Italy is a country of contradictions. It is the country of the Catholic Church, but also of the mafia. It is the most pro-European country in Europe, but one of the worst at implementing E.U. directives. It has some of the world's most advanced engineering, but some of its most antiquated plumbing. It is a country of enormous wealth and of extreme poverty.
As an American ambassador put it when he was returning home after completing his stint at Rome, 'Italy is a very poor country with a lot of very rich people living in it.' This opinion appears to be backed by statistics which state that Lombardy is among the richest regions in the European Union. But Italians like to think they are poor and that the citizens of all northern European countries are much richer than they are, but are just better at hiding their wealth.