Saturday, December 22, 2007

Italy is changing and so is View Italy

I have taken a short sabbatical from the things I enjoy to do the things I must. During this brief interruption I have been able to organize in my head certain tendencies occurring in Italy. The last two years have brought changes that are ripping at the core of Italian culture. I try to accentuate the positive aspects of my experience in Italy. In the last period it has been difficult to write because the positive is under attack. It is in the words of my kids that I find the most distress. They are at the beginning of life’s trek, just entering the work force.

The process began several years ago. Raffaella and I were in Milan for a doctor’s appointment. When we finished it was late afternoon and we decided to have an apperitivo in a local bar we had been to many times over the years. To our astonishment a Chinese couple was running the counter. Curiously we asked and found that this bar had been sold earlier in the year. The offered the same types of snacks with the Prosecco and the service was courteous. We have not been back to the bar. Things just were not the same. The new owners tried hard to maintain the establishment’s atmosphere but they are fighting a losing battle. They are not Italian. It is the little things that make the experience Italian. The attention to detail and the innate understanding of what is appealing is part of the culture.

A similar experience here in Dallas allows us to think about what our subconscious understands. Raffaella works with a company owned by first generation Italian immigrant. For Christmas he adorned the store with best ornaments he could find. When one of the employees complimented the decorations he sadly stated, “It is the best we could do. We could not find live vines or handmade ornaments.” To some the WOW factor is most important but our subconscious picks up the difference between something made to look like quality and something that is quality.

So my articles will change. I will maintain my food porn and perhaps one day I will publish a complete recipe list in a separate volume. Fashion still excites me. It remains exciting and imaginative even with the changes brought on by globalization. I will try and talk about restaurants and hotels where the family remains the basic building block of success. I will also talk about what is happening to the youth of Italy as Italy changes.

Your thoughts are always appreciated.


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14 Comments:

Blogger Italian Wine Guy® said...

Go get 'em tiger

Keep it real

6:51 AM

 
Anonymous RennyBA said...

Well, you know one of my fav country is Italy and I love your travel reports from rural places combined with your wine recommendation.

Looking forward to visit you regularly in the year to come too!

Wishing you and your lovely wife A Happy New Year :-)

1:51 PM

 
Blogger Debra said...

I could not agree with you more. I have written about the problems Italy is facing in my own blog a little bit. It's saddening. I'm really looking forward to seeing the change in your articles!

10:11 PM

 
Blogger Giusi said...

I'm stymied at how to understand what you've said. Yes, Italy is changing, it isn't a museum and Italians are all kinds of people just as any people is made up of all kinds. The fight to express oneself is universal, and whereas a kid might once not have been able to break out of the family business to follow his own path using his own gifts, that is certainly changing. It had to. There are new industries, new centers, new possibilities. A gifted mathematician doesn't have to run a hotel or work in the family restaurant or winery nowadays, and he may move from Puglia to Milano to make his career. That makes all kinds of sense to me. I think the family is still important, and the country isn't so big that they can't still spend quite a lot of time together.
I wasn't with you in that bar, but the story disturbs me. At this point there are Chinese born here to families who have been here a hundred years or more. That makes them more Italian than me. Those one can point at as very Italian almost certainly have roots as Greeks, Germans, Trojans, Gauls, or any of the many waves of invaders and settlers. They, along with the Etruscans and Umbri and other tribes that were here before Aeneas, make up part of the so-called Italian blood, as will the new-comers. In the end, Italy changes all of us invaders, but we change them, too. It always was that way and will be that way, unless xenophobia is allowed to rear up and destroy the culture that has for thousands of years survived and thrived as much more of a melting pot than anyplace else I can think of.

2:38 AM

 
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

keeping it real is great but I sadly agree, when in Italy, I want the Italian experience. IF I want ethnic, then I'd go out to ethnic food, such as chinese or sushi...

9:39 AM

 
Anonymous David said...

Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

I will be writing again next week. My objective will be to spend a post or two a week based on life through younger eyes.

I look forward to seeing your thoughts and comments.

10:09 AM

 
Blogger Giusi said...

I don't see a day coming in which bars owned by Chinese serve anything other than what their Italian customers want.
Racism is becoming quite a serious problem here, and I'm sensitive to rejection of respectable foreigners doing respectable work, and of course, we have no idea if ethnic Chinese people may have been born and reared here.
A bit of multi-ethnicism nowadays IS the Italian experience. Halal butchers, kebab shops, McDonald's, are all here, but are all choices. We can live a richer life, support legal aliens or we can burn them out. Rather than stumble over 100 more fake Louis Vuitton handbags sold by illegals, I'd rather see this new wave Italianized.

12:39 AM

 
Blogger rowena said...

Well it must be my darn luck, living in the middle of the woods, that I should be blithely unaware, or at least unaffected by these changes. ;-)

Tough subject, but inevitable as Italy moves forward. However, I do appreciate both comments from Giusi. We shall see how it goes!

1:52 AM

 
Blogger Kristie said...

Love your colorful site! Hey, Renny sent me! Have a wonderful 2008! Love, Kristie in Oslo, Norway

11:37 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in the industrial sector in Milano, the idea that Italy has serious problems because a few Chinese people own bars in the city, is pretty nutty. Tourism is not the source of Italia's wealth, it's machinery, tools, furniture, clothese, shoe,etc... all "made in Italia". Everything else builds off of that.

I buy my espresso from a Chinese crap every Saturday morning, he is a nice guy but then again, I tried speaking to him.

3:32 PM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

I do not take on political considerations on this blog. A great source for a contemporary discussion is Beppe Grillo’s Blog. My thoughts about the changing Italy have more to do with the changing environment. I strongly believe that quality always wins over quantity. I also believe that not everyone should go to college. Apprenticeships are a very effective way to prepare young people for the future profession they have chosen. I also do not believe that a thinking profession is more valuable than a labor profession. My experience with the bar is based on this.

I believe the bar owner’s desired to provide a traditional experience but they lacked the subtleties that can only come with years of working with someone who has gained that experience. There are those, many products of a US childhood, who believe that the WOW factor is more important than the quality. They do not understand why Starbucks is not espresso or why calling a dish “Chicken Carbonara” shows a lack of culinary preparation.

The things that I think are valuable to look at are based on our youth’s vision of the future. Where and how they fit in to this new world as Prodi attempts to implement the disastrous economic policies known presently as Reaganomics but based on an economic-political accord known as Fascism (forget the common definitions. Fascism is where companies play a defining role political government of the nation’s resources).

Will Italy have another 1968?

There is an antique Italian saying, “Things must change to remain the same.” Will Italian quality survive or will the new same be “usa e getta?”

10:21 AM

 
Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Hey, David, I am looking forward to the next post. Have in fact been waiting for it!

If you look at the history of Italy, and of Rome in particular, there have always been immigrants. Now this has not always been a good thing. Some immigrants came with rather large armies backing them! But so far the Italians (and pre-decessors - Italy itself is of course recent) have found a way of absorbing them.

My personal view, for what it's worth, is that the character and romance of Italy will continue. And that includes family and culture.

Interesting story in the Australian press some weeks back. I meant to cut it out for you, but lost the paper before I could do so.It's as a story that you would have loved because it captured so much of what you write about.

As you know, Australia has a very large Italian immigrant community One long standing migrant went back home to investigate his roots.

A chef, he fell in love with his own area again, its family structures and its traditional foods.

Upon his return, he started serving them and wrote a very popular book on his experiences and home. And so the Italian magic continues.

2:52 PM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

JimThank you for writing. The topic is not immigration or absorbing cultures. These are simply symptoms.

The question is Prodi embracing Reaganomics (Corporatism if you like, or a term the Italians are much more familiar with Fascism).

No matter how you call it, the definition is the redistribution of income from many to the few. The results are always the same, long lasting economic depressions once an economy's equity has been pilaged.

6:19 AM

 
Anonymous artur said...

quite a deep insight into 'italy's condition' - I dont know this country so well, but for sure it needs changes and a little detachment from 'tradition':)

7:39 AM

 

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