Senator Zanda wants to secure Italian debt with public assets (including museums). All we can do is cry

Considerations on the idea launched yesterday by Senator Luigi Zanda: mortgaging public assets (including museums theaters) to secure debt.

The issue of public debt, it is known, has always stimulated the most fervid creativity, especially in times of crisis, when any solution to reduce the burden on Italians is thrown around with the most nonchalant nonchalance, a bit like when, at the park, you give corn to the pigeons. The latest creative one is lawyer Luigi Zanda, a PD senator, who yesterday, in an interview granted to Repubblica, started from an observation: in order to help trade and industry recover from the health emergency, a lot of money will be needed, and to find this money Italy will have to make debt. On how to repay it, Lawyer Zanda has no doubts: “to meet our extraordinary needs without exploding public debt we could pledge as collateral the real estate owned by the state, at least for the part consisting of the buildings that house offices, headquarters of large institutions, ministries, theaters, museums... is an old thesis that can become relevant again.” This would be a “guarantee” and not a “sale,” explains Zanda, who in the list of assets to be mortgaged (for a countervalue of 60 billion euros) also includes Montecitorio or Palazzo Chigi (Palazzo Madama would seem to be no: so if Italy proves insolvent, he can continue to meet in the usual chamber, and his fellow deputies will instead have to arrange to move the sessions to some little bar on Via del Corso, and the government will look for a vacant fund in the Alberto Sordi gallery), and then beaches, ports, airports. On monuments, Zanda appears more skeptical: no to the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, because “we are not in a Totò movie,” although it would be “better to pledge our public properties as collateral instead of relying on the Troika.”

Beyond all the tedious cultural implications that Zanda’s project entails (theoretically, we could also completely disregard the fact that the intangible value of the assets that the lawyer would like to mortgage is far greater than the tangible one: creditors would probably care little), and beyond the fact that one can quietly be big fans of the Greek experience if it comes to putting strategic infrastructure on the plate as well, to simply examine his idea by looking only at cultural heritage there would be to point out to him that there is a little obstacle called the Constitution: it is established in this text that the protection of the nation’s historical and artistic heritage is the responsibility of the Republic, and consequently, even if the container were sold, the expense of keeping the contents in order would still fall to the state, and the economic benefits of an operation such as the one he advocates would be laughable.

The limitations of Zanda’s operation are, in essence, the meager benefits that would be derived from it, and its limited horizon: once a museum is sold, one merely cashes in but no longer disposes of the asset. So, we would like to suggest to the lawyer some alternative solutions. Certainly not burdensome, time-consuming and laborious operations (for example, what do I know, a serious plan to combat tax evasion, which according to the latest Report on the Unobserved Economy and Tax and Tax Evasion of the Mef amounts, for the last year for which data are available, i.e. 2017, to 109 billion euros: and then, since we want to “return to normality,” we wouldn’t want to disincentivize old habits, would we?), but a project of long-term rentals and tourism promotion to be implemented immediately.

Let’s start with the Colosseum: Zanda, rightly, says it cannot be sold. We can, however, lease it to some Hollywood director for the sequel to The Gladiator, since it is now some 20 years since the film with Russell Crowe and the public is ready for an encore. Romans will be obliged to dress as centurions and guarantee at least five selfies a day with tourists (a dedicated bank account will be opened for the proceeds). The Romanian squatters, should they protest because they will remain unemployed, will be sent back to ancient Dacia: the Romans were there too, anyway. Once the shooting is over, solution two: renovate the Colosseum (there were already those who wanted to equip it with velarium, but why limit ourselves? Let’s give the monument back “its ancient splendor,” as the press releases of the poor in vocabulary and imagination read) and rent it to James Pallotta who will turn it into Roma’s new stadium. Even the Trevi Fountain will not be sold: it will become a swimming pool where people can serenely take a dip for a fee of five euros (if the experiment works, it will be extended to all Italian fountains).

For Milan, the problem does not arise: the Arabs have already entered the board of directors of La Scala, so since they will surely take a liking to it (also because the palm trees in Piazza Duomo are already there: at the limit they will add a camel or a dromedary), we could rent the whole city to some sheikh who, to the cry of "jihad and turnover," will impose on everyone, from Beppe Sala on down, the use of kandura and turban (but strictly by Armani), will pull up a skyscraper near the Brera Art Gallery, and will make the ritual of aperitifs subject to sharia (so no spritzes and prosecco, only date shakes and fresh water will be allowed).

Venice and Florence could instead be granted to Disney, which will create two huge Renaissance theme parks. The historic centers are already prey to the most abject gentrification , so kicking out the last inhabitants will not be difficult. We could do the same with the towns in the Umbria-Marches Apennines affected by recent natural disasters: a huge medieval theme park running from L’Aquila to Macerata via Visso, Arquata del Tronto, Castelsantangelo sul Nera and other villages. Which, however, have the problem of depopulation and would therefore find themselves unable to guarantee a workforce: we then suggest taking an adequate number of immigrants from the Pozzallo Cpt and disguising them as figurants in tight tights à la Benigni and Troisi in Non ci resta che piangere to cheer up the public. Sicily, moreover, could become a big zoo-safari: we could import some animals from Africa, for example buffaloes, hippos, zebras or elephants (not the lions, because then they maul Sicilians), and the immigrants advancing from Pozzallo we would scatter them all over the region in order to settle them in a habitat as close as possible to the one they are familiar with, and at the same time to set up a more realistic environment for tourists. Thus, in one fell swoop, we would also solve the immigration problem. Of course, we would put a ban on shooting the African, because maybe a placid sixty-year-old from Hamburg would get an access of colonialist revival , identify with General Lothar at the war against the Hereros, and end up decimating our manpower.

Massimo Troisi e Roberto Benigni in Non ci resta che piangere
Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni in Non ci resta che piangere

As for museum works, Michelangelo’s David , Botticelli’s Venus , Caravaggio’s Bacchus , and other masterpieces known even to the illiterate would obviously continue to remain public property (not least because if the retiree from Wisconsin arriving in Florence were not to find the Primavera he would probably object, and we don’t want to cause image damage to Italy). On the contrary, its exposure should be encouraged: the David could go on a world tour to arenas all over the world (match it with a concert by Lady Gaga or some other pop star). And here we could ask for advice from the director of the National Museum of Capodimonte, Sylvain Bellenger, i.e., someone who is already accustomed to sending packages of works around the globe, and would have no problem inventing creative solutions. For theVitruvian Man , the constraint of forced rest is to be removed, and a permanent exhibition is proposed, even if it is a drawing (if it deteriorates, a restorer is called in to redesign it all over again). Then in our museums there are a lot of works by painters and sculptors little known to most people, such as Bernardo Strozzi, Domenico Fiasella, Jacopo del Sellaio, Giulio Campi, Battistello Caracciolo, and other lame artists: if some of their works were missing from a museum in Sarzana or Cremona no one would notice, so we suggest creating an ad hoc fund and selling them at auction, so finally some real amateur might enjoy these paintings (an Arab financier who subsidizes international terrorism, a gangster who would have no problem placing a Grechetto painting on top of a life-size golden panther, or a trafficker who must own a work in order to launder the proceeds from the sale of MDMA tablets to 16-year-olds who will then be taken care of by the national health care system).

For Sardinia, Senator Zanda’s homeland, the solution is at hand: rent it out to some multinational vacation resort company to create a huge Aqualand, with inland excursions to be organized on ATVs or similar vehicles. As for Senator Zanda, we could have him disguise himself as the issohadores of the Mamoiada carnival, and put him playing launeddas at the Elmas airport to entertain tourists arriving on the island. Alternatively, he can perform cantu a chiterra, of which he may be a skilled performer. He probably succeeds better than finding solutions to the public debt problem.