In a recent incident, which happens in August, in one of the world's oldest cities Berat (Albania), Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took a laudable step to uphold the reputation of her compatriots abroad.
A group of Italian tourists, while visiting the picturesque town of Berat dined at a local restaurant but left without settling their bill. The unpaid amount, which totaled around €80, might seem trivial to some, but the implications of such an act on an international scale can be profound.
Upon learning about this incident from her Albanian counterpart, Prime Minister Edi Rama, during a familial visit to Albania, Meloni immediately took action. She directed the Italian embassy in Tirana, the capital of Albania, to cover the outstanding bill. The embassy, in a subsequent press release, confirmed the payment and emphasized that the amount was settled using Meloni's personal funds, not the taxpayers' money.
The statement from the embassy resonated with a clear message: "Italians respect the rules and pay their debts." They expressed their hope that such incidents would not recur in the future.
"On the recommendation of Prime Minister Meloni of Georgia, we proceeded to pay the bill left unpaid by a group of Italian tourists in a restaurant in Berat. Italians follow the rules and pay their debts, and we hope that such episodes will not happen again. With regard to the account balance of the restaurant in Berat, not revered by Italian tourists, it should be noted that the payment was liquidated at the expense of President Meloni's personal funds through the embassy, which was limited to the physical making of the payment"? - written on the official Facebook page of the Italian Embassy in Tirana.
The incident became widely known after surveillance footage of the tourists leaving the restaurant without paying went viral on social media platforms.
Un gruppo di turisti Italiani non paga il conto in un ristorante in Albania, Meloni fa saldare all'ambasciata. La premier: "Imbecilli, l'Italia non può perdere di rispetto all'estero" #ANSA pic.twitter.com/z6OH1FEayc — Agenzia ANSA (@Agenzia_Ansa) August 18, 2023
This public attention made it imperative for the premier to address the situation.
Italy's renowned newspaper, La Stampa, quoted Meloni's reaction to the incident. She expressed her embarrassment, stating, "I felt ashamed because the country I want to represent isn't a nation that makes people talk about them abroad because they do this kind of things."
She further elaborated on her decision to pay the bill from her pocket, even though it sparked controversy back home.
While many lauded Meloni's gesture as a responsible act that upheld the dignity of Italians abroad, some critics argued that there are more pressing issues the leader should be ashamed of, such as the plight of migrants trying to reach Italy, the country's high inflation rate, and rising unemployment.
Interestingly, Albania has been witnessing a surge in Italian tourists, with many choosing it over traditional Italian vacation spots, which are perceived as more expensive. Last year alone, over 610,000 Italian tourists opted for Albania's pristine beaches for their summer retreat.
In conclusion, while the unpaid bill incident might seem minor, it sheds light on the broader responsibilities and challenges faced by leaders in the global arena.
It's a reminder that every action, no matter how small, can have significant implications, especially when it concerns international relations and a country's reputation abroad.
Berat, Albania: A brief overview
A river running through a lush green valley, Berat, Albania \ unsplash.com, Herolinda Pollozhani
UNESCO World Heritage:
Berat, also known as the "City of a Thousand Windows," is one of the oldest cities in Albania and Europe. In 2008, the old town of Berat was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List alongside Gjirokastër, representing unique Ottoman-style architecture.
What the city is famous for:
Architecture: The city is renowned for its traditional houses, which are situated on the steep slopes of a hill, creating a unique cityscape. The white houses with numerous windows give the city its distinctive appearance.
Berat Castle: Located atop a hill, Berat Castle dates back to the 3rd century BC and offers a stunning view of the city and surrounding nature.
Religious Monuments: Berat is home to numerous churches and mosques, reflecting the city's religious diversity over the centuries.
Greek Orthodox church in Berat Castle, Albania \ unsplash.com, Vladan Raznatovic
Why tourists love Berat:
Historical Value: Berat serves as a living museum where every building and street tells the story of ancient civilizations that passed through the region.
Cultural Heritage: The city offers a unique blend of cultures and traditions that have been preserved over the centuries.
Natural Beauty: The city's location at the foothills and by the Osum River makes it an ideal spot for walking and enjoying nature.
In conclusion, Berat is a gem of Albania, attracting tourists with its historical legacy, cultural richness, and unique ambiance.
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