Wanted: Loving family to adopt Italian scholar as 'granddad au pair'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Seventy-nine year old seeks family in need of a grandfather. Would bring €500 a month for a family willing to adopt him as a "granddad au pair." This is the plaintive small ad offered for the classified pages of Rome's newspapers this week by Giorgio Angelozzi, a widower.

Seventy-nine year old seeks family in need of a grandfather. Would bring €500 a month for a family willing to adopt him as a "granddad au pair." This is the plaintive small ad offered for the classified pages of Rome's newspapers this week by Giorgio Angelozzi, a widower.

So startling is his cry for help that yesterday, Italy's best-selling daily paper, Corriere Della Sera, splashed the story across its news pages. The warm, welcoming Italian family of old is vanishing, they fear.

For 40 years Mr Angelozzi taught Latin and Greek at Liceo Giulio Cesare, one of Rome's most sought-after high schools. "I watched an army of people go by," he sighed. "Now I find myself begging for human contact. Life wanted to teach me a lesson."

Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world; high rents and poor nursery school and social security provision deter most couples from having more than two children. But it is paying the price for making parenthood a luxury: depopulated villages, a shrinking workforce, increasing dependence on Third World immigrants to do the jobs that Italians treat with disdain.

And then there are the widows and widowers of Mr Angelozzi's generation.

Today three million Italian pensioners live alone, and the number is increasing rapidly. There are 10.5 million Italians above the age of 65 - nearly 20 per cent of the population. With increasing longevity, that number is expected to rise to 15 million in the next 20 years.

But not all are willing to resign themselves to a long, lonely finale. Mr Angelozzi has eye problems and gets the shakes in his arms, but his brain is as alert as ever. For 40 years he stuffed his head with classics.

"Literature is my drug," he said. "I studied with the Jesuits for eight years, and by my third year of high school I had read 3,000 books." Today the only beneficiaries of that knowledge and passion are Mr Angelozzi's seven cats. His wife Lucia, one year his junior, died suddenly in 1992, and his daughter Loredana left home that year. He believes she is a medical volunteer in Afghanistan. "The last time she phoned me was at Easter," he said sadly. "But I don't blame her, she's following her interests, she didn't want to have children of her own so she could work full time as a doctor."

Of old age he says, the passing years are like the hours of the day: from 40 to 60 the aspect is the same as that of the sun on a summer's day from 2pm to 4pm. But suddenly night and old age arrive. "Now," he lamented, "just making my bed tires me out. But I'm not finished with dreaming." Mr Angelozzi's dream is that a lifetime of learning and passion for classics might be of use to someone, somewhere: a child or grandchild whose family might repay him with a little gratitude and affection. It doesn't seem a lot to ask. "Quidquid calcaveris rosa fiat," he said, pulling a Latin tag from the hoard in his head. "Wherever rain falls, a rose blooms."

Comments