I know this is a wine blog but I can’t help but veer off topic at times when issues or situations that I care about take place. One of the great interests of my life for the past 23 years has been Italian political life. I studied this subject in graduate school at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Bologna but even before that I had a fascination with Italian politics that started when I moved to Italy in 1991 and began reading about the Mafia in Sicily and the death of an entrepreneur who said no to paying bribes and was murdered – Libero Grassi.
At times throughout the years I have been extremely well-informed such as when I was a journalist in Milan with Dow Jones Newswires and at others less so but I have always kept an eye on the political fortunes of il Bel Paese…
Developments last week with the fall of the government of Enrico Letta at the insistence of Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence and head of the Democratic party have reminded me again of my life as a correspondent in Milan.
Speaking with friends in Italy, both in Milan and Florence, I have gotten a sense that no one is particularly thrilled with this recent turn of events but some are more optimistic than others that perhaps Renzi can turn around the stalled Italian labor market and the economy. Others are disheartened, as am I, that he will come to power through internal struggles of one party rather than through elections. If he can form a coalition, he will be the third Premier that heads the government but was not chosen by the Italian people through elections.
Still other friends say that we need to judge him on his actions and not on how he gets to power. We shall see. A friend in Milan, Eric Sylvers – a journalist I have known for many years – summed up the situation on his blog, Foodie in Italy, before a longer disquisition on the best cup of milk for his four year old son. While the juxtaposition might seem odd, I feel like it shows how Italians and expats view this latest change of government, with resignation and a wink because they have all seen it many times before.
Here’s a longer piece by the Agence France Presse (AFP) on the latest crisis. We shall see. What I hope for is growth in the Italian economy and flexibility in the labor market to get younger Italians into the workforce and keep older Italians employed. That’s a tall order. Let’s see if this brash politician from Florence can make a difference.