The Italian Almanac

Father and son

Italian News - March 22

An unusual refuge has been set up in the northern Italian city of Bolzano to help men struggling in the aftermath of divorce. In 90% of marriage breakdowns, the mother is granted custody of the children, leaving men to find somewhere else to live - a difficult task in Italy, where the cost of living is high.

But Italy's national family mediation service Asdi has joined forces with the regional authorities to set up a center in Bolzano, where divorced or separated fathers are offered cheap accommodation and a place to rebuild their lives.

"This project didn't just come about to give fathers a roof over their heads - but more importantly, so that they could continue to be fathers to their children," says Elia Cillambelli, Asdi's director in Bolzano. "Our message is that your marriage might have ended, but you are a parent for life. That's the role we're trying to support with this house".

The refuge allows fathers to spend quality time with their children in a home, rather than in a park or cinema, Mr Cillambelli added. He also stressed that the house was for separated parents, and not specifically men - but that women simply did not require it as they tended to get custody of the children, and keep the family house, in order to maintain stability.

Around two-thirds of Italy's 70,000 divorces and separations a year are initiated by women. The father, while still expected to pay for the household and the children, usually has to find somewhere else to live, and this financial burden is proving too much for many men.