Current Events in Italy

After almost four weeks of intensive study at the Sant’Anna Institute, I have very nearly completed my language program for the summer. During my last week of class, I will be preparing for a final exam in my contemporary Italian literature class and will be writing a substantial paper on the topic of one of my favorite Italian films, La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty), which won an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. In addition, this week, I had a chance to speak with Serena Vacca, the Study Abroad Coordinator at the Sant’Anna Institute in a short conversation about current events in Italy, especially those events that are of cultural and social significance.

When I spoke with Serena, I chose to ask her about a prominent political figure in Italy, Matteo Salvini, who is the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy as well as the Minister of the Interior. Although he is not officially the Italian head of state, he functionally is capable of setting much of the Italian government’s agenda and making executive decisions that have significant impact. Salvini is widely considered to be a controversial figure because of his traditional, right-wing beliefs that many perceive to be loosely correlated with those of the American president, Donald Trump. In fact, Salvini recently made a trip to the White House in order to further solidify a relationship between Rome and the Trump Administration:

I asked Serena what her personal opinion of Salvini is, how she believes Salvini is influencing and changing Italian culture, and what the popular opinion of Salvini is in Italy, both generally and regionally, as Italy is known for having significant regional cultural differences. Serena expressed her vehement disapproval of Salvini both personally and in terms of his politics. She believes that Salvini frequently makes use of propagandistic tactics in order to incite racism and xenophobia, especially against immigrants from African and Middle Eastern countries. Along these lines, Serena believes that Salvini is helping to transform Italian culture and society into one that is less tolerant of non-Italians and non-Europeans. Salvini tends to be significantly more popular in the north of Italy, as the political party of which he is the highest official (la Lega) originated as a “party of the North” in the 1980’s. Lastly, I chose to speak with Serena about Salvini’s relationship to Catholicism, as he frequently appeals to more traditional Catholics who make up a large portion of his constituency. Serena clarified that Salvini’s frequent invocation of the Catholic faith and its symbols are a facet of the above mentioned propagandistic tactics, and that in reality, Salvini is a political enemy of the Vatican. The Pope has spoken out, both directly and indirectly, against Salvini’s policies, as have many bishops.

In all, my conversation with Serena was extremely enlightening, especially in the context of the recent European elections that resulted in significant victories for Salvini’s party. Over the past week, I also had the opportunity to make another visit to the Amalfi coast to hike the Sentiero degli dei, or the “Path of the Gods.” In addition to the incredible scenery, I was able to speak with many different people from all over Italy, Europe, and the world.

Matteo Salvini in Rome

Agerola, Italy