Italian Town Welcomes First Newborn in a Generation

The 45 inhabitants of Sommapreda, near the Northern Italian city of Brescia, decked out the village with pink ribbon to celebrate the arrival of Aurora (“Dawn”) born to Maurilio and Marcella Canossi. The couple’s first child is the only one the Italian town has seen in 27 years.

The couple, aged 30 and 28 respectively, were childhood sweethearts who vowed to stay in the town and raise their children there, despite the scarcity of work in the area.

"We decided to name her Dawn for a reason," said mother Marcella of the first child the town has seen in a generation. "I hope that her arrival can signal a change, starting with renewed hope for life in this town and preserving its traditions."

Italy has one of the world’s lowest birth rates and is currently the ‘oldest’ country in the world, with the highest number of inhabitants over 65. Remote mountain towns and villages like Sommapreda have been particularly penalized due to high emigration rates. 2001 figures showed a slight uptick in birth rates, for the first time in almost a decade births outnumbered deaths in the Bel Paese.

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Italian court rules against ‘la mamma’

Dispelling a popular myth that would have all Italians rightfully smothered by a super-protective mamma, an Italian court awarded custody to a non-worrywart father instead.

Judges of the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court, ruled that an apprehensive mother could cause as much damage to her boy as neglect.

“Her overly apprehensive and protective behavior was causing problems in her son,” judges ruled on the appeal of Stefania B. of Florence asking to obtain custody of her now 11-year old child.

The sentence is considered a blow to traditional Italian motherhood, where about two-thirds of young men still find themselves being taken care of by a doting mother at the ripe age of 29.

It also opens the way for a more even division of custody between separated or divorced parents in Italy– currently 87% of children are given over to the mother’s care, according to ISTAT statistics.

Italians are still a long way from hands-off child rearing — the Cassation Court of Bari ruled two days later that a father who had hired a nanny to watch over his two children may not be as ‘fit’ as his former wife to look after them and risks losing custody.

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More on today’s Bel Paese

Italy by Numbers: Silent Families

36% between parents & teens silence reigns
59% parents main point of reference for teens
18% laziness & apathy, major complaints by parents
26% nosiness, major complaints by teens

Silent is probably the last adjective that comes to mind to describe an Italian family, but a recent poll shows otherwise. When asked to describe the climate at home between parents and teens, 36% of Italians said there were more moments of ‘indifference and silence’ than ‘tension’ or ‘dialogue.’

Despite the typical picture of teen laziness and parental interference, this Abacus poll of over 1,000 Italians shows that teens still count on parents in times of trouble. Almost 60% consider parents a point of reference, even over peers or older friends, and only 7% complained that parents were absent when they needed them.

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Italy by Numbers: Stay at Home Woes

49% say ‘mammoni’ stay home because they can’t support themselves
48% say ‘mammoni’ cause problems to family/society
say the government should help unmarried couples find housing

If 70% of 29-year-old Italian men are still living at home, these mama’s boys (mammoni) say they can’t afford to leave the nest. For the first time economic reasons won out over comfort as the reason young people in Italy live with parents.
Some 74% said that high rents cause this prolonged childhood, while only 23% said that young Italians simply weren’t willing to make sacrifices to break out on their own. The poll of over 1,000 Italians conducted by Abacus showed that inhabitants of the Bel Paese consider the fact that young people stay at home well into their 30s a "pathological" problem and one that causes many serious rifts in the family. They would also like to see the government do something about it — 58% were in favor of incentives to help young couples buy or rent houses, even if they aren’t married.

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Grandparents Vs. the Playstation

Italian senior citizens will enter classrooms in the fall to teach middle school children skills that are falling by the wayside in modern society.

“Seeking youths with at least 50 years of experience” announces the recruitment flyer from children’s activity club Arciragazzi in Milan. These youthful experts, after a short course designed by educators and psychologists, will impart lessons ranging including how to cultivate a garden, book binding, sewing or simply telling the story of their lives.

The project taps into a vital resource: about 90% of Italian senior citizens, currently the only growing segment of the population, wants to do something useful for society. By 2030, over 50% of Italy’s population will be over 60 years old.

"A recent study proved what we’ve found — that kids prefer being around grandparents to being with parents" said Antonio Monzeglio, president of Arciragazzi. "School is a great way to bring seniors into their lives."

The First Italian Mamma Meeting

Considered an national institution, Italian mothers have just become the object of a national convention, "Il Raduno delle Mamme."

The Mamma Meeting also seems like a good excuse to get out of the house. Held in the beach and discotheque capital of Italy, Riccione, events for the week of June 8-15 include a Miss Mamma beauty pageant, belly dancing seminar for pregnant women and baby model casting sessions.

The conference comes at a moment of change for the Italian family: for the first time in almost a decade, the number of births were higher than deaths in the Bel Paese, according to preliminary reports from national statistics institute ISTAT. At the same time, the Italian Housewives Movement (MOICA), estimates that the number of women fleeing a hostile workplace to become housewives will double — to 16 million — by the year 2030.

Modern mamme must cope with a decreased family network — some 43% of the 1,024 surveyed for the meeting said they don’t have anyone to talk to and only 19% said they count on their own mother for help and support.

Not all Italian mothers will be packing in the work clothes. Probably the most famous example is Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter, Marina, voted one of the 10 top women executives by Fortune magazine who just announced her first pregnancy. Marina, 35, director of Fininvest, the Berlusconi family company that controls 48 per cent of Mediaset, is expecting a child by ballet dancer Maurizio Vanadia, 40.

Marina told newspapers she won’t stop working. “The company is an important part of my life,” said Berlusconi’s first born adding that the child won’t be named after her famous father.“That life is changing now, but I’ll have more reason to keep working. From now on, I won’t be doing it just for myself, but for my child as well. For a woman, that’s the best way to give meaning to what her work.”

Women’s Rights Meet the Cemetery

Seeking to overturn a law from 1880, Roman politicians want to open family tombs to married women. Currently, women who married and their children may be denied burial in family plots, depending on the decision of great-great grandfathers who wished to keep family names ‘pure.’Italian women keep maiden names after marriage, but children are given the father’s family name.

“It happens fairly often,” says Luisa Laurelli, head of Rome’s social services commission. “We have to deny requests for burial even if there is room in the family plot — because the owner decided over a century ago to keep married women out. It was a sign of the times.”

The matter, up for debate in the beginning of May, will likely open up family squabbles. "The heirs can contest the burials," says Laurelli."But it’s a matter of public interest –in Rome, like in every large Italian city, there are family tombs which go empty and at the same time not enough room in cemeteries."

Fellow city councilor and member of the examining commission problem Donatella Poselli says this is just one of the antiquated ways which women are considered in Italy. "I didn’t think that after marriage women weren’t considered an integral part of the family," said Poselli. "Discrimination against women is still a lingering part of our legal system."

Italy by Numbers: Staying at Home

+371, 000 new jobs (2001)
70% of 29-year-old Italian men live with parents
+7% increase in 30-34 year olds living at home
1 unfortunate court ruling for parents

Italian parents must support their children until they find jobs which are ‘adequate’ to the ambitions and education of offsprings, an Italian court ruled. An exasperated father, still passing a monthly check for about $750 to a 29-year-old son with a law degree, was ordered to keep up the payments until the lad found a ‘suitable’ job.
Although ISTAT data shows a hearty increase in new jobs and the lowest unemployment levels since 1993 (9.1%), parents hoping to shove kids out of the nest will likely be disheartened at the "adequate job" part of the court ruling.
"A university degree isn’t magic ticket that absolves them from duty," said author and philosopher Luciano De Crescenzo."Who says, in any case, that being an actor is more dignified than being a clerk? The court has made a mistake — the criteria to judge a person are very different."

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Italy by Numbers: Birth Rate Rises

544,000 births, 2001
+ 1,500 from 2000
-16,000 fewer deaths
18.5% population + 65 years old

For the first time in 9 years, the number of births were higher than deaths in Italy. The preliminary report from national statistics institute ISTAT, has more than a few surprises: the central-north takes over from the south as the most ‘fertile’ region and the increase is not due to immigrants. Experts say the country may have come out of a “winter” phase where deaths were more numerous than births.
A drop in the death rate also contributed to the trend, the average Italian has a longer life expectancy: men 76.7 years, women 83.

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Italy by Numbers:Day After Pill & Fertility by Phone

25,000 number of women used Norlevo in first month available
17-18 average age of users
54.3 % 14-24 year olds use a cell phone
1 service sending “you’re fertile” messages via cell phone Debate about whether the “day after pill” constitutes an abortion has locked politicians and the Vatican in a bitter debate, but a unique service launched the same time as the pill went virtually unnoticed. A new web site about motherhood,, calculates fertility for would-be mothers—sending a message reading “you’re fertile” via cell phone.

Naturally, the free service, which does not explicitly dissuade women from using it for contraceptive purposes, is likely to be attractive to young women, also among the heaviest cell phone users. Suddenly, the phrase “let’s get together later in the week” takes on a whole new meaning.