Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Cradle of Civilization, Italy "La Culla"

What is it about Italy that keeps us coming back for more?

The attraction of Italy for some of us is at times, something difficult to grasp. Italy is more than just a wealth of history; Italy vibrates on a wave all it’s own. The difficulties of everyday life equate to a constant struggle, which aids in a continual daily evolution be it personal or collective. Italians tend to be slobs, there is no denying but in this sloppiness, lies their unique art for living. Italians have style, they are creative by nature, upholders of tradition and religion and beneath this lies the foundation of who they are; by genetic design Italians boast a wealth of humanity for the “other guy.”

Italy is the world leader in so many venues. Italians have “pizzazz” in fashion, not even the French can take a notch off of Italy’s belt in this area. She is a world leader in beautiful cars (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, just to note a few), archite
cture is unparalleled and gastronomically, no one comes close to the variety and simplicity of her kitchen. In fact, the laws and controls posed on the food industry render Italy’s as one of the safest in the world.

Currently, Italian bubbles are consumed just in Italy to the tune of 153 million bottles and she is the number one wine exporter, exporting 10 times as much wine as Australia. Cheese is abundant in numerous varieties, not just goat cheese done twenty different ways. Unfortunately, Italy crashes when it comes to marketing their products; just look at the junk wines sold in the states such as, Fazi Battaglia (great bottle, crap inside). America associates pizza and the mandolin with Italy and this my friends is truly a crime. Italy is so profoundly rich and varied in so many products and areas of life.

Italians live well despite the insurmountable hurdles the government plops in front of each and every person, entity or free enterprise (well if free enterprise really exists in t
his country). The government makes life extremely difficult and to the tourist eye (a gaze lasting only 10 days for the average tourist) these difficulties are not conspicuous. Sadly politics are always tacked on to everything and this aids in the inability to market the riches of this country.

Here are some sad but interesting numbers; Italians are taxed approximately 54% of their income compared to 30% in many other countries and yet, they manage to not only survive but to do it with decorum and to actually live as well. Think of it this way; from September through December they work for themselves, the rest of the time it is for “lo stato.” This could be accepted if one saw all public services in tiptop form; this obviously is not the case here. The roads suck, the postal service in the post offices is an abomination, public transportation stinks and is overrun with strikes and the taxes paid by the regions in the north, go to pay for the maintenance and mafia of the south in fact, these regions only get 8% back from what they send to Rome. Most of the funds given to the south are used for private gain of a small portion of southerners leaving the rest of the south still as filthy and behind as ever; a ball and chain on the north.

Another huge problem with the lack of progression in this country lies in the job sector; I bet you did not know one cannot be fired from their job? Once you have your position you can just kick back and get your monthly paycheck and, job performance as a measure does not exist (obviously). Sadly this propagates stagnation, crappy customer service and zero incentive within businesses; why work hard to sell when your job does not depend on it? (Duh!)

On top of this, insanely enough, Italy is a police state. Imagine this; driving around to the supermarket, you see the police or Carabinieri car on the side, waving cars down. Why? To find some reason to give you a ticket, to check your “papers.” Can you imagine that happening in the states? Do Americans realize how lucky and free we truly are? Here you are really guilty until proven innocent. Sure the police can pull you over for speeding and such but it seems they never catch the asses speeding 160mph. Nope, just surprise road blocks to see if they can find a reason to give you high blood pressure.

Here is another one to ponder; bars, cafes or restaurants must pay a tax on the music they play in the locale. A disco must file a plan of the songs to be played and then dump a mound of royalty fees into the hands of the SIAE. As you might imagine, the money never goes to the artists. For example, if they play Michael Jackson they pay for that song and that money actually may get to him as royalties but if you are a nobody, you never see the money for the songs played. In fact, this entity has a huge staff with lots of huge offices (gee go figure). Guess all those taxes pay for those twits to man that office. Blank CD’s have a portion of the sale going to this fund as well…cute eh?

Despite all the negatives of which we are reminded daily thanks to the newspapers and TV programs, Italy and her people manage to live making their motto for life that of screwing the government any chance they can and for us outsiders, this can translate into behavior we dislike or do not understand. To skirt having to pay dump fees for small household electronics, you will find these items vicariously placed at auto stops, or behind supermarkets or along the autostrada and viola now you have a dirty, unkempt Italy. Deep down they do not wish to be this way but what choice have you when 54% of your sweat goes to services poorly provided for and on top of that you get to pay another tax when you use the service? Hello!

There is no tax relief for donations either so if I wanted to give new clothes, I buy them and pay the taxes on them as well as being taxed because it was part of my income. Unfortunately for this reason, so many of the old dilapidated villas of Palladian architecture in Veneto near Vicenza are in a state of crumble. Unless someone purchases the property and submits a restoration plan for approval, historical relics will continue to crumble in this amazing cradle of civilization. There is no feasible way to have historical societies because people have to pay taxes on the donations twice over. How sad, such a screwed up system.

In such a small amount of land, Italy has stashed away millions of art objects for no one to see, she cannot manage them because there is not enough money and monies, which could be donated to help enlarge and or support museums, cannot appear due to asinine laws. So here we are attracted to this vibrant, buzzing yet peaceful world and way of life despite the mess. Italians uphold the family and many traditions where as Americans have lost all of this. This frenetic people race through their days, crowding freeways and holidays believing in their time off with the family, the wife or girlfriend; they still believe in a future and sacrifice for these beliefs and this is what gives this place life.

Imagine, in every square kilometer, which would equate to square half mile roughly, the US has 3 people to Italy's 62 people per square kilometer. No wonder I feel claustrophobic here in these apartments and condos stacked upon each other with zero privacy from one's windows.
I can just imagine how our current layer of history might look 500 years from now as people excavate finding metros, masses of concrete, a concentration of life in certain areas, what might be the thoughts of these people regarding this layer of humanity…similar to ours as we uncover layers of walls from the Etruscans to Romans and così via?

But alas, I am here and despite days of complete and utter hair pulling, I cannot abandon this cradle of civilization; 3000 years of it, way before civilization came to Great Britain (with all their airs and such). So when you plan a trip to Italy, try to come and spend some time to really live it and savor the life vibrating within. This is what makes her so interesting; close your eyes to the trash, to the shouting matches, to the dirty streets. She has survived for all these years up to now and she will keep on surviving because Italy truly is the cradle of what it takes to live and endure.

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