Italian Teens Will Receive Money To Buy Books — As A Birthday Present From The Government

Wow, I definitely grew up in the wrong country. Starting in September, Italian teens will receive money to buy books when they turn 18 — as a birthday present from the government. In what's being called a "culture bonus," every Italian 18-year-old will be given €500 (roughly $563) to spend on cultural pursuits such as reading, going to the theater or cinema, visiting museums, or even strolling through natural parks. The only catch: they have to spend all the money by the end of the year. Challenge accepted.

As soon as they turn 18, Italian teenagers will receive €500 by registering online and then downloading the money through vouchers on their phone. And of course, living in Italy, home to some of the greatest art, literature and fashion ever to come out of Europe, these young people are going to be spoiled for choice with how to spend the money. The prime minister, Matteo Renzi, summed it up well when he declared that the scheme will give young people a "symbolic awareness of what it means to be an adult in Italy — a main protagonist and heir of the greatest cultural heritage in the world."

For bookworms like me, the decision would be simple: spend it all on books. From Dante to Elena Ferrante, there's no shortage of iconic Italian writers to choose from — and with a €500 culture bonus in their wallet, Italian teens will be able to read all of them.

Parliamentary undersecretary Tommaso Nannicini told the Italian publication Corriere that "the intiative sends a clear message to youngsters, reminding them that they belong to a community which welcomes them once they come of age." As a dismal 40 per cent of Italian under-25s are unemployed, this message is much-needed at the moment.