The response to “Italy the Land of Art, Food, and Debt” was quite a surprise, but it was pointed out by some readers that I left a few things out. Writing about a country with a rich history such as Italy is no easy task, but one must attempt to placate to one’s audience. In the current scheme of things, while Italy has contributed greatly to Western culture, it remains a country mired with serious problems such as a low birth rate, rapidly aging population, stagnant economy, and far too much debt. However, Italy has, and is still contributing to the world.
While Italy and Brazil played spectacularly bad in the last World Cup, they have 9 championships between them. The fact remains that Brazil has 5; Italy has 4, and Germany 3 World Cup trophies. This painful fact is always brought up by a Brazilian friend who also reminds me on a consistent basis that Italian teams such as Milan and InterMilan are stocked with Brazilian players. In any event, the Italian National Team has won 4 World Cup’s, which is quite an accomplishment. Another sport where Italy has been dominant has been auto racing. It started back in the 1930’s with superstar racer Tazio Nuvolari, and then on to Alberto Ascari in the 1950’s. Regarding racing teams, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari are the stuff legends are made of. Soccer and auto racing are only two sports, but they are among two most popular in the world, and Italy can be very proud of its rich history in both.
Like food, Italian wine offerings range from simple and inexpensive to highly complex and very costly. My first real exposure to Italian wine was in 1980 while visiting a family vineyard in Calabria. It was a truly local product and rough around the edges. While the view from the vineyard was breathtaking, its manicuring was the antithesis of Napa wine makers like Mondavi and Cappola. In years to come I was exposed to excellent Italian wines at events sponsored by the Italian wine industry. Amarone and Brunello are not just great Italian wines, but great wines by any standard. From the ultra powerful aforementioned reds to the light and crisp Frascati, Italy’s has among the finest and most wide-ranging wines selection of any country in the world. It shows that rich soil and old world craftsmanship can still produce great products in our fast paced society.
Last week’s downgrade of Italian sovereign debt by S&P will cause the country to pay higher interest rates when tapping the bond market. While much is being said about Italy’s leader, Silvio Berlusconi, life still goes on. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the last World Cup loss, Italy always seems to manage. To gain a better perspective on the Italian demeanor, all one has to do is watch 8 1/2 by Frederico Fellini, pour a nice glass of wine, sit back and enjoy a glimpse into La Dolce Vita.