"My son integrated very well, he easly makes friends in pre school, as well at local parks. For me it is more difficult, because Im not working, I do not get much opportunities to meet other people and socialise. My husband is most of the time on board, so Im basicly living alone with my son. I have my in laws and all my husbands relatives not far away but everybody seem to be so busy with their own lives and nobody gets to find time to meet and spend sometime together" (NB, May 2012)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Tuscany? Which part of Tuscany do you live in ?
Natalia Bekafigo, 42 years, we live in Marina di Massa ( 15km from Viareggio ), Tuscany, since October 2011, just 7 months.
Why did you move there?
My husband recently changed the job. He used to work on board the cruise ships where we met ( I worked there as a purser for 6 years ). Now he works on board the yacht, that is based in Viareggio, which is 15 km from our home.
What is the area like where you live?
It is a little town on the Tuscany coast, summer and weekend tourist destination. At the back we have the mountains where the famous marble from Carrara comes from.
There are beautiful sandy beaches, lots of green playing areas for the children, a long path along the coast for biking and rollerblading. It is a touristic area, so it will get crowdy in the summer, but the winter was great, no traffic jams, no smog. It is half an hour away from La Spezia ( and Cinque Terre ), Viareggio, Pisa and the airport, an hour to Genova and Florence.The climate is great, lots of sun, hardly ever windy and very mild winter.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am Croatian and my husband is Italian.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have a boy, 6 years old, his name is Delmar, born on 24th of Oct 2006, in Croatia.
What was your experience of having a baby in Tuscany (if relevant)?
Our boy was born in Croatia, where we lived before we moved to Italy.
What was your experience of relocating to Tuscany with children (if relevant)?
It was OK appart from renting the house. We all speak perfect Italian, my in laws and my husbands friends and family all live in La Spezia that is not far away ( 30 km distant ). As soon as we arrived we registered Delmar in a local state pre school. It was his first time going to any school. He loved it and he made lots of friends.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
No, Ive been at home since Delmar was born, At the moment I am attending a fashion patternmaking school and setting up an online business ( patterns for childrenswear ) .
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
At the moment we are in a rented property. In near future we are planning to buy our own house. The renting process was horrible. The rent is way to high for what they offer. Because it is tourist area most of the owners rent for the winter for the lower rate and than increase in summer time and rent it to the tourists, so it was difficult to find a house that was for rent all year long. The interior of most of the houses ( up to 900€ ) was very ugly and poor, probably because they rent to the tourists they keep the old furniture, so no need to care if it gets damaged. The other thing that was incredible to me, it was impossible to find the house with the wooden floor in the living room and the bedrooms and no bath tubs ( that are very useful with small children ), just showers. ( in Croatia all our houses have bath tubs and wooden floors which make the house much warmer ).
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
I would say that we are well integrated, my husband is italian, we all spoke perfect italian when we moved. My son integrated very well, he easly makes friends in pre school, as well at local parks. For me it is more difficult, because Im not working, I do not get much opportunities to meet other people and socialise. My husband is most of the time on board, so Im basicly living alone with my son. I have my in laws and all my husbands relatives not far away but everybody seem to be so busy with their own lives and nobody gets to find time to meet and spend sometime together.
What language do you speak to your children?
When my husband is at home we speak Italian, when I am alone with my son I speak both, Italian and Croatian, but since we moved to Italy he keeps refusing to speak Croatian. He does understand it all, but always replies in Italian.
Do you think It essential to speak Italian when relocating to Tuscany?
I do. I cant imagine how is it for people that do not speak Italian, there are very few Italians that speak English.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Tuscany?
I know a little about the education system so far. My son will be starting the primary school next year. My experience with the preschool was ok, the staff and the teachers were very nice and kind. However they have very low budget and poor equipment. I found Croatian pre schools to be of much higher standard than the Italian ones. I am a little worried about the general education as well, especially regarding learning a foreign language at school. It seems not to be functioning at all.
I also found it disappointing that there are no private international schools, except in the major big cities like Rome, Milan and Florence.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Tuscany?
For me the advantage is to live in a very nice area, many possiblilities for the children to practice sports and different outdoor activities
Disadvantage is that I will always be a foreigner and far away from home, my family and friends.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Tuscany?
We live in a residential complex ( villette a schiera ) that are vacation properties of the Italians that live somewhere else, so we basically have no neighbouring contacts. My sons teachers and the staff at pre school, the staff at different administration offices, sales people and all the italians I met seemed to be very kind and helpful. However, when I worked abroad I worked a lot with the Italians and my experience is that the ones from the south are much much nicer and friendlier than the ones from the north.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
The area is very family friendly, there are lots of young parents with the children. Many possibilites for the outdoor activities, biking, roller blading, swimming. What is missing, are the indoor places for children to play, when the weather is bad.
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?
Unfortunately not much, we are still in process of getting to know the area. Regarding the shopping for children clothing, I find nice things for my boy in H&M in Genova or in the shopping mall "Le Terazze" in La Spezia, the Original Marines store in Massa, underwear for him I buy in Tezenis in Massa. They all have good quality clothing for a good price. There are many other children and baby clothing boutiques in the center of Marina di Massa that are quite expensive.
There are many things for the children to do, different sports, horseback riding school. There is a very nice park with the rabbits " parco dei conigli", hundreds of rabbits running around and begging for the carrots, they also keep there some other animals: a pony, a donkey, guinea pigs, gooses, ducks, goats, very nice place for the children.
The other event that I would highly recomend to the parents with the children, was Childrens Pride that took place at Carrara Fiere ( Carrara Fair ) last November. It was its first edition and it should happen again this year. We spent 2 days there playing. It was all dedicated to the children, there were plenty of toys, playing areas where they could play, different sport activities that they could try, many shows for the children and presentation and talks for the parents.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Tuscany with children?
It is a bit more expensive to rent or to buy a house. It is said that the houses inTuscany are the most expensive, but it is a great place to live for the families with the children.
What couldn´t you live without in Tuscany?
Pizza and focaccia, morning walk with my dog along the sandy beach, biking and rollerblading with my son, possiblility to get around by bike, no smog and traffic problems, no parking expenses
What could you live without in Tuscany?!
Houses for rent,shopping hours in Italy and the drivers, of course.