Today the spring rains have begun, all work on the new vineyard is stopped becaue of the weather & the joy to have an excuse to sleep in turns to frustration as one realises that precious time is slipping by!
The new Governor of the Bank of Italy (being the replacement of the previous Governor who was felled by a series of leaked wiretaps that showed him to have been rather too close to a banker under criminal investigation) has released a statement saying that Italy's economy is in decline which, while not irreversable, needs urgent attention from the government. This is unlikely to come, not least because there is a national election on 9 April. But this election is completely different to any I have seen. The usual hoardings that by law each Commune (municipality) must make available to the political parties to display their wares exhorting you to vote for Signor X or Doctor Y (very rarely were there woman candidates) are missing. That is because there will be no "Signor X" or "Dottore Y" to vote for. Instead, Italians will put their cross - which doesn't represent a vote, but a preference) alongside the symbol of the party they "prefer" & the party will nominate the representative that goes to parliament. Members of Parliament in the new session will thus be beholden to the party machinery & have no direct nexus with the people.
This may sound less than democratic, and it is. But it is only the beginning. The new rules are so complex that few (me included) understand them. Not only, but parties may take more than one preference in a region so a party that is strong in one region but weak in others may garner multiple preferences & send an enhanced number of representatives to parliament. Oh, & we mustn't forget the "premium" given to the party that receives the most votes. The words "diabolical" & "machiavellian" spring to mind, the very words that could - & have been - applied to the old Democratic Christians who dominated Italian politics from the end of the Second World War until the "clean hands" anti corruption investigations (but not prosecutions) forced them to re-organise. For indeed this new/old voting system was introduced by Silvio Berlusconi as the price of keeping the re-named Democratic Christians (now the "Union of Democratic Christians") in his coalition.
Yesterday was the end of Carneval which has its roots in the pagan celebration of the end of winter. Last evening we did a bit of pagan celebrating ourselves with friends & much good wine & food was consumed. One of the great - truly great - things about living in Italy is that if you are invited out to dinner you can be sure that you will drink really good wines & eat fabulous food. The only disadvantage is that with summer coming there is a fair bit of that weight put on on those cold winter's nights to be taken off!
With winter officially over, I decided not to bother lighting the "Aga" type stove that we have that uses wood to heat all the downstairs part of the house plus hot water. Given that it was also not lit yesterday this has proved to be a big mistake. The cold of the thick stone walls is drawing every bit of warmth out of our living area & we feel like the characters in "The Day After"!
Today we had the routine once-a-year visit from the Guardia di Finanza to check that our cash register has had its yearly service & that Luca fills in the official register in which we are required to record our income from the Agriturismo (in Italy the farm income is relatively lightly taxed - at least for Italy - whereas the Agriturismo is fully taxed like a hotel). As usual, there were 4 officers, the check took around 10 minutes & they were off leaving an official document showing that they had been here & all was in order (at least at that superficial level). It took two officers to sign this document plus Luca. As every public activity gets this routine visit once a year - in each case with 4 officers - you really begin to wonder if the return can justify the cost? (I wanted to take a photo of the guardia & had thought to ask them if they would mind but it seemed just that little bit too provocative!)