a sad Italian history of corruption by local leaders and exploitation by foreign dominators, all of which has generally led Italians to draw the sad but seemingly accurate conclusion that nobody and nothing in this world can be trusted. Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one's senses, and this makes the senses stronger in Italy than anywhere else in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompent generals, presidents, tyrants, captains of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors, ...In a world of disaster, disorder, and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure canot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.

— Elizabeth Gilbert, commenting on Luigi Barzini’s book The Italians, 1964  

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