"I know I need more practice on my Italian and there is still so much more to learn, but I now feel that this is home. I am seeing my children grow up here and it is wonderful. A friend told me something and it seems to hold true. The first year here you feel like in a vacation mode, everything is grand and then you start to struggle. That struggling continues for a couple years until you hit 5 years that is when you start to see a light and say hum maybe not so bad. This is usually where those that really cannot take it leave. But those that start to see that light move toward the light. you start to work on acceptance at this point. You realize that fighting what was is not going to help. Buy the time you hit 10 you feel right at home you have integrated in some with the Italian culture you have accepted it as some of your own" (KV, June 2012)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Florence? Which part of Florence do you live in ?
My name is Kimberly, 41, I have lived in Florence for 10 years, I live in the Q4 Pignone Area.
Why did you move there?
I met my husband in the US when he came to do his PhD in Biochemistry Biophysics. When he was finished we decided to move back to his home area, Firenze.
What is the area like where you live?
The area is very peaceful. It is close to the center of the city, about 20 mins walk, but not like living directly in the city. The houses here for the most part are only 4 floors high. There are sidewalks for strollers. There are many schools to choose from all within walking distance. Many parks and play areas are in this area with the big one called Villa Strozzi al Boschetto and an open theatre that is open all summer.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am American and my husband is Italian Florentine
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
I have 2 children, boys. Their ages are 8 and 10. One was born before we came in the US the other was born here in Bagno a Ripoli.
What was your experience of having a baby in Florence (if relevant)?
Believe it or not but my experience here was better than the one in the US. I did not have any problems but did have to deliver by cesarean, because my first was delivered that way. It was to avoid any complications. All went well.
What was your experience of relocating to Florence with children (if relevant)?
My relocation from the US was hard. I arrived to Florence didn’t speak the language. My husband was at work all day and I had a one year old boy to try to find some friends. I did find the St James Church, I was Catholic but I needed to do something so decided to join their Wednesday morning playgroup. It was a small group some days 2 some days 10 but it was all I could find. So I started to think there has to be other moms in the same situation as I, so I created a website searching for mom to come to this playgroup. The playgroup started to pick up some so I decided to create a network, which was called Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network www.firenzemoms4moms.net. I placed a form on there for moms to fill out so I knew where they were located in Firenze and I would try to pair them up with other expat moms so they could start to feel relaxed about living in Firenze with children. With this creation I have met lots of wonder people and was starting to feel more like Florence was my home.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I did take on a part-time job doing Administration work with European Grants, but I fell very ill with an Autoimmune disease called Vasculitis . And have been in and out of hospitals since so the only work. I have managed to keep going is the Network. I don’t get paid for doing it but it kept me going during my rough times.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
Our house was passed down through the family.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
How well integrated, I would say we are finally there. I know I need more practice on my Italian and there is still so much more to learn, but I now feel that this is home. I am seeing my children grow up here and it is wonderful. A friend told me something and it seems to hold true. The first year here you feel like in a vacation mode, everything is grand and then you start to struggle. That struggling continues for a couple years until you hit 5 years that is when you start to see a light and say hum maybe not so bad. This is usually where those that really cannot take it leave. But those that start to see that light move toward the light. You start to work on acceptance at this point. You realize that fighting what was is not going to help. Buy the time you hit 10 you feel right at home you have integrated in some with the Italian culture you have accepted it as some of your own.
What language do you speak to your children?
I only speak English to my children. I know some will say that is not good, but really my husband does the Italian and I do the English and they can speak, read and write in both without any problems. For me that is the best.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Florence?
I never used childcare per say. What I mean is that the school system starts at 3 years here called preschool. Now I would not call it schooling. It is more like a government daycare. They play nap and do some drawing and light learning of letters. They start school at 6 years directly in 1st grade. That is when the real schooling beginnings. Now I don’t have anything to compare to but what I did when I went to school in the US. I can say that I feel they are learning, but they are forced to do too much I think when it comes to doing lots of homework during the holidays and vacations. The amount of homework we had to turn in at the end of each summer is not what summer break is supposed to be about. Italy is supposed to have a real good educational system. But really I think it depends on the temperament of the child and what the parents expect out of the system that makes it or breaks it for their child in the Italian educational system.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Florence?
Florence is a tough crowd. They just recently started to offer more and more services to the International Community, but I think they could do a lot more. The problem though is not really the city as much as the personality of the person coming here. Since I have been offering a service since 2004 for the moms I have seen many come and make it, some come and leave and some come and never even try to step a foot out. We can offer help and services but it is up to them to use them.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Florence?
Florentines are known for not being so friendly, but that is not true. The problem is you need to make the effort. As soon as I was out and tried to speak the best Italian I could I was able to get smiling faces and waves from neighbors. You just need to make that effort.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
Our area is family friendly. There are lots of families that live in our area. I think for improvement would be the traffic lights on the streets and something done for children crossing the busy streets during school times. Again things have been picking up in this area also. The museums have been offering more children workshops; there are children events, parks and updated playgrounds.
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?
Since I am the founder of the Firenze Mom’s 4 Moms Network. I would recommend the network. There we have all that information. Which can be found at these links
Disscussion group on Facebook: (note before you can be accepted into the discussion group you need to sign the member ship form that is free on our blog)
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Florence with children?
My advice for Italy and even other places is to research it. Find out all you can about the area you will be moving to. See if there is an expat group so that you can adapt easier. Also get some expat books to read. Also when doing all this, remember you are moving your child. Young children move easier than the older well established in their ways children. You will need to do some discussion with the older child and make some compromises. Again there are many helpful books on relocating with children. Here is one I like to recommend. Expat Kids - Children of the third culture Global Connection (Author), Jacqueline van Haaften (Editor) found here http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/9081175130?ie=UTF8&seller=AHRDHL3U41QNX&sn=Global%20Connection
What couldn´t you live without in Florence?
When I first came here I thought of lots of things I could not live without. But funny how you change over time and realize all the things you can live without. My main thing was finding all the ingredients I like to have to cook many international dishes. But believe me they are around. You just need to go out and look. Still at time I wish I had a dryer. They do sell them here but I have not bought one yet. I would only need it during the rainy season where it take forever to dry clothes. So each time when it comes I find myself saying I need a dryer, but then it goes and all is fine.