Your interactive family guide to Italy as recommended by local mums | Last updated 12 months ago

Interviews with Mums

Laura Umbreit - Florence

"The months of July and August are often unbearably hot (nearly 40°). I would not advise keeping children in the city during this time. I took my
daughter to the Dolomite mountains in August when she was 5 weeks old. She had no problem with the altitude, enjoyed the fresh, cool air and was much less fussy than she was in Florence"
(LU, Aug 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 Laura Umbreit. I am 34 years old. I have lived in Florence for 11 years. My neighborhood is the area between Santa Croce and SantAmbrogio.

    Why did you move there?
     I moved to this neighborhood because my husband has an apartment there.

    What is the area like where you live? 
    It is very convenient to be so close to the center of Florence as well as my office. I can walk almost everywhere I need to go with the stroller, including my daughters daycare and doctor.
    There are several restaurants and bakeries to choose from. In addition to this, there is a great farmers market nearby called Mercato SantAmbrogio which sells excellent meats, cheeses,
    fruits and vegetables all year round. I can only think of two disadvantages. First, there is definitely a lack of trees and parks. Second, if you have a car, it is a nightmare to look for parking on
    the street.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
     I am an American citizen and my husband is Italian.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
     We have one daughter, Sophie. She was born in July, 2011.

    What was your experience of having a baby in Florence (if relevant)?
    I had a very positive experience being pregnant and giving birth in Florence. The prenatal care in Tuscany is excellent and by using the national health care, completely free of charge. I
    was also quite satisfied with the service I was provided at the hospital, all of the staff were very well-trained and professional. I was allowed to stay for three nights without any payment or
    co-payment. My only suggestion for improvement would be to develop a greater sensitivity for bottle-feeding mothers. Among the hospital staff, it was implied that breast-feeding should be
    the only option.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    I work part-time as a Program Assistant for Stanford University in Florence.

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
    I neither purchased or rented my apartment. It is owned by my husbands family. I find this option to be quite common in Italy, since many young people cannot afford rent or mortgage.

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
    I think that I have integrated quite well into the local community, however I will never consider myself to be an Italian or a Florentine. No matter how much time has passed, I will always be
    the foreigner.

    What language do you speak to your daughter?
    I speak to my daughter in English.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Florence?
    I do not have enough experience with childcare and education to be able to make an evaluation, my daughter is only 13 months old and has not yet begun daycare.

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Florence?
    The advantage of being an International parent is obvious, my daughter will become a native English speaker. I have also discovered that there are several groups of English-speaking
    parents organizing activities for their children, so it would be easy for her to meet other children like herself. I dont see any disadvantages.

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Florence?
    The locals were not at all welcoming when I first arrived in Florence. They tended to be very reserved and demonstrated no interest at all in meeting a foreigner. I can say that after 11 years,
    nothing has really changed for me. My friends are those of my husband, not people who I met independently.

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    I think that my city is child-friendly. There are plenty of activities for children of all ages and even a multi-national childrens library, however there is a major lack of baby-changing facilities in
    public restrooms and some of the sidewalks are too narrow for strollers.

    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 would recommend three places for future moms in Florence. My favorite playground is just a few steps away from the center, but feels like you are already in the countryside. It is on a
    street called Via Erta Canina in the San Nicolo area and offers lots of grass for napping or crawling, picnic tables, and big trees that provide shade. The other suggestions are two childrens
    libraries. On Via Oriuolo, just behind the Duomo, there is the Biblioteca Oblate, go to the top floor for childrens books and a play area. On Corso Tintori, between Santa Croce church and
    the Arno River, there is the Bibioteca Nazionale, take a special side entrance (rather than the main entrance) to discover a childrens library with books in foreign languages.
    Both of the major supermarkets, Esselunga and Coop, offer home delivery of groceries for a flat fee.

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Florence with children?
    Advice to new moms in Florence: If you are planning to bottle-feed, formula is very expensive in Florence. Consider ordering it online from another European country (like Germany).
    Locals love pregnant women and babies and will go out of their way to give them attention, no problem in having a seat on the bus or getting to the front of the line. However, do not expect
    motorists to stop for strollers at the crosswalk. The months of July and August are often unbearably hot (nearly 40°). I would not advise keeping children in the city during this time. I took my
    daughter to the Dolomite mountains in August when she was 5 weeks old. She had no problem with the altitude, enjoyed the fresh, cool air and was much less fussy than she was in
    Florence. If you plan to give birth in Florence, I would suggest the hospital at Ponte a Nicchieri where I had excellent service and shared a room with only two other mothers, however
    epidural shots are not available there. If you must have an epidural, the only hospital in Florence that provides it on demand is Torregalli, although it has a reputation of being over-crowded
    and under-staffed. Another nice option for natural-birth only is The Centro Margherita. If you are planning on relocating, I would suggest researching schools very early on, since there is a
    high-demand and limited spots (especially for elementary school).

    What couldn´t you live without in Florence?
    I couldnt live without Mercato SantAmbrogio. Where else can I find a piece of focaccia for my daughter to snack on while we are waiting in line for freshly made ravioli and Tuscan steak?

    What could you live without?!
    In an ideal world, I would ban all traffic from the historical center of Florence. The air and noise pollution is terrible. However, at the present moment, only the area surrounding the Duomo and a few other streets are pedestrian only.

    Aug 2012