Un Minuto con…

A moment in history…

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Italian economy was booming with a growth rate of around 6.2% per year.  Today, many look back and wish they could enjoy such a strong economy again. This rapid growth was sustained by ambitious Italian businessmen opening up new industries in hydrocarbons, manufacturing, reconstruction and modernization of many Italian cities such as Milan, Turin and Rome. The Marshall Plan was also very effective in jump-starting this amazing post-war economic growth for Italy.

Big Italian cities attracted many workers from villages throughout Italy and by the mid 60’s the small towns became even smaller. Despite the loss of inhabitants, small towns also benefited from the economic boom as well.

The mayor touched by the story kept a donkey’s trail intact for a few years until the donkey passed away and a short time after the old man passed-on too. It was an end of an era.

In 1957, FIAT launched “La Nuova 500” and later the 500 Giardiniera and the Vespa Company introduced the APE along with new motorized farming machines.  Now the contadini, were mobilized and could reach their campagne on the outskirts of the villages much faster.  They became more productive and enjoyed a new prosperity.

Many villages were able to secure funds from the government to rebuild their infrastructures which brought new life to small and remote areas.  Unfortunately, some older folks did not accept all the changes and modernity and wanted to hold on to their traditions by using their mules and donkeys to aid them with their farming chores. By 70’s only a few donkeys remained.


A die-hard old man decided to complain to city hall that the modernization of the town made it difficult for him to lead his donkey through the town, especially that the old, hilly passages were laid with smooth and slippery pavers. He wanted the town mayor to preserve certain trails to accommodate the needs of the folks who still kept to their old ways. The mayor replied sarcastically by saying that he was probably the last individual defending a dumb animal like a donkey and it was time to change.

The offended farmer replied. “How dare you refer to my donkey as a dumb animal! You should be aware that when I served in the Italian army during the 1935 Ethiopian Campaign, our military engineers had to build roads in the colonies but had no time to do any surveys needed to build proper structures.  Consequently, the engineers relied on the donkey’s trails to build the roads in a timely fashion.  You see, donkeys always take the road of least resistance when climbing up hills. By relying on the donkey’s natural instincts the engineers built great roads in Africa from the donkeys trails and gained valuable time.”


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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