FERRARA, Italy -- The name of Luciano Peverati's marriage agency here sounds at once homey and futuristic: the Domestic Hearth 2000. But it's no more odd than the agency's latest service: Russian women for Italian men.
Matchmaker Peverati, an energetic, well-traveled 47-year-old, said he began importing brides because the home-grown variety is not mobile.
"Italian women don't want to leave the region they were born in," he said. "And so it's not easy to match one with a countryman unless they live in the same town or at least the same area."
He found he had more success marketing brides from Latin America. This year he discovered the Russians.
The first batch of 17 candidates recently arrived in Venice on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. "More will soon follow," Mr. Peverati said. Perestroika made it possible.
"It was all purely chance," Mr. Peverati said. "A friend of mine who has taught Italian in Moscow for many years got to talking with a female Soviet journalist about marriage-brokering in general, and the problems with Italian women in particular.
"That gave birth to the idea of setting up a branch office of my agency in Moscow. The journalist wrote an article about it, and a number of people responded.
"We chose a certain Alexander Trafimov, who founded a marriage agency called Sympathy. He ran a few ads and was flooded with letters from women who wanted to start a family with an Italian."
Mr. Peverati has already been able to file away the vital statistics of about 4,000 Russian would-be brides.
Judging from their pictures, many are chic and know how to use makeup. More than a few posed invitingly in miniskirts.
Mr. Peverati's partners in Moscow have assured him that "Russian women have just what most Italian bachelors and widowers are looking for. They're natural, sweet, home-loving and hard-working."
Mr. Peverati figures his new line will be lucrative. His customers thumb through the files, pick a favorite and at least four backups, and make their final decision after an exchange of letters.
Then they pay 1 million lira (about $918), which roughly covers travel costs. When a couple is brought together at the airport in Venice, the customer has to pay 3 million lira ($2,754) more.
Before the candidate can whisk away his intended, he has to promise in writing to provide for her for at least three months, the length of the normal tourist visa.
If the romance fails, the woman is given a plane ticket back to Moscow. The Italian customer can try again if he wants and need only pay the travel costs the second time.
"I don't think there will be many mismatches," Mr. Peverati said. The Domestic Hearth 2000 has even thought of men lacking not only female companionship, but funds as well.
For them, there is an installment plan.