Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italians. Perhaps they are better know for their exuberance, style, quality of life and very extrovert love of la mamma, but the current Coronavirus crisis has shown this lesser know quality of inhabitants of Il Bel Paese.
As the crisis grew in late February and early March, and the new normal suddenly was to be locked at home apart from essential trips, Italians took it on the chin and have started showing the world how to do neighbourhood entertainment by signing on their balconies, terraces and windows, and telling each other #andratuttobene – everything will be all right Children have made placards with the new motto and revisiting Forza Italia, an old football banner which was coopted by Berlusconi in his first bid for power in 1994, have been placed on roundabouts and junctions to keep people’s spirits high. The national anthem is sung with pride and the tricolore is shared widely in social media, together with the incredibile successes that Italy and Italians have. The normal loud political bickering has disappeared, replaced by a more nordic let’s just get on with it attitude.
If you look back at the history of Italy you see this resilience appearing when needed: mass migration to the americas and northern Europe when the fields didn’t support enough folk anymore; brutal wars and occupations; incredible internal displacement of people along the A1 motorway, which carried people from the South to the North; real hunger; a political class which has repeatedly failed it’s citizenry; the dark years of terrorism; the uncomfortable relation with the euro; the mafia and other organised crime. To that Italians have responded with entrepreneurship, flair, hardwork, a strong sense of who they are, and buckets of resilience. The brands that make Made in Italy shine (from cars to fashion to food to electronics), are there because Italians know when they need to turn in on. The heroic showing of doctors and nurses batting this invisible enemy and the general response of people across Italy have brought to the fore this most Italian of qualities, resilience, which hasn’t shown itself so clearly for a while now.