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  • Italian Women You'll Love
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    MARCH 14, 2004 -- More than 29,500,500 women live in Italy, and they account for more than 51 percent of the country's population. There are 94 men for every 100 women, according to the United Nations Statistics Division. Women account for 36 percent of the adult economic activity rate in Italy, and that number appears to be rising. As of 2000, the life expectancy of an Italian woman was about 82, compared to 75 for men. Despite living longer lives, today's Italian women are having fewer children. About 60 percent use contraception, according to UNICEF. At 1.2, the Italian fertility rate is among the world's lowest. It could be the very things that enamor people -- an Italian woman's independence, drive and work ethic -- are keeping modern women from having a family.

    Now that you know about the average Italian woman, you should also know that most Italian women are anything but average. In honor of International Women's Day (celebrated on March 8), here are great examples of the bodacious babes Italy keeps producing:

    Monica Bellucci: This Italian beauty has earned almost as much critical acclaim for her starring role in Melena and as Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of Christ as she did whoops and hollers for appearing nude and drenched in caviar on the cover of Esquire. She is sultry and earthy all at the same time, which drives men wild. We can all learn a thing or two from the Bellucci!

    Lilli Gruber: This RAI journalist has it all -- grit and grace. When the United States waged war on Iraq, Gruber was the woman with all the answers for Italians. Courageously, she reported from Baghdad even in the middle of shoot-outs and bombings. She remains committed to good journalism and even wrote a book, I Miei Giorni a Baghdad, about her experiences covering the war.

    Franca Ciampi: As the wife of President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Signora Ciampi is expected to be a good hostess and a friendly face for the Italian people. But she presents herself with such gusto that she has become a lot more than that. If satire is the highest compliment, then the endearing and ever-popular bits about Signora Ciampi in the 2002 hit series Uno di Noi prove she is admired.

    Paola Cortellesi: In addition to impersonating Signora Ciampi in those now famous Uno di Noi skits, Cortellesi received laudatory reviews for her recent stint at the Sanremo Music Festival -- even when she passionately dipped and kissed female host Simona Ventura. Her outrageous outbursts, tantamount to comedic genius, serve as proof that Italian women can be successful on more than looks alone. Italy certainly is taking this beautiful, funny girl seriously.

    Linda: Cortellesi might have left her mark at Sanremo, but it was third place Linda who stole the show. Her powerful voice brought the song Aria Sole Terra Mare to life. Her round face and figure and sporty style are a refreshing departure for a public happy to relate to their favorite entertainers. Linda's unique look and distinct vocals stand in stark contrast to contemporary pop stars like Alexia and Laura Pausini, but there's room for all of them on Italian radio and television -- and in the hearts of Italians.

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