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Holiday courses are a booming section of the Italian tourist industry and they cover everything from painting, art, sculpture, wine, food, photography and scuba diving to even hang-gliding. US students looking to sign up for courses in Italy might want to check out the offerings at Study Abroad Italy (www.studyabroaditaly.com).

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Many people come to Italy just for the food so it is hardly surprising that cookery courses are among the most popular. Check out Mama Margaret’s website (www.italycookingschools.com) for ideas on courses throughout the country.

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Courses are run by private schools and universities throughout the country and are a great way to learn Italian while enjoying the opportunity to live in an Italian city or town. Among the more popular and reasonably priced options, are the Università per Stranieri di Perugia (www.unistrapg.it) and the Università per Stranieri di Siena (www.unistrasi.it), both set in beautiful medieval cities. Frequently these schools offer extracurricular or full-time courses in painting, art history, sculpture and architecture, too. One school much praised by Lonely Planet readers is Saenaiulia (0577 441 55; www.saenaiulia.it) in Siena. Florence and Rome are teeming with Italian-language schools, while Venice has hardly any.

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura (IIC), which has branches all over the world, is a government-sponsored organisation aimed at promoting Italian culture and language. This is a good place to start your search for places to study in Italy. The institute has branches all over the world, including in Australia (Sydney), Canada (Montreal), the UK (London) and the USA (Los Angeles, New York and Washington). The website of the Italian foreign ministry (www.esteri.it) has a full list of institutions; click on Diplomatic Representations and then on Italian Cultural Institutes.

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Art and painting courses abound, especially in Florence. One place to start looking is at Learn4good (www.learn4good.com), which has information on several art schools in Italy. It-Schools.com (www.it-schools.com) is also worth checking out.

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It will always be hard to close your senses to the food and drink of Italy, but another way to enjoy the country is with a little gentle bodywork. Yoga in Italy (0445 48 02 98; www.yogainitaly.it) offers a variety of week-long holidays combining yoga with anything from walks in the Chianti countryside to white-water rafting.

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