The young Italians who come to London to grow up.


She makes your bed, irons your shirts and cooks your favourite dish. The Italian mum never lets you down and that’s why so many  thirtysomethings in Italy would rather stay at home than leave the parental nest and try to fly on their own.


At home they are called “mammoni”, a word that has no possible translation in another language. It means people, men especially, who use the mother as their point of reference well beyond adulthood.



There are, though, a few lonely riders who fight conventions and move from home. Many arrive in London looking for a different life. Whatever they leave behind, what they find here is incredibly different and it requires all their strength to endure. Their stories reveal that they are more mature and stronger than even mamma would think. And their capacity to adapt is huge.
 Leonardo, who now works at a fine dining restaurant, arrived two years ago with a couple of friends. A dodgy agency promised them to find a house but what they got was a room in an apartment with 15 other people. There was only one toilet and two bathrooms, whose shower was subject to vagaries as sudden and unexpected as the English weather. “It was our first experience”, Leonardo recalls. “We did not know such a situation was illegal. There was a brothel on the floor on top of ours and after six months we have been kicked out in two days and the house has been demolished”.

Pietro is 23 years old but was only 19 when he found himself thrown from his native Cortina D’Ampezzo, on the Dolomites, into a room (yes, a room, not a flat) with other 11 people. “It was the accommodation offered by the school of barmen I wanted to join and I thought it was the best option, as I did not know anyone in London,” he said. “There were no wardrobes and all the luggage was on the floor. In order to walk to my bed I had to jump from bag to bag”.


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“I lived for one year in a house so humid there were mushrooms in the bathroom, no heating and no washing machine”.


Davide is 27 years old and finds it difficult to maintain his culinary habits since he has moved. “I used to live with a Muslim guy who could not stand the smell of the pork steak I cooked for myself from time to time. I bought my own pans and tried to be very careful not to annoy him but certain food was out of the question”. Davide is a champion of stubbornness. Despite his degree in economics the only job he found at the beginning was as a barista at Carluccio’s , but when he had saved enough money to survive for three months he started sending his CV around and he now works at JP Morgan as a trader.

Tony doesn’t seem to agree. After a few years in London; a girlfriend who ran away with his money; and few winter nights slept rough, he has now found a civilized living situation and a decent job. “I have a good job now,” he said. “I’ve started from scratch and it has been not easy but here I am”.

Anna, a successful seamstress, is celebrating her twelfth year in London but her path has not been an easy one. “I lived for one year in a house so humid there were mushrooms in the bathroom, no heating and no washing machine”. Then she moved with 15 people, and then moved again with a part-time prostitute. “My work is going great but I think I’m ready to go back to my country now,” she admits.


Leaving your comfort zone is never easy. But it’s all part of the process we call growing up. Even when it hurts, like a brick on your forehead.

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