Living with their parents is not a taboo for Italy's young (and not so young) adults. The phenomenon of the bamboccioni, or grown-up kids that live with Mom and Dad until their late 30s, has prompted many jokes both here and abroad. Reluctance to give up Mama's lasagna is just part of the picture.
A set of new data released in late December by Istat, the governmental institute of statistics, confirms some stereotypes but debunks others.
Four out of 10 men aged 30 to 34 still live with their parents, as do about 2 out of 10 women of the same age. Moreover, 17.5 percent of men and 9.3 percent of women aged 35 to 39 also live with their parents. What's new is that at least half of them would like to move out, but 80 percent of them say they cannot afford to. High rents and low salaries don't help.
"We are the €1,000-per-month [US$1,449] generation – who can afford spending more than €800 for an apartment?" says Serena Cima, a 30-year-old biologist who lives with her parents in Milan.
Italian students also tend to graduate later than elsewhere in Europe. "Sure, I'd love to live alone – but that would be financially impossible before graduation," says Elisabetta Magnano, a 29-year-old college student.
Still, about 40 percent of young Italians say they stay at home because they enjoy family life. "Unless you have a cold-war-style relationship with your parents, I don't see the point of moving out," says Maurizio Andreolli, a 31-year-old college teacher of art who lives with his parents in Pavia.
Many adult children live at home out of a sense of responsibility, too: More than half of women aged 35 to 39 who live with their parents say they do so because they feel it is their duty to care for a relative in need.
Experts say this family-oriented approach has a positive impact on society: "Thanks to the close family bonds, here senior citizens are two-thirds less likely to be left in retirement houses, when compared to their counterparts in northern [European] countries," says sociologist Giampiero dalla Zuanna.