Italian is a country where children are treasured - they're named as such - tesori.
One of Italy's most glorious of character traits is family-love. Stereotypically we're picturing long tables, red-checkered tablecloths, food, wine and children running about - you'd be pleased to know it's mostly all true; tablecloths may change, but the rest is completely quintessential.
Children are cherished, from babies being tickled by strangers in the streets to hands being held to cross the road, they're treated as everyone's.
Over the past 12 years Italian birth rates have consistently dropped reaching an all-time low since 1861. In fact, Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world at 1.17% and in Sardinia it's especially low - less than one child per family. Not what you'd expect from a country where la famiglia is held high. It's said that over the next 30 years Italy will lose one quarter of her population.
But lose to who?
If you ask around Italians say they're uncertain of the future and good jobs are hard to come by. According to this BBC article since the Covid Pandemic things have only become more dire.
Italy's slowly losing her families to other countries. Opportunities for more secure prospects and financial well-being tempt young Italians to leave their homelands.
It's a sad situation linked to a shaky economy.
Perhaps another reason for Italy's bambini to be cherished even more.
Italian children belong everywhere - rarely an establishment is labelled 'only adults' - here children stay up late and after they've played with new-found peers at a restaurant or around a resort pool, they collapse in happy slumber, often in their parents' arms. Never sufficient reason to go home just yet - children will be seen in restaurants until late, although they tend to tire quickly of adult conversation which traditionally continues long into the night, so they'll find a football or hang about chatting.
Newborn babies are a celebration and get used to being passed around from a very young age. Birth is a community thing - pink or blue ribbons are tied onto garden gates, displayed for everyone to see and gifts appear daily in the form of baby clothes, crocheted booties, cooked meals, knitted blankets, second hand cots and so much paraphernalia a small bundle could never dream of needing. Help is on hand at every corner, slightly too much some may say, but this is Italy and you have to love her mothering nature.
Italian names stick. The most popular children's names remain faithfully classic as times and fashions change. An influx of American soap-opera names may come and go with episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful (named simply Beautiful) things like Brooke and Ridge, but in the long run Leonardo remains at the top, followed by Francesco, Alessandro and Lorenzo. While baby girls lead with Sofia, Giulia, Aurora and Ginevra - just like 300 years ago.
Italy's children make up 13% of her people. With a world average of 27%, her tesori (treasures) lie not in art, fast cars, fashion or architecture but in the littlest, who belong to a nation where family means everything and no baby is pampered enough.