NAPLES, ITALY - 18 JUNE 2020: Valentina Filardi (45), unemployed, poses for a portrait in the Spanish Quarters in Naples, Italy, on June 18th 2020.
Pawn shops have been part of the Italian banking system for centuries. Lombard money changers worked with collateral in the Middle Ages and Catholic church in the 15th century sought to combat usury, and undercut Jewish money lenders, by pooling the resources of wealthy locals into a Mount of Piety, basically a pile of cash, to make no interest (and thus no-sin) loans to the poor. Papal intervention eventually allowed added payments, and pawn departments became central to the evolution of Italian banking, extending ready cash through plagues, sieges and other assorted catastrophes. Now, with Italy facing economic devastation from the coronavirus pawnshop industry leaders are confident there will be a surge in business.
In the days after the lifting of Italy’s lockdown in May, the collateral loan sector – the institutional name for Italy’s pawn brokers — saw a 20 to 30 percent increase in activity. And on lines outside the pawn units of banks in Rome, Milan and Naples, anxiety remained palpable.