The Italian Almanac


Italian News - October 12

Italy's legendary family values are thriving despite the move towards fewer kids and new sorts of 'families', according to the latest figures from national statistics bureau Istat. An overwhelming 94.9% of families eat Sunday lunch together, even when children have grown up and left home, and when parents and offspring are distant they are still in frequent phone contact.

"Despite the changes that the Italian family is undergoing, there is still a powerful glue holding it all together," said researcher Linda Laura Sabbadini. "Parents and children have developed a sort of long-distance intimacy that you don't find in many places".

Confirming the age-old stereotype of Italian youths being reluctant to leave home, the report found that 47% of people between 25 and 34 still lived with their mothers. But it was also clear that when grown-up children do leave home, the emotional bond with the parents remains unchanged, along with a deep need for frequent contact.

Almost 90% of mums with independent children see their offspring at least once a week. It seems the relationship is not one-sided either. Some 77% of young Italians who have left home make the effort to phone their folks at least once a week. But many are in daily phone contact.

Grandparents continue to play an important role in the modern Italian family. According to Istat's figures, some 11.5 million Italians (about a fifth of the population) are now either a 'nonna' (granny) or nonno (grandpa). Of these, 57% regularly look after their grandchildren for mums and dads who are at work and 42% see them every single day.

In recognition of the importance of grandparents, or 'nonni', to Italian society, the country recently introduced a special annual celebration of them. Every October 2 is in fact now marked on calendars as the 'Festa dei Nonni'.

The Istat report also confirmed the shrinking size of Italian families, finding that between 1998 and 2003 the average number of siblings per person fell from 2.4 to 1.9. Many brothers and sisters live together but of those that don't the desire to keep in touch is strong: some 55% meet up at least once a week.