“A man is never undone till he be hang’d.”
Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Driving back from the Balkans to Zurich earlier this week, I stopped in Verona for a day. It is always a pleasure to visit this marvelous city on the Adige, a perfect Renaissance gem. This time I had an added motive for the stopover: to see my friend Stefano Valdegamberi—a leading local politician who has represented Verona at the Regional Council of the Province of Veneto since 2005—and to get a briefing on the state of Italy’s politics in these turbulent times.
Stefano took me to his favorite local haunt, the Osteria Verona Antica. It is a small epicurean temple which remains mercifully undiscovered by the great unwashed. Its owner for the past 13 years, Davide Veneri, greeted us warmly, and the dishes soon started rolling in. Davide seldom takes days off. When he does, he visits traditional farms and small fairs in the region in search of new products. The resulting creations shine so brightly with ancient beauty and timeless taste that the Stendhal syndrome is a real risk to the newcomer.
As we walked half a mile to the osteria, 52-year-old Valdegamberi was greeted at least a dozen times by the passing locals. He is known, he is liked, and he enjoys it. Always close to Salvini’s Lega, though never its member, he gained national prominence in April 2013, when he introduced a bill to call a referendum on Veneto’s independence from Italy. In June 2014, the Regional Council, in Venice, passed his bill, but the referendum was subsequently ruled illegal by Italy’s Constitutional Court.
Valdegamberi’s reputation as a maverick—who notably insists that NATO’s eastward expansion is the root cause of the conflict in Ukraine—has not hurt his popularity. He relishes a good fight in front of the camera, often while puffing on a Cuban cigar, “to shock the liberals even more.”
In a recent TV debate about the latest package of EU sanctions against Russia, Stefano let his opponent dwell on the “immorality” of purchasing oil and gas from an aggressive power that is waging war on its smaller neighbor. He recounted his response:
Okay, but if that is so, I replied, then surely you agree that we should also cease importing oil from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has been waging an undeclared war in Yemen for years; its planes routinely bomb civilian targets, and even the most conservative estimates put the number of its victims at a quarter-million. What is the difference? Are you, Signore, implying that Yemeni lives count for less than Ukrainian ones? But that is racist, Sir, racist!
Here Valdegamberi chuckled, since he is a determined and outspoken opponent of rampant non-European immigration across the Mediterranean Sea into Italy—a position for which he is inevitably accused of “racism” by the establishment media. He insists, however, that it is not at all “racist” to evaluate potential immigrants—only legal, regularly processed ones, of course!—by their likely ability to integrate into the Italian society, by their demonstrable willingness to accept (or at least to respect) its core values, including the Christian religion, and, no less importantly, to become net contributors to the community—economically and socially. By this standard, Valdegamberi insists, no “Islamic activists” can ever be accepted into Italy, and they should not be accepted into Europe, either, whatever the Brussels machine says.
This brings us to the “corrupt, deracinated” bureaucratic apparat of the European Union, which is one of Valdegamberi’s main objects of loathing. He sees its dark symbol in the person of Federica Mogherini, the former EU “high representative” for foreign and security affairs, an “icon of postmodernia” who had never been elected to any position of responsibility in her native Italy and who “represents nobody but her bosses in the foreign power centers.”
Regarding Ukraine, Valdegamberi insists that he is not “pro-Russian” (“I have no horse in this race”), but that he is strictly focused on the best interests of the country as a whole, and especially on the well-being of its northern, industrialized part—which includes Lombardy, Friuli, Trentino, Piemonte, and of course his own region of Veneto. “Italy is the second most important industrial power in today’s Europe, after Germany,” he points out, and that is why both Germany and Italy are targeted by Washington and by the transnational elites.
We do not have the monetized economy of the U.S. and Britain, which have given up on production. We still have thousands of real enterprises, big and small, which create real value. The madness of giving up on Russian energy under American pressure will cost Italy hundreds of billions of euros and hundreds of thousands of jobs, with catastrophic consequences. It will serve strictly the interests of those globalist planners who want to see us crippled with enormously increased production costs which will put our already struggling industrial sector out of business.
The people are beginning to understand what is going on, but “the government in Rome will continue to serve the masters across the Atlantic Ocean.” In the early weeks, the people were indoctrinated to see the war in Ukraine in black-and-white terms, Stefano says, “but now I’d say that a good two-thirds are at least skeptical, and just one-third still buy the official propaganda.”
That propaganda is conducted relentlessly by the state-controlled media conglomerate, RAI, Valdegamberi says. He finds it incongruous that RAI still collects its compulsory license fee from taxpayers, even though it acts as “the propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling elite, for its government servants, and—worse still—as an active propagator of homosexuality and all other sorts of sexually deviant and morally deprived lifestyles.”
Stefano Valdegamberi is an upright man who is ready and willing to take risks in pursuit of what he believes is right for his community and his region. He remains deeply skeptical, however, about the construct known as “the Italian nation.” He is not a typical Western politician, and he is certainly light years away from the riffraff that inhabits the Beltway swamp. The fact that Valdegamberi still retains a solid power-base in his native Veneto and that he is still considered a legitimate voice on the national stage indicates that Italy is not a lost cause, after all.
Image: View from the Adige River banks, in Verona, Italy (Srdja Trifkovic, all rights reserved)