Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Predappio

Left-wing Italians, which by British standards means most Italians, are very disappointed with Mr Blair. He is not leftwing at all, they realise. When he agreed to bomb Iraq they were furious. In coverage of the bombings, a favourite trick of Italian television newscasters was to show pictures of the devastation on the ground followed immediately by footage of Mr Blair grinning that famous grin of his, preferably sitting in the cockpit of an RAF' fighterbombers. The message the newscasters wanted Italians to get was clear: Mr Blair was enjoying the bombing. The government's announcement last week of tough welfare reforms caused similar dismay. Italian newspapers gave the story a lot of space under headlines such as: `Blair does to welfare state what not even Thatcher dared to do'. This is all very different from the time of Mr Blair's election triumph which so many Italians hoped would herald a great new Red dawn throughout the European Union.

Politics in Italy, apart from its corruption, is a pretty tedious affair. But sex in Italy is another matter. You cannot beat Italy for sex - or at least the consequences of sex. Last week's widely reported ruling by Italy's highest court, that a woman in jeans cannot be raped because it is impossible to remove a pair of jeans without the consent of the wearer, had everyone talking. The court - La Suprema Corte di Cassazione - has pronounced on many such matters in recent years. For example, it is permissible for a husband to rape his wife, the court has ruled, if the motive is love rather than smanie ormonali, roughly speaking lust; or for a husband or a wife to beat their spouse if the motive is jealousy; or for a husband or wife to commit adultery if sexual relations have ceased. It is not permissible, however, to kiss someone on the cheek without their consent; or for a wife to commit adultery if her husband works too hard, or to divorce her husband on the grounds that he snores. When it comes to sexual revenge Italian women are extremely imaginative -- without the need to resort to the courts. The latest tactic is to take the lead role in a low-budget pornographic film which is then available for sale or hire in local video shops. One 30-year-old wife, abandoned by her husband, who did this was so good in the role that according to the video shop-owner in her town the video of her was more popular with local people than that of the film Titanic. As for the husband, he was said to be in hiding at his mother's house and had not been seen out for days.

I live in a house perched on the side of a little mountain in the Apennines, 18 hairpin bends above the village of Predappio, near Bologna, in the Romagna, which is like Tuscany without the British. I am writing a biography of Mussolini who was born and is buried in Predappio. Last week two feet of snow fell in 24 hours - the most anyone can remember. Just days before, I had killed the first giant wasp of the year at least two inches long - which had appeared inside the house during a remarkably warm spell and soon after a minor earthquake. Elsewhere in Italy, Etna had erupted and forest fires had broken out in the north-west. No one speaks any English here except a university student, Riccardo, who claims to be writing a novel and likes to quote from all the classics. …

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