I was sitting in a fish restaurant called Iaccato, deep inside the Brindisi harbour, right where the Italian military zone starts and where a large destroyer was parked dominating the view.
To the right of me, as the harbor opened to the sea, was a number of private yachts, not quite Monaco crowd, but interesting still. I was marveling at the name of the closest one – Marietta Barreta, and you got to love Italian, it just rolls down your tongue.
“Welcome to paradise!” said the waiter.
“That’s a bit of a stretch, but I like it here.”
Brindisi is a city in southern Italy, strategically located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It is a major port for trade with Greece and the Middle East.
The port was inhabited since prehistoric era – archeological findings date back to at least 12’000 years ago, at least this is what the locals say. Very early on it became a major center of Roman naval power and maritime trade.
Later, with the opening of the Suez channel it became the main port of shipment and communication route between Western Europe and the East.
In 1960 a USAF base was activated in San Vito dei Normanni, just outside of Brindisi.
It’s main purpose was COMINT (communication intelligence) and it was staffed with up to 10’000 support personnel. In 1994 the base’s mission was withdrawn, but it re-opened later to support air strikes during the Bosnia and Kosovo wars. In 2000 it was officially closed, however many soldiers decided to stay in the area. I saw a couple of them riding heavy Harleys on Via Appia, the ancient Roman road – they’re easy to spot: once a soldier, always a soldier.
There is also a large British presence here – many settlers are pensioners, buying villas in the Brindisi countryside.
As I sipped red wine after the dinner, the discussion between the Brits at the bar turned into the real possibility of Italy leaving the Eurozone. Obviously, they were fueled by beer from early on, so it was impossible to miss the loud conversation.
“Third largest economy in Europe, it will be a trouble if they leave the EU, it will start a chain reaction.”
“Or even worse,” said the other one, “what if they stay?”
In the real life always the little things make the difference. There is one such problem in Italy that is potentially huge, but totally missed by the press.
The most threatening issue here is likely the attempt to raise inheritance taxes as being forced by EU in Brussels.
Culturally, Italy has the lowest inheritance tax in all of Europe.
The German inheritance tax rates range from 17% to 50%, depending on your relationship to the decedent.
In Italy, the Italian Inheritance Tax is applied to all the assets worldwide belonging to the deceased if the person is a resident of Italy ONLY. If the person lives outside of Italy, then the tax is applied only to assets in Italy. Where everyone else has generally inheritance taxes of 15% or higher for the immediate family, Italy that rate is just 4%.
Rental income in Italy is extremely low. People have plowed their savings into real estate BECAUSE of the inheritance tax.
If the inheritance tax is tripled, as Brussels wants, what you will see in Italy is the biggest crash in real estate in modern history.
Who down here in paradise has the appetite for that?
So, I had a great dish of raw seafood on ice at the Iaccato. Then, as the sunset came, I left the harbour and drove back north.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler