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The Cagli Media Project
Institute for Education
in International Media
Andrew Ciofalo, Director

Extending Stay in Familial Nest Has Upside
By Vanessa Reeves

Google “Thirty-Four-Year-Old-Male-Living-at-Home,” and you will be inundated with stories about Italian men who have declined to leave the familial nest. Some might mock these “Mamma Mia Boys” -- blaming them for among other things the low birthrate in Italy -- and the “who will do all the work when everybody retires?” scenario scaring demographers and planners.

Single Italian men might seem moochers with oedipal complexes, taking advantage of their mothers, while avoiding adulthood and the responsibilities that implies. In the eyes of some, these aging “homeboys” are slackers, and the virtuous U.S. bachelor living on toast and Gatorade in an empty apartment is independent and strong.

The late-leavers, though, are lucky in many ways, and American men might be losing out.

Cristiano Ciancemerla is a successful lawyer working and living in Cagli. On Saturday, June 9, 2007, at the age of 34, he moved from his parents’ house to his new apartment off the piazza. He had started remodeling his apartment soon after he bought it, two years ago, but now the workers have packed up their tools, sandblasters, plaster and paint buckets, leaving an immaculate and enviable living space. In the morning the movers have come, filling the calm rooms with clutter and chaos, and eventually leaving the beauty of his new home clearly visible.

The front room has slanted ceilings with exposed beams. The kitchen is state-of-the-art and four times the size of a normal Italian kitchen. The master bedroom and the study are on the first floor, and there are three extra rooms on the second floor.

There is also a roof deck. From the window in the dining room, he can see the clock tower on the piazza. From another window he can look out onto the square in order to see who is already enjoying a drink in the café below. Ciancemerla is proud of what he has accomplished, and he knows that he would not have been able to afford his new digs if he had not lived with his parents.

In Italy it is culturally acceptable and financially very advantageous for children to live at home until they are in their 30s. In the 2005 report from ISTAT, the Italian Statistical Institute, 40 percent of Italian men between the age of 30 and 34 still live at home. “In Italy we do not graduate from school until we are 19 or 20,” Ciancemerla explains. “Right after high school, Italian boys are required to do military service for at least a year, and then we spend five years in college. After that I studied law until I was 28, and then I was an unpaid law intern for a year, so I was 29 years old before I started earning an income.”

Living at home enabled him to study without worrying about money, and it gave him a chance to save up for his apartment once he did start making money. And although he appreciates the fact that there is always dinner on the table and food in the refrigerator at his mother’s house, he admits that, by now, he has been very motivated to move out. He considers himself to be independent, and he and his parents have different mentalities because his parents are in their 60s and 70s.

Ciancemerla says that he found it difficult to match his schedule to theirs, but he did so out of respect for them. For him, one of the best things about moving out is the fact that he and his girlfriend Chiara have picked out everything in the apartment themselves, down to the sheets for the beds. And yes, far from being the 34-year–old virgin that American men assume he is, he has a chic, intelligent girlfriend, who gets along with his family.

Because Italian men are able to live at home for a long time, they are both financially and emotionally secure when they jump out of the nest and land on their feet. Maybe American men could benefit from the same options.

Web design by Devon Dolan
Photos by Catherine Leung
Video by Laura Stagliano