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7 January 2012

Come Back, Signor Berlusconi, (Almost) All is Forgiven?

Lago di Garda, Screenshot

I have only twice been to Italy and the effort to negotiate buying dinner with a smattering of Latin and vast translation from French, which many waiters speak there, has left its mark. Travelling with friends who have not bothered to learn any foreign language leaves one in the position of a UN representative. A war could be caused by the slightest misunderstanding of the nuances.

Loud enthusiasm usually impresses Italians, from my experience so far, but it was also explained by a helpful English couple that one should learn to indulge officials in functionary positions, as they are not helpful when spoken to as if one were their equal.

Although the Irish have often been called "The Italians of the North", I think that this prejudice must be based on lack of efficiency and the aforement yelling. It could not have anything to do with kow-towing to authority and I was surprised to find ticket sellers in train stations so unhelpful. Even in France, instructions will be screamed through sound proof glass at a pitch that would wake the dead, leaving no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding.

The latest news from Italy, relayed through my only trusted source, the BBC, is that the new chief bottle washer there has now got his wife doing the cooking for every social gathering that could implicate partying at the expense of the "the tax-payer". Do I, I ask myself, want to revisit a country where women are called on to support their husband's career beyond the bounds of reason?

Six years studying Greek have ensured that I would not step foot in a Greek jurisdiction without signed contracts with fellow travellers, regardless of linguistic ability. There is a law in Greece that claims that when a man is arrested his wife or partner is often held in custody as well, because women always know everything. Whoever put this onto the statute books must have a vivid imagination. And since my knowledge of this law is based on the case of two English people who were at an air show where military aircraft were photographed years ago and that the details are too confusing to repeat, I've also added air shows to a long list of no-go events.

Travel does not broaden the mind. It can wear people out and cause untold psychological damage.

And as for going to Italy again, the jury is still out. We never got to the Vatican because the nice sign at the entrance to the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj caught my attention. The sign was for food, of course, and the palace itself was a highlight of our trip to Rome. Also, I had forgotten that, being a separate state, one gets put through security systems again so I thought about if seeing another basilica was worth the risk of getting frisked and subjected to suspicion.

I draw a veil over the fact that the Irish government has taken an attitude to the Vatican that seems extreme. Davimack's reaction to politics is very similar to mine... why waste time thinking about problems that other people have made?

Not only is the political not personal in my mind, the personal is not political. And I think for many people the two may have parted company for some time to come.

Verona, May, 2011

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