“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.” (The Bee Movie)











My proposition is that the people of Southern Italy and Sicily are bees. Being told that their economy is an impossibility quite beyond salvation and their future hopelessly doomed, they thrive anyways! And show a cheerfulness, a courtesy and a customer focus that makes travel in their lovely land a delight. Clearly these bees do not subscribe to “known laws” and cannot read!

Those who read economic and political commentary would give up. A plethora of articles informs that the Mezzogiorno is without hope, riven by organized crime, bankrupt banks, minimal investment by business or State, huge public sector, high taxes, endemic corruption, a deep conservatism deriving from centuries of influence by Church and Spain, a tiny middle class, no job growth and thus a brain drain of its enterprising and educated young.

We travelled in several regions of Southern Italy through October, spoke to a lot of bees, and found an outwardly thriving market economy. Of course, these anecdotes and observations are from a small sample and need to be treated with caution. Nevertheless, our take is these bees will survive as they have always done – despite whatever Rome, Milan or Brussels throw at them.

  • Street markets are vibrant
  • Stores are busy and well-stocked
  • Transportation carries good loads
  • Hospitality in the shoulder season was still at full stretch
  • Tourism likewise was working at a comfortable capacity, not only in the many UNESCO sites and cultural / architectural marvels but in the beauty of the land and sea
  • Farming, fishing and mining go on as they have for millennia
  • Construction and maintenance workers put in long shifts
  • A cash economy appears to engage many of the unemployed
  • The African immigrants seem somehow to have been absorbed – in several cities, fewer beggars or street sleepers than Auckland.

It is fair to say that most busy-ness is in low paid jobs. Major industry is absent, whether manufacturing, high-tech or international service sector. But the bees govern their expenses accordingly. Families stick together, apartments are modest, Vespas are as common as cars, market produce is cheap and the spending patterns are of a past era. These bees have low expectations – they seem stoic and frugal.

Being aware that the Italian deficit and budget are a greater worry to EU leaders than Brexit, one could speculate that the Italian bees would make a greater success of an Italexit than the Brits.