The Italian Almanac

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nuns in Rome

Italian News - November 28

Growing numbers of educated Italian women are throwing away their high heels and lipstick and opting for the austere life of nuns in closed convents. A surprising 550 women in Rome chose to withdraw to cloisters this year compared with 350 two years ago, it emerged at a conference organised by the Vicariate of Rome and Italy's Union of Mother Superiors (Usmi).

Most of the country's 7,500 cloistered nuns have traditionally come from regions such as the Marches, making the sudden rise in the city of la dolce vita even more surprising. Until recently, most women entering closed convents in Rome were third world immigrants with little education. Now the recruits are all Italians with university degrees.

"They are realising that what the world has to offer to them is not all it is made out to be," said Sister Pieremilia Bertolin, the secretary general of Usmi. "They are starting to reason with their heads and not just believing the messages advertising throws at them."

In the past, a cloistered life really meant cutting yourself off from your past and from the material world. Today, however, sisters can stay in touch with loved ones and the world at large via the telephone and the internet.