Tag Archives: Family Living

Moving back home after living in Italy for years?

movingI know some of you are thinking about moving back to your home country or have already decided.  I found this great blog that talks all about it.  It is not an easy transition to move back, especially if you have lived for many years abroad.  So before you take that actual move read through this blog and get an idea of some challenges you might experience when you do.

via Repat Jack | REPAT ESSENTIAL READS.

First Aid App for Android & iPhone | American Red Cross

It is a free App you an get on your phone Iphone or Android that will help you with first Aid you can not dial 911 but you can use it to help you out for different emergencies.

Check it out.

via First Aid App for Android & iPhone | American Red Cross.

Firenze Mom

June 6, 2013

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Mom’s you should know for Traveling outside Italy  If you did not know read this before you travel:

The EU changed rules about a year ago and you are not allowed to travel with your children on the passports anymore.

Make sure that any children travelling with you either have their own passport or ID card or are registered on your passport. However, from 26 June 2012, children will need to have their own passport or ID card to travel (even if they are still mentioned in their parent’s passport, which remains valid).  from: europa.eu- Documents you will need

You must have a passport for the children and/or carta’d’identita if you are resident in Italy.  If you are EU national then you can use the E.U. national ID’s.  If you are traveling from here to the US and back they will definitely stop and question you say in Germany,  if you only have US passports for your children.  So your best is to get the carta’d’identita for your child as well if you are a resident here and if your children are dual an Italian Passport as well.  On the identity card they put both parents name on it.

More Related Articles:

Documents you need-Non-EU family members

Documents you need-EU nationals

Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 3

1Hello again. I’m Simone Ballerini a professional photographer based in Florence. You can find my work at www.simoneballerini.com

Mobile Phones

A lot of people these days are enrolling in the photography army, eager to get the most expensive piece of advanced gear, spending too many hours in photoshop and with forums on the internet looking for preset and shortcuts to take photos like pros. Many of us though are still taking the majority of their pictures with something we have always with us, not so much good as a camera but really easy to use. Our mobile phone is already become the camera of choice for the daily snaps at work, on holiday or even at the toilet. From our lunch to the big news of the mass media, photos and videos from mobile devices are now a reality of our visual word. The mobile as a camera is really easy to use, sometimes you just need to click a button and that’s it, really common with everyone and extremely versatile. With no need for training we can take a photograph and in a matter of seconds share it with family, friends and social networks.2 We can even say that mobile photography is the great equalizer of the medium. A democratization process, where taking pictures is now for everyone with the same gear and possibility, started with the rising of digital and now emphasized by the new iphoneography. The thing that makes taking pictures with your mobile so appealing is the possibility to download a lot of editing apps that are able to turn your flat and boring lunch in a supreme piece of art. Where first you needed hours of training in photoshop and a lot of money, now with one euro, most of the time for free, we can take, edit and publish a photo in a matter of seconds. This has surely annoyed a lot of professional photographers that, as it goes for every big revolution, have criticized this kind of photography as a thing for amateurs or even less. It is easy though to see that the internet, tvs, and news papers are flooded with these images and that taking a picture with our mobile and share it is now a daily activity of us along with taking a coffee or make a phone call.3

Since now everyone basically has the same gear the thing that is different with every photographer is the phone you have and the app you use. The eternal fight between iPhone and Android is just the same as the one between the big brothers Nikon and Canon even though we must admit that the quality of the iPhone camera is way better that the one mounted on the many versions of the Android. The most popular app these days is Instagram. It is free, you can take a picture to edit with a lot of beautiful filters and it is a proper social network on his own in which you add friends, like your favorite photos and share on facebook, twitter an so.

4For all the great things tis app can do I really don’t like the B&W conversion of his filters. To make up for this I use another app called Hipstamatic that has B&W conversions out of this world. This is another free app but some of the filters has a little price to pay on the store. Totally wort it.

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With all these fancy apps we don’t have to diminish the impact of the human. How we compose the frame, for example, can make all the difference in the world between a boring pictures or a great one. There are millions of rules for composition but the most important and used is the rule of thirds: if we divide the frame in three equal parts both horizontal and vertically we have a grid in which the lines and the intersections between them are focal point

for placing the subjects of our pictures. So if we place the person we’re photographing on a side of the frame instead of the dead centre she’ll have a different meaning to the eyes. We can do the same with the horizon in a landscape, deciding whether to put it high or low to include more of the earth or of the sky.

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Finally taking pictures with your mobile is easy, fun e rewarding. It is a good training for the eye to see the world, document our life and share it with others.

 

Related Articles:

Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 1
Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 2

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Want to know your pollution level in your area

pollutionHere is a great link to know what your pollution levels are in your area.

http://www.arpat.toscana.it/apps/bollaria/f?p=bollaria%3Aregionale%3A2191250161144412

Why do you want to know your pollution level?

Well the big thing that they have been linking the pollution in the city too is Asthma in children. This does not mean your child will get asthma since some are more prone then others, but they do say that this is one of the big culprits for causing Asthma in Children.

That said they do have regulations for the pollution levels. When the pollution gets to high they cut back on the amount of cars that can circulate in the city. Since I have been here this has happened almost every year.

Should you be concerned? Personally I prefer to be in a more greener environment then on a main street if possible, but that is  not always possible.  So good thoughts though,  many have lived here in Florence all their life and are 100 years old and walking the streets daily without any problems at all.

Motorcycles and Motor-scooters: Children Safety

scooterWe see it all the time a child riding on motorcycle or motor-scooter on the way to school.  I always wonder if it is safe or legal for that matter.  Well the law here says that they can ride on the motorcycle at 5 years of age and up (articolo 170 del Codice della Strada)

Here is a translation of this article 170

Article 170 – Transport of people, animals and objects on two-wheel motor vehicles

1. On motorcycles and mopeds (scooters) with two wheels, the driver must have free use of the arms, hands and legs, must sit in the correct position and must hold the handlebars with both hands or with one hand in case of need for appropriate maneuvers or reports. Should not lift the front wheel.

1-bis. On vehicles referred to in paragraph 1 shall not transport a child under five years.

2. On mopeds are prohibited for transport of persons other than the driver, except that the place for the passenger is expressly stated in the certificate and that the driver is over the age of eighteen years. A regulation issued by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport have established how and when to upgrade, for purposes of this paragraph, the certificate of registration of mopeds approved before the date of entry into force of the law converting Decree Law of 27 June 2003, n. 151.

3. On vehicles referred to in paragraph 1, any passenger must be seated in a stable and balanced in the position determined by the special equipment of the vehicle.

4. And ‘forbidden to drivers of vehicles referred to in paragraph 1 to tow or be towed by other vehicles.

5. On vehicles referred to in paragraph 1 shall not carry anything that is not firmly secured, which protrude laterally or longitudinally to the axis of the vehicle with respect to the shape of it more than fifty centimeters or to prevent or limit the visibility of the driver. Within these limits, is permitted provided that the transport of animals kept in a special cage or container.

6. Anyone who violates the provisions of this Article shall be subject to administrative sanction for payment of a sum of € 76.00 to € 306.00.

6-bis. Anyone who violates the provisions of paragraph 1-bis shall be subject to administrative sanction for payment of a sum of € 152.00 to € 608.00.

7. For violations provided for in paragraph 1 and, if committed by a minor driver, in paragraph 2, the administrative fine follows the vehicle impounded for sixty days, in accordance with Chapter I, Section II, Title VI, when in the course of a two-year period, with a moped or a motorcycle has been committed for at least two times, one of the offenses referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2, the impounded vehicle is placed for ninety days.

After reading that, though very confusing about the rules since they do overlap, I would think you would not want to be putting your child under 5 years on a motorcycle or scooter to transport them to school.  I personally would be hesitant to put a child even over 5 on one, but if you really have to in this article (  Bambini in moto, una guida su come trasportarli in tutta sicurezza- in Italian) there are some important points you should consider for child safety.

Here are the main precautions should you decide to have your 5 or old child with you:

  • Have the child sit still in the passenger seat, behind the driver,
  • Always make sure that the child is able to remain in the correct position and does not fall asleep
  • Is able to absorb” the inevitable movements sudden and unexpected
  • Wear the appropriate protection
  • Avoid, if possible, particularly busy or dangerous streets
  • Always keep at a constant moderate speed
  • Never have the child sit in front of  you or even standing, even if you think you can keep under control the child

Another article on Motorcycle safety again in Italian is Il trasporto dei bambini sulla moto, normativa e consigli per una guida sicura

If you do decide to ride with your child, all I can say is please be safe. 

Related Articles:

I giovani motociclisti sono tutti Orfani – sicurmoto.it

Art. 170. * Trasporto di persone e di oggetti sui veicoli a motore a due ruote – aci.it

Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 2

Hello again.

I’m Simone Ballerini a professional photographer based in Florence. You can find my work at www.simoneballerini.com
I specialize in maternity, family and kids photography and this is part two of the shooting we discussed last week.

Done with the outdoor session we decided to move indoors for the last quiet portraits of the couple and some picture of the soon to be mom by herself.

When shooting indoors we are presented with a lot of challenges both of technical and aesthetic nature.

We need light, of course (remember photography means writing with light) and we need to find a nice, meaningful spot to place our subject in.

The main source of light in a house or a general building is coming from the sun pouring through the windows.

Even if it is cloudy outside or there’s a storm coming you still have a lot of light coming through shining on your rooms and reveling forms and details.

This could be beautiful, rich, free light absolutely gorgeous for portraits or many types of photography.

With window light you can run into two options: the first one is when you have a window on a wall facing north or south (or east in the afternoon). This way you have no direct sun coming through and all the light outside is filtered by the frame of the window resulting in a directional soft light very gentle with the shape of a human body or details for a still life or food photo.

1 In these pictures I posed the couple at the end of a long studio room. We had  the entire wall at camera right completely covered by windows so plenty of late afternoon warm light is coming in from that direction.

This kind of set up reveals a lot of details and enhances the forms of the bump, faces and clothes because the light coming in from the side is lightning the left side of the subjects leaving the right side in shade.

Sunset and late afternoon is the perfect time for taking pictures with a warm intimate feeling with the light coming from the sun becoming warmer just before fading to the blue and black of the night.

The second scenario you can find yourself in when dealing with window light is direct sun coming through.

2In this pictures I had the setting sun directly in the frame of a small window in the living room, the perfect call for a backlit portrait with mood and some attitude.

I asked the couple to sit on the floor and just talk. Soon they started to connect more and reach for each other forgetting about the camera and me, reveling a soft and natural moment of their relationship.

Direct sun produces very strong and unflattering shadows making it hard to handle if you don’t know how to make it works.

As with the sun on an outdoor portrait you have to pose your subject correctly deciding whether to put the sun behind, on a side on even in front of her.

I almost didn’t see the cat laying on the window staring at the couple inside. It was an happy accident that gives the picture something more.

On the aesthetic side you can either photograph your subject in a friendly and pleasing environment or decide to avoid all the distractions and go for a plain solid color background using a wall, the sky or a canvas.

3If you decide to put your sitter in an environment you need to be carful to chose the right one for the message you’re try to communicate. Sometimes removing pieces of furniture or simply moving your angle of view is enough to hide something unwanted and have a clearer shot.

In these pictures I had a window on the right and decided to add meaning with props and composition.

For the first one I placed a tiny pair of pink shoes on the bump of the future mom deciding to include in the frame part of the couch and the pictures on the wall to lock down the photo in a specific environment, in this case the living room.

In the second photo instead I removed as many element as possible to emphasize the pose of legs and feet, cutting out the upper part of the body to let the bump emerge from the black of the floor.

Having some energy left we let go of all the romance and posing for a fun final portrait. With the help of the last light from the sun and a pencil we wrote the word beer and baby on the bellies of the couple and shot a couple of frames.

4Sometimes all the thinking and planning in the world can’t make for the spontaneity and the fun of a true moment captured in between your direction or the moment you’re waiting for.

There’s so much in photography of the unexpected, happy accidents and moments of truth, we just need to be ready and curious about life in all its manifestations.

Related Articles:

Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 1 – Firenzemoms4moms.wordpress.com

Photography Tips for You and Your Family – Part 1

We live in a really visual world. Every minute we are surrounded by thousands of images and we certainly play a major role this with our facebook, twitter and instagram feeds. Taking pictures today is easier than ever before. Our phones take amazing photos, really cheap point and shoot cameras can record an insane number of megapixels and there’s almost no end to how much you can spend on a digital reflex.

This is also the time of the year when our cameras awake from the cold winter post in the back of the closet to start again on their journey toward storytelling and beauty.

SBphoto3

I’m Simone Ballerini, a portrait photographer based in Florence. You can find my work at www.simoneballerini.com
I specialize in maternity, family and kids photography and for the next weeks I’ll be sharing few tips on how to improve the pictures you take.

SBphoto2

Whether it be your family, your kids or the monuments of the city you’re visiting, taking great and meaningful pictures is just a matter of having a curious eye, keeping some basic principles in mind, practicing and most of all having fun!

Technically taking a picture means letting some light hit a photosensitive material closed in a box. This hasn’t changed since the beginning of photography, no matter how fancy or expensive your camera is.
Pro DSLR and point and shoot cameras are all designed to do this. The only thing that has changed is the amount of control you can have on the process.

To expose a photograph you need to set three variables: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Manual cameras allow you to set all the numbers and be in full control. Auto point and shoot devices instead take out the responsibility and sometimes the headache of choosing the right setting.

I know this sounds a bit technical and boring, but some time should be spent learning how to use your gear. It takes a bit of practice and some upsetting results at the beginning, but you’re in for the long run and the reward can be compelling and beautiful pictures.

Let’s start and see what happens when we photograph people.

This newly wed couple is aspecting their first child and I’ve been so lucky as to be called to document this delicate, meaningful and beautiful moment.

We decided to start with some pictures outside taking advance of the setting sun and then to move the shoot inside for few others portraits.
1When shooting people outdoors you need to pay attention to the direction the light is coming from and where you put your subject in relation to the sun.

If you put her directly in front of the sun she’ll be well lit for sure, but it’ll be hard to find any pleasing expression or interact with her squinting the eyes try to avoid the harsh light.In these cases it is best to put the sun directly behind the subject so you can have an even light on the face avoiding strong shadows on the eyes and under the nose and chin.

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Another great tip for taking great photos in bright sunlight, perhaps if you’re shooting at noon when the light is considered not particularly flattering for portraits, is to look for open shade to stand your subject in. Sheltered form the sun she can now benefit of a great amount of beautiful soft light, free to move and interact with the camera.

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Another way to interact with the sun is to have the light coming from the side of the subject. This way you can reveal forms and shape in a more 3D look.

This is great for maternity or details shots where you want to enhance the curve of a bump or the texture of an object or fabric.

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All the numbers and settings of cameras are useless if used as a cold technical exercise. The purpose of a photography is to tell a story. Whether it is your family, a stranger, an event or an inanimate object, there’s always a reason you bring the camera to your eyes and shoot a frame. Learning the gear and the components of photography must serve this purpose.

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To look for the inner moments of a son playing, your spouse reading a book by a window, a beautiful landscape or some action happening in the street, everyone of us has something that moves us and we want to freeze in time.
All the knowledge about aperture, shutter speed or photoshop can’t replace a curious attitude toward life and the people we love.

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Next week we’ll find out what are the challenges when shooting indoors.

In the meanwhile there’s a picture waiting somewhere five meters around you, take your camera and go out looking for some beauty.

Does your child have Dyslexia or other learning disabilities?

LearningHas your child has been diagnosed or you think your child has a Learning Disability?  There is Dyslexia, Dysphagia and many more different types of Learning Disabilities your child might have. You should check out these links.  There is help out there for you child.

http://www.libroparlato.org/it/
http://www.libroparlatolions.it/
http://www.aiditalia.org/
http://www.libriliberi.com/home-casa-editrice-casaeditricelibriliberi-158.html

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.

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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.