"All my children were born in Milan (Pio X clinic) and my experience was excellent for all 3. Here in Italy, they do a lot of tests during pregnancy as well as scans. You are really looked after during the pregnancy. I had 3 C-sections and found the experiences positive. I was in hospital for 4-5 days in total. Enough time to get your strength back! It was interesting seeing the way things have changed over the past 7 years. Now there is more rooming in and more encouragement to breastfeed on demand. With my eldest, the hospital worked to timetables for feeding and the baby was in the hospital nursery a lot of the time. I have found, however, that after you leave hospital, there isnt much support. There is still the belief that there will be family around to help" (CB, May 2012)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Varese?
My name is Caroline, Im 35 and have lived in Italy for almost 13 years.
Which part of Varese do you live in?
Im only just in the Varese province. My town, Uboldo, is on the edge of the Como/Milan/Varese provinces. Saronno is the nearest city.
Why did you move there?
To escape the city! Before we had children, my husband and I lived in Milan. It was too noisy and the flat was really small. We decided to move out for more space and a better quality of life for when we had children.
What is the area like where you live?
Its a good location. Both Milan and the Lakes are only half an hour away by car. We can see the mountains from our house and there are various parks. We are also near the airport.
What nationality are you and your partner?
Im English and my husband is Italian.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have 3 children. Joseph will be 7 years old in June, Jasmine is 3 and a half and Jude is 11 months old (hell be 1 the day after Josephs birthday!)
What was your experience of having a baby in Varese (if relevant)?
All my children were born in Milan (Pio X clinic) and my experience was excellent for all 3. Here in Italy, they do a lot of tests during pregnancy as well as scans. You are really looked after during the pregnancy. I had 3 C-sections and found the experiences positive. I was in hospital for 4-5 days in total. Enough time to get your strength back! It was interesting seeing the way things have changed over the past 7 years. Now there is more rooming in and more encouragement to breastfeed on demand. With my eldest, the hospital worked to timetables for feeding and the baby was in the hospital nursery a lot of the time. I have found, however, that after you leave hospital, there isnt much support. There is still the belief that there will be family around to help.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I am not working at the moment but I teach English in companies. I have also done a proofreading course in the hope of being able twork from home.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
To start with we rented in order to decide where to buy. We bought our house nearly 6 years ago.
House hunting was awkward because estate agents didnt open on Saturdays unless you were viewing a property and most of the estate agents didnt use photos. Descriptions were very general too. Now things have changed a lot. There are photos so at least you have an idea of what you are seeng! The one thing I liked here was the fact that after paying a deposit, the vendor has to pay double the deposit back to you if they decide they dont want to sell. It means that theres hardly any gazumping.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
Since the children have started scuola materna and elementary school, much better. People are friendly but dont seem to invite you to their house like people do in the UK.
What language do you speak to your children? Do you think it essential to speak Italian when relocating to Varese?
I only speak English to my children, my husband only speaks Italian to them. Bewteen my husband and I it is generally English, unless there are non English speakers around.
It is important to have some basic phrases for situations like the doctors and school. Even if it is just asking someone to write something down. The best way to learn is to take the children out and about and to the park. You tend to hear the same questions...usually the names and ages of the children and where you are from. People generally have scholastic English but may be afraid to use it! The majority of older people dont know English.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Varese?
It really depends on the teachers. The scuola materna (pre-school) was generally Ok with our son and excellent with our daughter. The children do project work as well as a lot of playing. The food is really good too. The elementary school is fantastic. I was worried about my son starting school at 6, but the school really push them with the reading and writing. There is homework every weekend too. My son has to do English and is lucky that the teacher speaks excellent English and gets him to help out in lessons. The children do find however, the scholastic year tiring as there are no school holidays between Christmas and Easter.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Varese?
One advantage is everyone knows your name and your kids names! (not always an advantage!) A disadvantage is finding Italian friends, people generally are friends with their childhood friends and it is hard to be included in these groups.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Varese?
Welcoming and chatty in the park and when out and about.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
The town is child-friendly in that there are various events that include children such as an organised bike ride day, the palio, spring fayre, Green festival where they plant a tree for every child born that year, carnival,various sports clubs, etc.
One improvement in the area, are that there are some indoor play areas, although they open at 4 pm! It would be great to have something open earlier to avoid the after school crowds.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Varese with children?
Try and join or find a group of Mums and Babies. Go even if you are pregnant with your first child so you can get the low down on hospitals, schools, places to go and even which forms you should be filling in or what tests you should be having! Information doesnt seem to be readily available and if you find info on the Internet, it can be complicated to understand (especially if its bureaucratic!) the Comune (council) can be helpful too.....if you find a sympathetic person.
What couldn´t you live without in Varese?
Hot summers. Being close to lots of other countries. The outdoor lifestyle. My international friends.
What could you live without in Varese?!
Opening hours of the shops! Old wives tales that people really believe in. Bad customer service at supermarkets.