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Jobs Abroad: The Glamorous Life of an Au Pair

               In the summer holidays after my first year at university, I had the sheer luck of becoming an au pair for an Italian family, but it wasn’t just any old Italian family… This is a piece that, similar in style to ‘Earthquakes in Emilia-Romagna’, I also submitted to the Telegraph’s weekly ‘Just Back’ travel writing competition, but sadly this one didn’t win either. I hope it gives you a glimpse into my life that summer as an au pair – which as you’ll see once you’ve read it, was absolutely unforgettable! Due to the nature of the competition for which it was first written, it has a more narrative style. Enjoy!

Watching the sunset every evening from their terrace

Watching the sunset every evening from their terrace

           A six-week long summer holiday on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, a stone’s throw from a private beach and just a short journey away from Rome, would appeal to many, I’m sure. A free six-week long holiday on a private beach in Italy, even more so. But how does one come across this sort of jackpot, I hear you ask.

            This is exactly the question I asked myself as I stepped into my new home for the summer, a home boasting soft undulating waves in its back garden, lapping onto a beach to which only the elite of Rome have access. I had become an au pair and English tutor for the summer. And as luck would have it, I’d inadvertently entered into the employment of one of Italy’s most aristocratic families, whose daughters I was to look after were in fact two young princesses. A 14-hour working day is not something commonly associated with a holiday, but when the job description includes tasks such as helping the girls build sandcastles or playing hide-and-seek, I beg to differ.

           My ‘accommodation’ for the majority of my ‘holiday’ was a modest room with sea views, next to the room shared by the princesses. This summer residence could in fact be considered humble in comparison to their normal residence, a 15th century castle overlooking Lake Bracciano, which is regal and romantic enough to be chosen as a wedding venue by a host of celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Petra Ecclestone. In-between speedboat trips around the coast of Lazio and VIP children’s birthday parties, I gained a priceless insight into a sumptuous and extravagant world where no one works and where the cook will always have something exquisite on the cards for the endless stream of dinner parties.

           One of the perks of working such long hours is that an au pair is needed everywhere, at all hours, even when the family goes on holiday. One week of my rather unconventional ‘holiday’ was spent on a 60ft yacht, sailing around islands such as Ponza, Ischia and Capri, snorkelling with the girls in crystal-clear water by day, and dining ashore in pristine marinas by night. Following the heat of the Mediterranean, I gladly welcomed a refreshing spell in their mountain chalet in Crans-Montana, in the Swiss Alps, strolling through the verdant countryside, cherishing the stunning scenery of Switzerland in full bloom.

           My glimpse into the lives of two innocent girls (who are blissfully unaware of the privilege that surrounds them, as they ingenuously ask their mother why they’re not wearing tiaras, when fellow-princess Sleeping Beauty is) blew my mind. What with the media’s obsession with the lives of the rich and famous, I can safely say that, yes, although these two young girls may live in castles and beach houses, they are children just like any others, they play the same games of hide-and-seek and watch the same television programmes as other children. After all, they are only human.

18 Comments »

  1. Hey. I just came across your blog. I’ve been searching to be an au pair for the summer (I teach during the school year in the United States). Do you know any reputable agencies to register with or know if this family ever uses agencies to recommend? I know a lot of agencies cost money to register.

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  2. Hi, I love your blog! I’m looking to be an au pair for the summer but I’m super nervous about traveling to a new country and staying with a family I know absolutely nothing about. I would love to spend a summer like you did…. but I feel like that is really hard to ensure that my experience is going to be like yours. What would you suggest? Also where was the au pair job based?

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  3. Were you a fluent Italian speaker before you went? I’m considering a job as an au pair for my gap year, but at the moment my Italian is very limited. Did you speak English or Italian with the family?

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    • I wasn’t fluent beforehand, intermediate level I’d say. And I had to speak to the girls in English but picked up a lot by listening to the family speak in Italian. Au pairing is a great experience, I’d definitely recommend it.

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