Via po is a broad, cobbled thoroughfare a few hundred yards from Rome’s ancient city walls. It is known for its luxury shops and smart offices. Yet, in among the boutiques, embassies and jewellers, there is a plumbers’ merchant, a tacky giftwear emporium and a basement pasta factory. Left to the mercy of market forces, shops like the one selling pipe joints and rubber washers would have gone long ago.
But one Friday in January, without warning, the Italian cabinet proposed a new law which struck at the foundations of the bureaucratic structure which has safeguarded Italy’s family shops for…
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