I gave a talk at the FAO on all-in-auctions recently (slides PDF and 27 min talk MP3), but the whole trip served as a microcosm of how Italy's sloppy culture of failure makes everyday life hard.
When I got to my hotel, there was nobody at reception, the iron was on the 4th floor ("you can go there to iron your clothes"), the wifi did not work, and the shower was a relic of the glamourous 50s. Luckily for me, I didn't have to use the metro to get to my talk, but the strike led me to take a taxi instead of the metro/train to the airport. That was 30 EUR more expensive and not necessary -- the strike didn't happen.
Why were there only seven people at my talk, in a room for 60? The secretary's email did not go out because the attachment was too large (and there was not warning of its rejection).
I had a good talk anyway: our experimental test of the all-in-auction [PDF] revealed that FAO water experts would pay $39 for water that would give them a profit of $6. Whoops. I hope that farmers are better at accounting.
As a final pleasure, I got my per diem in cash USD (after waiting 30 min) because EUR would take more time and cost me a 3 percent exchange fee. Recall that Italy is still in the eurozone.
Is my experience typical? Yes. I've talked a few people in the last weeks about Italy. All of them say "Italy is in trouble because the country defines chaos [fracas is an Italian word]. Great for for parties, though!"
Bottom Line: Italy is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.