Category Archives: Italy

Posts about Italy. Both in English and in Italian.

How my feelings towards the Azzurri and Socceroos shows where I am at.

Embed from Getty Images

Following the Italian national team is for me a relaxing experience. Of course I want them to win. But if they win or lose does not carry much of an emotional load.  As an Italian born I am happy the Azzurri are in the final of the Euros. But not having Optus I am not going to wake up and brave the cold to watch the game live somewhere. Will probably listen to the final stages on the the Italian radio on the web.  I am not nervous or anything like that.  And won’t be upset if Italy doesn’t win.  While this would be a totally different story with the Australian national team.  Why is that?

Italy, football and me. ‘It’s complicated’

My relationship with football, especially in the Italian context is as Facebook would say ‘complicated’. When I was a child in Italy I had conflicting emotions about it. It was everywhere (like it is now) it was a major source of conversation among children and adults alike. My father (like his father) was a life member of AC Milan. He would recount tales of when as a young men he would travel with the team in away games and help shovel snow on the pitch before the game.

I was hopeless at it. I was a fat child with no sporting prowess whatsoever. I do remember playing in the courtyard below when I was a young child of 6 or 7, but when it became more serious and kids actually wanted to win, rather than have fun I stopped going, stayed in my bedroom and listened to the children below acting out their competitive streak.

Still, football had an important part in my life. Especially in relating with my father. I still remember when he took me two or three times at San Siro which I still remember as one of the best things in my childhood. Or  listening to ‘Il Calcio minuto per minuto’ when Milan was beaten in the last match of the season by its hoodoo team Verona to lose the scudetto.  My father almost threw the transistor through the window.

Or watching that amazing Germany Italy match at the 1970 World Cup with a portable black and white TV in front of a caravan during a summer holiday.

Coming to Australia

Instead I feel much more anxious with a Socceroo match.  Why?  Probably because football had a significance to me and tied me to family and my childhood, I used it as a link.  When I go to a football match I somehow feel a connection to my late father and to those moments in San Siro or listening to the radio (I still love listening to football on the radio, whether from Italy of in Australia).  And that connection is created by a sport which is often belittled in this country.  And the National Team somehow signify that link.

I know that football in Italy whether it wins or loses in the EURO final will always be passionately followed by the population.  Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup and just a few years later in the the EURO final.  This is not the situation in Australia.  I came to Australia in 1974 and by the time I got interested in the Socceroos qualification in 1982 I didn’t realise that I had to go through five agonising qualification failures.  When Italy fails qualifying for a World Cup there is general astonishment and sadness.  In Australia football fans had to suffer taunting from other Australians ‘sport fans’.

So in bocca al lupo Italy.  But when September comes and the Socceroos are playing the first match is when the butterflies will start.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football, Italy

Italy and the EU – a ‘tragedia annunciata’

EuropeItaly

Photo: Luis Diaz Devesa

Overall it was a good European election for pro-Europe parties.  The populist bloc in the European Parliament can count on no more than a quarter of its 751 seats, a goal that the head of the Italian Lega, Mateo Salvini himself set for the grouping that is still in the process of being formed – and now counts less than 60 deputies.

Apart from France (and Hungary that is not a major European power), Italy was the only country to elect a majority of a populist party (the UK Brexit Party is a different case).  The Lega does not necessarily want to get out of the EU, no ‘Italexit’ at this stage, but certainly wants an Europe where national interests override a European one as a whole.

There is now a possibility that Italy will be excluded and isolated from the EU’s top jobs.  And consequently will lose even more influence.  How a foundation European Community euro enthusiastic nation was turned into an euroskeptic one and on the outer could be described in Italian as a ‘tragedia annunciata’ that is an announced tragedy.

As an Australian citizen (who does not have double citizenship) I observe European and Italian politics from a distance.  But I always believed that the European project was a good idea.  But looking at how Italy has been treated I can understand why Italians started to be wary of the EU.

The Euro

One reason is the Euro. There was no popular referendum or plebiscite. It was all planned in Bruxelles especially from the then French and German governments.  Italy sort of followed and many Italians suffered from its introduction and perceive it, right or wrongly, as a  Deutsche Mark in disguise.  While many will attribute the blame to Italy’s poor economic planning, this doesn’t mean that Italians who have lost wealth or jobs may not be angry at how the introduction of the euro has disadvantaged them by taking away measures that helped Italy’s economy when it had its own currency.

2011 military intervention in Libya

While the 2011 military intervention in Lybia was a NATO initiative, many Italians believe that it was initiated by France after consulting with the UK and the USA. Not with Italy who shares a maritime border with it.  This decision is perceived to be one that the French initiated because they saw gains in getting its oil when Italy six months before the raids signed had already contracts worth billions with Lybia. But after the French started bombing, Italy had to follow because of its NATO commitments but felt undermined.

This was the start of Italy turning against Europe.  It understood that a founding EU member could be hit in its interests by a fellow EU member and the rest of the EU standing by.

Subsequent migration crisis

But worse was to come.  The war in Lybia created a power vacuum and political instability that allowed an uncontrolled migration stream to Italy.  The distance between the Libyan coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa is only 300Km.

While Italy had to deal with waves of migrants from Italy, the other EU members did little to help. In fact, in certain cases, they closed their borders with Italy.  In 2017 Austria closed its borders with Italy (which is not in the EU Schengen Agreement) to stop migrants and refugees from entering.  While France in 2018 entered Italian territory to return migrants that entered Europe from Italy.

Embed from Getty Images

Basically Italians felt that re rest of EU washed its hands and left the problem solely to Italy to solve.  Adding to this there have been volunteers ships from other European countries travelling the Mediterranean between Italy and Africa searching for migrants, picking them up and taking them to the closest Italian port.

Merkel welcomed one million Syrian refugees, and she deserved all the credit she got. But many Italians were not enthused by the fact that while Merkel was getting accolades, she was also able to stop migrants coming from the Balkan region by paying Erdogan in Turkey 6 billion Euros to keep its Syrian and other Middle East refugees.  This was Germany money, but also European money.  Italians saw this as the EU favouring its strongest member while leaving countries such as Italy and Greece to fend for themselves.

Italexit? No it won’t happen

Many anti EU proponents would be delighted if Italy was to exit from the European Union. Even if Italy’s economy is in the doldrums it is still the fourth largest in the EU (and will go to third when the UK leaves).  The exit of a foundation member would be a very hard blow to the EU.  But it won’t happen,

Even if Italy is now on the outer,  getting out from the Union would be disastrous for a faltering economy.  Despite everything the damage which would be caused by an Italexit would be much greater than the issues faced by Italy by staying.

Even in his press conference after the European Elections Matteo Salvini talked about reforming the EU from a body looking after the banks to one looking after the people.  Whether that will be achieved is to be seen, but there was no mention of leaving.

So Italians will do what they have done for eons.  Will complain and go on with their lives the best they can.  But ironically the more Italians get angry with the EU and vote for populist parties, the more Italy will be distanced from the EU.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy

The past is a foreign country

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. 
L.P. Hartley


In front of my old house in Bergamo. The one that I used to live before I emigrated to Australia.

Thinking of Australia. Thinking of the ‘migration experience’. Some willingly going there and leaving behind a life they no longer want in their country of birth. Some forced to leave by economic reasons, by poverty, or the trauma of war.

Like SBS says, there are one million stories, and mine is quite uneventful. My father’s career was stalling, Italy was going through a terribly violent period of political terrorism, so when an ex-boss proposed to him the idea that he build a factory in Australia, he jumped at the chance.

It is impossible to say whether it was the right decision to move. I can’t run a control test of my life, whether to stay in Bergamo or to move, as in a ‘Sliding Doors‘ type scenario.

When I migrated my whole existence was to adjust to a totally new reality. It was sink or swim. What I left behind was irrelevant and perhaps a hinder in my realisation that I had to let it go to make a hash of where I was now.

But as I get older, my past returns to me often.  When someones decides to emigrate it is a decision they will be responsible for. They will have to wear the success or failure of it.

When the decision is made for you, like in my case, there is still a lingering thread of anger that your life changed radically without your consent. This feeling got stronger as I became older.  Perhaps as you have less life in front of you than behind, you start questioning things that were left on the backburner.  Since I left Italy I adjusted to a new country and new schools and a new language. Did my (what it was called then) HSC. Did undergraduate and a postgraduate university studies. Got a job, changed, started new studies, got retrenched and got a new job. Also partnered, and had a child.

In the meantime the life that I left in Italy went its own parallel way. Friends that I had, that I initially corresponded with, are now lost. Things changed, and time moved on.

Slowly my past in Italy receded from my conscousness But as I got older the issue of my migration became more prominent.  The fact that I left when I was 13 is probably an issue. That is the watershed between childhood and adolescence and my migration to Australia happened smack in the middle of it.

The question remains that something that I thought I resolved decades ago has come back with vengeance.  Bergamo, my childhood, came back in my thoughts more and more.  That is this was partly a trip as a pilgrimage. As I’ve done somewhat before. In previous trips to Italy I’ve come to the neighbourhood of my childhood to see how it has changed.  But now I realise that this place draws me in because my 13 year old never want it to leave it.  It is in my memory and often appears in my thoughts.  Being there with my son was a strange feeling. My Australian life (which is now of 40 years standing) and my my old Italian one (which became also one based on memory over the years) were juxtaposed for that time, like some weird ‘Twilight Zone‘ moment.

The weirdness was increased by the fact that the building was basically unchanged since I left it in 1974. Of course there have been minor changes, but even small things like the hedge around the garden in the front, the grate on the front doors, the car garages, the lobby looked exactly the same as I have left them.

The sense of weirdness was fortunately diminished by a fortuitus meeting. As I was in the yard and explaining to my son about how I played there etc. a man who was fixing the back door heard us and in broken English asked us if we needed help.  In Italian I explained why we were there and he exclaimed that he remembered my parents.  He was now retired, and helping around the place.  He had been living in the block of apartments even before we arrived in the 1960’s. We reminisced about people that lived there when I was a child. He told me that probably I played with his kids that now are about my age and they payed for a holiday for him and his wife to Australia two years ago. 

I am glad that I came back to my old house. I still did have a sense of loss as we drove away. I had a strong feeling that I’d like to come back as much as I liked, but can’t living so far away.  I still haven’t resolved it.  That 13 year old in my still feels the loss of his home and childhood.  Despite rationally my brain tells me that realistically, while Bergamo,and Italy may still be part of my life, the past is a foreign country. And it will remain so forever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Musings

Alto Adige – Südtirol, the triumph of multilinguism

One things I always wanted to do is to go and visit the Alto Adige and Südtirol region of Italy. Various reasons for this. It had the Dolomites, which of course are unique. But also because I was always fascinated of this piece of Tyrol, which ostensibly is ‘Italian’ but it’s spirit is German.

The fact that there are ethnic/linguistic minorities in European countries is not exceptional. I think – as a generalisation – that many people from English Speaking countries maybe don’t see the substantial differences in some European Nations. These states really developed when the the concept of an unified Nation State developed in the 1800.  Germany and Italy, did not exist as nations before the mid 1800’s with Italy being created in 1870 and Germany in 1871.  Interestigly these two nations took the idea of national identity to violent extremes 60 years later with fascism and nazism, but I’ll leave that to historians.

The United Kingdom was created after plenty of wars and conquests etc. but with the exception of Ireland (and some Scottish separatism) it was fairly sorted out by the start of the 20th century.  Italy is still now a country with fairly weak sense of national identity.  The mediaeval imprint of family, then close friends, neighbourhood, region etc. seems still be imprinted in the Italian DNA. When I see medieval towers in Italian cities which were owned by different feuding families I wonder how much of that is still imbued in the Italian character. Even Mussolini said that governing Italians is not difficult, it’s futile.

But back to the Süd Tyrol.  The way Italy got this region is somewhat disputed, was it annexed? Or was it part of it’s retribution for fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which was aligned with Germany) in the First World War?  The history of this region is quite troubled, and even now, the relationship between the majority of German speakers, and the minority of Italian speakers is can be problematic. And of course there is a section of the German speaking population that doesn’t want to be part of Italy, or Italian citizens. 

 So we went to the town of Ortisei/St Ulrich/Urtijëi.  You would have seen that the first name of in Italian, the second is German and the third is in Ladin, one of those languages that have survived since Roman time in Alpine valleys.  I was wondering whether me speaking Italian could fe resented. As far as I saw there were no problems. Perhaps because I was speaking English as well, and I wasn’t identified as an ‘Italian’ as such, or I was a tourist, but I never felt that my use of Italian was an issue, in fact it was welcomed by those who couldn’t speak English well. What impressed me was the fact that the population can switch between three languages with ease showing a triumph of multilinguism

It was strange to be in a place that was in Italy, but it didn’t feel as such. Most of the people either spoke in Ladin or German, and the architecture was definitely Tyrolian.  I was thinking how it would be perfect for me if such a place exited, but instead of German the other language was English.  I could use both languages everywhere and so would everyone else. I would feel perfectly at home.  

Of course the main reason of going to this part of Italy was to see the Dolomites, and they didn’t disappoint.


They were stunning, and as someone who studied Geology/Geomorphology at uni, it is even more astounding that these mountains were formed as coral 250 millions of years ago in a tropical sea about 30 degrees of latitude.  So basically the Dolomites are a Great Barrier Reef who was over geological time uplifted and with tectonic forces located where it is now.  In early days, before the concept of evolution and geologic tome was known, seeing fossils of marine fauna in this rock so high and so far from the sea confused the beegesus out of people.  

As Carl Sagan said: 

The surface of the earth is far more beautiful and far more intricate than any lifeless world. Our planet is graced by life and one quality that sets life apart is it’s complexity.

1 Comment

Filed under Italy, Musings

Accused Italian scientists. The whole picture.

As an Italian speaker I have been reading reports from Italy on the case of  the Italian court’s judgement that six scientists and a government official are guilty of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake accurately.

When I heard this news I was outraged.  Knowing the basics of seismology I know that predicting an earthquake is impossible.  I tweeted my disapproval and dismay.  Of course being fluent in Italian I read a few reports and articles on this sentence, and I realised that what has been reported in the English speaking press is not the whole story.

The issue is not that they didn’t predict an earthquake.  They were part of an organisation that was responsible to advise citizens on likely risks of natural disasters.   Just before the devastating earthquake (there have been plenty of little earthquakes before then) they assured the population that they had nothing to worry about and literally said ‘you can safely sleep in your beds’.  In a highly seismic part of Italy, where there have been shocks for months that statement was very unwise.  It was like saying to people in a high bushfire area on a extreme hot high fire risk day to keep on doing what they wanted and don’t worry about the risks.  If they said that there was always a degree of risk (which is the truth) and be prepared they would not have been accused. Their inaccuracy wasn’t that they didn’t predict the earthquake on that day in that hour.  Was that as persons charged in giving as a clear picture of the situation they failed in their duties.

Saying that a prison sentence is ridiculous.  Perhaps being sacked from their positions would be more appropriate.

1 Comment

Filed under Italy, Politics and Current Affairs

Italians, let’s give the French and the Germans the arse (translated from Gianni Greco’s blog)

Uploaded with ImageShack.us

I have been reading a lot about Italy and the European financial crisis, mainly from financial journals and mainstream papers, both in English and in Italian.  But what Italians that are not strictly ‘journalists’ think of this issue?  I came across this blog called “L’ombra del dubbio” where the author, Gianni Greco, writes about it taking no prisoners.  I have translated the post to the best of my abilities.  Even if I don’t agree with it (I suspect it is also what we Australians call a ‘stir’) I wonder whether these sentiments come close to what many Italians think.

Recently they have kicked us in the balls with this fucking Europe telling us what we have to do and not to do which pisses us off and humiliate us with sarcastic smiles and they dragging us along like a ball of shit at their feet.

‘Italy like Greece’ they say disparingligly. But we are proud of it! Us Italians, and Greeks have given you civilization, you ugly smelly barbarians! We have given you art that you pilllaged and more enough culture to bury you all. What do you have? Let’s see the Gioconda? Oh really?

Yes, OK, we italians can be dickheads. Distracted, disorganised a bit uncouth and shitty, but this comes from our creativity that is within us since Caligola made his horse Senator, or earlier, when Romulus and Remus a she-wolf found them and suckled them or even earlier when the Etruscan entertained themselves by reading livers. But what we can compare this? Some idiots with horns on a hat?

Now you think you are the Gods of the old continent only because you fuck Carla Bruni and you have the ‘Bunds”? If we come back to our Lira, the good old inflationated Lira with which we could buy so many things. If we start to print it again by ourselves we can regain our pride trumpled by your banks, and we can start again do things by ourselves instead of being dictated by you,  and finally we can all give you the arse.

They tell us that if we got out of the Euro wold be a tragedy, but what more of a tragedy would be that what we are in at the moment? Should we have a go? C’mon let’s be a bit reckless! Yes, but who will tell Mario Monti Well…I always wrote to Monti, and he always responded….by saying nothing.

So Italians! we are pissed off! Tell the French and Germans they can stick their measures!

Ah…Ten thousand lire…. beautiful.

The original post in Italian can be found here: http://lombradeldubbio.blogspot.com/2011/11/ma-tornare-alla-lira-e-andare-in-culo.html

2 Comments

Filed under Italy, Politics and Current Affairs

The Italy Eurozone crisis part 2 – We may not agree with it – but Italy’s new government is legitimate.

The Italian political system, mixed with the Byzantine machinations that characterise it baffles people living in less complicated democracies.  For instance, reading English speaking papers it seemed that Italy under Berlusconi was in a virtual dictatorship. Yes he had conflicts of interest big as three continents being the owner of the major TV network and also being the leader of the  government who runs the other most watched network.  But the state owned TV and Radio did criticise the government, many times and mercilessly.

Now it’s happening again.  Some English speaking commentators (mainly left leaning it seems) have now portrayed the new ‘technocrat’ government as some sort of coup d’etat where unelected officials are now running the country.

However this is not the case.  What happened in Italy is exactly what the constitution states it should happen.

Prime Minister Berlusconi lost the confidence of the lower house and therefore didn’t have the numbers to govern and therefore resigned.  Then the constitution places the responsibility of creating a new government to the President.  Article 92 of the Italian constitution specifically states that it is up to the President to appoint a Prime Minister.

In previous occasions there would be long and protracted negotiations amongst all parties to finally arrive at a majority.  But as the markets were tearing Italy apart and there was a risk that Italy would default, President, Giorgio Napolitano acted quickly.  Again under the Italian constitution the President has the right to appoint five Senators .  This is usually because of their contribution to Italian society (a bit like the House of Lords in England) but as the interest rates to repay the recurrent debt was rising astronomically every minute,  Napolitano made Senator  (and consequently made him eligible to become Prime Minister) someone who he thought could stabilise the situation which was Mario Monti.

The other reason why this move is not undemocratic is that according to section 94 of the Constitution “a government must have the confidence of both houses of parliament”.  Therefore ultimately it is up to the representatives both in the House of Deputies and the Senate that decide whether this technocrat government will be supported.  In fact the Northern League has already stated that they will not support this new government.

So, we may not like the fact that this government is made up of bankers and financiers, that , like the rest of the EU, Italy was forced to this because it has to dance to the tune of the markets and its capitalist rules.  But it is not a dictatorship or undemocratic.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Politics and Current Affairs

Col sistema australiano Pisapia sarebbe già sindaco.

In alcuni casi ho cercato di spiegare il sistema preferenziale per eleggere rappresentanti in Australia a persone italiane, ma spesso non sono riuscito a spiagare bene come funziona.  Per curiositá ho deciso di guardare i risultati ufficiali delle elezioni per sindaco di Milano.  Gli elettori milanesi sono andati alle urne il 15 e 16 di maggio, ma dato che nessun candidato è riuscito a raggiungere una maggiorità assoluta devono ritornare ancora per un ballottaggio tra i due candidati che hanno preso piú voti il 29 e 30 maggio.  Come australiano, la cosa che vedo subito è che con un sistema preferenziale tipo usato in Australia la cosa si potrebbe risolvere in colpo solo.

Allora come funziona il sistema australiano?  Nella scheda ci sono tutti i candidati.  Gli elettori devono semplicemente indicare la loro preferenza da uno in poi.

Facciamo uin esempio con le elezioni milanesi.  La scheda sarebbe cosíL’ordine dei candidati viene deciso da un sorteggio prima di stampare le schede.  L’elettore esprime in ordine di preferenza i candidati, con uno il più favorito poi due, tre e cosí via.  Un candidato di centro sinistra probabilmente avrebbe votato cosí (ovviamente non essendo in Italia, o a Milano potrei essermi sbagliato delle preferenze di un votante di centro sinistra, mi scuso se ho fatto delle preferenze sbagliate).

Vedendo i risultati delle elezioni a Milano potrei dire che il 48,04% di elettori avrebbero messo il numero uno accanto il nome di Pisapia.

Ma vediamo cosa avrebbe potuto fare un’elettore che ha messo come preferenza il movimento di Beppe Grillo (che immagino sia piú a sinistra)

Calise ha preso 3,22% del voto, perció si potrebbe dedurre che questa percentuale di coloro che hanno preferito questo candidato avrebbe messo uno nella sua casella.  Ma con il sistema preferenziale all’australiana, questo voto non viene messo a parte.  Dato che Calise non ha preso più del 50% dei voti (e perció non ha avuto la maggioranza assoluta), questo voto viene assegnato al candidato che ha ottenuto la seconda preferenza (cioè il ‘2’) che sarebbe Pisapia.  Mettiamo il caso che tutti coloro che hanno messo Calise come prima preferenza, hanno poi dato Pisapia la loro seconda preferenza succederebbe che il 3,22% di questi voti vadano al candidato del centro sinistra.

Perció 48,04 + 3.22 = 51.26%.  Pisapia ha la maggioranza e viene eletto sindaco.

Nelle elezioni australiane tutte le pereferenze vengono distribuite.  Perció (anche qui facciamo delle premesse, ma è per fare un esempio) la Moratti probabilmente prenderebbe preferenze da coloro che hanno votato Pagliarini (0,64%) o Mantovani (0,35 ). Non so bene dove i voti di Palmeri (5,54%) sarebbero andati (dato che sono di centro)  ma mettiamo il caso peggiore che siano andati tutti alla Moratti, non sarebbero stati sufficienti per farla eleggere sindaco (41,58 + 5,54 + 0,64 + 0,35) = 48.11%.

La Commissione Elettorale Australiana ha fatto un filmetto su come funziona questo sistema visualmente.


Ovviamente non tutti gli elettori seguono un ordine di preferenza politicamente costante.  É possibile che un’elettore che mette come prima preferenza il  Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori poi mette la Lega come seconda preferenza.  Ma con questo sistema nessun voto viene sprecato.  Elimina ballottaggi dato che gli elettori devono esprimere una preferenza una volta sola, non al secondo turno, e nella maggior parte dei casi elegge un candidato con i maggior consensi degli elettori.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Politics and Current Affairs

Eat, Pray, Love and please go somewhere else.

Never knew that eating ice creams next to nuns was 'exotic'.

 

If you have been to the movies lately you may have seen the trailer for a new movie called Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts.  This movie is taken from a book of the same name written by American author Elisabeth Gilbert.

Now if I was a professional reviewer I would read the book and see the movie.  Fortunately because I am not and this blog is a hobby, I don’t have to, and I can slag these as much as I like to, because really I sort of know where this types of books are lead to.

There is nothing wrong with escapist literature.  There are lots of people who live lives which may be boring and repetitive, filled with anxiety or be emotionally unfulfilled.  A book that deals of a woman who escaped these constraints can be a relief on the bus on the way to work where the drudgery is soon to begin.

What I immediately irk though is when Italy comes to play.  Italy has been some sort of romantic escapist archetype since the Grand Tours made by the British male gentry since 1660.  Where wealthy men would travel south to experience continental culture and shag freely before going back to England and be respectable.  Then we had the Hollywood fantasies of the 1950’s with movies such Roman Holiday, or September Affair.  Lately we had a spate of book about wealthy Americans escaping to Tuscany, which of course Frances Mayes has been the pioneer, traveling back to San Francisco so she could find that door handle she just couldn’t find in Italy.

We also had Australians getting on the act.  One example is George Negus with his book  ‘The World From Italy Football, Food and Politics‘ which I did read and it’s OK, a bit tongue in cheek, and just hot off the press is Kate Holden’s ‘The Romantic: Italian Nights‘ where the author goes to Rome in search of four things: Rome, the Romantic poets, romance and herself.  Again we have Italy as the destination to ‘find yourself’.  What is about Italy and this archetype of romanticism and opportunity for self discovery for English speakers?  Don’t get me wrong. Italy can be a magical place, but I do believe that some of these writers assume that what they lacking in their lives (affection, romance, adventure) is found in Italy.  Italy while unique, I don’t think possesses these magical powers.

I am thinking myself when I retire to go back to Italy and write a book about it.  But my plan was to go to write about places like Dalmine in Lombardy where is flat, bleak, industrial and winters are cold and the fog enters into your bones, and people leave in the dark in minus Celsius temperatures  to go to work in steel factories in the morning. But somehow I don’t think that there will be much of a market for it.

Enrica Brocardo (who is currently living in New York working for Vanity Fair) writes in her blog (in Italian) about the book and the movie:

Immediately after she arrives in Rome, Elizabeth rents a house from a short plump woman, with an apron and mustache.  Then she eats ice cream besides two nuns, then meets a group of macho guys, then she dives into pasta matriciana and pizza and learn to say “sweet doing nothing” (which apparently is the preferred activity of Italians) then she meets the mother of a friend that reiterate the stereotype of the Italian mother with the added touch of the stereotype of a Jewish one.  Then finally she goes to India and Bali to piss off the cinema goers from those places.

Some weeks ago I did interview Elizabeth Gilbert, and I found her brilliant and intelligent.  During the interview I did mention the problem of reading a book set in your own country written by an outsider.  In ‘Committed‘ (the book she wrote after Eat, Pray, Love) for instance, Gilbert writes that in Rome boys declare their love by singing under girls’ windows trite songs like “Roma, nun fa’ la stupida stasera”.  “Nice image’, I told her, “but not true I am afraid”.  But she insisted, so I let it go.  There was the risk of going on to the next stereotype “Italian men are not what they were”.

So Italy will remain the romantic stereotype in many minds (I suspect frustrated American Mid-west women, mainly)  pity that it doesn’t reflect the truth, the same way that (as many mid west American I suspect may believe) Australia is not full of Crocodile Dundee wildlife wrestlers.  As I said somewhere else stereotypes may help us believe there is order in the world and that perhaps there is a better place somewhere else where we could escape.  Just don’t try to go there for real.

2 Comments

Filed under Italy, Musings

Searching for a Berlusconi alternative

Berlusconi is bad for the image of Italians overseas. The worse bit is that he re-enforce the stereotypes of Italians. Gregarious, zest for life, but bad organisers and at governing. We all heard the ‘Heaven and Hell’ jokes. Even now some mention Cicciolina as an example of how Italians are a bit of a joke when it comes to politics. Even though Ilona Staller hasn’t been in parliament for 18 years.

Berlusconi’s gaffes and dubious relationships with some women have been gleefully used by the overseas media, the English speaking one especially, to re enforce the Italian stereotype.

But there are good reasons about the disquiet regarding the Italian Prime Minister. The fact that he owns the most watched private TV networks in Italy and as PM he also leads a government that owns the public ones is a huge conflict of interest.

So why do Italians have voted him in? As I haven’t lived in Italy for some time I cannot be authoritative about this, but from listening and reading Italian media it seems to me that whatever Berlusconi does wrong, he has been able to offer stable governments. And as people know (and yet another proof of the unreliability of Italian politics) after the war governments were created and fell because they were unstable coalitions of many parties.

The Prime Minister before Berlusconi, Romano Prodi, headed a centre left government. And Prodi was what Berlusconi isn’t. Graduated in Law, but with an interest in economics he is also fluent in English having completed postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics, and has also been a visiting professor at Harvard University and a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute.

But his government was like the bad old days. A grouping of left parties that couldn’t really agree with each other and doomed to fail, which it did.

My hunch is that if Italians were offered a viable alternative, and alternative which can [u]govern[/u] they would be quite happy to vote for it. But at this stage is there such an alternative?

One great blog that I read to keep me current with Italian politics is Chris Harnetty and being an English language blog about Italian politics and its media I highly recommended to anyone interested in this area. In its latest post, Chris writes about the forthcoming election of a leader for the main opposition party, the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico)

The contest for the leadership of the PD between Pier Luigi Bersani, Dario Franceschini (the current leader), and Ignazio Marino.

If I had to choose from afar Australia I would go for Marino.

Marino may not have the political experience of Bersani and Franceschini but has had had an illustrious career as a top surgeon.

He trained at the Transplant Center of the University of Cambridge and the University of Pittsburgh’s Starzl Transplantation Institute. Then he was appointed Associate Director of the National Liver Transplant Center of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Pittsburgh. In 2002 he became Professor of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has personally performed over 650 transplants. He has authored 635 scientific publications and 3 scientific books. He was a member of the surgical team which on 28 June 1992 and 10 January 1993 performed the only two baboon-to-human liver xenotransplants in medical history.

The other thing that I liked when reading about him is that he had advocated for issues such as the right to die, and apparently he is a strong advocate of a lay country, gaining vocal support from left-wing parties and the Italian Radicals. The Radicals are a bit flippy, however they are the probably the party I would vote for in Italy as it is one of the few parties only party that doesn’t feel it has to appease the pernicious influence of the Vatican. Italy really has gone beyond that. This was an issue with Prodi and I would venture with Franceschini that are from a Catholic background.

The problem is that while Marino may be able to perform heart bypasses in the operating theatre, he had a charisma bypass himself from what I have been able to see on the various youtube videos I have seen, as for example this one where he outline his program. Great ideas, but I don’t know whether they would be enough to carry him over the line, as Chris already stated in his blog he is quite behind.

Whoever wins we need a strong alternative to Berlusconi. Not only because every democracy need a strong opposition, but also because Italy needs to get rid of the type of Prime Minister Berlusconi has become.

If anything it would be great for us Italians overseas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Politics and Current Affairs