Position: 41°12’57″N 13°34’23″E

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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.

Jabs

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.

Relieving Stress

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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.

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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.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Mike leaving abroad and dealing within an international environment but raised in Italy I must tell that it’s very interesting to read about your Italian experience. Yes Renzi is just one of the peculiar political creatures amid many others which most of the Italian consider a cast of useless and untrustworthy individuals who pretend to run the country but that hardly could run their own household. On the top of it there’s Rome and the Roman life style a perfect place for being “in vacanza” (in holiday constantly) and not at work!! It’s really funny since they just don’t care and the most beautiful country in the world for living is managed by the most unpredictable and unmanageable political system of the advanced world.
    About vaccination here in Dubai I got my first jab with my wife here in UAE, because both over 50, without any problem and booking just lining up to the drive through government body Saha vaccination center. We will have our second jab end of February. Said and done …Sinopharm Vaccine…my Italian friend we’re impressed and a bit jealous…beside that here we go to the beach over the weekends.

    I’m really mesmerized by your beautiful life experience so please continue to write your local experiences…as said Italy for enjoying life has almost no comparison….
    All the best
    Nicolò – Dubai

    von Wunster Nicoló Filippo
  2. Aha! So the film “Roman Holiday” is no mere snapshot of a time and place, but an enduring portrait of the immortal culture of the Eternal City! Grazie, Nicolo, for this key insight.
    I always remember the first lesson I learned on passing from France into NW Italy on a European tour at about the era of the film: Hey, these people know how to live! This memory not only gives me pleasure, it once rescued me from an awkward bit of office politics.

    Unk
      1. I worked for some years at a software company that had an office manager, a grumpy soul whose name I have lost, but she was of Italian heritage and had somehow learned to be tetchy about it. Her grumpiness was somewhat justified by her experience of policing up the lunchroom, where too many of the engineers had adopted piggy-slob behaviors.
        One day I was in that room while she was complaining to/with somebody, and I joined the conversation with a wisecrack that I intended to be funny, but it came out sort of tasteless. A few days later, my boss told me that she had filed a complaint against me for abuse/disrespect/bad-manners/something, so we decided I should go talk with her and de-ruffle her feathers.
        I went to her office, closed the door, and said, “I understand that one of my attempts to be funny went astray and hit something it shouldn’t have. I’d like to apologize.” She told me what it was that had bothered her, squinted at my Anglo face and muttered, “I guess you don’t like Italians much, do you?”
        “Good heavens, no,” I replied, “Quite the contrary. Let me tell you a little story.” and I recounted my joyful discovery of La Dolce Vita. That repaired her problem and she withdrew her complaint. Whew. Live and/or learn, right?

        Unk

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