European Diary

Eating Cake

I made my way to Florence from Cortina d’Ampezzo, where for the past half-century the Italian bourgeoisie had pretended to ski while in reality merely promenading in opulent furs in front of the Hotel de la Poste in postprandial stupefaction.  This year, however, the resort was a ghost town, and not only on account of the snowless weather and a drizzly economy.  What hung over the Alpine resort like a barren cloud over the Monte Faloria was fear, planted there some months earlier, when a squad of tax police in civilian clothes took over the piazza in front of the famous hotel and began to harass the allegedly tax-evading strollers as the camera crews, and with them all of Italy, watched in helpless horror—or else, of course, with vindictive glee.

Likened by some of my Sicilian friends to Stalin’s show trials, the crackdown on the fur-clad fat cats in Cortina echoed as far as the cafés of Taormina, where the news that henceforth all cash transactions of more than 1,000 euros would be illegal was greeted with howls of sarcasm.  In the capital city of Palermo, where I live, cash transactions of less than 1,000 euros are illegal—or at least viewed with derision by the men who matter.

Against this background, the exhibition of Taste, organized in law-abiding Florence by a nonprofit outfit called Pitti Immagine for the seventh year...

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