Italy is quite a young country, so often gets its food cuisine from neighbouring countries (Germany and even North Africa for people who live in Sicily). It lends itself naturally due to everyone eating lentils, and of course there is lots of fresh fruits and salads. And wine!
We may think of spaghetti bolognese, but food here is actually very regional (the dish is from Bologna, yet northern cities eat rice and polenta, and southern areas more pizza and ice-cream sandwiches!) Sorbet was invented to combine fruit with ice from mountains, to cool down in summer.
The vegan movement is pretty popular, with many people boycotting mozzarella cheese, after a welfare issue regarding buffalos. And like many countries, the government is now trying to crack down on ‘vegan meats’, as they become more popular.
The bill is basically trying to make it illegal for vegan companies to call their items ‘sausages or burgers’. A bit strange, considering some meat sausages are full of who-knows-what, and the original ‘Cornish pasty’ (that has also tried to ban vegan versions) was originally half-fruit (they should do their history – the crimped end was then thrown to the ‘ghosts’ in the tin mines, after being used to hold the pasty. Around 800,000 people are already plant-based in Italy and growing. Reminds you of the phrase:
First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. They then fight you. Then you win.
the barmpot politics of Italy
Politics in Italy is barmpot, and there’s not much to learn from them (they change Prime Ministers more often than us). But we can learn to live a little like the Italians, from enjoying good food with natural ingredients to balance (Italians drink, but you’ll never see a binge-drinker vomiting on the street).
Another aspect of Italian life we can learn is the co-operative movement. Very strong in the Emilia-Romagna region, this means that many companies are owned by workers and the working day is very different. So an Italian cafe-owner may start early and finish late, but will often close down for 3 hours at lunch to go off for a proper lunch and siesta. The difference is that the area is very financially prosperous, proving that ‘work till you drop’ is not a good philosophy. Italians earn more, by doing less! For more information on the area’s alternative economic model, read the book Humanizing the Economy.
how an Italian island went plastic-free
The Italian island of Capri lies just off the coast of Naples, and is quite well-known here, as it’s where our own ‘Lancashire lass’ Gracie Fields (at one time the highest-paid star in the world) lived, up until her death. Today it’s a popular tourist destination, mostly known for its exported Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh basil and for us, vegan mozzarella!)
But what makes this place so special (and very useful to us as an island) is how it has dealt with plastic waste. We have many seaside resorts and islands, and they are beautiful, but during tourist season, they get packed with plastic litter. So what did the Italians do? Simply – they fine anyone who brings it over the water! The council hands out free reusable water flasks, for anyone that’s thirsty.
This law has to many other laws nationwide. In Tremiti (another Italian island) the same happened. The port city of Bari (Puglia) has banned selling single-use plastic cups, plates and straws. And Liguria has even banned people from wearing flip-flops, as their mountain rescues was being called out all the time,
what we can learn from Venice
Of course, when we think of canals, Venice often comes to mind. And we know that the city does a fantastic tourist trade (gondolas apparently are highly-trained and earn a good living). But we also hear of things like dead rats floating down the river. Which is true?
The city of Venice has 150 canals all linked by bridges, and they were built by man around the 5th century. The water used to be clean (too salty to drink) but now of course they are plagued by pollution and litter. However, the city does spend a lot of money cleaning it up, in order to appeal to tourists, which brings in most income.
During the COVID pandemic, the murky green water became crystal clear enough to see fish below, which shows that it was pollution that was causing the issues. The city also asks tourists to use their many water fountains, to try to dissuade tourists from buying (and sometimes) dropping) plastic water bottles. However all the rubbish bins are collected six days a week so you won’t find them overflowing with litter. On Sunday they have a rest (this is Catholic Italy – they go to mass instead!)
You likely think of Venice simply as houses on canals, but in fact most of the population live in Mestre, the urban centre. But for those who live in the historical centre with front doors opening out onto the canals, waste collection and recycling has been notoriously difficult, especially due to dropped waste from 30 million annual tourists (which has also lead to colonies of seagulls and rats, who obviously take advantage of the leftover food.
Since 2016, the local waste collection company have a new system that could work in many areas of England where there are issues. People with boats have trash compactors fitted to deliver waste to the tips themselves, and for collection – the garbage collectors actually ring the doorbell, so waste is not left outside doors, but rather collected and dealt with immediately. All collection boats are fitted with compactors to separate waste and on different days (glass, paper, plastic, general waste etc). Oil collection bins are also delivered, for those who have leftover fuel from their boats. The local company even sends people out to sweep outside your door, if needed!