GIOVANNI GORIA, Italy's youngest prime minister since World War II, represents a generational shift by the country's dominant Christian Democrats. An accountant from the northern Italian region of Asti, near Turin, the bearded Goria is a sharp departure from the usual cluster of 'eminences grises who have shaped most postwar Italian governments. Women call Mr. Goria debonair; men like him for his enthusiasm over soccer; visitors to his office hear Beatles songs in the background. The elder statesmen of the Christian Democrats will still hold behind-the-scenes power in the new five-party coalition headed up by Goria - Amintore Fanfani, for example, six-time prime minister; Giulio Andreotti, five-time prime minister. But Goria could prove appealing to many voters wearied of their country's constant political turmoil precisely because he represents newness - and professionalism. He has been Treasury minister for the past five years.
He faces formidable challenges. But as a newcomer he should be a worthy opponent to recent Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, who set a record by governing for over three years.
Still, tensions within the coalition - over nuclear and economic policies, for example - continue. Politics operates more or less on the sidelines of day-to-day Italian life. The economy, which has forged ahead under Goria's management, is slowing somewhat, but still strong. The country faces no major foreign policy threat. Whether Mr. Goria's government lasts a year - or longer - he can be expected to be on the Italian political scene for many years. That factor alone provides the possibility of continuity for Italian voters - and Italy's NATO allies.