With apologies to Dario Nardella
Plus, Mussolini's Grandchildren and Italy's music industry takes on Meta
First things first, some local Tuscan news. Last Friday, the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella made headlines in Italy after he physically intercepted a climate activist who was spraying paint over the walls of the medieval town hall. The activist in question, Giordano Stefano Cavini Casalini (32), planned his gesture as a way of drawing attention to the climate emergency. Nardella, who has, in his own limited way, advocated green politics took this provocation to heart. Rather than leave the matter to the police, he jumped-in personally, pushed the young man about and literally yelled in his face “what the fuck are you doing?” The response has been pretty heated, so here’s my lukewarm take. The activist’s intervention? Pretty stupid, pretty annoying, pretty trivial. Yes, gestural, performative protests can sometimes be useful; but without movements in place to shape narratives they can also prove counterproductive and alienating. This particular act, I think, was misjudged. Nardella’s response, meanwhile? Utterly bizzare. Some have been accusing the mayor of perpetuating “toxic violent masculinity.” I don’t buy that. If anything he just seemed exasperated, and the result was nothing more or less than ‘cringe-worthy.’ Yes, I get it. Nardella wanted to make a strong gesture in defence of ‘institutional protocol’ which he judged would please traditional PD voters. Still, it does seem a shame that he has now personally put himself at odds with the spirit of passionate young climate activists who - strategic niavities aside - are at least trying to cut through our collective and ultimately suicidal apathy. If you have’t seen the footage yet, feast your eyes on the bizarre video below and make of it what you will. Note: the Palazzo Vecchio is fine. Despite the 5000 litres of wasted water required to clean it (in the midst of a drought no less) there will be no lasting damage.
The historian David Broder’s hotly anticipated new book Mussolini's Grandchildren. Fascism in Contemporary Italy is out this week and it’s right at the top of my “to read-review pile.” As the title suggests Broder’s project here is to trace the genealogy of the new Italian right, the links between militant groups and the parliamentary force. Indeed as the publisher puts it in the blurb: Fratelli d'Italia has “retained its hegemony over fascist subcultures” whilst embracing “a raft of more pragmatic policy positions, fusing harsh Islamophobia and anti-communism with support for the European Union and NATO.” In a context where anti-fascist forces in Italian society seem to be waning and the far-right party is succeeding, so far, in its mission to “redeem historical fascism, legitimise its political heirs and shift the terrain of mainstream politics” this is, surely, a must read. Frankly, I don’t envy Broder having had to research this book. Based on extracts I’ve read, the subject matter is grotesque, dispiriting and extremely alarming. Nevertheless, there’s no escaping reality, and educating ourselves, collectively, on the nuances of the current rightward shift is, without doubt, an ethical imperative. Order from Pluto here.
If you're a regular Italy-based user of Instagram you'll probably be aware of this one already, but for those reading from afar: Meta, the company that owns the platform, seems to have got into some kind of argument with the SIAE (the Italian song rights collecting society), the organisation which mediates the sale of specific-usage licences for the music industry here. Meta’s most recent licence expired in January, and, according to the business, the cost of renewing it was just too high. Rather than negotiate in conventional terms, they have therefore allowed the whole deal to fall apart; which means, for the time being SIAE's repertoire (which includes the vast majority of Italian artists) is simply absent from, or as some have argued, has been ‘censored’ from the platform. Regardless of the terminology, users like you and I now find ourselves unable to add Italian songs to videos and even, in some bizarre cases, we are blocked from accessing international content. In a sense, this is trivial, but there is a serious side too which is well-captured by the ‘Independent Music Publishers International Forum’ response, which (without necessarily endorsing the moral integrity of SIAE to protect artists’ rights) I share here in full:
IMPF condemns in the strongest possible terms Meta’s decision to exclude the Italian society of authors and publishers’ repertoire from its platforms. The move is nothing short of a bullying tactic used to force SIAE to accept a one-sided proposal that disregards any reasonable, shared evaluation of the value of music. Meta has now been without a licence for SIAE repertoire since 1 Jan 2023, despite SIAE having remained open to signing an agreement in good faith […] Instead, Meta has decided to use its position as a corporate mega power to hold artists at gunpoint and undervalue their hard work and creativity. This coercive, dishonest behaviour is not acceptable and sends a very worrying signal to the rest of the music business and the wider creative industries. Fair and honest negotiation is the only way forward. Meta needs to retract.”
Arts and culture: Ma Che Casino….
Italy Segreta, the online magazine, has just released its new monthly issue, and it’s one of the best so far I think. “The chaos issue” explores, among other things, mass tourism, public scandals, coffee, operatic histrionics, cluttered up shops, bizarre folk festivals and… of course… Naples. Chaos, it’s true, is a particular part of Italian life. The casino, the confusione have a particular flavour, feeling and texture here that’s somehow almost distinctive of a shared national culture. One can even learn to miss it, it turns out. I will pause here at risk of embarrassing myself through essentialist-stereotyping or simply making no sense at all. So let me leave it instead to the editors, who boldly state in their introductory standfirst: “We don't have to make sense! We are Italian!” Read the issue here - and let me also take the opportunity to share one of my favourite chaos related videos. A parking fail filmed in Naples back in 2013 [skip to 3:20 for the twist].
The Italian (anti)classical music collective 19m40s has a new track sampler out (their first in seven years) and it’s a perfect way to get yourself acquainted with their artists and back catalogue. 19+1 features works by Zeus!, Igor Stravinsky, Nikolay Popov, Modest Mussorgsky, Danilo Lorenzini, Gustav Holst, Hanns Heisler & Bertolt Brecht and many others; but the tracks are all revised, reinterpreted, repackaged and remixed in a form “diverse and eclectic, ranging from classical to contemporary music, from TV to video game soundtracks, and from original music to 'mash-ups.” It’s a wild ride, basically, from one of Italy’s most cutting edge small creative teams. Personal highlights from a first listen include Danza Del Diavolo (from "Histoire Du Soldat"); Solidaritätslied (from "Musica Politica") and Farey Sequence (from "Musica Razionale") – but there’s so much of interest here to reflect on and explore further with democratic ears and an open mind. Listen, and purchase, on bandcamp.
Recipe of the week: tagliatelle with asparagus, radicchio and pancetta
I spotted a very nice looking recipe in the Florentine this week by Gaetano Arnone, a private dining chef and culinary gardener at Villa Le Corti. His tagliatelle with asparagus, radicchio and pancetta is a dish that makes use of all the produce that overlaps in this strange - appropriately chaotic - change of season. The weather imbibes optimism. The sun and the heat are arriving - slowly - but the nights still have a bite, and storms and rain pepper the afternoons. Cherry tomatoes are in the markets, plump and red, but so are radishes and bitter greens. Here, in homage to the moment, Arnone preps a particularly elegant mix of raw and cooked vegetables, tossed through a simple buttery cheesy emulsified sauce. It’s a nice little tribute to the end of March, and I’ll be cooking it up this weekend, for sure. With some primavera prosecco on hand, of course. 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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