It doesn’t stop there. The government is backing a draft law that would ban lab-grown meat, with heavy fines slapped on anyone trying to cultivate alternative proteins. Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida argued that “Laboratory products do not guarantee… the protection of the Italian food and wine culture and tradition”.
While Britons agonise over what it means to be British, the Italians feel no such confusion: the core of the identity apparently consists of killing pigs and turning them into parma ham.
Another bill tabled by Meloni’s party plans to slap €100,000 fines on companies using foreign words in official communications. As it happens, the primary target of the bill’s ire is “Anglomania” — the use of English words, which “demeans and mortifies” Italian.
While it’s good to see at least one British export thriving, this isn’t good news for Italian businesses, and the direction of travel is worse.
The government hasn’t gotten around to banning driverless cars yet – a threat to the fine old Italian tradition of racing around narrow streets breaking every known speed limit – or outlawing robots for interrupting the three hour riposo at lunchtime. But at this rate, it is probably only a matter of time.
It would be easy to mock this tendency and make fun of the country’s inherent conservatism. Of all the countries that need a blast of technological innovation, Italy is right at the top of the list.
Its economy is one of the most closed, and restricted, in the world, and it has barely grown in real terms since the start of the 21st century; from 2000 to 2019, measured in constant dollar terms, Italy eked out a miserable 4 per cent in GDP growth, compared with 27 per cent for Germany and 36 per cent for Spain.
But the blunt truth is that Italy is simply further along the path than Britain. The two countries have started to become very similar, in both their economics and their politics.
In both, governments and Prime Ministers change with bewildering speed: the UK has been through five PMs in the last seven years, and will very likely get another new one in 2024, while Italy has only been through four.