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CULTURE

Italian teenagers get €500 ‘culture bonus’ starting today

From November 3rd, every Italian teen celebrating their 18th birthday before December 31st 2016 can claim €500 from the government, to spend on cultural items.

Italian teenagers get €500 'culture bonus' starting today
The scheme will cost the govenment €290 million. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Every Italian resident from the class of 1998 – a total of 574,000 – can claim their 'culture bonus', which they can use to buy books, concert tickets, theatre tickets, cinema tickets, museum visits and even trips to the country’s national parks.

The scheme will cost the Italian government €290 million, but the government considers the sum to be money well spent.

“The initiative sends a clear message to youngsters, reminding them that they belong to a community which welcomes them once they come of age,” parliamentary undersecretary Tommaso Nannicini, who is overseeing the initiative, told Corriere.

“It also reminds them how important cultural consumption is, both for enriching yourself as a person and strengthening the fabric of our society,” Nannicini added.

Teenagers can access the fund by registering online and downloading a specially-made app.

Through the '18app', each user will have a €500 balance which they can use for cultural expenses until the scheme expires on December 31st, 2017 – though they have to register for the app before the end of this year.

The app allows each user to create vouchers from the culture ministry, which can be used to make purchases.

The vouchers can be printed or downloaded to smartphones and tablets for making in-store purchases and can also be used to shop online.

Next year, teachers in Italy will benefit from a similar scheme, granting them €500 to spend on their own professional development. 

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MONEY

REVEALED: Which are Italy’s cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living crisis hits household budgets in Italy as elsewhere, a new study says switching supermarkets could shave thousands of euros a year off your grocery shopping bill.

REVEALED: Which are Italy's cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living keeps rising amid soaring inflation – Italy’s inflation rate hit a 37-year high at the end of last month – many households across Italy, as elsewhere, are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

The government’s recent suggestion of lowering or even scrapping IVA (VAT, or sales tax) on basic food products hasn’t materialised. But consumers could still find ways to save on their grocery shopping.

Many shoppers are now switching supermarkets to save money, or considering it.

And doing so could pay off. A new study from Italian consumer group Altroconsumo showed a family of four can save up to 3,350 euros a year by shopping at discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Eurospin.

Altroconsumo, savings on grocery shopping

Maximum possible savings by type of shopping and household size. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.

For context, the study found Italian families with two children spend an average of 8,550 euros a year on groceries. 

While discount supermarkets do allow for considerable savings however they also generally offer lower-quality products which not all consumers will be satisfied with.

Shoppers can also reduce costs by switching to supermarket own-brand items (i.e. items carrying the supermarket logo), available in stores such as Carrefour and Iper-Coop. 

In particular, shopping at Carrefour, which is the most affordable supermarket in Italy when it comes to own-brand goods, can allow a family of four to save as much as 3,250 euros per year (savings can amount to 2000 euros for individual consumers). 

Consumers who do not wish to part ways with branded products (prodotti di marca) can still save on their shopping, though in this case savings are comparatively lower.

Shopping at Esselunga – the most cost-effective Italian supermarket for branded goods – allows for savings up to 350 euros for single individuals and up to 570 euros for families with two children.

Finally, potential savings are considerably reduced for consumers choosing to stick with a spesa mista, meaning that they generally fill up their shopping cart with a combination of branded items, distributor-brand goods and low-cost goods.

Regional differences 

While switching supermarket can mean savings on food bills, exactly how much you’ll save varies greatly by region.

In particular, Altroconsumo’s latest report highlighted once again the stark divide separating the north of the country from the centre and south. 

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

 Of the 15 cheapest Italian supermarkets, only two are located in the central or southern regions of the boot (Sesto Fiorentino’s Coop-Fi and Spesa 365 in Bari).

More importantly, consumers living in the north and shopping at the cheapest supermarket or hypermarket available in their city can save as much as 18 percent on a branded-goods-only food bill.

In equal circumstances (i.e. buying only branded items at the cheapest local store), consumers living in most central or southern cities can only save between two and three percent. 

Convenience map by Altroconsumo

The “convenience map”, with the cheaper cities shown in green and the more expensive cities shown in red. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.
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