The first segment of the E.C.Co. experience for the Fall and year-long students consists of a full-immersion language and culture program offered in Lecce during the month of August. The Lecce session is mandatory for students with fewer than four semester of Italian, and optional (but highly recommended) for those with four semesters or more. The three weeks in Lecce – the “Florence of the South” – offer the students the perfect balance between intensive Italian language study and travel throughout the Salento region of Puglia. Based on their level of language ability, students are divided into three groups for their morning Italian class, for which they receive 0.5 academic credit. The E.C.Co. students, their language teachers, and the program directors travel together most afternoons to enjoy many of the breathtaking sites and beaches of the Salento. Beside experiencing the past and present treasures of Lecce, some of the past cultural destinations have included the sea grottoes of Leuca at the tip of the heel of Italy, the fortress town of Gallipoli at sunset over the Ionian, the seaside resort of Torre dell’Orso on the Adriatic, the bleached-white gem of Ostuni on a hill overlooking the sea, the mysterious octagonal Castel del Monte, the cultural heritage town of Matera, the awe-inspiring underground caves of Castellana, and dinners amidst the olive groves of the masserie (manor farms). Cooking lessons, concerts, and lectures on cultural topics are some of the highlights offered at the Apulia complex, where students live in fully furnished apartments in close proximity to the academic facilities.