A sad day in Siena…

Above: Ricciarelli from Nannini in Siena. I took these photos in October while visiting a good friend there.

From Frank Bruni’s editorial today on Berlusconi’s “post-script” to the report in the Wall Street Journal that the Monte dei Paschi Foundation might lose control of the historic bank — the “world’s oldest bank” — the news from Italy is depressing these days.

Panforte.

It’s hard for me to write about Italian wine these days when people I know and care about are being affected directly by the economic crisis in Europe.

A good friend from Siena writes:

    [Monte dei Paschi] is the oldest bank in the world (founded in 1472). It is the third largest bank in Italy and it has represented everything for Siena since the beginning. It is the financial lung of the city and of the province. It used to distribute Euro 250 million ($400 million) every year to everybody who asked for restoration of the bathrooms of the contradas in Siena, or for a new soccer field, or for a book illustrating the old gates of Siena, or to make a show, or to go to a wine fair. Directly or indirectly MPS [Monte dei Paschi di Siena] has been the Babbo Monte [“Daddy Monte”] exactly like a generous dad [see this WSJ profile and report on the crisis]. Now MPS is in big crisis like anyone else in Italy but with a bigger aftermath than any other. On the stock exchange, MPS lost from the beginning of the this year 88% of the value dropping from 3,00 euros to 0,29 euros for share. So this is a problem. A big problem. A huge problem for Siena.

Cantucci.

“Maybe it is finally the time to consider tourism the first industry of Siena,” writes my friend, “and start again from this point.”

If you’ve ever been to Siena, you know that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s also a cultural hub of Western Civilization, a city whose contribution to Italy’s national history is rivaled only by its intellectual and aesthetic treasure.

The Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank is just up the street from the Nannini pastry shop.

I’m no fan of bankers but it’s sad to think of what Siena would be like without Monte dei Paschi, an institution that has helped to protect and cultivate the city’s works of art for more than 500 years.

Some of Italy’s greatest wines are raised within a forty-minute radius of Siena — Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano…

Our Italian friends are in our thoughts these days…