What's up, Europe? Small talk turns to finance in Italy

A general view of the church of San Giuseppe in Taormina, Italy on the island of Sicily.

Tess Vigeland: The news out of Europe -- well you already know it isn't good, right? The credit rating agency Moody's changed it's outlook for Germany to negative yesterday. Yes, Germany -- the EU's strongest economy and bankroller of everybody else's debt. So you can bet it's even worse in Italy. A number of Southern Italian cities, including the entire province of Sicily, are on the verge of bankruptcy.

And so to Rome today -- as we ask:  What’s up, Europe? And to Francesco Semprini, reporter for La Stampa. Good to have you with us.

Francesco Semprini: Thank you, thank you for having me.

Vigeland: How much are these economic woes on the minds of average Italians? The country is a bit bifurcated in how bad things are, so especially in Rome and the North where it might not be so bad, are people not really thinking about it as much? 

Semprini: No, no, everybody feels this issue. People in the cafe, people in the bar, everybody in the street, they are not willing to talk about soccer, they are not willing to talk about the Olympic games, everybody talks about the future. Everybody fears about, you know, savings. Everybody fears about bank accounts. I can hear people saying that we will be the next after Greece, the next after Spain -- what will be the situation with my pension? What will be the Italian future?

Vigeland: You know, back in 2008 when the U.S. was plunged into an economic crisis even at dinner parties people were talking about mortgage backed securities and credit default swaps. Is the language changing there for, you know, the water cooler conversation?

Semprini: Right now we have this institution here, everybody talks about the spread, everybody talks about bonds, everybody talks about public debt because, you know, finance is something that is in the life of normal people now. Finance is a kind of bad word here in Italy. 

Vigeland: Reporter Francesco Semprini of La Stampa in Rome, thank you so much for your time. 

Semprini: Thank you, my pleasure. 

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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