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MILAN

How a three-wheeled newsagent hopes to help keep Italians reading

Every morning, the instantly recognisable whirr of Andrea Carbini's three-wheeler fills this Milan square, where he throws open his mobile newsagent's doors for a news-hungry and largely elderly clientele.

How a three-wheeled newsagent hopes to help keep Italians reading
Andrea Carbini and his mobile newsagent's van in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“Corriere della Sera!” “That's two euros, have a nice day, see you tomorrow!” says Carbini, with the cheerfulness of newspaper sellers of yesteryear.

He promises a customer to put aside a newspaper, to find a certain book, he asks for news about the family.

READ ALSO: Venetians raise funds to rebuild much-loved news kiosk swept away by floods

There is so much demand that the yellow and white Ape ('Bee') three-wheeled van will be late for its next rendezvous in another nearby piazza.

“I come every day. The newspaper kiosk closed in July and fortunately the Ape has been coming for a month,” Maria Ricciardi, 77, told AFP.

“I don't like the Internet. It may be necessary, but real culture is in books and newspapers.”


Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Since the local kiosk closed, “I've had to go for a long walk” to get a paper, notes 72-year-old Maria Malzani. She and her typographer husband, who have always read newspapers, say the initiative is “fabulous”.

Carbini, 52, came up with the mobile newsagent's idea to counter the disappearance of newsstands.

READ ALSO: Italy plans tax breaks to save struggling bookshops

“Ten years ago there were still 650 in Milan, now there are only 450,” says Diego Averna of the Cisl trade union, pointing out that many are “just about surviving” thanks to the sale of public transport tickets or snacks.

The problem is national: from 2009 to 2019, Italy lost nearly a quarter of its newsagents, tumbling from 18,000 to 14,000, according to Unioncamere-Infocamere, the federation of chambers of commerce.


A traditional Italian newspaper kiosk. Photo: Daniel Robert/Unsplash

Simultaneously, newspaper sales are plummeting: just 2.2 million newspapers are now sold each day in Italy, down from 5.5 million in 2007, according to ADS.

Fewer sales can be blamed on the rise of digital media and a certain lack of youth interest in the press but it is “also because there is a lack of sales outlets,” said Giuseppe Ferrauto, managing director of the Cairo Editore group.

READ ALSO: Venice's legendary 'waterproof' bookshop overwhelmed by floods

It's a vicious circle. “That's why an initiative like the mobile newsstand is something that we publishers must encourage,” he told AFP.

For now, former bookshop owner Carbini has only one route, stopping in four neighbourhoods where newspaper kiosks have recently closed. But he dreams of expanding.


Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“What I'm doing is a provocation and I hope young people will take over. I shook up a situation where no one was doing anything,” Carbini says of his 'Edicole Quisco'.

“People tend to think that the battle is already lost. But I think newspapers, even if a shrinking market, still have a future,” he says, stressing the importance of “safeguarding press freedom and the production of culture”.

READ ALSO: 

He says that by working every day and choosing your neighbourhoods well, you can earn 1,800 to 2,000 euros (2,000-2,200 dollars) a month.

The advantage over a normal newsstand is that the Ape avoids high overheads and has a high concentration of customers over a few hours.

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Its clientele is mainly over 50 years old, but also includes some in their thirties and forties, and children, who come to buy figurines made by Panini, also a sponsor.

“The Ape has an extremely important symbolic value in Italy, it represents the economic boom of the 50s and 60s,” said Carbini.

“The newsagent is a neighbourhood friend. They can't just disappear, like local shops,” lamented Marianna Saraceno, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher.

“It's huge loss, for culture, for sociability, for living together.”

By AFP's Céline Cornu

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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