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Weekly News – Aug 08, 2019

Stay out of the Fountains

Rome’s new ‘zero tolerance’ policy means anyone caught taking a dip in the fountains may be fined up to €450. It may be tempting to jump into one of Rome’s fountains during the scorching summer months when the weather in the capital becomes hot and sticky. But after a string of incidents in which people were caught jumping into the city’s fountains, many of which are protected historic monuments, Rome’s mayor has had enough. “Our monuments must be respected and Rome’s historic fountains are not swimming pools,” said Mayor Virginia Raggi. The culprits are more commonly foreign visitors who often say they were unaware that swimming in the fountains was not allowed. Rome’s police have fined dozens of tourists since the city recently brought in new penalties. Anyone caught taking a dip can now be fined on the spot and temporarily banned from the area.

Smartphone Addiction

Italian government ministers have drafted a law aimed at preventing and treating the rising phenomenon of addiction to mobile phones and the internet, particularly among young people. The bill seeks to treat the fear of not having access to a mobile phone, the so-called “no-mobile-phone phobia” and anxiety over not having access to social networks or messaging apps. It proposes educational programs for parents to detect excessive mobile phone use in children. The bill also lays out plans for education towards the conscientious use of the internet and social networks in schools and universities. Statistics show that half of Italians ages 15-20, consult their mobile phones at least 75 times a day and over 60% of Italians use their tablet or mobile phone in bed, with the figure rising to 81 percent among 18-34 year olds. Alternatively, roughly 22% of Italians have no internet access at all, with the figure rising to almost 43% among those over 65.

Four-legged Supporters

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini appears to be taking a page out of former leader Silvio Berlusconi’s book by wooing voters with pet-friendly initiatives to shore up support ahead of possible elections. Salvini’s League has far outstripped its government partner, the Five Star Movement (M5S), in popularity since they joined forces after a general election last year. A poll this week showed the League could win 37 percent of the votes if an election were held today, enough for Salvini to jettison the M5S and govern in an alliance with parties on the right. That could see the League join forces once more with its ally, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Salvini’s campaign to create a pet-friendly persona started last year when he began posting photographs of cats, but he stepped up his strategy this month by launching an appeal for the adoption of 117 stray dogs abandoned in a migrant center he had closed down. He followed that with a visit this week to a center for stray cats in Rome, posing with some of its 450 felines.

Reaching the Century Mark

According to the latest statistics by ISTAT, the Italian national statistical agency, the number of people in the country that are 100 or more has increased by a remarkable 27 percent over during the past decade. In 2009, approximately 11,000 residents of Italy were at least 100 years old, while this year, that number tops 14,000. The agency also reported that the number of people 105 or more went up by 136 percent, increasing from 472 ten years ago to 1,112 in 2019. The number of ‘supercentenarians,’ those who are at least 110 years old, also increased. On January 1, 2019, 21 supercentenarians were living in Italy, compared to ten in 2009. ISTAT also indicated that 84 percent of people 100 or more in Italy are women.

Just Say No

Italy’s culture minister has put a halt to build an enormous McDonald’s next to Rome’s ancient Baths of Caracalla. The Ministry for Cultural Heritage, which is responsible for protecting Italy’s archaeological sites, announced that it had overruled the authorization for the fast-food chain to build a restaurant between the third century Baths of Caracalla and the city’s ancient Aurelian Walls. McDonald’s had hoped to build the restaurant on privately-owned land currently occupied by a garden center and won a permit to do so from the district council of Rome’s Municipio I, but the plans provoked public outcry when they were publicized in the local press. McDonald’s already has dozens of branches in the Italian capital, including one a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square (pictured) and another by the Spanish Steps, with one preparing to open next to the ancient Pantheon. Statistics show that Italy has the fourth-highest number of McDonald’s restaurants in Europe, with some 578 branches operating in the country in 2018.

Recycle and Ride

A new initiative in Rome will enable metro users to recycle plastic bottles and earn public transport tickets in the process. Every 30 plastic bottles recycled in the machines provided by Coripet and installed in three stations in the Italian capital will earn a ticket, making each bottle worth 5 cents. The machines will collect the bottles and transfer the points earned through tablet and smart phone apps. The experimental program will last a year and will then be re-evaluated to determine whether it should be expanded or cancelled.