Europe

Italian hotels offer free stay for couples who conceive

A general view of Santa Maria Degli Angeli (Basilica of St Mary of the Angels) prior to Pope Francis' visit on October 3, 2013 in Assisi, Italy. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Assisi, a medieval city, is the birthplace of the famous Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi

A group of hotels in the Italian city of Assisi are offering a free holiday to couples who conceive there.

The Fertility Room project, started by the local tourism councillor, is an attempt to boost local travel and the country's flagging birth rate.

Couples who produce a birth certificate showing their baby was born nine months after their stay will be offered a future free stay or reimbursed.

Italy has the lowest birth-rate in the EU, and one of the lowest in the world.

Only eight babies were born for every 1,000 residents in 2015.

The project's website (in Italian) says: "Giving birth to a child is an act of deep love, which should be encouraged despite the multitude of difficulties in life."

But some local authorities have distanced themselves from the project.

Claudio Ricci, Umbria regional councillor, said in a statement (in Italian) he would investigate whether the initiative was "appropriate for the public image of Assisi and the promotion of the region".

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