Mr. Prices and Italy's Funky Malaise

Italy’s economy has been in a funk. A malaise they say. They’ve appointed someone to deal with rising prices. I see him in a cape, a rather silly-looking one:

The ombudsman, dubbed “Mr Prices” by Italian media, will inform the industry minister of any “anomalous” or unjustified price increases and can also make proposals for legislation. ~ Italy calls on Mr Prices to try to curb inflation

It’s funny, because I bought an entire kitchen for my place in Italy from Mr. Price.

I started hearing about the spiraling economic downturn from the owner of Fontana del Papa, a bed and breakfast in Lazio. That was a year and a half ago.

He was so despondent over the economy that he switched to English to make sure I was getting it.

In a sense, he was on the cutting edge of the current widely-held truth. Prices are edging ever upward. Strikes are more frequent. Industrial food like hard pasta has increased in price tremendously, while the farmers who grow the grain aren’t seeing any of the windfall.

Will Italy turn into an expanded Venice, a ghost country trampled by leering tourists while the residents have gone off to work in other countries? I hope not.

Italy’s politicians are old, and the young seem to want no part of what they’ve built (or torn asunder) it seems. The NYT has some interesting takes on the situation: In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment

In recent months, Mr. (Beppe) Grillo has become the defining personification of Italy’s foul mood. On Sept. 8, he gave that mood a loud voice when he called for a day of rage, to scream across Piazza Maggiore in Bologna an obscenity politely translated as “Take a hike!”

A few thousand people were expected. But 50,000 jammed into the piazza, and 250,000 signed a petition for changes like term limits and the direct election of lawmakers. (Voters now cast their ballots for parties, which then choose who serves in Parliament, without the voters’ consent.)

There’s no question that Italy is still the place to visit in Europe. I’ve alway liked coming into Italy from France. Some of the more touristy areas of France seem to be cordoned off for tourists, and there are places where few residents rarely visit the gussied-up center. But in Italy, no matter where I go, no matter now touristy, there will be a hardware store packed with all sorts of useful stuff in a jumble, with an owner who knows exactly where everything is, and women sitting in little chairs out on the streets, gossiping with people leaning out of windows.

But now that useful stuff is made in China.

Italy’s past “economic miracles” have raised expectations and given the traveler better facilities. Will an economic collapse throttle the current travel euphoria down to a mere whimper?


Mr. Prices and Italy's Funky Malaise originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Dec 13, 2007 © .

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