I found this intresting article on NYT:
Encyclopedia Britannica describes Italy as “less a single nation than a collection of culturally related points in an uncommonly pleasing setting.” However concise, this description provides a good starting point for the difficult job of defining Italy, a complex nation wrapped in as much myth and romance as its own long-documented history. The uncommonly pleasant setting is clear: the territory on a boot-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean, both mountainous and blessed with 4,600 miles of coast. The culturally related points include many of the fountains of Western culture: the Roman Empire, the Catholic church, the Renaissance (not to mention pasta and pizza).
But Italy, united fully only in 1870, has long struggled not so much with its identity as with the concept of itself as a single unit working toward common goals. It has been central to the formation of the European Union, and after the destruction of World War II, built itself with uncommon energy to regain a place in the global economy. But distrustful of authority after centuries of decentralized and often arbitrary rule, Italians tend to feel loyalty locally: to region or town or, most commonly, to the family itself.
The fragmentation has revealed itself in politics. Since World War II, more than 60 governments have risen and fallen, and politicians have had little success in winning agreement on structural changes to make government work better and keep a once-robust economy growing. Amid a marked economic slowdown in recent years, many Italians have described their frustration at the lack of change with no clear model in sight as a malaise. (Read more)
I really recommend to read it all as I think Ian Fisher has done a good analysis. It is understandable from this point of view that Italy in fact has done and achieved a lot during the last 50 years.
I talked with my brother who lives in Austria about the Italian smoking in bars, restaurants, airports and other public areas. I remember some 5 years ago when I asked some tough young smoking carabinieri in the airport of Catania, if it was allowed to smoke in the airport. It wasn’t and they were quite embarassed and maybe surprised about my provocative asking, as nobody cared really at that time. In many airports like that of Catania, Fiumicino and Malpensa there were people who smoked despite the very clear written and voice announcements. Today, year 2007, there is no more smoking anymore in those airports nor in other public areas, like in trains, as I have seen. This examble may be trivial but the educated Austrians have yet not succeeded with this.
If Italians are able to follow the smoking rules, then everything is possible in Italy!