Spring at La Faula!
The Italy of 1996 was not the Italy of today. It was the end of the Italy of barely suppressed chaos that rocked and rolled on a sea of inflationary liquidity. Laws were badly written and often not enforced. Peoples’ working lives were to be short and their physical lives long and secure. The Italian State asked for little and in return it gave the collective little: poor infrastructure, incompetent bureaucracy, bad schools and universities, appalling public services, lack of basic communal amenities such as refuse dumps. But what it failed to give the collective, the Italian State made up for by giving to the individual, and in spades. The three great gifts within the means of the State to give were the pension, security of employment and security of earnings to the employee if the employer should fail and disappear. In return the State asked for little but it rendered Italians workers unsackable, it enabled them to retire in their 40’s and it kept them in the manner to which they were accustomed (100% of their salary) for decades even if their underlying employment had disappeared.
But in an ever integrating Europe this was untenable. An Italy that had been forced out of the Italian Exchange rate mechanism in 1992 and had almost defaulted on its debts, that was tardy or non-compliant in incorporating European directives and law was obviously an Italy that would not be able to take advantage of the security that being in ever deeper integration with other, stronger, European countries offered. And the Italian model had reached the end of the line. To Italian policy makers it was obvious that Italy needed to hook itself to the European bandwagon as it was too weak to go it alone and continue to offer what its populace expected now as of right. Only fifty years before most Italians had been in abject poverty. But the Dolce Vita was a right and a religion. To go to eat and drink continuously and conspicuously was, for a people that had previously suffered terribly from pellagra, a right that now defined them. For those that had known the pain of empty stomachs and the degradation of absolute poverty enough was never enough. Italy was a populist democracy and asking a people whose belly’s had to be always full to tighten their belts was not an option. So Italy began to change. It incorporated European directives into Italian law and began the process of enforcing the laws in a more systematic and comprehensive way.
But at La Faula we didn’t know this. And neither did our neighbours and the people from the villages around Ravosa. In 1996 you were still on your own in a Frasca if you had problems. The Carabinieri who controlled us were not there to help us. They were there to enforce the writ of the State across its territory. Disputes, unless they were well out of control and there were dead bodies to deal with, had to be resolved locally. The Carabinieri were more like an occupying power than a source of security and safety.
So it was that in our first years of running the frasca we were shaken down for protection money, had to deal with the Sunday visits of a gangster and convicted murderer from Nimis with his henchmen and sainted mother, had to disarm a knife-wielding teenager who was being bullied and had to manage the non payment of drinks orders by the toughest of men who were completely dangerous and terrifying.
to be continued!