In many aspects Italy is clearly divided into two parts: north and south, left and right. Left is the Rome-based daily La Repubblica, which belongs to the Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso publishing conglomerate. Together with L'Espresso news magazine it forms the counterbalance to the print media controlled by Berlusconi, the conservative daily Il Giornale, and the Corriere della Sera (and La Gazzetta dello Sport). Mediaset is Berlusconi is right and RAI, the public TV broadcaster is left. And there is Beppe Grillo, comedian, blogger and political activist. Banned from TV, his blog www.beppegrillo.it is in the world's top 10 of most read, and resulted first in protest initiative V-Day ('vaffanculo day', 'fuck you day'), and the political 5 star-movement, which won 25% of the votes during 2013 national elections.
Fare la bella figura is the essence of being Italian. No wonder that their uniforms are arguably the most beautiful in the world: red and dark blue, their boots always shining. But today carabinieri Stefano is off duty, so he's dressed in a khaki woollen turtleneck, his goatee carefully cut.
'I read newspapers, from all political colours. I prefer La Repubblica, and some things in the Corriere della Sera. Yes, I read them online, I have subscriptions. But more importantly: I read think tanks.'
What do you mean?
'Well, some groups of scientists, professors and other experts in the field of economy and politics. I read them online. From all over the world, especially American and British. French also. Italian are not that up-to-date.' He chooses his words carefully, which, in combination with his Italian accent, make them sounds slightly pompous.
You read them professionally?
He had just told me that he used to be a substitute prosecutor, and that he had studied international security – I shouldn't think he's just an ordinary copper. 'No, for pleasure. Because we are not in Italy. We are not in France. We are not in Holland. We are in the world. When something happens in Syria, it has an effect on us. You want more pasta?'
He has cooked us lunch, because however macho an Italian might be, cooking is a serious issue, something only his mother can do better than himself.
'But yes, it helps me with my work,' he says. 'It makes me handle daily situations better. You know, during the day, I go into inferno, hell, because I'm dealing with family problems, abuse, things like that. The news of the world puts this daily struggles in a better perspective.'
Writer and journalist Mark Schalekamp travels the EU for his project Youropeans. In every city he interviews a doctor, barber, an immigrant, a prostitute, local celebrity, police officer, businessman and an artist. And he shares his view on the media landscape for Publistat.