Ending Gender-Based Violence
Plus, an outdoor smoking ban and illegal mixtapes
This Wednesday, on 8 March, thousands gathered in Italy - as in many countries - to participate in trans-feminist protests to mark International Women’s Day. The turnout was huge. Despite public transport strikes tens of thousands took to the streets in Milan, Rome and seventeen other cities to make their voices heard. This year the activist organizers ‘non una di meno’ were aiming above all to draw attention to the emergency of gender-based violence. According to recent data Italy is experiencing a sharp upturn in attacks on women. In fact 2022 was one of the worst in recent years vis-à-vis femicide: 125 women were murdered last year, mostly by partners, husbands and brothers (up by 16% since 2021). Alongside marches, flash mobs and temporary occupations, activists focused on demonstrating solidarity with international struggles, from female refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine to Iranian, Afghani and Kurdish women’s attempts to resist violent regimes. Finally, activists took to the streets to call for abortion rights, and guaranteed reproductive rights. Claudia Torrisi published a great op-ed on that issue before Christmas that resonates even more strongly today. A must read to understand the Italy of Georgia Meloni, and the people that are resisting her ultra-conservative social programme.
In a surprising development, growing numbers of far-right Italian politicians are calling for a shift in migration policy… to welcome more refugees. The impetus seems to have been a recent tragic shipwreck off the coast of Calabria which killed 59 people. While most of the government officials offered the usual crocodile tears and mandatory humanitarian soundbites, Sebastiano "Nello" Musumeci, a Sicilian member of Fratelli d’Italia, grabbed headlines for his more official-sounding statement that Italy needs “more controlled migration from refugees” not only “to avoid tragedies” but also to “(re)populate ghost towns and bolster the economy”. His intervention - and suggestion that Italy should ‘take’ 500,000 African migrants per year - has proved popular in some sections of the party. Now several officials close to the Prime Minister have been arguing for controlled migration from outside the EU to improve the birth-rate, prop-up the workforce and make Italy “globally competitive.” Even Meloni, who once called for a battleship blockade in the Mediterranean to tackle illegal migration, has shifted her priorities: today her preferred focus is on how to replace a “blanket humanitarian corridor” with a “concrete choice” for Italy. Obviously, this is a far-cry from the stance of human rights groups. But whatever the reason (outflanking the opposition? Appeasing the EU Commission?), and whatever the actual real-world implications (will deportations increase? What about citizenship issues? Labour exploitation) it’s clear that FdI is now moving away from its crude campaign pledges towards a new policy agenda. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one…
Violence against women? Refugee rights? Forget it. The most pressing issue of the day for Italy’s current government seems to be… a proposed outdoor smoking ban. On 6 March the health minister Orazio Schillaci drafted a new bill which, if passed, will prohibit smoking cigarettes (including e-cigarettes) at bus-stops, outside bars, as well as in piazzas and parks. According to Schillaci, the aim is to try and lower the number of smokers in the country (which at 24% and rising is one of the highest rates in Europe). In fact, the seemingly banal proposal has driven a significant wedge in the governing coalition. Many on the far-right are applauding the decisive hard intervention on the part of the state; others, such as the Junior Culture Cecretary Vittorio Sgarbi, are furious. As he recently put it (speaking of his own government): “this is something typical of an authoritarian and dictatorial communist regime!” Hum. Right now, it looks unlikely the bill will pass through the Camera and Senate. Instead, politicians are proposing a parallel bill to ban cannabis light, CBD weed and associated oils which - for better or worse - looks far more likely to make it into law. Priorities eh?!
Arts and culture: modern day folk heroes
Netflix and 01Distribution have got a new film out about the story of ‘Mixed by Erry’ which looks well worth a watch. If you haven’t heard of Erry the gist is basically this: in the late 80s a young Neapolitan man, Enrico Frattasio, set up a bootleg pirate mixtape label by that name which was comprised of thousands of recorded songs and samples ranging from everything from “regional rap records to collections of Gregorian chants and birdsong.” Frattasio sold his tapes to black market dealers in the Naples suburbs where traders flogged them alongside bootlegged cigarettes and liquor. The story soon became a legend; ‘middle man’ collectors began to stockpile and curate the tapes, even exporting them to other European countries (Romania in particular for some reason). Today, Italians are divided on Frattasio. Do his actions make him a petty criminal? A working class hero? Or both? Were the mixtapes utilitarian get-rich-quick schemes? Or were they, in fact, works of art in their own right? Check out the film, and this associated ENG long read by Giorgio Ghiglione, for some answers.
I am not - generally speaking - a video gamer. I don’t own a PS5, an Xbox, a switch or any of the other consoles; and I rarely indulge in PC games beyond the occasional real time strategy title. The new release by Santa Ragione, however, the Italian production company best known for FOTONICA, certainly caught my eye. Saturnalia is a survival horror adventure game set in a small Sardinian village; the plot involves something about local pagan spirits, and the gameplay seems to involve navigating labyrinthine hidden passages and solving puzzles around the small hermetically sealed digital world. The striking thing, though, is the detail. The maps, the architecture, the bins and street signs are all instantly recognizable as reflections of the real-life Sardinian provinces, only cast here in an eerie oneiric almost surreal haze. I think it’s beautiful. So for that reason and that reason alone I wanted to share it here! Check out the trailer below for a taste of the experience, and if you’ve played the game let me know how it is.
Recipe of the week: broad bean, potato and fennel soup
I’ve been travelling in Northern Europe - in Belgium and France - for the past week so my diet has been made up largely of meat, butter, waffles, crepes and other delicious but unhealthy indulgences from the Gallic lands. Honestly? It’s been a delicious divergence from Italian food; but I have to say I’m looking forward to being back in Florence and cooking up some simple straightforward healthy nonna-type fare. Winter is finally giving way to spring but the produce isn’t quite there yet. It’s warming up, sure, but still rather wet. This straightforward soup by Rachel Roddy - of fennel, potato, dried beans - therefore seems appropriate for this in-between season. Topped with some good olive oil, black pepper and pecorino, this is my kind of homecoming lunch. Here’s the link.
My name is Jamie Mackay (@JacMackay) and I’m an author, editor and translator based in Florence. I’ve been writing about Italy for a decade for international media including The Guardian, The Economist, Frieze, and Art Review. I launched ‘The Week in Italy’ to share a more direct and regular overview of the debates and dilemmas, innovations and crises that sometimes pass under the radar of our overcrowded news feeds.
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