Jon Henley is travelling through Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece to hear the human stories behind the European debt crisis. He hears from someone in Milan who wonders if southern Italians are more psychologically prepared for crisis
Europe on the breadline: live tour ? interactive

Gemma Thomas from Milan writes with a horrendous tale of an explosion earlier this month at a clothing sweatshop in Barletta, Puglia, southern Italy: “Working 12 hours a day at ?4 an hour, from their hospital beds the survivors’ main concern was getting back to their jobs so that they could pay the mortgage.”

Gemma says: “The strength of organised crime in the south [of Italy] has meant that the ‘normal’ people living in the regions you are visiting have never really experienced the ‘euro boom’ experienced in Greece, Spain and Portugal. For decades, the majority of the money given by the EU or state for improving infrastructure has disappeared, leaving people without jobs and totally dependant on the state for help.

“If anything, Italians have got progressively poorer since the introduction of the euro in 2002: the cost of products and services doubled overnight while salaries (and pensions) did not!

“But in my opinion, southern Italians could be more psychologically prepared for the crisis than anybody else. It is here in the industrial heartland of Italy (from Turin to Bologna) where the crisis is really being felt. The medium-size Italian factories that characterised the Italian boom of the 1970s and 1980s are being forced to close and neither the Italian newspapers nor the Italian politicians want to speak about it.”

? If you have a story to tell, know a person I should talk to or live in a place you think I should visit, please contact me:, or @jonhenley (the hashtag for this venture is #EuroDebtTales) © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


oval office new policies tech news world headlines