Piove, governo ladro!

by Lorenzo Piccoli

There is at least one common denominator I found in all the places where I have lived so far: the habit of blaming constituted power for everything that could possibly go wrong. I must reckon, however, that this habit remains slightly more pronounced in Italy than anywhere else. The expression that epitomizes this attitude is Piove, governo ladro!, which means more or less It’s raining…the government’s fault again.

You might think this is a recently developed attitude. You would be wrong. It appears that the origins of this expression trace back to 1861. That year, a protest against the government had to be canceled at the last moment because of the heavy rain. Il Pasquino, a satirical magazine, published a comic representing the organizers using the sentence, which then became widespread. There are, however, at least two alternative hypotheses on the origins of this expression. The first refers to the Habsburg rule in the Reign of Lumbardy and Veneto in the early nineteenth century: at that time, the Habsburg government used to raise the taxes after a rainy year to get the greatest advantage of the related increase in the production. The other alternative hypothesis refers to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the 16th century: it was a period when salt was taxed by the public officials and they used to weight the salt when it was raining, thus resulting in a much heavier product to weight. All these hypotheses have their charm. It is hard to assess which of these bears the greater credibility. Either way, the expression traces back in time: at least a century, maybe even five. Those who think that the disdain for the government is a strictly contemporary phenomenon are utterly wrong.