Italian city fundraises to pay retirees’ rising energy bills

Florence is famed for its contributions to Italian art, architecture and cuisine. But these days, local leaders in the city regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance are concerned with more mundane matters: paying the bills.

Amid soaring energy costs across Europe, officials at Palazzo Vecchio — the building that serves as Florence’s city hall as well as a museum —-have teamed up with a local nonprofit to help fixed-income retirees keep their power on through an “Adopt-a-Bill” fundraising campaign.

“Florence is a city where you live well, and for this reason, too, people live very long,” Mayor Dario Nardella said.

A significant number of Florence’s retirees, however, live on less than 9,000 euros ($10,205) a year and can’t afford to make ends meet with an expected 55% increase in home electricity costs and a 42% hike in residential gas bills, he said.

Widower Luigi Boni, 96, confirms that. He says that by the end of February, he will have emptied his bank account and spent his monthly pension check of under 600 euros ($680) before covering utilities.

“Either I eat or I pay the rent,” Boni said as he sat on his sofa with a daily newspaper in his hands.

To assist him and others among Florence’s estimated 30,000 residents over age 65 and living alone, the city administration launched the fundraising campaign with the nonprofit Montedomini Foundation, which runs projects aimed at helping the city’s retirees.

The campaign raised 33,000 euros (more…


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