More than 13 million Italians live in condominiums, and in each one of these, of which there are more than 830,000, the various owners hold regular meetings, usually presided over by the building administrator. Such meetings are the butt of many jokes and data just released proves that living in a condominium is a difficult exercise in democracy.

Condominium living is so fraught with friction that 53 per cent of all civil cases brought before the Italian courts derive from condominial disputes; there are currently 850,000 such court cases pending, at a cost to Italians of 3 billion a year in legal expenses.

The usual differences are about the use of common spaces such as stairs, landings and courtyards, maintenance work, domestic animals, barking dogs, cats that escape onto the staircase and residents who smoke in the lift.