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Other recent articles
Is Fiumicino Airport at Risk? Inappropriate building materials may have been used.
Italians feel vulnerable to encroaching poverty.
Wettest summer in 35 years
Donor insemination to come to Italy
Sites reopened at Pompeii
Sari's e-book on sale this weekend at Amazon
Alitalia’s fate hangs in the balance.
Berlusconi cannot leave Italy (for now)
Keep an eye on (or rather, in) your bill fold.

 

Dirty Pool in the Italian Skies
Nov 26, 2008 at 07:01 PM

ImageFirst published in Wanted in Rome
Maybe the Alitalia Saga will one day have a happy ending; airplanes bearing the well-known green, white and red triangular "A" logo will again criss-cross the world, taking off and arriving more or less on time, and offering passengers adequate leg-room, smiling flight attendants and attractive prices. But it's not likely to be any time soon.

True, in mid- November, the state appointed liquidator, Augusto Fantozzi, formally accepted the cut-rate offer for the bankrupt Alitalia of just over one billion euros presented by CAI, the new, somewhat improvised airline company which - just as prime minister Silvio Berlusconi planned - was the only bidder on the block. But as the company gets ready for the formal onset of its operations- now pushed back to "around" Christmas, sweetness and light- - as well as on-time scheduling - is in extremely short supply.

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The return of the aperitivo
Nov 17, 2008 at 04:51 PM

First published by Momondo.
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Even though her studio is only three blocks away, I haven't seen my friend Gloria Argelés in ages. I don't really feel like going out to dinner (for most locals the 30 euro per person minimum you end up spending in a restaurant has gotten to be a turn-off) So what to do? Increasingly, I do as the Italians do. I call Gloria, an Argentine sculptress, and invite her to meet me for an aperitivo at Ombre Rosse, the nearby café where, as elsewhere in Rome, the aperitivo, a long-standing Italian tradition which for a time had sort of gone into eclipse, is back in swing, with the welcom addition of lots and lots of free food (you pay only for your drinks).

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My favorite Roman fountains
Nov 01, 2008 at 12:47 PM

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First published by Momondo

Although the seaside is only a 30-minute drive away from the city, and frequently you can sea seagulls right downtown, it's clearly too far away to hear the waves breaking. And yet the sound of flowing water is one of the first things you notice about Rome. No, not from the Tiber river, but because just about everywhere you may go, there is a fountain with running water, some of which are still connected to the aqueducts that the ancient Romans built.. Water trickles, drips or spouts from gargoyles, nymphs, dramatic masks, stone tiaras, lions' heads, barrels, seahorses, tortoises and in one case even from a heap of stone cannonballs.

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Italian convents emptying out
Oct 29, 2008 at 05:31 PM

ImageLike starlings, black-clad Italian nuns were once everywhere in Italy, running kindergartens, making up the bulk of the nursing staff in many hospitals. walking down the street, sitting on the bus.  Now it looks as if because of old age and a lack of new vocations, Italian nuns may soon be an extinct species. Between 1988 and 2001, their number  declined by 30% and when new data is available it is expected to show a further decline. In the meantime, those who still occupy Italy's numerous convents - many of which are being turned into hotels, nursing homes and residences - are getting older and older.

        A new "census" will not be ready  until sometime next year. But the most recent  official Vatican data, from 2001, is telling. Seven years ago there were 81.723 nuns in Italy divided into 627 congregations. Thirteen years earlier, in 1988, the number was 121,183, and it is a sure bet that when the results of the new survey are released, the drop will be even more drastic. The figures from the diocese of Bologna in Northern Italy are probably indicative. In 1988 there were 1600 sorelle in Bologna, city and province together. At present there are 808.

        "The youngest among us. Suor Carla, is over 70, Sister Domenica Cremonini, superior general of the Visitandine dell'Immacolata recently told an Italian journalist, adding that the young women of today are not interested in spending their lives as nuns. The last novice she had was 15 years ago. And according to a national survey, only seven percent of Italian nuns are younger than 30. Some 17% are between 40 and 60 years of age while 53% are over 60, and 21% are between 70 and 79 years of age.

        «Today families are far less numerous and are not interested in convincing a daughter to take vows", says Sister Enrica Martignoni, secretary of the Emilia-Romagna region's branch of the pontifical organization for religious congregations. "Besides which - she adds - in the superficial society of our days, it's hard to find people interested in devoting their lives to sacrifice". Many of the younger nuns are foreigners. Sister Enrica recalled that at the last meeting with the diocese's novices, only one out of 20 was Italian.

When in Rome ....scoot(er) around!
Oct 16, 2008 at 08:13 PM

ImageFirst published on Momondo

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I guess the old adage got through to me right away, for almost just as soon as I started living here I went out and bought myself a 50 cc motorino. It was a bright green Peugeot Motobecane, a brand that no longer exists and, of course, it was the old style motorino, also now obsolete, that had pedals that you used to get the motor going and which you could also use for emergencies, like running out of miscela, the mix of oil and gasoline that then existed and for which there were special pumps at gas stations

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IMMIGRANTS: Monochrome country goes technicolor
Oct 15, 2008 at 11:19 PM
ImageOnce upon a time, and not so long ago either, Italy was a country of white, Roman Catholic people and more or less nothing else. Since the Second World War the Jews in Italy have numbered no more than about 36,000 and Protestants nowadays (including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentacostals) are believed to number about 500,000. In any event, everyone more or less looked alike and people of black, brown or Asian ancestry were rare birds indeed.
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A sign of things to come?
Oct 06, 2008 at 01:38 PM

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Emmanuel Foster
TO BE PUBLISHED OCTOBER 15 in Wanted in Rome 
Is it a sign of things to come? A few weeks ago, in Castel Volturno in the southern province of Caserta, Italy had the worst outbreak of racial violence since it reluctantly became transformed from a super-homogenous white and Roman Catholic culture into a like-it-or-not multiethnic society.

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Caffé: Drink it like the Romans do
Sep 30, 2008 at 01:48 PM

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First published by MOMONDO

I've had my tea, done my stretching exercises and gotten dressed and now, since I need something a bit more to get me going - to carburare as the Italians would say - I'm ready to go downstairs and get my first espresso of the day.

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ALITALIA. Pilots sign, finally!!!!
Sep 27, 2008 at 08:56 AM

          Well, I may get to New York this Christmas after all. Last night, after most Italian newspapers had gone to bed (and me, too), ANPAC, the aggressive Italian pilots union, and a smaller pilots union as well, finally reached an agreement with CAI, the new private Italian airline company, making the rescue plan for Italy's former national airline, ALMOST a done deed.

        What's missing? The signatures of just a couple of smaller unions of flight attendants.  But at this point it's hard to see them refusing to sign on Monday when they will be meeting with the new company's management and government ministers. And we will all draw a sigh of relief, as will the close to 20,000 Alitalia employees who would have been out of work. Of course the plan does envisage a few thousand layoffs, but there is a commitment by management to rehire at least some of them when circumstances permit.

        In the meantime, it is still incertain which foreign ailine will become a partner for Alitalia, so there is bound to be a lot more heated discussion. And there are also indications that the European Union has doubts about some aspects of the agreement. But hopefully these will be overcome as well.

      All of which means that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will be able to say that he kept last spring's election campaign promise  - when he helped to scuttle the Air France takeover offer -  to keep Alitalia Italian. Wanna bet? I would not be surprised if five years from now Alitalia is foreign owned, because it is a not very well-kept secret that most of the 16 investors in CAI (some of whom no doubt have won favors from Berlusconi for joining the consortium) have no real interest in owing or running an airline and simply want to make money when they sell their stakes. But most probably by then, Mr. B. will be out of the picture.

FLASH Alitalia breakthrough?
Sep 26, 2008 at 09:52 AM
        In a few more hours we may know whether or not the rescue plan for Alitalia has been revived or not. Late yesterday the CGIL, the fourth and largest of Italy's union confederations, reversed its earlier negative stand and after obtaining some significant changes signed the agreement negotiated with CAI, the recently-formed private company which, if all goes well, will be taking over what has, since its inception, been a state-owned airline.

        The only missing piece of the puzzle is that of the position of the smaller, independent unions that represent the hard-line pilots and the flight attendants. If it falls into place, all will be well (and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who last spring was responsible together with the unions for scuttling a possible takeover by Air France, will save face). If not these people will have to bear responsibility for putting close to 20,000 employees out of work.

        In the meantime, both Air France and Lufthansa have both said they are interested in buying a minority stake in the new airline, but if this happens it will not be immediate.

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