It is a decade since the financial crisis, but Italy is still angry: from the small-town piazzas of northern Italy, to the picket lines of the old industrial heartlands around Turin, it is the rage of the people that dominates final campaigning for next weekend's election.

There is anxiety over uncontrolled migration; dismay over children without prospects; bitterness towards Europe and its common currency and - encompassing all these grievances - fury and frustration at Italy's political establishment for failing to act.

One candidate out stoking that rage, is Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant League party (formerly the Northern League), who last week toured the northern industrial plains which were once the bastion of the Italian left, but where Salvini now sees a chance to make inroads.

"We need more jobs and fewer illegal immigrants," he tells a crowd in Traversetolo, a small town south of Parma with that is predictably proud of its ham. It's cold and raining, but the promise to "boot out" illegal immigrants raises a spontaneous cheer from the residents, who recently elected a League mayor.


"Give me six months and I will clean house in Italy," he adds, flirting with the imagery of fascism. "When the Lega runs Italy, then Italians will come first - jobs will go first to Italians, houses will go first to Italians."

It is a message that polls suggest is resonating with a growing number of voters, with the final surveys before the March 4 vote showing the League in shouting distance of becoming the largest party in the right-wing coalition nominally headed by Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

If the League did beat Forza, and the parties of the right collected enough of the vote (about 43 per cent) to form a government, then by convention Salvini would have claim to the Italian premiership - a job he covets openly.

His message is straight from the European populist playbook - anti-immigrant, anti-Brussels, anti-Muslim and anti-establishment, attacking Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister who heads Italy's shrinking centre-left Democratic Party (PD) - but it is delivered with a smile.

"People want more jobs, less taxes, less out-of-control immigration, and that's what we're talking about while the other parties are talking about fascism and racism," he said.

Since the last election in 2014, the migration issue has transformed Italian politics, fuelling anger with both Brussels and the Italian Government. Four years ago only 4 per cent of Italians put immigration top of their electoral concerns, today that figure is over 33 per cent, according to surveys. The issue is never far from the news, as last month when an Italian woman was found dismembered in a suitcase and several Nigerian immigrants were arrested for the crime. A former Lega supporter then shot and injured six migrants in apparent retaliation.

In Turin there is a very different flavour of anti-establishment politics fuelled by what a Delors Institut policy paper this month called the "threefold crisis" - migration, the economy and a lack of political representation.

These problems are nothing new to Chiara Appendino, the 33-year-old Mayor of Turin who is one of the best-known faces of the upstart Five Star (M5S), a grass roots political movement that is leading the national polls in Italy.


The party has tried to distinguish itself from the old establishment parties, using internet-based internal democracy to make policy, along with populist ideas, like ordering MPs to hand back half their salaries.

Appendino rolls her eyes at Salvini's rhetoric. M5S, she says, represents a different attempt to subvert politics. "People don't believe in politics and community any more - so you have to create the sense of community," she says.

Today, Turin's factories are closing. On the outskirts the latest round of casualties are angrily picketing the gates of a fridge compressor factory owned by the Whirlpool Corporation which announced this month it will shut down, shifting its output to Slovakia with the loss of 497 Italian jobs.

"We can't be in the united Union of Europe if they are going country to country looking for a better deal. It just pits one member of the Union against the other," says Maurizio Ughetto, 45, who has spent 24 years working on the lines.

"At my age, what can I do? Where can I go?," says Basilio Cancian, a 56-year-old with 32 years at the plant. The only glimmer of hope lies in his children's future. "My son turns 18 in three months," he says, "and all I can tell him is study, study, study."

Like much of Italy, Cancian is trapped, lurching between anger, anxiety and a deep apathy that politicians can really deliver change.