Sunday, 6 April 2008

Another Paris vs. Rome inquiry has landed in my Inbox:

Hi Caroline,

What a wonderful resource you seem to be. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I am an American mom living in Paris with my 19 month old daughter and my Canadian husband....

We are considering moving to Rome and I'd love to hear anything you have to say: about living there as a mom, what's available for your daughter, preschools, pre-preschools daughter is not in creche here. I do counseling and coaching and work from home so my husband and I share babycare duties. But if we move, I would really like to get her into something group oriented...can you tell me anything about that?

Also, schools...what do you think compared to France?

Any info regarding neighborhoods would be great too.

Sorry to bombard you with questions. We just don't know where to start finding info! We moved to Paris on our own and took years to make it "familiar" but Rome is a blank state.

Any thoughts, opinions, suggestions would be so greatly appreciated!

Thank you!- Tamara


The Italians LOVE children but from a practical perspective, Paris is definitely more family-friendly than Rome, and that includes availability of childcare. Unlike in Paris, public daycare is not available in Rome unless you can show poverty of Dickensian proportions. Private daycare is available but quality ones are hard to come by, especially in the centre. There is a darling Montessori nursery at the Istituto Nazareth in Prati (via cola di Rienzo, 140). It fills up quickly, though. You generally would need to register your child by March to get her in for September of the same year.

In Italy, public preschool (scuola materna) starts at age three, as in France, and goes for three years. Unlike école maternelle in France, scuola materna consists mostly of unstructured play and does not have a formal programme of any kind that teachers must follow. So children in scuola materna will not necessarily learn their letters or numbers (often they end up learning that at home) and they certainly will not learn cursive writing as they would in the French system at age five.

As for foreign schools in Rome, there are a bunch of British schools, the French lycee, another private French école maternelle, Marymount International School, and the American Overseas School. Check out this site for English-speaking schools in Rome.

Neighbourhoods: I'm a big fan of living near the centro storico (historical centre). Prati is also a great area because there are lots of stores and it is walking distance to the historical centre and it is on the metro line. (Public transit in Rome is not great, by the way. Count your blessings in Paris.) Some people like Parioli, which is this upscale bourgeois district a little further away from the centre. It is accessible to a few parks but I don't see any other advantage to living there. You need to take a bus to the centre (not even a metro) and it is quite residential. But really, it all depends on what you are looking for. Probably the wisest this to do would be to decide where you want to send your daughter to school at age three (French school? British school? American school?) and find something close to it.

Living in Rome as a mom? Again, there is nowhere near the same network of English-speaking moms as in Paris, but recently, a friend of mine established Rome Mama. I'm hoping that it will flourish.

Best of luck!