Beyond the food, wine, friendly people....................................

Davidjohn Image
07/26/2010 - 09:16

Being a 'fresh' expat to Italy I'm exploring what are the 'real' dofferences between Italian society and other societies. The statistics tell some stories. For example, a woman is 7 times safer in Italy than in the US, and official statistics indicate that Italy has the lowest level of rape of any western country. Here, I am based in Padova, with a population of around 800,000 in the Padova province which compares nicely with greater Bristol. Hard stats are difficult to find, but subjectively Padova feels much less threatening and reports of crime much less than for Bristol. Some fellow English passengers related how one of them had been mugged in the centre of Bristol during the day. Scenes of public drunkenness, threatening behaviour are common in Bristol, but practically unknown in Padova.  Female friends in Padova feel safe to travel around using th central station even late at night. Sure, the area round the station is known for crime but this is of the pickpocketting /stolen bike variety rather than violent crime. But those are just some statistics and my and my frend's impressions of Padova. I'm very interested to know the opinion of others in other regions of Italy. David 



Can I recommend an excellent book - The Italians - which even though it was written in the 60's is just as valid today. I think the differences depend very much on where you live. We live in rural central Italy and doors are still left unlocked and street crime is non-existent. Having said that our nearest town (pop. approx 50,000) has it's fair share of drug problems and an horrendous graffiti problem which is very sad to see when it is such a beautiful town. The changes we have noticed in the last 6/7 years is an increase in street hawkers (particularly bad at the beach resorts) and a general increase in grafitti and litter. Nothing serious but certainly anti-social. We have noticed that the litter problem seems to get better the further North you go so maybe it is a regional thing. I lived here by myself for a while and whilst I generally felt safe, I had several incidents of local men (almost all married) thinking I was fair game and turning up late at night with bottles of wine asking to come in! It made me feel quite uncomfortable at the time although it was never a "serious" situation, although it does make me laugh to see the same men looking very sheepish when I now see them in town with my husband. I always make a point of saying hello to them and they can never cathc my eye. I asked an Italian friend about it and she said they only did it because I would have appeared to have no-one to stick up for me. If I'd had family here (or obviously a husband or boyfriend) it would never have happened. There is no question in my mind that it is generally a "safer" place to live if that is what your posting was referring to but Italy is also getting a bigger problem with young people binge drinking. It is often reported in the newspapers and I see it here (in our town of 4,500) with a group of 10-13 year-olds who hang around on the street, drinking and causing a lot of noise, mess and grafitti, so I don't know what the future holds. It makes me feel a bit sad to see it as in general the teenagers here are really lovely and well-behaved. We live next door to a youth club so we get to see a lot of them!

after one olive-picking session, we treated ourselves to a lovely pizza meal at the piazza. There were 13 to15 year-olds occupying one table, being generally noisy, and playing cards.  Then, a lady approached the group, called out to one the kids, and said "It was you, wasn't it? I will tell your Mama about it". Whatever he did, the teenager was denying it, whilst looking at his feet, turning all shy suddenly. The lady left, and the boys carried on with their activity. I was in awe. The teenager was definitely guilty and wasn't aggressive to the lady. The mere mention of the word "Mama" seemed to have done the trick.  Quite a contrast to that time when a lady attended my A&E in the UK with facial injuries, following an attack with bleach poured on her face by a teenager - just because she told a group of teenagers to keep quiet whilst watching a film in the cinema. I haven't found work at our local A&E here in Civitanova so can't say much about the drinking  situation, but I can say now, our A&Es in the UK are usually full of "in drink" clients. And it's not just weekends anymore.

Hi Penny, Thanks for the book recommendation-I will follow that up! Italian friends tell me things are getting worse, but as a newbie I cannot compare how things were. Here in Padova there are of course groups of youths who drink, but my and my local friends' impression is that this does not lead to the vomiting on the sreet and agressiveness seen in the UK. Italy is not without its problems of course (and some unique 'solutions'). My Italian girlfriend runs a drug /alcohol therapy centre and in Padova ethnic minorities were part separated into a separate part of the city.  Without going into the desirability of this as a policy, this seems to result in a relatively peaceful city ambience.  I moved from Tunbrdge Wells, another place renowned for its standard of living and relatively low crime. That's not to say that adolescents, especialy from outisde the twon, don't come in and drink to excess, more that any trouble is contained within these groups rather than emerging as a more general threat to local people. Another area Italy scores highly in is its health service rated as second best in the world. Does this bear out in practice? I'm very interested to explore all these themes. David    

Hi coseperlacasa, Thanks for your interesting reply. My own emerging theory for some of the differences is still strong family-mother and father input and influence, healthier attitudes to alocohol, lack of dole for umemployed people meaning they just don't have the funds, greater numerical participation in non drinking activities eg around 10 the number of people participating in sport compared to UK and much higher cinema attendances as just some of the factors. We had a similar expereince to yours at Venice Lido yesterday. Some youths playing basketball on the beach let their ball bounce over very close to some sun worshipers and one oldish lady spoke to them upon which they apologised profusely and moved further away. David       David

No worries. I absolutely agree with your theory. Personally, I think if the kids are constantly reminded to be respectful of others, and be grateful for what they have (roof above their heads, food, clothing, toys), and that if they want some more things they'd have to earn so will need to work for it, then they'll hopefully grow up to be industrious, helpful citizens of the world :) Hope you get more feedback from the other users. Cheers, Joy    

I have spent the last two Junes (2009 & 2010) all over Italy.  From Salerno to Venice to Tuscany.  The ONLY time I felt a twinge uncomfortable was in Pisa at the train station and Naples was a bit edgy.  Aside from Pisa and Naples, Italy treated me fabulous!  I witnessed many teenage encounters with older folks and I was delighted with what I saw.  As for young people, there was one little boy in Salerno that called my niece some dirty names just because she wouldn't give him some change to make a phone call.  That is really nothing as to what I see daily in the US.  I believe it all goes back to the family ties and upbringing.

I don't know what the child participation rate in sport is, but only 3% of adults regularly participate in sport which is shockingly low compared with the UK and a bit of a problem if you're trying to run an oudoor activity business like us. When I went for a gym induction here, the instructor kept telling me to "do 10 of these then rest for 10 minutes". I was getting very bored by the time I got to the end. It was so I didn't sweat, apprently. The ladies around here "don't do" sweating!! In fact all they did seem to do was come to the gym, walk on the treadmill and then do some strange stretching exercises with a broom handle - not a bead of sweat in sight. I have to say the healthcare I have received in Marche has been excellent (despite the issues here with actually getting the cover in the first place). Far, far superior to that I receieved in the UK. In fact Italy's health care is rated no. 2 in the world by the WHO. I do read in the Italian newspapers that healthcare in the South of Italy isn't of the same high standard but I can't comment from personal experience. One of the things that the parents say a lot is their kids don't want to get their hand dirty. Now this may be a bit of parental moaning but we were talking to our plumber about it the other day and I asked him if his son would be taking over his busy plumbing business and he laughed and said "no way - he doesn't want to do anything. He's at college studying tourism but doesn't want to get his hands dirty". Many people have said this to us so it makes us wonder what will happen in the future to all the local small businesses, especially the farming industry as we see no young people working there at all. It is all the older generations. There was an article in the local paper saying that Italy could become a nation of solar panel farmers as so many fields of them are springing up everywhere and taking over from agriculture.

Hi Penny, I like the 'no sweating' story! I think adolescents everywhere are becoming computer gamers and couch potatoes and Italians are no exception. Figures for participation in leisure activities are conflicting. An official EU survey found 'The Luxembourgers, Finns and Germans appear to be the most sporty of EU citizens, with one in four declaring they regularly enjoyed physical activity via sport or other leisure pastimes. But only 4% of Italians and 5% of Greeks make the same claim'. However recent work by the LTA, following the never-ending quest of trying to discover why Britain cannot produce tennis champions, was quoted as stating that Italian sports clubs, inc. tennis, have around 10% more members than in the UK.  Statistics need careful scutiny as these may or may not have included gym memberships, and I have not come across any free tennis courts in Italy, whereas the UK has the public parks tennis initiative which means you don't have to belong to a club to play. Cinema figures are equally confusing. One recent survey claimed that Italy has 'among the highest attendance figures of any EU country' while other data indicates Italy is below th UK, France and Germany.......Lies, damned lies and statistics! I am glad your experience of the health service has been a positive one at least! David

Although nearly all my experiences of Italy and the Italians have been positive, the exception was Gravina in Puglia. The centro storico is a nightmare to negotiate, the museums are badly signposted, and the people we asked either professed ignorance - of the Cathedral! - or misdirected us. To cap it all we were waterbombed by a group of teenage lads, and harassed by another on a motorbike. I would never go there again!