Girlfriend in a Coma – Official Trailer from Annalisa Piras on Vimeo.

The title of this blog post is only accurate if your head is buried in the sand. Italy is a lovely place to visit, but you’d have to be oblivious, wealthy, corrupt, an optimist or a masochist to live here without totally losing your mind. From the outside, it’s easy to romanticize its foibles as quaint and to be curious about (but unaffected) by its rampant lawlessness. The reality is, Italy is in a period of accelerated decay. The signs are all around us and even the things that used to be relatively accessible, like eating well and getting by, are rapidly vanishing.

Journalists and cultural commentators like Roberto Saviano, Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott attempt to document the current social, political and economic climate. Their works distill the nation’s woes into concentrated doses and what they portray would leave any reader or viewer distraught.

Their messages are so powerful that Saviano has faced death threats and lived in hiding, while the premier of Piras and Emmott’s film “Girlfriend in a Coma” has been banned. The film, which is highly critical of former (and perhaps future) prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was meant to premier at the MAXXI in Rome on February 13, but it is now scheduled for release only after February 24, following the national elections.

So what is going on in Italy? What do its residents face live through every day? Here are a few highlights:

    Organized crime banks an estimated €160 billion a year, around 10% of Italy’s GDP. Some believe this number is much higher and all acknowledge we can never know the true number.

    Stable work contracts and job security are a thing of the past. Labor reforms that could have led to economic growth have instead fueled brain drain as unemployed university graduates leave Italy in droves, seeking work in Northern Europe.

    Small businesses are folding left and right, paving the way for growth of corporate supermarkets and fast food chains.

    Economic and bureaucratic obstacles to private sector investment favor monopolies and crush entrepreneurship.

    Permatanned multi-tasker misogynist Silvio Berlusconi monopolized Italy’s public and private media for decades, subverted democracy and undermined free press, all while running a veritable brothel.

Sounds like an awesome place to live, right? Well don’t worry, you can seek solace in the consistent expansion of one industry: fast food. Pieces like this one on Al Jezeera are reporting old news. Remember the McItaly ads from 2010? Ronald McDonald has been around for ages and is here to stay. The Slow Food movement can hardly claim the same kind of growth.

mcdonalds-termini-rome

So while fast food consumption (and childhood obesity) rises, cultural heritage is neglected and plundered, and free press is stifled, a sticky orange 76-year-old waits in the wings to save the day put the final nail in the coffin. In three weeks, Italians will return the polls. Berlusconi is poised to return to the throne of his delapidated kingdom, enticing voters with his promises of a cash in exchange for their support. If the first two decades of his tenure are anything to go by, a Berlusconi win spells certain defeat for the future of Italy and those who call it home.

So as not to end this post on a totally depressing note, I will leave the final word to “Girlfriend in a Coma”: “This is NOT THE END. You can change it.”

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19 Comments:


  • OMG -wake up Italy=more Silvio-so depressing and I don’t even live there


  • Thanks for posting this Katie. All is not perfect. Something missing for me is WOMEN. Even in this clip there are only 2 women. Where are the women in all this? Italy is victim to the Berlusconi era but women are the hit the worst. Perhaps change will come when women have voices here. I don’t know. As a foreigner I feel all I can do is watch the train wreck, otherwise be called a stupid American bitch for having an opinion (or is it because I have a vagina??) I’ve only been here 9 years but the sense of total moral decline is very real.


  • Well said Katie! It is so depressing to think that the Italians can be fooled yet again by that madman If they do vote for him again then I fear that Italy is finished! I pray that they will wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late! Povera Italia!


  • P.S. I don’t just mean women in the film, I mean women in positions of power. Women’s voices, women taking to the street and saying, “We’ve had enough!”

  • Katie

    @sue im afraid Silvio will be back at the helm soon enough. if he can clinch enough votes via coalition we are done for

    @Sarah women, minorities, immigrants, LGBT…the list of groups who are oppressed, persecuted or, at the very least, slighted seems interminable. by cutting them out of the loop, italy loses out in a big way. in general, respect for others is not a national trait.

    @maggie i hope you will cast your absentee ballots!


  • Ettore keeps saying that if Italians vote for B, “We deserve him.”


  • Katie. Well said…and so sad. It’s like watching a loved one in a self-distructive mode and feeling powerless to stop it.


  • I do agree that there has been shocking change in the last 20+ years I’ve worked here (and 12 that I’ve lived here), but if you look at the last 50-70 years, it is even more shocking. This country has gone at high speed to catch up to the modern world – for better or for worse. So, do you define it as decline or modernization? I am not denying the truth of what you are saying, but I can see that things got out of hand when the pace of change picked up. The problem is global and the problem is greed.

    I’m not sure which I am … oblivious, wealthy, corrupt, an optimist or a masochist …. well, I know I’m not wealthy or corrupt, but I am quite happy to live here. I will say that we were better off when we were worse off, though.


  • What is scary is not so much the amount of people that will vote for Berlusconi as the amount of people who have no idea who to vote because of the lack of a decent choice and who will end up abstaining, thus making a Berlusconi victory ever more threatening…


  • Thanks for posting this. I agree with every word. I’ve lived in Italy for over 30 years now, and it breaks my heart to see the way it’s headed.


  • I read your post with interest yet feel it is a little unfair. As an expat living here for the past 15 years I can understand the frustration you feel due to some of the things you mention… I too am frustruated at times.
    Having said this, I feel there might be a little of “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome. Italy is not perfect, of course not. But neither are the US, UK, Spain, Canada, France …
    As far as the food is concerned, however bad it gets I doubt it will EVER reach US standards… One suggestion here is simply avoid fast food restaurants? Italy certainly offers VERY VALID alternatives… For all pocket sizes.
    As far as berlusconi is concerned, yes the damage has been done I agree. I doubt he’ll be back though… And, as an American I’d like to add that I’ll take him anytime over Bush… At least Berlusconi’s damage stayed within Italy’s borders…

    Hope you see my point ;)
    I really don’t think other places are all much better. Each country has its own good and bads, and its own idiosyncrasies that as a foreigner may be hard to understand… as an expat I rather concentrate on the (many many) goods this country has to offer (first of all a job, nice weather, beautiful towns, history, art, extremely nice and friendly people, great food etc…).
    I feel life is better this way, and I and my family are much happier here ;).


  • It was so sad and hurt so much to read your post, because it showed so much of the Italy that, unfortunately, too many Italians are no longer capable or have never been able to see.
    It is also obvious that your critique is not gratuitous, but springs out of your love for a Country whose culture is being allowed to go fallow by greed, selfishness and apathy.
    I hope you will not mind that I’ve hijacked your post: I intend to eventually translate it in Italian and force feed it to as many people as I can.
    For the first time in my long life I find myself ashamed of being Italian and of having being silent too long. I don’t like it and I want yo do whatever I can, before I die, to re-awaken the spirit that made our land and our culture a gem of the Western civilization for centuries.


  • Yo, KT, telling it like it is! I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees serious decay in my decades here. But I still harbor serious optimism that through revolution and renaissance this place will pull through. I’ll take the liberty of quoting you at romasostenibile.com. T


  • I look forward to this film with interest; it reminds me of the recent documentary “Italy: Love it or Leave it” (also highly worth watching). I’ve lived here for 12 years and agree that every place has its pros and cons, but have seen firsthand the Italian quality of life worsen dramatically. And I agree with Katie that there’s a whole great swath of the populace–to which I would also add the country’s youth–that are underserved and utterly wasted potential. I can’t help but feel that this in itself is very telling.

    I think Italians are supremely talented at making the most of the present, of enjoying life and counting their blessings even if the ship–as it were–is sinking. But I do not think Italians are very good at swallowing the bitter medicine, and making the necessary changes, required for a healthy future.


  • Siamo d’accordo che la classe politica italiana è corrotta, ma lo è anche il modello economico neo liberale della scuola di Chicago alla quale fa riferimento Monti! Associare Monti ad una rinascita italiana è criminale. Almeno che per rinascita non si intenda la distruzione delle realtà particolari e l’appiattimento culturale delle masse, per i bagordi delle elit.


  • Thanks for posting this Katie. As an Italian-American engaged to an Italian and having lived there a couple of times, I understand completely. For me, the most depressing aspect of this whole situation is that my cousins and friends there who are my age and in their mid-20s only talk about leaving, getting out, and that there is no future in their country. I think often in Italy, people see the situation as it is and believe that even if they try to fight it, they will fail, so the only way is to get out (have you ever seen La Febbre? perfect example of that). However, I do not see a total loss of hope – people in power, such as journalist Beppe Severgnini in his book “Italiani di domani”, are calling upon young Italians to step up and encouraging them that they do not have to live with the mistakes their parents made. And there are several young people who are taking that calling, politically, economically, and also in the slow food and wine movements (Decanter on Radio 2 has done a few features in which they interview young people who are returning to artisan and agricultural trades). I only hope this small spark grows into a flame…


  • I have never lived in Italy and I only visit for all too brief periods of time.
    I do know a lot of expats and Italians who would agree with you. I also know a lot of expats who would agree with the woman who said this is happening the world over. I see all of this happening in the US.
    There is still,l in all of this, so much to love about Italy. I hope that this dark picture will not become a reality. We always have the option to change.


  • [...] Rome is beautiful and has a special warm energy that makes you want to get to know the city better. But, the lack of organization and the relaxed mentality in Rome can also be expressed as a form of lawlessness, something that Katie Parla wrote about in a recent blog post: [...]


  • A great piece Katie. Everyone is on tenterhooks… but with our fingers crossed for change!

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