Two Italys

Since yesterday, the feeling of having two separate communities in one country is even more pronounced

Since yesterday, the personal feeling of having two separate communities in one country is even more pronounced. Indeed, I’m lucky and unlucky enough to be a citizen of Rome, the capital of Italy and probably the most beautiful city in the world, but now also one of the toughest places to live in Europe.

Let’s be honest. I must admit that, when the International Olympic Committee announced that Milan, together with the mountain resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, will organize the Winter Olympics in 2026, I felt horribly jealous for the perspectives and the boost this event — which goes far beyond sports — will give to the most cosmopolitan Italian city. I am of course excited and proud as a fellow countryman. But the gap with Rome, already increased after the Expo 2015 hosted by the Lombard capital, can become potentially unbridgeable. We have to face our responsibilities and tell the truth: three million and half people have relegated themselves to the margins of any form of programming and enthusiasm.

What is worse and more depressing, is that Milan represents a positive trend that is barely present anywhere else in the country: a forward-looking environment matches a brave administration, while its citizens reject the easy vows and the preventive cries of some politicians, because they know and have experienced at first hand that investing in events, culture, arts, research and, above all, thinking big, makes their lives better in practice.

Instead, in Rome we consciously gave up hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, as in recent years we have always been stuck in endless debates on the presence of the Roma in the peripheries — where I live, if some of you is picturing me writing this piece with a view over the Colosseum — and on the third-world public transport. We have seen this opportunity knocking once, but we still have the presumption of depicting the Olympics only as a source of indebtedness, corruption, bribery and building speculation. We just ignore that this would be a both national and international effort, and that we would be in the world’s public eye, with tight constraints on the organization and on the use of the funds. All just because “we are Rome, that’s the way we are, and we can’t change.”

Years ago, we were the undisputed driving force behind Italy, while other cities were too busy fighting crime and pollution. We are now the perfect recipe for a national disaster. In the meanwhile, with the organization of the Winter Olympic Games, Milan foretastes a turnover of 2,3 billion euros, plus a substantial increase in employement. Will the country waste other public money? It might happen, as nobody is safe from human greed; but, like four years ago, you do the crime, you do the time. Will the event have an overall negative impact? The experience of the Expo 2015 teaches us the exact opposite, as we need to assess everything as a whole. And the point is that the face of Milan has changed for the better, forever

In any case, maybe they’re right, we Romans can’t change. However, when we say so, we should bear in mind that this message arrives loud and clear to all those who want to set up a business, who want to invest in activities or who are just evaluating the pros and cons of living here. But on the bright side, there will be more room on the subway.