Postcard from... Italy


Michael Day
Saturday 23 November 2013 01:00

It’s not enough for a country to boast the world’s best cuisine, an amazing climate, outstanding natural beauty and low rates of violent crime: to get ahead in the much-vaunted global “soft power” ratings it also needs a leader who isn’t an international laughing stock.

But with Silvio Berlusconi out of government and apparently fading away as a political force, the latest “soft power” list compiled by Monocle magazine has seen Italy rise from 14th to 10th in the rankings, which measure a country’s influence in terms of politics, diplomacy, business, culture, sport and education rather than military might and economic strength.

“Congratulations Silvio Berlusconi. By leaving politics in disgrace, you have almost single-handedly lifted Italy into the top 10 for the first time,” pronounced the magazine, beloved of people who cannot understand the Economist but who do not want to be seen reading lower-brow publications.

It added that “Italy has the spirit and culture to become a soft superpower”, despite ongoing doubts over its sclerotic and debt-laden economy and its fragile coalition government – and the distinct possibility Berlusconi’s influence will linger. It said Italy was “the only country that can challenge France when it comes to the triumvirate of food, art and culture” while also having the upper hand in sport and “an unrivalled fashion industry”.

Germany was ranked first in the listing for showing itself to be “excellent at pursuing its ideas, values and aims using diplomatic, cultural and economic tools”. Britain, then basking in post-Olympics glory, came second thanks to its cultural influence and world famous – and free – art galleries.

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