A couple of weeks ago Italy’s Prime Minister resigned and the government collapsed. In the middle of the pandemic. Everyone locally appeared singularly apathetic. Unused to Italian political affairs and coming off the back of an insurrection back home, we looked on nervously. Until we did our homework.
Italy’s politics are famously byzantine. Unlike the United States, Italy runs a parliamentary system. Since 1945 there have been 66 governments, many formed by fragile coalitions. Members are elected through a parallel voting process that is a combination of first past the post elections (like the UK) and proportional representation.
This most recent crisis began when Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister and leader of one of the smaller parties, decided he wanted something (it’s never been made clear what). Anyway, it didn’t do him any good since Italy’s president called in Mario Draghi, a superstar Eurobanker, to form a government and get on with business. Business that is mostly about dealing with the pandemic and the 300+ billion stimulus euros the EU is showering the country with.
If you’ve been following the news about vaccinations in the EU, you’ll know that it’s a complete cluster-fork. In some mis-guided attempt at fairness, the EU decided that purchasing vaccinations centrally was preferable to the vicious scrum of each country negotiating separately. Unfortunately, the EU doesn’t really do procurement. What it does best is hone bureaucracy. As a result, the contract ran 200 pages, came three months late, and depending on where you live vaccine supply remains limited or non-existent.
So, no. We don’t know when we’ll get our jabs. We’re too young and too foreign at this point to have any firm data. Our support team here in the marina have no clue when their vaccinations will start either. Which, oddly, is somehow reassuring. My guess is we will get ours sometime between May and July, once the bioreactors are working at full throttle.
In the meantime, we’ve started exercising. As often as we can we walk to the fort at the top of the hill behind us. The steady 150-meter climb up Monte Orlando switches back and forth between views of the ocean and tree shrouded pathways. At each turn abandoned stone facades peek out from the shrubbery, behind signs warning that this is military property, keep out! Porticos frame entrances to dank tunnels leading deep into the hillside. All stand as reminders of the park’s martial past. Most of the brickwork probably stems from the era of Bourbon rule in the 18th century, but may date back to the 1500s. The network of tunnels was used right up to WWII.
Just below the summit, the remains of a huge 18-gun battery provides wonderful views over both sides of the isthmus. The guns are gone, replaced by a series of exercise stations. At each stop, fading instructions lead you through a comprehensive cross-training regime. During the week we are often the only people in the park and we long since overcame any of our al fresco gym self-consciousness. Walking back to Aleta, we put in our headphones and switch on our Italian language program. The program’s listen and repeat method draws odd glances as we butcher the language aloud. But it makes the time go more quickly and we’ve learned how to ask where the Piazza San Marco is. Useful, since it’s not in Gaeta.