Francesco, Alessandro, Andrea and Matteo for boys and Giulia, Martina, Chiara and Sara for girls.

These are the most popular names among Italian mammas and paps, according to a study by Istat (Italy s national statistics institute, research for 2004).

They are the most frequently chosen names nationwide, revealing a surprising homogeneity across the regions. However, calling baby boys Antonio in Molise and Campania and Giuseppe in Sicily is still widespread.

The study also confirms the decline in popularity of more traditional names. Antonio, Stefano, Nicola and Vincenzo for boys and Maria, Emma and Laura for girls are now chosen less frequently.

Among the top ten most popular names in the country are also Lorenzo, Luca, Mattia, Simone, Davide and Marco for maschietti and Alessia, Francesca, Sofia, Giorgia, Elisa and Alice for femminuccie.

Other interesting facts that have emerged from the studies is that the number of children born to unmarried parents has risen by 70 per cent in the last 10 years. There is also a trend for Italian mums to delay maternity, with the average age of mummys-to-be now 30,8 years, a year up on the average age in 1995. And the Lazio region is becoming increasingly multi-racial - 12 per cent of the bambini born in and around Rome have a non-Italian parent.

It is predicted that the 2005 research will show that many baby boys were called Karol as a tribute to the late pope.