Memories made at AOSR are timeless. With alumni hailing from over 55 countries, our global legacy thrives. Our graduates shine as Olympic champions, Grammy laureates, esteemed professors, renowned authors, doctors, lawyers, and innovators. For every alumnus, the sentiment "Once a Falcon, always a Falcon" resonates deeply, as AOSR's spirit lingers eternally in their hearts.
Greetings AOSR Alumni! If you're eager to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit our beautiful campus, we're excited to have you. However, to ensure a smooth visit, please make sure to arrange an appointment by clicking on the VISIT AOSR button below. Tours are available Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm, and due to security protocols, booking in advance is mandatory. No appointment = no visit. Weekend tours are not possible. We look forward to welcoming you back to the American Overseas School of Rome.
ONCE A FALCON, ALWAYS A FALCON!
For those who have attended the American Overseas School of Rome at Tomba di Nerone (Nero’s mausoleum) at Via Cassia 811 over the past 72 years, since 1951, this is the only AOSR you’ve known. But for those of us who began attending five years earlier we have very different memories. In 1946, when we attended OSR’s first year classes, it was in less than a handful of rooms within Foro Mussolini (since renamed Foro Italico) thanks to the conquering American army’s generosity (and need for classes for its military personnel’s young offspring).
We were taught primarily by WACs who’d been teachers before the War, from texts scrounged up for us by the U.S. Army. I was in kindergarten then and don’t think I learned much, though it was here, in the officers’ pool, that I learned to swim.
By the second year, when the U.S. Army was impelled to return the Foro to the Italian government, new machinations gave us the Casino dei Principi on the Villa Torlonia grounds on Via Nomentana, today a multi-edifice museum. It and the main Palladian palace were built on famed architect Giuseppe Valadier designs and our charming three-story rectangular villa, anchored by two imposing Corinthian columns at its entrance, had housed the young Torlonia princes.
In 1925 the family ‘rented’, for a lira a year, the extensive estate to Mussolini as his official residence. He remained until 1943, first building an air-raid shelter, then, as the war progressed a much larger airtight bunker complex. It is doubtful he knew it was built on the remnants of a 3rd- and 4th-century Jewish 3,800-grave catacomb, discovered years later.
But my most vivid memories were of Madeleine Brown (Fabris) who sent me on errands to try and cure my shyness, and Peggy Henderson, both hired in 1947 by our founding mothers, who sent me out to the playground to retrieve Betsy Moore’s front tooth, snapped out when she fell off a swing and onto her face.
OSR, as it still was, remained at Villa Torlonia through May 1951
when the high school was added and OSR transferred to Via Cassia, the school you all know and love.
Margaret Stern (1946-1951 + 1953)
I went to the AOSR for 3+ years, 1957-1960 (would have been class of 1964). Despite how long ago that was, I still have vivid and fond memories of my time there. Started classes in the original “villa”, but the new building was completed, I think during my second year, so had classes in there also. I remember art class at the very top of the villa. One thing that still greatly impresses me is that, in 5th grade, I was taking a class in Religions of the World, and another in Greek and Roman Mythology. Nothing like that happens anymore, at least in American schools. Just goes to show what a young student can learn! Field trips to places like Florence were amazing, and my interest in the Etruscans began when we took trips to Etruscan towns and cemeteries. I believe all of this was the origin for my love of learning, as well as an appreciation and love for travel and international cultures. My wife and I have visited 69 countries, and lived in Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Canada, and Ireland, as well as my 4 years in Rome. I went on for higher education at the University of Arizona, a doctorate in (marine) Microbiology at Georgetown University, and postdoctoral studies in biochemistry at the University of Ottawa. That led to a faculty position at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where I recently retired after 47 years of research and teaching. Now enjoying retired life in the North Carolina mountains, with (between my wife and I) 5 children and 5 grandsons. Life is good, and it absolutely started at the AOSR.
I immensely enjoyed reading the stories from alumni who had been at OSR (as I knew it) from the very beginning in 1946. Fascinating. I arrived in Rome in 1958 as a 10 year old and have wonderful memories of my year in the villa with Mrs Fabris, one of the best teachers I ever had. I remembered I had a school calendar many old photographs from 1958 and in case you have never seen it, I will attach some of the photos, possibly one with Mrs. Fabris. There is one of the cook who I remember distinctly, a picture of staff, the secretary and the bus drivers. Plus more of children making and doing things. I thought it might be a picture of Mrs Fabris on the picture called Christmas plays but I remember her as looking older.
I wish there had been a picture of the formal hedges planted in squares in front of the Villa as I think we spent our playtimes jumping over them which probably didn't do them much good. We also had a vegetable garden within one of the squares. Having come from America to Italy, I loved being in a Victorian villa and having a formal garden to play in. It was like living in a story. As was having an English teacher who taught us about the Empire! Maybe that's why I ended up in the UK.
It was hot in Rome that summer. The War (back then there was only one that didn't have to be referenced by name) had ended a year earlier and Europe was still in the early stages of recovery. Homeless people, covered in tarps, were living in Roman ruins, and a carton of cigarettes, purchased at the Army PX for stateside prices, was exchangeable for a Leica camera. I was seven and, as an only child, sorely in need of friends.
Though I was only vaguely aware of it, I was also in need of a school. There were, of course, Italian schools but I did not yet speak the language and my experience with one of those a few months earlier had been, as they say, "difficult," resulting in my being home-schooled, with marginal success, by my mother.
As luck would have it, though, my parents had experience in creating a school from scratch, having participated in the founding of the Downtown Community School in Manhattan three years prior. And the United States Army, still very much a presence in war torn Italy, was in temporary possession of a sports stadium.
The Foro Mussolini (soon, for some reason, to be renamed "Italico") was an ideal location for an instant, do-it-yourself school. Built to host the ill-fated 1940 Olympic games, the campus included, in addition to what amounted to a well-appointed adult-sized playground and swimming pool, an administrative building, a section of which the Army handed over to be used as classrooms.
And so teachers were hired, materials purchased, and in just a few months a school was conceived, brought into the world, and set in operation. There were a few peculiarities. No one could be found to run the school, so for that first year my mother, absent any relevant educational
The sojourn at the Foro Mussolini lasted just one year. In the summer of 1947 another scramble ensued and eventually space was found at the Villa Torlonia, on the Via Nomentana. (The ubiquitous Mussolini re-emerged: the classes were actually located in a small villa that had served as the residence of his mistress a few years before.)
My memories of AOSR (it was just "OSR" when I was there, there being no reason to distinguish it from other "overseas" schools) are, I'm sorry to say, few and fragmented. I do recall as one of the highlights of that first year one of my classmates coming to school with a live round of ammunition which he claimed to have found on the playground. Needless to say, we were all chagrined when the teacher confiscated it. That "playground," by the way, was huge and surrounded by marble statues of athletes, all of whom seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to Benito himself, competing in various track and field events.
Coincident with the move to the Villa Torlonia, the school hired a professional Principal, who memorably instituted an administrative structure modeled on British feudalism, complete with an elaborate hierarchy of responsibilities, rewards and punishments. Every student was assigned to one of four positions, ranging from Serf to Knight, and given a badge of a specific color depicting his or her rank. These roles came with special privileges and duties, and the key to the system was that through one's behavior one could move up or down in the hierarchy. Looking back on it, this system seems absurdly strict and regimented but at the time, for me at least, it seems to have worked. I recall being demoted from Knight to Herald for some minor infraction and as a consequence being forbidden to take out sports equipment during recess. I don't recall whether I ever got back my exalted rank.
Did I actually learn anything at the school? I must have, but there's a funny thing about learning – after you've done it you don't remember having done it. Today, in my eighties and after 22 years of formal education, I know lots of things; how and where I acquired that knowledge is, more often than not, a mystery. I do recall two memorable learning experiences, however, that I associate with those years in Rome. Somewhere along the way I learned the difference between the contraction "it's" and the possessive pronoun "its" and when to use each. At another juncture, and perhaps less usefully, I seem to have memorized a description of the Mediterranean climate ("Warm Wet Winters With Westerly Winds").
I'm sure there was more – never mind, I have fond memories of my time at The School (I left in 1950) and am ever so proud and happy to see what it has become!