Bright Spots of Italian in the Bay


La Scuola, the Bay’s premier pre-K though 8th grade international Italian school, has been granted IB Candidacy by the IBO (based in Geneva, International Baccalaureate Organization) – and is on track to become SF’s first international elementary school in the next 18-24 months. Way to go La Scuola! Read more about international schools here.

They’ve been hot in the news with CBS recently calling La Scuola, a “cool school”. Also, for this blog’s coverage of the Reggio approach, which the Scuola uses masterfully, click here.

Valentina Imbeni, Head of La Scuola with Consul General Mauro Battocchi
Valentina Imbeni, Head of La Scuola with Consul General Mauro Battocchi

Their newest facility is opening in 2014 at 735 Fell Street. The location is beautiful and has a deliberate design of the spaces and sophistication of teachers and staff- all of whom are wholeheartedly committed to advancing the mission:

To nurture children’s innate ability to learn by challenging them academically, creatively and innovatively, while immersing them in the Italian language and making them keenly aware of the world around them and their place in it.

La Piccola Scuola Italiana was founded in 2002 as a playgroup. It became La Scuola last year to reflect its preschool-8th grade program and today serves 130 families. 50% have some Italian heritage- others are international or just believers in the Reggio Emilia approach and language immersion. The language we chose is Italian- but the concept is bilingualism and the cognitive benefits of switching. We will introduce other languages in middle school.

La Scuola is now taking applications for K-3rd for next Fall, when their new location will also kick into service.


Meet Diletta Torlasco, Executive Director of Istituto Italiano Scuola, located on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Her school offers lectures, presentations, movies and fun activities to help both Italians and non-Italians connect with the language and culture of Italy.

Diletta Torlasco, Executive Director of Istituto Italiano Scuola

“We teach a wide range of students from 16-year-olds to 90-year-olds,” commented Diletta. “Most want to learn Italian because they travel there or have Italian heritage. Some were born to Italian immigrants who didn’t want them to speak Italian — so they could assimilate into American culture — but are now recapturing the language and, in a larger sense, their childhood.”


Another trustee of the Italian language in the Bay Area is Francesca Gaspari, the Executive Director at ItaLingua, a world-class school of Italian language and culture located on Market Street in San Francisco. She views Italian language not just as an end, but as means to connect her students to their “inner Italian”, whether they have Italian ancestry or not.

Francesca Gaspari, Executive Director at ItaLingua

“It’s not enough to wear Italian clothes,” remarked Francesca. “I encourage my students to actually BE Italian. We give each of them Italian names, encourage the use of hand gestures and — on the whole — involve ourselves in the emotion, expression and dramatization that underpins Italian culture.”

Along with lessons on Italian grammar and readings of lyrical Italian poetry, Francesca also does theater with her students. They even play Italian card games like scopa or briscola to explore Italian culture along with comprehensive language instruction.

In her efforts to connect students to Italian culture, Francesca has even made an entire online Italian community in the Bay. Give it a look here for constant updates on language, food, events…you name it! It provides a fantastic educational tool for San Franciscans who aspire to connect — and embody — Italian culture.

For example, a recent post by a member read “Buon Anno 2013!! TVB.” For those of you who don’t know, TVB is short for ti voglio bene, which translates as “I love you”. So for future wooing, don’t forget to use this construction — and not the more obvious ti amo — to get the best results!

As part of our broader support of disseminating the Italian language, please consider supporting and patronizing these fine institutions.

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