ROME—There’s a lot to process when entering the grounds of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia for the first time. A grey building that could use some significant TLC leaves an interesting first impression, but it’s soon dissolved by a long walkway leading fans to venue landmarks of their choosing: the main stadium, concession booths, practice courts and the renowned Pietrangeli among the stops.
While taking in the vibe, you may ask yourself at some stage: is this a tennis tournament or recess on the playground? There is no shortage of kids present and it’s not because the event is doubling as a daycare.
For well over a decade, bringing in local schools has been a major initiative on site. Through a “Young Village” program that is set up just off the main entrance/exit, children of all tennis experience levels are granted the opportunity to hit with Italian Tennis Federation coaches and receive instruction.
“During the morning, every kid can try out tennis. We want to make sure all kids have the chance to be introduced to the sport,” says Giulia Baliva, an 11-year veteran of the initiative.