Saturday 23 September 2017

Ancient feuds resurface as Italy redraws the map

Nick Squires in Rome

Historic Italian cities such as Pisa and Lucca, which have been feuding since medieval times, are to be forced to co-exist under cost-saving measures to slash the number of provinces in half.

Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister, hopes to shave the country's €2trillion national debt by reducing the number of provinces from 110 to just 43, in a redrawing of the country's administrative borders.

Only provinces that have a population of at least 350,000 and a land area of 2,500sq km will be spared, as the government tries to reduce Italy's bloated bureaucracy and its four overstaffed government tiers -- national, regional, provincial and local.

But the austerity-driven reform will throw together ancient towns and cities which boast different food, architecture, cultural traditions and dialects, and whose inhabitants often resent their neighbours just down the road.

"Better a corpse in the home than a Pisan at the door," goes a saying from the nearby town of Livorno.

Rival towns swap insults over the quality of their cuisine and the beauty of their women, and regional identity is often stronger than the sense of being Italian.

The reforms will mean, for instance, that the Tuscan cities of Pisa and Lucca, which have been divided by intense rivalry since the Middle Ages, will be lumped together in a new expanded province.

Siena and Arezzo, also in Tuscany, will have to give up their autonomy despite a history of bloody feuding.

"We will never submit to rule by Udine," said Alessandro Ciriani, the president of the north-eastern province of Pordenone.

Regional rivalries remain strong in Italy, which was a patchwork of competing city states, kingdoms and papal territories before it was unified in 1861. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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