Motherhood

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Today is our final Motherhood Around the World post this summer, and our last stop is Italy, where Molly Gage moved a decade ago. “My then-fiancé and I were living in New York, but decided to get married and move to his native Rome,” she says. Now divorced, Molly lives with her eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. She teaches art therapy at an Italian university and volunteers at a refugee artisan group. Here are 15 things that have surprised her about parenting in Italy…

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On speaking the language: I speak English with my kids, and their dad speaks Italian. Sabina’s words were all in Italian for the first couple years. Nowadays my kids have cute Italian inflection even when speaking English. This week, Sabina was like, “Can I have a sandwich with may-oh-NAY-zay?” “I’m like, it’s mayonnaise! It’s mayonnaise!” Even though I speak English with them, I sprinkle in some Italian words when they work best. I say “basta,” which means, stop or enough, if they’re doing something annoying; or I say “andiamo,” which means let’s go. Certain words just work so well in Italian. Sometimes Luca still mixes things up, he’ll say “I’m cold in my gambe,” which is “I’m cold in my legs.” Italian is such a beautiful language — I mean, how great is it to just add “ino” to the end of a word and make whatever the subject is, smaller?

On living with in-laws: I had a cross-cultural marriage experience, and now I have a cross-cultural divorce experience. I still live in an apartment in my in-laws’ building; now they’re my next-door neighbors. Also in the building are my ex-husband’s sister and her family, as well as one of his brothers and his family. It sounds kind of awkward, but everyone’s fine with it. It’s great for my kids; they have a bunch of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents nearby. Sometimes in the morning if my son decides he wants cereal for breakfast and I’m planning something else, he’ll knock on his grandmother’s door to get some, or she might call me in the evening and invite us over for a dish of gelato (she makes awesome gelato).

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On a (secret) favorite thing: I would be remiss not to mention the bidet! It has genuinely improved the quality of my life, and now it’s hard to imagine life without it. My kids still like assistance in the bathroom, and it’s great for washing bottoms — also for the ladies, during your period, post-sex, washing feet in the summer after a day of walking in sandals… I feel sad when I go to expat friend’s houses and I see a plant or bath toys in their bidet, indicating that they don’t use it. Last year when we went to the States my kids went to the bathroom and were completely confused — “Where’s the bidet??” For them, it’s like having a kitchen with no sink.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On having babies: Sabina’s due date was Ferragosto, a holiday on August 15th [the day when Catholics believe Mary was received into heaven] and the biggest holiday in Italy after Christmas. Everyone escapes the city for the mountains or sea. I was one of very few women in the clinic when she finally arrived, and I’m convinced that Italian women do not have sex in November to avoid being left in the care of the disgruntled doctors who get the short end of the stick and remain in very hot Rome for the holiday. Luca was born in May, a perfectly reasonable month in which to be born in Italy.

On naming kids: We thought a lot about which names would work — with pronunciation, spelling, etc. — in both the U.S. and Italy. We loved the name Sabina, and it works perfectly in English. There actually aren’t that many Italian men’s names that work well in English, but Luca is a sweet, easy name. One Italian tradition is to name children, especially boys, after a grandparent — so that would have been Saverio, in our case. But I thought that would be too tricky for the U.S. Also, Italian women usually keep their maiden names, at least legally, and the kids take their father’s last name. I wish we could have hyphenated our kids’ last names, but it is just not done here.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On being sweet with children: One really good thing about raising a family here is that people are so into babies and children. Strangers on the street will go out of their way to be friendly and indulge them. When Sabina was a baby, one of the first times I pushed her in the stroller I walked past two soldiers very seriously standing at attention guarding some important embassy, and one of the soldiers glanced at her and gasped in a high-pitched voice, “O Dio (oh God)!”, overcome by her sweet, tiny figure. And no one blinks an eye at women breastfeeding — I always felt comfortable nursing my babies in public, including in front of the Pantheon and wherever else! The catch is that there aren’t a lot of great facilities. So, it works kind of like this: If you go out to eat with kids, there won’t be a changing table, but the staff will happily invite you to change a diaper on a back table. My kids, and kids in general, are often given free pieces of pizza bianca (white pizza) at bakeries.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Pizza bianca.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Fried artichokes.

On a passion for food: Needless to say, food here is so kid-friendly. When we first arrived, I was completely enchanted with the food, in particular with mozzarella di bufala. I was actually did an illustration project called, “The Cheese that Made Me Cry” because there was a time when I bit into mozzarella and cried from how good it was. We were having a picnic in a piazza in Rome, and we had bought mozzarella and pizza bianca and lardo di colannata, which is basically delicious fat. It was so good, tears sprung from my eyes. When I tell this story, Americans laugh, but Italians become grave and speak about the beauty of mozzarella. There’s a real emphasis on local, seasonal, quality ingredients. Food is so regional in Italy, too. In Rome, you have cacio e pepe, fried artichoke hearts and pizza bianca. You’ll get pesto in Liguria, steak in Tuscany, polenta in the north, marzipan from Sicily. Olive oil also has different flavors from different regions, which I didn’t know before I lived here — Puglia’s is spicier, Liguria’s is more mild; Tuscany is in between.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On a national identity: I remember a day early on, however, when I was craving something else. I went to several different bars to find a sandwich with hummus, and I suddenly realized that every bar had the same kinds of sandwiches, and I wasn’t going to find anything else. Italian food is not about innovation or fusion. There was actually a big controversy in the city of Lucca because they wanted only Italian food and no other restaurants. That illustrates the crux of where Italy is right now — so many people who live here are from elsewhere, and Italy is struggling with a national identity about how you can be Italian and have other influences, as well. It’s hard because the U.S. is such a multicultural society; it’s such a different way of thinking about life. One thing I appreciate about my life here is Artisans Together, the refugee program where I volunteer. I lived in Niger, West Africa, for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, and when I went to the refugee center I found people who spoke the language I spoke in my village and got to re-connect with that community. I’m happy that my kids get to experience this, as well.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

The opera Turandot.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

A school lunch.

On public school: Our kids go to public school in Rome. One cool thing is that everyone gets a school lunch; there’s no option to bring a brown-bag lunch. They serve all the kids a primo (pasta), secondo (meat or fritatta), contorno (vegetable) and dolce (fruit or gelato). That’s the Italian way! I also liked that Sabina’s first-grade class learned all about Turandot, the opera, and were actually part of a production, sitting in the audience but using special props (fireflies made from lights inside plastic bottles, constructed in class) and singing little pieces at the appropriate times. Art is considered to be for everyone here, not tied to money and class — it’s everywhere, and valued and claimed by everyone. Sabina’s teachers also took a big class of seven-year-olds on a two-night trip to see the sculptures at Park of the Monsters.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On late bedtimes: Since Italian families tend to eat late, kids end up going to bed even later. This year, Sabina went to a birthday party that ended at midnight, which is late even for me! My kids go to bed around 8:30, but sometimes that interferes with playdates – I once picked Sabina up from a playdate at 6:30 p.m. (on a school night) and the mother was shocked and confused – they eat at 8 or so and the kids go to bed around 10 p.m. Most of the moms in her class know by now my kids are on the quirky American evening system, fortunately.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Older men in Rome.

On getting dressed: Kids dress casually, but adults generally dress much more formally. I remember going to my in-laws’ and my father-in-law was watching TV wearing a suit. I thought, what’s the big occasion? But he was just hanging at home. In a suit. Then he actually puts on full pajamas to take an afternoon nap. I realized recently that I don’t wear T-shirts or shorts anymore; I wear dresses even when taking my kids to the playground. And now that I’ve lived in Italy for more than 10 years, I’m like, flip flops aren’t shoes! They’re for the shower!

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On swimsuits: At the beach, little girls, like Sabina, just wear the bottoms. There are also lots of completely naked kids. Italy is much more relaxed in that way. It feels nice to swim without a suit! Every woman will wear a bikini — even women in their sixties, seventies, eighties. It’s nice to see all these different bodies. And it’s way easier. I mean, who wants to shimmy their arms through a one-piece when they need to go to the bathroom?

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

On mama’s boys: One thing that’s tricky as a parent is that gender roles feel much stricter here. Mama’s boys are not just a myth but a real phenomenon! Italians often stay in the place — city, town or even apartment — where they grew up; and I would say that women also rely on their mothers to some degree, but men are more dependent for sure. “E’ maschio” (he’s male) is something I’ve heard more than I would like to recall; it’s an umbrella excuse for male behavior that’s irresponsible or rude, etc. There seems to be the idea that somehow the male human is only capable of a certain degree of responsibility. When we lived next door to my ex-husband’s mom, he would say, let’s just give her this laundry to iron, and I was like, well, I feel a little funny, but I’d also love to have someone iron this! He would ask his mom, will you cook for us? I read a statistic that said 95% of Italian men had never operated a washing machine, and I was like, wow, that is intense. I haven’t talked about this phenomenon much yet with my son Luca, but I think it’s important to address. He has a very assertive big sister, so maybe it feels less urgent? I am also conscious about not shaming him for crying or expressing feelings other than anger.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

The Villa Borghese gardens.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Gelato at Come il Latte.

On family pastimes: Since we live in northern Rome, the Villa Borghese feels like our backyard. My kids’ favorite thing to do is to rent one of the surrey-style bikes and cruise around the park. Then we’ll walk to our favorite gelato place, Come il Latte, where they put melted chocolate in the bottom of the cone. I’d like to develop more family rituals; I wonder if other single parents struggle with this. For socializing, soccer is very big for boys. Luca hasn’t always been socially savvy, but since he’s been playing soccer it’s like he figured out the social in-road. Birthday party? Kick the ball around. Hanging in park? Kick the ball around.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

The Galleria Borghese.

On returning home: In the U.S., I always feel like I have superpowers. Even after all these years, I’m still not able to communicate in Italian as well as I’d like, so in the U.S. I find myself wanting to chat with everyone, from the official who checks our passports to the cashier at the bookstore, because it’s so fun and easy. Overall, I think there’s also a conundrum in being an expat in general. You get used to the place where you are, but perhaps never quite fully fit in, and then you realize that you feel slightly odd in your home country, as well. After our divorce, we agreed I won’t leave Italy until Luca finishes elementary school, and maybe we’ll move back at that point. But the other day I visited the Galleria Borghese, and I walked out and was like, this is just an amazing place. Italy is an incredibly beautiful country, full of art and history. Getting to live in another country is such a rich experience, a really special thing to be able to do.

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Thank you so much, Molly!

P.S. Our full Motherhood Around the World series (including Sweden and Congo), and and 24 surprising things about parenting in the United States.

(Family portraits by Lena Corwin for Cup of Jo. Colosseum and Piazza Navona photos by Mel. Trevi Fountain photo by Ashlee Moyo. Bidet photo via Ergife Palace Hotel. Soccer photo by Kathryn Ream Cook. Pizza bianca photo by Street Food 42. Artichoke photo by Vicky Wasik for Serious Eats. School lunch photo via Huffington Post. Older men photo via Italy Magazine. Trieste photo by Pauline Boldt for Airbnb. Borghese gardens by Eduardo. Gelato photo by Susa Mathews. Galleria Borghese photo by CDN.)

  1. Anna Martini says...

    I would love to meet up with you as i am often in Rome, an artist too, and have two kids the same ages! I live in Porto Ercole….maybe we could share contact info? ?

    • Molly G says...

      Sure! To start, my email is mollyegage@gmail.com
      Ci vediamo!

  2. Anna Martini says...

    LOVED reading your post about Italy ! As an expat too I can relate…especially after having two babies here in August! I was freaked out too …but it all went smoothly! Coming from Los Angeles and moving to a small town (2000 people!) Has been a crazy experience! It is JUST like my grandma described raising kids in 1950s America (!)–kids in my town walk around and bike on their own after age 10… it had been really freeing and easy to parent here… … Viva Italia!!!

  3. Johannah says...

    Thank you so much for this! We just moved our family to Napoli and it has been wonderful, but also hard and overwhelming. This is very helpful!

  4. Mari says...

    First of all, I apologize for my English! As an Italian girl raised in the south of this beautiful country and used to live in Rome and Milan, I’m glad you could enjoy and “taste” our love and dedication to culture and Beauty. You can say we need to put it into food, music, visual arts…Into the way we dress for ourselves, just to feel good, just to be the better version of what we can be. And, of course, we treasure all children and try our best to give them “una base sicura” to explore the world around them as Bowlby would say :) I think this experience Italy-US will boost the individual strenght we need to encrease ourselves by enlighting the familiar roots we need to be kind and gentle to ourselves.

  5. Bridget says...

    Great interview. I just moved back to Rome, this time with a little one – just started Italian school and he’s very excited about lunch. I saw your comment about a taco place and am interested to know where?!! We make them at home usually, but obviously making tortillas etc is more impegnativo :)

  6. Bridget Koerber says...

    Great interview. I just moved back to Rome, this time with a little one – just started Italian school and he’s very excited about lunch. I saw your comment about a taco place and am interested to know where?!! We make them at home usually, but obviously making tortillas etc is more impegnativo :)

  7. My husband and I lived in Italy for 3 years and we absolutely LOVED it. We lived in Pesaro, Varese, and Torino. I love that the Italian culture is so child friendly. When we took our kids out and one had a meltdown there were no annoying stares and rolling of the eyes. Some people even tried to entertain our kids when they were having a tantrum. Our son has a full on Italian accent as well as uses his hands to express himself. :) It is so cute. I hope he doesn’t lose it any time soon.

  8. emily clark says...

    Loved hearing the perspective of a DIVORCED parent parenting in a different country. That can be challenging/different/rewarding in itself, I’m sure. Love this series

  9. Luis says...

    You brought all my memories of our 6 years in Roma with our 2 young daughters. It is almost as my wife or I wrote this wonderful note, not comparing your gr8 writing skills. I am going to print it and keep it. We are still trying to make pizza bianca as in the picture in a large pizza oven I bought in Roma near via Della giustiniana where we lived, and it is now built in our home in California. We lived in a villa in Etruscan land! Enjoy every second! Bellisimi bambini! Ciao cara! Luis

    • I’m so happy to read this!

  10. You are so lucky to live near the Borghese. It is my favorite thing in Rome!

  11. Simona Morachioli says...

    I am huge fan of this series, and this has obviously been my favorite one.
    Being 100% Italian, it made me laugh and somehow proud.
    I think it is useful to look at your own Country / culture with the eye of a stranger- it helps focusing on the nice and positive stuff instead of always looking at the negative aspects.
    thank you!

    • grazie a te! un bacio

  12. ht says...

    This was sweet! Would love to know more about ‘the cheese that made me cry’ illustration project.

    • I did put a couple poorly photographed copies of illustrations on instagram, othermolly…I am very tech-un-savvy but working on it!

  13. Olivia says...

    This was truly my favorite series you’ve done! Thanks so much for doing all of these interviews and introducing us to such inspiring, interesting, relatable women.

  14. Nattie P says...

    As another Italian living in Ireland for the past 16 years, I too like Carlotta enjoyed reading about Italy through your eyes. Totally agree on the bidet, i can’t wait to own my own house/apartment to have one. Always funny when I explain to Irish people what is for, generally people are very amused but the joke is on whoever doesn’t wash their bum!
    Found funny to read about the formal wearing, especially your in-law wearing a suit at home!! not a tradition in Liguria anyways, very laid back attire in my family.
    Never go out with wet hair (in the colder months), don’t get cold in your stomach so true, always wear socks, don’t drink water after eating ice-cream….I can hear my mum saying these things and I will pass them on to my daughter because that’s the way it is, to me this is just common sense. Can I also share the fact that Italians wear red underwear on the 1st of the new year for good luck :)

    • I did not know the underwear thing; now I know what to put on my Christmas list…!

  15. Maria says...

    I loved this post! I think it is especially nice that she noted things actually pertaining to motherhood: How boys are raised, how breastfeeding is percieved, how late the kids stay up, that sort of thing. And it is very balanced. Very well done!

  16. Thelma says...

    Hi Molly,

    I just nodded my head along to every word of this, thinking “She just gets it, SHE. GETS. IT”. I’m living in Puglia (I’m Irish) and just yes! To everything you’ve said. Especially about the food… most of the time, I feel so lucky to be here and that everything I’m eating is so insanely good, but about once a week, I find myself irrationally annoyed that I can’t find a biriyani, or a burrito, or a pad thai anywhere. Italians are so set in their ways, and that seems lovely one day and infuriating the next.

    I think you’re so cool and brave to stay on after the divorce. I made the (strange to some of my friends) decision to move to Italy AFTER me and my Italian boyfriend broke up. We had spent about a year planning for both of us to move from Abu Dhabi to La Spezia, and when it was over I was completely devastated… not just about the break up, but that my new life plan wasn’t happening. So I moved anyway, albeit to a different part. I love Italy so much, but it was difficult and scary every day in the beginning. I remember having to talk myself into going to the supermarket and I’d plan out what to say for the basic interactions that would be required of me (I toooootally feel like a superhero in Ireland!). I know it must have been hard for you post-divorce, but look at how you’ve embraced it! Brava!

    Lots of love from Polignano a Mare (if you’re ever down this part of the country – get in touch thelmafrayne on instagram)

    Thelma

    • Laurel says...

      As an expat, this comment really made my day (well, night if I’m being honest). There’s something about the shared experience of struggling to adjust to a new place you’ve decided to call home and how good it feels when someone gets you in that moment. I hope you two connect!

    • Whoa, it looks like you’re in am amazing spot! I’ve only been through Puglia briefly; this is country is so rich in beautiful places it’s kind of ridiculous. Good for you for moving anyway; it sounds like you are in the full swing of your new home, yes?
      I just added you on instagram…yeah, burritos are not to be found but if you make it up here there is a place with decent tacos and we will indulge!

    • Tracy says...

      Oh wow I studied abroad in Lecce and will never forget the beauty of that part of the world. So jealous that you live in the area.

  17. Gabi says...

    I say “basta,” which means, stop or enough, if they’re doing something annoying; or I say “andiamo,”

    Love this post! This Mom sounds awesome and hilarious and like she is raising her kids in a way that I hope to raise my own someday.

  18. Molly, this is totally forward on my part, but if you ever want to chat with a fellow American or have your kids speak English to someone, I just moved to Rome for the year with my husband and 3 kids (ages 4, 7, and 9). My husband and I lived here years ago but this is the first time with kids, and they are in an Italian school (today’s the first day!) and we are biting our nails to see if they are just totally freaked out at pickup today. Anyway, if you ever feel like a coffee, feel free to drop me a line: lesleyporcelli@yahoo.com. I am 100% getting us to Come Il Latte this weekend!

    • Bethany says...

      I’m up in Trieste. You should join Americans in Italy FB group, I think there are quite a few members in Rome. Enjoy your year!

  19. Gá says...

    Yes, bidet rules! I live in Spain and when house-hunting I felt I had to justify my need for having a bidet in the flat by saying I was Italian… Just a quick spelling correction: friTTata ;-) Good work team CupOfJo. Baci

  20. Amélie says...

    A lot of this rings so true for me even though I live in France. I’m bicultural so I don’t remember not speaking French even though I grew up in the US. And I STILL get really excited about striking up a random conversation with the passport agent when I fly home. Not so much because of the language barrier but because strangers in the US are just so much friendlier. Growing up that way, and a lot of kids of immigrants say the same, you never fully belong anywhere. You identify with pieces from different countries.

    Also, the man thing is true here. How many times have I heard women shrug and say “C’est un homme.” They’re basically just a different species and we must adapt. Not necessarily fair but it makes things less contentious. Also gives you an excuse. When I drop my daughter off at school and she looks a hot mess because I ran out of time, I just tell the teacher my husband dressed her and she smiles knowingly :).

  21. Lucia L says...

    I was recently in Barcelona and ate a dish, suckling pig with perfectly crispy skin, that made me cry. The waiter was quite amused, and it made it such a special, intimate experience.

  22. Marta says...

    I loved every single post of the “Surprising Things about Parenting in …” series! It’s such a great way to know about other cultures!
    I also share the love for bidets! I am from Portugal, been living in the US for few years now, and bidets are also a bathroom staple there! I didn’t really understand their purpose until I grew up and, as Molly mentioned, realized how useful they are for cleaning before and after sex :D
    With respect to the “mamma’s boys”, that’s the same in Portugal, unfortunately… maybe a latin thing? I have a younger brother and I was “forced” from a very young age to learn and help with the household tasks, contrarily to my brother because “he is a boy”. It was so revolting. It made me a feminist for as long as I can remember! :) But I have been lucky with my italian boyfriend though!!! He’s definitely not a mamma’s boy, he knows how to do everything and shares half of the household duties with me!
    Finally, on being an expat, and as many readers also referred, Molly sumed it all up very well. I am an introvert, but in Portugal I can be very chatty, because I can finally say what I want, the way I want, with the meaning I want, without being afraid of being misunderstood! It is such a freedom!

    And, by the way, any american expats living in Portugal out there? I would love to hear your view on parenting in Portugal! :D

  23. Shannon says...

    Wonderful post. If you would ever be interested in doing a MATW post about parenting in Canada, I would be honoured to be your subject! (You might think it’s just like parenting in the US, but I don’t think it is, entirely…) I’ve been a long-time reader and have some good ideas… anyways, just a thought. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in exploring!

    • Meghan says...

      I’m intrigued as a Canadian and often thought about this!

    • Bonnie says...

      I would love to read that if you’re able to do a post! I’ve loved our limited (to date) travels in Canada and have been impressed by the markets’ selections of organic products. I’d love to learn more about your life parenting there!

  24. Patrice says...

    That lunch! I die.

  25. Lulu says...

    What a wonderful look into this little family’s life!

  26. I don’t know first hand how it is to raise children in Rome but having lived there for 1 year in a household with a 3 year old, I can definitely relate to all that was said. Everything from how to dress, eating habits, the language. But she is so right. Italy is like being in a fairly tale. Such a unique and wonderful place and her kids are so lucky to be raised there.
    http://www.lacasabloga.com

  27. Lindsay says...

    Wow I relate to so much of this! I am an American who has spent a decent amount of time in Liguria and Northern Italy (yep to the amazing Pesto and polenta!) For a little bit, I was an au pair and yes, the father had to take me aside and explain that he is not like American fathers, he doesn’t deal with the children all the time (after I had gone to him a few times about things pertaining to the kids). Also, since I had studied art, they were very interested and kept asking if I wanted to set up a class to teach neighborhood children in my free time. Oh the bidet….the bufala mozzarella….it was very fun reading this!

  28. What a nice one! We also live in Italy, Sicily! And god… yes about the late bedtime! It’s crazy kids are up that late… But it’s a struggle to manage to put them early without being socially excluded!
    And in Palermo life also stops at ferragosto :)

  29. Valeria says...

    I have been living in Florence for the last 15 years and can agree with everything Molly says! Related to what she said about flip flips, I love how Italians are so elegant: you will never see someone in pants in the street or (gasp) at the grocery store! Also, it’s true: every Tuscan trattoria or ristorante looks the same and has the same menu…I often speak about this with my Italian friends but they only look at me puzzled, as if wondering why should they have other dishes that aren’t Tuscan delicacies?
    She didn’t mention the wonderful healthcare system. It varies from region to region, but at least in Tuscany it’s incredible. You can go to the doctor or hospital at any time and will pay only the tax, and throughout my pregnancy and labor not only did I spend ZERO euro, but I had medicines, all kinds of medical exams, prenatal and acquanatal classes for free.
    I have often wondered why do kids in the US go so early to bed…don’t you prefer them to wake up a little later? Maybe you could do a post about it!

    • Sadie says...

      I’m an American and can tell you I have never put my child to bed early. When I was a child, we were put to bed when we showed signs of sleepiness, and I’ve always done the same. When I hear people talking about putting their kids to sleep at 7:30, it sounds crazy to me! My son (4) typically runs out of steam at 9 and wakes at 9, but he routinely stays up later for special occasions. I love having mornings to myself and I enjoy our family evenings. Especially in the summer, when the day is so hot, it’s nice to enjoy the cooler evenings.

      He also still naps in the afternoon, which is nice for us.

  30. asia says...

    I loved this! My family and I visited my husband’s brother’s family in Rome in 2016 and this brought back a lot of fond memories. About the food: I remember one of my daughters bemoaning the fact that we were eating “only Italian food” for 10 days straight! (No complaints from me;) As for the formality in dressing: my SIL said that women do not go out of the house with wet hair, which was totally at odds with my own wash-n-go style–but I never skipped the hair dryer while I was there. Except once. And I swear all the women on the bus were staring at me!

    • They probably were staring at you…:)! I can’t tell you how many times my ex-husband told me about seeing women with wet hair (in the winter, even!) when he went to school in NY; he was completely mystified!

  31. Liz says...

    WHY oh why is this the last in the MATW series? This is my absolute FAVORITE column that you do, and I’m sure there is no shortage of mothers to interview and from whom we could all gain perspective. Please, please reconsider!!!

    • its the last installment for this summer. it’ll be back next summer.

  32. Rachel says...

    I find this series very interesting. And I love learning about other cultures. With that said, I’d love to see some parents who were born and raised in the country rather than Americans who moved to another country or women who have married someone from a different country. I understand the perspective of these people being able to compare their lives in the U.S. compared to their new one. But it would be nice to learn about someone who doesn’t have a comparison to the U.S.

  33. Lexie says...

    what a cool lady. I was fortunate to study a semester in Italy and I feel like at such a dumb, young age 20–it really set me up for life. to appreciate beauty, art, life-changing food, a culture that prizes life and la vita e bella. it must be tough to be a single mother–esp an expat–in Italy. so brava for this great perspective!

  34. Bobbi says...

    LOVE this series.

  35. Stacie says...

    I loved this particular MATW. I think she summed up many things other features moms would agree with – the tension of living immersed in another culture but never being “home”, never being native.

    My husband, sister, and I visited Italy a few years ago and while it was a wonderful experience (I cried actual tears when I saw Michelangelo’s David), we were struck by how ethno-centric the food was. It was delicious, no doubt, but after two solid weeks of pizza, pasta, seafood, pasta, pizza, frittata, we were so ready for some sushi or a hamburger! We have a hard rule of “no American chain restaurants” while traveling abroad, but ended up eating at Hard Rock Cafe in Rome because there were no other options.

    Thank you for this series! I look forward to it.

  36. Emily says...

    Very refreshing to hear from a single momma!

    • Suzieq says...

      Yes!!!

  37. Kelly libby says...

    ❤❤❤

  38. Susa says...

    The picture from Come il Latte is mine! I can confirm that it is absolutely the best gelato EVER. The cone pictured was our second; the first was so good that we had to go back inside for another!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg it is so good! we actually went with molly and her kids when we were in rome and i was going bananas for the homemade whipped cream. what a spot!!

  39. Jasna says...

    Love this interview and Italy is one of my favourite countries!

    On the other hand, I live in a neighbouring country and I’m well aware of the “mama’s boys” culture. To be honest – I do not like it at all! Many of my friends’ marriages fell apart because women couldn’t stand their partners being generealy lazy when it comes to domestic chores.

    I lived in Washington DC for a short while and just remember how I was in awe of American guys, being so independent and knowing so many things around the house and not complaining about them. :-)

  40. madame says...

    I can not IMAGINE living with out a bidet! Indispensable!

  41. When I told my doctor in Switzerland that we were thinking about having a baby he let me know that he, like most obstetricians, would be gone the month of August. Luckily we conceived a March baby and avoided having a medical student perform the delivery. Yikes! Giving birth — the most natural thing in the world — will simply not get in the way of a European’s holiday.

  42. Elizabeth Simpkins says...

    Thanks for sharing Molly! So enjoyed & appreciate reading about life in Italy. Hope to visit some day as I really like all the foods mentioned. Would’ve loved for my children to have had those school lunches! I wish you & your children the very best!

    • grazie!

  43. Emily says...

    Really sad that this is the last post of MATW. There are still many many more countries to include, surely?

    • Ella says...

      It’s only the last MATW for the summer. To me that means it will be back!

  44. paola says...

    Thank you so much!
    being Italian, when I saw the post I thought “let’s see all the stereotypes they come up to”
    but I was wrong, totally wrong (and I am sorry if I thought it)
    you simply say what it is like to be a parent and a kid in my complicated and yet wonderful country
    yes we love art and yes we do love food
    and bidet is simply… how can you do without?!?
    and of course, we still struggle with mommy’s boys (I have two and I try all my best, thanks to my wonderful husband)
    but in the end you made me proud of my Country, thank you

    • I’m so glad you liked the post, Paola! Food and art and bidet- any ONE of these makes Italy great!

  45. I loved reading this! I identify with so much of it being married to an Italian and raising our children bilingually. Pretty much every part I am nodding and laughing in agreement! Thanks for such a great post!

  46. Laura says...

    I’m Italian and leaving in Italy of course and yes, I was moved to read this article. It’ really like this. Every single word. This tale of my Country and Society is absolutely true and beautiful / real in every aspect.
    ciao

    • un bacio!

  47. Hi, my name is Luisella and I live in Monza (near Milan).
    It was very interesting to discover our habits, seen through the look of an American who lives in Rome for several years.
    I would just like to point out that school meals have the purpose of eating children the same dishes without creating any differences between them.
    In this way the child can also taste something other than what is usually used to eating in the family.
    Of course, there are special menus for children who have food intolerances, documented with a medical certificate.
    Ciao!

    • And you can also ask for different menus for religious reasons, of course.

    • Katie says...

      This is so wonderful! And humane. I love that Italy values equality all the way through to school lunches (:

  48. Stella says...

    “You get used to the place where you are, but perhaps never quite fully fit in, and then you realize that you feel slightly odd in your home country, as well.” – as an american expat in England, this statement really hits home! You feel so inbetween as an expact.. never fully one nor the other. Love this post! x

  49. Jo Cohen says...

    I really identified with what Molly wrote about the expat conundrum, “Overall, I think there’s also a conundrum in being an expat in general. You get used to the place where you are, but perhaps never quite fully fit in, and then you realize that you feel slightly odd in your home country, as well.”

    I am fro England and have been living in Israel for 11 years. I feel at home here but will always be a little different – but in England I feel foreign too!

    \

    • A says...

      I’ve heard this called being a “Third Culture Kid,” when it happens in childhood. From or born in one country, living in another country – never really being of one place completely. I lived with my family in Africa as a child but have lived in the US for 25+ years; those teenage years back in America I absolutely felt that I did not fit in either place! Life becomes a hybrid.

  50. Neile says...

    I admire that you are able to coexist closely with your ex-husband’s family. What a gift that is for your children. Thank you for sharing your insights about living and parenting in Italy. As an American mom who recently moved to Moscow, I love hearing the perspectives, struggles and joys of expat parents in this series!

  51. Sarah says...

    I love this series, especially as an American living abroad. I related SO much to what Molly says about coming home and having the super power of speaking English. I’m normally a very introverted person, but bring me back to the states and I’ll chat away with everyone… just because I can.

  52. J.J. says...

    Great insights! Love love love hearing from a single mother. I’m sure it’s not been easy to be an ex pat let alone get divorced, Molly, but what a gift to have the homemade gelato and burata on hand to help. ;)

    • It does, indeed, help!

  53. Ashley S. says...

    It is such a joy to read about each place in this series! This one reminded me of the month I spent in Italy learning about their schools. I couldn’t believe how the lunches were like little gourmet meals! The schools I visited all had large round tables and they were brought more food when needed. I also visited a children’s only performance of the opera Othello (done with large puppets) in Bologna. I couldn’t believe kids 6-8 were allowed to hear such a story, but it was absolutely amazing how they communicated the story in a way that was truly kid friendly without taking away too much from the plot. Italy is truly a special place!

  54. I can only dream about raising a family in italy!

  55. A says...

    You can add a bidet attachment to any toilet! I see that someone posted a hose attachment above, but I can also recommend two more that install on your toilet, under the seat, and have a spray more similar to an actual bidet.

    High end is the toto washlet – when I worked in residential architecture this was a common bathroom upgrade. It’s Japanese, and it even has a built-in dryer to dry you off at the end (along with other lovely features!).

    The budget option is the tushy, which I have and highly recommend. It doesn’t require power like the toto washlet, and if your toilet is beside your sink you can run hot water to it. Super easy to install – and heavenly to use! I get sad when I poop away from home bc I don’t get that squeaky clean feeling that my tushy delivers ;)

    • Sarah says...

      LOL, I’ve had the Tushy on my wishlist for awhile, so I love reading your endorsement! Maybe that will be on my Christmas list this year, haha!

  56. ECH says...

    This is a good one! She’s so insightful and honest.

  57. Kristi says...

    I just have to say that Sabine is a doppelganger for my six-year-old daughter – it is uncanny! I guess we’ve found her twin!

    Wonderful article, this series is so very interesting.

  58. Katie Larissa says...

    Guys, I feel so ignorant, but how do you USE a bidet? Like, do you scoop water up in your hands and…wash yourself? Or…crouch…over the water?? I’ve never understood the method. Anyone care to enlighten me?

    • Jill says...

      I’m typing this before I go Google, which may be unwise, but…I think it works like a sort of brief, mini, upwards shower. No scooping needed.

    • Elisa says...

      You use the water from the tap and with your hand you scoop it and wet your “privates”; then you use soap as you would with any other body part; then you rinse, same as you did in step one. You can either sit facing the wall or with your back to the wall. Bidets are THE BEST.
      Italian here, been living in the UK for the past 10 years. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing.

  59. Carla Wytrykush says...

    Toto washlet. Changed. My. Life.
    https://washlet.totousa.com/how-it-works
    I thought my husband was ridiculous for installing this during our renovation, but it is worth every penny. Planning ahead, this will be invaluable as we age.

  60. Danna says...

    My husband and I always say that if we ever win the lottery we’re moving to Italy.

  61. Zulema says...

    Thank you so much Molly for sharing your experience! I’ve always wondered how it is to live in Italy. Gosh I can complete relate to the machismo you talked about. I’m from Mexico and that is also very common over there. Definitely such a double standard born until I became a mom did I really grasp the full way of it. I wish you all the best and applaud you for being open to living in another country! The kid’s school lunches look delicious!

  62. Courtney says...

    This was such a lovely read! My partner is from Rome and I dream of living there with our future kids someday, but when I suggest it he sometimes scoffs and says, “Rome is too hard!” Deep down, though, he knows it’s worth the traffic and strikes and inflexible customs to experience the culture and beauty of Rome as a family. At the very least, I’m looking forward to long summers or sabbatical years spent in Italy with young kids someday.

  63. Wendy says...

    As the single mom of two teenage boys I really enjoyed this post. In regards to this line — ‘I’d like to develop more family rituals; I wonder if other single parents struggle with this.’ The answer is yes!! After my divorce I felt the need to come up with new rituals and traditions that defined us as a family still. But what to do? Some things we’ve tried with success — Special dinners out on the first and last days of school, cutting down a fresh tree together at Christmas time, Friday night pizza/movie nights, or even something as simple as finding a TV series that we all like and watch together. It’s really fun having those things to look forward to that just the 3 of us can share. It helps to shape us as a family, even though that family doesn’t look like it once did. You sound wonderful Molly, thanks for sharing your story.

    • S says...

      As a newly separated, getting a divorce mom of two, thus really helped me. Thank you.

      I love your blog Joanna. It’s meaningful.

  64. Renee says...

    That school lunch looks amazing. Thank you for sharing about your life in Italy.

    I am going to miss this series. I hope it’s back next summer.

    • Suzie says...

      It does look amazing but my son wouldn’t be able to eat more than half of it due to his food allergies which include dairy and wheat – so out goes the bread, pasta, and the tomato salad that looks like it has cheese on it. I don’t know what we would do if he were not allowed to bring a brown bag lunch and we lived in Italy! Unless there is an exception for children with allergies…

    • wb says...

      I wondered the same. All that gluten!

    • Beckxoxo says...

      Hi Suzie,

      Interestingly I’ve read in a few different places that the quality of food in Italy is such that lots of people who suffer intolerances/some allergies in other parts of the world are ok with Italian produce! More pure flours, dairy that is lower in lactose etc etc. Obviously doesn’t solve serious autoimmune type allergies but very interesting for people with intolerances. Says a lot about our food in Western countries…

    • Nicole says...

      Suzie-I studied abroad in Italy and food allergies were pretty much unheard of-my host father was a doctor and he said that because their food is of s higher quality, they have less issues with it. Besides one person I met having celiacs, I didn’t know anyone who had any dietary challenges.

    • Cristina says...

      This is for Suzie. Children with allergies do get different food. My son’s best friend has multiple allergies (dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts), and has always been fine with his special menu. It’s far from being a perfect system, but I’m so glad I don’t have to pack a lunch!

      This is such a great series, I will miss it

    • Giovanna says...

      Of course there are exceptions for kids with allergies, you just have to inform the school :)
      Giovanna (from Italy)

    • paola says...

      @Suzie, of course our schools pay attention to all kind of allergies: they don’t starve kids nor do they try to kill them

    • Chicca says...

      Your kid wouldn’t probably have allergies if he was living there eating fresh unprocessed wide variety of food

    • Suzie says...

      Hi All – thanks for the responses on this! I agree there are theories about the Westernization of food and the way that wheat is grown, processed, that perhaps are increasing the rate of food allergies and disease such as celiac. I’m glad there is a system in place for children with food allergies (since the article said no one is allowed to brown bag it, but I suppose that doesn’t leave out a special menu provided by the school). An Italian grocery nearby our place sells gluten free pasta imported from Italy so there must be more than the rare celiac disease or wheat-intolerant person there, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a market. In response to Chicca – this is a very little understood field currently so I don’t think we can automatically assume that my son wouldn’t have food allergies simply if he lived in Italy. None of my family has ever had food allergies so it was a totally unexpected thing for us to be dealing with all of these. We first knew about his food allergies while he was only nursing, having NEVER eaten solid food, so I would be careful about comments that seem like they place the blame on Mom for eating too many processed foods (you probably didn’t mean it this way). I grew up in a different culture so many of our menus are unprocessed and cooked at home.

    • Suzie says...

      I also have to add – in fact, I would LOVE if (more?) American schools would create a special menu for children with food allergies so that bringing your own food is not necessary (as it is for us now at my son’s school).

    • From Milan, I confirm we have both food allergies/intolerances and different school menus for kids who suffer of these (or with religious restrictions). We always complain about the quality of the school canteen service (and we are often right!), but I have to admit that there is big attention and respect for special needs and different cultures. I add that, if your kid is not perfectly ok (for example coming back to school after being ill), you’re allowed to ask for a light meal the morning of the same day.

    • Maria says...

      For Suzie: I actually read somewhere (not sure where) that there is a significant minority of Italians with celiac. Gluten free pasta options are quite widespread there!
      Also Shauna at glutenfreegirlandthechef blog blogged years ago about going to Italy on honeymoon and how easy it was for her as a celiac to eat out in restaurants. That stuck with me!

    • I just thought I’d add here that one of my (ex) sister-in-laws has celiac disease and she gets an allotment/allowance every month to buy gluten-free food, which they sell at the pharmacy, and it’s quite generous.

  65. Kelly says...

    I loved reading this – and I gotta know – is that a photo of an actual school lunch in Italy? Please say “yes” and I will start packing my bags tomorrow.

    • Elisa says...

      YES. I am Italian, I am 38, and my friends and I on occasion still talk about how good the food at our primary school was. The cook, Teresa, was a grumpy old lady who seemed not to like kids that much, but gosh she knew how to cook!

  66. Katie says...

    Oh wow, thank you Molly! <3 You are a fantastic writer and this is my favourite piece of my favourite series on my favourite blog.
    What a wonderful slice of Italian life you have shared.
    Many years ago I lived in Italy for just a year, but everything you mentioned still feels so close. I married an American and now constantly wonder if we have made the right choice to raise our children in the (bland I sometimes find!) American suburbs. I feel like I am depriving them of the excitement, history and wonder of city like Rome.

    • You can always visit….! ox

  67. Michelle says...

    This was my favorite Motherhood post so far! The food pics didn’t hurt (I would die for one of those fried artichokes or a bite of that gelato!) but I loved reading about Molly’s experience of Italian culture as a mother. Thank you!!

  68. Elise says...

    This was so much for fun me to read. I lived in Italy as a child with my family. We left the booming US in the mid-50’s for my dad’s job in Milano. Americans were loved in Italy, and my memories are full of joy and wonder. There was art, dance class, and absolutely wonderful food.
    Thank you, Molly, for sharing your story.

  69. Your daughter is absolutely the spitting image of you! This blog post was so wonderful to read, I go to Milan next weekend and I’m so excited for a taste of Italy.

    Abigail Alice x

  70. Wow, this was a joy to read. I hope I get to try some of the mozzarella at least once in my life! Also still wishing bidets were more common here in the US; we had one in our hotel in San Francisco and it changed. my. life. My boyfriend was all, “try it, but don’t scream.” I was like, why would I scream? Turned it on, and screamed lol but then I was so sad to leave it at the end of our trip!
    Loved the series this summer by the way! At this point even if you repeat countries just with different families I would still gobble these posts up, they are so fun!

    • Jillian says...

      Oh I love comments that make me laugh out loud. “… but don’t scream.” Love it.

  71. Loved her story as it rang true for myself as well. I’m married to a Frenchie and we have a 4 year old son. He’s been to France to visit his in-laws 5 times now and it has started to feel like our second home. One of the most interesting things in France regarding raising a child is they eat what the adults eat. There’s no chicken fingers or Mac n cheese. They develop a strong palette at a young age. My son loves brie, quiches, and asparagus thanks to our trips to France.

    • Alice says...

      This is pretty common in the UK too! My godson eats whatever his parents have, and my young half-sister’s favourite foods, aged 2, were smoked salmon, beetroot, and curry! I don’t understand why people wouldn’t give children the same things that adults eat… seems like a recipe for fussy eaters to me! (Though I don’t have children, so I don’t fully understand of course!)

    • Agnes says...

      @Alice, interesting, as I’d never heard of the concepts of children eating at different times and/or different foods than the adults until I moved to the UK! (I’m from Canada). Good to know!

  72. Thank you, Molly, for sharing, I loved it! I’m Italian, but have lived abroad for the past 10 years, and it’s actually quite funny to see my beautiful home country through your eyes. It’s even funnier to be genuinely surprised about some of the traditions—for example, to us northern Italians, Ferragosto was never a big deal, definitely not the second most important holiday after Christmas… it goes to show what you said about each region having their own traditions.

    And two more things: 1. don’t worry Molly, when I go back I get tears in my eyes with every mouthful, it’s just the way it is with Italian food (and we do take it very seriously, a story about a good mozzarella di bufala is not to be laughed at ;-). 2. How can anybody possibly live without a bidet? It’s mental!

    (Joanna, not sure if you want to correct it, but here it goes, for the love of languages: Andiamo is written with one M; later on, in the paragraph about school lunches, the four courses of the meal should be singular: primo, secondo, contorNo (it’s missing an N), and dolce).

    Un abbraccio

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, carlotta! all fixed!

    • Carlotta, that’s so interesting about the North not being into Ferragosto – maybe because’s it’s not so hot there?
      I know there are many things Italy has to offer, but mozzarella and the bidet will always be two favorites at the very top of the list, and two things I miss terribly in the States!

    • Laura C. says...

      As an Italian’s wife and having lived in Italy for almost ten years, I have to agree with Carlotta! The bidet thing, I can’t believe why people here on Spain don’t understand the very importance of it!
      Grazie cara!

  73. Stephanie says...

    Love this series and I really loved this post! Thank you for sharing more perspectives from a single parent. I am not a single parent but I grew up with an amazing single mom and many of my mom friends are also single. I would love to see more posts like this one! :)

  74. Joanna says...

    Yes! So similar to Greece!
    Except the bidet! I think they stoped being popular around the ’80s and you do not see them anymore in newer apartments!

  75. mandy says...

    What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing!

  76. Anna says...

    I am glad she touched on the culture of masculinity and “boys will be boys” attitude that is very common in Italy (and yes, if I were her I would be worried how it will affect her son) . The “he’s a man” excuse is also extended to excuse cheating and flirting/openly looking at women outside of your marriage there, and unfortunately a lot of women are really complicit in it, encouraging the behavior. I think it’s gross and quite sexist, myself.

    • Jilly says...

      So true. Since mothers raise these children and choose their marriage partners the blame is really on us, regardless of the culture.

  77. Michela says...

    I grew up in Milan Northern Italy and all the meals in the city schools, at least in the 80s, were provided by the same company. Every other Friday there was something as “secondo” that we used to call THE THING because nobody could tell what it was. Fish, vegetable, edible inorganic material? Who knew? I think it was a kind of fish mousse with parsley. Growing up I had friends who went to different schools but we all knew what THE THING was.
    Also every Wednesday we had icecream for dessert :)
    Now I live in London with my american husband, sometimes I feel sad my girls will never have icecream at school ;)

    • Maria says...

      Michela, you have reminded me of my Spanish school lunches – in summer there was also ice cream for lunch one day of the week – of the three-coloured stripe type of ice cream (choc, vanilla, strawberry).

      I live in the UK now and love telling my friends we used to get calamari rings as a starter dish! (now that they are all the rage in posh spanish and italian restaurants).

  78. Em says...

    This all sounds so lovely! And she’s lovely! I think this one is my favorite of the whole series :)

    • aw, shucks – thanks!

  79. Jessica says...

    “Overall, I think there’s also a conundrum in being an expat in general. You get used to the place where you are, but perhaps never quite fully fit in, and then you realize that you feel slightly odd in your home country, as well”

    From one expat to another, truer words have never been spoken.

    Lots of love!

    • back at you, thanks!

    • Candace says...

      Exactly this! That line resonates so much.

    • Laura C. says...

      Accurate words Molly, I feel exactly the same now that I’m back to my home country, I feel that I don’t belong completely nor here nor there… I just feel like I’m always looking for something!

    • Janet says...

      This is 100% how I feel – thanks for finally putting it into words!

  80. The school lunches made me smile! I taught an English language summer camp in small towns near Parma, and noticed something similar (the company that came into do our lunches also did the school lunches during the school year. And they provided lunches for many of the factories in the area, I guess.) One thing that was interesting to me was there was a daily lunch menu, but also what I called the “Picky eater’s” lunch. You had to sign up for it ahead of time, but for picky eaters (yes, even Italian kids can be picky!) they got White Pasta for their first course and Parma Ham for their second course.

    The other thing I loved about the school we worked in was the… caretaker, I guess you’d call her in English. From what the Italian educators I worked with said, most schools have an employee who is sort of like a janitor or gardener, but also sort of like a school grandparent. Ours was an older woman who knew every child’s name and family situation, and if one fell or needed a band aid, she’s scoop them onto their lap and fix their woes. She was amazing!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the caretaker sounds amazing! what a comfort she must have been to those students.

    • Chicca says...

      Yeah! She is called bidella. A mix between psychologist, nurse, nanny and housekeeper.

  81. Corinne says...

    I love that “let’s go” is one of the things you say in Italian. When my Sister in law(also an ex-pat) would visit us from Cyprus with her kids she said “Ela” (come on in Greek) so much that by the end of the visit I started saying it to my kids too. It sounds nicer!

    • mia says...

      In Greek we also say ‘Pame’ (pronounced Pa-meh) meaning ‘let’s go’. I don’t have kids yet but have taught my Aussie husband this word, and we quietly say this to each other in social situations when either one of us wants to leave without offending anyone. Also, what I say to my dogs so they know we’re going to go for a walk.

  82. I’m intrigued by the fried artichoke…
    I love the name Luca.

  83. PJ says...

    Bidets, school lunches, art & gelato. Great read!

    Spelling correction: andiamo :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, PJ!

  84. simmi says...

    So nice to see someone who is divorced on this series, and rocking it. Also loved her honesty about her son’s social struggles– am right there with you, but a couple years behind and you have given me so much hope. And also, now I also want to move to Italy, and eat cheese and gelato in those gorgeous parks and squares.

    • Molly says...

      C’mon over and we’ll take you for gelato! So glad it looks like I’m rocking it (said after a day of multiple pillow fights to disuse sibling tension, one page of homework that took two hours, and one tantrum that caused my ex-mother-in-law to inquire about the health of my son)…

    • Amy says...

      Yes! I appreciate CoJ’s efforts to be inclusive in all their series, and I agree – great to see a single parent (and one with a healthy, functional divorce) ❤️❤️❤️

    • Rainbow says...

      Molly, you have no idea how much it means to me (and I think to many others) to hear about these sorts of things. Thank you. It feels like, if someone with such a beautiful and amazing life and family can have all these same kinds of problems that we do, then maybe we’re all okay :) And we are!

      And you are doing such a fantastic job, pillow fights and tantrums and all <3

  85. Liz says...

    It’s always amazing to me how similar the Spanish and Italian cultures seem to be. Almost all of this could have been written about my expat life in Spain! Very interesting read!

    • Calliope says...

      I was thinking the same about Greece. How many similarities in daily life we share with Italy and Spain. In fact in Spain I felt right at home, even more so than in Italy. Maybe it is a Mediterranean thing??

    • Mariana says...

      … And Portuguese :-) Serious bidet fans over here!

  86. A MARTIN says...

    The picture of the older men hanging out made me tear up and smile. What a beautiful picture! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️We need more of that sense of community and inclusion for our seniors ❤️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! our lovely neighbor Buddy just died, and his sweet wife now lives alone. the boys and i sometimes stop by to see her and she says she feels lonely. i was just thinking the other day about how i wish we had some town squares, where she could sit and talk to other people without having to plan it ahead of time. there are playgrounds for young families, and of course cafes and restaurants if you want to go out to eat with someone, but not so much public gathering places for older people, if that makes sense. that’s such a wonderful thing about italy!

    • Ellen says...

      That was my biggest takeaway from Italy too: the importance of the piazza. It was so nice to see the elderly hang around all evening chatting (and picking up tourists children when they slipped on cobblestones!).

    • j says...

      Hi Joanna,
      Just stopping by, with your boys, is such a kind comfort.
      Thank you for the posts on coping with grief and how to
      write a sympathy note.

    • When I was a kid, I’d go visit my older next door neighbor every day. Her kids didn’t live around, she taught me to embroider, and gave me jello, and let me chase her cats around. In my memory she was my grandma’s age or older, but my mom told me recently that she wasn’t even 60 when I started showing up! Now my mom is doing the same thing for the little girl across the streeet from her.

  87. Kerri says...

    That school lunch is that made me cry :-)

  88. Kristin says...

    The link to the post about parenting in the U.S. versus other countries got me thinking: have you ever considered doing a post about regional differences within the U.S.? I’m mom to an almost-1 year old in Orange County, California, and just from talking to friends and family in other places (NorCal, New York, Texas, Montana, North Carolina, Washington state) I’ve been shocked by the number of differences in how people parent that seem to be based solely on geography! Just one example: here in SoCal my young daughter is being taught to address adults by their first name, including her daycare teachers, adults at church, friends, family–everything is pretty casual. But my family in Texas would be appalled by that! Everyone is miss or mister, followed by a first or last name, and children are taught to use “sir” or “ma’am” as a sign of respect. I know you have international readers, but I would love to learn about more regional differences that I’m not aware of her in the U.S.

    • That’s such a good idea! I hope they take your suggestion.

    • Jeanne says...

      Our part of Orange County is still pretty conservative. All the parents and teachers are still addressed as Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss. But I know it’s different in LA and other parts of OC. When my kids were little, I would still get the occasional Mrs. “Johnny’s Mom” which I thought was adorable.

    • Hanna says...

      This is a great idea. My kids were born in Silicon Valley, but now we’re raising them in rural West Virginia. In many ways, it was like moving to another country.

    • Hayley says...

      So we are in Texas and my husband (raised in Ohio) HATES the ma’am and sir. He tells the kids, “don’t say that to me. You can says yes/no daddy, etc.” But my mom is so quick to add sir or ma’am after they say yes. “Yes sir?” Poor babies are probably confused!

    • Stella says...

      I thought about this when they posted the story about the summer long camp for kids. While there are some multi-week camps in Texas you typically don’t send them away for more than a week or so! Of course, I say Texas, but we are so big that there are regional differences between the cities and the towns and the north, south, east and west!

    • Kristin says...

      Hayley, I’m with your husband, I can’t stand the sir/ma’am thing either. We are considering moving to Texas next year and I’m more than a little nervous about fitting into the more conservative parenting style after the laid-back Cali approach!

    • EBeth says...

      That’s so interesting that some people don’t like the “sir” and “ma’am”! Even though we did not set out to teach them that habits, both my boys (now 21 & 24) have always used those terms. At some point, I realized that it’s because my husband uses those terms when he talks to me and to them and they just picked it up! The only things we insisted that they say were “please and thank you!”

    • Sam says...

      Another vote for this!

      “Motherhood Around America” sounds absolutely intriguing and lovely already!

    • Hayley says...

      Kristen, we are in a small East Texas town, so it’s probably magnified.

      As far as the names go – the casual first name thing happens here more now than when I was a kid, except the Mrs./Miss/Mr. is sometimes added before the first name

    • ALI says...

      This is interesting, but too American centric for me. Keep the ‘around the world’ coming please! :)

    • madame says...

      in France it is very rude not to “finish” with a name: bonjour madame, merci monsieur, oui papa oui maman… It immediately reveals what your background is… well brought up, OR NOT!

    • S says...

      Divorced mother of two, in the Bay Area, teaching part time and getting a masters in psychotherapy here. I’d love this!

    • Yes, yes, yes to a Motherhood Around America series!!!

      I was raised in the south, have lived in NYC for seven years, and am expecting my first baby. There are SO many cultural differences, and they are already cropping up in something so simple as elements of my baby shower! Not to mention larger life decisions such as the decision to circumcise or not, which last name to give baby, etc. (which, in my hometown are not active decisions so much as simply done the way they’ve always been done). My southern friends and family are much more driven by rooted cultural norms than what I find here in NYC. I would absolutely love to read more about this (and even participate, if you want input!).

  89. Christina says...

    That lunch is insane. I wonder if they get more than 15 minutes to eat it!!!

    • I went to school in Italy and our lunch break was one hour plus time to play outdoor in the playground afterwards, before going back to class for afternoon lessons!

    • Mariana says...

      Sure. Nobody has lunch in 15 minutes in Southern Europe :)

  90. Inala says...

    I have lived in Italy now for 12 years and all I can say as a fellow expat is yes, yes, yes !!!! Everything she said I agree with!! Only thing I would have added was how weird Italians are about certain illnesses , how you can’t have wet hair, or no scarf or how a bare stomach will cause tummy ache…

    • I totally agree, but you know, that would have taken several blog posts to explain them all, no??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha yes! molly actually mentioned this but since we talked about it in the croatia interview, we left it out here. such a difference between different countries — for example, in norway, they are find with kids being cold and actually think it’s good because it makes them tough!

      https://cupofjo.com/2013/07/10-surprising-things-about-parenting-in-norway/
      At some Barnehage [children’s schools], they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors—with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, “It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.” That’s very Norwegian—hard things are good for you.

    • Jessie says...

      I never lived abroad, but my Italian grandfather lived with us for a short time when I was young (about 6 or 7?). He never let me run around barefoot in the house- he always told me to go put some socks on so I wouldn’t catch a cold! For him, bare feet = getting sick.

  91. Mia says...

    i love this. my 18 month old got his fingers smooshed between the table and his high chair at a restaurant in florence and the place just about shut down! the waiters rushed to his side when he yelped to see what was the matter and stroked his hair while i held him. they brought him a cookie and every time they would walk by they’d grab his chubby little hand and kiss it a bunch of times! i love how much italians love babies!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a cute scene, mia!!

  92. t says...

    Curious about shoes… when you take the kids to the park in a dress are you wearing flats, sandals (not flip flops), sneakers, wedges? I don’t know why it struck me but I am curious. I wear dresses EVERYWHERE (look/feel put together and they are so easy and comfortable) but I do wear them often with leather flip flops.

    Great post and thank you for sharing.

    • Well, I’m one of the last people anyone would consult for fashion advice (and literally the last one in Italy, since everyone here has more of a “bella figura”) but I wear sandals with dresses.

  93. Heather says...

    I’m going to echo Molly’s praises for bidets. My husband bought one from Amazon that (easily!) attaches to your existing toilet and plumbing.

    Oh my. Life changing.

    I noticed that our supply of TP lasts a lot longer, plus I feel immaculately clean after using the potty now. I’ve got my whole family on board and give them as gifts sometimes. I get some crazy looks, but then I’ll get that phone call — “How did I ever live without this?!”

    • Molly says...

      Link?!

    • Holly says...

      Can you please send the link to the one you have? I am potty training a 22 month old and am 4 weeks out from having a baby. This would come in handy and would feel so luxurious (and is way more glamorous than the squeeze bottle of water they send you home with from the hospital)!

    • It would be too much to make pro-bidet t-shirts, right??

    • Jilly says...

      Thank you for the link, that’s a really practical and affordable one. My only question though is do you ever get used to the shock of icy water? I just cannot handle that.

    • Heather says...

      Here’s the one my sister bought and really likes! http://amzn.to/2wn0nsy

      The cold water is…well, yes, shocking. I have a very old house, so winter is extra chilly! You can upgrade a bit and get one with warmer water. I can’t say enough about how much I love my bidet. (Now that’s something I never thought I’d type.)

  94. Rachel says...

    I enjoyed her comments about bathing suits (bikinis and the lack thereof.) Our family ended the summer on a houseboat on a quiet lake so I decided to swim topkess for the trip. My 13 year old twin sons howled about the indignity of it all. “Ma! Put a shirt on!” I explained that had they grown up many other places in the world this wouldn’t be a big deal. Consider it, I said, a cross-cultural moment. (And it feels so good to swim with as few clothes as possible!)

    • jilly says...

      Rock on! Way to indoctrinate your sons to the joy of swimming topless! Nothing feels better and no one should not be denied, especially in a private place. Next summer, the beaches of Italy! You will be validated, and they will gain respect for the freedom of women.

  95. Alice says...

    That lunch! I give my kids really varied evening meals with diverse flavours, but ashamedly boring packed lunches. I’m totally inspired by that pic and up for the Italian lunch experiment!

    And what an intimate insight into Molly’s world in Italy, the country yes, but her life especially, thank you for sharing Molly! And I love love love that last paragraph. I lived abroad until a year ago and had the same conundrum – especially with the kids. You want them to experience that life, but the pull of their extended family back home is strong, and you do always feel like an outsider, then you do feel odd back home and wonder where home really is. Re-settling back home was/is even harder than re-settling abroad! Those feelings are strange bedfellows and Molly put it beautifully.

  96. Cooper says...

    Haha, I totally related to the “cheese that made me cry” story! That happened to me at a restaurant on the island of St. Croix called Savant, and I was completely caught off guard – I didn’t know food could have that effect! It was such a moving experience we ended up naming our cat after the restaurant and love our little Savvy :)

    • mia says...

      I had a cheese board in Venice a few years back that made me cry. It was sublime. The four cheeses were placed on a bed of rocket and there was a little yellow espresso cup in the middle filled with local honey to drizzle over. Getting teary just thinking about it.

  97. G says...

    Is it me or did those artichokes call out my name?

    • A MARTIN says...

      Hahahaha!! ???

  98. I have a lot of Italian friends here and what she just described makes a lot of sense and is something that I am seeing in my friends family too =)

    Lovely read!

  99. Lily says...

    Loved this!

  100. Janet says...

    I adore this series! I have been able to reflect on my own motherhood, the things I take for granted, and some of the wonderful ways that children are raised in other countries. Clearly in Italy they take childhood nutrition and the beauty of fresh food very seriously, something we need a lot more of in the US! My son’s school seems to think making the pizza crust whole-grain makes it all OK!

    • Jessica says...

      Pizza is still italian though, right? ;)

  101. Alisa says...

    …. I never knew I needed a top patterned with ice cream cones (gelato?) but now I really want one! such a cute top!

    Also, that school lunch is top notch!

    • I wish I had an extra for you! As you can imagine, my kids love it…

  102. About 90% of this is true for France as well. The kids don’t learn opera but they have some pretty awesome cultural outings. Also, the bedtimes aren’t quite as late and the mama’s boys actually can do laundry and iron. But the food, clothes, school….so similar.

  103. Do not move home. We left Switzerland after four years and one child and repatriation has been devastatingly hard. I felt like an outsider in Switzerland – naturally – but I feel like I’ve completely lost my identity and remain an outsider in the States. I blog about repatriation pretty regularly if you’d like to hear more: http://www.swisslark.com and please feel free to email me. As hard as living abroad can be, just understand there is no going home. (And now I’ll accept my badge for most depressing comment;)

    • Lily says...

      That is so specific to each person though! I lived abroad (France) for 6 years and enjoyed it but was happy to move home.

    • Eileen Radostits says...

      I agree….I have lived in Europe now for over 21 years…first in Germany and now in Switzerland and going home now would never work. It takes a while to fit in and learn a new language as an adult, but “home” is where I am now!

    • Alice says...

      I can relate to this comment. I was in China for 12 years and re-settled in the U.K. a year ago – repatriation has been tough. Made harder, I think, with two young children. I feel like it’ll take another year or two to feel more settled but I have a feeling I’m always going to miss that other home and all that is there. But then I’ve met people here in Edinburgh who have had an equally hard time moving up from London, so maybe any move at this point would’ve been hard? Who knows! It definitely helped moving back to a beautiful and fascinating city that also is quite diverse, so there’s not as strong a norm between my new friends, especially other parents. I do think it is possible to move back smoothly, but timing and destination have to be impeccable, and that’s incredibly hard to nail. I got the place right, but the timing wrong!
      Still, there are days when I voice the same sentiment, Lindsey, so I’ll share your badge, if it makes it any easier to wear. And I really hope things feel less hard soon :)

      Lindsey’s feelings may be worth a post, COJ, considering how many people seem inspired to move due to this series!

    • Agnes says...

      Agree it’s specific to each person.. I moved back to Canada after 20 years in the UK and realized to what extent I was constantly feeling slightly out of step and different, despite being half-British and there for so long. There’s a sense of ease and belonging that I have only found at ‘home,’ despite my deep love and attachment for the UK.

    • Agnes and Lily, glad to hear all has gone well for you! It of course depends on the individual, but a lot of what Molly wrote sounds like she’s integrated to a level that would make returning home difficult. But there’s always time. Things do tend to get better over time. :) xo

    • Hayley says...

      Swisslark – I love your instagrams! I got the bug that I wanted to move to Switzerland and started searching for Swiss Mom instagram accounts and found yours. Alas, I am still in Texas. Womp womp.

    • Amena says...

      I not only feel like an outsider but also stateless. I was born and bought up in a country (U.AE.) that doesn’t give citizenship by birth so I have been an expat my whole life! My whole life I have been renewing residence visa in a country I was born. I feel like an outsider in my brith country, my home country and my current residence which is the US.

    • This is so interesting to hear! I’m sure you consider moving back to Switzerland again since you loved it so, would you return you think? And also the followup comments to your comment LIndsey, it’s true every person’s experience is going to be so different but I love reading varied perspectives.

      As an immigrant (born in Poland but raised in the States) who is dreaming of moving to Poland for a few years, I’m so curious what the experience would be like for my family and I. I’ve moved around the States a bit and no place truly feels like “home” and I know I romanticize Poland because most of my time spent there has been summer vacations but I do have friends who like me were raised in the U.S. and have returned to Poland and seem to enjoy it. Argh so much to think about!

    • Thanks for your input…I guess! Just kidding – I really don’t know what the future holds. Both the US and Italy have some amazing upsides and amazing downsides. Not sure what will seem to make the most sense in a few years. So glad that others share these struggles, though, and can relate! oxo

    • Glad you found my Instagram, Hayley! Switzerland is loved and hated by expats in equal measure, I would say. ;)
      Kasia, I romanticized where we’re living now in much the same way. We always visited here during the summers it holidays when I was growing up in Oregon. I had a completely unrealistic, all-fun-all-the-time view of this place. I had not lived here since I was 12-years-old when we moved back two years ago. It certainly added to the shock. :( I wish you luck! I think returning to the homeland in your case is a must. Go for it! You can always move back here, right?
      Molly, your reaction made me laugh! :) I couldn’t agree more with the acknowledgment of upsides and downsides to each place. No situation will be completely perfect on all fronts. Solid education and a sense of belonging for our kids are huge motivators for me. Good luck with your future choices and in the meantime, don’t forget to stay present and enjoy!

  104. Anne says...

    I love this series–it’s one of my very favorite Cup of Jo features!

    The food in this post looks amazing–that school lunch is gorgeous.

  105. Sarah Layton says...

    I’m 8 months pregnant and I just ate a sad sad sandwich for lunch. That lunch has me drooling!

  106. M says...

    ….that’s a school lunch? When I was in kindergarten I cried because I got hot dogs and they were gross.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, she didn’t have a photo of her kids’ lunches, but that’s pretty much what they eat!

    • Char says...

      I meant to finish my comment by saying that pretty much every lunch in the article made me envious; somehow managed to hit submit before I was done. :(
      Today’s lunch: I finished my toddler’s apple slices once she was done with them, and then some yogurt once everyone went down for their nap. I also found a couple goldfish crackers on the couch, haha!
      Clearly, Italian school children are winning this one.

  107. Can we talk about the pathetic state of the US public school lunch program? It is a disgrace and while I know Alice Waters and others have made small inroads, so much more should and could be done for the sake of our children. I actually bought a Powerball ticket when it was over $700M recently and my notion was to put it toward fixing the public school lunch program!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is an awesome notion, cynthia!

      i know, the school lunches at toby’s public school are abysmal. the vegetable is often onion rings or fries. i know it’s a complicated issue, but hopefully things will improve sooner than later. we send toby with brown-bag lunches except for pizza fridays (he begged:) xoxo

    • Steph says...

      Agreed, Cynthia! My cousin recently got the lunch schedule for her daughter’s Pre-K class and bologna sandwiches were on it…I can’t believe that’s still a food?!

    • We also agreed to let our daughter have school lunch one day per week. School lunch here in Washington state is pretty good as long as children make good choices: salad bar every day, with a wide variety of actually fruits and vegetables. There are still the chicken nuggets and fries. Sigh. But progress!

    • Laura says...

      Tell me about it! My kindergartner is brown-bagging it because I just can’t handle the options. The first things that are in the cafeteria when they enter are a giant case full of donuts and a freezer full of ice cream. Are we really relying on elementary school children to make the best choices they can when that’s what’s offered? I mean, come on!

    • I completely agree. That would have been such a selfless and ingenious way to use the money! The school lunches in our district are so pathetic that often no one wants to eat them. This is doubly sad because many of the kids are on free/reduced lunch plans and can’t afford to bring their own lunches. I pack a lunch for my kids because they would never eat the food served in the cafeteria.

  108. Mara says...

    Oh how I will miss this series terribly! One question that’s occurred to me time and time again — are there any countries where children aren’t as appreciated, or even a central focus? One ever-present comment in this series is how loved children are by all, even strangers, who go out of their way for children.
    Thank you for all the great posts!

    • BV says...

      unfortunately I would have to say that country is the US. Strangers’ reactions to my toddler having a meltdown in say Beijing vs in NYC ….is like night and day.

    • Lauren says...

      I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but we took or toddler to a very small museum this weekend to see a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. We knew it’d be a small show so not long enough for her to get bored. In the gallery, my husband put her on his shoulders since she could hang out that way forever. An attendant came over and told him she had to come down. Not a big deal, but felt more like a shaming of us for bringing a todder to a museum!
      Made me excited for our upcomg trip to Italy! : )

    • Jen says...

      Sadly I agree, it’s the US.

    • june2 says...

      Agree with BV. It has got to be the USA! The nearly open hostility towards pregnant women and their husbands by the working world, medical institutions and government legislation are all completely daunting. And the culture reflects the same re: breastfeeding, restaurants, etc. Children are bound to act out in the face of all that.

    • Amena says...

      Yes it has got to be the US. The one thing that shocked me when I moved to the US is how I hardly get to see kids in good fancy restaurants here. And if the odd kid is there everyone looks at the parents like they committed a crime! Coming from Dubai, no matter how fancy your restaurants is, kids are always present and no one is complaining.

    • Akc says...

      I would say Paris. Outside of Paris France seems more child-friendly.

    • Katie says...

      I totally disagree about the US being unfriendly to babies/children/pregnant women! I have five young children, so we can make quite a scene wherever we go, but people are so kind and helpful, and I am constantly being stopped by strangers who ooh and aah over my babies and readily forgive the chaos we bring. I have loved being pregnant or having a little baby because of the many conversations it leads to with people in stores, parks, wherever. Perhaps this is regional, but I am in Southern California and I have had almost all positive experiences.

    • K says...

      From my experience, Costa Rica is not very friendly to parents or children, either. Sure, there’s paid maternity leave, but some people do frown upon women breastfeeding in public and as soon as they see a kid acting up you’ll see all the roll-eyes and judgemental looks. If it happens in a bus or train, people will even start complaining audibly, saying it’s inconsiderate/irresponsible to allow one’s children to misbehave in public.

    • Sarah says...

      Oh, these comments are so interesting! I wonder if people feel the US is not as friendly to children goes along with the notion that people should mind their own business and not interfere with anyone else’s child. In the countries in the series where the mother has exclaimed that people in the country love children, I’d say they have also mentioned that people will tell you your kid needs a hat, or give them a cookie in a restaurant to shush them. These are actions that are less welcome by many in the US…

  109. kbob says...

    I love this series so much!
    Have you thought about reversing it, and interviewing expats from other countries living in the States? It would provide interesting perspective, I think!

    • Katharine van der Hoorn says...

      It would be so much fun to expand this to a 50-state series! I imagine there are some pretty intense differences parenting from state to state (I say as a New Yorker raising kids in Portland, where it feels like parenting is so utterly different.)

  110. Tyler says...

    Great piece! I love how Molly touches on cross-cultural marriage (& divorce) situations. I would love to see more pieces on these types of relationships– in particular, women’s perspective when their husbands come from a predominantly patriarchal society. For instance, my husband and I share the household and parenting duties pretty evenly, but I can’t help but feel insecure/inferior when visiting his home country or when my mother-in-law comes to visit for 2-3 months at a time. The lady is a saint, but she does EVERYTHING for her husband and sons. I can’t help but worry that she sometimes feels disappointed in his life choices. Cross-cultural relationships take a lot of extra patience and communication.

    • emily clark says...

      YES!! This would be so insightful and interesting! Also a southerner living in the north, or westerner living in the east. It provides so much perspective to hear an “outsiders” view of the world they’re living in.

  111. Katie says...

    Beautifully expressed! I can relate to so much of what you’ve written. I’m an American married to a Greek living in Athens and I found so many similarities with family dynamics, gender roles, and the country’s identity crisis and wariness to evolve. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if my marriage failed; move home with my 2 kids or continue living in a country where I’ll always be a foreigner? I admire your decision to keep your children close to the country they’ve grown up – I know it must not always be easy. I wish you all the best!

    • june2 says...

      That is why I loved reading the Parenting in Guatemala story, her husband is so on board with participating and evolving his masculinity! Recommended for inspiration (and have your husband read it!):

      https://cupofjo.com/2017/07/parenting-in-guatemala/

    • thank you; you, too!

  112. Wow, sounds like an incredible experience! And Mom of the week goes to you for practically living with your in-laws. We were in Italy for a few days in Mid-August and I was so captivated by the awesome sense of family and commitment the Italians have – it’s heartwarming! And the families were so young also!

    I noticed too, that despite even the tiniest of bathroom space, the Italian hotels HAD to have a bidet! I’m not a bidet person, but I do like to rinse my feet in the sink – so it looks like there is a use!

    That school lunch tho…

  113. Natalie S says...

    I feel like lately I’ve just constantly wanted to comment! Loving the posts guys. What I liked about this one was how real it felt. Not just because Molly lives in Italy and it’s different since she’s an expat (obvious point of the series) but also that she sheds light on some struggles she faces with the language, and how being divorced also comes with different challenges in a different country. Brava!

  114. That school lunch though…I’d almost move to Italy for that alone. Major lunch envy!

  115. Mara says...

    those lunches <3 i truly wish all kids were served so well in school.

    • jilly says...

      Right? As far as I know, Italy is not a particularly wealthy country, yet they are able to afford school lunch programs like this, (affordability being the number one reason sited for the lack in US public schools). I wonder how they do it?

  116. Bianca says...

    What a beautiful family! So many of these things ring true in Greece, too. I speak English (I was born and raised in Australia) to my baby girl and my husband speaks Greek, but sometimes, it’s just so much easier speaking Greek because it rolls off the tongue so much cuter, hard to believe, but it’s true! ha! When in Australia, I also loved speaking to just about anyone about anything seeing I miss that in Greece! Talking the to bus driver might have been a highlight of my day and I totally get feeling a bit awkward in both countries…Haha, sadly it’s also true how lots of Mums coddle their kids, not only boys, my Mum would do my laundry and cook and so much more for my sister and I every chance she could get! haha! I would also like to enforce an earlier bed time for our little one when that time comes but my husband and I have discussed that, living in a country where lots of the kids finish their extra language lessons etc. around 6-7pm and families have late dinners, how feasible that would be, I will try, though! I lived in Torino for 6 years and Italy truly is lovely! P.S. I think what she teaches sounds wonderful!

  117. Meg says...

    Wait just a minute….hold it right there! are you saying it’s acceptable to wash your dirty feet in a bidet?? We did it for 2 weeks in Italy this past summer and felt like we were harboring a dirty secret!! Whew! Thanks for the clarification!!! We loved Rome and wished we could figure out a way to live there, too. Congrats to you! I hope you stay! Send more dispatches, too!

    • I love the image of you furtively washing your feet in the bidet!

  118. Sarah says...

    molly, this was a fascinating interview! you sound like a great, fun mom.

  119. Michelle says...

    I miss mia bella Roma! There is a fun misspelling in the second paragraph…my kids have cute Italian infection …

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you! just fixed xo

  120. Amy says...

    That food is making my mouth water! Love this series

  121. Ruth says...

    OMG I can’t get over that school lunch. A far cry from what I used to eat in the cafeteria!

    • Laura says...

      Oh my goodness- yes! Me too! I would like to eat that school lunch now!

  122. Jae says...

    I’ve always wondered, what time does school start for the kids?
    If they’re going to bed so late, aren’t they exhausted at school the next day?

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      I know they have their afternoon nap that even adults take so maybe that’s when kids make up the extra hours of sleep? But I’m not sure who takes it (teachers, older children?). Would be good to hear from someone with Italy experience!

    • Victoria says...

      Yes, I was wondering the same thing!

    • I still haven’t figured this out – I think it’s just a nation of chronically under slept children. In the summer, my kids go down South with my ex’s family and they go to bed late, but everyone takes a nap in the middle of the day.

    • Bethany says...

      My daughter is in her second year of preschool in Trieste, Italy, and her school starts at 8:45 (drop off between 7:30 and 8:45) and there are multiple pick-up time options depending on parents’ work schedules (12:30-1, or 3:30-3:50). I can’t speak for higher level times though. I’m learning as i go! (Also an American expat!) For most kids I know, afternoon naps end at 3 or 4 years old. I took them while pregnant or along with my child. My husband might sneak a 10 minute nap in if he is home for lunch.
      I still have a hard time with such late bedtimes, but at this point if my daughter is asleep at 9:30 I feel accomplished. (Quite often it’s 10 or even slightly later).

    • Sara Cestari says...

      From a born and raised Italian: drop off at pre-school is often up til 9am and there’s always time for a nap after lunch. School (kids from 6 yrs old) starts at about 8:20 with no nap after lunch.

    • Alessandra says...

      My son who is 11 starts school at 8 am and goes to bed around 10 pm. No afternoon naps. Isn’t it enough sleep? He never wants to go to bed at night.

  123. melm says...

    I agree with Molly about being a single mama and creating/making family traditions. In our household we lean toward simple things like, Yes Day, Backwards Day, and making ordinary ice cream visits special (like including the dog)!
    Cheers & Gratzi

    • Nice ideas…just might adopt those!

    • Sue says...

      Love this!

  124. Giulia says...

    My fiance’ Tom and I just moved to Italy (I am Italian, he is English), and not sure how long to stay. I miss it here a lot, but we are still deciding, it is so intense! This article made me tear up a little, there are so many nice little things about Italy that Molly notices and that we, as Italians, don’t see. We are very good at thinking nothing could be worse than Italy, and very good at complaining! Thanks Molly and Joanna for this, it feels like a special helping hand from the most intelligent, loveliest, and most supportive place in the internet. Love to all, Giulia

    • t says...

      Really, how interesting that many Italians complain about Italy. I never would have known that.

    • Prego, Giulia! e baci e sbracci

    • Laura says...

      My German family is the same! They live in a small, beautiful village surrounded by nature with a great sense of community and family close at hand (and good jobs in a country where they take 6 or 7 weeks of holidays a year) but they LOVE TO COMPLAIN. And when you call them on it, they agree that they love to complain! And then we have a laugh.

  125. Sonia says...

    I absolutely loved this! Not only is Italy my dream destination, but I am also a divorced single mom of two young girls. It was nice to be able to relate to Molly on that level. Annnnd…bidets are the best! I agree with that 100% – I really wish it was popular in the US. P.S. Thank you for this series – it is one of my favorites! Makes Monday’s a little easier ;)

  126. i love motherhood mondays. thanks for another great post!

  127. Rasheeda says...

    My new dream is to be a student at an Italian elementary school for the rest of my life. Having a lunch like that almost everyday is pretty much all I’ve ever wanted and more. I read this while tucking into a bag of once crunchy chickpeas, gone very stale, btw. I almost cried when I saw that gelato :'(

    • Erin says...

      Ha! I saw that gelato and wanted to lick the screen!

  128. Kate says...

    You write beautifully! Read this on my lunch break and was transported to Italy, if only momentarily…