The Italian Almanac


Michelin Guide for the Poor

The 20th edition of Rome's glossy 'Michelin Guide for the Poor' was unveiled, accompanied by warnings that poverty was on the rise. Produced by the activist Catholic organization the Sant'Egidio Community, the guide features 205 pages of advice and practical information for people living on the streets. ''This guide is designed to help the survival of those who think they can't carry on,'' said the community's spokesperson Mario Marazziti.

The pocket-sized guide is divided into sections with addresses of where food is distributed, where shelters are located and where showers are available. It also contains a fold-out map and information on legal and medical assistance. First published in 1990, the organization has nicknamed it the 'Michelin Guide' after the prestigious ''must-have'' food guide - an ironical reference to the essential information it contains.

Marazziti said the organization was satisfied it was able to continue publishing the guide but expressed sadness that it served a growing need. According to Sant'Egidio, there are now over 7,000 homeless people living in the Italian capital. Of these, around 2,500 bed down in shelters while some 4,500 sleep rough. The vast majority of Rome's homeless, 70%, are foreigners.

Founded in 1968, the Communita' di Sant'Egidio is one of Italy's most famous voluntary organizations. Its volunteers distribute food to the homeless and carry out extensive work to help immigrants and the disabled. It also operates at a global level, and has won recognition for its work fighting AIDS in Africa and its strong stance on the death penalty. There are now over 10,000 volunteers in Rome and some 40,000 in 60 countries.

The Sant'Egidio Community has received numerous awards for its accomplishments, including the prestigious Balzan Prize for its work on AIDS, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on several occasions.