Italian youth are hard hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic. Some are dependent on their parents again, others are considering emigrating.

Generation Y

August 5, 2020, 6:17 p.m.

It was March 6th when Eugenio Cannovale finally realized how dangerous this new virus is. The linguistics student, 26 years old, was visiting Milan with his parents and sister. The first rumors arose that entire provinces and regions should be cordoned off because of the ever increasing number of infections. Eugenio had to decide: Should he stay with his family in Milan? Or should he go back to the student city of Bologna, around 220 kilometers southeast of Emilia-Romagna, where he has been doing a master's degree for almost two years? For weeks, possibly months, to live with his parents again, he couldn't imagine that. "I felt I had more freedom in Bologna," said Eugenio looking back. On the evening of March 7th, he got on the train. He literally fled Milan, as he says. "It felt like a huge metal door had closed behind me." 

A day later, all of Lombardy was sealed off, the region in which Milan and Bergamo are located. The pandemic finally hit the entire north of the country particularly hard, after Lombardy also Veneto and Emilia-Romagna with its capital city of Bologna. By the end of July, more than 35,000 people in Italy had died from the Covid 19 virus. The universities also closed their doors during the lockdown. In Bologna, however, there were no lectures or seminars for a little more than a week, then the third largest university in the country transferred the teaching to the Internet.

Eugenio has two jobs and hopes to get through the crisis well. © Private

On a video call, Eugenio explains that he is walking relaxed through the city again today and that people are sitting in the bars and restaurants again. "Now when I think back on the lockdown, it feels like it was ages ago." Nevertheless, two and a half months after the curfews ended, Bologna is still a lot different than before Corona. For example, the market for accommodation in the rather expensive student city. Suddenly, some landlords would even have to post their ads again and again to get rid of their rooms. "It is just easier to find a cheaper room than usual," he says. Because unlike Eugenio, who fled his family at the beginning of the crisis, many students have taken the opposite route and are back to their parents. Often also to save costs. Because the online lectures made it possible to cancel the expensive room in the university town. 

Philosophy student Giorgio Cuconato, 22, also went back to his parents. Although all the other roommates were already with their families, he had spent the first few weeks of the lockdown alone in his shared apartment in Bologna. "In the beginning I saw it as a test to live alone for the first time," says Giorgio. But the longer the curfew lasted, the worse he was. The anxiety attacks with which he struggled every now and then before Corona became more frequent. He was unable to prepare for the exams. "I found the lockdown traumatic," he says. 

Average gross earnings in Italy are just below the EU average, but a shared apartment often costs more than 500 euros.

After a month he got a certificate that allowed him to travel to Milan despite his curfew. Usually, says Giorgio, there are always arguments in the family when he is visiting home longer. "But this time it was much better, maybe because we knew we just had each other as caregivers."

Italy is considered a country in which families are particularly close. It is one of the EU countries in which the children leave their parents' home particularly late: at 30.1 years - and thus more than six years later than in Germany. Veronica Piccari, 22, also lives with her parents in the seaside resort of Rimini on the coast of Emilia-Romagna. She studies intercultural mediation in the city of Forlì, 50 kilometers away, where the University of Bologna has a branch. For two years, she commuted every day to the lectures and seminars in Forlì, half an hour there and half an hour back. When the entire university life suddenly shifted to her laptop, she missed her fellow students and, during the virtual exams, was constantly worried that the internet connection could break off. But all in all, she says, "the online lessons were really great for me".

Antonio Maturo is a professor of sociology at the University of Bologna. The scientist knows the cliché of the young Italians who hang on their " mom ". Sometimes this may be due to the lack of drive to become self-employed. "But often there are also economic constraints," he says. Because it is often difficult for families to pay for their children's accommodation while they are studying. The average monthly gross earnings in Italy are just below the EU average, but a room in a shared apartment or a small apartment often costs more than 500 euros - especially in cities like Bologna, Milan or Rome. At the latest since Airbnb was launched, tourists have been contesting student housing there. And most students are financially dependent on their families. There is no financial support from the state comparable to the BAföG in Italy, the grants are far from being sufficient for everyone who needs them.