"We moved to Isolotto because it is a lot more family oriented and the homes were a lot cheaper than the rest of Florence. In the 60s Isolotto didnt have a great reputation. It was a real rough suburb of Florence with very few commodities and very difficult to commute. A lot of government housing went up during that time so it was a very "blue collar" area and rough around the edges. Many "immigrants" from southern Italy moved into this area. In the past 50 years there has been a huge hawl-over of this area. It has become a lot more family oriented with lots of parks and schools. Stores and shopping centers have been built. You actually feel like you live in the 21 century here. Most of the government housing has now been bought up by the people who were once renters and now retired (as they were given first choice at a very convenient price). There is parking everywhere and the payed parking areas are free for the residence of Isolotto. Many "Pure Florentines" still give this area a hard time but I think a lot of it is because they just dont come out to this area to see what it is really like. With the tram now it only takes 10 minutes to get into the centre of Florence. Because there is this old stigma about this area, the homes in this area are actually quite reasonable when compared to other areas of Florence. I kind of feel like it has become an unknown little gem in the city" (ML, 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 Mary Loscerbo. I am 44 years old. I have been living in Florence stably since 1995 (when I got married) However, I did a lot of back and forth for five years prior to getting married because of work and University studies. I live in Isolotto.
Why did you move there?
I won a study bursary to learn Italian and study music in 1990. I met a fantastic singing teacher here who sang at the Opera house in Florence and decided to study with her a couple of years before going to Toronto to take my Masters Degree in Voice. In the meantime, I met an Italian (from Basilicata) and we fell in love. He came out with me to Toronto while I was studying there and we actually would have stayed in Canada had he had it his way. I missed living in Italy too much and really pushed for us to move back here. After five years we got married in 1995.
What is the area like where you live?
While I was single and then "fidanzata" and we lived in the centre of Florence. I found the centre is a great place to live if you are young and single and dont have a car. As soon as we bought a car we were out of there within 5 months. It was absolute hell and quite frankly the years that we lived in the centre (Santa Croce area) I never had a good nights sleep with the honking cars and motorini and the drunk foreign students.
We moved to Isolotto because it is a lot more family oriented and the homes were a lot cheaper than the rest of Florence. In the 60s Isolotto didnt have a great reputation. It was a real rough suburb of Florence with very few commodities and very difficult to commute. A lot of government housing went up during that time so it was a very "blue collar" area and rough around the edges. Many "immigrants" from southern Italy moved into this area. In the past 50 years there has been a huge hawl-over of this area. It has become a lot more family oriented with lots of parks and schools. Stores and shopping centers have been built. You actually feel like you live in the 21 century here. Most of the government housing has now been bought up by the people who were once renters and now retired (as they were given first choice at a very convenient price). There is parking everywhere and the payed parking areas are free for the residence of Isolotto. Many "Pure Florentines" still give this area a hard time but I think a lot of it is because they just dont come out to this area to see what it is really like. With the tram now it only takes 10 minutes to get into the centre of Florence. Because there is this old stigma about this area, the homes in this area are actually quite reasonable when compared to other areas of Florence. I kind of feel like it has become an unknown little gem in the city.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am Italo- Canadian. My husband is Italian.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
I have two sons. Vincenzo is 6 years old (2005)and Lorenzo is 3 years old.(2008)
What was your experience of having your children in Florence?
It was fantastic. I had very easy births and each child I had in a different public hospital. I found the health system here to be really on top of things during the whole maternity and birth phase. Absolutely no complaints and it is free!
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I am a singer/songwriter. I do a lot of recordings for commercial jingles, documentaries, dance music, jazz and I also perform at conventions, private parties and for lots of foreign weddings. My husband and I also own two cafés in the centre of Florence. I sometimes help out there if someone calls in sick and it is a really busy period but I usually do the bookwork at home for the cafés.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We bought our home 5 years ago. I found the process to be as complicated and as difficult as it would be in any other country.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
Sometimes I feel like I am two different people. Sort of like I am living a double life. As a mom, dealing with the everyday life of organizing the kids, housework, the cafés and then there is my career where I have to be always "on", elegant, professional. I often find that when I am with Italians I am more "Canadian" when I am with Americans I find myself to be more "Italian".
All in all, I think that we as a family are well integrated. My children are exposed to both Italians and English speaking people. A nice blend of people from various walks of life.
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak primarily English but also in Italian. My husband speaks Italian to them.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Florence?
I think generally it is quite good. The elementary system is definitely way ahead of what they learn in Canada. I think that the teachers are quite well prepared (except in English) but complain a lot about their hours. I remember going to elementary school and having one teacher that taught all subjects from 8:30 to 3:30!! Between Saints holidays, state holidays, various "scioperi sindacali" and inservices and working half days plus having three months off a year I really dont get what they are complaining about? Yes, its true that their wage is low but what do they expect when they work so few hours?
The only aspect I dont like is the fact that you are stuck with the same teacher right through elementary. I liked it the way I had it growing up. Every year you had a new teacher. A fresh new start every year. There is nothing worse than being stuck with a teacher that for whatever reason doesnt like you or that you dont like and being stuck with that same teacher throughout the years. I believe a child should be exposed to many teachers and various ways of teaching throughout their schooling . That way they dont get too bored or too comfortable and are constantly challenged on various levels.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Florence?
I think the advantages weigh out the disadvantages. People seemed intrigued, inquisitive. They seem a little more "open" to my suggestions maybe because I bring in a totally different outlook or have a different background than what they are used to. The parents in my childrens classes want their kids to hang out with mine so that they can be exposed to English.
Disadvantages are maybe the difference in the actual "way" that I bring up my children. Some things that I consider absolutely unacceptable or disrespectful in a childs behavior, doesnt seem to phase a lot of Italian parents in my childrens school. When discussing our children I find that the parents really spoil their children and dont teach them the fundamentals of being responsible or earning your way. It all seems to be "a given". I am not sure however, if it is a matter of Italian culture versus American culture or just being an immigrant. My parents were also immigrants in Canada and taught us at a very young age that to get anywhere in life or succeed at something you really believe in it takes hard work and sacrifice. We were never deprived of anything as children but we also understood how hard our parents worked in order to make a better life for themselves and for us. I want to instill the same thing in my children and not have them hang on to the hopes of a "raccomandazione" to get ahead. They will have the advantage of knowing English and having duo citizenship. I have given them the keys, I just hope that they use them to open the doors to the possibilities out there.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Florence?
I find in general Florentines are very closed. They have a very "provincial" way of thinking. In the 20 years I have been here I can count maybe on one hand close acquaintances that are Florentines. My closest friends are either other immigrants or Italians from other parts of Italy that live in Florence.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
It is definitely family-friendly. I really cant think of anything that could improve their lives where we live. We dont have museums with workshops in the area but in 10 min. with the Tram you can go to the centre and experience all of that.
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? Yes. but I honestly think an amazing font of information you can get from the Moms4moms group headed by Kimberly Vanzi
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Florence with children?
Do some good research before coming out here and DONT expect it to be like home because it isnt! ....and quite honestly Montessori is no big deal here! The public schools follow a lot of the fundamentals of the Montessori method.
What couldn´t you live without in Florence?
My dryer. It was the last of things that I really missed not having here. Throughout the years and with the whole globalization thing you can pretty well find the same food, with internet you can buy any special american brand names you miss, books ect.... The only thing that I really really have obsessed about is a dryer and I finally have one that runs on gas and has become my best friend. Now I can honestly say that besides my family and close childhood friends there is nothing that I miss from Canada.
What could you live without in Florence?!
The snooty Florentine shopkeepers and the traffic!