Boys, school and Italian life


March sky, 2014

The rain has stopped, the sun is out and life is pretty sweet in Italy this March. I read in the papers and in friends’ emails that the snow is still dumping down in America and the sun is beating hot in Australia, while I look out my window and see a cool breeze blowing and the sun in the sky. We have a good life here, there is no doubt about it.

Our time is slowly dwindling down, we have a mere 4 months to go before returning to the real world of work (well for me anyway), houses, high schools, primary schools and day-to-day life back in Sydney with the friends and family we said goodbye to some 8 months ago. A lot of great things have been happening this month, however, I haven’t had time to sit down and jot it all down as I thought I would. Max turns 12 this Friday, WOW I find it hard to believe I have a 12-year-old under my wings.

We promised Alex for his birthday last year (it was the day after we arrived in Rome) that we would take him to gladiator school, alas, the night before I got struck down with food poisoning and was up all night trying to keep myself alive, therefore, gladiator school was delayed. Seeing how Max will be 12 on Friday and we have nothing else better to do, we decided we would go down to Rome for the weekend with friends and finally keep our promise to the boys re gladiator school! The tickets are booked and I’m staying away from seafood so we are set. It was an easy decision really, with 4 months left we are trying to do and see as much as we can. It’s not everyday you can say ‘Oh let’s pop down to Rome for the weekend’. I know it doesn’t mean as much to the boys as it does us, however, in years to come I think they will appreciate the flitting around more than they do at present.

The boys got their Italian school reports back at the end of last month which is quite a process compared to Australia. Back in Sydney the kids get a sealed envelope at the end of the day to give to parents. In our school here, there is a note sent out a week before with information telling you when you can come and pick the reports up and as usual I totally forgot. I was walking Max to basketball practice on a Thursday evening when a mum who is never at the school unless it is pick-up time, walks past me, says ciao and then asks me if I have the reports already? At this point I was trying to figure out why this mum was at school at 5pm, then trying to understand what she was saying to me (she always speaks super fast) and then when the penny dropped I looked like a complete idoit but had to keep walking in the other direction to get Max to basket…I left her standing there very confused, especially when I told her, NO not yet…see you soon!

I finally dropped Max at basketball (which is a 20 minute walk one-way), then Alex and I high-tailed it back to school to make the 6.30pm deadline to pick up these bloody reports…It was about this time I was preferring the Aussie system. We made it in time to be then told we must wait in line to speak to the teacher. ‘WHAT!??’ I was not expecting teachers to be there at 6.30pm! Anyway, after about 40 minutes standing in line it was my turn to go in (and it was at this point I told Alex to help me out with the Italian, to which he says ‘I doubt I’ll be any good mum’ and then proceeds to abandon me to look at pictures!). Thank god Max’s teacher is a lovely lady, she handed me his report, and said she was sorry she could only give him a 7 for Italian; however, it was working towards an 8.

SEVEN? He got a seven?? OMG!! I looked at her and said BELISSIMA!!! FANTASTICO, REALLY…7? Of course, she was super confused and then started talking at me in lightening speed which I only caught about 5 words in total before leaving the classroom with our first Italian report cards. Nic and I were so gobsmacked that the boys didn’t get any 3s or 4s on their reports (it’s out of 10) and to see the lowest mark was a 6 for science, well we were so overjoyed. It was actually quite funny when Max was reading his report, he laughed and said he wasn’t sure how he got that mark because he never does anything in science.

And truth be told, the boys constantly come home and tell us they understand nothing, they do nothing all day at school and really, why bother. Well, after seeing the reports I now believe they have been playing down their Italian with us (especially me) and in fact they are rocking along very nicely in school. The funniest report however, was the English mark…both boys scored an 8! Seriously, an 8 in their native language?? When I asked about this they both shrugged their shoulders and said “She (teacher) really doesn’t know very much English and we have to correct her” Note, HAVE to correct her, so I figure giving them eight is just her way of saying, “Get out of my class already!!”

So eight months into a twelve-month stay in a foreign country, I can honestly say as a family unit we are happy, involved in the community and eat like kings. We still feel like foreigners but also feel excepted by our neighbourhood, Nic and I are so happy we took the scary step of immersing the boys into Italian school cold-turkey-style because it has really paid off. Although the talk of being back in Australia is coming up more and more these days (especially from the boys), we are loving our life here. However, some home comforts are seeming a little closer (like having my car to do the grocery shopping!). I have a feeling the next 4 months are going to be action packed.

Italian lessons

Taking Italian lessons never really entered my mind the last time we moved to Florence. To be totally honest with you nothing much entered my mind except sleep, Thomas the tank engine, sleep and what can we eat?

It’s quite funny looking back at your life and seeing what was most important to you at that stage. I was a stay-at-home-mum thinking I had to play with my 3-year-old whenever he demanded otherwise I wouldn’t have been a very loving mother (I can hear you all laughing, I know!). In my mind I was thinking…..

‘If I have to push around one more train I think I will go bonkers’ or ‘please dear god, not another light saber battle….geez I wish the baby would wake up so I could have an excuse.’

Going to Italian lessons wasn’t even on the rector scale especially with two young kids and no babysitter, so I blundered through and felt terrible that I couldn’t even put a sentence together when the Nona’s use to come and ask me

a ) are they my children?

b) are they boys or girls? and c) Where are you from?

It took me about two weeks of constant repetition (thank god old people are patient!) before I worked out what they were asking me and it took me another two weeks to remember what to recite back!

I figured there must be an easier way this time, so the boys and I enrolled in a local Italian class a few weeks ago to see if we could familiarise ourselves with a few common Italian words.

Max seems to be enjoying the experience and feels confident he will be fine as he can ‘totally have a conversation…it’s not that hard’ – the kid knows how to say hello, what is your name and a list of animals in Italian, I wish I had his confidence!

Alex and I both struggle with the speaking aspect. We are embarrassed about how we sound and I never seem to say the right word at the right time (I’ll say where instead of how!). To say I’m not much better off than before would be an understatement. Just last week my Italian teacher said she would love to be a fly on the wall watching me in Italy…..I said me too!

Two more weeks of lessons to go, 5 weeks until we fly across the sea and a year to work out the language… never know, by the end of this trip I may even be able to write a small paragraph in Italian but don’t hold your breath.


I think I was thinking about sleep here, not Italian lessons

In the beginning

With winter creeping into the streets of Sydney and the trees losing their leaves, a European summer in a bit over a month sounds very inviting!

Eight years ago I had my second child Alex, he was a brute of a baby weighing in at a hefty 9 pounds 13 ounces and with shoulders on him large enough to crack my coccyx as he came storming out.

This really wouldn’t be getting a mention on my brand new blog if it wasn’t important. You see the reason I am calling this blog- Italy Take Two, is because 6 weeks after giving birth to Alex, almost eight years ago to the day, the family and I packed our bags and headed off to Italy for 8 months. Exciting as it sounds, carrying a bright pink inflatable ring around the streets of Florence so I could actually sit down wasn’t what I had first anticipated for my European life. The fact that I slept seldom and fed frequently also didn’t help me remember much about our first family trip to Italy, so that fact that we get to have another crack at it is almost unbelievable.

Alex is about to turn 8, Max — our eleven year old son– is half way through finishing his last year at primary school and my husband, Nic is about to have the time of his life as a fellow at Villa I Tatti in Florence, where he will spend a glorious year of research, research and more uninterrupted research for his new idea. I on the other hand will be soaking up (and sitting down without any pink aids!!) the sights and sounds of Florence and taking a year sabbatical from the kitchens of Sydney where I usually spend my time working. I have been cooking professionally for the past 25 years and thought it was about time I tried to do something else or maybe learn a new skill.

This blog is about my family’s year abroad: the food we eat, the food we make, the language we try to speak and the real story of what happens when you uproot a typical Australian family and pop them into a new culture and life for a year….this could get interesting so if you have a spare five minutes, take a read and share your thoughts on the madness we are about to create!