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Basic Info

Population: 58 million.

Religion: Catholic. Hey, they’ve got the Pope – what did you expect?

Languages: Italian but it also comes in many dialects and peppered with regional slang as Italian evolved along with the various city states in different ways. The dialects are dying out more and more these days though and tend to be spoken well only by the old.

Economy: Pretty good. At least, as long as you don’t live any further south than Rome. South Italy sees 40-50% unemployment which is fertile territory for old mafia rule, social stagnation but a distinct lack of designer gear.

Government: Right-wing regime with echoes of fascism as the entire country is force-fed fear and greed through Berlusconi’s media empire. The newspapers and TV run stories about immigrants raping Italian girls each week and that gives the police free reign to beat up Africans and for the government to pass laws against anything that might threaten the interests of the wealthy.

Italy and Red Tape

Italy is part of the E.U so anyone from other countries can come and work, rest and play here without restrictions. Well, in theory at least – Italy’s bureaucracy is formidable and to do just about anything you’re supposed to queue up, register in any number of government offices and get your passport photo signed by a notary. And that’s just to park your car before you go for your appointment.

Italy has introduced a policy whereby anyone who’s been living and working in Italy for five years can now become a citizen. So if you want to come and elbow your way in between all the African and Arabic immigrants for jobs picking grapes then you could end up becoming a bona fide Italian. Rumour has it that far from making applicants pass a language exam to see if they’ve fully integrated with Italian culture, prospective citizens will be required to pass a cooking test first. If the pasta all sticks together you’re on the next boat out.

Internet

The government of Italy, under the unforgettable Berlusconi, decided that most terrorists are internet freaks and that the best way to catch them would be to make them show ID at internet cafes throughout Italy. So any time that you want to log on to check your email you have to show a photo ID which may then be photocopied and later picked up by the secret service. We’re not kidding. They must have an entire room full of photocopies of backpacker’s passports – all of them potential terrorists!

When to Come to Italy

Everyone in Italy goes on holiday in August so everywhere will be shut. Entire cities are like ghost towns whilst tourists wander around wondering where they can actually spend their holiday cash.