Extending Stay in Familial Nest Has Upside
By Vanessa Reeves
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.
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.”
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.
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