Signore e signori, prepare your markers. Bingo is the hottest hobby to sweep Italy. Two years ago, the Italian government realized the money-making potential of the game of tombola and legalized bingo parlors; within months "la bingomania" exploded. More than 300 halls have since opened, and almost 400 are awaiting licenses. Players at clubs such as Rome's popular Bingo Re (11 Via Siponto; 39-06/7759-1162;; rounds from $1.50)—a 33,000-square-foot temple to the pastime—are hardly the septuagenarians one expects to encounter. Instead, crowds are composed of coiffed, couture-clad matrons and young fashionistas, all of whom smoke furiously while anticipating the call of their magic numbers. Many Italians have defected from movies, their former favored diversion, causing at least five Roman theaters to close. According to the Times of London, the Italian Cinema Agency has responded by warning citizens of impending "cultural impoverishment."
—Mark Ellwood