Divorce rates in Italy seem to have gone through the roof, as increasing numbers seem to be following in the footsteps of their Prime Minister, who is in the midst of a second marital split.
A weekend trade fair on the subject, the first of its kind here, came just as Silvio Berlusconi was finalising a bulging pay packet for his future ex-wife, who will receive 300,000 euros (380,000 dollars) a month in alimony.
AdvertisementThe fair, fittingly held in Berlusconi's native Milan, offered one-stop shopping for unhappy spouses, including divorce lawyers, dating services, seduction coaches and party ideas for those in the mood to celebrate a break-up.
"For many people, divorce is the end of everything, while here you can think of it as a new starting point," said Rodolfo Due, one of about 1,000 visitors to the two-day fair who said his parents were divorced and that he came "out of curiosity".
Since its legalisation in 1974, divorce has been growing slowly but steadily in Italy -- tripling in the last decade -- but the rate is still far lower than in most other European countries.
And the long and complex process still takes around three years, offering entrepreneurs a range of business opportunities.
At the fair, "divorce planner" Milena Stojkovic proposed a "360-degree service to people who are going through difficult periods, from legal advice to psychological help," she said.
Her company Ciao, Amore (Goodbye, Love) boasted 35 couples as clients last year, of whom seven decided to stay together after all, she told AFP-TV.
Once the die is cast, however, Stojkovic helps the newly single find a new home, move out or find a babysitter, "small things that can seem unsurmountable when you are in full emotional chaos, and that can bring about a state of panic," she said.
Organiser Franco Zanetti said a handful of couples were among the visitors who paid 10 euros (12 dollars) to attend the two-day fair.
"There was never a stand without someone asking questions," Zanetti said.
Other stands offered all kinds of ways to make a fresh start after the pain of divorce -- chilling out at a spa in Slovenia, redecorating your apartment or taking part in Milan's third marathon just for singles on June 6.
Seduction coach Andrea Favaretto, author of "Become an Ace of Hearts", shared some of his techniques on the spot with potential clients who stopped at his stand.
Visitors could also sign on to the services of a private eye who might charge between 60 and 120 euros per hour to catch an adulterous spouse, or arrange for paternity tests costing some 400 euros.
As a last resort, a company called Uniq offered the separated or newly divorced a night on the town with a gift pack including a voodoo doll and pins to take it out on their former partners.