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Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 13:59 GMT
Lira noughts will be missed
Gaetano Esposito, chef, with his euro pizza
A cook honours the euro, but inverts the symbol...
UK-based Italian journalist Paola Buonadonna returns to her home country to witness the birth of the euro, and to gauge the public reaction.

Day 1, Genoa: 30 December

I'm not sure what I had been expecting - not people jumping out of windows, or dancing in the streets around burning effigies of the departing lira, but I was hoping for a little more of... an atmosphere.


It's the loss of all those zeroes... we kind of liked them

Marta Buonadonna
There are some signs, though, that something is afoot.

Italians love gadgets and they're all going mad for the euro-converters, a calculator set to convert euros in lire and vice-versa.

Every shop gives you a free paper converter, a little card with a hologram, showing you random sums in lire and then, when you tilt it, in euros.

Boots on sale in Genoa
A price tag with zeroes makes shopping more fun
But I suspect most people are having difficulty taking the euro seriously.

"It's the loss of all those zeroes," my sister Marta said, summing it up. "We kind of liked them."

I know what she means - they gave a certain gravitas to every exchange of money.

How can a pair of shoes with the impressive price tag of 120,000 lire come to be thrown at you for a measly 61 euros?

It's just not real money, if you ask me.

And all those cents... We never had any cents, you see - the smallest coin I ever saw was worth 20 lire. The idea of subdividing the lira would have been laughable.

Referendum row

On Christmas Eve I had a blazing row with Claudio, my brother in law, and the family's eurosceptic.


We have a referendum about every five minutes - but it was too much trouble to ask us about the euro!

Claudio
His prediction is that within five years at least one of the eurozone countries will be forced to abandon the new currency.

I disagreed.

Claudio is furious nobody ever asked him if he wanted to join the euro.

"We have a referendum about every five minutes in this country," he said, "but it was too much trouble to ask us about this one!"

Paola: Defender of the euro
"The Italian people would have said yes!" thundered my father, who is obviously in touch with some higher source of knowledge.

"But they didn't ask us!" cried Claudio. And so on and so forth.

After that, I wondered whether I would find more unspoken resentment among friends and neighbours.

But in truth most people appear simply resigned.

What keeps them awake at night is not any lack of consultation but the persuasion that shopkeepers will round prices up and fool everybody.


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29 Dec 01 | Europe
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