Magazine article The Spectator

The Word on the Strada

Magazine article The Spectator

The Word on the Strada

Article excerpt

San Rossore, Pisa

THEY call them the lucciole, the fireflies who stand by the road. They will be there on Sunday when the Blair motorcade sweeps past on the Via Aurelia Nord. They stand in their stilettos and little else, here on this single carriageway rat-run, along which lorries hurl at terrifying speeds past some of the most squalid consequences of mass tourism anywhere in the Mediterranean.

When Tony and Cherie and their children arrive in Italy this weekend to stay in the Villa del Gombo, a hunting lodge owned by the Tuscan regional council, they will soon see the difference between this benighted coastline and Chiantishire. When Nicky and Kathryn and Euan press their noses to the windows of the car, they will see video-game parlours, fast-food outlets, caravan sites, karaoke joints, kickboxing dens and hotels called 'California'. The municipal beach is a strip of mudcoloured sand, whose only point of interest is the part of it which has become a gay colony, encouraged by the socialist Viareggio council, on the grounds that gays need to be able to express themselves. The innocent and impressionable Blair children will see the railway line which runs by the beach for mile after monotonous mile, and, on the adjoining road, they will see the hookers; and you might say, at the risk of being pompous, that these fireflies are the guilty conscience of the West.

Tony Blair will spend his annual Tuscan holiday surrounded by fallen women from the poorest nations on earth. Some of them are from Serbia; some are even from the formerly Serb province of Kosovo. Yes, they are from places that Blair has actually bombed; though he is, we must hope, unlikely to emulate his hero, Gladstone, and discover them for himself before he sweeps into the wooded sanctuary of the 19th-century hunting lodge. He must take it from me that they charge as little as 10 for full intercourse - no kissing, mind you - provided you have a car. But, if Mr Blair did screw up his courage to ask them the time of day, he would not find them ill-disposed.

`Anyone is better than Thatcher,' is the opinion of one lady, and Angela from Albania, a big blonde, as big as anything Fellini could muster, is vaguely under the impression that he is the Prime Minister of her very own country. One can imagine, when one thinks of recent television coverage of Mr Blair's travels to the Balkans, how that idea has taken root. Yes, Tony Blair could expect a warmish, if apathetic welcome from some of the girls, for whom politics is as remote as a heartfelt kiss. The only trouble is, they will not be alone in wait for him on the Via Aurelia Nord. Mr Blair may be fond of Italy; he may be here by invitation of Signor Vannino Chiti, the post-post-postcommunist president of the Tuscan regional council. But around here the communists are strong: they achieved 15 per cent of the vote in the regional elections in June, and they do not like Tony Blair one bit.

Signor Roberto Pucci, the communist capogruppo, has a plan. He wishes to mark the Blairs' arrival, to let them know how decent Italian communists feel. There is talk of sit-ins at the entrance to the lodge, and possibly some seaborne activity, by means of pedalo, towards the vast private beach at the back. Partly, he says, he wishes to show dissatisfaction at Mr Blair's brand of socialism, and partly at the bombing, which, he believes, is the ultimate manifestation of that flexible ideology. …

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