Category Archives: My Story: How I came to Florence

From Vancouver, Canada to Florence, Italy

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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

 


 

We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

Logo FMs4Ms2016To the many Expat Moms that follow our Website/blog;

As some of you may know in the past, we have interviewed many moms about their experience as expats. Together with journalist Ela Vasilescu we would like to continue this project.

Living an expat life, being pregnant and giving birth are unique experiences we could all learn from and relate to. We would like to read more of your stories, your experiences, your fears, your expectations. Moving to a different country and starting a new life, although exciting, can be scary and the process of integration can be slow and excruciating at times. Other times the process is fast and problem free.  We want to hear your story.

We will do a separate section to focus on birth stories because each woman has a distinctive memory about the moment when they gave life to a new human being and reading those stories would help and inspire other “mothers to be”.   These stories will help pregnant moms compare and understand the different hospital environments in and around Firenze and fill with joy and melancholy the ones who already experienced the birth of their child here.

We would like to explore these distinctive threads (living as an expat, pregnancy and birth stories) that whilst seemingly different, they trigger situations and feelings unlike others and by sharing them we could help others understand they are not alone, offering the support they need to move forward.

The project will consist in scheduled interviews shared online on our blog. If you would like to take part in the project please please fill out the form below.     

Ela Vasilescu
Writer/Journalist
http://writerinflorence.com/

To sign up for an interview please fill out this form and we will contact you very soon:

My Story: Mary Loscerbo

FMs4Ms Members: My Story

Mary Loscerbo_foto2

Mary Loscerbo moved to Firenze Italy in 1990 from Canada after receiving a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the U of Toronto, She traveled all this way, because she was granted a scholarship to learn Italian and study with a renowned singing teacher.  Living here in Italy for 23 years, she has fallen in love with the Italian lifestyle, climate and food.  While pursuing her career of Music, she fell in love with her husband from Basilicata, got married, and soon after she delivered her two wonderful boys.     

Work:

Looking for a great café? Go to “La Sosta de’ Golosi” in the center which is owned by Mary and her husband. Mary does the accounting for the café and is sometimes needed to help out in the kitchen, but she has pursued her real passion of singing and songwriting.  Along with writing her own songs, Mary has recorded commercial jingles, dance recordings, and music for documentaries.  Though majoring in classical music at college, she is not limited to this and sings a wide genre from Pop, Jazz, Soul, and Dance.  You can see some of her performances at the Goldenview Open Bar on Via de’ Bardi.  Summertime she is extremely busy performing with her band for mostly destination weddings, conventions and private functions.

Health system:

Both the private and public health system here in Italy have been utilized by Mary and she really likes the fact that the public health system is entitled for all residence and citizens of Italy. In comparing Canada’s health system to Italy’s, she expresses that in Italy there is not a ridiculously long wait to see the doctors which you deal with in Canada. She declared that Italy has the best system by usage of the two tier structure.  To quote Mary, “If you don’t want to wait, all you have to do is go to a private clinic and pay for it (and the prices are very reasonable) In Canada we don’t even have that option.  Either you take out a mortgage to pay for it in the States or you wait and hope to God it doesn’t get any worse.”

Through the process of natural childbirth, Mary delivered both her lovely boys in Firenze at two different public hospitals. Her first child was born in Santa Maria Annunziata (Antella) and her second child at San Giovanni di Dio (Scandicci).   She claims both her delivery experiences were fabulous ones.  She asserts, “the nurses where very helpful with breastfeeding and wouldn’t let me leave the hospital until I was sure how to breastfeed properly.  They showed us how to change diapers and how to bathe our babies.  I couldn’t have hoped for better and I had both children in different hospitals.”

Mary Loscerbo_fotoWhen her babies were born, she sustained Maternity Leave from her husband’s café because she was classified as a “dipendente familiare” in her husband’s business.  She does not get an actual wage but the business pays for “contributi” that go towards her pension and health system. 

School:

Both her children attend the public school here in Firenze.  She declares, “I think it is quite good.  A lot more advanced than in Canada but way too much homework!”

Driving in Italy:

Mary talked about that the driving exams in Italy as being extremely hard with lots of studying and learning of unexpected facts like the mechanics of the car.  Despite the complicated multiple choice test, Mary did complete the exams to get the Italian License to drive.  She states, “It is like getting a mini mechanics license!  I failed the first written exam.  Then I found out at the time that I could do it orally and I passed that.  I passed the first time on my actual driver’s exam.”

Driving in Italy was a scary experience for her.  The road rules in Canada which she was accustomed too were very different than the rules here in Italy, which created a bit of confusion at times.  On top of learning the new rules of the road, she had to study how to drive a manual shift car which was a huge task in itself. The erudition did pay off and she states she is a wicked parallel parker, which is something you really require in the city streets.

Renting or Owning Your House:

No renting for Mary, since she owns her home here in Firenze.  In comparison to buying in Canada, her impression is that it is just as complicated.  You can find an article Mary has written for FMs4Ms Newsletter a few years ago on buying a home in Italy. Here is the link to her experience: Becoming A Home Owner In Florence

Miss From Your Home Country:

Because of her love for Italy, Mary adapted very easily to life here, but she, of course, still misses her family and friends back in Canada.  Some things she wishes Canada had from Italy are the climate, food, lifestyle along with the two tier health system.  Like many though, she hates the bureaucracy in Italy and the long complicated requirements you need to do to complete just simple tasks. 

Economic crisis:

The Economic crisis has not really caused any issues for Mary living here.  There are no uncertainties because, she always has the opportunity to go back to Canada if need be, ever since both her children attained double citizenship.  She says, “I am just grateful that I HAVE that option if things really get rough here.  If I go back to Canada I don’t think I’d have problems finding work in my field.”

Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network:

“When my children were young it helped to have the support group.  Meeting other anglo speaking people in the same boat as you are.  As the group has developed over the years at times I feel that it is more of a place to vent, which can be good to have at times, but I would prefer it to also be a place for women to feel empowered. I would like to see more women supporting women that work here. Networking more not just socially but on a professional level.  Moms just don’t live for their kids; they also have their own lives and careers.  I’d love to know what other women do. “

Websites:

http://www.bitband.it

http://www.myspace.com/maryloscerbo

My Story: How I came to Florence: Elsa Rich

New Series, by Kirsten Hills

To an outsider- life in Florence, may seem idyllic- with its sun, beauty and charm, but us mums know the city can be a challenging place to raise children. It can at times be anything but the ideal city to live in. Add to this the pressure to bridge our cultural differences with the Italian way of doing things, and it can lead to unhappiness.

Attachment-1Elsa Rich

She is one of us who has struggled to feel at home here. She is a 35 years old French woman, married to an American, and has two children Leonie and Milo – aged 3 and 2. They have been living in Florence for two years.

Why did you move to Florence?

In 2011 my husband William was offered the position as European Manager for the shoe company “Frye”, here in Florence. Their office is on Lungarno Guicciardini.

What do you like about Florence?

The steaks and coffee are good. Life here is cheaper than in Paris. The weather is much better, the beach is close- by in the summertime, and skiing in the Winter.

What is your work background?

I worked for ten years in film production. I started as a PA for the famous film director Luc Besson, and I moved to Montreal in Canada, where I continued working in film marketing and promotion. I returned to Paris and I worked in cartoons.

By this point I’d met William and we moved to Venice to do a documentary on the gondolas, where I got pregnant. I never wanted to give birth in Italy so I returned to Paris. After that we lived in Switzerland, and finally William secured work here in Florence.

How do you spend the week?

The children are in full time childcare, so I have started a cake making business. It started as an interest, but I now do commissions- for birthday cakes and special occasions. I love thinking up new creative ideas and designs for cakes. I’ve done DJ decks, a beach, gondolas, and a piano. I get a lot of compliments.

My husband travels a lot with work (sometimes up to 3 times a month), so I am often on my own with the kids.

You’ve traveled and lived in many countries, what are your thoughts about life here in Florence?

I don’t like it here. I find it difficult to meet people. Above all I’ve not managed to find work, which is the main reason I don’t feel at home here.

What have you struggled with the most living here?

The paperwork. My husband has a Swiss contract but we live here, so at the beginning we couldn’t get free healthcare. We have had SO many battles. The way of doing business here- is entirely about who you know. In France it’s much more egalitarian, and professional.

The banks are also ridiculous. Every time I need to do something I have to go there and resolve it face to face.

And life in Florence?

I think the city is messy. They don’t respect the rules for parking, nobody cares. Queuing doesn’t exist here either.

How helpful has the ‘Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network’ been?

I can see it’s a really useful group and there are playgroups in the week, but with my kids at nursery, I don’t feel I can go along! I am also incredibly shy. I really find it difficult to go to the meet-ups. I think I will force myself to go to the next one though, as I don’t have many friends here.

What do you miss most about France?

The bread, and the cheese. I’m sorry to say it, but they don’t know how to make cheese here!!

What do the children think of life here?

They love it. We live in the countryside, just this weekend we went skiing in Abetone, and they are learning a third language- which is fantastic.

Of course everyone in Italy is baby-crazy, so they are spoiled rotten, and everywhere you go, you get a reaction. EVERYWHERE. So if you are in a restaurant, and your kids are having a fit, everybody on the other tables will react with “poverina”, so you can eat in peace, which is good!

How is your Italian?

Not bad. I can make myself understood in any situation. I think I’m basic level but my husband says I’m fluent!

Which languages do you speak at home?

William and I speak in French- since we met in France. He speaks to the kids in English, and I speak to them in French. They are obviously speaking in Italian at school/nursery. I also speak fluent English.

How do the children manage with three languages?

Really well, sometimes they confuse words. Their mother tongue is Italian I guess as they spend more time exposed to it during the day.  

What do you do for childcare for the children?

Leonie goes to scuola maternal and Milo is at the private nursery Cubo Magico. I am delighted with the nursery. It is expensive, but the staff are lovely, but I am less happy with the school, where the teachers are less passionate about their work and being with the kids. Plus the food at the nursery is first class but I think the school food is horrible.

At school if I say I have an issue with my daughter, they always respond “but she’s so small”. Which I disagree with. I think in Italy they infantilise children here too much.

How did you find the nursery/schools?

Well when I first came here I didn’t know anyone, and I eventually met a woman at the play park, who really helped me, she gave me the names of the places.

Where do you live in Florence? And why did you choose here?

We live in the hills, to the south of the city. Close to Pian dei Giullari. The apartment is part of a large old villa, and it’s beautiful. The children can go outside to play, and it’s so green. The only down-side is I need to take the car to go anywhere and it can feel a little remote.

What activities do you do with the kids in Florence?

My daughter LOVES trampolining and so I take her to one at the Co-op in Gavinana. There’s Mondo Bimbo piazza della Liberta. For clothes I love HandM in Novolli.

Where do you see your future?

We are looking to move. I’d like to go back to Paris.

Explain your Facebook photo and when it was taken?

A friend took it in Paris a couple of years ago. People think I’m posing but I was actually just doing my hair one morning, and it was taken unexpectedly.

Elsa Rich

All those that are willing to be interviewed for ”My Story: How I came to Florence” contact Kirsten Hills at infotiscali@firenzemoms4moms.net

About the writer: 

Kirsten Hills2

Kirsten Hills has been living and working in Florence since 2011, where she is a journalist and teacher.  She has two children.

My Story: How I came to Florence: Rebecca Hamblin

New Series, by Kirsten Hills

Many of the ex-pat mums who come here, do so because of their partner’s work. So what is the impact of such a move on the family? And how do you cope in helping everyone adjust to such a big change?

DSC_2552xropRebecca Hamblin

Moved here from Britain in 2011 with her husband and two children- Emily who’s 5 and a half, and Edward who is almost 3. They live at Piazza Massimo d’Azeglio, near the synagogue in the city centre.

Why did you move to Florence?

We moved here because my husband was offered a position with GE (General Electric), whose oil and gas division is based here in Florence.

What is your background?

I always worked in brand management, working for food companies- usually products that aren’t actually good for you. When I left university I got my 1st job with McVities, a large biscuit company, in the UK. I brand managed Penguin chocolate bar.

I also worked for Pizza Hut, and my final job was with Ferrero (the chocolate company), so I had a lot of contact with Italians in the office and the Head of Ferrero UK was Italian. I had an introduction to the cultural differences and managing things Italian style! My Marketing Director used to say- “we’re having a meeting at 3 o’clock- that’s 3 o’clock British time, not Italian time”!!

Do you miss work, or do you enjoy being a full-time Mum?

I don’t miss it at all at the moment, because I’m so busy. Even though the children are at school all day, there are still a lot of things to do. I have my Italian lessons, I do a History of Art course, and then there’s a book-club.  I know I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and I am really enjoying my life, and feel very happy.

How do the children spend their weeks?

Emily is at school and Edward is at nursery- they both go to the Italian “Kindergarten”, which is on the same site (via San Gallo.)

What are your thoughts about the school?

We are really happy with it, because we thought being so young, it would be beneficial for them to learn another language straight away and that has been a success. It was a bit hard for Emily initially, because she was “Little Miss Chatterbox” at home, but when she arrived, no one else understood her. But with help from a teacher she and her brother both speak Italian pretty fluently.

Emily does tennis lessons after school and has other options that she could choose (eg dancing, German, football) It is helpful to know there are alternatives to the International School and the French trilingual School.

The lessons are in Italian, but they are trying to push English- so they are teaching far more than the public schools- at least an hour a day.

How difficult was the move? And what helped you settle in?

I haven’t been in this position before, and I hadn’t realised how isolating it could be as an ex-pat.

The Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network (FMs4FMs Network) site was such a help. SUCH a help! It was a resource for information, and I love the way you can ask any question and you get lots of answers. You might not agree with the answers, but it’s a start to find out where things are. For example, where do I find a dentist? Or (at the start) an English-speaking optician, ballet classes and so on.

The ex-pat community are really open and welcoming. I met one friend, just after we’d moved here. It was quite by chance – we were at the swimming pool, when it was really hot. We both heard we weren’t speaking Italian to our kids- so we got talking and now we’re friends. I like the way people are genuinely friendly.

When you think back to what you were expecting life to be like here, before moving, how have your expectations been met?

I had never been here before, but I knew it was a beautiful city. I’ve been happily surprised by how well we have settled in, and we are very happy here. I’ve found some green spaces, which I thought would be difficult, but if you look hard they are there!

Having children is a fantastic way to meet people. Before starting nursery, Edward was with me for a year, so we went to playgroups, and organised playdates, and met lots of people like that.

If you sit at home you’re not going to meet new people or make friends, so you just HAVE to find something you’re interested in or that the kids are interested in.

How have you found Florence as a city?

I still don’t have many Italian friends, apart from the Italian families whose children attend the same school.  But ‘piano piano’ as the Italians might say!

How is your Italian?

I understand quite a lot, but my main problem is speaking, which is partly due to a lack of confidence, and partly a lack of practice, because most of time I am speaking English- when I socialise and with the children at home, and my husband’s English. I want to get better, but I’ve learnt not to worry. You can’t do everything at once.

I was fortunate to have private lessons through my husband’s company for the first year. I now go to a language school, which is quite fun because I have classes with a Mexican, a Korean, an Australian, an American, so I get to meet people I’d never have met before.

What is it about life in Italy, you like so much?

I love the fact I can walk or take the bus to get anywhere. I love the fact we can swim outside so much in the Summer. We go swimming every weekend, even in Winter- at Bellariva- where they do lessons.

I do think it’s amazing just to be surrounded by so much history and it’s so easy to get into places and seeing things up close. It’s not like being in a museum, just seeing things behind glass.

Here we can travel around to the hilltop villages outside Florence (like Volterra), or do a wine trip. We love exploring and climbing things to get great views.  You can do that in Florence (eg the Duomo or Campanile) or go further afield to visit castles.

What is the single best aspect of your life here?

The health service is fantastic. I have Multiple Sclerosis and I have to see a neurologist sometimes. We recently changed my medicine, so I have to go for a type of transfusion once a month. I’ve found the neurologists very well informed, very professional, and I completely trust them. It can be harder not speaking Italian, and dealing with the nurses.

Overall you have to get to know the system. Once you understand how to make an appointment etc, it tends to be ok. You sometimes do need to ask for help though.

What about healthcare for the kids?

In UK they don’t give Hepatitis B jab, which they do here so we were informed that the children should have this. The paediatrician is good, very thorough. We’ve thankfully had no emergencies, and although both our children were born in London we are getting similar treatment.

You have said you might not be here in the long-term. Does that change the way you feel about living here?

Yes it does. I think it would be unusual if it didn’t. Then again, we don’t have a definite time when we will leave. My husband isn’t on a fixed contract – for 2 years for example. If he were we might do a few things differently.

At the moment we’re trying to explore around Italy quite a lot. We’ll certainly be here 3-4 years I think.

And the kid’s favourite aspect of Italian life?

It would be the gelato!

What do you recommend to do with kids?

The play area in Borgo Allegri, near Santa Croce is great. It shuts for lunch but is shady for the summer. I also like the Giardino Ortocoltura, north of piazza Liberta. Then there’s Santa Rosa park.

What would you advise any mother moving here?

Learn Italian. It makes life easier, and people appreciate it. Join the Facebook forum or the discussion forum for the FMFM.

What, if anything, do you miss most about UK?

I miss the fact, if there’s a problem, things get sorted out quite quickly. You don’t have to wait around. Customer service also tends to be better in UK.

We don’t have a good Indian really close to us, so we have to cook it ourselves. I like Baked Beans, Marmite, and ingredients for Thai cooking but you can find that all at Vivi Market.

What is your Facebook profile photo? When was it taken and why?

It was taken last Summer in the park, where I take our children, Piazza Massimo d’azeglio.

DSC_2697

All those that are willing to be interviewed for “My Story: How I came to Florence” contact Kirsten Hills at infotiscali@firenzemoms4moms.net

About the writer: 

Kirsten Hills2

Kirsten Hills has been living and working in Florence since 2011, where she is a journalist and teacher.  She has two children.