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Most European cities in fact have their red-light districts, to which their sex trade is largely confined. But not in Italy, where prostitutes throng the cities' piazze and patrol the passeggiate , mingling with tourists from Des Moines and families out for their evening strolls.
In the past ten years girls from Eastern Europe and West Africa have swelled street-walkers' numbers to an estimated 50, Around Milan, some 5, girls cater to about 60, customers a night, snarling traffic looking for trade and littering the streets with condoms after they have found it, much to the dismay of staider neighbours.
But prostitution is no crime in Italy. What to do? On August 14th Milan made kerb-crawling a traffic offence. Milan's city fathers are trusting that most kerb-crawlers will pay fines on the spot. The idea is not new. Rimini, a holiday resort on the Adriatic coast, started the trend in January. The local government says four out of five prostitutes on the seafront have since given up.
When Padua started slapping tickets on sex-seeking drivers, prostitutes migrated in droves to nearby Verona and Vicenza, forcing those towns to do the same.
But the strategy has its problems. One is that the garante della privacy , a parliament-appointed official who presides over Italy's new privacy law, objects to notices being sent to offenders' homes. Meanwhile, Milan's prostitutes think they have found a way to spare their customers embarrassment.