Coronavirus: Italian town prints own 'currency' to help locals and businesses

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By Alessio Dellanna  & AP
Ducati banknotes are checked after being printed in Campobasso, southern Italy. April 26, 2020.
Ducati banknotes are checked after being printed in Campobasso, southern Italy. April 26, 2020.   -  Copyright  AP (screen grab)

Castellino del Biferno is a small town in south Italy's Molise region with only 550 residents.

Minting money is something town mayor Enrico Fratangelo has been studying for over twelve years. The Covid-19 pandemic gave him the opportunity to test his skills.

"We decided to mint money to make sure the local economy could withstand the impact of the situation. However small this economy may be, there are three or four businesses still open, without considering bars or pubs," Fratangelo explained.

AP (screengrab)
Castellino del Biferno Mayor Enrico Fratangelo, in his office. April 26, 2020.AP (screengrab)

"Ducati" Banknotes are distributed to the residents in accordance with their economic needs.

They have already spent thousands of "Ducati" at their local shops.

Every two weeks, the shops return the "Ducati" to the town council and get the corresponding amount in euros.

The mayor believes this is also an opportunity to increase the town's sense of belonging, as the banknotes depict local symbols like the church, the public swimming pool or the statue of the Virgin Mary.

"Five "Ducati" are worth €5, 20 of them are worth €20. That's to avoid confusion, especially for the elderly," Fratangelo said.

AP (screengrab)
A 20 ducati banknote depicting the Virgin Mary. On the back, it says 'Sud ribelle' (rebel South). Campobasso, Italy, April 26, 2020.AP (screengrab)

The mayor received €5,500 from the government to issue food vouchers to vulnerable families during the pandemic.

The town council added its savings and distributed "Ducati" banknotes to over 200 families in town.

People can spend them on essential goods, such as meat at the butcher's store, where almost 4,000 "Ducati" were spent.

It's a beautiful initiative. It helps us residents of this small town, and it helps us help our businesses
Mario D'Angelo
Castellino del Biferno resident and town hall worker

The "Ducati" banknotes are printed locally.

Antonio Iannacone, the owner of copy shop Linea Molise Pubblicità, explained how they do it.

"We start off with watermarked paper, then we print the banknotes - according to the design agreed with the administration - on one sheet of paper".

"We then laminate the sheet, so that the bills can be disinfected. Once it's laminated, we cut the banknotes with their final dimensions."