When I told friends that I was going to Italy to studynthe political situation there, the usual response wasnan amused puzzlement. Italian politics, I was informed, isnlike the Italian army: a grand opera performance of a comicnopera plot. I am not so sure. Since the later Middle Ages,nthe Italians have been feuding and fighhng in a grand stylenthat often looks suicidal, but what are the results? ThenRenaissance, Italian opera, and — most recently—a standardnof living that combines a high disposable incomen(largely unreported) with an everyday life that the Americannleisure class can only envy. The difference between Italynand the United States can be measured most simply bynconsidering the table. Over there, everything is fresh, local,nand wonderfully prepared — four and five course meals,nwashed down by wine that cannot be successfully exportednbeyond the region. Here, on the other hand, hardly onenAmerican in five knows how to prepare the simplest mealnfrom scratch.nEven in politics, the Italians may have a few lessons tonteach. Perhaps because Italian public life has always been ancynical game, Italian political thinkers have written aboutnpolitics with a remarkable candor. In The Machiavellians,nJames Burnham traces an intellectual history from then12/CHRONICLESnPERSPECTIVEnDivorce Italian Stylenby Thomas Fleming ,nnnauthor of The Prince down to Mosca and Pareto. Today onenmight wish to include the occasionally brilliant CommunistnAntonio Gramsci as well as Giovanni Sartori, now atnColumbia University. But, my friends tell me, look at hownoften the Italians change their government. Really? Sincenthe 1950’s, we have had eight Presidents; however, innlooking back over the past 35 years of Italian politics, onensees only the figure of Giulio Andreotti. As one Sicilianngentleman told me on a train, “Mussolini was a dictator, ofncourse, but so is Andreoth, only he is not so good a ruler asnMussolini.”nWhere else in the world would a retired businessman tellna stranger not only that he was a Fascist during the war,nbut — worse — that after years of being an anh-Fascist, henhas come round to preferring II Duce to the current rascals?n”At least he tamed, if only temporarily, the Mafia. It wasnyour President Roosevelt who turned Sicily back over tonLucky Luciano.” It is a story that every Italian seems tonknow and of which every American is ignorant, how FDRncut the deal with Luciano, who threatened the Sicilians withnretaliation if they resisted the American invasion. In return,nthe Mafia was restored to its former glory. These twinnsubjects, the corrupt despotism of the government and then