Italy Should be Number One

Presently, Italy’s economy is the fourth biggest in Europe, according to the International Monetary fund.  Italy sits behind Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Really, Italy should be the biggest economy in Europe, and should be able to overtake Japan too which would make Italy the third biggest economy in the whole world.

To be honest, with its reputedly stagnant economy, Italy is not doing all that badly to be in fourth place in Europe and in eighth place in the world.  Just imagine where Italy would be if its economy started really motoring.

Powering past the world leaders, the USA and China, would be hard seeing as Italy has neither the manpower nor the area to compete with the big two.  Eventually maybe, countries such as Russia or even India may overtake Italy in terms of economic horsepower, but growth in these two nations will be of benefit to Italy.

Now, why do I think Italy should be the biggest economy in Europe?  When you think about it, it’s not too difficult to understand.

Here are the areas in which Italy could really shine, and most probably will, if the current forward thinking Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti manages to overcome the many obstacles obstinate Italy is likely to throw in his path.

Just look at what Italy has to offer on its home turf:

Tourism

Italy is a holiday destination par excellence.  It has got absolutely everything any tourist can possibly desire:

  • A great climate – which lasts from mid-April all the way through to the end of October.  If you count winter sports, Italy’s climate can attract tourists to significant sections of the peninsula all year round.
  • Fabulous beaches – not all of which are too organised.
  • A fantastically rich cuisine.  Honestly, if you cannot find something you like in Italy, they you probably don’t like food.  The meat is good, the fish is lovely and the vegetables and various condiments are superb too.  And there is all that cheese!
  • Wine.  The world is starting, through no fault of its own, to discover the joys of Italian wines, both still and sparkling wines – such as my personal favourite: prosecco.  Enjoying Italian wines in Italy adds another, very positive, dimension to experiencing this incredible country.
  • Landscapes to die for.  Mountains, lakes, seascapes, city and townscapes, Italy has them all – in abundance, and then some!
  • Siena Cathedral, Tuscany, Italy

    Siena Cathedral, Tuscany, Italy - just one of Italy's many incredible sights

    Historic cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Bologna, Turin, Palermo, Verona, Bergamo, Milan, Genoa – the list goes on and on.  Then there are all the magnificent churches, ruins, villas, monuments, villages and even charming castles everywhere.

  • Shopping.  Where can I start?  Fashion – clothes, men’s and women’s wear.  Footwear, accessories, jewellery, leather goods, and children’s wear.  Food and drink – not just wines, but also spirits such as grappa, and all those digestive and bitter drinks, as well as limoncello and liquorice liqueurs.
  • Sport.  Skiing, Formula One, football, rugby, golf, rallying and historic rallies.  Water sports: water skiing, yachting, jet skiing, and a few more – and Italy makes fabulous boats too!
  • Cruises.  Italy’s coastline is, generally, spectacular, so going on a cruise is something many will enjoy – and it adds yet another dimension to Italy.

Have I missed something?  Quite probably and will happily accept suggestions, even if the list is quite impressive as it is.

Exports

This is the real biggie and many of the items mentioned in the tourism section above can be exported.

Italy has so many brands with a world class reputation, it is difficult to remember them all, but here are a few to be going on with:

  • Ferrari
  • Fiat
  • Maserati
  • Riva
  • Snam

Italian fashion brands: Gucci, Armani, Emilio Pucci, Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, Trussardi, Versace, Krizia, Etro, Miu Miu, Laura Biagiotti, Max Mara, Fendi, Moschino, Missoni, Bottega Veneta, Benetton and Brioni are but a few.  And there are many Italian accessory and jewelry brands, such as Luxottica, too.

Italian food brands: Nutella, Ferrero, Barilla, Napolina, Parmalat, and many more, including smaller brands making exclusive products for the luxury sector such as Baratti & Milano, Venchi, Bistefani and more.  Visit the Eataly Market to see reams and reams of Italian food brands.

Want more?  There are, plenty:

Italian furniture brands, and this is a mere glimpse of what Italy has to offer:

  • Alivar
  • Bonaldo
  • Casprini
  • Cattelan Italia
  • Draenert
  • Fasem
  • Gallotti e Radice
  • i4 Mariani
  • Kristalia
  • Lago
  • Lapalma
  • Magis Design
  • Morelato
  • Naos
  • Ozzio
  • Reflex
  • Team 7

Then there is Italian design, such as

  • Alessi

What about Italian motorbikes:

  • Ducati

    The Italian V-Max - the 2011 Ducati Diavel

    The Italian V-Max - the 2011 Ducati Diavel

  • Moto Guzzi
  • Aprilia
  • Bimota
  • MV Agusta

The list of Italian brands goes on and on.

Italy seems to be good at just about everything it touches, and then some.  One should not omit Italian design and green Italian technology.

Brains

Italy has lots of great brains, but has already, and blindly, let them export themselves away from the Boot, but many would come back and may well do so, when they deem the time is right.  I’m willing to bet that many Italian expats are watching what Mario Monti is getting up to with great interest.

What is also interesting is that Italy is not standing still, despite its problematic economy.

New companies are being formed all the time, such as South Garage Cafè, a creator of bespoke cafè racer motorcycles.  Unfortunately, Italy does not do much to nurture its baby businesses, but if the nation goes in the direction Mario Monti is pointing it, the world may well be graced by even more iconic Italian brands.

Obviously it is no good making products which nobody wants to buy, but this is not the case with Italy’s goods.  The problem is that many people outside of Italy simply do not know what Italy offers.

I’ve been told by a few Italians that Italy is not especially good at marketing itself – which is putting it very mildly indeed.  This is a pity because markets for Italian products abound.

Markets

Just about every country in the world is a market for made in Italy goods.

In some countries, such as the USA, UK, and a good few other nations, Italian brands are fairly well established; very well established, if you consider some of the big Italian fashion houses.

On top of the existing markets, which Italy could probably exploit better, there are the huge emerging markets – China, India and, eventually, Russia.

There is still plenty of space for Italy’s fine products almost everywhere.

Market, Market, Market

Italy only really needs to market its vast assortment of goods better.

If the Italian government actually starts functioning, one fine day, and with a little luck it will as a result of Mario Monti waving his technocratic wand, Italy stands to be an economy which dwarfs those of France, Germany and Great Britain.

Italy should be the number one economy in Europe.  I’m absolutely, utterly and totally convinced of this.

Go on Italy!  You can do it – if you want to.

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Comments

  1. Christian Kane says

    Hello everyone,
    Italy as Europe’s biggest economy? Nothing wrong with dreaming I suppose. If you had your ears to the ground you’d know that by the year 2050 the UK is set to become Europe’s biggest economy. Germany has a crisis on it’s hands with a rapidly declining population whilst the UK’s is set to boom.
    Clearly we (the UK) are the world’s greatest inventors too, the microchip, the world wide web and I believe most people would choose the Aston Martin over the Ferrari every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It’s enough to make you hate the UK even more is it not.?
    If I could give you any advice it would be to leave the Euro. The UK of course is set to leave the red tape nightmare that is the EU so they’ll be one step ahead of you still.
    Anyway, it’s competition that drives us on and I have to admire you for your ambition.
    Regards

    • says

      Hi Christian,

      Dreams sometimes become reality!

      The UK is a very strong economy, potentially, and it believes in meritocracy. If Italy got serious about meritocracy and got itself into shape in quite a few other ways, I think it would become as big an economy as the UK, if not bigger.

      I don’t hate the UK, as you say, competition is good! And I’m English, anyway.

      As for Aston Martin, if you had your ear to the ground, you would have heard of Maserati. Oh, and by the way, isn’t Aston Martin part owned by that big American company Ford? ;)

      Best from Italy,

      Alex

      PS Italian weather is much better than UK weather!

  2. Horatio Tolatop says

    Back from 10 days in Puglia where I was thinking about this article, and I thought I would add a thing or two.
    Someone interestingly mentioned that Italy’s (and every country’s I would imagine) greatest resource are the people themselves. I now know Puglia rather well and it was far from being the first time I went there and that I “observed” Italians and their ways through my French-turned-Brit eyes. I must stress I will talk solely about Puglians and Southern mentality and these are just personal observations/opinions and that above all I don’t intend to hurt or slag off Italians and Italy as it will be hopefully home within a few years.
    Now if there were two words to explain why I don’t think Italy could be n#1 as of now it would be “incivility” and “indiscipline”.
    It seems at times a lawless country where nobody gives a damn about things and about others except themselves. As an illustration take your average driver where to him/her most things are optional: indicator, seatbelt (2 yr olds *standing* in front seat!), priorities, thank yous, zebra crossing etc just do not exist. When I let someone cross the street not only am I snubbed by the pedestrian (glances at you without acknowledging you) but I get honked by the back drivers as I wasted 10 precious seconds of his life.
    Another example are the sales assistants, the youngsters in particular: manners are gone, wanting an advice is interrupting their macchiati or phone calls so the service you subsequently received is pretty dire.
    I also asked my brother in law “where do your taxes go????” to which he could only shrug and smile: I joked that in Badgad or Beyrouth people surely complain that their roads look like Puglia’s! Seriously the infrastructure are appalling, potholes galore and beautiful monuments and streets left to decay. Went jogging in countryside roads through fields of olive trees and…. dumpings of domestic rubbish. Why should they recycle, why should they take care of their environment after all….
    So it’s all well to have vey good taste in sunglasses and have time for apperitivi & espressi but where’s the hard work, civility and seriousness about life? I can appreciate Alex’s view if based solely on the Centre and North of Italy because it seems to me that South Italy drags the whole country down massively.
    What convinces me even more is that my wife is the staunchest defender of her homeland and even she agrees with my observations. Now the day we make the move there I will have to learn to live with it to avoid depresion or stress, and teach my son there is much more in life than looking good in sunglasses :)

  3. Michael says

    Hi Alex,

    Can you confirm the stories, that even tourists coming to Italy in a 250 HP car ( or more ) will be taxed if they stay in Italy more than 48 hours ?
    And how are they going to check if the car has been in Italy for 48 hours ?

    Best Regards,

    Mike

  4. Peter says

    Thanks, Alex. I have discovered this web site just recently and I like it. I’t very simple, but has good quality articles. I have been living in Italy only over two years (1 year in Tuscany and the rest in Milan), but I like this country so far. I like the people and I would say – yes italians seem to take shortcuts, whatever you want to call it, but it’s because of massive bureaucracy. Sometimes to do things by the italian rules doesn’t help and companies or individuals would not get anywhere. I believe that free market, small government, low taxes, little regulations would boost this country to the moon. Italians are smart enough to take care of themselves, they don’t need huge nanny state with ridiculous promises about state pensions and so on… This country has what it takes to excell in Europe or even in the world! Viva Italia!

  5. says

    Hello. I just read all your opinions. From my point of view after Mario Monti’s coming as prime minister of Italy the period of crisis will finish. Italy has so many natural pleasures, great economy, great and smart people.. I believe too that after some 10-15 years italian economy will be stronger then british, french and maybe german and japanese.. Love Italy per semrpe ! hate Germany and UK !! Viva la Italia <3

    • says

      Hi Andrej,

      Yes, it is possible that Monti may transform Italy into the kind of place it should be and that it could, potentially, overtake the economies of Britain, Germany, France and Japan. Italy has the resources to achieve this if they are exploited wisely. Time will tell.

      No need to “hate” the UK or Germany though – they are just different.

      Best,

      Alex

    • Andrej Stoilovski says

      Hi Alex,

      I said that I hate UK and Germany because those 2 countries don’t like Italy too much.
      I know i wasn’t right saying that. But there’s also a reason i told it, because Germany always takes the part that Italy isn’t a good country, that it’s their fault because of the crisis in EU, UK also wants to leave EU and their partners.. I wrote it in a moments when i was angry of these nations, but now I’m sorry because of it.
      I believe that Italy has a great power, she could be stronger than now.
      Italy’s a great country. She has everything she needs and the italians would find the way to use it, make it better, make this country more stronger. Italia, il paese dei miei sogni! <3

  6. Sam says

    I don’t get it. If there is any flaw in Italy it’s always over exploited because the same flaws exist in other countries that it is compared to. For instance, there is plenty of corruption right here in the US. The German president just resigned over corruption scandals. Italy may be proverbially 2 countries, but the UK is 4 and Germany still has its relatively poor and backward area still in former East Germany.

    Yet most people point to Italy when they themselves have the same issues. Politics of favoritism I’d say.

  7. Sam says

    Italy is already filled up with plenty Germans, Swiss, Asians, etc. Chris.

    Who was it that said “Italy’s greatest resource is the people themselves” they’re very diverse. Every heard of the Lombards, Oscans, Visigoths, Celts, they’re all there?!?! Along with many other peoples over 3 thousand years. It doesn’t sound like you know Italy very well.

  8. Chris says

    Italy would have a massive economy if it were not full of Italians. When are people going to wake up and start looking at the greatest resource of all any country has to offer…..the people themselves! Italians tend towards corruption, an entitled attitude and laziness. Fill Italy up with Germans, Swiss or Japanese and it would dominate Europe in no time with all the advantages mentioned in the article.

  9. Darren says

    I agree with what most people are saying and looking in from the outside (I am in Australia) I dearly love the country. But what Italy should do is like we have here in Australia, is to give non residents the chance to immigrate to Italy to either assist in business or set up business. Not all the great ideas come from within your own country and sometimes, looking to the outside helps, like what we have done here in Australia. I would dearly love to move to Italy to work and bring what experience I have with me, but with the strict immigration regulations it is very difficult, especially when my fiance lives in Rome and its almost impossible for me to move there. I love Italy, I love the lifestyle, I love the people, I love their culture and the history. I will continue to look for work, but until the Govt makes it a little easier for me to get work there, I will continue to fly to Rome twice a year until i get lucky.

  10. says

    Hi Alex,

    I really enjoyed your article and I was so pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon it while reading Business Insider.

    I completely agree with all the points you have made, and most of all I believe you have summed up in the most cohesive and straightforward manner what I have been trying to convince people of.

    I just recently moved outside Milan, I am Canadian of Italian origin but I do consider myself very italian. I absolutely love this country, despite all its faults, it has so much to offer.

    Thank you so much for recognizing its positive aspects and putting them forward, something I feel more Italians should do.
    Perhaps the best way for this country to pick up is to increase its optimism.

    Thank you again and keep up the good work!!

    • says

      Hi Vanessa,

      Good to hear you enjoyed the article – others have thanked me for it too, which was good of them. I’m really pleased the Business Insider people chose to pick it up and did not really expect them to – but kudos to them for having done so :)

      I see I am not alone in believing in Italy :) – which is also very positive and Italy does have a huge amount to offer, as you have read, I agree 100%.

      Italians do need to believe in Italy and themselves more. Without corruption and cronyism Italy really would be one of the best countries to live and work on earth!

      A presto,

      Alex

  11. says

    At least the IMF think Monti is doing something right:

    (ANSA) – Washington, January 12 – The International Monetary Fund openly supported Italian Premier Mario Monti’s plan to help solve the country’s sovereign debt crisis. “Italy has taken important steps to reinstill faith, boost growth and put the debt situation back on track,” said IMF spokesman Jerry Rice.

    In talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing the euro crisis on Wednesday, Monti said that “Europe must no longer fear Italy as the source of infection in the eurozone”. The premier’s 30-billion-euro ‘Save Italy’ austerity package includes tax hikes, spending cuts and pension reforms.

    The government says it has entered “phase two” of its plan which, according to Monti, will focus on growth and labour-market reform.

    Go Monti…

  12. bianca says

    Hi Alex,

    Thank you for your response. Great website, by the way!

    I have been in contact with the Italian Embassy in San Francisco, and they can assist me in obtaining the CF. Forms to fill out, copy of passport and it’s taken care of….supposedly!

    Auguri per il anno nuovo,
    Bianca

  13. says

    The red tape is also a big issue there for new companies. In the UK you can set up a company on line in a day for £1. In Italy it takes months and you have to deposit a large sum (10,000 Euros I seem to recall) into a bank account.

    I looked into using an Italian company for Piemonte Wines, but the advice I got from a local accountant was to use a UK company if I wanted to be successful.

    Another one to add to Monti’s List

  14. bianca says

    Wonder if anyone can answer some questions I have….Is there a time limit on obtaining a codice fiscale number? Have inherited property in Italy. Also, heard rumors that the new government is going to impose fines on anyone without a codice fiscale number??!! true? Don’t know how that would happen without a codice fiscale number….hmm

    • says

      Hi Bianca,

      Can’t answer the time limit question, but can help you get a codice fiscale: http://italychronicles.com/how-to-create-a-codice-fiscale/

      Note that the system described for creating a codice fiscale does not create a real one – to do that, you will need to come to Italy. Not sure if you can do it from abroad – do not think so. Getting one is not difficult and can be done by someone who is not you – or could have been when it was done for me – more than 10 years ago.

      Not heard about fines for not having a codice fiscale – but if you have property here, you will need one, sooner or later unless the property is managed by someone else. Basically, people without a CF are invisible to Italy’s tax authorities, so this is why the government may be thinking about fining people for not having one.

      Others may respond too.

      Best,

      Alex

  15. Nicole Kelly says

    Yes, Italy has a great potential, but this potential cannot be expressed due to a lack of investment and venture capitals. The wealth of Italian families is invested in real estate and in Italian gov bonds (€1,200 billions), so there is no money for R&D, to startup new enterprises and boost innovation.

  16. says

    What fabulous writing Alex, such massive enthusiasm and hope for the future is so needed right now. Reading this, as someone in the early days of building a life and home here, bought a lump to my throat.

    • says

      Thanks Jacqui – I do firmly believe Italy has enormous potential, as you can tell, and as I have written elsewhere on this site.

      I really am hoping Monti can steer Italy in the correct direction – I think he can, but it is not going to be easy.

      Aside from the bureaucracy and other bad bits and bobs, living in Italy is not too bad – and I’ve been here for well over a decade now and am still making discoveries.

      Thanks for commenting :)

      Best,

      Alex

  17. Horatio Tolatop says

    Was thinking of how Italian my wife turned me into:
    I wear some Diesel, Replay and Energie, we get our caffeine fix through Bialetti and we have appliances from De Longhi and Indesit. You’re right, Italy has more to offer than I ever expected :)

    (We even made a little ragazzo :D )

    • says

      Well, my Italian other half has transformed me a little too – but I already had a little finger full of Italian blood.

      Got Rex, Candy, Bialetti and Scavolini kitchen and Italian sofa too. My suits are Italian too :)

      As for the little ragazzo, we have a made in Italy one too ;)

      A presto,

      Alex

  18. says

    Let’s not forget that Italy is still a relatively young country, having celebrated its 150th anniversary only last year. So it’s done pretty well to get this far so quickly. The key is sorting out the drag effect that the South has on the Rest, and I’m not sure that will happen any time soon.

    My family is from Piemonte in the North, and to hear them speak of the South anyone would think that they were talking about some 3rd world country far far away. So it’s not just a financial divide but also a very big cultural chasm between the two regions.

    • says

      A very good point, Noel – Italy is indeed a young country – which is something people tend to forget. It is still not united, despite having been geographically one for centuries and politically united for 150 years.

      More needs to be done to draw the north and the south together – two heads are better than one, generally and the south, despite major problems, is not to be underestimated.

      Another little (!) task for Monti – end the cultural chasm.

      Best,

      Alex

  19. Horatio Tolatop says

    Ciao Alex,

    This article shows how much you love Italy (and who can blame you) and I agree on the fact that it should be much better than now, however I would have reservations about some reasons given on why it should/could overtake France & Germany. I’m glad you wrote this as it is a point I have very often discussed with my Italian other half.

    1/ In many ways France and Italy could be compared as brothers or cousins (precisely why we don’t always see eye to eye) as we are very, and I mean very, close culturally speaking. Therefore among things you list as Italian strentghs I would argue that France has exactly the same ones: Tourism (1st holiday destination in the World), luxury brands (PPR, LVMH), brains (Airbus ) etc

    2/ Italy is economically speaking half a country, I know the south rather well and seeing it decaying rapidly (city centres, monuments, roads) it is hard to imagine this is part of an economic powerhouse . The North & Centre pull all the strings whilst the south unfortunately doesn’t participate much beside tourism and olive oil production.

    3/ Yes Italy has Fiat but France does have two bigger manufacturers (profit-wise):Peugeot-PSA (2nd biggest European car maker behind VW) and Renault whilst Germany, well, have Mercedes, BMW, VW.
    Apart form the excellent 500 unfortunately Fiat hasn’t any remarkable model and doesn’t set the automotive world on fire. Germany on the other hand….
    Ferrari, Lambo, Maserati and Ducati are only niches and don’t provide jobs and wealth like mass production.
    4/ Forgive my pedantry but Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Berluti, Fendi, Bulgari, Acqua di Parma are all under French ownership (either owned by LVMH or PPR)
    In a nutshell I think that without tax evasion and le mafie in the South Italy would already be a much richer country, however looking at what both France and Germany have to offer I still believe things are in the right order. We’ll agree to disagree then :)
    There are many other things we could both add, but on this occasion I do have to leave it for now I’m afraid.

    Buongiorno a te.

    • says

      Hi Horatio,

      Well, I do believe in Italy. Sometimes I’m not so sure I love it! But that could change.

      1) France and Italy are remarkably close in some ways, this is true, and instead of being rivals, should, perhaps, be partners – but competition is healthy! It is also true what you say about France being a tourist destination, but my parents, French speakers, or were once and who have been to France many times (and to Italy) said that they thought France’s villages were scruffy when compared to their Italian equivalents – Italy decays in style! ;)

      2) It is half a country is Italy and needs to become one. If it does, it will become an even bigger economy. There are some exceptionally valid companies in Italy’s south, but corruption and organised crime keeps them from growing.

      3) On the car front, true – Italy does need to sort out its models and needs executive models badly to beat Merc and BMW – Alfa Romeo should become such a brand. Personally, I would dump Lancia – has a terrible reputation in the UK. Brands can be rebuilt, but maybe a new brand would be better.

      4) Good point – I tried to avoid the Italian/foreign brands as much as possible (hence no Lambo), but they are viewed as being Italian, whether they really are or not.

      Yes, we shall agree to disagree! I still think Italy can beat France and Germany (and Japan!), but to get there, it needs to change massively. This is what I’m hoping will happen – Monti is the first decent prime minister Italy has had in decades, if not ever. I hope he starts the ball rolling and that a few Italians read this article and wake up!

      Buona giornata and buon lavoro a te anche :)

      Alex

  20. says

    Great article, you make some very excellent and valid points. It is undeniable that Italy has a lot to offer. If you think about it, from a tourism standpoint, Italy has a lot more to offer than France, the UK, and Germany. I think the main problem with Italy is the corruption in the government, too many political parties, tax evasion, and lack of job creation initiatives in the south. If it weren’t for those reasons, Italy should be the number one economy in Europe.

    Larry Aiello

Comments welcome!