The Two Faces of Italy

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment, 'The Dark Heart of Italy', which promises to enlighten my own ignorance of the tortuous pathways of Italian politics.

Italy is outwardly seductive - the beautiful landscape, history, art, food, wine and language.  But learning - or trying to learn! - that language has made me more aware of the duality here.  Just the word for icing sugar for example.  In English it implies decoration, enrichment, as in 'the icing on the cake', but in Italy it is a 'veil' concealing what is underneath.  This is a country where the word for cunning, 'furbo', also means cleverness and is used admiringly.
Two Faces of Italy - Catastrophe in an Idyllic Location - will Schettino ever face justice?
It's a country where the rich declare less than 50,000 euros a year in earnings and drive around in Ferraris and  Lamborghinis.  It's a country where most attempts to bring corrupt politicians and officials to justice usually founders in a maze of judicial bureaucracy.  It's called the 'muro di gomma' - the rubber wall everything bounces off.

While I'm on my terrace admiring the view, northern Italy is experiencing violent unrest - to watch the news you'd think half Italy was burning.  The 'No Tav' movement has blocked an autostrada and the railway lines to protest against a proposed fast rail link from Turin to Lyon.  There are burning barricades and violent clashes.

Elsewhere there are demonstrations against austerity measures.  One in three Italian youths doesn't have a job.  The fact that you have to know someone to get a job makes things doubly hard.  PM Monti has pledged to reform the labour market and create a meritocracy, but will it happen? or are the practices too deep rooted?  Like Japanese Knotweed in Britain, Nepotism is wild and out of control here.  You need a lot of 'furbo' to get anywhere.


  1. This makes me feel sad - such beauty, such civilisation, such history and - what's this? Corruption, nepotism, lost lives.
    As I say. Very sad. wx

  2. This is so interesting Kathy - you paint a very worrying picture also one that is not unique I feel in Europe. Perhaps that in itself is most worrying of all.

    My heart goes out to this jobless generation - here in the UK too - it is so tough for them compared to their parents generation or ours, and I find it hard to see where it will end.

  3. Good that you remind us of this - Italy is not all sun and pasta. The level of corruption is legendary - and has, for too long, been something of a European joke. I only hope there is sufficient impetus for change.


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