Franco is a very passionate Roman. He loves his city and he loves his politics. I think it was a secret plot of his to take me to Piazza Navona at the very moment that a political demonstration was mobilizing. Imagine the coincidence of it all.

Over lunch in the Jewish Quarter, Franco was ranting and raving about the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, his alleged mistress (or is that mistresses?) and how Italy is in the toilet when it comes to debt. He fears the future, saying that with eight million people already out of work and the economy in crisis, Italy and Europe will be a tinderbox. Youth have nothing to look forward to he says. Not going to disagree with him actually. I’ve said somewhere on my other blog, ThinkingShift, that when Governments run out of money, they’ll turn to the citizenry and extort money out of us. That’s you and me folks. The hardworking people in organisations. The mums and dads. Already, Greece has announced a new property tax to burden its people with.

Back to Franco. So we finished lunch and headed to Piazza Navona. My last tour with Franco took in this gorgeous piazza but he wanted to tell me more about Bernini’s fountain – Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers. We didn’t even get to the fountain because the piazza was chock full of political protestors.

I’m not actually sure what on earth the protest was all about but Franco clapped and cheered the moment we entered the piazza. I was caught up in a sea of blue and white flags as I struggled to follow Franco, who was pushing his way through the throng. Then some dude (who Franco told me was a comedian) got up on the dais to rev up the crowd.

I’m not good with crowds at the best of times and certainly don’t like being wedged between people. But that’s what was happening to me as I inched forward. Franco gesticulated wildly (par for the course with Franco) and I looked up. He was trying to tell me that the church we were walking past (Sant’Agnese) was worked on by the great architect, Borromini, and the sculptor, Bernini. Frankly, everything we walked by that day was done by Bernini!

As I looked up, the crowd began to surge towards the dais and I was swept up with it. People were shouting and waving their hands about. Tossing flags around and clapping. I have no idea what they were saying but Franco later told me it was all about the state of politics in Italy today (whatever that means). Finally, Franco and I were reunited at the fountain and his long explanation of Bernini’s work began.

I’ve been reflecting on Australians and New Zealanders. When was the last time you saw a mass political demonstration staged by Aussies in Sydney or Kiwis in Wellington? ah…I can’t even remember one in Sydney. Why is it that the Italians are so passionate about politics but Aussies and Kiwis prefer beer and rugby?