Tag Archives: Florence with Children

Your Child in English Class


Bilingual children are amazing and children are like sponges that can absorb another language easily.  By having a parent, that speaks another language other than Italian is a wonderful opportunity for your child.  However, what happens when they go to a public school and learn their home language with teachers that really do not have the qualifications of teaching another language?

Here is my story.  I have two children both speak, read, and understand really well, American English (yes it is different then British English).  During their years of Elementary, it was interesting to say the least to watch what would happen in their classes of English.  During this time, the Math teachers having to take over the task of teaching English replaced the English teachers.  From the start, my oldest was very strong in his English.  He got to the point where he was almost teaching the class. The teacher was always checking with him and relying on him for the words she was not sure she was pronouncing correctly or the right word in a sentence she was creating. She did not mind that he was using American words or that he spoke American. She also did not correct him when he would use the American spelling instead of the British spelling.   He did not mind this but other bilingual children might have a problem being singled out to help the teacher.

My second child, born here, did not have such the understanding teacher and at first had to learn English by a cd in class.  The teacher wanted the children to repeat the words exactly with the British accent (an Italian speaking British on the cd) that was being heard.  I have horror flash backs when I had to learn Spanish in High school that way.  It was horrible trying to follow the speaker on a cd and not being able to stop it or repeat it to follow. One day he came home in tears because the teacher said he was not pronouncing “blue jeans” correctly.  The “u” in British has a different accent then in American English.   Unfortunately, we had to tell him that he needs to try his best and to follow what the teacher is teaching.  In other words if she wants British he needs to do it in British.  That teacher left and another teacher came that taught more like my first child’s teacher.  She was more understanding to the American and British differences, yet both are English. Now in middle school and the teacher is teaching the British “u” again.  She is telling the children that the British “u” is pronounced like the Italian “a” and that the word “us” is pronounced like “ass”.  Now my child came home telling me that he needs to say “ass” for “us”.  Now I am envisioning my child in the US going around saying that and being laughed at.  I know that there is an accent on the “u” but I do not think it is the sound of “a” in Italian.

What stories do you have of your child learning English or even another home language in their classes at school?

Father’s Day

man-863085_1280Fathers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, with different backgrounds, personalities, ideas and aspirations for their children. We love them all! The important thing is that they play a crucial role in our lives, in our children’s lives. In Italy, we celebrate fatherhood and the importance of these wonderful human being in our lives, on March 19th. Here are a few ideas to surprise them with homemade gifts for their special day.

  1. The “little hands tree”. Draw a tree together with your children on a thick, colored piece of paper. Then, simply trace your child’s hands, as the leaves of the tree. Write a special message and there you have it: an easy to make card, that will surely bring a smile on this dad’s face.
  2. Driving dads love their car. The car is their partner “in crime”, thus it needs to be cared for accordingly. Buy all the products you know he would love to have for cleaning the car and put them in a stainless steel bucket. Have your children help you write with a marker on the bucket: “Daddy’s car wash kit!” This dad will be pretty excited about next week’s cleaning the car day.
  3. The “all you need for a night in front of the TV” basket. Most dads enjoy their time in front of the TV. If they’re also “allowed” to snack on the couch and have a few hours for themselves even better. Take a gift basket and fill it with anything his heart would desire for an evening in front of his favorite shows, such as chips, beef jerky, his favorite drink etc. Have your children give you ideas, and enjoy putting the products in the basket together. They will love picking out their dad’s favorite snacks.
  4. “Suits” dad. If he loves his suits and ties or maybe his job imposes a formal look during working hours, you could make little cute cardboard ties together with your kids and place them on “neck” of his favorite drink. Take a cardboard, cut it in the shape of a tie, let your children color it at their hearts desire and write “Happy Father’s Day” on them. Then, use an elastic band to glue it as the neck of the tie. There you have it, a little personal touch on a cute accessory to go with his drink.
  5. Last but not least, in Italy the traditional recipe for Father’s Day is that of frittelle di riso. Surprise him with a nice plate of frittelle made by you and the kids, or why not take a trip together to Greve in Chianti and celebrate the day at the annual festival Sagra delle frittelle di San Giuseppe, with ancient, traditional recipes.

Happy Father’s Day!!!


Dear Moms,
Make a present to your kids by planning their best summer yet, with an awesome summer camp right in the hearth of Florence city center! Here at Sunflower Florence we are all ready to have fun with them, taking them on a magic trip through art, theatre, music, art crafts and much more. The only things we ask them to bring are: enthusiasm, happiness and a lot of will to make new friends!
We will take care of all the rest in a cozy and friendly atmosphere.
The Sunflower Staff


summer camp sunflower

What do you do with your children?

I am wondering what you do with your children when school is out and you have to work. 

work children

summerI know a few things moms do here.  Some send to Nonni (Grandparents).  Some send to Summer camps/schools.  Some take off work using vacation time and other times they can use.  But what do you do? Comment below and let us know what you do.  This is a tough situation for many with children and of course need to work.

Florence unfriendly to children? Not to my child

2014-10-09 11.39.16Florence can seem as a child unfriendly city for many, mostly because of its famous history and rather large, constant flow of tourists. The image of a toddler running around and chasing pigeons on the rocky beach in front of Palazzo Pitti for example, just doesn’t fit the picture somehow, but I can honestly tell you there is nothing more beautiful than seeing the future playing on the stones of the past.
When we had our daughter, my husband and I were constantly asking ourselves about places where we can take her, so we can all have fun together. We have tried numerous things, from going to aperitivos at child friendly bars to taking her to playgrounds and specially designed entertainment centers (ludoteche), but none of them ever made her as happy as the bar from the corner of our street. Ephia as any toddler has a lot of friends on our street: the people from the bakery, the people from the tobacco shop, the people from the pharmacy, but her favorites are the family that owns the bar, especially their son, the bartender. He is the kind of guy that every kid would love and he knows exactly what to say and how to act around them which makes his bar be filled with children and happy parents all the time. He became my daughter’s best friend and every day when we go for our walk she drags me there, just to see him and give him the perfect smile and “Ciao!”. On some days, when he is not around, we get to the door, she begins searching for him and when she realizes that he is not there, her lower lip starts to tremble, her chin gets pushed into her chest and then she takes my hand asking to leave the place instantly. Yup, that seems like real friendship to me and as I have seen, this is the story of any child that goes into that space.
The first thing you can notice when going inside are the dozens of drawings on the right wall, which have been made by all the children who stepped foot in there, as a present for the bartender. The bar is called Torello and although it’s rather far from the center of Florence, near the Scandicci area, I would highly recommend this place to any parent who wants to enjoy their cup of coffee, one of the best cappuccinos in town or just a nice evening aperitivo, while watching their children having fun and constantly smiling. This man is like a magician and has that vibe that fascinates and draws kids his way, always having a smile on his face and a joke on his lips. Maybe we all should have a bartender like that in our neighborhood, just to make our mornings a bit more smiley.

Article written by  Ela Vasilescu



About the Author:

Ela Vasilescu is a published writer and a freelance journalist based in Florence, Italy. She is currently working on her new book of short stories and is part of the Writers Group in Florence.  She has created and conducted the journalistic project The human behind the artist which consists in interviews with English speaking artists living in Florence.

Because she believes that stories can make us look inward and explore our emotions better, she is always on a quest to finding those stories which cannot be seen with the naked eye. She has conducted a series of theater workshops and this year she has created a storytelling workshop for children “Let’s invent stories together!”. She is also collaborating with F.E.S.T.A Theater and the Canadian Island kindergarten at the moment teaching various theater and English workshops. www.writerinflorence.com

 Related Articles on the Blog:

“Using words and images to capture your audience”
Story Telling Workshops

Straight Facts About Braces

Why is orthodontics important?

Without treatment, orthodontic problem may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction and trouble with chewing and digestion. A “bad bite” can be a factor in tooth loss and chipped teeth. Orthodontics can have psychological benefits too – boosting a person’s self-image as the teeth, jaws and lips become properly aligned.

When should a child first see an orthodontist?

Although there is not a universal best age to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that every child see an orthodontist at an early age. This could be as young as 3 or 4, but should be no later than 7.

Early examination enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and determine the appropriate time to treat them. After the initial evaluation, the orthodontist may simply recommend periodic checkups. The proper age to treat malocclusion varies with the type and severity of the problem.

Is it ever too late for a person to get braces?
Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. An orthodontist can improve the smile of practically anyone – in fact, orthodontists regularly treat patients in their 50s, 60s and older!

What can happen if orthodontic problems go untreated?
Untreated orthodontic problems may contribute to tooth decay, diseased gums, temporomandibular joint problems and loss of teeth. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping and other forms of dental injury. Sometimes, the increased cost of dental care resulting from untreated malocclusion (bad bite) far exceeds the cost of orthodontic care. In addition, if left untreated, malocclusion may result in harmful effects on the oral health and psychological well-being of the patient.

What makes an orthodontist different from a dentist?
Orthodontists are the dental specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities: they are expert at moving teeth, helping jaws develop properly and working with the patient to help make sure the teeth stay in their new positions. They are uniquely qualified to correct “bad bites”. The American Dental Association requires orthodontists to have at least two years of post-doctoral, advanced specialty training in orthodontics in an accredited program, after graduation from dental school.

Read her other post: The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up

October is the Month of Dental Prevention. The American Association of Orthodontists has chosen October as Orthodontic Health Month. It provides the opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of orthodontics, the importance of early orthodontic screening no later than age seven, the lifetime value of orthodontics and orthodontists’ special educational qualifications.

Written by Dr. Daniela Signorelli

*** The material is provided by the American Association of Orthodontists. If anyone is interested in having more information, there is  AAO’s  website : http://www.braces.org


Best Ice Cream in Firenze

Today was a nice day to be out with my son in the Firenze Center. We toured some churches and ate some great pizza. Since it is a hot day in autumn, of course we had to go get some gelato (ice cream). My son mentioned a new place, at least to me, that has artigianale ice cream. All natural ingredients and the best vanilla ice cream in Italy.

Matteo Leonardo icecreamb
Yes, I focus on vanilla, because I have tasted vanilla ice cream all over Italy and cannot find the right taste. Many places claim to have the best and always disappoint me. You will find some with an eggy taste, some with the taste of vanilla extract. This was just perfect white, creamy, vanilla bean taste. I name this place to have the best vanilla ice cream.

Leonardo ice cream001
The name is Le Botteghe di Leonardo. It is off the beaten touristic path located on Via De’ Ginori 21/r. Of course, he has many other flavors  and I even got the “hard to find” Lampone (raspberry) with my vanilla. You must check them out.

Ruralia at the Cascine


Natural Italy Blog

Programma-Catalogo-2014_web1This weekend is the Fall edition of Ruralia, a farm festival held annually at the Cascine park in Florence.  There will be pony rides, animal exhibitions, food demonstrations, tree climbing, and many opportunities to purchase farm fresh organic products from the entire Italian peninsula.  The event starts September the 18th and ends on the 21st of September.  Entrance is free.  Don’t forget to check out the presentation of the new booklet ‘Guidelines for Tree Pruning in Urban Areas’ —a booklet written to better Florentine parks…especially the care and maintenance of its trees.  The book will be presented from 10 am-11am on the 21st of September at the Ordine dei Dottori Agronomi stand near the Agronomy faculty at the Cascine.  Your presence will support the city’s need to better its green areas.  See you there!


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The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up

The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up: No Later Than Age 7

Even though most people think of pre-teens and teens when they speak about orthodontics, there are good reasons your child should get an orthodontic evaluation much sooner. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7.

Why Your Child Should Get An Orthodontic Check-Up No Later Than Age 7:
1. Orthodontists can spot problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present.
2. The check-up may reveal that your child’s bite is fine. Often, the orthodontist will identify a potential problem but recommend monitoring the child’s growth and development, and then, if indicated, begin treatment at the right time for the child. In other cases, the orthodontist might find a problem that can benefit from early treatment.
3. Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated.
4. In some cases, the orthodontist will be able to achieve results that wouldn’t be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
5. Some of the more readily apparent conditions that indicate the need for early examination include:

• Early or late loss of teeth
• Difficulty in chewing or biting
• Mouth breathing
• Thumb sucking
• Crowding, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
• Jaws that shift or make sounds
• Speech difficulties
• Biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
• Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all
• Facial imbalance
• Jaws that are too far forward or back
• Grinding or clenching of the teeth

6. Early treatment may give your orthodontist the chance to:

• Guide jaw growth
• Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
• Correct harmful oral habits (thumb sucking)
• Improve appearance
• Guide permanent teeth into a more favourable position
• Improve the way lips meet

7. Through early orthodontic screening, you’ll be giving your child the best opportunity for a healthy, beautiful smile that’s good for life. No child should wait until reaching the teens to feel good about his or her smile.

October is the Month of Dental Prevention. The American Association of Orthodontists has chosen October as Orthodontic Health Month. It provides the opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of orthodontics, the importance of early orthodontic screening no later than age seven, the lifetime value of orthodontics and orthodontists’ special educational qualifications.

Written by Dr. Daniela Signorelli

*** The material is provided by the American Association of Orthodontists. If anyone is interested in having more information, there is  AAO’s  website : http://www.braces.org

Family trip to San Gimignano and Need a Restaurant

San Gimignano is a great day trip from Firenze.   It is one of our favorite places to visit.  It is not far from Firenze just about an hour 1/2 car trip.  When we went we needed a lunch place so I ask my friends for a recommendation.  Judy Witts Francini who is a food writer and cooking teacher you can find out more about here on her site Divina Cucina, Anita Grosser who runs Chianticooking Gourmetshop where you can find a variety of Italian, French and German cuisine and a friend from a Facebook cooking group Temple Perrotta.

Chiara Latini

They all recommended Chiara Lantinis Restaurant which is called  Ristorante Latini in Certaldo (via dei Platani 1 Loc. Canonica).  The restaurant was wonderful and Chiara is very friendly and very passionate about her food.  My son said that Lantini was the best restaurant he ever ate at and keeps begging us to go back soon.  Everything we ate was spectacular and she even got me to eat fish.  There was tuna that was just cooked perfectly so tender and I ate most of it. What I forgot to do was take pictures of the dishes. So more of a reason to come back and get some great food.  It is about 15 minutes from San Gimignano and the food was excellent especially since going into town you pay high prices for food that is really not high quality like we got at Lantini.  So next time you are looking for lunch or dinner venture out to Ristorante Latini and tell Chiara I sent you.


My Friend Judy does go there often and has allowed me to post some pictures until I take some, because we will be going back.  Here are some of the dishes there you can get.

Beef and ArugulaFarro Salad







mille Foglie

Firenze Mom

March 24, 2014

Giardino Nidiaci Oltrarno Area   by Miguel Martinez

We are parents living in the Oltrarno, of very mixed origins, who work together to keep  the only garden for children in the district open.  A garden facing the normally unseen side of the Carmine church, and which, we have recently discovered, was given to the children of our district by the American Red Cross nearly a century ago. Which means we have a very special relationship with families from the USA.

5-nidiaci-arcobalenoUnless it rains or is too cold, we open after school hours (5 p.m.) Monday through Friday, in Via D’Ardiglione, a tiny bending street in San Frediano: in case of doubt, you can call 349-1575238 first.

Oltrarno is the last surviving neighborhood of the center of Florence still populated by mixed social classes and not yet completely overwhelmed by pubcrawling, banks and fashion shops; and San Frediano is the name of the district or  region clustering around the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, where in a sense the Renaissance began.

It’s easy to forget that Florence is people, not just monuments and shop windows, until you have children.  Yet, it was the people living in San Frediano, who largely built the better-known parts of the city.

The only place in the area where children can play on the sidewalks which are so narrow that just one cat at a time can fit – the second has to sit in the street.

However, right behind the apse of Santa Maria del Carmine, there lies an enclosed area. Invisible from the outside, is a large garden, overlooked by buildings dating back to the nineteenth century.


This is what local residents call “Il Nidiaci”.  It’s where all the children of the area, generation after generation, used to play and grew up.  The eighty-year old hat maker who sells her wares in the market at Santo Spirito told us she went to kindergarten and later met her fiancé there.

Everybody thought that this precious oasis in a desert of stone had been opened to the children by a generous lawyer, named Umberto Nidiaci, in 1923. However, there was always something elusive and garbled about the matter. Though our kids played in the whole area, only part of the garden was actually public property.  The buildings and about one-third of the garden was private.

Just last spring, we made an exciting discovery in the Florence Notarial Archive and under a wonderful and completely forgotten fourteenth century fresco.  A bored employee handed us an old bound folder, where we found a document showing that the Nidiaci was really a gift from the American Red Cross to the people of San Frediano.

We discovered that the American Red Cross involvement in Italy in WWI had been enormous. Though today it is only remembered thanks to Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Throughout the country, the ARC had set up initiatives to help refugees, widows, orphans and the families of Italian children. It was in this context that the New England patrician, Edward Otis Bartlett Jr of Providence, Rhode Island, commissioner of the American Red Cross, decided to make a major gift to the children of the city where the ARC had its Italian base.

In 1920, Colonel Bartlett appointed businessman Carlo-Matteo Girard and lawyer Umberto Nidiaci to sell goods belonging to the American Red Cross. They devolved the income “to an Entity which, in the district of San Frediano of this city, should deal with popular instruction and education, with special attention to children”. The sum was invested in the purchase of the garden which would later be called “Il Nidiaci” and all the buildings around it. Umberto Nidiaci was simply the lawyer appointed to carry out the task, on an equal footing with Girard whose name later silently disappeared from the record.3-opening-nidiaci-feast

Going through dusty archives, we discovered how the property had been let slip into the hands of the Nidiaci family (a similar fate was apparently shared by many other ARC initiatives around the country), and in 2008, the last Nidiaci sold the property to a building company with the unlikely name of Amore e Psiche Holding, which we soon discovered wanted to turn the buildings into luxury apartments, and the garden into a parking lot.

In 2011, 1.400 people of our small district signed a petition asking the town government to save the Nidiaci. Mayor Matteo Renzi promptly responded, announcing that saving the Nidiaci was an “absolute and irrevocable priority” for the town government.

One year later, the ludoteca in the area was closed down and the new owners started work in earnest, refurbishing the buildings and using their part of the garden as a construction site. The only sign of interest on  the part of the local government was when they granted permission to the company’s trucks to drive through the garden.

4-halloweenSome families have been living in San Frediano for centuries, others have come recently from places as various as the UK, Naples, Moldavia, Nigeria and Japan.  They were parents seeing each other every day in front of school and their differences became irrelevant.  These parents decided to take matters firmly in hand. They set up an association which pressured the town government into giving them the keys of the public part of the garden, with a four-year commitment on their part to keep the garden open for children,volunteering their time.

The outdoor play equipment had been mostly ripped up and carted off, the day before we opened the garden water was cut off too, and we had no roof over our heads. On Halloween, we had a wonderful party, because the place is safe and walled off, but there was no electricity, so the girls dressed up as black witches were able to play hide and seek for the first time in their lives in real darkness.6-wendy-yates-violin

Everybody did their part to keep the garden running.  There were carpenters and architects, restaurant owners, cleaning women, bricklayers and harpists. But one person that gave a very important contribution, was an American, Wendy Yates, a professional violist, born in Colorado, mother of two girls. She was married to an Italian, but she had always felt out of place.  That was until she started teaching violin for free to the kids of San Frediano at the Nidiaci. Then she suddenly ceased being the expat mom, and became a key figure for all the area.

7-irene-manconi-dragoTo pressure the town administration into finally doing something, in January we organized a march through San Frediano.  A seamstress born in Sardinia made a beautiful banner with the Green Dragon, the medieval symbol of San Frediano.  Duccio, a lively eighty-year old bronze craftsman who as a boy had saved the tools of his shop in Via de’ Serragli from the Nazis, made the metal work on the flagstaff.

San Frediano is Bianco means that all the historic residents here support the “Bianchi di Santo Spirito” in the Florentine “Calcio Storico”. The Bianchi for the first time in history decided to take part in a public demonstration for their district. The families of San Frediano marched through the streets, led by two very active seven-year olds.  They are Samuele whose family comes from Sardinia, and Abduh, whose family comes from Senegal. Abduh’s mother won the competition we made at the garden for the best cake, and we are still arguing about it.  She actually cooked a kind of salty fried rolls that made everybody forget the sweet stuff.


By the way, would anybody be interested in helping out with unpaid English lessons for the kids at the Nidiaci?



email: giardinonidiaci@gmail.com

tel.: 349-1575238 (we answer in English, too)