Italy may be a mess, but there’s a certain charm to its lack of ambitionby Anna Blundy / December 15, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Tuscany is famous for its medieval villages, olive groves and dusty golden-pink sunsets. It is not famous for its dynamism, its prominent place on the world’s economic stage or the slick efficiency of its civic life. The motto there is “piano, piano,” which, when you are standing in a plumbing-disaster flood in your living room weeping, can make you want to kill.
It is not uncommon to see a baffled ex-pat (usually me) jumping up and down on the pavement in Bagni di Lucca shouting: “But it’s only 12.30! Just sell me the pair of trainers. Don’t you want my money?” The shoe shop will remain shutters down for three hours, while the very elderly couple who have run the shop all their lives enjoy a leisurely lunch. They have zero interest in improving sales (the display outside their shop, painstakingly set up every morning, features plastic shoes for hospital porters, boxes of rubber flip-flops and the occasional flammable-looking slipper). This is how they’ve always done things and this is how they plan to continue to do them. Piano, piano.
Nobody here, as far as I know, is planning to measure their happiness quotient in a Cameronian bid to halt their idolatory of material wealth. But, judging by the pitying looks they give me as I stand, baffled, in a deserted street at lunchtime, they are, on the whole, comparatively jolly.
So I was quite looking forward to moving home to Britain where there is a proper sense of grim-faced urgency; a feeling that it’s now or never; an anxious clamour for change at any cost.
Since returning in September I’ve been to a whirl of glittering parties, some with half the government at them, others with half the opposition, everyone talking about how things could and should be improved, from roads to children’s body shape. “I’d like to send her to an all girls school but then she’ll be anorexic.” “Everyone in my son’s class is so fat! When I was little…” I have chewed puff pa…