Is it all about “who you know’ in Italy?

Hey people! Here’s a post I wrote last week… I was debating publishing it. But decided I’d share some of Italy’s darker side (in a light way!). Choosing a city means putting up with the good and the bad. And thankfully for the most part, I see all the beauty and light even when there’s shadow.

Anyway, here it is!

Italians always say, “L’Italia è il paese delle raccomandazioni”.

Which basically means it’s a place where knowing someone of influence will get you places.

I’ve always known this. I mean, sad to say, but it’s pretty much like that every where in the world. Many a person with talent or merit has been duped in life because they weren’t with the ‘in’ crowd. It’s just life, you may think.

But Italy brings ‘who you know‘ to a whole new level. Stratospheric in fact.

From politics to protective services to the market to the corner bar.

“Knowing someone” in Italy will get you by, get you a discount, get you employed, get you out of a sticky situation and on the darkest level, give you immunity from who knows what! Even the process for becoming a police officer or carabiniere is by raccomandazione – meaning if you don’t know someone on the ‘inside’ you can probably bet it will take forever to enter (or be a complete long shot!). And it’s rife across all industries here.

I recently walked in to an Italian (internationally renowned) telco provider to change my account over.

Attempting to cut a very long and painful travel-blogger-social-media-addict-sans-internet-for-a-week-while-traveling-debacle short, my current national telco provider decided recently to block my data / Internet traffic because of ‘suspicious international roaming activity’ – which apparently took place in countries I’ve never even been to! And after obliging me to pay a ridiculous amount to ‘immediately’ reactivate the service, refused to do so for a week!

So back to today and my walking into a competitor provider, seeking to change provider.

Here’s what happened:

*A French man (with Italian citizenship) was told that you can’t use international credit cards in Italy. Apparently you can only use credit cards issued by Italian banks in Italy.
*An elderly man was told that he’s too old to use a smart phone.
*A woman was asked if her husband had taken a look at their home modem which wasn’t working. Because, “Women just aren’t good at working out technical things.”
*A couple of ‘Chinese’ tourists were yelled at and laughed at because the shop assistant couldn’t understand their English. In actual fact, the couple were American but the shop assistant kept saying in Italian (with reference to the fact that they were visibly of Asian descent), “I can’t understand these Chinese people when they try to talk to me in English.”
*Some TV personality walk in and all attention focused on him. He was then offered a massive discount on a phone package, iPad and iPhone. All products that are supposed to retail at the same price for everyone, everywhere.

I walked out thinking:
Italy is Ageist. Sexist. Misogynist. Ignorant. Backwards. Racist.

And that it’s who you know, not what you know.

Is this Italy?
I’m saddened to say, that sometimes (and I know it’s not exclusive to Italy), the answer is: yes.

It’s been one of those days.

I finally got my business done. And walked out feeling incensed and defeated all in the same breathe.

…..Then I tried a gelato from this new awesome place and all seemed right again in the world. I thought to myself, “God I love this country!”


I’ve chosen to be in a relationship with Italy and like with all relationships, it’s about compromise (oh and sometimes, the ‘who you know’ thing works to my favour too!). Love / hate. Good days / bad days. Darkness / light.

I repeat, it’s just been one of those days!

Signing off from Trastevere,
Baci, Maria

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