but the North Africans are definitelynre-invading Italy.nThe immigration problem in Italynhas not improved, and by May thenmost serious debate was over what tondo about the Albanians, who had beenncoming in such large numbers that thennews footage reminded me of JeannRaspail’s Camp of the Saints. For allntheir problems, the Italians (like thenFrench) are capable of decisive action,nand in early August the government —ntaking a page out of Raspail —nassembled a flotilla to repatriate thenAlbanians. After sending all but anthousand back to Albania, the governmentnbegan to weaken, promising $40nand a suit of clothes to everyone willingnto go home. Not surpisingly, most ofnthe emigrants want to stay. I know thatnit would take a lot more than $40 tonmake me leave, if I had a chance tonremain permanently in Italy. Ultimately,nthe government tricked the Albanians,nwith vague promises, into beingndispersed and eventually dismissed.nI could have stayed a year in ournlittle hotel in Orvieto, right on thencorso. We ate several times in a superbnrestaurant not far from the cathedral,nwhich had beautiful frescoes — classicalnand with pure colors that remindednme of early Picasso—by Luca Signorelli.nMost of Signorelli’s greatest worknwas painted over by later artists, butnOrvieto had the good fortune to benpoor. In Cortona, Signorelli’s birthplace,nthey preserve his memory, and Inwas treated to a discourse by the ownernof a bookshop.nI will not describe how I dragged thenparty through Montepulciano withoutnfinding lunch or how we fled in panicnfrom the tour bus hordes in SannGimignano and stayed in Colle Valnd’Elsa, which was quiet as a grave, ornhow I was overwhelmed — and this fornthe third time—by the crowd of unwashedntourists that have made Sienanimpossible. In the cathedral, my wifenpointed out something I had notnthought of before. Set in the pavementnare a series of mosaics representingnpagan as well as biblical stories, Romannemperors as well as popes, saints besidensibyls. The great pulpit (carved bynNicola Pisano) counterpoints thenseven liberal arts with scenes from thenlife of Christ. Here it was — in stone,npaint, and marble — the great synthesisnof late medieval civilization, that is tonsay our civilization.nThe high point of our touring, fornme, were the several days we spentndoing virtually nothing in Bibiena, antown in the Casentino north of Arezzonand east of Florence. I had hoped tonfind Peter Russell, the poet and friendnof Ezra Pound, but he was away innMilan, lecturing. In the mountainousnCasentino, May is too early for thenItalian tourists who come to escape thenheat and to visit the various Franciscannshrines. Dante took refuge here withnthe Cuidi, whose castello in nearbynPoppi is being restored. My friend andnI had our picture taken beneath thenbust of Dante. “Three poets,” is thensuggested title.nThe air was chilly, and it evennsnowed on us as we drove up to thenHermitage of St. Romualdo. Duringnvisiting hours, the monks are all in theirncells, but they do gather for meals andnfor services. They spend the rest of thenday either praying or working theirngarden plots. There are worse ways tonlive, and I can well imagine, as ournworld grinds itself down into the mirenof lies, vice, and cowardice, some newnmonastic movement rising up to rescuenthe victims of the sexual “revolutions.”nWe spend our last week in Lombardia,nenjoying the hospitality ofnGiuditta and Giuseppe Podesta atnCEISLO. Our discussions turn onnrecent events in Central and EasternnEurope, and the prospects for Europeannunity. On a broader level, we talknabout the decline of civilizations andnwhat can be done to slow or arrest thendescent into sloth and materialism. Incite the reforms of the Emperor Heraclius,nwho created a stable class ofnpeasant-soldiers who defended Byzantiumnfor almost a millennium, but thenprofessoressa is not impressed. Byzantium,nshe argued, is a great example ofnconservatism without creativity. I bringnup Byzantine hymnody, mosaics, andnhistoriography and am embarrassed tonfind she probably knows more aboutnByzantine culture than I do. Time forna tactical retreat.nDinners at CEISLO are great occasions,nnot only for cooking. One nightnwe are surprised by a visit by my friendnElvio Conti, who is very active in thenLega Lombarda. He brings with him anrecent recruit to the Lega, a retirednbusinessman who represents the growingnacceptance of the Lega in bour­nnngeois circles. They are immediatelyninvited to dinner. So is the baker, thenlocal Liberal Party leader, who arrivesnwith the dessert. We are in for it now, Inthink, a real shouting match. Instead,nwe have the liveliest discussion, dominatednby the new recruit, who hadnbeen a buyer and executive with thenRinascente chain (by far the largestnretailer — supermarkets, departmentnstores — in Italy).nHis knowledge of the world and hisnhardheaded grasp of business and economicsnimpresses even the skepticalnSignora Podesta. My liberal friend,nSignor Laini, is passionate in defendingnhis party and in criticizing thenLega, but on many fundamental pointsnagrees with its critique of the partitocrazia.nWhat most suprised me in this andnsubsequent discussions with variousnpeople was the general hostility to thenPersian Gulf War. From the newspapersn(Italian as well as American) I hadngathered that there was a great deal ofnpublic support for the war, counterednonly by a minority of Communists, thenmembers of the Leghe, and the mostnfaithful Catholics. What I found insteadnwere several lukewarm supporters,nwho thought Italy needed access tonthe oil but disliked the way PresidentnBush handled the whole affair. Thenopponents, on the other hand, tendednto be vehement and perhaps anti-nAmerican. I asked a number of observersnwhat they thought the real percentagenwas for support and opposition,nand the answer was always 50-50.nOne night we are joined by a groupnof students and local friends ofnCEISLO, and there are several tensenmoments, until I succeed in explainingnmy own position, which is patrioticnanti-imperialism. The only real argumentnthat breaks out is between menand the other lady in our party, whondefends the war with considerablenheat. I grow even hotter and pull thendirty trick of switching back into Italian.nWhat is most impressive about thisnevening is not so much what we arensaying as that we can have this conversationnat all. Here we are in a smallntown in a company that includes anlibrarian, a young lady who works in anbeauty pador, and a young man whonsells medical instruments, and the conversationnis far more serious than whatnNOVEMBER 1991/43n