Revealed: Italy is the home of wife swapping

Silvio Berlusconi was joking when he offered his wife to the Danish PM. But a new poll suggests that a quarter of Italian couples are at it for real

Married couples flocking to the Tuscan countryside or the Eternal City this summer might want to think twice before accepting that generous dinner party invitation from the welcoming Italian couple. They might get more than they bargained for. If a new report is to be believed, it seems a quarter of all Italian couples regularly take part in wife swapping.

The revelation comes not from the seedier quarters of the country that gave the world Casanova, but from the usually po-faced pages of national broadsheet La Stampa. According to yesterday's front page article, entitled "The Lunch Time Swingers", an estimated 500,000 Italian couples are officially swapping partners at private sex clubs, with thousands more doing it in a more ad-hoc fashion in car parks, specially designated beaches or even cemeteries.

The report will have Italy's Catholic clergy shaking with anger at the congregation from their pulpit but when you consider the country's lothario leader, Silvio Berlusconi, it is perhaps not entirely surprising. This is the man, after all, who – in front of the international press corps gathered in the opulent quarters of Palazzo Chigi (the Italian version of Downing Street) – once tried to pimp his wife Veronica to the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"Rasmussen is the most handsome Prime Minister in Europe. I think I will introduce him to my wife because he is even more handsome than Cacciari," Mr Berlusconi quipped, in a reference to his wife's alleged but subsequently denied fondness for the former mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari.

The La Stampa article, primly struggling with whether to call this new Italian predilection a "passion" or a "hobby", said wife swapping had increased everywhere "at a rate that makes you dizzy", largely because of the internet which had stripped away the taboos.

The source with which the newspaper arrived at the one-in-four figure was a Rome-based body called The International Federation for the Protection of Rights and Freedoms, or Federsex, for short. The organisation has 500,000 members that meet in 200 private clubs across Italy and swap partners, but the Federsex experts believe that is just the tip of the iceberg. They put the real figure closer to two million, or a quarter of the eight million sexually active couples across the country.

The average age of male participants is 43, while the swapped women tend to be younger at 35, and it is no longer a furtive after-dark activity but one that can "even take place during one's lunch hour." As one employee of the Club Malizia in Milan confirmed, "We see all sorts of people ... the thing that links them is that they have no money worries – accountants, doctors, even footballers and politicians."

The La Stampa investigation was triggered by the death last month of 27-year-old Dejan Delijevic, who was found hanging by his studded dog collar from a metal fence by the Magic Nuar club on the outskirts of Mantova. Appearing to be a sex game gone wrong, it was a case that titillated the nationà la Max Mosley, prompting the same soul-searching over sexual mores.

Establishments such as the Magic Nuar, far from being an aberration, are very much part of the married life of many an Italian couple, according to La Stampa. Lara, who grew up in the Sicilian town of Catania, recounted how she felt herself suffocating during her traditional upbringing, her father requiring her to be home by 9.30pm. She fled as soon as possible to a university education in Rome during which she met Luca, the man who introduced her to wife swapping.

Nowadays, Lara and her husband Luca leave the kids at home and go out for the night to have, as she puts it, "a nice evening of group sex."

Italy's most infamous player, Signor Casanova, once said "cultivating whatever gave pleasure to my senses was always the chief business of my life; I never found any occupation more important".

In these modern days, the catchphrase might be, to quote, one scambisti: "I love my husband. That is why I want to swap him."

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone