Just don’t call her Granny. Fiorina Siliprandi, 85, is one of the last living former prostitutes from Italy’s legal brothels and has much to say on the subject.
Siliprandi, who has recently published her memoirs, has offered herself as a consultant to the Italian government as it struggles to stem the country’s flourishing illegal sex trade.
After joining the ranks in 1939, Siliprandi, nicknamed “Velvet Tongue,” worked in Ethiopia, Tunisia and landed in Bologna where she became the madame of a first-class brothel in 1956. Her career ended shortly after when the pleasure houses were closed forever by law two years later.
“I’m ready to lend my expertise if brothels become legal again,” said the former prostitute who has racked up about 60 years of experience. “The book tells the story without any kind of censure, because the truth is we were taken care of in the bordellos.”
Lawmakers, particularly those from the conservative Northern League, may want to take her up on the offer. Leader Umberto Bossi made a controversial proposal for government-regulated ‘Eros centers’ (apartments shared by a few prostitutes) last year that is still causing heated argument.
Italy’s sex market consists of an estimated 50,000-70,000 prostitutes, about 70% are illegal immigrants lured to the Bel Paese with the promise of a job then forced into sex work, according to Eurispes data. The study reports almost half of all Italian men regularly frequent the so-called “fireflies” (lucciole), some 70% of these are married.
Embarrassing would-be johns into staying home has been the object of numerous schemes in recent years in Italy — including exorbitant fines, photographing clients and towing away cars parked in “suspect” zones. Most have created more brouhaha than change, because they conflict with Italy’s severe privacy law which, for example, doesn’t permit photographing drivers from the front for everyday traffic violations.
Brothels were legal in Italy until 1958 when the Merlin law, named after creator senator Angelina Merlin, abolished them. At the time, these “closed houses” (case chiuse) employed 2,700 women.