Archive for the ‘Tips & Tools’ Category

Back to School in Roma!

You’ve crossed off crayons and HB pencils from your checklist, but are you really ready for the new school year abroad? Between trips to the open-air market and soccer practice, have you forgotten anything? Here are some helpful guidelines to make sure you’re ready to approach school as the Romans do.
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Visit the pediatrician (see the list in childcare services)
Make an appointment for a check-up and find out whether your child needs vaccinations or a physical exam certificate to participate in school activities. Several Italian regions do not require mandatory immunization.

Plan transportation and after school pick-ups
International schools in Rome offer bus service. But if you’ve enrolled your kids in Italian public school, you may want to arrange a carpool and/or after-school care for your child. Even if you don’t plan to carpool, it’s wise to gather contact information for neighbors and other parents who may be able to help when needed. Create a network with organized shifts to take the pressure off your work schedule and reduce traffic! Provide the school with a complete list of persons who will be taking and/or picking up your child in your absence, and provide xerox copies of their id.

Mark school events on the calendar
Create a master family schedule and add each person’s appointments and activities. If you have children at more than one school, plan ahead to make sure a parent, visiting relative or caretaker is always available to attend each open house, meeting and holiday pageant.

Stock up on school supplies
Visit your neighborhood cartoleria (stationery store) and stock up on notebooks, pens, paperclips, highlighters, stickers and colored pens, crayons and pencils. Besides buying the supplies on the list provided by your child’s teacher, get extras of items your child is likely to misplace, like glue sticks or scissors. Think about the items your child may need while doing homework and keep them in a central location. Italian elementary school kids normally always carry an astuccio (pencil-case) and a diario (homework journal) in their zaino (backpack). These all come in a myriad of styles, sizes and prices.

Review the rules
Get a copy of the school’s guidelines and go over them with your child. If the school does not have an English version, have a trusted bilingual friend translate it for you. Make sure your kids understand all the rules they’ll be expected to follow.

Check in regularly
Ask your child how she feels about starting school in a foreign country. If she’s nervous about making new friends, the new language and general back to school anxiety, consider arranging a play date with classmates. I always throw a back to school party, just to warm up post-vacation blues. Keep the conversation open on issues your children may be concerned about, such as bullies, cliques, peer pressure and love.

Evaluate extracurricular activities
Talk with your child about extracurricular activities. Select fun activities that teach new skills or that can better integrate your child in the Italian culture, but avoid over scheduling your family or your child. Taking on too many activities can cause anxiety and distract children from schoolwork.

Meet teachers and staff, and visit the school before classes start
Call the school to arrange a time for you and your child to meet his new teacher ahead of time. Also meet with the class representative parent, and exchange contact numbers and e-mail. Usually this parent will be the one informing you in the event of strikes, field trips, special expenses, etc. Another good idea is taking your child on a tour of the school so he knows how to find his classrooms, lavatories, cafeteria, and so on.

Talk with the teacher
Let the teacher know about things in your child’s life that may affect her performance, such as health issues, a recent relocation, or family changes. You might also mention your child’s hobbies or special interests. It’s a good idea to bring along someone who can translate for you, just in case.

Learn about school resources
Find out which professionals the school has on staff and what services they provide. Ask about the best way to get in touch with the principal, school counselor, or other staff members you may need to contact. Inquire if anyone on the staff offers Italian language lessons you and your child can attend after school.

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School lunches
Italian public school is a free service, but lunches are the only expense. These can be paid at the post office through monthly slips made out for each child. Costs are calculated on family income and you’ll have to get help figuring that out at a neighborhood CAF (free financial counseling office). The information gathered at CAF is then handed in at your municipal Ufficio Scuole, that works out your fee and posts your pre-marked payment slips.
But this is a small price if you consider the quality. By law, Italian school menus have to be designed seasonally by a team of nutritionists, dietitians, pediatricians and organic alimentary experts.
Lunches in Italian public schools are in fact 100% certified organic and fair trade. All staples, including bread, olive oil, cheese, juices, free range poultry & eggs, grass-fed bovine/ovine meats are biologico and absolutely no GMO foods are present in Italian school kitchens. Guaranteed fresh produce is served within 3 days of harvest, and children are fed raw vegetable antipastos, seasonal specialties of the Lazio region; and the only afternoon snack is fresh fruit. There’s also a mid morning snack served at around 10 am, and it’s usually a healthy sandwich of homestyle bread and prosciutto (or mortadella), or a chunk of dark chocolate. Once a month, school kitchens cook a typical menu of the foreign communities present in Rome to introduce kids to their non-Italian schoolmates’ eating traditions.

Make contact with other parents
In Italian schools there is no PTO or PTA, but if your child will be attending International school, these groups will have lots of information, including nuances and tips that aren’t written down anywhere else. Make an effort to meet all of your child’s classmates and parents, and exchange telephone numbers.

Discuss safe travel routes
Make sure your child knows how to get to and from school safely. If your child walks or rides a bike to school, review the route with her until you’re sure she knows it. If she rides a bus, have her bus pass always updated and paid for, and remind her where the bus stops and where to get on the bus after school. No matter how your child gets to school, remind her of safety issues she is likely to face, such as how to cross the street.

Go over after-school plans
Remind your child where he will go after school, whether it’s home, to an extracurricular activity, or to an after-school program. If you’ve signed up your child to soccer, swimming or any other sports activity, besides the necessary equipment and gear, parents are asked to provide a certificate of physical fitness signed by a medical practitioner.


Guided walks for kids and young adults

In the city of Rome, almost every museum, archaeological site, art gallery and exhibition prides on internal educational services with guided visits and workshops designed for groups and schools. However, if you’re looking for a special guide who knows how to appeal to children with the correct words and timetables, someone able to suggest places and itineraries that also offer kids games and curiosities, the following are the most qualified associations operating in Rome:

Image © Roma Every Day

Rome Private Guides
Licensed guides with vast experience and in-depth knowledge of Italian history and culture. They are experts in designing tours specifically for children, teens and their families. Of particular interest are the Treasure Hunts, the Rome Underground Tour, Colosseum and Ancient Rome Tours, the one by golf cart and Vatican museum visits geared for the little ones, with iPads with 3D apps and overlay books.
Tel. +39 334 8077626 –

Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine
Co-founded by and guided by many years’ experience working with kids, the Rome city walks by the Casa Mia team draw on sensory approach and on-site learning, thus crafting amazing experiences for both parents and children.
Tel. from abroad: +1 718 510 0358 (this is a U.S. number that rings in Italy)
Tel. within Italy: +39 320 720 4222 –

Mirabilia Urbis
Comprehensive dual language guided visits with special programs designed for families and children.
Tel +39 06 45433723 –

Art historians and archeologists introduce kids to art, architecture and history through a fun on-sight weekend teaching visits. Italian language only.
Tel./fax +39 06 68581545 – Cell. 348 3185335 –

Il Treno a Vapore
Child-specialized service offering guided visits of the city, summer camp, teaching camp, field trips, party planning, private lessons, baby sitter services. Italian language only.
Tel/Fax +39 06 23248687 –

La Serliana
Specialized in-depth museum and sightseeing visits for children and adults. Italian language only.
Tel. +39 06 452215171 –

Nasoni, Rome’s unique drinking fountains

Few things come free in Rome but tourists and locals can always count on ice-cold drinking water from the 2,500 drinking fountains scattered about the city. So if you are dying for a chug of cold water, there’s no need to spend a small fortune on environment un-friendly bottled water. All you need to do is look for a nasone and drink all the fresh water you want–it’s free!

Nasoni are Rome’s free drinking fountains, and they are virtually everywhere. First installed in 1874, they are a symbol of the city.



The stout 3-foot and 200-pound cylindrical cast iron structure ows its name to its long, bent spout that resembles a nose (nasone in Italian means “big nose”), from which ice-cold drinkable spring water flows.

The spout is an engineering masterpiece. A small hole at the top and the water’s strong pressure allow for practical drinking. Plugging the main spout with the palm of your hand causes the water to pour upwards out of this hole in a perfect drinking arch. Kids love to drink from nasoni, because they participate in the spectacular acrobatics and get irreparably wet and giggly.



Each nasone is marked with the traditional Roman S.P.Q.R. The initials stand for the Latin phrase, Senatus PopulusQue Romanus (“The Senate and the People of Rome”), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official signature of the government. S.P.Q.R. is the motto of the city of Rome and appears in the city’s coat of arms, as well as on many of the city’s civic buildings, manhole covers, and municipal establishments. The water that flows abundantly from the nasoni is licensed by the city of Rome. That’s why Romans call it l’acqua del sindaco, the mayor’s water.

Initially, only 20 nasoni were placed in and around the city center, and some of these originals can still be found in the historic Trastevere neighborhood. As Rome expanded throughout the 20th century, nasoni were also positioned in the newer districts. Most were placed along outdoor markets in the proximity of fish and flower vendors, and in main piazzas and squares. There are currently 2,500 nasoni in the metropolitan Rome area, 280 of which inside the old walled city. After more than 130 years since their first appearance, these fontanelle (drinking fountains) are still part of Roman daily life and are celebrated by locals and tourists alike for their public utility and their charm.

Find the nearest Nasone to you click here!

Rome Traveler’s Kit for Kids

Hey kids!

In order to travel light around the city, a backpack is perfect and keeps your hands free to push your siblings’ stroller or hold your parent’s hand when crossing the street, or a busy piazza intersection. I always pack my son’s with few basic items when heading around town:

  • Detailed map of the city
  • Snacks and juice
  • Water canteen or  33 cl bottle
  • Collapsible cup
  • Light rain jacket {fall/winter}
  • Sun hat {spring/summer}
  • Notepad
  • Pen/pencil/crayons
  • Loaded/charged camera {disposable ones are great fun!}
  • Stale bread for birds
  • Ziploc bags {various sizes}
  • Optional: binoculars & sunglasses
  • €5 in coins

In case you should ever get lost gazing up at the sights or chasing a Roman cat, I suggest your parents prepare a laminated card with some basic info: your name and a local phone number where your parents can be reached, your blood type and the address to your home or hotel. Always carry it in your pocket!