Why are Italians so miserable?

Italy might be famous for 'la dolce vita', but life is not so sunny for the people who live here, according to a recent survey which positions Italians among the unhappiest in Europe.

Why are Italians so miserable?
A recent survey found Italians to be among the least happy in Europe. File image: Bob Smith/

Italians trail behind the UK, France and Germany when it comes to being happy, according to the World Happiness Survey published earlier this month. 

The survey, which ranked 156 countries, was based on a combination of self-declared happiness factors, including health, family, job security, and freedom from political oppression and corruption.

With Italy coming 45th in the world, placing it among the least happiest countries in Europe, it would seem that living in a beautiful country with an abundance of sunshine and good food does nothing to take the edge off the problems Italians encounter in their daily lives.

In fact, their counterparts in chilly Denmark came top of the happiness ranking.

So what is making the Italians so unhappy?

Carlo Cipolli, a professor in psychology at the University of Bologna, says Italians have always been known for their warmth and friendliness, but that over the past ten years it’s become harder for them to simply “accept” the country’s woes and pretend “it’s just how Italy is”.

“They like interaction with people and are always happy to chat,” he tells The Local.

“But there’s a big difference between being cordial on the surface and being happy.”

Italy is steeped in its longest recession in two decades, with almost five million living in poverty – double the figure in 2008 – according to a report published earlier this week.

Cipolli says that Italians are worried about their future and, on top of this, they have little faith in their politicians.

“Their well-being has been hit hard by the economic crisis – they’re less financially secure than they were ten years ago. There are people who have been jobless for years and so just stay at home all day, with little to occupy them apart from their families. So they have a lot troubling them.”

Gino Benetti, a bar owner near Alassio in the northern coastal region of Liguria, agrees that the economic crisis is at the root of the country’s unhappiness, especially for those struggling to run a business or find a job.

Between January and June, 21,000 shops across Italy closed down , according to the most recent report by the retail association Confesercenti.

“We’re being strangled financially,” Benetti tells The Local.

“I used to open all-year-round, but with all the taxes I have to pay and the costs of running a business, I only open during the summer. Italy is beautiful but it’s a very sad place to be right now.”

Others say that while Italians generally love their country and its rich heritage, it’s a difficult ‘system’ to live in, particularly when it comes to bureaucracy and finding work. They also deem politics and the judicial system as highly corrupt.

“As an Italian, you are faced with these things all the time,” says Antonio Marella, a scientific researcher in Rome.

However, Rome businessman Carmello Brunetta suspects the data from well-being surveys perhaps doesn’t paint a true reflection of a population’s mindset.

“I suspect their conclusions are not the result of surveys but rather an exercise in data analysis, which means that, for all we know, the Danes may be happy on paper but if you ask the man in the street they will reveal a suicidal mood," he says.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?