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Unhappy Families

An Italian Family!
An Italian Family!

When people think of Italy, sooner or later, they will come across the closely knit nature of Italy’s families.  Italy is, after all, a country dominated by families.

In fact just about everything in the Living Museum seems to be controlled by one family or another.  A few examples?  Well, there is Berlusconi for a start, then we have the Agnellis of Fiat fame, the Benetton bunch who run clothes shops and motorway service stations, and Versace is still a family operation.  Then, at the other end of the spectrum there are the mafia families which hold the reins on Italy’s all encompassing organised crime business.

Yep, just about everything is run by one dynasty or another here.  Italy is a big case of happy families.  Or is it?

Family Tragedy

A tragic story dominated the news last week.  This tragedy involved a whole family which had be wiped out by a gun owning father.  On the face of it, the family was probably quite wealthy too, what with father being an accountant and mother being a lawyer who was of aristocratic lineage.  The archetypal ‘good’ family.

No one really knows what actually sparked this massacre, but for some as yet unknown reason the father systematically shot his wife, their three children and then took his own life.  The only indication that all was not necessarily well was that husband and wife had been sleeping in separate bedrooms by all accounts.  Not that this is really an indicator that something was up, seeing as one of the children, poor lamb, was only three.

Young children of this age can drive parents to distraction by waking up all though the night, and I know something about this.  Don’t worry though, I’m not about to shoot anyone in my family.  This sorry chap, on the other hand, had three children, so he may have been through this traumatic mill some three times.

Still, whatever lay behind this sad waste of life may never be known.  The even though, got me thinking.

One Incident of Many

This is the latest incident in a long line of similar murders at home in Italy.  Indeed, I always seem to be reading of murders and other happenings involving supposedly close Italian families.  Even the statistics would appear to indicate that Italian families are built around relationships which may be so close as to be suffocating at times.

Did you know that more people die in Italy from family related murders than are killed by Italy’s reputedly ruthless mafia?  No?  Well neither did I until I read a newspaper report which contained this surprising information.

When Close is Too Close for Comfort

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Many Italian families are very close, so close in fact that you will often find family groups literally living on top of one another.  It is not that uncommon here to find several generations of the same family living in one single, and often purpose built, apartment block.

Sometimes this proximity becomes too hot to handle for some family members leading to episodes such as the one mentioned above, although in the aforementioned instance only one generation was extinguished.  On other occasions members of the extended family have been exterminated by discontent husbands and progeny.

Is the Italian Family Unit Breaking Down?

This is unlikely as the vast majority of closely knit Italian families are just that: closely knit.  In general these social units tend to work well with each member looking out for the other.  I’ve always admired this, which is so different from the UK idea of the family with its members often spread out all over the place, and only getting together for seasonal events such as Christmas, but even then, not always.

There is generally no pressure from within UK families for all the members to live together, and many English families would cringe at the thought of living in a huge house with several generations of the same family all cooped up together.  The thought certainly makes this Englishman cringe I can tell you, and I’m not all that sure that other members of my family would appreciate my living on top of them either!

Modern Life and Mobility are Taking Their Toll on the Italian Family

Modern life with its need for mobility is possibly taking its toll on the traditional family unit, and pressures from within the family not to move away do exist, which again lead to feelings of guilt and clipped freedom.

I know of a few examples and see this all the time at the business school with many of the students seemingly desperate to return to their home towns.  I also know of one marriage which broke down after the wife refused to move from the south up to the north where her husband had found a good job.  Sometimes Italian families find the thought of their offspring moving to another house in the same city virtually untenable.

Little things, but when they add up, and when people find their betrayal being mentioned repeatedly, then there is the chance that one day something  will snap with potentially tragic results.

Admittedly I have no idea how the situation regarding murders in the family within Italy compares with that in other countries, but it would be interesting to know more.

Certainly my impression is that situations similar to the tragedy mentioned at the beginning of this post do appear to be more common in Italy than they were back in the UK.

A probable case of ‘trouble ut mill’, for those who may be familiar with an old Lancashire/Yorkshire dialect expression.  Trouble is things are likely to become worse before they get better as Italy stuggles to come to terms with life in the 21st century.

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