Kids and Family in Rome
Locals would say that Rome is extremely child-friendly – after all, Roman children can navigate congested traffic, packed public transport and busy streets like pros before their fifth birthday. On the other hand, for expats with kids in Rome, the 'Eternal City' might seem a little overwhelming.
But try not to worry – Rome is a fantastically colourful and cultured place for children of all ages, and with pizza and gelato on almost every corner, they will feel like they're in heaven.
Education in Rome
Expat will have more than their fair share of schools in Rome to choose from, but like anywhere else in the world, these vary in quality and curriculum. So it's good for parents to have an idea of what they want before they start researching.
Italian public schools are free, even for foreigners living in Italy who aren't formal residents. For a small fee, little ones can also enjoy a nutritious and delicious school lunch. On the other end of the scale, co-educational and single-gender private and international schools in Rome can charge somewhat exorbitant tuition and uniform fees depending on their pedigree.
That said, if a child doesn’t speak Italian, then an international school should really be their first choice, even if it is expensive. The child will still learn Italian but won’t have to try to keep up with native speakers. Meeting children with similar backgrounds might also help expat children feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.
The Italian school year begins in September and the starting age for elementary school (scuola elementare) is six. Most Italian children also attend three years of non-compulsory nursery school (scuola dell’infanzia) before this. For expat kids in Rome, a few days a week in an Italian nursery school can be the fastest way to pick up the language. Parents can choose between free public-run schools or privately owned nurseries.
If a child is 14 or older, both child and parents will face the task of making a difficult decision together as Italian public and private secondary schools (licei) are specialised. So, instead of receiving a basic secondary education in all subjects, students pick a school based on their interests.
At a liceo scientifico, students will primarily study science and mathematics; at a liceo classico, history and ancient languages; at a liceo linguistico, modern foreign languages, and so on. The school that is picked will dictate the subjects a child learns and can affect which university courses they are eligible for.
While this might sound harrowing, the best thing for a parent to do is to visit the schools they are considering. It is a good idea to look at the extracurricular activities as well as whether there are any other expat families there.
Entertainment for kids in Rome
When in Rome do as the Roman mums do and avoid the tourist sites. These can be pricey and, for those with small children, a bit of a wasted experience.
Most Roman museums are free to children under the age of six. For EU citizens 18 or younger, it varies between free entry and heavily discounted tickets. Non-EU expats should keep an eye out for free admission days. These happen monthly and can be found online.
Roman parks are generally wonderful, especially on a summer afternoon, but parents should always research before they go. Not all of Rome’s parks are in good condition or in friendly locations. The Villa Doria Pamphili in the Monteverde quarter is always a fantastic option. Its spacious gardens are great for picnics and ball games, while the 17th-century villa is the cherry on top for art-loving parents. As for playgrounds, the Villa Ada on Via Salaria has well-maintained swings, slides and other play equipment.
For those wanting to take the kids to the movies, there are a number of English-language cinemas (Alcazar and Baberini are the best) but, for something much more unusual, treat them to a children’s puppet show at Teatro Verde or Teatro San Carlino. For something a little more educational, head to the Central Children’s Library on Via San Paolo alla Regola for English games, books and DVDs.