"I have a terrible impression of education here, but this is coming from 10 years of having experienced some amazing private international schools. Our children have only been in the Italian system for the past year and a half and its been a huge transition for all of us. I find the style of teaching to be antiquated and uninspiring and our children are frustrated by the homogeneity, rote memorization, the mountains of homework, the lack of meritocracy, the constant testing (both orally and written) and the absence of imagination and creativity in teaching" (LM, March 2013)
What is your name and age?
Linda Martinez, 46
What nationality are you and your partner?
Both of us are American. My family is Puertorican.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have 3 daughters, Giulia, Paloma and Viola who are 12, 10 and 6 years old respectively. They were born in Rome.
Why did you decide to move to Rome?
We moved to Rome to start our business, The Beehive.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
We have two businesses now - our hotel and cafe, The Beehive which is a small, budget, eco-hotel with an organic, vegetarian cafe near Romes central train station, Termini. We also operate cross-pollinate.com a booking service for holiday stays in B&Bs and private apartments in 8 cities: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Barcelona, London, Lisbon and Istanbul.
What was your experience of having a baby in Rome?
Confusing, but interesting. It got less confusing with each subsequent child, but still interesting.
What language do you speak to your children?
We speak to them in English. My husband has started speaking Italian to our youngest who is experiencing some problems with the language at school.
At what point did you decide to leave Rome and why?
We did a 2 year sabbatical in Bali, Indonesia (2009-2011) and our children attended a phenomenal eco-school called Green School. During the end of the second year, our plans fell through to extend our stay and so we decided it was time for us to move back to Italy.
Whereabouts do you live now and what is the area like?
We knew that in coming back to Italy we would not be in the mindset nor in the financial position to continue living in Rome so we opted for a calmer, less hectic and less expensive place to live that was well-connected to Rome. We had spent time in Orvieto over the years as our go-to place for Sunday lunches and had always liked it so thats where we live now. Its not our dream place, but it works really well for now and our daughters have a lot of freedom here that we would never have had in Rome.
Are there many foreigners in the area where you live now?
There are about 20,000 people in Orvieto centro where we live - there are quite a few foreigners, but many of them are retired. There arent that many foreigners who have school aged children although there are some.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
We are well-integrated. We are still foreign, but we feel very comfortable in Italy - this is our home.
Do you think it essential to speak Italian where you live?
It is essential to speak Italian. Our daughters go to Italian school so obviously they need it there and we need it for our business and day to day living. We can live in an English speaking bubble in our own home and to some extent at The Beehive, but thats about it.
Do you rent or own a property and how did you find the renting/buying process?
Both. We rent where we live and own where we work. Both processes are long, complicated, arduous and exhausting and not possible to explain in brief.
How welcoming have the locals been towards you and your family?
In Rome when we first moved there, people were very welcoming. It was different times, the lire was still in existence, the economy was doing well and people were much friendlier and less stressed out and less aggressive. In Orvieto, they have also been very welcoming, I think, because we have school aged children and its easy to get on straight away with other parents - theres a common ground and common experience.
What is your impression of childcare and education where you live?
What school(s) do your children go to?
I have a terrible impression of education here, but this is coming from 10 years of having experienced some amazing private international schools. Our children have only been in the Italian system for the past year and a half and its been a huge transition for all of us. I find the style of teaching to be antiquated and uninspiring and our children are frustrated by the homogeneity, rote memorization, the mountains of homework, the lack of meritocracy, the constant testing (both orally and written) and the absence of imagination and creativity in teaching.
Why did you choose this school/these schools?
Our oldest goes to middle school and our two youngest are in elementary school. We chose them only for convenience since they are the only schools in the center of Orvieto and are about a 5 minute walk from our house. They walk to school on their own which is really nice.
Are there any services, activities for kids, day-trips for kids, family-friendly restaurants or kids’ shops you’d like to recommend?
You can take children anywhere here - there is no such thing here as kid specific restaurants. For Orvieto, there is the Parco dei Mostri (monster park) in Bomarzo about 45 minutes away and there is Lake Bolsena also about 45 minutes away. Im not partial to Italian childrens clothing shops as they tend to have a high price tag and are generally impractical for daily wear. I find the French lines to be cuter and more interesting and yet economical such as Du Pareil Au Meme. On-line shopping has saved me as well, I tend to use Gap Europe and Boden in the UK.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live? More interesting childrens activities?
Goodness - where do I begin? The list is too long. There is a huge void of childrens activities here. If you want to get in the car and go to scalo, you can find more choices for sport, dance, etc., but as is typical in Italy - you have to invest a lot of time and money and classes usually take place during the week and not the weekend when children would like to do it most and not after school when they are exhausted. Music and arts & crafts for children are not well-represented here either. My middle daughter has been yearning to take an arts class and there is nothing. Ive been searching for a private piano teacher and with the exception of one very nervous teacher we tried out and didnt continue with - there has been no one else we have been able to find.
What couldn´t you live without in Orvieto?
The pedestrian lifestyle.
What could you live without in Orvieto?!
The food and cultural degradation that Im seeing in what is designated a "Cittàslow" by the invasion and proliferation of low-cost supermarkets, franchised undergarment shops and the closure of local artisan shops and the local fair trade shop.