There were those, as Mr Renzi said at the opening of Expo 2015 today, who thought that Italy would never be able to get it ready in time. Yet it did, and now, as the Premier also said, it has the six months of Expo in which to prove itself worthy of the responsibility.
The prelude to today's opening of the exhibition site was last night's televised concert from Milan. The undoubted stars were Andrea Bocelli and Lang Lang who, along with Simone Piazzola, Maria Luigia Borsi, German soprano Diana Damrau and the company of La Scala, performed against the fabulous backdrop of the city's illuminated cathedral. I must say I thought that Miss Damrau should have been advised against wearing a [presumably real] fur stole and perhaps she was, but otherwise it was an uplifting and dignified show, reminding me of why I still love Italy.
As always, in this country, there are contradictions - the wonderful and the absurd: I read recently, for instance, that the organisers of Expo were finding it difficult to find the employees they needed because young people had decided they didn't like the shifts [presumably the idea of working through the lunchtime and the summer]. In a country where it is notoriously difficult for young people to find any work at all, this just makes me want to cry or scream - I'm not sure which.
The wonderful, the absurd - and the ugly, of which we have seen plenty today in the form of "Black Block" protestors who have devastated Milan, damaging property, setting cars on fire and terrifying locals and visitors alike. The good news is that the Milanese have not caved in and by mid-afternoon the Italian media were carrying photos of bar and shop owners clearing up the mess in the streets themselves.
Sicily, I'm happy to report, is being well-represented at Expo, as the region was chosen to coordinate the Bio-Mediterranean Cluster, the largest of the themed pavilions, in which 12 countries are participating. The Cluster focuses on biodiversity and the Mediterranean diet. Sicily also, of course, features in the Italian pavilion, where a Sicilian square has been created. Two Sicilian "guest stars" at Expo are the "Dee di Aidone" or "Aidone godesses", acroliths of Demeter and Persephone which have travelled from the Aidone Museum [to which they were returned by the Bayley Museum of Virginia University in 2009]. I hope the ladies enjoy their trip!
Now I want to tell you about a great gesture of solidarity that has already come out of Expo and it is this: following last week's tragic events in Nepal, Nepalese workers on their country's pavilion understandably wanted to go home. Everyone was sympethetic when they did so and their pavilion was finished, voluntarily, by other foreign workers in their spare time and by Italian Expo employees from Bergamo and Brescia.
Finally, there couldn't have been a dry eye in the house this morning when the children in this video clip changed the line, "We are ready for death" in Italy's national anthem to "We are ready for life", a sentiment also expressed in Mr Renzi's speech