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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Mobiles 'betray' cheating Italians
By the BBC's Tamsin Smith in Rome

Ever tried to cover up a phone call and pretend it was someone else? Ever been suspicious that your partners' mobile phone calls aren't from who they say?

A man speaks on his mobile phone
Many Italians have two or even three mobile phones
A new survey published by Italy's largest private investigation company says that in nearly 90% of cases, it is the mobile phone which reveals or betrays extra marital activities.

The Italians own more mobile phones than any other Europeans, and - with divorce on the increase - is the mobile to blame?

"The love affair with the mobile phone in Italy is incredible... many people have two or three," says Miriam Tomponzi, Italy's most famous and definitely most glamorous private investigator.

You must cancel immediately any message from your lover which could give the game away
Miriam Tomponzi
"Perhaps we Italians can go without our coat, umbrella, car or bike, but we can never be without our phone. We do everything with our phone and now we also do love affairs with it," Ms Tomponzi says.

Broken hearts

In a survey conducted by her company, Tomponzi Investigations, she says that in 87% of cases of infidelity it is the contact via the mobile phone which raises suspicions and eventually gives the game away.

Miriam Tomponzi
Tomponzi is one of Italy's most famous detectives

"My husband cheated on me with my best friend. I didn't know for two years," says Francesca, who is now divorced.

"She would come round to our house, we would watch TV or all go out together for dinner. Everything seemed normal... I eventually found out because I read text messages from her on my husbands phone," she says.

Francesca adds that if it were not for the mobile phone she would probably never have found out about her' husband's affairs.

"Everybody knew about it except me: all our friends... and nobody told me," Francesca says.

SMS revolution

Pick up any celebrity gossip magazine here in Italy and there are juicy stories of how footballers, actors and TV stars have been caught out playing away from home by their mobile phones and are now facing divorce.

You must... prepare yourself for when you receive a phone call from your lover in front of your husband or wife... You must pretend that a sister, mother or brother has called you and act normally
Miriam Tomponzi
And in everyday life the same thing seems to be happening.

With divorce in Italy generally on the increase, many lawyers are now also noticing an increase in the number of people filing for divorce in September and October after the summer holidays .

Beatrice Ruggiero, a divorce lawyer in Rome, says this could be due to the mobile phone.

"I've noticed perhaps 30% more divorces in September and October than last year," Ms Ruggiero says.

"And lots of my clients are saying they discovered their partners infidelities during the summer holidays because of SMS messages sent on mobiles."

Before the mobile phone, anyone indulging in a little extra curricular activity would have just resigned themselves to not speaking to their lover during summer holidays with the family.

But text messaging has changed all that.

People might have to still spend their summers building sandcastles with the children or visiting the in-laws, but now there is the extra frisson of being able to contact a lover at any time, from any place via the mobile phone.

Cheaters' top tips

Ms Tomponzi says mobile phone users should be more careful.

She has published some top tips for anyone who wants their affairs to remain undiscovered.

"You must cancel immediately any message from your lover which could give the game away," Ms Tomponzi says.

"This is obviously difficult as it is hard to cancel a beautiful message, so you could have another mobile phone in a secret place and send your messages to that.

"You must practice and prepare yourself for when you receive a phone call from your lover in front of your husband or wife.

"Practice in front of a mirror if you have to. You must pretend that a sister, mother or brother has called you and act normally.

"And of course you should never say 'It was just a wrong number' or 'You're breaking up I can't hear you.'"

The 24 hour contactability of mobiles makes it much harder for people to separate married life from affairs.

Being able to send a spoken or written word at a second's notice has had a dramatic effect on relationships but just imagine how complicated life will get with the introduction of picture messaging.

Phone ban proposals welcomed
15 Sep 03  |  Europe

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