Mayor Virginia Raggi swept to power vowing to clean up Rome and show the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) was ready to govern Italy. But one year into the job, she is struggling under the weight of a mediocre report card that has dented the fortunes of Grillo’s opposition party less than a year from national elections.
A photogenic lawyer plucked from obscurity to become the poster girl for M5S’s national ambitions, Raggi, 38, promised to improve failing public services, weed out endemic corruption and start repairing crumbling infrastructure in the capital.
But 12 months later, ordinary Romans can see no signs of progress as the city’s international image becomes increasingly tarnished by negative commentaries on rubbish-strewn streets and trees keeling over for lack of maintenance.
On Viale della Moschea, next to the biggest mosque in Western Europe, and several other streets, the potholes are so bad the speed limit was slashed 10kmh (6mph) last week, on safety grounds.
Meanwhile the image of Raggi’s administration has become pock-marked by the same kind of allegations of cronyism and sleaze that undermined its predecessors.
“Nothing has changed. Rome’s problems remain the same only with time they’re getting worse,” says Mariano, a restaurateur in the trendy downtown district of Trastevere.
Elected with just over two thirds of the vote in the run-off second round of last year’s mayoral election, Raggi now has a disapproval rating at the same level.
Now she is regarded by her own party as more of a liability than an asset. Raggi speaks little, appears little, and M5S tries to avoid discussing Rome, which is a smart move – don’t do anything to attract attention to what’s happening.
We link Raggi’s woes to M5S’s weaker-than-expected performance in this month’s municipal elections.
“I voted for her in the second round last year, not with any great conviction but with a little bit of hope,” says city resident Massimo.
“I thought we’d have seen some progress after a year. But I have never seen a city as dirty as Rome is at the moment.”
Co-citizen Annamaria’s biggest gripe is the “very, very bad” state of public transport, with overcrowded buses struggling to cover the service needs of the city’s sprawling suburbia.
“Nothing has changed. I hope she can sort it out. She’s got to give it everything she’s got,” she told us.
A replacement of population is under way in Italy. But if you open the mainstream newspapers, you barely find these news. No television station has dedicated any time to what is happening. No criticism is allowed. The invasion is considered a done deal.
In 2016, 176,554 migrants landed in Italy — an eight-fold increase since 2014. In 2015, there were 103,792. In 2014, there were 66,066. In 2013, there were just 22,118. In the last four years, 427,000 migrants reached Italy. In only the first five months of this year, 2017, Italy received 10% of the total number of migrants of the last four years.
There are days when the Italian navy and coast guard rescue 1,700 migrants in 24 hours. The country is exhausted. There are Italian villages where one-tenth of the population is already made up of new migrants. We are talking about small towns of 220 residents and 40 migrants.
One of the major aspects of this demographic revolution is that it is taking place in a country which is dramatically aging. According with a new report from the Italian Office of Statistics, Italy’s population will fall to 53.7 million in half a century — a loss of seven million people. Italy, which has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, will lose between 600,000 to 800,000 citizens every year. Immigrants will number more than 14 million, about one-fourth of the total population. But in the most pessimistic scenario, the Italian population could drop to 46 million, a loss of 14 million people.
In 2050, a third of Italy’s population will be made up of foreigners, according to a UN report, “Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Decline and Aging Populations”, which designs a cultural melting-pot that could explode in cultural and social tensions. The level of arrivals will fall from 300,000 to 270,000 individuals per year by 2065; during the same period, it is expected that 14.4 million people will arrive. Added to the more than five million immigrants currently in Italy, 37% of the population is expected to be foreigners: more than one out of every three inhabitants.
In addition, the humanitarian-aid system has been hit by new scandals. “The investigative hypothesis to be verified is that subjects linked to ISIS act as logistical support to migration flows”, was a warning just delivered in front of the Schengen Committee, to the Italian anti-mafia and counterterrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti. There are now judges investigating the connection between the migrants’ smugglers in North Africa and the Italian NGOs rescuing them in the Mediterranean. People-smugglers bring the migrants to the NGOs’ ships, which then reach Italian seaports. Another legal enquiry has been opened about the mafia’s economic interests in managing the migrants after their arrival.
Only 2.65 percent of those migrants who arrived in Italy were granted asylum as genuine refugees, according to the United Nations. The other people are apparently not fleeing wars and genocide. Yet, despite all this evidence, one cannot compare the migrants to the Jews fleeing Nazism. Pope Francis, for example, recently compared the migrants’ centers to Nazi “concentration camps”. One wonders where are the gas chambers, medical “experiments,” crematoria, slave labor, forced marches and firing squads. Italian newspapers are now running articles about the “Mediterranean Holocaust”, comparing the migrants dead by trying to reach the southern of Italy to the Jews gassed in Auschwitz. Another journalist, Gad Lerner, to support the migrants, described their condition with the same word coined by the Nazis against the Jews: untermensch, inferior human beings. These comparisons are spread by the media for a precise reason: shutting down the debate.
To understand how shameful these comparisons are, we have to take a look at the cost of every migrant to Italy’s treasury. Immigrants, once registered, receive a monthly income of 900 euros per month (30 euros per day for personal expenses). Another 900 euros go to the Italians who house them. And 600 euros are needed to cover insurance costs. Overall, every immigrant costs to Italy 2,400 euros a month. A policeman earns half of that sum. And a naval volunteer who saves the migrants receives a stipend of 900 euros a month. Were the Nazis so kind with their Jewish untermenschen?
The cost of migrants on Italy’s public finances is already immense and it will destroy the possibility of any economic growth. “The overall impact on the Italian budget for migrant spending is currently quantified at 2.6 billion [euros] for 2015, expected to be 3.3 billion for 2016 and 4.2 for 2017, in a constant scenario”, explains the Ministry of the Economy. If one wants to put this in proportion, these numbers give a clearer idea of how much Italy is spending in this crisis: in 2017, the government is spending 1.9 billion euros for pensions, but 4.2 billion euros for migrants, and 4.5 billion euros for the national housing plan against 4.2 billion euros for migrants.
The Italian cultural establishment is now totally focused on supporting this mass migration. The Italian film nominated at the Academy Awards last year is Fire at Sea, in which the main character is a doctor treating the migrants upon their arrival. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi carried with him 27 DVDs of the film to a session of the European Council. Italy’s commercial television channels produced many television programs about the migrants, such as “Lampedusa”, from the name of the Italian island. 100,000 Italians even took the streets of Milan for a “rally of solidarity” with the migrants. What “solidarity” can there be if half a million people have been rescued by the Italian government and the whole country seems determined to open its doors to all of North Africa?
Winston Churchill was convinced that the Mediterranean was the “soft underbelly” of Hitler’s Europe. It has now become the soft underbelly of Europe’s transformation into Eurabia.
When it comes to insults, no-one does it quite like the Italians. Whether it’s a simple hand gesture or an imaginative curse, they have a gift for expressing displeasure, even if their insults don’t quite translate into other languages. Here’s our pick of the most creative rude terms, but be warned: these are not to be used at dinner with your Italian in-laws.
Dagos: South Europeans
Tread carefully with this one: it can be used to refer to someone who is dorky, uncool, or simply unlucky but the literal meaning is very vulgar. It comes from the word ‘figa’, a northern Italian term to refer to female genitalia, and literally means someone with no sex life.
Li mortacci tua! Your bad dead ancestors!
Family is everything in Italy, so you know you’re in trouble is someone starts insulting yours – especially dead ones. This Roman expression implies the recipient is descended from ancestors of questionable morality. Not to be used lightly.
Palloso: Like a ball
The word ‘palloso’ literally means ‘like a ball’, but is used colloquially to mean ‘boring’ or ‘tiresome’ – or even as a translation for the English slang-term ‘square’. It can be used to describe books or films as well as people, and basically means they have no distinguishing or interesting features.
Secchione: Big bucket
‘Secchione’ means nerd – someone who knows a lot of things and likely doesn’t have much of a social life. It comes from the term for bucket, suggesting that the listener has a large brain capable of holding lots of things.
This is much stronger than the English equivalent and considered to be very vulgar – younger people often use it playfully among friends, but it’s best to avoid it unless you’re totally sure it would be well-received. The specific connotations vary, but it’s often used when someone is arrogant and doesn’t care about others. Bonus fact: it’s actor Colin Firth’s favourite Italian word.
Sounds harmless? This is one of the safer terms on this list: “Cavolo” is simply a less aggressive way of saying the far more offensive “cazzo”, which translates as “shit”. It’s similar to English-speakers who replace ruder terms with “sugar” or “fudge”.
For example: “Che cavolo vuoi?” (literally: what the cabbage do you want?) The English equivalent would probably be: “What the heck do you want?”
In English we would say a “pain in the neck” or “pain in the ass”. In Italy, however, the anatomy is slightly different and you would say “rompicoglioni”, or “ball-breaker” in English. It comes from the expression: “Rompere i coglioni” (to break someone’s balls), which you would use to let someone know that they are really getting on your nerves. For example: “Mi rompi i coglioni!”
Sei duro come il muro: You’re as hard as a wall
Here, ‘duro’ (hard) means stupid, similar to using the terms ‘thick’ or ‘dense’ in English. It’s all about the context here, because as in English, ‘duro’ can also mean tough or severe.
On the subject of balls, a single “coglione” is used to refer to an idiot. For example: “Tutti in ufficio pensano che sei un coglione!” (Everyone in the office thinks you’re an idiot).
If you think someone is unattractive in Italy you don’t have to stop at “brutto” (ugly). Literally translating as “toilet”, “cesso” is used to describe someone who is particularly unpleasant to look at. Use with caution.
Porca miseria: Pig poverty
This phrase might baffle non-natives. “Porca” does translate as pig – but in this context it is an adjective that is perhaps best translated as “bloody” or “damn”, used frequently by hassled Italians. The equivalent would probably be “bloody hell!” But we have to say, this porcine variant has a certain ring to it. For example: “Porca miseria, it’s freezing out here!”
Porca paletta: Pig spade
Noticing a piggy theme here? If you’re familiar with Italian you’ll know that “paletta” is a spade. Precede it with “porca”, however, and it becomes an exclamation of frustration, similar to “porca miseria”, but milder. Stronger variations include “porca puttana” (porky prostitute) and “porco dio” (porky God).
Fava: Broad bean
If you tell someone ‘non capisci una fava’ (you don’t understand a broad bean), you’re basically saying they don’t know anything. Particularly in Florence, you can also tell someone ‘sei una fava’ to let them know you think they’re extremely stupid.