What is it we are supposed to being saved from? The climate? It's truly marvellous: cool evenings, hot, sunny days, occasional outbursts of heavy rain that bring out the mushrooms of every kind of deliciousness. Which brings us to the food. Any complainants about Italian food are seriously under-informed about what is on offer. The state education system? Students flocked back to their clean classrooms, well under thirty to a class, equipped with the latest fashion in satchels, digital diaries, carefully chosen exercise books and folders with this year's designs, text books available in either printed format or online with hyper links and constant updating, with highly qualified teachers in one of the most sought-after jobs in the country (despite their endemic complaints about wages). The health service is running production lines for the most in-demand operations like heart bypasses and other conditions resulting from widespread smoking in the over 60s (now avoided without any of the elf'n'safety bullying that goes on in the UK) and is otherwise keeping us all ticking along nicely. Everyone has come back from the sea or the mountains remarking that they've had a great time and thank Goodness they didn't have to go to Thailand or Timbuctu this year because there is greater charm and restfulness in villeggiatura than in white-water rafting or conquering Everest. Young Italians are leaving for their gap year in London before taking up their place in some of the best universities in Europe (despite the rankings handed out by the Chinese - yet another example of ill-informed rating agencies - La Sapienza and the Bocconi are delivering world movers and shakers more than most). [New paragraph? ed.] Takes another deep breath.
The bank at the bottom of the hill has even made the Sole 24 Ore for its helpful lending policies to middle-sized and family businesses and rings up to offer advice on what to do with the reinvestment of funds from maturing bonds - and the profits, there is a good side to high returns. The whole place has lumpy mattresses from the gold bars tucked under. And, purely anecdotally, the factories re-opened in July and we've lost the gardener and the drystone wall builder which is nice for them but what about my garden? Rebuilding the terraces is going at a snail's pace now and I haven't got enough pickers recruited for the harvest.
Factories that should have closed years ago have closed, but new ones are opening and new markets recruited for in-place skills and machinery. Where once they manufactured gold chains for eastern markets now they manufacture baser chains for every kind of fashion use. You'd be surprised at how much worked metal there is on cutting edge fashion items from hats to boots.
And it was packed in Siena cathedral when we went to look at the floors; wisely a booking had been made for lunch or we'd have been outside on the pavement with the strolling guitar-players encouraging us to sing Volare.
So what exactly is this Utopia we are being denied, this nightmare of economic and social degradation and collapse from which we need rescue?