Monday, March 31, 2014

At School with Renzi--a visit from the Prime Minister

Carabinieri at the Scalea Middle School secure the area for Renzi's visit-- (where we normally have Italian lessons)

The new, 39 year old Prime Minister of Italy (Presidente del Consiglio), Matteo Renzi, made a visit to Scalea where a number of local activists were planning to  greet him with an anti-mafia rally. It was to be quite a colorful day of speeches, various flags and banners, and quite a bit of waiting around-- all done peacefully and respectfully.

We arrived at 10:30 not knowing how the schedule worked. Renzi arrived within 5 minutes in a small car convoy. We learned later that he flew by helicopter from Napoli and used the landing pad at the now mostly closed hospital in nearby Praia a Mare. He entered the Scuola Media and we, and many others, proceeded to wait 2.5 hours until he came outside for his speech.

The fancy guards are members of the National Police – Carabinieri. If you watched news broadcasts of Obama leaving Rome last week, you would have seen two of these guards saluting the American president has he went to board his plane.

There were a couple dozen mayors from around Calabria attending the indoor meeting with Renzi, but the host city of Scalea was not represented that way because that mayor and 31 others are still in jail after the big mafia sweep last July!

Di and our teacher Carmelina celebrate the nicer surroundings of the elementary school
The day prior to Renzi's visit, our Italian language class was moved into the elementary building so they could clean and set up for the politicians over at the middle school. We were surprised at how much nicer these elementary classrooms were--just next door to the middle school--also a bit mystified by it.

Renzi is an energetic speaker who worked the crowd well with humor. At one point, while a local woman was speaking about local issues, he pulled a camera from his pocket and snapped a photo of some local high school students in the front row. For you foreign readers, Renzi was appointed Prime Minister or Premier just recently as a slight change in the coalition government was made. He had been the Sindico di Firenze – the mayor of Florence. Bringing in a new national leader without an election is a little “foreign” to Americans. Americans may also notice a physical resemblance to John Edwards. We did.

Renzi’s speech was not too different than one from any politician around the world. Some Calabrians  think he just talks too much and has no idea how to change anything for the better. We all know how much coordination (and approval) must be leveraged from the European Union.  Being red-blooded Democrats from America, we do not support the EU austerity measures that have done more harm than good.

Doug managed to survive the long wait by leaning on the platform used by the RAI television camera crew and that is where he saved a spot for the speech. Doug’s estimate is that the crowd was between 3-4000 people. Di was able to move around during it all and noted that the people closest to the stage were enthusiastic with applause for Renzi, while those behind us often didn’t applaud for anything spoken! We guess they came to just listen or didn’t like what they heard.

At one point, speaking to the youth, Renzi said that our area is just beautiful and that it is a shame kids cannot attend school here, then find good jobs in the area. Historically, Calabrese have had to go north for real jobs. Today, going north may not be to Milano or Torino, but Germany where about 60,000 Italians have gone in recent years seeking work. He also said something that reminded Di of Obama's campaign speeches. He said a lot of reforms will depend on Calabrians. Essentially reminding us that politicians can't do it all. The People have to abandon apathy and strive for a better country. Obama said that and nobody remembered. We all expected him to do it all. An old story. Maybe somewhere, sometime, a happy ending to it?


  1. Hi Diana and Guido,
    We have been reading your blog for the last couple of years, and have really enjoyed both your writing and photography. My partner and I have just purchased a townhouse restoration project in SDT. We will be in the area from April 28-May, 2014.

    If you are interested, we would like to meet you both and chat over lunch or dinner (as our guests, of course). We can be reached at

    Thom Creo
    Michael Smith

    1. Hi Thom,
      Of course, it's always good to meet new Paesani!



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