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Raising Bambini In Italy: A Guide For Expats With Families

Italy, renowned for its deep cultural heritage, scenic landscapes, and gastronomic delights, offers a family-oriented society that is highly appealing to many expats. Italian families are close-knit, often with extended family living nearby, contributing to a sense of community. This environment provides an ideal backdrop for raising children. With its excellent healthcare and education systems, along with an array of child-friendly activities, Italy fosters an enriching atmosphere for families.

Understanding the Italian Education System: From Asilo to Liceo

The Italian education system represents a comprehensive framework catering to a student’s journey from early childhood to young adulthood. It commences with an optional stage known as “asilo,” or nursery school, intended for children aged 3-6. Although not mandatory, this foundational phase offers an essential platform for the development of critical social skills and the initiation of basic literacy and numeracy.

Upon completion of asilo, students progress to primary school, or “scuola primaria,” which serves children between 6 and 11 years old. This phase represents a more structured academic environment, wherein students are introduced to a broader range of subjects including the Italian language, mathematics, natural sciences, history, geography, and English.

Following primary education, students advance to lower secondary school, also known as “scuola secondaria di primo grado.” Designed for pupils aged between 11 and 14 years, this stage provides a deeper exploration of subjects introduced during primary education, often adding a second foreign language to the curriculum.

The final stage of the Italian education journey encompasses upper secondary school, or “scuola secondaria di secondo grado,” catering to ages 14-19. In this phase, students are afforded the opportunity to select a specialized curriculum, typically choosing between a more academically focused path or a vocational trajectory. Regardless of choice, all students are equipped with a strong foundation for either higher education or entering the workforce.

Public schools in Italy offer free education. Still, families may also consider private and international schools, which often provide alternative curriculums such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or British and American programs. These institutions offer an international environment that can often be more familiar to expatriate children, aiding in their transition and cultural acclimation.

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For more information about the Italian education system, visit the official website of the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). For information on international schools, useful online resources include the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) or the Council of British International Schools (COBIS).

Healthcare for Children in Italy: From Vaccinations to Pediatric Visits

Italy’s healthcare system is globally recognized for its excellence, featuring prominently in the World Health Organization’s healthcare rankings. Children in Italy have access to both public and private healthcare services, ensuring they receive excellent medical care.

At the heart of the country’s child healthcare system is the National Vaccination Plan. This initiative ensures all children receive mandatory vaccinations, free of charge, protecting them from a variety of diseases. Comprehensive information on the specific vaccinations and their schedules can be found on the official website of Italy’s Ministry of Health.

Furthermore, each child in Italy is assigned a family pediatrician, or ‘pediatra di famiglia’, up until the age of 14. These pediatricians provide a wide array of preventive health services, including regular check-ups, administering vaccinations, and monitoring developmental progress. In case a child suffers from an acute or chronic illness, these pediatricians oversee the care and treatment, providing a consistent presence throughout the child’s healthcare journey.

Expat families may initially face challenges in navigating this system, especially in finding English-speaking pediatricians. However, Italy’s larger cities and regions with significant expat populations typically have healthcare professionals who are proficient in English. Online platforms such as MedinAction connect English-speaking doctors with patients in Italy and can be a valuable resource for expat families.

Additionally, several organizations are dedicated to providing healthcare information and assistance to foreigners in Italy. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) maintains a database of English-speaking healthcare providers worldwide, including Italy.

Healthcare facilities in Italy are generally of high standard, with numerous private and public hospitals across the country. Various international health insurance plans provide coverage for treatments in these facilities, and families can use resources like Pacific Prime to find suitable insurance packages for their needs.

By familiarizing themselves with these resources and the structure of Italy’s healthcare system, expat parents can ensure their children receive the best possible care during their stay in Italy.

Child-friendly Activities and Attractions in Italy

Italy is a treasure trove of enriching and entertaining experiences for children, merging education with fun in an extraordinary setting. Its cultural richness, magnificent landscapes, and family-oriented social fabric make it a captivating destination for families.

The country’s historical and cultural museums offer a wonderful opportunity to spark children’s curiosity. These institutions often arrange interactive exhibits and engaging workshops specifically designed for children. A notable example is Rome’s Explora, a dedicated children’s museum with hands-on exhibits that make learning fun.

Outdoor adventures are another exciting way to keep children entertained while fostering an appreciation for nature. Italy’s varied landscapes, from the stunning coastal areas to the spectacular mountainous regions, offer a perfect backdrop for beach days, hiking trips, and family picnics. The Italian National Tourism Board offers a wealth of information on outdoor activities and destinations across the country.

Italy’s numerous piazzas and parks are also worth exploring for a relaxing family day out. With plenty of open spaces for children to run around and play, parents can soak in the ambiance of these quintessentially Italian public spaces.

For thrill-seekers, Italy offers several top-notch amusement parks. Gardaland is one such attraction, presenting an assortment of rides and experiences suitable for all ages. The park combines roller coasters, family-friendly rides, and themed lands that promise a day of unforgettable adventure.

In the sweltering summer months, water parks become the go-to destinations for families. With an array of water slides, swimming pools, and splash zones, these parks offer a fun and refreshing way to beat the heat. Aqualandia in Jesolo and Aquafan in Riccione are among the most popular water parks in Italy.

Adjusting to Life in Italy: Cultural Nuances and Italian Family Values

Living in Italy is a vibrant experience, characterized by a profound respect for traditions and family values. This understanding is crucial for your family’s smooth transition and integration into the local culture. Italians regard family as a central pillar of life, with meals often serving as the main stage for family gatherings and socialization. Elderly members of the family are revered, symbolizing the continuity of family traditions and wisdom.

One captivating aspect of Italian culture is the concept of ‘la passeggiata,’ the customary evening stroll. This leisurely activity is more than just a walk; it’s a social ritual that reinforces community ties and provides an ideal setting for families to mingle with locals. As your family adopts this tradition, you’ll find yourselves more immersed in the Italian way of life.

Transitioning to a new culture can be challenging, but support is available from organizations such as the International Women’s Club of Rome or Expats Living in Rome. These groups provide resources and create opportunities for social interaction, networking, and cultural learning.

In addition to immersion, formal classes can greatly enhance language acquisition. There are numerous language schools across Italy that offer Italian courses for children, often incorporating engaging activities that make learning Italian enjoyable for young learners. Platforms like Dilit offer a wide range of Italian language courses designed to cater to different age groups and proficiency levels.

Language proficiency is not just a communication tool; it’s a bridge to understanding and appreciating the nuances of Italian culture. This understanding can enrich your child’s expatriate journey significantly. Additionally, being proficient in Italian can facilitate access to local education, offering your child a fully immersive experience of Italy’s educational environment. Resources such as Italy Magazine provide comprehensive lists of language schools across the country, aiding you in finding the right fit for your child.

Dining with Kids in Italy: Embracing Italian Culinary Traditions

When it comes to dining in Italy, the experience is about much more than just food – it’s an immersive cultural event that fosters communal sharing and familial bonds. The rich variety of Italian cuisine is not only world-renowned but also generally welcoming to younger palates, which makes dining out with children an enjoyable experience. Italian restaurants typically are family-friendly, often providing special children’s menus, and occasionally even offering dedicated play areas to keep the little ones entertained.

You can also encourage your children to actively participate in the food culture through interactive experiences. Local farmers’ markets, for example, are a fantastic place to introduce your kids to the diverse range of fresh produce available in Italy. These bustling markets offer a real-life lesson about the seasonality of food and the importance Italians place on using fresh, high-quality ingredients. For a more hands-on experience, consider enrolling your kids in cooking classes. Organizations like Cooking Classes in Rome offer child-friendly courses, giving them a chance to learn about Italian food in a fun and interactive way.

Holidays and Festivities: Family Fun Italian Style

As for celebrations, Italy comes alive during holidays and festivals, providing ample opportunities for family fun. From national holidays like Christmas and Easter to local festivals, or ‘feste,’ these events often feature lively processions, traditional games, and abundant food stalls set in scenic town squares.

A special mention goes to ‘La Befana,’ a charming tradition celebrated on the Epiphany. In this festival, children look forward to finding gifts left by a friendly witch, adding a touch of magic to the holiday season. Participating in these cultural events provides a window into the vibrant Italian culture, aids in understanding local customs and traditions, and helps create unforgettable family memories.

By fully embracing and immersing in the Italian way of life, your family’s expatriate journey can become an enriching and memorable adventure. Resources such as Ciao Bambino and Romeing offer comprehensive guides on family-friendly activities, events, and dining options in Italy.


In conclusion, navigating the journey of raising a family in Italy as an expat can be both exciting and challenging. This article has aimed to provide valuable insights and practical advice for expat families who have chosen Italy as their new home. From understanding the Italian culture and lifestyle to navigating the education system and healthcare, expat parents can now approach their child’s upbringing with confidence.

Italy offers a unique experience for families, with its rich history, vibrant traditions, and strong sense of community. By immersing themselves in the local culture, expats can provide their children with a truly multicultural upbringing, where they can develop a deep appreciation for both their home country and their new surroundings.

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