On the foreign policy front, Italians should be very concerned about the results of the American elections. Syria is in the middle of a civil war and Lebanon is once again on the brink of one. The Mediterranean is a small place and what happens in one corner affect the others, especially when there are Italian peacekeepers in the region. Obama’s policies are cautious and interlocutory while despite a moderate Mitt in the last debate, Romney says he wants the US to be respected once again. A change in American policy will change the reality for Italy. A Romney victory would increase Italian security risks.

In the same neck of the woods, Iran is an important trading partner for Italy. Obama is seeking some sort of negotiation while Romney seems in thrall to Bibi Netanyahu. A military confrontation between Israel and/or the US would have serious economic repercussions for Italy quite apart from the major regional consequences.

Much closer to home is Libya where Italian interests are even more direct; before the Libyan crisis, Italy depended on Libya for 23% of its oil and 10% of its gas. An aggressive American Libyan policy would have greater effects on Italy. A Bush-style invasion would be disastrous while negotiations, reconciliation and an attempt to build a stable and democratic Libya (or at least one or the other) is the Italian aim and that of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador killed in Benghazi. Again, a Romney victory would have direct and immediate consequences for Italy.

But apart from the few specialist broadcasts and columns, the Italian media, and as far as I can judge, the Italian public are not thinking about even the direct consequences of the American elections for Italy.

The Washington Post put it very succinctly – most Europeans have still not realised that there is a serious competition in the US and that Obama might not win. The German Marshall Fund pollshowed that Italians still massively approve of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs, even though the approval is down from 91% in 2008 to 74% in 2012. In practice, in Italy, there is no question. Most of the country, right and left, think that “Obama is the best for us and Obama is going to win”. There has been precious little debate on what the two candidates have actually said and although Obama’s policies are certainly better for Italy than the probable Romney ones, this is a given rather than an argued point.

Not even the Italian far right has any sympathy with the Tea Party (they actually want more state intervention than the left, an anathema for the American right) and Obama is sufficiently centrist to satisfy most of the Italian centre and centre-right.

Even after the first terrible performance by Obama, the idea that he might lose hardly touched most Italians’ consciousness. “We know Obama, we don’t like him quite as much as we did four years ago, but he’ll do”.

The immediate economic problems facing Italians trump any concern about the future US leader. To the east, Greece sinks into chaos and to the west, Spain is on the verge of seeking help from Brussels. Italy might be next. With these problems at the door, the American debates over job creation over there, seem very detached from the real, Italian, world. After the risk of losing one’s job or having to pay more on a lower budget, the next most important item are the Italian elections and the crises engulfing the whole political system.

Italy will have a general election almost certainly in April. The Sicilians voted over the weekend for their regional assembly after near bankruptcy brought down the previous government and two of the other biggest regions, Lombardy and Latium will vote very soon after major scandals forced early elections. Some of the other regions are wobbling. There is a whiff of the US in the centre-left Democratic Party’s “primaries” (and now the centre-right too) but not many of the party activists really know how the Americans conduct their own primaries, but it sounds democratic.

It is curious that Le Monde has an “Elections américaines” link on their banner while no Italian paper does. For the Italian media, it is not that interesting – a competition which has lots of colour and noise, interesting and fun to watch but not really relevant.

If Obama wins again, it will be business as usual. If Romney were to win, it would take some time for the real consequences to sink in.


Italian coverage of the Olympics so far can largely be summed up in a word, writes our man John Hooper. And that word is: “Phwooaaaargh!”

The drooling began during the opening ceremony. The team parade had only got to C when RAI’s (male) commentators - inspired by the lanky lovely holding up the standard of Cameroon - were remarking on what a crop of little (and not so little) hotties the Games looked as if it would bring. Ever since then, Italy’s two best-selling newspapers, have been slogging it out curve for curve to highlight the real point of London 2012 - the “bellezza” of the athletes. Who needed results when La Repubblica, reporting the show put on by the beach volleyball cheerleaders, could draw its readers’ attention to what it termed the “B side of the Olympics”? Indeed. The blonde German weighlifter, Julia Rohde only finished 11th in the 53 kilo class. But that did not stop Corriere della Sera from devoting an entire photo gallery to her stolid charms.

Back at La Repubblica, there was evident disappointment over the fact that, because of the London cold, “The [beach] volleyball players are covering up” - a fateful distraction that allowed the paper’s rivals to edge ahead temporarily with a lavish photo reportage on Hungary’s prospects in the swimming, or rather “La bella Zsuzsanna [Jakabos]”.

At which point, someone (female?) seems to have had a word with Corriere’s hacks, because today saw the appearance of an exhaustive rundown on the cheesecake on display.It was soon among today’s ‘most viewed’.