1. Children are warmly welcomed everywhere.
I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t like children in Italy, because it’s hard to find places where they’re not gladly received. As a parent, this does much to ease stress and self-consciousness when your kids melt down in public. Sure, you’ll also get a lot of unsolicited advice from the nonni, but that comes with an equal amount of pure delight in your offspring.
2. No one looks twice if you breastfeed or drink while you’re pregnant in public.
Ok, I’ll admit there are times when I hesitate or don’t breastfeed my two-year-old in public for fear of cutting a brutta figura, since Italians are pretty rigid about the idea that children should breastfeed for a year at the most. Yet, I don’t fear admonition or bad looks necessarily—mildly intrigued, slightly judgmental looks, perhaps, but obvious shock or disgust, never. Just the other day a man cheerily spoke to Peanut and me without averting his eyes as we nursed in a hotel lobby. Having a glass of prosecco while clearly pregnant attracts even less attention. Anzi, you’re just as likely to be encouraged.
3. Your kids grow up eating amazing food.
It sounds like a lot of extra work, but you’d be surprised how quick you can get at whipping up homemade pappa once you get the hang of it. A word on whose merits I've already opined, pappa is wonderfully difficult to translate and means both baby food and what we regrettably refer to in English as ‘mush’. Kids in Italy get weaned on pappa before moving on to pasta—the children’s food per eccelenza—accompanied by fresh … everything. The best part is that if you have a picky eater, you can look forward to your child starting school, where lunch is included. Not only will seeing what their classmates eat inspire them to be more adventurous, but the meals themselves are marvelously healthy.
Grandparents are the alpha and omega of Italian parents lucky enough to have them around. On weekdays the nonni stroller brigades fill Italy’s playgrounds, where you feel out of place if you’re under 60 (or over 16). We’ve only got one, but she more than makes up for the absence of the other three. I shudder to think where we’d be without Peanut’s nonna, or ‘nondu’ as he calls her. I also feel a perpetual sense of guilt for how much she does for us, and thank her all the time. An Italian friend recently told me that’s not a very Italian thing to do. I gather it’s all so expected and just the way things are done here that nonni can get a teensy bit taken for granted, when really they deserve altars set up in their honour.
5. People are nicer to you.
This relates especially to Florence, where the natives have had a reputation for being snobby towards foreigners from inside and outside Italy since the Renaissance. It is crazy hard to break through the impenetrable bastion that is the Florentine social circle. They can be perfectly courteous on the surface, but that’s usually where it ends, even if you work together or are dating their friend or relative. As an outsider, it feels like Florentines are often struggling to suppress their feelings of superiority, if not outright disdain, in your presence. And that's if they're being nice. Then, suddenly, cracks appear when you have kids. It seems that universal understanding between parents actually manages to weaken the rigidly composed Florentine exterior. I had lived here for eight years, even married a native, but it wasn’t until I had a child that I finally felt (somewhat) accepted. I suspect this newfound respect also has something to do with the mythical status of la mamma in Italy.
If you're a mum in Italy, what are your favourite things about it?