"Pregnancy and childbirth are highly medicalised here in Italy and it took a while for me to get my bearings. I chose a gynaecologist-obstetrician based at the Fatebenefratelli hospital on the Tiberina island in central Rome, which is widely considered to be the top maternity hospital in the city and was where I wanted to give birth. In the event on the night I went into labour the maternity ward was full and I ended up at a different hospital, S. Camillio on the Gianicolense. There the treatment on the delivery ward was brutal to say the least, but the post-natal care was excellent and I got lots of support from the midwives in breastfeeding and generally managing a new baby."
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Rome? Which part of Rome do you live in ?
My name is Laura Clarke, I am 37 years old and I moved to Rome in 1998. Initially I lived in the Piazza Bologna area before moving to Appio Latino. I currently live in Monterotondo, a rapidly expanding commuter town 25 km north of Rome.
Why did you move to Rome?
I spent the third year of my degree course in Rome teaching English. During that time I met my now husband and after graduation I decided to return to Italy to be with him and see what the country might have to offer on the job front.
What is the area like where you live?
Monterotondo is a pleasant town of 40,000 people with an attractive but increasingly run-down historic centre and a strong local identity, despite the proximity to Rome. It is a great place for bringing up kids as services are all to hand, people are more helpful than in the city and the pace of life is generally slower. Also the cost of living is lower than in Rome – hence the pressure from people moving out.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am British and my husband is Italian.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have one child, a daughter called Anna; she was born in August 2010.
What was your experience of having a baby in Rome (if relevant)?
Pregnancy and childbirth are highly medicalised here in Italy and it took a while for me to get my bearings. I chose a gynaecologist-obstetrician based at the Fatebenefratelli hospital on the Tiberina island in central Rome, which is widely considered to be the top maternity hospital in the city and was where I wanted to give birth. In the event on the night I went into labour the maternity ward was full and I ended up at a different hospital, S. Camillio on the Gianicolense. There the treatment on the delivery ward was brutal to say the least, but the post-natal care was excellent and I got lots of support from the midwives in breastfeeding and generally managing a new baby.
During pregnancy I saw my gynaecologist-obstetrician on a private basis (that is the norm here in Italy) and underwent a seemingly never-ending series of checkups, lab tests, ultrasounds and other medical exams (many of which were also performed privately). In the event of another pregnancy I would do the whole thing on the national health service through my local family planning centre; this would probably mean a bit more hanging around in waiting rooms but it would certainly cut back on the cost and probably put a more human face on pregnancy. Also I would probably choose to have my baby at my local hospital.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I am a journalist and I currently work freelance from home.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We bought the flat we live in now. In our experience the process was fairly straightforward, but that is partly because my husband works in construction and so was on top of the process and he was also aware of all the possible pitfalls. Perhaps the biggest danger when buying a property in Italy is that it does not have all the necessary permits and authorisations – usually because part or all of the structure has been built illegally – or that there are discrepancies in the documentation, and it is very important to run all the checks before going ahead with the purchase. Usually the agency will do this on your behalf but my advice would be to task an architect, engineer or building surveyor to do this independently as well.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
Very. I came here initially to learn Italian so I immersed myself in the local culture from the outset, and even though I have worked mostly in an English-speaking environment my closest friends are almost all Italian. Obviously being married to an Italian also helps!
How would you describe a "typical" Roman?
Passionate, happy-go-lucky, infuriatingly self-centred.
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak to my daughter exclusively in English and my husband in Italian.
Do you think it essential to speak Italian when relocating to Rome?
It is not essential but it certainly makes things much, much easier.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Rome?
There is a huge pressure on places at state-run nurseries and private daycare is very expensive. This means that often small children are looked after by the extended family (usually the grandparents) until they are old enough to go to pre-school.
I know little about the public education system from primary level upwards, except that it has undergone several major reforms in recent years (mostly involving budget cuts) and the general impression is that the standard has fallen.
There is a very good choice of international schools for children of all ages in Rome, although obviously these are very expensive.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Rome?
I dont really consider myself to be part of the International Community so I cant answer this question!
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Rome?
In my experience, very.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
Monterotondo is very family-friendly although we could do with more (and better equipped) play areas for children and more state-run nurseries (currently there is only one).
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Rome with children?
If you are having a baby in Rome be prepared for a very foreign medical culture. If you are relocating to Rome with children try to make sure that all the essential services (schools, administration, playgrounds, shops etc) are within easy reach. Otherwise negotiating the city can be a trial.
What couldn´t you live without in Rome?
The spring sunshine, al fresco eating and the fact of continuing to stumble across unexplored corners even after 15 years.
What could you live without in Rome?!
The summer heat and the traffic (often caused by double or triple parking).