Euro 2020 2021 celebrations in Rome, Italy
Italians celebrating the Euro 2020 victory in Ponte Milvio, Rome. Photo: Riccardo Venturi.

Italy’s 2021 Seen from Our Newsroom

Voices from the Italics Magazine newsroom reflect on Italy’s unforgettable 2021.

As we have said before, if you happened to be Italian, live in Italy, or feel a particular affinity with the country, this was kind of your year. We might have tried to keep it quiet, but by the time summer came along it was undeniable: Italy was having a pretty tremendous 2021 across the board. So we decided to share our personal impressions on the main events of the year with our readers, whose comments, of course, are always very welcome.

Mario Draghi becomes Prime Minister — Matias Nestore

Mario Draghi
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Photo: © European Union 2016 – European Parliament,
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CreativeCommons licenses,
via Flickr.

This year I felt relieved when Mario Draghi formed his government in February. The newly appointed prime minister and former European Central Bank (ECB) president seemed capable of drawing a line under the recent circus of the Italian ruling class, in which alliances have been formed and dismantled for personal political advantage.

Draghi represented the face of a trustworthy technocrat who would be able to use his contacts and experience in the EU’s institutions as leverage to ensure that Italy would get its Recovery Fund. He provided a new kind of political attitude, one unseen or forgotten by many, with an extremely restrained media presence and a focus on governing.

Yet, after almost a year of technical governance, I recognize the need for a more democratically elected leadership. This brings Draghi back to the center stage. The current prime minister is the most likely person to become Italy’s next President of the Republic, as the current president Sergio Mattarella is denying any wish to hold the post for a second term. Draghi’s election as president would have a number of implications, with the dismantling of the current government among them.

If this government were to fall, elections would most likely be won by the right. Both Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini support Draghi as the next president, as this would both lead to early elections and give them increased political credibility, having supported the President. This leaves me in the difficult position of having both a desire for new elections and a fear that the outcome would be the opposite of what I hope.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the center-left Partito Democratico (PD) and its leader Enrico Letta are pushing for Draghi to remain in power as prime minister until the end of his mandate. This move grants the PD a role in the government coalition until 2023, giving the party yet another chance to rebuild it’s long lost support among the working classes and those living in the ‘peripheral’ areas of the country.

All of this sets 2022 to be an interesting year in terms of politics. My two main doubts? Whether I’m ready to face the results of early elections. And the sort of leader Draghi would be, either as president or prime minister.

The Tampon Tax is due to be cut — Asia Guerreschi

McPeriod: Tampon Tax Italy
Tampons. Photo: Josefin on Unsplash.

It was way back in 2019 when Italics first covered the tampon tax. Back then, I compared it to a menu at McDonald’s, responding to various comments that suggested we could pick and choose when to have our periods.

It remains shocking that sanitary products are still taxed and categorized as luxuries. As if a period were something I could choose to dismiss, as if it were an expensive car. In reality, ‘period poverty’ exists, making every month harder for people with low or zero income. What about those who have to choose between buying these products or feeding themselves or their family members? That doesn’t sound like luxury to me.

The taxation on sanitary products should be lowered to zero, or at least to 4%, alongside other goods of primary need. Instead, as part of the economic plan for next year, Italy plans to reduce the tax from 22% to 10%. In other European countries, as in Ireland, the tax is nearly zero. What a ridiculous way to profit.

If Europe preaches such humane health rights, why do we still impose such costs on something over which we have zero choice? While a period is a matter of life or death for many, it is a matter of remembering that humans should have the right to take care of their primary needs. Having a period is not an option, but access to affordable products isn’t an option yet either.

Dante celebrates his 700th anniversary — Sophia Rita Jadda

Dante 2021
Dante holds a copy of the Divine Comedy next to the entrance to Hell, Domenico di Michelino (1465).

“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest.”

Who does not know the opening line of the Divine Comedy? If you have read Dante’s masterpiece, you’ll be aware of his great example of perseverance and courage, teaching us that hope is the last to die. It’s a lesson we should take into account especially in this difficult time.

We could compare the ‘shadowed forest’ of Dante’s line to the global situation generated by the global pandemic. But, as careful readers, we know that after Hell and Purgatory comes the bliss of Paradise. We all want to get back to ‘normal’, to the dear old days. But to regain them we must endure and struggle on, as Dante himself did. Only in this way, sooner or later, will we be able “to see the stars again.”

Måneskin win the Eurovision 2021 — Lidija Pisker

Måneskin 2021
Måneskin, CC BY-SA 4.0, attraverso Wikimedia Commons. Photo: Paolo Santambrogio.

I discovered Måneskin about two years ago, sometime between their Italian breakthrough on The X Factor and their stardom today. In a sea of soft faceless Italian musicians, they stood out. They were quirky, stylish, and talented. And if there’s something that can be called ‘the X factor’, they certainly had it.

Only when Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest in May this year, though, did I start to follow the band more closely. And obviously I wasn’t the only one. They sang a duet with Iggy Pop. They sold out a world tour. They supported the Rolling Stones in concert. And most recently, they won the MTV European Music Award for Best Rock act.

It all happened in just five months. What a head spinning journey for 20-something musicians Damiano, Victoria, Thomas and Ethan. Yet, they took the whole of Italy with them too. In the year when COVID-19 had Italy on its knees, Måneskin turned the world’s attention to the country’s magnificence and promise.

But more too. In the year when the Italian Senate blocked a draft law against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, Måneskin members consistently supported the LGBTI+ community. Their looks, attitude, and performances helped to neutralize homophobes and conservatives, revealing another Italy, one that doesn’t want to be captivated by stereotypes and hatred.

And Måneskin did it while recalling times when music was wild, loud, and fun.

Italy wins Euro 2020 — Riccardo Venturi

World Cup 2022 Italy Team
President Sergio Mattarella meets the Azzurri after their Euro 2020 victory. Presidenza della Repubblica, via Wikimedia Commons.

When this summer we won the Euro 2020, I told to myself that, as a football fan, I couldn’t be luckier.

In my 33 years, I’ve already seen Italy winning the two most important competitions for national teams, namely the World Cup and the European Championship. Something which is a luxury for most supporters in the world was made possible for us Italians by the sporting gods. Even in the worst cycle of Italian football — Italy’s absence at the World Cup 2018, the decline of Serie A — we manage to stay afloat and surprise everyone, precisely when nobody expected anything from us.

Italy is now the most titled team in Europe together with Germany. With Wembley the cherry on top, we have won our finals in the home of all our historical continental rivals, and this makes the Azzurri’s consistency across the decades even more incredible. With our renewed bunch of young talents — Donnarumma, Bastoni, Barella, Di Lorenzo, Pellegrini, Chiesa, Zaniolo — the future looks bright, so let’s not waste it in March during the playoffs. We are capable of better than that.

However, nothing will ever erase the karmic coincidence represented by what celebrating the cup meant for Italians, after that terrible 2020 that wounded the country. As I wrote in a previous piece, whether it’s football or life, it’s never easy for us, but that’s why we love it. And that’s why it feels so good to watch football come home.

Italy adopted the Green Pass — Asia Guerreschi

Green Pass 2021
Green Pass checks in Parma. Città di Parma, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This year, we’ve all experienced perhaps the biggest social intervention of our lives: the Green Pass.

In my previous article on the topic — covering the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at a protest in Milan — I reflected on the importance of seeing the upsides to the Green Pass. To my mind, it is a matter of trust. While I understand the argument that says that the pass is a ‘governmental imposition’, to live in society at all is to accept such impositions.

Regulations help maintain stability within our society. And they matter even more in a global emergency, where the social contact we’ve been able to take for granted can prove fatal.

Ultimately, how can I trust that the person sitting next to me on the train is not going to give me the virus? The green pass lowers that risk. How can I feel safe to go into work? The Green Pass again is that mechanism. It facilitates trust and enables us to go about our lives as normal.

Admittedly, it would be great to be able to choose. From one perspective, that choice is a fundamental liberty in democracy. But this is an emergency — and one’s individual liberty cannot threaten that of everyone else.

Let’s trust that those against Green Pass will listen to their unvaccinated peers who, from hospital, launched a message of desperation inviting everyone to vaccinate. In the year ahead, vaccination matters. It is about survival. So, as my last article title goes, we have had enough of no Green Pass.

Italy wins big at Tokyo 2020 — Camilla Valerio

Tokyo Olympics 2020
The five Olympic rings in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Shinnosuke Ando on Unsplash.

The victories at the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo 2020(+1) were greeted with jubilation by all of Italy. They were the symbol of a country that from the ashes of the pandemic and an exhausting and unresolved economic crisis is collectively and proudly reborn.

But beyond the numerous medals won, it was the stories of sacrifice and redemption that were particularly moving. If we had to describe this crazy and incredible Italian summer in Japan in pictures we could not fail to mention the warm embrace between Timberi and Jacobs after winning two gold medals in 10 minutes. Or the scream of Vio at the end of her race for life and for the medal. The all-Italian podium in the women’s 100-meter race of Sabatini, Caironi and Contrafatto at the Paralympics. Or, finally, Paola Egonu, who carries the International Olympic Committee (IOC) flag as the best volleyball player in the world.

Despite the fact that the results went beyond our wildest expectations, some of the public discourse that has developed around these sporting events cannot exactly make us proud. It was disappointing to see how the nomination of an Italian woman of foreign origin as flag bearer can still provoke racist and xenophobic comments. In addition, the idea that Egonu’s nomination was determined by the desire to pursue a certain idea of ‘political correctness’, and not by her qualities as an athlete, denotes the bad faith and backwardness of certain opinions in Italy.

Finally, the very little media coverage dedicated to the Paralympics, always understood here as a minor and marginal event, is a symptom of a country still strongly normocentric and with enormous difficulty in promoting equality.

Italy withdraws from Afghanistan — Frances Fahy

Afghanistan Kabul 2021
A view of Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Farid Ershad on Unsplash.

This summer, Italian forces left Afghanistan after a twenty-year long mission. Italy’s role as part of the American-led NATO forces coalition had been to create the International Security Assisted Forces (ISAF) in the west of the country, to train, advise, assist, and command the formation of the Afghan army. This local army would assist in the vague aim of “ridding the world of the evil Islamic Taliban Emirate,” as the then-US President George Bush put it.

The final American flight that departed from Kabul on 30 August 2021 was followed by celebratory Taliban gunfire to mark the end of the failed NATO Afghanistan campaign. And on 9 September 2021, President Joe Biden announced the closure of one of the bleakest chapters in 21st century history. During that twenty-year period, some 50,000 Italian soldiers were deployed as part of the NATO contingents, 53 of whom lost their lives.

To say the Afghan invasion was a disaster is an understatement. Since its end, the international media spotlight has been compelled to look away from the slow undoing of the progress made in infrastructure, education, and women’s rights in parts of Afghanistan during that time. Stories suggest that many Afghan people are in a worse state than they were twenty years ago.

If lessons are to be learned, the basic one must be that words like democracy, freedom, repression, knowledge, loyalty, and justice have different meanings in different contexts. These concepts are subjective and culturally inflected, and it’s finally dawning on world leaders that they cannot be easily exported. Yet, an ignorance of the country they were invading, a rush to choose invasion as a strategy, and a presumption to assume that what they were doing, waging war on a whole country, was the correct answer to the atrocities committed, were among America’s greatest mistakes.

Whether Italy’s own Ministry for Foreign Affairs sent its military into Afghanistan as equally unprepared as the Americans is a question that must still be answered. However, reports do suggest that the Italians were highly professional and conscientious during the evacuation. For that, if nothing else, we can be proud.

Rome hosts the G20 — Sophia Rita Jadda

G20 Italy Rome
G20 in Rome. Government of Brazil – Planalto Palace, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

COVID, climate, and carbon were the main topics discussed by world leaders during the 2021 G20 summit in Rome. The pandemic has been one of our planet’s greatest challenges to this day, but we must recognize that climate change will require even greater cooperation. While vaccines and treatments have been developed to fight the virus, there are no such powerful weapons to stop climate change altogether.

Yet, we should not wait for world leaders to find a solution. Each of us can make a contribution to the cause. We can take small steps, like not leaving electronic devices on stand-by, by buying smart, or by recycling. In the end, many small actions can turn into something decisive. Only then can we begin to turn promise and blah blah blah into concrete action.

Food Summit and The Recovery and Resilience Plan — Lorenzo Giacomella

Sustainability Poster
Photo: Photo Boards on Unsplash.

The closing year has been a source of ecological inspiration, especially for the agrifood sector. This is especially true in Italy, which, alongside the Pre-COP26 in Milan, for example hosted the first ever UN Summit on food systems, that in July brought together youth, smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples, researchers, and policymakers to discuss sustainable, equitable food systems.

Then, the Matera Declaration on Food Security, Nutrition, and Food Systems was published, the result of the G20 meeting in the southern Italian city. This document is an important text in recognizing how important food systems are to guarantee social and environmental resilience. The declaration invites major economies to mobilize their political, financial, and technical resources to provide all people with sufficient, safe, and nutritious food and to eliminate global hunger by 2030. The aim is to make food security and sustainable food systems pivotal aspects of a global sustainable strategy for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But words are empty until real action is taken. The meshes of the law still seem to reflect the demands of the multinational industry before those of people, animals, and the planet. A prime example of the inadequacy of political action comes from Italy’s Recovery Plan (PNRR). Of the almost 200 billion euros of the plan, only 5 billion euros will be allocated to sustainable agriculture projects. Out of these, however, the majority will be assigned to implement circularity and promote technological advancements, rather than to effectively support the sector’s ecological transition. The PNRR lacks any mention of ‘agroecology’ or organic production, and there is no mention of reducing chemicals or transversal projects such as ‘green islands’, green communities, or cultural diffusion.

As a result, it is essential to take our commitments to a new level. New resources and ideas need to be put on the table. Now, we are trying to maintain a status quo that finds its roots in consumerism, perpetual growth, and the unconditioned exploitation of resources, people, and animals. But if we want to avoid an unprecedented ecological collapse, we need brave and prompt answers to the sustainability crisis.

Of course, technological advancement and circularity are still crucial aspects for sustainable food systems, but they are not sufficient alone. Together with technical progress, we have to protect biodiversity, reduce meat consumption, avoid the overuse of fertilizers, protect animals, and guide consumers into more healthy and sustainable diets. These are the only viable paths to a healthy and sustainable future of food and Italy.

Procida prepares to be Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2022 — Laura Thayer

Aerial view of Procida. Photo: Erwin Doorn on Unsplash.

Early this year, Procida was selected as the Capitale italiana della Cultura for 2022. As the first island to become Italy’s Capital of Culture, it beat out stiff competition from finalists: Ancona, Bari, Cerveteri, L’Aquila, Pieve di Soligo, Taranto, Verbania, and Volterra.

This tiny pastel-hued island is one of my favorite spots in Campania, so I was thrilled to see the island get its long-overdue chance to shine. Full of history and culture, there’s so much more to Procida than just the filming location of the 1994 movie Il Postino. The theme for the Procida 2022 cultural project — La cultura non isola (Culture doesn’t isolate), with a nice wordplay on the Italian word isola (island) — offers an encouraging start.

But while all eyes are turned south, there remains the underlying question of how to bring a greater appreciation of Procida’s cultural heritage without veering into overtourism — a complex issue in popular destinations like Capri and the Amalfi Coast nearby.

Agostino Riitano, director of Procida 2022, is leading the project with a focus on redesigning culture in Italian society. As he describes, “Not just culture as entertainment, but connections, relationships and social innovation.” I am eager to see how Procida will shine and take on these challenges in a way that not only serves as a lasting change for tourism on the island, but also as an inspiration for future Italian capitals of culture.

Italy named The Economist’s country of the year — Asia Guerreschi

Draghi Mattarella 2021
Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President Sergio Mattarella shake hands. Photo:

To top off an incredible year, Italy has been crowned ‘Country of the Year’ by The Economist. After two years of lockdowns and uncertainty, Italy has a lot to be proud of — from Nobel Prize winners to musical, sporting, and political recognition.

Yet, we are not perfect. We are a country with flaws and hardships, long battered by political instability and a struggling economy. But we need to recognize our successes too, that of our health system, our communities who welcome the less fortunate, our history, our talents. We should not stop working to improve, but we can stop, look back at a year of positive moments, and be proud.

In the holiday spirit we can remind ourselves of sharing kindness and a positive mindset, which we may have forgotten. So, let’s recall what makes our community special, regardless of where we are from, and celebrate all the good moments. We all deserve a prize while we wait for stronger and better days.

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