very kind, patient and good at teaching. At her place, I could learn not only Italian language but also Italian culture which is something difficult to know when you study by yourself or are outside Italy. In addition, she kindly gave me many chances...to use Italian with arranging meetups with locals and taking me to a local market.
Sarzana is a lovely tranquil town, and a terrace of Sira's house has a beautiful view, and we sometimes enjoyed calm evenings, the rising of the moon or the starry sky together. I'd love to go back there soon or later to study Italian with her again.