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Summer: Vacation days and "Saldi" (Sales) PDF Print E-mail
Jul 04, 2010 at 08:53 AM

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As Italian families head for the seashore and the mountains for this year's summer vacations (the so-called "exodus" begins on the first weekend of July), stores throughout most of the country were allowed to put clothing and other goods on sale. Unlike in the U.S., sales in Europe - winter and summer - are generally government regulated, usually by regions or local municipalities.

There are still no statistics indicating whether or not the current economic crisis is likely to curtail the vacation plans of Italian families; most Italians take their vacations in the summer and summer vacations have become something of an obsession. On the other hand, available data does show that clothing sales were off by as much as 20% in the first half of 2010 and shopkeepers may be hoping to recoup some of their losses by lowering prices.

Last week, the first sales were authorized in Naples and Potenza in the South, followed on Saturday, July 3rd, by Rome, Milan and Turin. Sales in Tuscany begin on July 7th, in Liguria on July 10th and in the Veneto on July 17ty. This year they are scheduled to last for all of July and August and in some cases into the first or second week of September.

According to the business organization, Confcommercio, Italians will spend something like 4.2 billion euros to take advantage of the lower prices. The organization said that on average families will spend €282 on bargains (in Milan the figure will be closer to €425), the equivalent of 12% of the year's sales of clothing, bags and shoes.

Confcommercio also reminded Italians of the rules of the sales: the original price must be shown next to the discounted one and the percentage of the discount. Credit cards cannot be refused but the policies regarding returns and exchanges policies are, instead, up to the store owner.

Under pressure from the EU, Italian women civil servants to delay retirement PDF Print E-mail
Jun 11, 2010 at 12:26 AM
Well, they've been talking about it for years - literally. But now  thanks to a final push by the European Union, Italian women have now won greater equality - but you can bet they aren't feeling very thankful.

On Thursday, the Italian cabinet approved a last-minute measure to raise the retirement age for women in the public sector from 60 to 65 by 2012. The move, which the Italian government had been planning to delay for another few years, followed a demand by the European Commission in Brussels that the country raise the retirement age for women in the public sector to 65, the same age as men, or face prosecution by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In 2008, the Court ruled that Italy had to impose the same retirement age for men and women but the government had not responded.

Until recently, Italian civil servants, men and women alike, had been able to retire after a logging in a certain number of years of work (which inexplicably included the years spent at university) even if this meant leaving their jobs at the age of 50. Under pressure from financial markets, the government recently raised the public sector retirement age but the five year gap between men and women remained. The European Union said this was not possible and, finally, the government - and women civil servants - were forced to bow to the inevitable.

Under pressure from the EU, Italian women civil servants to delay retirement PDF Print E-mail
Jun 11, 2010 at 12:26 AM
Well, they've been talking about it for years - literally. But now  thanks to a final push by the European Union, Italian women have now won greater equality - but you can bet they aren't feeling very thankful.

On Thursday, the Italian cabinet approved a last-minute measure to raise the retirement age for women in the public sector from 60 to 65 by 2012. The move, which the Italian government had been planning to delay for another few years, followed a demand by the European Commission in Brussels that the country raise the retirement age for women in the public sector to 65, the same age as men, or face prosecution by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In 2008, the Court ruled that Italy had to impose the same retirement age for men and women but the government had not responded.

Until recently, Italian civil servants, men and women alike, had been able to retire after a logging in a certain number of years of work (which inexplicably included the years spent at university) even if this meant leaving their jobs at the age of 50. Under pressure from financial markets, the government recently raised the public sector retirement age but the five year gap between men and women remained. The European Union said this was not possible and, finally, the government - and women civil servants - bowed to the inevitable.

Sleeping giant (for now) PDF Print E-mail
May 01, 2010 at 06:21 PM

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Seen from the ruins of Pompeii

It looks peaceful enough, for now. But although there hasn't been a peep out of the Mount Vesuvius volcano since March, 1944 (24 dead), the silence may not last. It is unlikely that if it does erupt again - and volcanologists in Italy say that given the usual cycles of volcanic activity, Vesuvio is dragging its feet - dealing with the event is going to be a real headache.

No one, of course, is expecting the kind of tragedy that the Naples area saw back in 79AD when Herculaneum and Pmpei were wiped out by a gigantic eruption with the consequent deaths of from 10,000 to 25,000 people. The problem is that the area surrounding Vesuvius is (unlike that surrounding the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull) today so densely populated that the chief of Italy's Civil Protection Department, Guido Bertolaso (who despite a recent major scandal has been able to hold onto his job), says an eruption would represent a major problem requiring the evacuation of as many as one million people.

At the moment, the so called "red zone" around the dormant volcano includes 18 towns and cities with a population of between 650,000 and 700,000. But the effects of an an eventual eruption, which would be preceded by a series of earthquakes, would probably reach to parts of Naples itself. "we'd probably have no more than three to four days, possibly a week, to evacuate the area", Bertolaso said recently.

 

Italian No Fly Zone PDF Print E-mail
Apr 19, 2010 at 08:26 PM

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Passengers mob train ticket machines

It took the Italian media a few days to catch up with the rest of Europe and the U.S. in giving significant coverage to the volcanic ash drama; on Saturday several people to whom I mentioned the fact that at that very moment I was supposed to be on a flight to Paris but hadn't been able to leave, didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about.

Since then, however, the media here, too, have been talking about little else and everyone seems to know what's going on. The TV has been repeatedly showing pictures of the cots set up in several Italian airports for stranded travellers and the amazingly long lines at the Rome central train station made up of people, in large part foreign visitors, trying to get back home to points north and being told that for the next several days no seats were available. (Me, I went online Saturday morning when my EasyJet flight was cancelled and bought a just-in-case ticket for the Tuesday night train to Paris which I now have to use since a second plane reservation for Sunday evening also went belly-up as Paris airports remained closed.) At the moment, in fact, the Rome Fiumicino airport is one of the few in Europe along with Madrid and Athens) to be functioning - that is, for incoming flights from areas not affected by the clouds of volcanic ash.

But not everyone here really cares, or seems to appreciate just what this unprecedented event (in modern times) means for the European economy, and not just the European economy alone. Hundreds of thousands of people here, as elsewhere, have never been on a plane and have no plans to do so soon. But they probably have no idea not only how much the Italian economy depends on tourism, nor of the degree to which almost all of us have now become used to products, and produce, that is flown in from elsewhere. We are, indeed, all part of a global economy whose existence is being threatened by an eruption of a volcano with an unpronounceable name in a tiny country that many people have never heard of or if so, only vaguely.

And isn't it amazing that with all modern man is capable of, no one has come up with a way to turn off a volcano. Chiffon Margerine used to tell us "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature". Perhaps not, but if we could fool with her on this type of occasion our lives would be much easier.




The war on plastic bags: Rome engages (finally) in opening skirmish PDF Print E-mail
Mar 24, 2010 at 12:09 PM
Image Rome city authorities are saying they want to get a head start in the war on non biodegradable plastic bags. The ban on the sale of such bags is set to take effect at the beginning of 2011 when a European Union directive on the subject - EN 13432 - becomes law here. Starting on March 8, a series of outdoor stations (but I have not seen this with my own eyes ) organized by AMA, the Rome sanitation department, began distributing, free of charge, thousands of "alternative" re-usable bags, capable of holding up to seven kilos of weight (about 15 pounds) in recycled paper. Those accepting the bags will also be asked to respond to a ten-point questionnaire designed to test consumer habits an awareness.

This is long overdo, considering that in the city of Rome alone some 1.6 billion plastic bags, most of which are not biodegradable, were used by shoppers in a year and the Italian government had yet to come up with a national plan for leading to the progressive elimination of this kind of plastic bag.
Portrait of a Nation (PART TWO) PDF Print E-mail
Mar 21, 2010 at 06:58 PM

Image The Italian national statistics agency, ISTAT, recently published a document called Noi Italia , which provides a snapshot of Italy as it was at the end of 2008. I have aleady published Part One of this portrait of a nation. Here, now, are some other interesting dacts about Italy that can help the visitor have a better idea of what the lives of ordinary Italians are like.

Read more...
 
 
Holiday on wheels? PDF Print E-mail
Feb 17, 2010 at 05:00 PM

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The lack of discipline among drivers in Naples is legendary but in the next few weeks God only knows what they will get up to. Why? Because the city's traffic policemen, who have enough trouble coping normally with people driving down one way streets or ignoring red lights (a Neapolitan speciality) have totally run out of the forms used to write traffic tickets. The company that prints them, the Cerbone company in Casandrino, has put its foot down. They don't have a contract and they havn't been paid since 2007. So what little order was left in the streets of Naples, in the next few weeks may totally disintegrate.

Soccer players watch out! PDF Print E-mail
Feb 11, 2010 at 11:28 PM
ImageFor someone like me who enjoys watching a good soccer game, but knows relatively little about the sport, it would seem that European players are constantly committing fouls; pulling on each other's shirts, tripping one another and shoving. But now Italian soccer players will have to be wary of a whole new category of yellow or red cards: swearing. And boy, given the Italian propensity for bad language and, yes, blasphemy (that's what it's called here), this is really going to be fun.



Last week the board of administrators of the Italian Soccer Federation voted to accept the recommendation of the head of the Italian Olympic Committee to take a hard-line on the matter. This means that referees will be able to "red card" (expel) players who use swear words that are considered blasphemous, that is curses which mention in unflattering terms God, Jesus or the Virgin Mary. (it is not clear whether players will still be allowed to say "porco Giuda" - "that pig, Judas" - since although he was originally a disciple, Judas has now become one of religious history's most famous bad guys.)

It ha also been decided that players will now have to do away with the undershirts with writings on them they have taken to wearing under their team polos and exhibiting when the fancy strikes them. Players are forbidden "to exhibit writings with personal, religious or political content", while on the field say the new rules and will, if they do so, be subject to fines.

So much for the players. What to do about fans who shout racist slogans - other than to call a game or close the bleachers for the next game - is still a nagging problem.

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