With Silvio Berlusconi in charge for 17 years, it’s no surprise that men put themselves first.
'How many gears do Italian tanks have? Five – one forward, and four reverse.” It wasn’t until we’d been married for a year that my husband dared come out with lines like that. But there were plenty more, in the well-stuffed cupboard of “cowardly Italian” jokes.
As a half-Italian living in London, I’d persuaded myself that my male compatriots enjoyed a dashing image as Prada-wearing, Vespa-riding he-men. The truth was less flattering: memories still lingered of the North African campaign in 1940, when 36,000 British troops repelled 200,000 Italians. My friends in London also liked to point out that the last Italian
heart-throb had been Marcello Mastroianni – a god, certainly, but one who’d died, aged 72, back in 1996.
Now, however, Italy has produced a model male of the worst kind. Captain Francesco Schettino, the sun-tanned, raven-haired skipper of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, claims to have “tripped into a lifeboat” as his cruise ship sank, passengers still on board. The captain saved himself, but at least 11 people died. An audio tape of his refusal to return to the liner was put on the internet, prompting the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with the coastguard’s order: “Get back on board, for f---’s sake!” Read More