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Italian report Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-10-15 08:12:20
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Students across Italy protest austerity measures

Tens of thousands of school children and students took to the streets of 90 cities across Italy on Friday to protest tax hikes on university fees and a cut in scholarships in the wake of the economic crisis. Ten thousand young people took part in a march in Rome, according to organisers, forcing traffic to a standstill in the city centre, while others demonstrated in cities from Naples to Milan, Turin, Florence and Bologna.

The protests were sparked by the government's decision to raise taxes on students who complete their university studies late, and cut scholarships -- which critics say will make it impossible for many to go to university at all. "We've taken to the streets to denounce the fact that Italy is the country at the heart of the EU with the fewest graduates, (and) the highest school costs," said Michele Orezzi, national coordinator of the Universities Union. She said school costs "are constantly rising because of the austerity measures imposed by PM Mario Monti's government."

 Monti came to power in November 2011 to tackle Italy's vast debt amid increasing pressure from the eurozone debt crisis, imposing a series of measures aimed to reign in spending and cut waste. The protests follow widespread demonstrations across Italy last week which ended in clashes with the police which left dozens of people injured.


Finance Minister expects fiscal austerity elsewhere in world

Europe's growth-crushing fiscal austerity was inevitable and will soon be followed by similar measures in other parts of the world, Italian Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli said Friday. "Europe is somehow ahead of the pack in terms of fiscal consolidation," Mr. Grilli said in a speech at the Institute of International Finance in this city. "Other countries will have to start."

The U.S. and Japan have by far the largest budget deficits, although officials from the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development here urged those countries not to take abrupt action as that would further crush a slowing global economy.  Mr. Grilli turned to his home country, saying its technocratic government was "using the crisis to change the country into a more successful one."
Rome has cut pension benefits, made it easier to fire workers and raised property and sales taxes to fix its public finances.

A balanced budget in 2013 is and will remain the government's main agenda, Mr. Grilli said. This week's decision to further hike the value-added tax while clipping the lowest income tax bracket was a fine-tuning exercise to improve the composition of the fiscal measures, he said. Austerity has weakened economic growth but that's the "necessary price for a brighter future", he claimed.  Italy's "task is not done but the policy agenda is clear", Mr. Grilli added.


Italy opens the world’s first gelato culture museum

Who knows what Cosimo Ruggieri would have thought about ending up in a gelato museum? Alchemist at the court of the Medici, Ruggieri, the story goes; created the ice-cream that Catherine De Medici took to Paris in the 1530s to wow the French. And that’s why he ended up in the world’s first museum of gelato culture and technology, which has opened its doors to local dignitaries and businessmen in the small northern town of Anzola dell’Emilia, near Bologna. "Gelato was a symbol of power, used at courts to enhance the prestige of noble families. Ice and salt were key ingredients and were expensive so only aristocrats could afford it," says ice-cream expert Luciana Polliotti. Ms Polliotti is historical curator at the Carpigiani Gelato Museum, a more than 1,000m2 shiny space built at a cost of €1.5m to showcase the history of a product that has become a Made in Italy success story the world over.

The museum, built by gelato machine maker Carpigiani Group, tracks the history of gelato from the early snow-wells of antiquity, to the ice and salt sherbets developed by the Chinese through to the new technologies of the 1900s. Exhibits include the world’s first-written recipe for the "shrb", Arabic for sugar syrup, the De Sorbetti treatise on the curative powers of gelato, written by Neapolitan physician Filippo Baldini, and 20 vintage gelato-making machines, including the first automatic Cattabriga machine introduced in 1931. But if the gelato has its distant origins in Mesopotamia it was Italy that developed the modern creamier version we serve on our tables today, some time in the 1500s in Florence. And it was another Italian, Francesco Procopio Cuto who, the museum says, sold the first sorbets to the public in 1686 when he opened Le Procope in Paris, which is still there today. Since then, gelato eating has become much more democratic. Food-producing association Coldiretti estimates Italians will spend €2.5bn on gelati this year with more than 600 flavours to choose from. And visitors to Anzola can taste some of those at the gelato shop outside the museum which serves treats such as fig gelato with balsamic drizzle, strawberry and raspberry sorbets from an early 1800 recipe and coffee sorbet first drafted in 1854.

It was Carpigiani that took the gelato business global. Founded in 1945, the company, today part of catering equipment group Ali, has grown to become the world’s leading gelato machine maker with branches in 12 countries, sales of €146m and a payroll of more than 400. Every day more than 150-million gelati from its machines are eaten worldwide. Like other Made in Italy businesses, the gelato trade has bucked the recessionary trend by focusing on quality and distinguishing itself from the fatter, more industrialised ice-cream. "In Bologna one of the few things that has grown in recent years is gelato," says Gabriele Cavina, a Catholic church monsignor speaking at the museum’s inauguration as he blessed the building. Italians are deadly serious about their gelato. Walk around any Italian town late afternoon or evening and you’ll find plenty of people strolling round with gelatos of every shade and colour. But with one gelato parlour for every 3,000 inhabitants, Italy is now a mature market and 80% of Carpigiani’s business is generated abroad, with emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia a natural choice. Especially China. "Gelato is not really in their culture but for the Chinese it’s more a choice of tasting Made in Italy than food as such. I see strong growth there," said Carpigiani General Manager Andrea Cocchi. To help overseas expansion, Carpigiani also set up a Gelato University in 2003. Situated next to the museum, the university is bustling with foreign students who come to the laboratories to learn the ins and outs of gelato making before going back home to set up their own businesses — possibly with a Carpigiani machine.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-10-15 09:12:42
What a spectacle! I suppose the technocrat unelected bankers' answer to the students' protest will probably go something like this: "We have tried education but it hasn't worked. Education is too espensive and we live in times of austerity, so let's try ignorance." Indeed, we know only too well where such philosophy of ignorance leads historically.

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