AP News

News Summary: Italian traditions buffer crisis

EASING THE BLOW: Italy's extraordinary social safety nets, rooted in centuries of tradition, have helped soften the blow of the financial crisis for millions of Italians — and, so far at least, insulated the nation from the scenes of explosive unrest that have unfolded in other southern European countries.

THE SPECIFICS: Institutions like family, hometown loyalty and church activism have combined with a generous welfare state to maintain social peace, despite escalating episodes of individual financial collapse.

THE BACKDROP: Italy heads into general elections this weekend that promise to determine what shape these crisis buffers will take in the future.

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