“We must understand the unique culture that is Italy to understand what is happening and what needs to be done,” Battocchi said.
Battocchi has represented Italy in San Francisco since September 2012. His area of responsibility extends from Utah to Guam. Coming to Utah was one of Battocchi’s firsts acts as Honorable Consul of Italy.
Battocchi, accompanied by the Honorary Consul of Spain, Dr. Baldomero Lago, and Honorary Consul of Russia, Dr. Rusty Butler, spoke with over 50 students and faculty in the Liberal Arts Building. Battocchi’s presentation outlined the difference between the perceived Italy and the true Italy.
“When people think of Italy they think of the four F’s – food, furniture, fashion and Ferrari,“ Battocchi said, “but these cannot begin to describe the real Italy.”
Battocchi explained that Italy, a country younger than the United States, is new to functioning as a whole and that its population is divided on nearly every front.
“What many of you don’t understand is that in Italy there is division everywhere. Division among the states that have only been united since 1848, division among the peoples, even division in the proper way to prepare food,” Battocchi said. “There is only one way to make coffee, one way to make pasta and if you make it differently than you are wrong and there will be problems.”
One of the greatest divides in Italy, Battocchi explained, is the divide between the people and the government.
“If you ask an Italian they will say ‘Italy is poor, but I am rich’ and they would be correct,” Battocchi said. “Italians are the kind of people who hide money in their mattresses.”
While the government struggles with national debt, the people themselves are largely wealthy. Lack of accountability for how much individuals make creates issues with taxation.
“We do not have all of the facts on income, we don’t currently have a system in place that monitors exactly how much any individual makes,” Battocchi said. “We look at what they claim to make on their tax reports, but then we see that they’ve recently bought a Ferrari and a yacht and things don’t add up.”
Since 1992 Italy has been working to implement government structures and policies closely resembling those of the United States and the United Kingdom. The election in early 2013 will closely follow that of the U.S.’s 2012 election.
“We’ve begun our major changes by changing how we select and elect government officials,” Battocchi said. “Once we have a stable method of election we can move forward with changes in our taxation policies, our international affairs and cultural unity.”
UVU students studying political science and international business discussed with Battocchi where Italy stands worldwide in regards to business, economics and international relationships.
“I was surprised to see how well Italy is doing in regards to national debt versus population wealth,” said Jacob Stevens, political science student. “The news makes them sound like they are on the brink of destruction, but the facts don’t line up with what has been said about them.”
Battocchi said that he wanted the bridge the gap between perception and reality to help create trusting international relationships for future leaders.
“Italy has many cons in the eyes of the world,” Battocchi said. “We have the Mafia, perceived governmental insecurity and miles of national debt, but that is not the whole story. We need the chance to show who we really are.”