Heading to Vinitaly in Verona, capital of Italy’s culture wars.

This week, thousands of American wine professionals will travel to Verona, Italy for Vinitaly — the Italian wine trade’s annual fair.

They will represent the U.S. citizenry in all of its walks of life and gradations: from the fat-cat CEOs and managers of behemoth importers and distributors to average punters who hit the streets each day with a wine caddy in tow.

Between the long days of tastings and meetings on the fairgrounds and the bacchanal parties and dinners hosted by wineries throughout the city every evening, few of them will take time out to experience Verona’s cultural riches.

And even fewer of them will have any inkling that Verona is now the bona fide capital of Italy’s fascist resurgence and the backdrop for Italy’s pitched culture wars.

On Thursday of last week, Jason Horowitz, the Rome bureau chief for the New York Times, published this excellent piece about Italy’s current political climate and Verona’s status as the epicenter for regressive policy and institutional racism and sexism: “Italy’s Right Links Low Birthrate to Fight Against Abortion and Migration.”

(Anyone headed to the fair this year should read it. And I also highly recommend following his feed.)

In his article, he offers an overview of Verona’s openly fascist local government (a eye-popping primer on who’s in charge of the city and what they stand for). And he obliquely references a recent and frightening episode that took place at a Verona city council meeting last year.

Last July, in response to a protest by Non Una di Meno (the Italian chapter of the Feminist activist group Ni Una Menos), councilperson Andrea Bacciga (above) raised his hand in a fascist salute.

Using a fascist salute or gesture in an official government forum is illegal in Italy.

When activists filed a formal complaint against him, he responded by tweeting a quote from Mussolini.

He’s also advocated publicly and zealously for a repeal of Italy’s national hate crime law, which also prohibits any manifestation of fascist iconography in public service.

Bacciga (pronounced BAH-chee-gah) claims that he was merely raising his hand to wave to them.

An inquiry is currently in progress and if convicted, he could face a severe penalty.

But the fact of the matter is that Verona these days is a locus amoenus for patent expressions of fascist ideology and praise for Mussolini.

Many Americans have become inured to fascist-loving politicians, like our very own Texas senator John Cornyn who tweeted a quote from Mussolini in February of this year — in earnest! (Google it and you’ll find ample coverage in mainstream English-language media.)

There was a time not so long ago when it was still taboo to quote the fascists or praise them. Today, it’s commonplace on both sides of the Atlantic.

And in Verona, it’s on the way to becoming the law of the land.

Something to chew on as you head to Vinitaly this year…

I’ll see you there. Hit me up if you want to connect, taste together, and talk politics.

Image of Bacciga via the Andrea Bacciga detto Barzi per Verona Facebook business page.

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