"I hope this wont come across as too melodramatic but I moved to Italy for love. My husband Mauro is from Belluno and we met in Vienna during a sports event (we both are rugby players). It was love at first sight (at least according to him). The exact details of my decision making process are a bit blurred now - one day I was a happy-go-lucky single yuppie in the very heart of Europe with some serious career goals, the next I was engaged to an Italian firefighter and contemplating earnestly to move countries - but I was so smitten by Mauros personality and enamored with the idea of living on the sunny side of the Alps, that I was left with no choice but to come here and share my life with him. And would do it anytime again!" (April 2013)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Italy? Which part of Italy do you live in?
My name is Elina Bogo, 37 years old. I have lived in Belluno, Veneto Region, together with my family since August 2009.
Why did you move there?
I hope this wont come across as too melodramatic but I moved to Italy for love. My husband Mauro is from Belluno and we met in Vienna during a sports event (we both are rugby players). It was love at first sight (at least according to him). The exact details of my decision making process are a bit blurred now - one day I was a happy-go-lucky single yuppie in the very heart of Europe with some serious career goals, the next I was engaged to an Italian firefighter and contemplating earnestly to move countries - but I was so smitten by Mauros personality and enamored with the idea of living on the sunny side of the Alps, that I was left with no choice but to come here and share my life with him. And would do it anytime again!
What is the area like where you live?
Belluno is a quaint little city (population approx. 40 000) in the mountainous part of Veneto. It is snugly set in the foot of the mighty Dolomites - a part of the Alps proclaimed world heritage by UNESCO a couple of years ago - and there are breathtaking views to the mountains from always every point in the Belluno valley. The town itself is a delightful mix of a mountain holiday resort and a busy industrious little city of the North East. The towns location and surrounding infrastructure allow for some pleasant daily trips to bigger cities like Venice and Padua, or the mountains of South Tyrol and even Austria (Lienz is 140 km away).
We live in a residential area approx. 2 km from the town centre.
What nationality are you and your partner?
Mauro is Italian, I am Austrian.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have two toddlers - Giulia Maite, age 2 years and 9 months and Davide, age 1 and 1/2 years.
What was your experience of having a baby in Italy?
Both of our children were born at the local hospital in Belluno and during both pregnancies I was covered by the state health system. The staff at the maternity ward - from the cleaning lady to the chief physician - is extremely friendly, committed and highly professional. A first pregnancy can be scary and confusing regardless of the country and the languages involved and even though my language skills were still rudimentary when I was pregnant with Giulia, I always felt in good hands. For the second pregnancy with Davide I opted for private monthly check-ups with an Obstetrician of my choice instead of check-ups with whomever happened to be on the duty roster. Here I would like to say a big special "Thank you!" to Dr. Savone who helped me have as carefree as a pregnancy can be. The department offers childbirth classes led by one of the mid-wives and focuses on natural childbirth - caesarean deliveries only when absolutely medically indicated. Infant care is great too - mothers have the choice to either room in with their babies or have them brought in for breastfeeding. One of the pediatric nurses is a trained Leche League consultant and the whole pediatric ward practically indoctrinates moms-to-be/new moms on the importance of breastfeeding from day one.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
Up until my move to Italy, I was an associate with a legal firm in Vienna. Following a change in my employment contract, I was able to work part-time via Internet after I came to Belluno and continued to do so until Davides birth in September 2011. After the obligatory maternity leave in Austria, I resumed working on some projects with the firm but they were very few and as a result I stopped working altogether in Dec. 2012. Right now Im a stay-at-home mum.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We live in my husbands family house which has been around since the 1950s. I have, unfortunately, no advice for other moms concerning this matter, as I have no experience whatsoever in buying/renting property in Italy.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
I would say very well, thanks to my husband and his family as well as his large circle of friends. Together we are involved with the local touch rugby team - Id say that joining a sports team is an excellent way of getting to know more locals.
What language do you speak to your children?
As I was raised bilingual myself, I opted to speak English instead of German to our children. My husband and I decided that there will be plenty of time for them to learn German during our trips to Austria in the years to come. English, on the other hand, is so under-stressed in the Italian school system - something that is not only a pity but downright criminal considering its importance as "lingua franca" nowadays!
Do you think its essential to speak Italian when relocating to Italy?
It depends on how much of the Italian way of life one wants to be a part of. In order to be fully integrated, speaking Italian is absolutely mandatory. Ive noticed that, no matter how fluent in other languages Italians happen to be, they still feel a fair amount of pride to communicate in their own language when speaking to foreigners as they are happy to know that the other person likes them and their culture enough to care to learn the language.
What is your impression of childcare and education where you live?
Since our children are still very small, I have no experience with formal education in Italy. Giulia will start kindergarten this coming autumn at a very good facility 200m away from our place. There are also some private nurseries/kindergartens as well as education centers run by the Catholic Church, even a "baby drop-off" for moms who need to run an errand. Ive never used any if those services as my mother-in-law loves to help me out and lives around the corner; also, my husband works shifts and spends a lot of time at home.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Italy?
On the plus side, I am happy that my children are growing up close to nature, with traditional family values, as well as the opportunity to be immersed in two cultures and three languages. Living in Belluno, I hope theyll be kept unspoiled by the purveying mall-culture of the big cities. The experience also helps me realize that there is more to life than career.
As a negative aspect comes to mind the lacking cosmopolitanism of Belluno.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Italy?
Very, which might be owed to the fact that I first arrived here as "Mauros girl" and now operate under the identity of "Mauros wife" :)
Would you say your area is family friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
The centre of Belluno is mainly pedestrian (or with limited traffic) and has many open spaces allowing families with young children to move freely. Also, there are plenty quiet and leafy streets in most residential areas where one can go for a walk. Even though Belluno was voted "città dei bambini", there are still many aspects regarding infrastructure I find unacceptable, i.e. parked vehicles on the sidewalks whenever their drivers have to run errands and thus blocking pedestrians with prams or wheelchairs. Another negative feature is peoples obsession with cars - many would hop on to just buy their daily bread from the bakery 300 meters down the street. On the positive side I must mention (almost) everybodys readiness to help out moms with kids, like open doors, lift prams, etc. ... Public transport consists of several bus lines connecting almost the entire city (and the surrounding villages) with the centre and the train station (setback: busses run until 8 p.m. and never on Sundays). Last but not least, the citys recycling policy is very strict and runs like a clockwork - the province as a whole has the highest recycling percentage of all of Italy, something I find not only positive from ecological point of view but also highly educative for young people. The playgrounds Ive visited are fairly good and safe; what I really miss is a "mom-and-me group" - especially one with other English or German-speaking moms.
Are you able to recommend to other MumAbroad members in the area any local services (home delivery, plumbers, dentists, babysitters etc) or any activities, restaurants or shops for children in the area?
I highly recommend the baby massage courses organized by the pediatric unit in the hospital (babies 3 months old). I enjoyed it a lot as it gave me the opportunity to talk over some fears and uncertainties with the pediatric nurse who led the course and other moms. The municipal swimming pool offers swimming classes for babies and toddlers (4 months and up). The municipal library has "reading time" (now even in English!) for older children (5-6years).
For lovers of nature Belluno offers every imaginable outdoor activity. Being surrounded by mountains (the whole area is a natural park) there are the "traditional" activities such as trekking, mountain biking; horseback riding and golf courses (look for "Agriturismo Nogherazza"); or even just a simple walk in the woods. Skiers can enjoy day trips to Nevegal - our local ski resort 10 km away - which offers ski courses for children from 3 years and up (for more committed skiers theres Cortina dAmpezzo 1 hour away). The lake of Santa Croce in Alpago (20 min away) is a famous spot for sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing and has a great camping area suited for families with children.
Those who prefer team sports instead, there is a variety of rugby, soccer, basket and volleyball teams.
More often than not, there will be various events for children organized by the municipality/private associations, like the annual Baby Bazaar on the Main Square where children can sell or exchange their old toys.
The list of activities can go on and on. If you need more info, please message me for details.
As far as restaurants are concerned, Belluno has its fair share of excellent pizzerias, local trattorias and marvelous "agriturismo" B&Bs. The ones weve visited are very accommodating with young families (our favorite is Millennio in Castion). For those of you who dont perceive polenta as culinary masterpiece and prefer something spicier instead, Belluno might come as a bit of an anti-climax. Admittedly there is an excellent Asian-inspired restaurant (Tokyo Sushi Bar) which in good weather is wonderful for children as it has its own playground and is tucked away in the woods. Apart from that, however, there is precious little else the area has to offer in the ethnic cuisine department. Rumor has it, there is a Brazilian grill/Mexican restaurant which are supposed to be quite good but Ive never tried them myself so I cannot tell for sure.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Italy with children?
Marry an Italian. If this is not an option, it would be a good idea to invest in Italian language courses BEFORE coming to Italy (as well as after - the municipality of Belluno offers free courses for foreigners). I wouldnt have been able to survive without my amazon account for the humming supply of decent tea and books in foreign languages (the latter can be found almost everywhere here albeit at some considerable cost). On a more serious note, get information about healthcare plans (state, private), as well as schooling opportunities for children (the nearest international school is about 60km away). Most of the info can be retrieved online.
What couldn´t you live without in Italy?
The gorgeous view to the mountains from my kitchen window, pasta with homemade pesto, old ladies cooing over a complete strangers baby/toddler (a rare event in Austria), the perpetual holiday feel of Belluno despite it being a busy little city, friends and extended family who unconditionally (and almost immediately) accepted me as one of their own, our vegetable patch where we grow organic veggies and the kids can get muddy and learn where food comes from, the patisserie next to my house.
What could you live without in Italy?!
Parking on the sidewalks :o( ; the "menefreghismo" - this so common disinterest in the common good unless it directly impacts ones goals; a certain brand of shameless politicians...