Lately, when my friends and family back home ask me how life in Italy is going, I respond, “I don’t live in Italy. I live in Italy.” I’m coming out of a week of two midterms and a few papers are looming. My days for the past few weeks have been characterized by twelve hour study sessions in the library with occasional breaks for food and coffee.
However, even in my present hermit-like state, it’s hard not to sense the political change that is in the air. On November 12, Silvio Berlusconi’s term as Italian prime minister officially came to an end. Throughout my travels this summer and fall, I’ve run into several political rallies. A dominant buzzword at these rallies is “Basta!” (Enough). Although Berlusconi has been a definite target of this slogan, many of the Italians I’ve spoken with have had “enough” of structural social and economic dynamics beyond the policies of the now-former prime minister. The major task of the new government will be to address the on-going Euro crisis.
My graduate program is situated on the same block as a portion of the University of Bologna. Last Thursday was “Occupy Bologna.” Piazza Verde, typically crowded with students on lunch break and junkies drinking beer by the forty-ounce, was swarming with young people carrying signs (some political, some funny, many in Italian too advanced for me). Students marched through the city. Although I missed most of the protests (due to class, grad school ruins all of my adventures), Bologna bears the marks of the Occupy protest through a fresh crop of graffiti. “We are the 99%,” the trademark V from the film V for Vendetta; and fists closed in solidarity/resistance decorate walls and windows. Today, a group calling themselves the “Strikers” attacked a bank on one of the main commercial streets.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about graffiti in Washington, D.C. for my university newspaper. One of the graffiti artists I spoke with told me that if I wanted to figure out what was going on in a culture, I should just “read the walls.” In the present context of domestic, regional, and global uncertainty, I’ll continue to pick up what I can from the walls of Bologna.