19 APRIL 1997, Page 29

Sir: I just wish to express my sympathy with Miss

Wyatt's views about Italians. They are absolutely correct, as any Italian would confirm in a private conversation. Publicly, particularly if you are an ambassador, the stance is different. Wounded pride, the eternal desire to be considered more than a nation of mandolin players and of crooks, of soldiers buoni per un'altra volta, makes them aggressive. But they would all agree with you, privately.

On women: following recent trends, strange as they may seem to me, Italians seem to have become the strongest follow- ers of transvestites. According to a recent article in La Repubblica, Brazilian transvestites fill the wooded avenues of Rome with their clients at night, and most of them are the typical mamma-loving, chil- dren-bearing, hairy-chested machos. Even Giacomo Casanova really fell in love only once, with a girl pretending to be a castra- to, or a boy pretending to be a girl pretend- ing to be a castrato; Casanova is not very clear about it, but loved it. Perhaps there are virtues in my countrymen, but I am still looking for them.

Luigi Barzini

18 rue Tournefort, Paris, France