Der Spiegel has always been not very tender with Italians, sometimes with some reason. But the last cover does not dedicate it to the new government, to Italy’s return to fascism exactly one century after the march on Rome. Die Bananeninsel, the island of bananas, is the cover title dedicated to Great Britain, with Big Ben transformed into a dangling banana like the Tower of Pisa. The premier who reigned for six weeks, Liz Truss, had time to threaten the use of the atomic bomb.
To find out what could happen in Italy, the Hamburg magazine did not interview Enrico Letta or Salvini, Meloni or Matteo Renzi. He sent his reporters to speak with Giuseppe Lavazza, 57. Better an entrepreneur than a Roman politician. Italy is not only the country of pizza and spaghetti, but also of coffee (and avant-garde industrial products). The name Lavazza is known to every German. In Germany, coffee is drunk as much or more than we do. And their filtered coffee, which they enjoy in cups as large as tea ones, is not bad, it has a full and velvety flavor because the beans are roasted little.
I start from the end of the conservation, which does not touch a light theme as it seems, so much so that Der Spiegel recalls it in the summary. Why does no one in Italy ask for a cappuccino after ten in the morning? And the Italians scoff at the Germans who drink it after dinner? This is an important question to explain bias-tainted relationships. A problem of habit, Lavazza replied, but everyone is free to have his tastes, the Germans drink a cappuccino whenever they like without feeling guilty. It is a lesson in tolerance, while fascism is feared, and in Italy sovereign choices are proclaimed even at the table. The term is deliberately chosen badly, but I don’t feel like a fan of Mussolini because I avoid buying Texas nuts in Berlin. I rarely find the Italian ones, I still buy European walnuts, maybe French ones.
The journalists who have come down from Hamburg still have a final question. Why does no one in Italy ask for an espresso? Just say coffee, Lavazza replied. Italians only conceive the cup. In Berlin, if I ask for a coffee, with only one effe, I get German coffee, unless I ask for an espresso, which they almost always prepare well, and they know the Italian-style variants, long or macchiato. It is easier to get a properly prepared cappuccino in Germany than in Trastevere, where they often only serve foam or some sort of coffee and warm milk. Because in bars, to save money, they employ young immigrants, poorly paid, and without giving them time to practice.
The German colleagues acknowledge that Italy was doing better than Germany with Draghi. What will happen tomorrow? Lavazza is quite optimistic, our country is anchored to the EU, there will be no dangerous drift. And he explained his difficulties as an entrepreneur between the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Lavazza has withdrawn from an advantageous market like the Russian one, and also from Kiev, the cost of coffee has doubled, that of transport tripled, and the energy for roasting costs four times more. The total costs will rise to 350 million euros, as much as the turnover of 2021. But the Germans will continue to enjoy his coffee. Sovereignty is not good for trade.
The Germans buy Lavazza or Illy. Germany is under accusation in the EU, guilty of selfishness. Chancellor Scholz flew to Beijing, while he warns against China that does not respect human rights. And perhaps he will allow the Chinese to control 35% of one of the four container terminals in the port of Hamburg. Wouldn’t it be worse if the Chinese cut off relations with the Hanseatic port by diverting trade to Rotterdam? asked the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Germans will not boycott the Capuchin because Italy is going to the right. They even drink it at midnight, but I advise my Berlin friends not to mix it with grappa of which they are big consumers.