Italian Language Blog

I Figli Mammoni Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Culture

In Italian we have a word that describes a high percentage of young Italian men: un mammone (a mum’s boy), or literally ‘a big mum’. The typical mammone lives at home with mummy and daddy until well past the age of thirty (my youngest brother moved out when he was thirty six!), he doesn’t usually pay any household bills, has all his meals prepared and his washing and cleaning done for him by his mum (“he’s a man after all, so obviously he doesn’t know how to cook or clean” explains his proud mother). He has the freedom to come and go as he wishes.

He can probably afford an exotic holiday every year and perhaps several trips around Italy, he dines out at least once a week, buys vestiti firmati (designer clothing) yet can’t afford his car insurance (Oh well, mum and dad will pay for that). If he’s an only son he’s probably lucky enough to have plenty of private space within mum and dad’s house: a nice bedroom, his own bathroom, and a studio/living room for his computer, play station, stereo, etc. Il mammone asks his mum to run errands for him because he’s too ‘busy’ to do them for himself.

If he eventually manages to leave home (some never do!) and find a place of his own, it’s probably only his address that will change, and everything else will stay the same. Let’s look at a few anecdotal examples:

Some time ago I was telling one of my students how her 82 year old mother looked young and energetic for her age. “Yes, she’s still very active: she does all her own cooking and washing” replied my friend: “My brother lives in Livorno because of his job” she continued, “but every weekend he faithfully brings his washing back to mother. His excuse is that he only does it for mother’s sake so that she still feels needed”. How thoughtful of him!

A student of mine, whose 33 year old son lives in London, called to tell me: “I’m going to London next Thursday. Would it be possible to have an English lesson before that?” I asked which day would be best for her. “Well, I’m busy on Monday but I’m free on both Tuesday and Wednesday …. oh no, wait a minute, I can’t do either Tuesday or Wednesday because devo preparare i sughi da portare a mio figlio! (I have to cook the pasta sauces to take to my son!)” I could recount many similar examples, but the following is one of my favorites:

The other day I was at the garage waiting for the tires to be changed on our Fiat Punto. There were a couple of other customers waiting and we started chatting: “Where do you live? Do you have children?” and so on. One of the other customers proudly told us that his 35 year old son lived in Parma (60 Km away) where he had a very good job for which he had to travel a lot. “This week he’s in Dubai for a conference” he said, “so last weekend I took my wife up to Parma so that she could fold his shirts and pack his suitcase. He has to dress smartly for his job you know!”

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  1. Andie:

    A very ‘interesting’ cultural fact. What would be of Italy without the ‘mammoni’? 🙂

  2. Marie-Louise:

    So this means the same as “Il cocco di mamma”? And OMG I’m so glad I’m not an Italian mamma!

  3. Klinta:

    I would never imagine that Italian guys are like that.
    I thought that they get lost from home as fast as they can 😀 I was so wrong 😀

  4. Jeannet:

    Salve Serena,

    “Mamma mia, mamma mia, mamma mia”…
    that is the only thing I can say.
    But well, it is Italie isn’t it! ;>)

    Though, in Olanda although, exist such situations where ‘mum’ takes care of the students washings brought with them in the weekends, nevertheless they move out as soon as possible on early ages.

    Saluti di Jeannet

  5. Valerie:

    “Mamma mia” was my first reaction. We had an entire lesson on this in my Italian class – I’m guessing to desensitize we stranieri to the concept. My friend is one – it still kinda freaks me out sometimes, yet – independence is less important in his culture where in America we’d work 3 jobs just to gain our independence and ‘moving back home’ is looked at as failure. Italians do value pleasure and free time, and they, as the French have mastered the art of it. But then where do you draw the line at pigrizia? I try to respect that’s his way of life – just as I have my way.

  6. Elisa:

    There are way too many “mammoni” in Italy. I agree. But it’s a fact that an Italian mother’s success is based on her children’s happiness.

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