The Italian language is so visual, it has an ability to take an image or object and use it as a metaphor for a something much greater than itself.
In English it would be akin to the literary term metonymy (from the Greek change of name) which is the term for one thing as applied to another thing with which it has become closely associated for example: the crown for a king or the turf for horse racing. Or in more specific cases the term synecdoche (Greek for taking together) which is taking a part of something and using it to signify the whole.
One example in Italian that comes to mind of metonymy is the concept of campanilismo (cam·pa·ni·lì·ṣmo) a medieval form of parochialism, associated with the historical bell towers which featured so prominently in the landscape of many ancient Italian cities. There was once a certain prestige if your town had a particularly tall or impressive bell tower and so campanilismo stemmed from the competitiveness or rivalry between one town to out do its neighbour. In Tuscany, Siena would try and build a taller tower than Lucca or Florence and San Gimignano is filled with 72 towers. These days there is no real competition but the word reflects the steadfast pride and attachment each Italian has for his own home town.
It has been two months since the Italiangeneral election and Italy’s political parties are still battling to form a government. There have been many behind close door meetings and much political wheeling and dealing which makes me think of yet another apt and rather poetical word to summarise the current situation in Italy.
Poltronismo (pol–tro–nì–smo) is the obsession many politicians have with obtaining and maintaining important high status positions for as long as they can. This ugly concept comes from the word poltrone (pol·tró·ne) which is a sofa. Nobody wants to give up a comfortable seat right?!?
So any cushy or well paid job is compared to a big soft, comfortable lounge chair.
Incidentally a poltrone is also a lazy person, someone who refuses to get up off his arse and do something.
The Five Star Movementwhich is the biggest single party in Italy, led by Luigi Di Maio and its possible alliance with the Lega Nord, led by Matteo Salvini is motivated by a little bit of poltronismo. No doubt they are doing their best to occupy the biggest seat available in Italy.
Living in Italy is like being inside a really bad soap opera, it’s an emotive, quirky and melodramatic place filled with controversies, corruption and paradoxes.
Italy is a place of great beauty, creativity and unique experiences which can be overshadowed by equally abhorrent ugliness, criminality and hypocrisy. The Italian people themselves manifest these conflicting traits.
I have come across many prominent Italians in the spot-light who are flamboyant types and seem more like characters in a satire rather than real people. There are many well-known figures who are famous in Italy but are relatively unknown outside of the country, so I thought I would occasionally share some truly outstanding characters who will leave you slack-jawed and flabbergasted.
One particularly impressive Italian who comes to mind is Vittorio Sgarbi, he is to be admired as an art critic, teacher, defender of the history of this country and voice of common sense in amongst loads of rhetoric. Yet some of the things he has said and done, really make me cringe!
Sgarbi’s academic qualifications are impressive graduating with a degree in philosophy, specializing in art history from the University of Bologna, one of the best universities in Italy. He has also been responsible for the maintenance of historical sites and art for the region of Veneto of which Venice is the capital. Sgarbi has published many books dedicated to visual art, one on my bookshelf includes a systematic analysis of art from Giotto (Renaissance) to Picasso (twentieth century). Pretty impressive, right!
However Sgarbi has some shady elements to his own personal character which tarnishes his impressive resume. He sees himself as a playboy professing to be incapable of being faithful to a woman and allergic to marriage, as a result he has three illegitimate children which he has been forced to acknowledged through the courts. He has declared: ‘I am against parenthood. The category of Father isn’t one I want to belong to. Everything said I am against abortion. There were women who wanted to have children by me, not I with them, why should there be the obligation to become a Father.’
Original Italian quote taken from Wikipedia: ‘Sono contrario alla paternità. Quella del padre non è una categoria a cui ritengo di dover appartenere. Ciò detto sono anche contrario all’aborto. Ci sono donne che hanno voluto figli da me, non io da loro perché non può esserci l’obbligo di diventare padre.’
Sgarbi has many contrasts in his character, he is an intellectual who has admitted and been charged with plagiarism (if this was any other country his academic life would be finished after such a scandal, not the case in Italy!) His career as an art critic has coexisted with his work as a television personality and politician. Vittorio Sgarbi is an amazingly controversial character and I really can’t get enough of him! Following Sgarbi is like watching really bad reality television, it draws you in despite your own better judgement.
Even Sgarbi himself admits his polemic nature as a guest on endless Italian t.v programs through the years he has created some legendary rows on the small screen. There is an endless list of conflicts and verbal insults launched by Sgarbi who is arrogant, chauvinistic and passionately defends his own point of view, not always in the most polite way. If this was an Anglo-Saxon country there is no way he would ever been invited on as a guest after being seen as a loose cannon, apparently not an unattractive attribute in Italy.
As a guest on the 1990’s popular talk show hosted by Maurizio Costanzo, Sgarbi presented a popular segment dedicated to the world of art and after rows with other guests he has the dubious honor of pronouncing the first live to air swear word in the history of Italian television!
From 1992 to 1999 Sgarbi conducted his own program titled Sgarbi Quotidiani on Canale 5, the most famous episode of this series was when Sgarbi himself remained silent for fifteen minutes, the entire length of the program as a protest against Silvio Berlusconi who had vetoed any criticism of himself on his personally owned television stations. The episode was watched by more than three and a half million viewers!
As a politician Sgarbi is a chameleon chopping and changing parties and roles through the years. It is confusing how often he has shed his political skin originally he started out with the Italian Socialists then moved to the conservative right and the Christian Democrats leaving them behind to join Berlusconi’s Forza Italia movement who he left to become a member of the Radical party founded by Marco Pannella, next he moved to The consumers list with the center left, then went to the radical left of the Unione. Sgarbi was Minister for the Arts at Milan and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the same city. Sgarbi returned to the center right to became mayor of the Sicilian city of Salemi from 2008 to 2012.
A recent cause the irrevocable Vittorio Sgarbi has taken up is the debate against wind turbines and solar panels, suggesting these waste millions of Euro’s and are the center of organized ‘Mafia’ crime interests and contributes to damaging the environment and the Italian countryside. He has even accused the governor of the region of Apulia,Nichi Vendola of disfiguring the entire region and I don’t think he is too far of the mark.
You have got to admit Sgarbi certainly speaks his mind and the Italians love him for it even if he has been accused of defamation in the past.
Ironically Sgarbi’s surname comes from the Italian word ‘sgarbo’ meaning rudeness.
Vittorio Sgarbi a truly flamboyant Italian.
For more information on this character in the Italian spectrum see his chic web page here.
The concept of ‘multiculturalism’ is a source of debate throughout the world, whether it is possible for a country to become truly multicultural and if different cultures really can exist peacefully side by side or is it simply a utopia.
Italy in particular resists other cultures mixing with the domineering Italian one.
Minister of Integration, Cécile Kyenge has been criticized by the ultra right ‘Lega Nord’, who was founded with the initial desire to separate Northern Italy from the ‘lazy south’ and now tends to worry about migrant issues, how the economic crisis is closing down industry in the North and how to get out of the Euro currency.
Italians are being forced to deal with the issues of refugees, immigration, a low birth rate and the arrival of Asian and African migrants and cultures into Italy at unprecedented levels.
Sicilians are particularly insular people, they are proud and defensive when confronted with newcomers, it is an unattractive trait left over from a history of being dominated by invaders their history tells of thirteen major foreign dominations which have left scars and impressions on the island’s culture.
Even on the level of language Italy is a very much a monolingual country with a resistance to English which is leaving them behind in Europe.
The irony behind of all this fear, racism and resistance to other cultures is that the rich Sicilian traditions have come about by living with these other dominations and inadvertently taking elements from them.
Some periods in Sicilian history have been long, peaceful and fruitful collaborations, for example the early Greek colonies were productive and cooperative, creating developments in agriculture and industry (such as olive oil production and ceramics).
In the Norman period of the middle ages, the court of Frederick II, we saw Roman Catholics and Muslims living together in harmony, each religion was practiced side by side and the court brought together many of the greatest schools of thought creating many developments in the areas of science, agriculture, industry and culture. The historic Sicilian school of poetry is regarded as one of the finest and anticipated the Florentine school of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Sicilian food, language and culture is dotted with Spanish, French, German, Greek, African, Asian and Middle Eastern influences. Sicilians have always been multicultural whether they believe it or not.
Perhaps I am an idealist but I can see many connections between different cultures and anthropologists see many more similarities than differences. It’s easy to see links between Sicily and Greece, Sicily and the middle east. I suspect Sicilian families and Indian families have many similarities in their approach to family life and respect for the elderly as in other Asian cultures. The literary journal Feile Festa edited by Frank Polizzi is dedicated to the connections between Ireland and Sicily.
The world is becoming a smaller, thanks to the connections between the cultures, if only everyone has the openness to remember we are all human beings with the desire to be connected to a community.
For more reading about minister Cécile Kyenge and the hard time she’s been having see this article from The Guardian.
One of the most inspiring expat blogs I’ve come across in Italy must be Mozzarella Mamma which is the creation of Trisha, an American journalist who has been living and working in Rome for the past two decades. She’s an inspiration simply because she has managed to juggle being a professional, bringing up three children, life in the eternal city and has become fluent with Italy on many different levels. It was a real pleasure to fling a few questions at Trisha via email, here’s our interview.
Do you consider yourself an expat and if so did you make a conscious decision to live the expat life and how did you end up living in Rome?
I do consider myself an expat. I didn’t make a conscious decision to lead an expat life. I met my Italian husband while we were both in graduate school at Columbia University in New York. We met in the US and married in the US and agreed that we would live the first five years of our marriage in Rome and then spend the next five in the US and try to go back and forth. We figured we both had pretty movable careers. I am a journalist, he is a professor economics. When I moved to Italy with my new husband it was a bit of a culture shock. It was only then that I began to grasp the whole Italian men and their Mamma business. In the end we have remained for 20 years living in Rome (near his Mamma) and only returning to the US for holidays. I would love to spend a few years in living in the US, but I have finally accepted that that is not going to happen.
How would you describe Italy to someone who has never visited? Are the people welcoming to foreigners?
Italy is a fabulous place filled with art and history, fantastic food, gorgeous cities (Florence, Venice, Ravello, Perugia etc etc). Italians are blessed with having both mountains and sea there is the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts with magnificent beaches (Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, etc etc), and the spectacular Italian Alps. The Italian people are probably the best part they are friendly and welcoming eager to share their language, culture, history, food and their country with anyone who is interested.
Name five things I should see and do in Rome?
Well there are the standard tourists spots that one must see: The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, The Campidoglio. I love all the Roman piazzas Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Campo Dei Fiori, Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps.
I also am a huge fan of Caravaggio, so I would suggest hunting down the Caravaggio masterpieces in the Roman churches. Here are a couple of my blog posts on that:
Of course you can’t visit Rome without seeing the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. I suggest to peoplewhether or not they are Catholic that they try to catch the Pope’s Weekly audience on Wednesday’s or his Angelus from the window of the papal apartments on Sundays. It is fun to be a part of these events and to see the new Pope Francis.
What should I taste/eat in Rome?
Oh gosh, everything. I guess I would start with the coffee espresso, cappuccino, Caffe Latte, and of course have a cornetto with that. Moving on to lunch pasta in a Roman Trattoria, then an apertivo sitting outdoors at sunset watching the pinks, orange colors on the ancient Roman monuments. For dinner there are so many restaurants Rome’s Ghetto has some fabulous places. One of my favorite restaurants is a bit out of the way, is called Ristorante Caprera and it has fantastic fish dishes.
If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet and what would we be drinking?
We would meet at the Tree Bar a little restaurant/bar in a park near my home. I would be drinking a pro secco or an aperol spritz.
Do you suffer from (US/Italian) culture shock or do you find there is something common ground with your current adopted home?
I have suffered from much culture shock in Italy. I get frustrated at the insane traffic, the pharmacy, the food rigidity, the pressure on women to be beautiful and sexy, the constant need for bella figura. I will copy some blog posts of that below. I think the common ground is always humor. I laugh at myself, Italians laugh with me, not at me, and they are easily able to laugh at themselves.
Do you ever suffer from homesickness and how do you cope with it?
I miss my family in the US a lot, but I talk to them regularly on the phone and communicate on email on a daily basis. But there is no time for homesickness. I have a job, an Italian husband and 3 ItalianAmerican children plus a blog that occupy my every waking moment.
What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats?
I am different from many expats in that I don’t lead an expat life, hanging out with other expats and doing American things. I am fully inserted with my Italian husband into an Italian lifestyle.
Did you have much of a problem with learning the language, what advice do you have for English speaking expats?
The great advantage in learning Italian is that Italian’s are so nice about it. They don’t care if you make mistakes, they are happy that you are trying. I have had a lot of difficulty with some aspects of the Italian language the subjunctive, the Lei formal tense, the imperative still I always muddle through.
What’s been the most rewarding/high point and then the most frustrating/low part of your time in Italy?
It has been very rewarding working as a journalist and covering events in Italy and the Vatican. The experience of traveling with Pope John Paul II, covering his death and funeral, traveling with Pope Benedict XVI, covering the election and the Papacy of Pope Francis has been extremely satisfying. In addition I have covered everything from Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi to immigrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Venice Film festival. I love all the news I get to cover. You can see from my blog that I often write about my experiences working in the field. I also have been given contracts with Italian television to serve as a political analyst during the US elections commenting on Italian TV explaining our the political system works in the US. It is satisfying to me to be able to explain US politics to Italians in their language.
You have been living in Italy for 16 years where you have worked as a journalist and brought up three children. How on earth have you managed that?
It is actually 20 years now, I came to Italy in November 1993. I don’t know how I’ve managed it. A couple of key things I’ve learned to drive in Italian traffic and don’t get upset when stupid jerks on mopeds yell and curse at me. I don’t let myself get cut off by people in fancy Mercedes of BMW’s my little Fiat is a fighter. I’ve learned to argue and gesticulate in Italian. My life is a big juggling act and I always have a lot of balls in the air they fall all the time, but I try to laugh, pick them up and start again.
Do you feel more American or Italian these days?
I always feel American and very proud to be so. Many people say I speak more like an Italian now (talk fast and gesticulate a lot) and tend to be more argumentative, and I tend to dress more like an Italian (no sneakers and sweats), but my heart and soul will always be American.
Since you are a journalist and write about events in Italy I simply have to ask you a few quick questions about current affairs in Italy, if you don’t mind:
A) What do you think of Renzi?
I like Renzi. He is young and ambitious and doing everything he can to bring Italy out of its economic crisis and I hope he succeeds. I did not like the way he stabbed his fellowparty member and former Prime Minister Enrico Letta in the back to get where he is, but perhaps that is they way Italian politics works (a tad Machiavellian).
B) How do you think Italy will manage to come out of the Economic crisis?
No clue. You can ask my husband that question. He is a professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. His blog is www.gustavopiga.it
However, my gut reaction is that Italians always muddle through as I said above they have great food, an amazing cultural patrimony, and a gorgeous country. There is also a combination of the black market business and traditional Italian attitudes of family safety net that help keep the economy from sinking.
C) Do you think there is a solution for the refugee problem? And why do the Italian and international press exchange the word ‘migrant’ for ‘refugee’ so easily?
I have no idea what the solution for the “refugee” problem is, but I think the way it is being handled right now is not working. Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships are fishing hundreds of “migrants” in rickety old boats out of the Mediterranean every day (I get their videos sent to me every day in this period when the weather is good). I think the key is giving more aid and investment directly in the countries that the migrants are coming from. “Migrants” and “refugees” are different. Migrants are people who are coming usually for economic reasons, refugees for political reasons. I have seen hundreds of North Africans arrive who are mostly looking for work, and hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese escaping from dangerous political situations. But among the North Africans some can be political refugees as well. It is impossible for a journalist or rescue workers to know in one boatload who is a migrant and who is a refugee that takes days of interviews to sort out.
I have also done a lot of blog posts on Lampedusa and the refugee situation.
Tell us about your book “Mozzarella Mamma: Deadlines, Diapers and the Dolce Vita,” how’s it coming along?
My book is now officially going nowhere. I’ve given up on it. Most of the best parts are already in my blog anyway. I’ve decided to dedicate myself to my blog and I will wait until I retire to write a book. However, if a publisher contacted me and offered to publish my book, I would rework it, but that is highly unlikely to happen and I do not have any free time to get into the act of trying to find an agent and get published, that in itself is a fulltime job.
What led you to the world of blogging?
I started my blog as a way to attract a publisher for my book, but as I said in the answer above I have now given up on the book and the blog has taken on a life of its own. I now consider my blog as a way to keep a diary of both my professional and personal interests and experiences this can all be eventual material for a new book.
How would you describe your blog, tell us about it …
Well, my blog is all over the map. It started out being funny tales about trying to be a working Mamma in Italy then it has evolved a bit into background descriptions of news stories I am covering. However, I think my best posts are the humorous accounts of trying to be a good Mamma and maintain the Bella Figura in Italy.
Have you ever had negative experiences with blogging? Tell us about it, how did you handle it?
I really have not had negative experiences with blogging, it has been all positive for me. I have had so many contacts with wonderful people from around the world Australia, India, Turkey, and the US to name a few. My blog has opened up a new world for me.
Actually there is one small negative aspect blog guilt. Once you start blogging you feel like you need to do it all the time and you start feeling guilty when you don’t post. Sometimes I am just too tired, or too wrapped up in personal things, or just don’t have anything to write about, but I still feel guilty for not posting. But there is also the reverse side of that, when I do a post that I feel is really good, the writing is sharp and the pictures are strong, it gives me enormous satisfaction.
What kind of blogger are you, is it about getting a zillion visitors or subscribers, selling your books or is it all therapy?
As I was saying above, I am not aiming for getting visitors or subscribers and am not aiming to sell books. It is not even therapy for me. I consider a diary of my life.
You have quite a good following on your blog, any advice for the rest of us?
I am not sure I have such a great following on my blog. My only advice to other bloggers would be try to enjoy it, do not give up, do not worry about who is following you or numbers of visitors or subscribers. One of the best parts of blogging is the friends you make enjoy the comments on your blog, respond to them all, and try to read other blogs and comment on them. I have a lot of fellow blogger friends who I have never met in person but I feel fond of them, I enjoy reading their blogs and commenting on them, and I am pleased when they comment on mine. It is hard though, for many people blogging is a fulltime job and they have more time to blog and comment on other people’s blogs for me it is an effort, but an effort that is worthwhile.
Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favorite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.
I am not really into travel books I do love historical fiction and biographies that take me to another time and place. I just finished reading “Catherine the Great” by Robert K. Massie which I loved. One of my favorite books is Louis De Bernieres’ “Birds Without Wings” which takes place in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. Another favorite about a childhood in Africa is Alessandra Fuller’s “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.”
As far as books on Italy are concerned, here are some of my favorites: “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone, “Umbertina” by Helen Barolini, Naples’ 44 by Norman Lewis and Alexandra Lapierre’s “Artemisa,” Lynn Rodolico’s “Two Seas” and the Italian classic Luigi Barzini’s “The Italians.”
So what’s coming up on Mozzarella Mamma that we can look forward to …
Yikes, not so sure what is coming up on Mozzarella Mamma. I am going on the Papal plane to the Mideast with Pope Francis at the end of May and I will definitely blog about that. I am also doing some research of Livia, the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and will eventually blog about her. I am also contemplating a couple of silly posts, the first on dealing with my teenage (now 19yearold son) and the complicated questions of when the girlfriend sleeps over, and another one on Italian withthedoginthepark culture.
Have you discovered any other wonderful travel/expat or writing blogs that we should be reading?
Thanks so much to Trisha for taking a moment to answer my questions. I wanted to thank her for her blog apart from being an inspiration for me Mozzarella Mamma is a wonderful mix of observation, current affairs and culture shock with a pinch of humor and irony.
Trisha has the answer to one of the most difficult questions a female expat can ask. Mainly: ‘how does a woman adapt and change to meet the demands of one society while trying to maintain her core beliefs, values and cultural traditions? [Her] own answer to this question has always been, with good friends, humility and a sense of humor.’
Words to live by.
Much gratitude and good karma to you Mozzarella Mamma, I look forward to hearing more about your journey in ‘Bella Italia.’
Living in Italy for many years has made me fluent in many things. I negotiate the nuances of the Italian language, roll my ‘r’s’ with the best of them, I navigate my way around the kitchen with a respectable repertoire of Mediterranean dishes, I can steer my way through the traffic of any chaotic city, squeezing my car into to the tiniest parking space and double park without any sense of guilt, I understand the Italians desire to live their lives with a little insanity, rebellion and a whole lot of attitude. In short I’ve conquered the most important aspects of life here. However I still have a problem understanding the schizophrenic world of Italian politics.
My concept of politics has been formed by the moderate environment of Australian government, the main factions are dominated by the two conservative Liberal and Labor parties who overshadow other lesser significant groups such as the Democrats and the Greens. Voting in Oz means choosing between, the Liberals at the centre right and Labor in the centre left, who as time passes seem to become increasingly like one another. The antipodean political world is terribly monochrome when compared to the rainbow of Italian politics.
The politics of a country reflects its very nature. Australian politics is stable with a steady flow of different concerns which reflect a healthy, growing and relatively secure country. Politics in Australia is a safe and conservative, in contrast to Italy which struggles with the problems of an immense population, a convoluted legal system, high unemployment and administrative system stained with corruption and scandal.
Italy like any other overpopulated country is crippled by mindless red tape and so bending the rules has become part of its culture. An Italian won’t think twice about a little deceit to help things move along. Paying a little something extra to get a house plan approved is considered normal as months or even years of delays are common when going through normal planning procedures.
Italians are forced to put up with endless problems and in many cases the only way to get results is through active political action. Italy is weighed down by high unemployment and those who do work in the country’s industrial sectors are always in a precarious situation. This lack of stability has created large conglomerates of workers unions who regularly bring the country to a stop with transport strikes.
Electioneering in Italy boils down to creating a public image, voters do not necessarily vote for an established party or ideology but rather for a personality. The constant change of Italian politics has broken down traditional political philosophies so the only way people are able negotiate the complexities of Italy’s politics is to latch onto a figure head or personality.
The European parliament election this Sunday is really a test of the current turbulent political waters as Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle has eliminated and splintered many major and small parties in the last national election. The five star movement came about as a protest to eliminate elements of corruption, conflict of interest violations in the established old school political landscape which dominated Italian politics. Everyone will be holding their breath to see if the older parties will be able to recover or if the new movement will be able to push through with its changes.
The current prime minister Matteo Renzi of the conservative leftist PD party, recently gave an interview to Time Magazine journalist Stephan Faris where he explained why Italy will never be a normal country, there is truth in Renzi’s words and he expresses the nature of the change needed in this country starting with these European elections.
Renzi says: Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice. There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world.
But then, we’re not a normal country because we have a complicated bureaucracy, a political system that’s appalling. We have twice as many parliamentarians as the United States. We pay some presidents of [administrative] regions more than the United States pays its president. We would like to make Italy a normal country from the point of view of the political system.
So where did Italy go wrong?
It fails in its convoluted public administration.
And in its politics. Italy has too many politicians.
Why? Because in these years Italy has been unable to change itself.
The UK changed its skin with Tony Blair. Germany changed skin first with [Gerhard] Schröder and then with [Angela] Merkel. The U.S. has changed its skin various times. But Italy remains attached to its old political conservatism. It has a political class that lives in the past and doesn’t want build the future. The past is their strength, but it risks ruining the country forever. It Italy continues to walk with their heads turned backwards, there can be no improvement.
Voting in Italy is not compulsory so the election’s have a low turn out as people are disillusioned by the political world. And with the economic crisis people in Italy are really suffering. So we simply need to hold your breath and wait to see the direction Italy will take…
Small town life is always insidious, the reality in Sicily is ever more so. Not only do you find everyone knows about everyone else’s business but they have been sticking in their noses for generations and so if you are a newcomer you will be a target for gossip.
I’ve been living here for a while now (more than ten years for those who don’t know) and there are still times when I feel like I am the eternal outsider. Recently I’ve been singled out by a question of local politics.
Anyone who knows me is probably smirking at the prospect of me being associated with any form of politicking, my life in politics is frugal at most, apart from being a bit of a lefty, the odd petition signing and greenie tendencies, I’m not the most politically motivated person around.
That’s why I was left aghast when my husband was told I was meddling in local politics by supporting and diffusing negative opinions about our current mayor on Facebook. Something that was suggested to be unsightly as my hubby has been given some small jobs by the current administration.
This was shocking to hear for many reasons, first someone obviously has way too much spare time to watch and plant feeds on Facebook and sit back to see who likes or shares them. Second, I’ve done no such thing. And finally the way it was said to my husband was rather threatening, like ‘shut your wife up or you can forget about getting any work contracts.’
I’m totally furious, as my husband refuses to tell me who approached him as I’d probably slap him in the face!
I considered ‘unfriending’ my Sicilian friends on Facebook to avoid any more insinuations. Then I thought, why should I when I have nothing to hide. I’ll just whine about it on my blog instead. I mostly have non Italian friends on FB anyhow.
You’ve go to hand it to these Sicilians who have turned the innocuous world of publicity drenched, data gathering FB into a source of political intrigue.
To be honest I’m generally indifferent to the current mayor and local politics in general. I still find it strange to see political rallies and house to house vote mongering at election time. I’m ignorant of the history of local politics which I think is simply about family feuds and competition any way. Every time my husband tries to explain about the different factions and the complexities of the world of Italian politics I tend to phase out.
Well the Italian elections are over but things here in Italy aren’t getting any better, the political scene is ever more unstable.
Results are still unclear, with the centre left having a small majority in the lower house while the upper house divided between the centre left (Bersani’s PD), centre right (Berlusconi’s PDL) and the new Movimento Cinque Stelle (Beppe Grillo). The result has been deemed nearly impossible to form a government, one can imagine what wheeling and dealing that is going on behind the scenes to form a decent government.
The reality is some sort of caretaker government will be formed to push through electoral reforms and a vote will be held again in the near future.
A big winner in this election was Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement which politically speaking is practically a new born, after only three years since it’s birth it has tapped into the Italian population’s anger and building anti-politic. Italian’s voted for Grillo because they were sick of the corruption, disillusioned by high unemployment and strangled by endless tax.
Grillo’s party is based on the central belief that all of the current Italian politicians have to removed from the political world, all of the corruption has to be revealed to the public and everything has to begin anew with a young generation determined to keep transparency and renew the Italian identity by concentrating on giving jobs to Italians by renewing what has gone into decay over the post war period (everything from Italian agriculture, typical products, the engineering industry, textiles, energy production and small business).
Grillo has always declared that he will never compromise with other parties and no coalitions will be formed, as drastic revolutionary reform is needed. No one is sure how Grillo’s Movement considers to exactly do this as this is his first national election.
The Movimento Cinque Stelle did well in the last Sicilian elections where they have successfully cut political salaries taking only a small wage and putting all of the rest into a fund to support new business on the island.
No one knows what Grillo’s plans are for Italy.
The next few months will hold many surprises I’m sure.
The political scene here in Sicily is getting creepier and creepier.
The new governor of Sicily is Crocetta, an openly gay man who has crept up the ranks of the leftist PD party who triumphed in an election with a very low voter turn out.
With a miserable 42% of people voting it is difficult to see this election as a real indicator of popular dictate.
In a predominately staunch conservative society I find it hard to see how this outcome as indicative of a sweeping change in the anti- liberal culture of this ancient island of Italy.
The new ‘movement a cinque stelle’ (Five star movement) of Italian satirist Grillo the real dark horse of the election has also picked up a good section of the vote his candidate for governor Canceliere arriving third after the right wing Muselmeci.
(Grillo and his candidate)
Surprising times here in Sicily. Lord knows what lies ahead for us …
(Some of the endless candidates in the wasteful paper trail of Italian elections)
On this Sunday the twenty-eight of October we are destined to have regional elections here in Sicily as well as in other parts of Italy. What this usually entails is a variety of colourful political manifestations, which we haven’t seen much of this time around.
During an Italian political campaign there normally is a buzz of activity with candidates sweeping through each town hunting voters down, deafening them with loud speakers and hitting them over the head with a mountain of promises often at free banquets. There have been no locals pacing up and down the main square divided into various political factions each group huddling together gesticulating to one another trying to understand the general vibe in brief public factional congresses. There is a distinct absence of cheering, clapping or booing during political speeches on the small scaffolding stage set up for the occasion.
This time around things have been terribly subdued, apart from the odd SMS, email, postal how to vote cards and posters on billboards you can hardly tell there even is an election campaign.
The major candidates have stuck to the larger cities. The most interesting event has been the ongoing development of the new political party set up by well known political satirist Beppe Grillo who is nominating ‘non politicians’ to do the work of revitalizing Italy. Grillo has swept through Sicily.
Most people who went to see Beppe give his monologue of laments against all current Italian politicians and the endless examples of corruption and misspent funds (he’s got endless material and he’s been all over Facebook). Grillo isn’t a politician and even if his movement for change is taking away a good percentage of votes away from the major parties he is seen as a novelty at best.
The reality of this quiet electoral period is that most Italian’s don’t want to know about the elections and probably won’t vote at all (here in Italy voting isn’t compulsory).
There is a great sense of disillusionment with the political situation of Italy and the taxes in Mario Monti’s provisional national government’s austerity programs have hit Italian’s very hard.
It’s sad to see how people have lost faith in politics to change things in this historically very politically active country. The current climate has created a real sense of dread in all Italians.
A sombre campaign and low voter turn out will continue to illustrate the new climate of disinterest.
These are dark times in the usually colourful, collective heart of Italy.
On the twenty eighth of October we have the regional elections here in Sicily which means the usual mixture of networking, bribing, promising, back stabbing, behind closed doors wheeling and dealing that happens during election time almost anywhere in the world.
As usual everything here in Italy things seem to be magnified ten fold. Ever more so in the current political situation where people are feeling so lost and frustrated with the economic crisis and the lack of direction from the political world.
On the voting ballot we will have forty seven political party symbols which are particularly important as they need to be crossed out to cast a vote. Isn’t it crazy?
The parties are:
Movimento dei Forconi
Voi Volontari per l’Italia
Partito dei siciliani – MPA
Indipendenza e Produttività
Il popolo dei Forconi Mariano Ferro presidente
Nello Musumeci presidente
Partito Tradizional Popolare
Movimento politico Crocetta presidente
Sinistra alternativa autonomista
Movimento nazional popolare cattolico Fratelli d’Italia
Italia dei Valori Lista Di Pietro
Movimento Noi Consumatori
Movimento Noi Consumatori anti Equi-Italia
Lega Sud Ausonia
Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e dei Democratici di Centro (U.D.C. Unione di Centro)
Uomini nuovi per una società di uguali e partecipi
Partito Liberale Italiano
Uniti per cambiare
Lega per l’indipendenza della Sicilia – L.S.I.
Unione Democratica per i Consumatori
Partito Democatico Crocetta presidente
Partito del popolo siciliano
Movimento per l’indipendenza della Sicilia
Partito delle Aziende
Forza Sicilia Musumeci Presidente
Il Popolo della Libertà Musucmeci presidente
Associazione politico-culturale LeAli alla Sicilia
Iniziativa popolare Musumeci presidente
PID Cantiere Popolare
Movimento Giusto governo delle Famiglie
Partito per la Liberta Alleanza per la Sicilia
Noi siciliani per l’indipendenza Movimento Sicilia libera
Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori
Movimento libera Italia
Claudio Fava presidente – FDS SEL Verdi
Movimento Cinque Stelle
Alleanza di Centro
P.P.A. – Partito Pensiero Azione
Lista Miccichè presidente
Grande Sud Miccichè
Alleanza per l’Italia
Futuro e Libertà per l’Italia Nuovo polo per la Sicilia
Il risveglio del Sud Meritocrazia ovunque
It looks like this will be fun and too complicated for words!