WHY ITALY IS IN A MESS
One Baker's fight Against Italian Bureaucracy: 4 years to Move to his New Shop!
And he still isn't there!
The building is finished, but the baker and his wife are still waiting for the "certificato di agibilità" (permission for "access"). It's taken them months to obtain the necessary certificates and this is the last one they need from the "Comune", the village authorities before they can open their new shop - a bizarre piece of paper that is awaiting somebody's signature, but no one is there in the Comune to sign it.
They've been waiting for a whole month now for this particular certificate, and when I went there yesterday to buy my bread, they were still waiting...
Let me show you the situation in pictures. Here's one of the several medieval towers on the outside wall that circles Mugnano, a small village of about 1,000 inhabitants in Umbria, the "green heart" of Italy:
Here's the entrance to the baker's shop:
Cute, isn't it? Wait till you see the inside:
Small but lovely, with vaulted ceilings. See the baker's wife laughing? She's always in a good mood when she sells you their goodies. They have no help - this is entirely a family business, and their daughter is studying to become a magistrate...So no one in the family is likely to continue the baking tradition - a pity, because this is one inspired and hugely talented baker and pastry chef! Judge for yourself:
Looks yummy! And believe me, it is!
Here's the new building on the outskirts of the village where our baker is supposed to move in.
It's at a cross-road and therefore should bring him many more clients. In fact he's planning to expand his business and include a coffee shop and pizzeria - both activities that are impossible in the small, cramped quarters he's presently in.
He's going to move into the left wing of this building:
In the right wing, there will be a small supermarket, and behind, in the background you can see some trees.
Those trees hide the ruins of a 13th century Benedictine convent. That turned out to be one of the big problems encountered by the builder: because of the ruins, he had to stop his building and redesign it to make it "fit in" as per the rules and regulations of the Italian Belle Arte authorities.
Result, it took him nearly...4 years to complete the building!
Are these ruins something special? Well, you can see for yourself here:
Yes, they are nice, but they are totally abandoned and in dreadful shape. No one is interested (or has the means) to restore them. Until some ten or fifteen years ago, they were lived in by poor peasant families.So, the last time this place was lived in by monks was a very long time ago...
Were the Italian Belle Arte wrong in imposing a "classic" style to the new building? Probably not, but surely they could have gone about it without wasting so much time. The two are not exactly next to each other, and it seems stretching it a bit to make so many demands on the builder...
I wanted to show you this baker's trials and tribulations because they illustrate perfectly why Italian businesses suffer, why innovation in an ancient country like Italy is so difficult. It is discouraged by a ghastly combination of understandable measures to defend and preserve the invaluable Italian artistic heritage with red tape, corruption and indifference.
Reams of red tape because Italian bureaucracy has inherited laws and regulations of a vast number of rulers over the centuries, from the ancient Romans to Renaissance princes, from the Austrian and Spanish Empires to Napoleon's France and 19th century liberals.
Then there's corruption of the direct variety (you have to "grease paws" to move things forward) and indirect variety (if you don't pay, you're left at the bottom of the pile).
Last but not least, there's a general indifference on the part of civil servants that have conveniently forgotten they are at the service of citizens. Of course not all of them are like that, but too many are.
No wonder Italy is in such a mess!
Q4U: The intent here was to illustrate the damage to business innovation caused by the unholy combination of several factors: (1)bureaucratic red tape, (2) laxity verging on corruption and (3) rules intended to preserve the cultural heritage. Do you see any other factors at work here?
Have you observed similar situations in the country where you live? Can you report on solutions?