Lisa Markwell: Politics - the Italian way

FreeView from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

For complicated reasons, I found myself on a ferry in rural northern Italy this week. I struck up a conversation with a friendly middle-aged Italian lady who was travelling the same route as me and after small talk about the weather, the region and where we were both headed, the conversation turned to politics.

It was the morning of the day that Mario Monti announced his austerity measures for Italy, and my companion talked, at length and fluently, about the mess that her country was in. She also – to my amazement – defended Silvio Berlusconi's tumescent reputation, saying she could forgive him for his sexual peccadilloes, just not his greed and mismanagement of the nation's fortunes.

But what really astonished me was the depth and breadth of her knowledge of the finer points of the eurozone crisis. She could name all of the key players, and knew Mario Draghi's every career move, going back decades.

Now one might argue that since Italy is in such a parlous state, it would be a strange citizen that wasn't paying attention. But contrast it with the conversation my friend Alice overheard on a train to Swindon a couple of days ago...

A group of youngish business folk were obviously travelling to a conference or similar. Two of the women broke away and started chatting. "I know it's odd, but I quite fancy that George Osborne," said one. "Who's he?" asked the other. "You know, the Chancellor," said woman one. Blank stare. "Ed Miliband's not bad," she continued. "Actually not him, his brother, can't remember his name." Blank stare again.

Now, I work for a national newspaper and sometimes I struggle to keep tabs on every cabinet move and (frequently bogus) initiative. So I wouldn't expect Britain's citizens at large to be political experts, but the inability to recognise the name of the men who are at the top of the country? Rather deflating.

It would be wrong to make sweeping generalisations about one European nation being more engaged with politics than another – no doubt there are plenty of Italians who are too busy bunga bungaing to get acquainted with Super Mario's slightly underwhelming fiscal strategy. But I tried a few more exchanges and eavesdropped on others and (halting language skills allowing) each person was clued-up and passionate about their fate, and the fate of their currency.

Here, the main topics of conversation are the military wives choir vs. X Factor and the weather. Just a little knowledge wouldn't – in this case – be a dangerous thing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York