Venice, of course, has unique issues, but in other ways it is a microcosm of what is happening in the rest of Italy (and indeed, in the whole of Europe, too): high prices, shrinking salaries, no room to advance, too many taxes, too much bureaucracy.
How to deal with all this stress? Some Venetians are dealing with it the way the lawyer I met in Do Mori is dealing with it: they are leaving. A new wave of Italians have abandoned the mother country, not as many as the Great Emigration from the 1890s to the 1920s (which brought my grandfather and grandmother here), but still a wave.
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Among those remaining—and they are still the majority—the most prevalent attitude is a certain fatalism, which has always been endemic to the Italian character but has come into sharper focus in recent years. There's a wonderful Italian word: menfreghista. Loosely translated, it means "a person who doesn't give a damn."
If you have menefreghismo, you live your life, you smoke your cigarettes, you drink your wine —and you don't give a hoot about corrupt or inefficient politicians. Dean Martin had menefreghismo, in spades.
In this town, whose origin harks back 1,600 years to a group of frightened Roman citizens fleeing Atilla the Hun, and which has survived numerous outbreaks of disease and invasions by the likes of the Lombards, Byzantines, Austrians, and the Arabs, it's increasingly apparent there are only two choices.
You either leave, or develop your own sense of menefreghismo.
--By CNBC's Bob Pisani