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Q: Take a walk downtown in any Italian city and you’re likely to see a few small posters, often with a picture of someone on them. They’re not wanted posters and they never seem to stay up very long. What’s up with that?

A: The posters, sometimes called epigrafe, are actually funeral notices. Or notification that a person who had some ties to the area has died. Or a little of both.

The formats vary from city to city and region to region, but they’re often very similar in format in the same city. The notices are popular because of tradition and because many Italian newspapers don’t regularly carry free obituary notices.

There are often regulations about how many of the notices can be put up and where they can be displayed. Messages include the name of the deceased and some biographical facts, information about donating gifts and the time and place of services.

Deirdre Straughan, an American living in Italy, writes a bit about her experience with funeral notices after an Italian relative died (beginningwithani.com). She writes that the family started receiving telephone calls within an hour of making arrangements, implying that the notices were put up almost immediately. And gained attention just as quickly.

By tradition, and often regulation, the notices are often taken down after the services.The notices are common enough that people feel confident in parodying them. Soccer fans in Naples celebrating the Italy’s World Cup championship were seen on the streets wearing mock notices of the death of rival France. Few seemed to be in mourning.

Got a question about goings-on Europe? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.osd.mil

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