The brawling between the two Eurozone giants culminated this week in French President Emmanuel Macron withdrawing his ambassador from Rome. This was due to Luigi Di Maio’s repeated courting of leaders of the Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protests that have repeatedly sparked violence in Paris, and so Mr Macron’s patience finally snapped. In recalling its ambassador from Rome, the French have plunged the two countries into the worst diplomatic crisis since the second world war.
Oscar Farinetti, founder of the Eataly high-end food chain, complained ahead of the opening of a new store in Paris in two months.
He said: “Imagine how embarrassed I am.
“I’ll be forced to apologise because Di Maio’s action doesn’t represent me and we can’t allow ourselves such behaviour.”
Mr Farinetti made the comments to Italian newspaper La Stampa after Di Maio triggered the ambassador’s recall by meeting leaders of the Yellow Vest protests near Paris.
But the political spat has now crawled its way into the cultural sphere when Lucia Borgonzoni, a League MP accused France of trying to take centre stage in Leonardo commemorations and “putting Italy on the margins of a major cultural event”.
The Italian’s then took umbrage at the French spelling of Italian words.
Prada’s CEO Patrizio Bertelli said in an interview with Bloomberg in September: ”What we call the Rinascimento, they call the Renaissance.
“Why do the French have to make everything French or French-sounding?”
French conglomerates spent 20 years buying up some of Italy’s most illustrious family names like Gucci and Fendi.
In Italy, simply using a French word like “provocateur” can be enough to ruffle feathers.
But the recent bickering has opened a Pandora’s box and the tit for tat looks like it is only just getting started.
Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based International Affairs Institute, said: “French people could buy less Italian exports, because this is stoking up nationalism on both sides, although Macron calls it patriotism.
“Once you get into that vicious circle, you could get into petty things like consumer campaigns not to buy French, and a suspension of major decisions.”
Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, a professor of business strategy at Milan’s Bocconi University has warned that Italian businesses stand to lose more than French ones.
He said: “The political-industrial apparatus in France is more united and solid than in Italy, where the populist government and the private sector are very detached from each other.
“The French can harm us by reducing credit and investment, in sectors from luxury to pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage.”