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Inside Italy: The recovery fund mystery, rehoming goats and controversy over crisps

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Inside Italy: The recovery fund mystery, rehoming goats and controversy over crisps
An Italian island's unusual plan to rid itself of goats has attracted international media attention. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP)

From the mystery of how (or if) Italy's recovery fund is being spent to one island's plan to rid itself of goats, our weekly newsletter Inside Italy looks at what we’ve been talking about in Italy this week.


Following the money

Where is Italy’s recovery fund money going? That’s the billion-dollar question in the country right now - or €191.5 billion, to be precise.

Italy received the lion’s share of the EU-wide post-pandemic recovery fund, starting back in 2021, after the country was hit especially hard by the Covid-19 crisis. 

The billions in loans and grants spread over five years were seen as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the country to upgrade crumbling roads and infrastructure, improve environmental efficiency, and bring in major reforms to solve long-standing economic problems - under the European Commission’s watchful eye.

But is it going as hoped? There’s been so little information publicly available about the spending that it seems no one can say.

One thing we do know is that organised crime groups are profiting - police in Veneto last week seized €600m worth of luxury boats, property, sports cars and jewellery believed to have been bought using recovery fund money, and 8 out of 10 of Europe’s fraud investigations related to the funds are in Italy.

There’s also concern about what the government is doing with the fund. Giorgia Meloni’s administration has changed the spending plan to allocate money to its own priorities - which include funding Transport Minister Matteo Salvini’s dream of building his highly unpopular bridge over the Strait of Messina.

But it looks more likely that the government won’t manage to spend much of the money at all. So far, Salvini’s ministry has only spent 3.3 percent of its share of the fund, the same amount as the health ministry, while the tourism ministry has spent just one percent. It may sound unbelievable, but Italy has done this before with EU funds.

Italian social media has been full of jokes and memes on the subject again this week, though everyone is aware there are serious problems going unresolved. For many, it’s a case of rido per non piangere - if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.


Beach rules

Newcomers are often surprised to find out that, far from being lawless, Italy is a rule-heavy country where almost every aspect of everyday life is regulated in some way (at least, in theory.)

Italy even has rules governing when beach season officially starts (and ends) in each region, and this week on The Local we also came across some surprising building regulations dictating everything from how you should tile your bathroom to the items you can put on your balcony.

Whether or not these rules are always followed is another question. But with such a large number of regulations in place, maybe the typically relaxed Italian attitude towards rule-breaking is the only really sensible one to take.

British humour or blasphemy?

An Italian crisp manufacturer’s attempt at employing “British-style” humour in a TV ad fell flat this week, at least among Catholics, who accused the company of blasphemy - which is a crime in Italy.

The 30-second advert for Amica Chips is set in a monastery and opens with nuns preparing to receive holy communion. The mother superior realises that the tabernacle is empty of wafers, and so fills it with crisps instead.


After likening the “divine” crisps to Catholics’ daily bread, it ends with the mother superior polishing off the rest of the bag.

The ad was quickly pulled from air after complaints from Aiart, an association of Catholic TV viewers, which accused the company of resorting to blasphemy to sell crisps. Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire published a furious editorial titled “Christ has been reduced to a potato chip.”

Clearly they were not the target audience. Lorenzo Marini Group, the company behind the commercial, said it was aimed at a younger market and had used “strong British irony” to be deliberately provocative.

The short-lived campaign seems to have paid off in terms of international media coverage this week. Meanwhile, the crisps were trending on Italian Twitter and even sparked debate over secularism in Italian law.

Get your goat

You may be pleased to hear that the local authority on Alicudi island has reported that its call for people to come and remove its excess goats was a resounding success.

Goats are reportedly overrunning the island, outnumbering its 100 or so residents and eating their property - so the authority recently offered the animals for free to anyone who’d like to come and catch them.


The unusual offer whipped international media into a frenzy, and around 2,000 applications have since poured in with people all over Europe and beyond eager to rehome one of the 600 animals available.

Successful applicants will have 15 days to lure a goat off the tiny island’s cliffs and onto a boat, according to Italian media reports. Reassuringly, local politicians have suggested they’ll give priority to those who want to “try to domesticate the animals, rather than eat them.”

Inside Italy is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points in Italy that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.


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