Lingering under the Tuscan moon last week, my travel companion and I had just finished an unforgettable meal in Siena. The 10 minute walk back to the hotel enlivened us and so we sat outside and wrapped up the evening.
What came out of this recent trip, which was punctuated by our conversation, is that Italy is in a dangerous but very opportune moment. Not any more dangerous than in 1968 or 1975 by any means, but the world in general has accelerated the risks we all are exposed to by just living in these times.
Food patterns. With drought in Italy, and France and America, the normal array of products, whether it be artichokes or strawberries, Sangiovese or beef, can be altered in a season. What the average Italian has grown to expect, an abundance of choice and high quality of selections, is not something that was the norm, 20, 40, 60 years ago. It is a new phenomenon. And it isn’t anything anyone should get used to. This winter alone the vegetation and crops in Southern Italy have been reduced in great percentages. People are going out into artichoke fields at night and stealing enough of the spiny globes to spike prices resulting in the reality that they won’t arrive to many tables this season. Artichokes. Imagine if it were something vital, like milk, wheat or fish?
Politics. All the world is in motion in this area. As it always seems to be if one really pays attention to that arena. Personally, I find it grueling. Most politicians are opportunistically driven towards their self-interest and survival. They live in a world few of us inhabit. Parallel planets, like Superman and his Bizarro counterpart. Italy has seen political tumult many times; 476, 1796, 1922, 1946, 1994. America as well. France also. I cannot go there but to say not to turn a blind eye but not to let it run (or ruin) your life.
On my way out of Italy with a week to spend in France, before heading back to America, what I saw and felt in those few days around Vinitaly underscored what I have been seeing for a year or so. Italy forgets its great natural abundance and its ability to restore itself in a short span of time. But now the world is thinner, flatter and more competitive. And yes, dangerous. Italy needs to be ever more vigilant in not letting their country slip away from their citizens. This is a time to be paying attention to every nuance, not to slip into the easy route of complaining and blaming others. It is an interesting time, but in no way is it without serious consequences if the Italians lose their grip on reality. It has happened before. It is not outside the realm of possibility, however interesting it may seem.