Helping with Camps in Italy
For the last 5 weeks, our little South African family of 4 have been in Italy at my aunts farm just outside of Rome helping her with her summer camps. For the last 19 years my aunt Sara has run camps for kids between 8-11 years old, giving them 6 days of amazing farm fun. They camp in tents, walk rivers, ride tractors, learn to ride horses, spend a night at an Etruscan Antiquities Center, and in general have good clean outdoors fun. She has 16 kids at a time and do 3 camps in a row between the months of June and July
The grounds that the camps are held on are amazing. The castello has been in my uncles family for over 200 years and if I remember correctly was built between the 11th-15th century and is situated just 60km from Rome. On their amazing property Etruscan tombs have been found which date back over 2500 years along with an old Roman road. I spent a wonderful summer there when I was 11 and have been back many times over the years and it never fails to amaze and is the most magical place, especially as a child.
How does this tie in with us?
15 years ago Simon and I came and helped with the camps, and this year my aunt didn’t have anyone to assist her. So we got chatting and decided to take the opportunity to come over and help her and give our kids a different experience and a chance to learn and immerse themselves in a different culture and interact with kids from another country. We have then further taken the opportunity to stay longer and travel Europe and Ireland for the next three months. So we have traded in our 4×4 and overland trailer for aeroplanes and suitcases and some new and amazing family adventures. We have rented out our house for 6 months to help fund this amazing trip, friends have kindly taken our beloved animals (thanks Elaine and Winks) and Simons fabulous cousin is helping to look after our business back home (thanks Bev).
The last 5 weeks in Italy
I think we are still recovering! We arrived early June and had 10 days to see family, go into Rome for a few days and play tourist, and then setup the camp and get ready for the kids.
Looking after 16 kids plus your own 2 is hard work. Throw in the fact that Italian kids go to bed late……very late, and you have exceptionally long days!!! We would start getting the kids into their tents around 10pm (which they thought was way too early), and they then woke up just after 7am. I don’t know how they function! It must be years of training.
The language barrier is also quite difficult and exhausting. Our Italian is pretty broken and majority of their English isn’t great, but there was always one little translator who was an angel. So you have hard work and looooong days and it is exceptionally hot too. All that aside, the experience was great though but I think I will be happy not to be sleeping in a tent for the next while.
We had nightly joys of the most ginormous toads waking kids, a cat that would come into camp around 2am and then ‘hunt’ our tent straps, the rooster that thought 3am was a good time to crow, Antsy the donkey hee-hawed at around 5am, kids that had sweets in their tents (when they weren’t allowed) and then climbing into bed and finding ants had invaded, the nightly hunting sessions for grasshoppers, caterpillars an any other insect that freaked them out due to the fact that they hadn’t zipped their tents shut, even though we had told them a million times and the list goes on and on…..but hey, it makes for great memories.
How did the kids handle?
Jesse and Olivia participated in the first camp completely as part of the group of kids as we only had 12 the first week. The second two weeks they assisted us as well as participated where possible as there were 16 kids each week, so the camp was full. It wasn’t always easy for them and nor for us, as they got the dregs of our patience and our time due to the fact that we were working and looking after the other kids was our priority. But they were troopers and learnt to be a bit more self sufficient.
Our family journey begins in earnest! We packed up a few days ago and caught our first flight en route to Dublin. We will be spending the next 3 1/2 weeks exploring the green isle. We have rented a car, booked airbnb’s and have no plans further than that. We will also have to start our term of homeschooling this week, which will be something new. The kids school has been incredibly supportive. We are missing the whole of the 3rd term, but will do our best to keep up with Maths and English, after that this journey is the most incredible education they can receive.
After Ireland, we are heading to Germany to cycle the Rheine and then renting a camper van where our no plans journey continues. We will be heading back to South Africa at the end of September.
So come along for our journey. I will endeavour to post whenever possible, but follow Instagram an our Facebook as that is more of the day to day
lots of love
the van Nierop family – Simon, Tammy, Jesse and Olivia