With all of our fun summer travel completed, we have been feeling comfortable easing into a makeshift regular life in Rome. Our apartment definitely feels like home to us, we are learning our way around the neighborhood, and appreciate that the city is slowly returning to its regular rhythm as local shops and restaurants begin to re-open.  However, the mid-day temperatures (95-97 degrees F) remain intense, and we haven’t seen a cloud since we left Denmark 3 weeks ago!

Eli and Nell are doing something this week that we think is pretty brave. They are attending a sports day-camp just outside of the city. The last camp they attended – at Rome’s Children’s Museum – was also a big step. But that camp was just a few blocks from our house, and at least one counselor every day spoke some English. This camp is a bigger leap. It is located on the outskirts of the city, near the Olympic stadium, where no one speaks English, and we have to navigate two different bus routes to get there. It was a challenge for us even to register them for the camp –  we understood about a tenth of the words on the registration form.

One of the temporary pools at Mondofitness.

But the kids have been having a blast. Because Rome basically shuts down in August, the city has tried to set up some activities for the unfortunate few Romans that have to remain (basically, utility workers and anyone who works in tourist attractions and hotels). One of the things they set up is this huge, temporary sports area in a park with a large outdoor gym filled with fitness equipment. Fifty StairMasters, treadmills, two temporary outdoor pools (lined with plywood), a boxing ring, a skateboard arena, at least 25 rowing machines—and of course snack bars and lounges—a huge, outdoor, multisport complex with (as is typical here) pop music blasting from every direction. Pretty much every time we go, different audio-speakers are blaring different loops of techno beat at the same time.

The kids have been enjoying spending this hot week in the pool at this place—MondoFitness — and have taught the Italian kids some games such as “sharks and minnows.” Today, three of the girls at the camp passed Nell a note saying “Will you be our friend?” After a few more months here, they will think nothing of it, but given our current language skills, we are very proud of their willingness to give this camp a go, and are pleased they are enjoying it. Eli is the person in the family who has felt most at ease learning another language—he really seems to have an ear for it. But this week has been great because Nell seems to have entered a new comfort zone. Without prompting, she is now ordering her own gelato and asking for directions in Italian—and she sounds great. She is really enjoying Italian charm and generosity—whenever she says something, the adult that she is addressing usually tells her that her Italian “sounds beautiful.” She really seems to appreciate the compliments. We’ve told them that after this year, they will probably find that most new social situations won’t seem very stressful!

Hanging with our Long Island 3rd cousins!

We also had a lot of fun hosting our first large dinner party in Rome. Jenny’s mom’s cousin Phyllis and her husband Jerry came on vacation to Italy with their son and daughter-in-law, David and Amy, and their 3 sons: Josh, Blake, and Aiden. It was wonderful to catch up with our relatives, and Eli and Nell really enjoyed hanging out with their English-speaking 3rd cousins. The evening culminated with a game of touch football on the Piazza del Popolo. Despite the heat, the kids (and David) had a rousing game, and were all very sorry when it ended.

Tartuffo for dessert (ice cream with espresso poured over it). Mmmm.

One final note about our week. Today, we promised the kids we’d try to pick them up early from camp, because it’s so very hot. So we decided to try to find a lunch spot near the camp before picking them up. We wandered through the heat in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city without tourists and English menus, and stumbled onto an amazing restaurant tucked away behind a high gate. The entire restaurant was outside, and covered by a web of tree branches and vines – it was as cool outside under the trees as if we were indoors. The place was filled with locals (where everybody seemed to know each other, a la Cheers), and we each had what we considered the best – and least expensive – plates of house-made pasta that we’ve had on our entire trip. Sometimes it takes trying to keep the kids cool in a pool to discover a very special spot. We’ll be back to eat there again – and we know the restaurant will still be there, as it has been in the same location since 1820!

-Seth and Jenny