Once compared to Oxford, the university city of Pavia is now better known for gambling. These activists are fighting to change that
At the start of this year, Massimo was standing on a bridge determined to jump off. The 45-year-old had been struggling with gambling addiction since 2001.
I started to play slot machines and video poker after the death of my father and ended up spending 5,000 a day, says the artisan fence-maker, from the city of Pavia in northern Italy. He was soon in debt to loan sharks and ended up stealing to fund his habit, including from his own mother, before considering suicide.
Now Massimo (not his real name) lives in La Casa del Giovane, a unit that houses 100 patients suffering from addictions. Around half of the cases involve gambling a symptom of an epidemic that has gripped Pavia for more than a decade.
For centuries the city was best known as Oxford on Ticino: it hosts one of the countrys most prestigious universities, founded in 1361, and a beautiful medieval castle. Built about 25 miles south of Milan on the ancient Via Francigena pilgrim route running from France to Rome, its historic centre is currently a candidate to become a Unesco world heritage site.
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