Quick Impressions of Italy, 2012 Edition

I spent last week in Italy (Milan and Naples) launching the The Start-Up of You there. It was my second visit to the beautiful country. Some quick impressions / thoughts:

Unemployment / career anxiety in Italy. I was told 1 in 3 young people are unemployed in Italy right now. Young people are feeling like they need to break into the “digital economy,” not work in a legacy manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, a lot of the historic craft businesses are struggling, and the entrepreneurs there are trying to figure out how to survive in a global economy. Apparently, many entrepreneurs in the north have been committing suicide for fear their businesses were going under.

Crisis? What crisis?! There was much talk in Italy about the economic crisis. But the effects of the crisis were not visible to this tourist. By contrast, when I was in Greece, people in Athens would tell me about the economic crisis and then I would look around and see trash piled up on the sidewalk corner because the garbage men were striking. I’d see taxis all parked in a parking lot because the taxi drivers were striking. I’d see government workers all congregated on the main square because the government workers were striking…so yes, there was indeed a crisis. There are serious economic challenges throughout the Europe and in Italy, per the previous point, but if you just look around, Milan seemed positively tranquil. People seemed happy. Society was functioning fine. This is not a scientific way to assess an economic situation, but the “look around” litmus test should not be dismissed as irrelevant, either.

Culture matters. A surprising number of Italians proactively told me that Italian culture hinders entrepreneurial thinking. For example, the mindset that gets fostered when kids live at home with their parents into their early 30’s. Or the overall view on failure. Essentially, the themes of my post Culture Matters to Entrepreneurship. It’s striking how universal these cultural challenges seem to be around the world.

Buffalo mozzarella. Especially in Naples, the bufalo mozzarella blew my mind. Again. So good.

Thanks to our very energetic publisher Egea for hosting my visit!

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