Country on the Brink: A Search for the Source of Italy’s Malaise
will be the item genuinely possible which the residents of a country envied worldwide for its “italianità,” for its vigor, elegance in addition to also culture, are actually, deep inside, unhappy? Almost every second Italian makes precisely which claim, the highest such value in Europe. Between the Brenner Pass inside far north in addition to also the island of Lampedusa inside south, a share of the populace more than twice the EU average feels lonesome in addition to also neglected. Two-thirds are afraid of losing their job. Life expectancy keeps rising inside country, yet the birth rate continues to break records as the item plummets.
Nowhere, not even in Britain, will be EU membership as unpopular as the item will be in Italy. The number of young academics bolting the country has doubled within just 1 decade, in addition to also among those people who remain, a form of “dissatisfaction” will be on the rise, one which “goes beyond mere anger,” the pollsters at Censis have found. Foreigners in addition to also minorities are increasingly seen as scapegoats, according to the institute.
yet why? Six years in addition to also three failed governments after my arrival in Italy as a foreign correspondent, I set off on a trip looking for answers.
A Great place to start the search for the source of the malaise will be where unemployment will be among the highest in Italy in addition to also where the country lags furthest behind its potential: in Sicily. The island will be home to Michelangelo Balistreri, a one-of-a-kind bundle of energy. In addition to running a sardine factory, he writes poems inside local dialect, will be a singer in addition to also also finds time for anti-mafia activism.
During a tour of his factory in addition to also of the attached museum, he explains why his island continues to stagnate, despite the item being one of the country’s most attractive in addition to also fertile regions. Silence leads to paralysis, Balistreri says, in addition to also fear bears no fruit.
He himself has made a smaller fortune with canned fish, in addition to also has made headlines with his fight against organized crime. When he was presented using a demand for 100,000 euros in protection money – through a former bodyguard of the murdered anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone – Balisteri refused. Not only which, he reported his could-be extortionist to the authorities, who hauled him into court. the item was a dangerous move, yet the decision, Balisteri says, was liberating. “If you pay protection money, you become a mafioso yourself.”
Bagheria, located inside “triangle of death” in western Sicily, will be considered a Cosa Nostra stronghold, particularly since the 1980s, when the crime syndicate used an abandoned nail factory to torture in addition to also murder its opponents, before dissolving their bodies in acid.
The days are over in which the main question in viewers’ minds ahead of the evening news was: “I wonder who they killed today.” Less blood will be currently being spilled. yet the mafia’s claim to power will be just as strong as the item has ever been. The mayor of Bagheria enjoys the backing of the former president of Sicily, a man who spent a few years behind bars for supporting the mafia.
Located on the coast east of Palermo, Bagheria was founded as a wealthy suburb, full of villas, a past which will be still apparent through the manors of former nobility through the 17th in addition to also 18th centuries. Today, with an unemployment rate of 38 percent, the item will be the poorhouse of Italy.
Bagheria will be a prime example for why the highly indebted country of Italy, which boasts the third highest economic output inside eurozone, seems stuck in place in addition to also why so many people inside country view the future using a significant degree of trepidation. The city of Bagheria, after all, essentially has all the item needs for success, including a magical coastline in addition to also restaurants which serve up tuna tartare, oysters in addition to also sea urchins.
Nevertheless, the place wears the “maglia nera,” the black jersey, awarded for last place inside national employment statistics. in addition to also part of the reason for which ignominy will be the fact which the mafia continues to maintain a chokehold on the people of Bagheria.
The beaches between Bagheria in addition to also the outlying district where Balisteri’s sardine factory will be located are mostly filthy. in addition to also the region’s stagnancy seems to be part of the plan: When the Oscar winner Giuseppe Tornatore, a native of Bagheria, wanted to make a film in Sicily, everyone was pleased. yet there was just one minor request: the technicians in addition to also extras were to come through the Cosa Nostra. Tornatore opted to film in Morocco instead.
Factory-owner Balistreri continues to be under police protection, yet he seems to not have a care inside earth. “You can also defeat the mafia by singing,” he says, grabbing his guitar in addition to also launching into one of his favorite songs. the item will be a song about Colapesce, a fisherman’s son who, inside Strait of Messina, prevented a column through collapsing which, according to legend, holds up the entire island.
The metaphor remains applicable today, says Balistreri: Colapesce, he says, stands for those who risk their lives to battle the mafia in addition to also seek to protect Sicily through collapse. “inside sea, sharks feast on sardines – unless they swim close together with the others.” Sicilians, he says, should follow the sardines’ example in addition to also stick closer together inside fight against the clans.
With 46 percent of Italians claiming to be unhappy despite having greater private wealth, a longer life expectancy in addition to also better weather than people in most some other European countries, the item will be tempting to believe which the grumbling will be the product of a fear of losing something. Because no matter what they do, whether its eating deep-fried rice balls in Palermo, presenting the latest in beach fashion at the “prova costume” in Ostia or showing up in evening wear for the season premiere at the Scala in Milan, only very few Italians seem particularly grouchy in their daily lives.
yet their deep disgust with everything having to do with the state, widely seen as voraciously greedy in addition to also uncaring, has grown since the onset of the 2011 economic crisis. Migration across the Mediterranean as well as the European Commission’s alleged paternalism have reinforced a comprehensive feeling of an external threat. The average Italian, Sicilian Andrea Camilleri has written, isn’t particularly concerned with the outside world. “the item will be enough for him to know the location of his home, his church, his pub in addition to also his city hall. His curiosity does not extend beyond which.”
The widespread lack of interest inside country’s real problems plays right into the hands of the populists. Italy’s lethargic productivity, the corruption in addition to also the unwillingness of the ruling class to step aside in a timely manner to make way for the younger generation? Neither the right-wing Lega under Matteo Salvini nor the a few Star Movement spends much time on such issues. Together, the two parties won an absolute majority inside last election using a message which can be reduced to the following: The poor Italians are doing worse in addition to also worse through no fault of their own. Such propaganda provides fertile soil for resentment.
According to official EU statistics, Rome will be less livable than either Bucharest or Sofia if you ask the city’s own residents. The Facebook page belonging to the group “romafaschifo” – Rome sucks – will be full of posts about the aesthetic downfall of This particular “savaged” city, as the journalist Corrado Augias could develop the item.
Christian Raimo, 44, refers to himself as a “ragazzo delle borgate,” a guy through the suburbs. A radical leftist who grew up on Gramsci, Freud in addition to also Marx, he currently earns his money as a writer, as a translator in addition to also as a teacher at Dante Alighieri High School. “My salary there will be 1,430 euros per month, less than my mother’s pension,” Raimo says. “On top of which comes the recent addition of 700 euros for my job as cultural councilor on the city council,” he says.
in addition to also indeed, the dreamer, utopist in addition to also pamphleteer (“Roma – città di merda,” or “Rome: City of Shit”) decided in June 2018 to get involved in politics. He will be currently in charge of culture inside Roma III district inside city’s northeast. He doesn’t spend much time at his desk in city hall, though, preferring instead to be out in addition to also about – in places where the item’s painful to go, places which Social Democrats have long since ceased visiting.
“All leftist achievements through 1970s Italy, both social in addition to also cultural, have been gambled away. Where are all the unforgettable exhibitions in addition to also concerts?” Raimo asks, before answering the question himself: “They don’t exist anymore.” Rome, he says, has become a “city of ultimate consumption, while the political class lies “in ruins.” the item will be something which, as a Roman, he will be unwilling to accept.
As a result, in moments when he isn’t traveling throughout the country giving speeches on the dangers of “eternal fascism” in addition to also “barroom windbags,” as he refers to Salvini, Raimo will be doing what he can to strengthen grassroots resistance to such dangers by arranging for regular infusions of culture. “Grande come una città” – Great Like a City – will be the name of his event series, in addition to also the item’s not just the variety which will be great, which includes readings, concerts in addition to also films, yet also the size of the audiences the events attract. Raimo says his goal will be “open-air education.” Given what he calls the “mass-infantilism” which has infected Italy, given which reading for pleasure has become a rarity inside country of Dante, there are, he insists, only two possible standpoints: “Io me ne frego” – I don’t care – or “Mi impiccio” – the item’s a concern of mine.
Raimo, for his part, has made his choice.
The rail journey through Rome to Venice occasionally hits speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. the item will be a ride in a high-tech train which cuts directly through a landscape of astonishing beauty, past cities such as Florence, Bologna in addition to also Padua. Evidence of hundreds of years of culture fly past the window.
Italy’s north-south orientation stretching across more than 10 degrees of latitude led former cabinet member Ugo La Malfa to say which on a map, his country looks like a person who will be standing with her feet in Africa yet will be grabbing onto the Alps with her hands, almost as if she will be trying to pull herself into the center of Europe.
The rifts cutting through the country are rooted in history. “the item’s as if Italy will be made up of two countries which in 150 years haven’t been able to achieve an acceptable level of mutual rapprochement,” writes the weekly newspaper Panorama. Gross domestic product inside north will be almost double what the item will be inside south in addition to also the unemployment rate will be two-thirds lower.
Having arrived at the Santa Lucia train station in Venice, passengers flood into the narrow streets in addition to also onto the passenger boats. Starting in July, visitors will be forced to pay an entry fee into the city of between 3 in addition to also 10 euros per day. yet for Manfredo Dina, his colleagues in addition to also patients, nothing will change.
Dina will be a psychiatrist, in addition to also those traveling to Venice for psychiatric treatment will not be required to pay the entrance fee. the item will be one of the 27 exceptions to the brand new rule which will be designed to slow the deluge of visitors to the city. In truth, though, the item will probably just increase the city’s revenues.
“Venetians are Levantines at heart, businesspeople,” says Dina. “which means which nobody here wants to slow tourism. Our mayor will be the perfect embodiment of which mentality.” The city’s top civil servant will be a chiseled character with the charm of a bulldozer. He made his fortune using a temp-work agency. When asked what the entry fee will be supposed to accomplish, he speaks in vague yet grandiloquent terms of his vision of “transforming Venice within three years into a salon for the earth.”
For currently, though, the city’s reality will be a far cry through which airy future, with up to 30 million tourists overrunning Venice each year. The mayor himself sees very little of the item: He lives in Mogliano Veneto on the mainland. in addition to also he’s not the only one: Just 53,000 people currently live inside historic city center. As recently as 2013, which number was 10 percent higher. inside 16th century, three times as many people lived inside center.
Life inside heart of Venice will be expensive, with tourists driving up the prices, while the city itself will be being abandoned. Cruise ships continue to pour day-trippers into the narrow streets, with the vast, floating hotels still allowed to cross the San Marco Basin. The fact which such things haven’t been banned will be “emblematic for our country’s inability to make decisions,” says Paolo Costa. yet who, if not he – the former head of the Port Authority, former Venetian mayor in addition to also former member of cabinet with excellent connections in Rome – could have brought about such a change?
There are many native Venetians, dignitaries like Costa, who bear a share of the guilt for the downfall of what was once Europe’s grandest city. Who didn’t read about the four young Japanese travelers who, in late 2017, were charged 1,143 euros for lunch inside Osteria Da Luca, a world-famous incident which the daily paper Corriere della Sera even called “a metaphor for conditions in Italy”?
Few people know, however, which the restaurant will be operated by an Egyptian man who leases the item through a Chinese man. He, in turn, pays a a few-digit sum every month to the real owner. Or, rather, paid: Professor Franco Rendich, a renowned expert in Sanskrit, died in late August at the age of 88. He was praised for “his love of Venice” in addition to also buried inside city.
Osteria Da Luca will be still in operation, as will be the pub, Harry’s Bar, where Rendich enjoyed the pleasures of retirement. On a recent morning, an elderly Venetian gentleman was there as well: Arrigo Cipriani, born in 1932 in addition to also one of the city’s most famous restaurateurs. over time, Harry’s Bar has played host to quite a few luminaries, including Ernest Hemingway, Arturo Toscanini, Charlie Chaplin in addition to also Peggy Guggenheim.
Cipriani welcomes his guests in a double-breasted suit in addition to also surrounded by tuxedo-clad waiters, exuding a surprising amount of energy for someone who has already decided what will be going to be on his gravestone. He could like the item to read “sto da dio,” which means “I’m feeling divine” or “I’m with the Lord,” depending on your reading.
When asked what will be wrong with Italy in addition to also what will become of Venice, Capriani says: “We used to be a city of 150,000 residents – no, citizens – yet today the item’s just a third of which. This particular will be a city facing cardiac arrest, petrified, with no identity.” Maybe the item could do the Venetians some Great to “start over again at zero.”
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 8/2020 (February 15, 2020) of DER NewsGerman.
the item will be a scathing diagnosis, arrived at in one of the most beautiful cities inside earth by one of its greatest sons. yet who, if not the city fathers in addition to also some other dignitaries, are to blame for the Venetian decline? Who, if not they, are to blame for the impression which here, too, among the facades of sublime beauty, the citizens are bemoaning their fates with such fervor? will be the item possible which even here in Harry’s Bar they are sometimes choosing the easy way out? will be the item possible which there will be some truth to customer complaints on the internet which they were served pre-mixed Bellinis in dowdy glasses for the cost of 22 euros a pop?
Perish the thought! The whiners are likely Freemasons, Capriani says. “Harry’s Bar will be the best restaurant in Italy,” he hisses. Plus, who says which the majority will be always right? “Just because there were 40 million fascists in Germany,” Cipriani says in parting, “doesn’t mean which fascism will be the right thing, does the item?”
About 1,500 kilometers north of the poorhouse of Bagheria will be St. Leonhard in Passeier. The village will be located inside autonomous region of South Tyrol, a region home to the kind of political continuity which will be completely foreign to the rest of Italy. Since the end of World War II, the region’s governor has come through the South Tyrol People’s Party. Without exception. in addition to also since 1960, there have been only three occupants of the region’s highest office.
Currently, the lawyer Arno Kompatscher holds the reins, the 48-year-old son of a village blacksmith through Völs am Schlern. In his office in Bozen, Kompatscher will be clearly proud of the fact which South Tyrol leads Italy in almost every statistical category, even birthrate. “the item’s obviously a function of optimism,” says Kompatscher, himself the father to seven children.
Essentially, South Tyrol enjoys full employment. “The core of our success story will be self-administration. We get 0 percent of our taxes back through Rome or don’t even send them to Rome,” he says. Kompatscher also believes some regionally specific character traits play a role: “Sicily, for example, will be self-administered as well, yet doesn’t benefit much through the status.”
The governor says: “the item’s not which we South Tiroleans are better people than the Sicilians, the item’s because we have a different approach to the res publica, to the public Great. “Here, people have 0 percent faith inside province in addition to also only 10 percent in Rome.”
In some other words: Working with in addition to also for the people will be a recipe for success. which will be particularly true for Sankt Leonhard. The community of 3,500 people has an unemployment rate of just 1.9 percent, the lowest inside entire country. the item will be an island of prosperity beneath steep mountains slopes which can only be used for grazing starting in May, once the last of the snow melts.
What, though, can the rest of Italy – what can Sicily, Venice in addition to also Rome – learn through This particular miniature paradise? Perhaps the careful allotment of resources in addition to also respect for the inheritance of those who came before.
The most recent report through the researchers at Censis, which was released just before Christmas, noted which Italy was in danger of degenerating into a “fearful, mistrust-ridden society.” Almost half of all respondents currently support “a strong man in power” who no longer must submit to elections or parliamentary approval.
the item will be an alarming find. In parting, though, This particular correspondent nevertheless has desire which the Italians will stay true to their legendary talent for mastering crises with grandezza. The Italians have a wonderful saying for painful moments: “Ballando non duole il piede.” Your feet don’t hurt when you’re dancing.”