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On the READ to ITALY!

July 20, 2021 by Maria Cleary

Welcome back! We are On the Read, a short series of blog posts all about travel. Together, we have set off on an adventure across continents and oceans, through the pages of our favourite Helbling Readers, extending our steps both in space and in time. We are on a journey to six major destinations, doing some sight-seeing, and learning about their culture and getting some travel tips.  

Our first destination was London. From London, we travel to Italy -  so pack your bags quickly.

Travel tip: if you cannot do this project over the holidays, plan it for the next semester or year, as a reading club or extensive reading project.

Bella Italia

1 The destination

Our second destination is Italy, and we have decided to follow the steps of the characters in our gripping mystery reader, The Mystery of the Three Domes by Elspeth Rawstron. In the story, the main character, Sibel, and her Aunt Sofia travel to Venice from London. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do as we like the idea of starting our Italian adventure in Venice. From there we join Daisy Miller as we head to Rome, the Italian capital with its awe-inspiring history, culture and architecture.

Activity 1: Do a quick brainstorming session about the two cities and collect all the information your students know.

Activity 2: Discuss the following questions

  • What do we know about Venice and Rome? 
  • What are they most famous for?
  • How big are they? 
  • Have you heard anything about them on the news? 
  • Have you visited either or both of them?
2 Getting there and getting around

In the Helbling reader, The Mystery of the Three Domes, Sibel and Aunt Sofia take the Eurostar from London to Paris, and then they take an overnight train to Venice. Aunt Sofia tells Sibel that one must arrive in Venice by train. Apart from being a beautiful way of getting closer to the lagoon city, why do you think that travelling by train is a good choice?

Think about responsible ways of getting to Italy, getting around in the cities and getting from one place to another. You can read more about Ethical tourism in our blog post.

Venice is an unusual city. How can you get around the centre? What public transport is there? What other ways can you travel around the city? Then, talk about getting from Venice to Rome. Is there a direct train? Do you have to change trains? Tell your students to plan a train ride using the official Italian train website,

What about Rome? The city is like an open-air museum so walking around, especially in the company of Daisy Miller, can be an exceedingly rewarding experience.

Activity tip: In Venice, follow the steps of Sibel and Aunt Sofia in The Mystery of the Three Domes and write down their itinerary. In Rome, follow the steps of Daisy Miller. 

3 The two readers: The Mystery of the Three Domes and Daisy Miller

These two Helbling readers are set in Italy. The Mystery of the Three Domes is an original mystery by Elspeth Rawstron with illustrations by Nick Tankard. The classic novel Daisy Miller was written by Henry James and adapted by Janet Olearski and illustrated by Francesca Protopapa (who is a native Roman!).

Following the steps of the characters in these two stories will help your students discover the two cities as the narratives unfold.

Daisy Miller

When beautiful young American Daisy Miller travels to Europe with her wealthy but unaristocratic mother, her innocent and friendly manner makes her more enemies than friends.








The mystery of the 3 domes

Architecture student, Sibel Karaman, receives a letter from Great-Uncle Ismail on the day of his death. He leaves her a mystery to solve which takes her and Aunt Sofia on a wonderful adventure to three beautiful cities: London, Venice and Istanbul. Can Sibel solve the mystery of the three domes and find the very special place that Great-Uncle Ismail had in mind for her? Join her, Aunt Sofia and her four friends Holly, Anna, Hermione and Jake on their journey.





4 Top sights to visit in Venice and Rome

It’s impossible to choose a few places to visit in each of these cities so ask your students to come up with their own list of 3  places they want to see. Compare the lists in class. Which places feature most often? Here is a list of famous places the characters in the two stories visit.

  • San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Scuola di San Giorgio Maggiore
  • San Marco Vallaresso stop
  • Grand Canal
  • St Mark’s Square
  • Spanish Steps (illustration)
  • The Colosseum
  • Arch of Constantine
  • Villa Borghese
  • Villa Doria
  • Pincian Gardens
5 Top literary sights to visit

Both Venice and Rome are exciting destinations for culture and literature lovers. We have picked three places to visit in each city. Ask your students to find out why they are famous.

  • Palazzo Contarini Fasan (the home of Desdemona, Othello’s ill-fated wife)
  • San Michele Cemetery
  • The Armenian Monastery
  • Antico Caffé Greco
  • Keats-Shelley House
  • The Protestant Cemetery
6 English in Italian

You will be surprised how many words you already know in Italian and how many English words are used in Italian. Be aware of false friends though. There are a lot of words that sound or look similar but have very different meanings. How many of these words do you know? Can you add to the list?

Italian words used in English :
  • pizza
  • pasta
  • espresso
  • cappuccino
  • panino (panini)
  • latte - it means milk, not milky coffee
  • gelato
  • lasagna
  • spaghetti
  • pepperoni
  • minestrone
False friends
  • fattoria - farm / fabbrica - factory
  • libreria - bookshop / biblioteca - library
  • magazzino - warehouse / periodico, rivista - magazine
  • marmellata - jam / marmellata di agrumi - marmalade
  • morbido - soft / morboso - morbid
  • pavimento - floor / marciapiede - pavement

Write a list of basic expressions to use on your journey in Italy.

7 The Helbling Readers Blog day in Venice or Rome

Following one of the characters in a novel for a day makes a fun project idea. Ask your students to trace the steps of a character on a map and find information about the places they visit. How do they get from one place to another? Where do they stop?

 8 Extra project: Mysteries and legends of Venice and Rome

You can ask your students to solve some legends and mysteries (actually find out about some mysterious places) in these cities. Here are some tips to inspire some research.

  • What are the Door of Death and the Door of Triumph in the Colosseum in Rome?
  • What is so special about the Pantheon in Rome?
  • What is the story of the bud of San Marco in Venice?
  • What is the dam column in Venice? Where is it?
  • What is the symbol of Rome? 
  • What is the symbol of Venice?
Next destination

Next time we head towards India and the Kingdom of the Snow Leopard in the Himalayas. Get ready by reading one of these books:

  • Mowgli's Brothers by Rudyard Kipling, adapted by Maria Cleary (Level 2 A1/A2) When Mother Wolf finds a baby outside her cave she decides to keep him and raise him with her own cubs. But not everyone in the jungle wants Mowgli and soon he has to learn to defend himself against the cruel tiger Shere Khan and his followers.
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling, adapted by Janet Borsbey and Ruth Swan (Level 3 A2) Kim isn’t like the other British boys in India. He is wild and free and prefers the company of his Indian friends. Then one day a lama from Tibet arrives. He needs help to find the River of Arrows. Together Kim and the lama go on an adventure around India, meeting strange and wonderful people along the way. Will the lama find the River of Arrows? What is Kim’s destiny? And what is the Great Game?
  • The Kingdom of the Snow Leopard by Elspeth Rawstron (Level 4 A2/B1) This year Tom is really excited about Christmas. He is going to spend the holidays with his friend Mahir in the Kingdom of the Snow Leopard. He even has a special invitation from Mahir's father, the King. But someone is following the boys on their journey and Tom is worried that he wants to hurt them. What happens when they get there?