Author Archives: ElaV

About ElaV

Writer/Editor Human nature inspires me, different cultures, traditions, folk stories, and the differences which make us unique.

Working Moms Stories: Danielle Jennings

Danielle Jennings is an interior designer from Toronto, Canada and the mother of a six-year-old girl. She first came to Florence seventeen years ago with a study abroad program when, she met her husband.

“How did you meet your husband?”

“I met him in Piazza Santa Croce on a Saturday night in August.” she answers smiling. “I was out having drinks and dinner with my roommate, when a group of locals came over. Among them was my husband. We dated for the rest of my stay here.”

After that encounter, Danielle went back to Toronto to finish her Design studies. They visited one another until December of 2001, when Danielle officially moved to Florence.

“My husband owns his own IT company.  He has a web agency and develops on-line software for the hotel industry. This would have made it very difficult for him to move to Canada” explains Danielle her decision to move to Florence.

“Did you encounter any cultural differences that you had to overcome?”

“I am Italian descent so the differences weren’t so obvious for me. My mother is Italian from Bari.” Danielle replies. “Maybe one of the differences was the approach of people and how to go about making friendships. I found relationships to be more open here. At the beginning, it seemed very odd for me that girls were friends with guys. I was also struck by the different way to celebrate the festivities. In Canada the festivities felt so much more alive whereas in Italy they are more modern. It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

The first few years, Danielle worked in Design, but her job didn’t meet her needs to be creative. After building a career in fashion, she recently became a self-employed interior designer.

“I was working in the showroom of an Italian company, doing projects and reaching out to clients. But I felt like I was working in sales and that didn’t meet my needs. In 2003 I had an opportunity to work in fashion. I started off as an assistant in the buying office. I was working for American firms selling stock and also private label development. Later I started working with leather goods and leather development. In 2009 I started working for Jimmy Choo. I started my career there. I moved my way up in the company, the back office to private development and leather development. Two years ago, I started working in Design again. Now I am a self-employed interior designer.  I went back to my first passion and I am doing what I always wanted to do.”

Danielle has a six-year-old daughter and she gave birth at the Careggi Hospital. She describes her experience as an at least interesting one.

“The obstetricians were great, but as a metaphor I felt primitive. When my daughter was born, it was a really hot month of May. They kept the windows open and there were no bug screens, the lights were always on. We had to stay for four days in the hospital. I didn’t have enough milk so my daughter wasn’t recuperating her weight loss fast enough.   My experience there was extremely impersonal. I understand that nurses and doctors are just doing their jobs. What they didn’t understand, was that she was our first child and we didn’t know what to do very well. The health system in Canada is different in terms of aesthetics and sanitation. As for the cost it was exceptional and everything was well organized.”

When asked if she is comfortable with the Italian way of raising children, Danielle smiles, nodding in approval.

“I love it. I think the Italian way of raising children is more towards the needs of the child and more open. When we started the weaning process, we went for a visit in Canada. I would make the broth from scratch the way my pediatrician explained to me. My friends and family members were surprised that I am not using homogenized foods. I also found helpful the fact that you have your own personal pediatrician whom you can call and can help you. Everything is more industrialized in Canada. It makes it easier for the parents, but health wise the Italian way is better.

“On the other hand there are a lot of opinionated people here. It was hard at the beginning until I gained enough self-confidence. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do and I became frustrated.

“I was also pleased with the daycare system here. My daughter didn’t go to public school because we were among the last on the waiting list. I ended up opting for the private. I think that extra money we had to pay was worth it because I felt she was well taken care off where she is. This year she will start school and we chose a private school. We want her to have access to excellent development in English. The school she will be going to has an English section, Italian and bilingual sections. It was one of the reasons we chose it.”

As an expat mom, Danielle felt it was hard to make friends with other moms. Being a working mom, made interacting with other parents difficult. The only other moms she knew were work colleagues. Now, as a self-employed mom, she feels she has to juggle even more than before.

“I couldn’t wait to be self-employed and then when it happened it was different than I imagined. You think you know what the worries are going to be. You have to do everything. You are no longer a working mom. You have to be a mom and you also have to be a businesswoman every day. To juggle that in 24 hours is quite a challenge. Before when I had that 9 to 6 job and I could have weekends off and the paycheck was still coming in. However, when you are a self-employed mom everything happens seven days a week, nonstop. After I got my Partita Iva, I had bills coming in after the first three weeks.

There are also advantages of course. If I need to take a day off, if I need to be creative or if I have to do research, I get to decide what to do and when.”

Danielle believes that one of the biggest advantages of living in Italy is the quality of life and food. On the other side, she thinks that not having grocery stores or pharmacies opened 24 hours a day is a minus.

“It’s the small, everyday things that bother me; like going to the postal office or pay bills. But Italy has changed a lot in the past 15 years, Florence in particular.”

She never excluded the possibility of moving back to Canada.

“For now Florence is the right size. If I were to move to Canada it would be for my daughter and her future. Her living her childhood in Italy is great. I think she would profit better from Canadian schooling in the future though. Here a lot of people depend on what is passed to them. They don’t teach children the responsibility of being self-sustainable. They don’t teach them about the value of money and earning everything. That is not as valued here. I think kids need to learn the way the world works and the responsibilities that come with that. I feel that the system here for teaching life values is chaotic and without any structure.” states Danielle.

Towards the end of our talk, Danielle offers some advice for other expats who plan on moving here and start a family.

“You need to be able to communicate with your partner very well, because it takes a while to make friends. You need a good support system at the beginning. Also don’t to give up when it gets hard, because there are some days when you want to go back home. Italy has a lot to offer, you just have to find your space and it’s possible, especially in Florence.”

You can follow Danielle at www.dnj.design.

Author and journalist Ela Vasilescu

I want to share my story:  Click here to submit to be interviewed.

 

From Vancouver, Canada to Florence, Italy

View More: http://nataliareardonphotography.pass.us/elenaphotos

Gina Mazza currently lives in Florence with her beautiful 7 month old daughter and her husband Alessio. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Gina wanted to share with us the story of her coming here and how she overcame some of the cultural differences she encountered when settling in.

Read more her story…...From Vancouver, Canada to Florence, Italy

By Ela Vasilescu – Writer/Journalist

 

****This is one of the many stories from our Expat Stories Series  If you are interested in sharing your story fill out the form on this post.  We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

 

Florence, Love, Joy, and Pain

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By Ela Vasilescu – Writer/Journalist

A.B. is a twenty two years old mom currently living in Prato with her one year old daughter. She is originally from Russia, of Irish heritage on her father side.

A.B. wanted to share her story, where she talks about why she chose this city as her home, how she fell in love and gave birth to her beautiful daughter. Because she is currently involved in a custody trial we will protect her identity by only using her initials in the following interview.

Read more her story…...Florence, Love, Joy and Pain

****This is one of the many stories from our Expat Stories Series    If you are interested in sharing your story fill out the form on this post.  We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

 


 

Children’s library at the British Institute

Storytime 1The British institute in Florence has inaugurated in September of last year a new space for children to use and enjoy together with their parents. Librarian Chiara Barontini, who joined the British Institute in 2015, wanted to give life to the children’s library, improving their collection through donations and making the space a comfortable and cosy place for parents and children to come play and read their favorite books.

Although rather small, the room designed for children is filled with books, games and toys meant to tickle any child’s imagination. Since last September, the Institute began to organize monthly events for children. The events usually take place on the first Thursday of the month at 5 pm and children are greeted with homemade sweats while parents can relax and relish a piece of cake with a cup of tea. Each month a guest reader is invited and the readings are sometimes themed according to the period of the year. The reading is preceded by activities such as finger puppets, or decoration workshops, after which the children are taken upstairs where they can watch a projected cartoon.

“My goal is to attract more bilingual children providing them with the resources to keep reading and to interact in their native language, but also to attract children from Florentine families who are really keen to improve their English by exposing them to stories, cartoons and activities in the English language.” shares Chiara Barontini.

 Storytime 2On June 9th, the British Institute hosted the last children’s event before the summer holidays and will begin organizing them again starting September. “I would love to welcome any mothers who would be interested to become more involved in our activities. For example, from September on I would like to introduce a new theme such as ‘Favorite Book’ where everyone can bring their favorite book to read and talk about it.” Chiara Barontini says while talking about her future plans for the space.    

Aside from the organized events, the children’s library can also be used for mothers to organize playgroups, to meet and enjoy the company of other children and parents or just to come and spend some time with their little one. “I really want this beautiful space to be used. I want it to be filled with children who read books, borrow books and enjoy a place that is specially designed for them.” states Chiara Barontini.

The children’s library at the British Institute relies solely on donations. They are always on a quest for books, toys or soft, children’s furniture that families no longer use. It is an on-going project meant to gather families together and create a pleasant environment for children to be entertained in. To use the space, the British Institute requires a 5 euro donation for a day pass. You can also opt for the 15 euro Junior Membership for a year which you can also use to borrow books from the children’s collection or a yearly Family Membership of 100 euros which includes two family members.

For more information go to the British Institute website at http://www.britishinstitute.it/ or write at library@britishinstitute.it.

 

Father’s Day

man-863085_1280Fathers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, with different backgrounds, personalities, ideas and aspirations for their children. We love them all! The important thing is that they play a crucial role in our lives, in our children’s lives. In Italy, we celebrate fatherhood and the importance of these wonderful human being in our lives, on March 19th. Here are a few ideas to surprise them with homemade gifts for their special day.

  1. The “little hands tree”. Draw a tree together with your children on a thick, colored piece of paper. Then, simply trace your child’s hands, as the leaves of the tree. Write a special message and there you have it: an easy to make card, that will surely bring a smile on this dad’s face.
  2. Driving dads love their car. The car is their partner “in crime”, thus it needs to be cared for accordingly. Buy all the products you know he would love to have for cleaning the car and put them in a stainless steel bucket. Have your children help you write with a marker on the bucket: “Daddy’s car wash kit!” This dad will be pretty excited about next week’s cleaning the car day.
  3. The “all you need for a night in front of the TV” basket. Most dads enjoy their time in front of the TV. If they’re also “allowed” to snack on the couch and have a few hours for themselves even better. Take a gift basket and fill it with anything his heart would desire for an evening in front of his favorite shows, such as chips, beef jerky, his favorite drink etc. Have your children give you ideas, and enjoy putting the products in the basket together. They will love picking out their dad’s favorite snacks.
  4. “Suits” dad. If he loves his suits and ties or maybe his job imposes a formal look during working hours, you could make little cute cardboard ties together with your kids and place them on “neck” of his favorite drink. Take a cardboard, cut it in the shape of a tie, let your children color it at their hearts desire and write “Happy Father’s Day” on them. Then, use an elastic band to glue it as the neck of the tie. There you have it, a little personal touch on a cute accessory to go with his drink.
  5. Last but not least, in Italy the traditional recipe for Father’s Day is that of frittelle di riso. Surprise him with a nice plate of frittelle made by you and the kids, or why not take a trip together to Greve in Chianti and celebrate the day at the annual festival Sagra delle frittelle di San Giuseppe, with ancient, traditional recipes.

Happy Father’s Day!!!

 

Arriva il Carnevale!

Soon enough the streets of Florence will be invaded by masks, costumes, confetti, colors and lights that will build a very exciting and unique atmosphere in our city! The Carnival is coming, one of the most beloved traditions in Italy, enjoyed both by children and parents.

Florence will host a lot of special events for children and parents to celebrate the Carnival. In Piazza Ognissanti the 9th edition of “Il Carnevale di Firenze dei bambini” returns on the 6h of February starting 2 pm until 6 pm, bringing a lot of fun games, cotton candy, projected animations and a beautiful parade for all to enjoy. Like every year the party will end with the burning of Stenterello’s mask. In case of rain the show will be cancelled.

At Sesto Fiorentino the celebrations begin on January 30th and 31st, and will continue on February 6th, 7th and 9th with the party of a thousand colors and jokes. An exhibition and a photo contest will be hosted as well as animations and many street events. The theme of the carnival is Pinocchio, the famous story of Carlo Lorenzini.

Teatro del Borgo has a special event planned, starting January 31st from 3,30 pm, presenting
“MASCHERE AL GRAN BALLO”, followed by a party for children with snacks and games. The ticket is 8 euros and 5 euros for children under 4 years old. Reservations are necessary by calling 338 124 1514 or by sending an email infopoderaccio@gmail.com.

Disney Store also organized a special contest from January 14th that will close on February 2nd. A card needs to be fill out in one of the stores for a chance to win a 200 euros voucher to be spent exclusively in one of the stores from Italy. You can also participate at the contest online to win a 60 euros voucher that can be used for online purchases. The store also organizes activities for children to decorate their own masks and participate at the mask parade. For more information you can follow the link http://www.disneystore.it/carnevale.

For the little and big rockers, Hard Rock Cafe Firenze has planned a party for children on February 6th starting 9, 15 am. The masquerade will be accompanied by a sweet or salty breakfast and the magic tricks of Martina Carras. Tickets are 10 euros for children and 16 euros for adults.
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Like every year, Fosso Bandito is also organizing great events for children and parents that will take place starting January 30 until February 14. Every weekend will be dedicated to family activities including mask parades, clowns, games, cooking classes, readings, carousels and so much more.

By Ela Vasilescu

Writer/Journalist