Q. Our son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, 9, and grandson, 3, are considering spending a sabbatical year in Italy. They would like to rent a place in a fairly small city — but one that's large enough to have an English-language grade school and where they could get along most of the year without a car. Any suggestions regarding resources to consult?
A. I'm already daydreaming about my own daughter's education in Italy. The walk to school along cobblestone streets; the morning cappuccino for me, hot chocolate for her; the cheerful shopkeepers saying "Ciao, ragazzi," as we pass each morning. But let me get on with helping the people who are really going to spend a year in Italy. Perhaps the best source is the U.S. Department of State; it provides a list of private schools that offer instruction in English at www.italy.usembassy.gov/usa/education/schools.asp. The list includes pre- and elementary schools in Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Trieste and Turin (and, of course, many in Rome). It also notes schools run by the U.S. Department of Defense, which will enroll children of American civilians if there is an open desk. By googling "International Schools in Italy," I found the Westminster International School, for ages 3 to 12, in Pisa (www.westminsterinternationalschool.org).
A side note: I have friends with an 8-year-old who recently returned from a year in Rome. They opted to send their daughter to an Italian public school. While other schools may be better (this is, after all, just one family's experience), her school had its shortcomings. The girl developed a sort of post-diaper rash until her parents discerned that there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms and began to supplement the usual backpack supplies with a roll; children in the classroom were unruly; class size was high. On the up side, their daughter is now fluent in Italian and has dear Italian friends she keeps in touch with via e-mail.