We were in my car with Joi Ito tonight driving to have a few drinks after his panel at IBTS (yes, that was the name of the conference even if he didn’t seem to know :-), and he remarked how amusing it was to find Italy as he expected: creative, flexible, and pretty anarchic in finding its solutions without sticking too much to the rules.
I told him when I was in Naples teaching Prolog to people from a lab at an aerospace company there. This was at the end of the ’80s. If Italy is different, well, Naples is from an other planet! Rules often don’t apply in Italy, and in that city is worse: they might apply in the reverse. I was in a car being driven around the city as we were talking about how difficult it was to change people’s behaviour (a common symptom in Italy when you are touching a nerve, retracting into fatalism), and the example was traffic, and stoplights. Since people don’t at all respect the traffic lights, when you drive in Naples you are bound to pay a lot of attention when you are crossing with green, since you know any moment someboy could shoot through on red. As my host was commenting while driving on this paradoxical reversal of rules arising from universal disrespect for rules, he came to a stoplight on red, and without realizing he actually stopped the car. Immediately the car behind us started honking: “Come on, go on, it is only a red light!”
This is a first hand experience: post some comments, if you have more. There is also a wonderful book about Naples, its loveable people, and their philosophy of life: “Thus Spake Bellavista” (out of print on Amazon), “Così parlò Bellavista” (in Italian).