Genoa, Italy's most important port city and a capital of the terrorist Red Brigades, seems to be as blase as the rest of the country both about terroism and about the national elections that begin Sunday.
It is hard to find much evidence that a major electoral campaign is in the final stretch. Unlike previous elections when the city of $800,000 was plastered with political posters, there seem to be hardly any except on official billboards. Even Italy's ubiquitous graffiti aritists seem un-inspired by this election.
"The politicians," said a Genovese newspaperman, referring to St Francis of Assisi's custom of preaching to animals, "are making Franciscan speeches. they are talking to the birds and the Trees."
When the officail election programs come on state television, the ratings show that the number of sets turned on automatically falls nationally from 9 million to 3 million.
Even terrorism does not seem to stir Genoa, a major port for 1,000 years and the home of Christopher Columbus.
"There is no fear of terrorism," said Father Giovanni Baget-Bozzo, a nationally known Catholic thinker. "It has become routing, a fact of life like traffic affidents. If five days go by without an accident in the city, people get uneasy. They wonder what's the matter."
A leading Genovese industrialist said that, like other business leaders, he had accepted his company's insistence on armored cars and body-guards, but he said he did not have his wife and children guarded, despite the ever-present danger of kinapping.
"It would take a regiment," he said. "Besides, I want the children to live as normal a life as possible."
Some of Genoa's big shipbuilders have solved the problem by moving their families across the nearby French border, to Monte Carlo, the industrialist said.
The special police antiterrorist squad had major breakthrough in mid-May when it arrested 17 alleged Red Brigades members, including four teachers at the University of Genoa's liberal arts school. These were the first arrests in Genoa, although the city on several occasions has been the target of new Red Brigades tactics: the first kidnapping for ransom (nearly $2 million) of a major industrialist, the first assassination of a judge, the fist killing of a Communist union official and the first leg-shooting of a journalist.
By contrast, police made relatively early inroads against the Brigades in the other major terrorist centers - Milan, Turin and Rome. Police inability to crack terrorist rings in Genoa may be related to the special un-Italian nature of the Genovese, who describe themselves as the Scots of Italy - closed, undemonstrative and suspicious of outsiders.
Local politicians of all parties appear reluctant to discuss local issues. They act as if there are none and the voters will decide on the bases of national issues. Visitors to the other cities say this is a general pattern, although it seems more pronounced in Genoa.
"People don't like to talk about the city's problems," said Silca Vassallo, whose family has lived in Genoa for,generations. "It's too intimate. It's like talking about your own family."
An Italian journalist who has lived in the city only a few years said, "Genoa is like an old nobleman who does not want to admit his fortunes are declining, even though everyone can see it."
Yet the probelms condition the city's political life. The Christian Democrats, who were replaced by the Communists as the dominant force in the city and regional governments in 1975, oppose further industrialization as the answer to the city's serious youth unemployment problem. The reason is that factories attract workers, and Italian factory workers vote heavily Communist.
The city's industrial leaders do not share the Christian Democarats' distrust of factory workers. Some of them are even favorable to the Socialist-led but Communist-dominated city government because it has gotten things done.
"Maybe I've got a professional deformation because I'm in the business of making decisions," said Abrogio Purim president of Italisider, the Italian state steel company and the largest industrial enterprise both locally and nationally. "But I think the left has given the city better government. It made decisions and carried them out. The Christian Democrats talked about a zoning plan for the city for 10 years. The left passed one.
"It may not be the most brilliant plan imaginable, but it has the merit of existing. The Communist forced the Socialists to work harder than when they were in power with the Christian Democrats."
The local Communist leader, Antonia Montessoro, 40, said, "Local economic planning hasn't stopped development of private industry. There has been more private industrial investment here in the past three past years than in the previous 10. The entrepreneurs seem pleased."
The Communist, he said, oppose wildcat strikes. "We are for constructive strikes that are successful."
A U.S. consular official called a State Department economic report nearly 30 years ago titled, "Is the Port of Genoa Dying?" The city did trail far behind its two north Italian industrial sister cities, Milan and Turin, but it did not drop out. The kind of realism practiced by industrialist Puri and communist Montessoro are part of the explanation.
The city's Christian Democratic leaders admit that they have not put their four years in the local opposition to the best use to rebuild a dynamic party.
Giovanni Bonelli, head of Genoa's Christian Democrats, described his party's national campaign theme as, "Give us more votes so that we can do what you say you want-to keep the Communists out of power."
Asked whether that was not a negative, defensive approach, he shrugged and said philosophically: "It's hard for a party in power for so long to convince people of other reasons for keeping it in."
He insisted that the Genovese Christian Democrats unexpectly were defeated in 1975 not on local issues but becausr of bad national tactics.
"It's us or the Communists," said Bonelli. "That's not necessarily a happy situation. Our party could use the regeneration of being in the opposition.
"Christian Democracy's failure to renew itself is not just a failure of leadership, but a reflection of the refusal by ordinary Italians to get involved in politics. They leave it up to the same old people." CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Richard Furno-The Washington Post