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Italians tackle the growing problem of binge drinking.
“Rome used to be different, tourists were happy with sightseeing and a good pizza,” 56-year-old Rosa Di Gianni said. “Now it’s hell. At 4 a.m. the shouts of drunk teenagers wake me up. I really miss the Rome of my childhood.”
The drinking habits of Italian youths are also degenerating, worrying parents and the government. According to a recent survey published by the Italian health authorities, 1.5 million youths aged 11-24 regularly binge drink.
The legal drinking age in pubs in Italy is 16 and serving alcohol to youths under 16 in pubs and restaurants is illegal (supermarkets and stores are exempted). But many cities have introduced extra measures in order to tame wild nightlife excesses.
The proliferation of local initiatives is in fact creating some confusion. Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s center-right mayor, declared drinking off-limits in certain piazzas and launched vigilante street patrols.
City Councilor for Commerce Davide Bordoni said that the "goal is not punitive but to encourage safe night amusement and fight the city’s degradation.”
However, there are too few police patrols at night.
“Some minor pubs don’t respect the law and sell alcohol to kids,” 18-year-old Giacomo said.
But there are also some positive examples: several nightclubs (especially beach discos) use “safety-drivers” to deliver tipsy teenagers home.
Milan was the first Italian city to reaffirm the ban on selling alcohol to under 16-year-olds, by introducing a 450 euro fine for both vendor and teenage consumer.
The initiative came after an incident last August in Piazza Vetra, heart of the Milanese nightlife, when a 14-year-old was caught by the police gulping vodka. Unable to stand upright, she fell and smashed the bottle, then unabashedly continued drinking, cutting her lips with the glass.
The city's mayor, Letizia Moratti, endorsed a moral crusade, saying that “if the ban can save even just one teenage life, that’s already enough.” The ban aims at spreading awareness among youth and giving support to their families.
In Milan, 34 percent of 11-year-olds have already abused alcohol. The pub crawl is popular here as well and after 2 a.m., illegal foreign alcohol vendors (mostly Asian) roam the streets looking for minors.