But the cultural trend has been accentuated by the current economic crisis – the number of young Italians living at home is up from 48 percent in 1990.
Italians are having to stick together more than ever in the face of rising fuel and food costs, almost negligent economic growth, workplace layoffs, and a harsh package of austerity cuts engineered by the unelected government of Mario Monti, the technocrat prime minister who replaced the discredited Silvio Berlusconi last November.
While average unemployment among Italians is around 10 percent, it leaps to more than 30 percent for those in their 20s. They make up the so-called NEET generation – Neither in Employment, Education, or Training – and struggle to feed and clothe themselves, let alone find a place of their own.
Finding a well-paid position in almost any profession often relies on personal connections, or "raccomandazioni," more than just merit. Of those who do have jobs, many are on precarious, short-term contracts that make it hard to commit to a mortgage or property rental contract.
So while it may be easy to portray stay-at-home Italians as idle or overcosseted by their doting mothers and fathers, that is unfair and over-simplistic, says Roberto D'Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome.
"I think 'bamboccioni' has a very unfortunate, negative connotation and should not be used," he says. "It is true that there is a cultural predisposition for young Italians to stay close to their parents, but the biggest factors are economic. Italians can't afford to leave home. When my son graduated as an engineer, his first job paid him €800 a month – that was not enough even to pay for the rent in Milan."