One Way Or Another

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 5. Politics, Florence by sabeena1 Comment

“Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” – Kahlil Gibran

When I first got to Italy, I was under the impression that anything and everything here would be better than the States. I think that’s a fairly common American idea, you look around every store in the mall in the States and all the most expensive ones have Milano underneath them.Growing up in New Jersey, I, like many Italian Americans, even pine after Olive Garden breadsticks. To explain this, I can only say that the green is greener. But now, living here, the novelty of truly unlimited pasta and breadsticks is wearing off.

Italy’s economy is not in the greatest shape. I know their democratic party was only founded in 2007, which is quite young. This democratic party is called the PD, which was conceived after a massive corruption trial, and is defined as center-left. When doing my research about Italy’s politics, the most interesting view from an article that I found, is that the PD has a “liberal attitude towards migration.” That got me thinking a lot about something I’ve just been considering all week – Refugees.

I watched quite a few videos on the subject, including one piece done by Vice. I found it a bit strange, probably one of Vice’s worst pieces of video journalism. The commentator is quite separated from the situation, and almost takes a backseat, something Vice rarely does. Before I even came to Italy, my roommate was forwarding me articles from CNN, and I expected to hear more about the migrants while here. But not a word, it’s almost as though it has been brushed under the rug, now it that it has slowed down. When I visited Genoa, one of the largest port cities in Europe, I saw graffiti saying how all were welcome, that this city has no borders. A presence was alive, so many different people dancing through the streets on a late night. Here in Florence, things are different. My vision is thick with tourists and American college students, there is a preservation and stretch to change and adapt.

Italy seems to be taking in a lot of migrants for its size, especially because neighboring countries such as France have no desire to hold them. The EU is even in the process of giving Italy money to support the migrants, paying nearly €900m, which doesn’t even come close to covering the annual cost of Rome. It seems though, that the all-too-colorful tape we associate with bureaucracy wins another battle here – Italian politicians and the like can’t seem to feel one way or another about migration.

Alessandro Di Battista, prominent leader of the populist party called The Five Star Movement, stated “we need the citizens’ income to transform the economy … It buys time to prevent young people from running away from Italy, and to stop older people from killing themselves when they lose their job at 50.” The Five Star Movement is criticized for just reflecting what the people want, and that seems to be how they’re winning, by targeting the people and doing what Berlusconi did years ago. Berlusconi was a former prime minister of Italy, politically affiliated with the center-right. His stance on migration remained clear, in 2008 he stated, “step up neighborhood police, who can be an army of good, placing themselves between the Italian people and the army of evil,” when speaking of foreign migrants coming into cities.

What makes me nervous about not having a decided, firm stance on migration, as an entire nation, is what kind of impact this will have on Italians and even Europeans as a whole. Xenophobia and racism thrive under these kinds of circumstances, and I worry how the identities of Europeans as well as migrants will change as time together progresses. As a temporary resident (expat? – haven’t decided what I’d like to call myself), I feel as though I can watch this issue unravel, my own national identity completely removed from the equation.


  1. Hi Sabeena,

    The issue of migration in Europe is indeed a very interesting conundrum. Having lived in Switzerland for a long time, this issue has always been a part of my life mainly because Switzerland seems to have a hard line stance against migrants, or at least it used to have this stance when compared to the rest of Europe. However, as the rest of Europe started to grapple with the refugee crisis in the middle of a financial crisis, things definitely started to change and all of Europe started to become less welcoming to outsiders. I found your post to be illuminating mainly because I was unaware that there were regional differences on this issue within Italy, but I was not surprised to hear that the issue is still a hot button topic and seems to be turning toward the hardliner stance.

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