Nice speech by Mr Salvatore Rossi, Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Italy.
He gives a brief outline of evolution of Italy as a nation and its contribution to world economy:
The Italian peninsula came out of the European Middle Ages, in the late XIII century, as a nascent economic power. It’s interesting to notice that one of the main driving forces was monetary: gold, which had almost disappeared from coinage after the fall of the Roman empire, reappeared in Florence in a coin named florin, minted in 1252. A monetary system was actually essential to replace barter and develop manufacture and trade, which were the engines of prosperity. Since then, for about three centuries, and well into the Renaissance period, Italy maintained the lead in western economic growth. The perfection of the arts, from Piero della Francesca to Michelangelo, is witness of the wealth and sophistication of Italian society in those times (slide 2). But after that a long period of decline set in, both economic and political. The guilds, which had been a growth factor in earlier times, became jealous custodians of their privileges, stifling innovation. The ruling classes, satiated with consumption, stopped searching for new horizons.
Most European countries achieved national unification in the XVI century, not Italy, which became just their battlefield. In terms of GDP per capita, Italy fell far behind in the European ranking. The very same perception of Italy by foreigners changed. In the XVII and XVIII centuries our land was avidly trodden by young aristocrats and wealthy bourgeois from all over Europe, in search of Roman temples, and eager to buy antiques.
Finally, Italy had become the scenario of her majestic ruins (slide 3). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German poet and thinker, being a genius, was among the few able to break this arid and exploitative scheme during his journey in Italy, the Italienische Reise he made in the late XVIII century: to him, Italy offered not only the Coliseum, but also interesting conversations with craftsmen, innkeepers, civil servants. In the first half of the XIX century Italy was plagued by underdevelopment and poverty, hitting the bottom of the European ranking in terms of per capita GDP.
Goes on till the 21st century and what plagues Italian economy today.
Lots of history in this country..