The Dolce Vita (Sweet Life) lasted for a long time in Italy, but now it's back to reality.
Postwar prosperity allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to retire with full benefits before the age of 50.
Public spending ran over, creating bloated bureaucracies and a political class that consume half of the national wealth generated each year.
Easygoing Italians, expecting little from the state, rarely think twice about paying under the table for home improvements, dental work or even a frothy cappuccino.
But the bill for decades of excess is coming due, and the price to escape Europe's sovereign debt crisis is steeper than many feared.
Image: Demonstrators wear masks mocking Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, and Reform Minister Umberto Bossi carrying placards reading: "Silvio, change my diaper", left, and "I'm looking for confidence, payment in cash" during a demonstration staged by the Italian Democratic party in Rome on Saturday, November 5, 2011.
Text: Colleen Barry,AP