Pizza – is that a female pizzo?

Today I learnt ……

Some years ago, V and I, having got very friendly with a shop assistant in a designer shop, were invited to her house for dinner. OK, that’s not normal but she was English and therefore we developed a kind of friendship, as one does.

During that dinner, they told us about their lives including the bit about having a bar/club. They were approached by some rather unsavoury persons to pay some “money” for protection purposes. They refused, of course. They were then threatened with closure. But, the club wasn’t burnt to the ground, rather, the place was to be found heaving with drug pushers (inside and out) and the police came and made a raid and, effectively, closed the club (for the unsavoury guys?) Or it was something like that.

Although it was a little “shocking” to us innocent Brits-just-landed, it was, kind of, expected in this Land of the Mafia.

And, last night (rather than today), I learnt that this money is also paid if you have a restaurant. It’s called “pizzo” and is not the masculine version of pizza.

In this case, I was told, the restaurant owners were “lucky”. After some three visits by some suitably unsavoury characters, on the third visit when the threats were getting rather more severe, “luckily” the conversation was overheard by a regular customer who “fixed” the problem as he “belonged” to a different “clan”.

This wasn’t 20 years ago but rather more recently (like this year). The blame (by the others I was talking with) was put on the heads of the politicians but, of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that. Especially as the politicians, like Berlusconi, are probably in hock to these people and, therefore, the country is, most likely, really run by the “Mafia” anyway.

Instead, of course, one must blame “the people” since, by continuing to accept that pizzo is the norm, validate and give this “tax” a continuity that, by not paying it, it would not have, they are truly “responsible”.

It’s easy for me to say. If I were in the same situation, would I be prepared to lose all my money and hard work (as in the first case) or pay up and keep my place? More importantly, would you? In fact, could you? Could you lose everything you’ve worked for just because you didn’t want to pay the pizzo?

Difficult questions in a difficult country. And, remember, we’re not talking about the unruly South here. We’re talking about the International Finance/Fashion Centre that is Milan!

Solve this problem and Italy would be a different country.

p.s. by using the term “Mafia”, I refer to all the clans that make up the underworld in Italy.