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.


With Bated Breath.....
May 28, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Milan Mayor Moratti after voting on Sunday

That is how the Italians who are praying for the end of the Berlusconi era are feeling this morning as their compatriots go to the polls for run-off local elections in Milan, where the incumbent mayor is expected to have a hard-time getting re-elected, and in Naples, where a left-wing candidate and former prosecutor is facing down the candidate representing the PdL, the increasingly wobbly "People of Freedom", Berlusconi-led coalition.

The controversial Italian premier has said that even if both Giuliano Pisapia, in Milan, and Luigi de Magistris in Naples, are victorious nothing will change on the national level where a new vote is not scheduled until 2013. But should one or both of the opposition candidates prevail, especially Mr. Pisapia in Milan, it could be the beginning of a new era in Italian politics.


May 11, 2011 at 02:34 PM
The late Raffaele Bendandi
Many Italians are not particularly fond of their Roman brethren and one long-standing  in-joke is that the SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus, or "the Senate and the people of Rome") that the ancient Romans wrote on everything remotely public really means "Sono Porci Quei Romani" (Those Romans are Pigs).  If you consider the earthquake fear that in the last few weeks has affected a good part of the city's population, you might think it means "Sono Pazzi quei Romani" (those Romans are crazy).

Yes, indeed. For weeks now many Romans, especially those prone to superstition have been quaking in their boots because of a prediction made almost a half a century ago by an erstwhile seismologist that TODAY, May 11, 2011, Rome will be razed to the ground by one of the most massive earthquakes ever. Never mind that the city is not built on any major geological fault nor is it at the center of an area of frequent or significant seismic activity. There was, nevertheless,  spiralling fear. I myself heard these concerns expressed primarily whenever I was at the hairdresser. But I read in the press that for weeks now the phones have been ringing off the hook in the offices of Italy's Civil Protection office with requests for clarification or instructions as to protection.

In recent days, the city government  finally stepped in with attempts to quell the fears that reportedly have led some people to leave the city or plan to keep their children out of school for the day. The city phone number, 060606, prepared a set of answers to anyone phoning in to express fears or other concerns, explaining that the astronomer Raffaele Bendandi's prediction has no basis in science. The president of the Roma province  cancelled all out of town appointments to make it clear with his presence that there is nothing to fear. And Lazio governor Renata Polverini has done more or less the same.

Bendandi, who died in 1979, was a self-taught scientist who believed that earthquakes had to do with the gravitational pull exerted on the earth's crust by the moon in the same way that tides are affected by it. His idea was that gravity shifted the geographic poles, producing an "equatorial swelling" that to his mind may have caused the destruction of Atlantis and somewhat later the Flood of which the Bible speaks.

Regarding more recent times, he claimed to have predicted, although not publicly, a 1915 earthquake in the Marsica area of the Abruzzo, and then in 1924 was hailed by Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera (so much for Italian journalism) as "the man who can predict earthquakes" when a quake he predicted on Senigallia in the Marche region on January 2 of that year did occur, although two days later. He subsequently developed an international reputation even though his alleged discovery of several new planets was never corroborated by anyone else. He also claimed to have predicted the 1976 earthquake in Friuli, saying that no one had heeded his warnings.

The "La Bendaniana" association of his followers have said that it is not true that a May 11 earthquake was among his 160 odd predictions of earthquakes throughout the world. But never mind. Some people clearly prefer to be frightened and hopefully they won't be too disappointed when today passes and Rome is still standing.

Relief for Lampedusa but not for Italy’s immigrant problems
Apr 03, 2011 at 09:48 AM

Tunisians fleeing Italian tent camp in Puglia
Is relief in sight for this rocky, rather arid Sicilian island where the ancient Romans once manufactured garum, their prized fish sauce, and which in recent weeks has literally come under siege? Weather permitting, so it would seem. At the beginning of last week, as many as 6000 immigrants from Northern Africa had invaded an island which has a resident population of only 4,500 people (and which has accommodations for only 1200 immigrants) but which - at only 70 miles from the Tunisian coast - is the closest European outpost. But plans put in motion by Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, should leave the island immigrant-free by the end of this weekend or, at best, tomorrow.

Italy, a divided country, celebrates 150 years of unity.
Mar 20, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Image So there were fireworks, fighter jet planes leaving tri-color streaks across the skies, a solemn ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Piazza Venezia, impassioned speeches by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, sound and light shows, exhibitions - and even, at least in here in the capital - a smattering of flags displayed from Roman windows.

And then there was a lot of bickering, a lot of harsh words, with most MPs and other officials from the periodically autonomist Northern League party boycotting the celebrations. Not to mention the opponents of Silvio Berlusconi who chorused "resign, resign" while the prime minister, for once keeping a low profile, accompanied the 85-year old Napolitano on the various stops of this past Thursday's celebrations. Celebrations, it must be admitted, that were just a teeny bit forced and which for many Italians was simply another chance to do their favorite thing and go away for a long, if possibly undeserved, holiday.

Teflon Man does it again!
Mar 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Berlusconi, as Pandora inhabitant
So here we are, several weeks after what appeared to be the high point (or, rather, the low point) of the Berlusconi sex scandal, his indictment by a Milan court on charges that in most other countries would have led a prime minister to resign immediately, and absolutely nothing has happened and at this point probably will not. The charges in the case that has become known as Rubygate" after the name of a then under-age Moroccan party girl, involve on the one hand, what is known as an "abuse of power", because of the prime minister's interference with police to get the 17-year old girl released after an arrest for stealing rather than sent to a supervised community for minors, and, on the other, the far more serious one of being involved in the prostitution of a minor. For the record, Berlusconi denies he had sex with the girl.

New Lorenzo Lotto show opens at the Scuderie!
Mar 07, 2011 at 06:45 PM

The Scuderie del Quirinale (the musem across the street from the Quirinale Palace in Rome)) last week inaugurated a major monographic show of some of the most important works of the High Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto. The exhibition, which will last until June 11, includes 56 canvases illustrating the painter's work - religious and non. The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first floor hosts around 13 or 14 altarpieces, four of which from Lombardy and four from the Marche. The second section on the upper floor features a selection of Lotto's portraits and depictions of religious figures, such as his famous Susanna and the Elders (1517), on loan from the Uffizi in Florence, from the Veneto and Lombardy regions and from major world museums.


Italy to celebrate 150th anniversary - but not all approve
Feb 21, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Image After weeks of to-ing and fro-ing, the Italian government has finally decided to declare March 17th an official holiday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unity which falls this year. But the issue is still fraught with controversy and dissent. Several members of the government say that giving Italians another day off in a time of economic crisis makes no sense, especially as the festivities will also leave a dent in the Italian budget. Most have come round to supporting the Cabinet's decision but not the ministers who belong to the autonomist Northern League.

I did not have sexual relations with that woman!
Jan 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Here we go again!
It was with those words that then president Bill Clinton on January 26, 1998, consigned to history one of the biggest lies in the history of modern media. Now, 12 years later, is Silvio Berlusconi giving a repeat performance? Ï have never paid a woman for sex in my life, not even once", the Italian prime minister said yesterday on the eve of a new judicial investigation into his relations with a Moroccan showgirl  (call girl? party girl?) who at the time was only 17.


Fiat's Sergio Marchionne; a man with a mission
Jan 13, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Sergio Marchionne
Sergio Marchionne may be the second most controversial man in Italy (after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, naturally). But in the minds of many (me included) he is a man with a mission, an important one, that of getting the Fiat car company back on solid economic ground, something the 58-year old, sweater-wearing CEO believes can only be done by scaling back the power of Italy's unions and reducing the acquired rights of the country's metalworkers.

B-Day countdown (again)
Dec 13, 2010 at 06:36 PM


Late last summer, Italian politicians spent over a month speculating on the outcome of a vote of confidence that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had scheduled for September 29th, with opposition parties on both the right and the left accusing him of trying to "buy" votes from MPs in other parties, and erroneously, as it turned out, predicting that his days were numbered.

For the last month, Italian politicians (and Italian newspapers and TV stations) have spent their time (the parliament, quite amazingly, was even closed for the run-up to the vote), speculating on the outcome of a vote of no-confidence that was set for December 14, with opposition parties on both the right and the left accusing Berlusconi of trying to "buy" votes from MPs in other parties (this time, a formal complaint by one party leader has led to a judicial investigation into the matter) and predicting - depending on the day and the hour - that Berlusconi is finished.

Two no-confidence motions were originally signed by 312 MPs and day after day, newspapers have gone to press with lists of those in favour, those opposed, those wavering, those likely to miss the vote because about to have a baby, those jumping ship, those jumping back, those purportedly having taken bribes.....and on and on and on.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow, although it wouldn't surprise me if Mr. B once again managed to obtain the requisite number of votes to remain in power, for a few weeks at least. But does it matter? Ever since last July when - after months of bickering - Berlusconi was deserted by his former ally, Gianfranco Fini, it has been clear that there is no chance of stability in the near future if the TV and real estate magnate remains at the helm.  And no stability means no effective government, which means it did not come as a surprise to anyone to recently that no more than a dozen new laws have been promulgated in Italy over the course of the last year.

The question now is not whether or not Mr. B. manages to win more than 314 votes tomorrow but whether he will - sooner rather than later - agree to step aside for a compromise candidate capable of heading a non-political government for the foreseeable future, or whether he will push things to what is probably their logical conclusion: new elections in March or April. With no really credible opposition leader to challenge him, Berlusconi, the consummate politician, will win again. And then, once again, he will be unable to govern effectively which is the only thing, boys and girls, which Italy really needs.

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