American voters in Italy: ‘The future has never looked so uncertain’

It's been a long night for Italians and expats following the US election, with no clear result but a strong lead for Republican hopeful Donald Trump at 7:30am. So what do Americans living in Italy think, and what does this mean for American-Italian relations?

American voters in Italy: 'The future has never looked so uncertain'
Voters watching the election result come in in the US. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP

Democrats Abroad Italy hosted election night events in Rome – where free coffee was supplied to keep attendees going – as well as in Bologna, Milan, Florence and Naples, while plenty of other Americans living in Italy watched the results come in at home.

There were no official Republican party events in the country, but Republican supporters had plenty to celebrate as their candidate Donald Trump edged closer to the presidency with a series of victories in crucial swing states.

But what does the increasingly likely prospect of a Trump presidency mean for the average American expat in Italy?

Texan-born blogger Georgette Jupe, who runs the popular Girl in Florence blog, told us she had woken up feeling “sick”.

“I'm as shocked and horrified as much of the world,” she said. “I honestly feel a great sadness, as for me this is a person whose lack-of-policy platform was largely built on fear-mongering and hate.

“This was never about making America 'great' again, that we already are. However the future has never looked so uncertain.”

Kathleen, a retired American now living on the Italian Riviera criticized the Democratic campaign. 

“All we know is that a man who showed himself in many ways unfit and unprepared to sit in the most powerful seat on the planet has won,” she told us. “Along the way, so many of the traditionally stabilizing civic institutions of the United States were deeply discredited by their inability to cope with a campaign where both sides outdid themselves in mendacity, public ugliness and dodging responsibility.

“In particular, the American media let itself be distracted and became unprofessionally self-indulgent, and now can shed no light on what just happened or will happen, not having explored any issues of substance for the past 18 months.

“For me, I still think, without reservation, democracy produces the best possible outcomes and I am glad so many in America went to the polls to have had their say. Now it is up to everybody in America to keep listening, keep speaking up, keep voting.”

Rome-based Natalie Kennedy told us: “This has been a night of very little sleep. It is hard for me to understand how my country of birth has become a nation so divided and apparently supportive of a candidate who ran on a rhetoric that feels so un-American to me.

“Unfortunately, I absolutely believe this presidency will impact my life as an American in Italy. I expect travel to become more difficult as reciprocity decreases. I expect tax laws to become more complicated. I expect my marriage to a non-American to be increasingly unwelcome.

“But overall, I know that for the next several years Italian friends and colleagues will ask me “how did this happen?” and I won't be able to answer,” Kennedy concluded.

However, not everyone was disappointed by the result. One American living in Italy, Janice, told The Local she was “ecstatic” about the result. “It looks good for him… and America,” she added.

Another voter, Andy Williams, told us he blamed the Democratic Party for the result. “Hillary Clinton had no cross-party appeal and too many people didn't trust her,” he said.

Meanwhile, another commenter said they were “thankful” to have dual citizenship, allowing them to remain in Italy.

During the presidential race, Renzi had expressed support for Democrat Hillary Clinton and said he was convinced she would win, while Italy's far-right Northern League party leaned more towards Trump, with its leader Matteo Salvini hailing the billionaire real estate mogul as heroic

It wasn't only politicians who waded into the debate.

Pope Francis triggered controversy when he declared that Trump was “not a Christian” because of his plans to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, a remark Trump labelled “disgraceful”.

In the Italian population as a whole, a poll by think-tank Demos showed that 77 percent were supporting Clinton, 11 percent were rooting for a Trump win, and the remainder were unsure.

This poll showed a marked difference between different demographics; Italian millennials were far more likely than average to support Clinton while Trump's support soared among the unemployed.

When The Local spoke to American expats in Italy earlier in the election cycle, it was clear that there was no one 'typical' view, with several of the people we spoke to expressing dissatisfaction towards the choice of candidates.

One Trump supporter at the time told us she felt the Republican was “the lesser of two evils” and that she was voting based on “honesty and character”.

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.