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.


Hard to believe but Italian film director’s suicide stirs parliamentary controversy
Dec 04, 2010 at 07:15 PM

Mario Monicelli Venice Film Festiva 2009
If there were a heaven, there is no doubt in my mind that film director Mario Monicelli, who committed suicide Monday at the age of 95, would either be very pissed off or convulsed with laughter - or both.. And he'd probably be writing a new screenplay to poke fun at this very silly country, and its even sillier parliament which for some bizarre reason reacted to Monicelli's death by arguing about euthanasia, which in this case is totally irrelevant.

Catfight in the Italian parliament?
Nov 24, 2010 at 08:07 PM

Carfagna vs. Mussolini

Well, I am exaggerating. Sort of. They didn't come to blows but this week news reports here were full of an almost violent verbal altercation between two Neapolitan women politicians, Mara Carfagna, minister of Equal Opportunity in the Berlusconi cabinet, and Alessandra Mussolini, an MP who not to long ago transferred her political affections from a far right party to Berlusconi's PdL.

It all started - on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Italian Parliament --when the somewhat blowsy Mussolini (a granddaughter of Italy's inter-war dictator, a former model and would-be actress and niece of actress Sophia Loren) used her cell phone to take a photo of Carfagna, also a former model and showgirl, while she was engrossed in conversation with Italo Bocchino, a close friend of hers who is a top leader of the new party recently formed by Berlusconi's rival, Gianfranco Fini. "Vergogna! (Shame!), Traitor!", Mussolini reportedly screamed across the chamber, apparently assuming that Carfagna was planning to jump ship.

Top Camorra boss arrested near Naples
Nov 19, 2010 at 04:03 PM
Antonio Iovine, captured but still smiling
Italian police and justice officials are celebrating this week following the arrest Wednesday of Antonio Iovine, a Neapolitan underworld boss who had been on Italy's "most wanted" list for 14 years. The capture of Iovine took place in Casal di Principe, a town outside Naples that has been the headquarters of the Casalesi clan of the Camorra, the subject of Italian author Roberto Saviano's bestselling "Gomorrah", which two years ago was made into a film. It was considered a major breakthrough by law enforcement here, leaving only two top bosses - Matteo Messina Denaro, affiliated with Sicily's Cosa Nostra, and another "camorrista", Michele Zagaria. still on Italy's Most Wanted list,
Going, going....but not yet gone.
Nov 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Image After months of sex scandals, fruitless political manoeuvring and vicious name- calling, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right government is now close to collapse. After the resignation today of four members of the Italian cabinet belonging to two dissident factions, Italy's 62nd postwar government may be in its final days. But  whether or not this means that Berlusconi's political career is over is a query that one should be careful about answering. Currently in hot water because of a series of political and personal messes largely of his own making, Berlusconi, who has dominated politics here since 1994, can still (unfortunately) not be counted out. Two factors work to his advantage: the lack of any real and charismatic opposition political leader who can challenge him, and a generally amoral public opinion which, I am sorry to say, tends to put financial and political success way ahead of either good government or ethics.


Shame on Italy!
Nov 07, 2010 at 09:29 PM
Image Neglect, in the end, will have its way and the scandalous neglect of the priceless ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii finally made itself felt this weekend with the collapse of the remains of the Domus (house)of the Gladiators. The Schola Armaturarum Juventis Pompeiani, its official name, was a military club where young gladiators trained and kept their weapons. It is located on Via dell'Abbondanza, the principle street of the city that was buried in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius, so an alternative route has had to be planned for visitors to the site, one of the world's most popular, with something like 25 million tickets sold over the last year. The Domus's interior had not been accessible for some time, but at least it could be viewed from the outside.

Back to the future
Oct 25, 2010 at 06:07 PM
ImageRemember the 2008 garbage crisis in Naples that Silvio Berlusconi "miraculously" succeeded in solving? Well, the garbage is back, some 2400 tons of it currently cramming the streets of Naples, and although Berlusconi again is promising a miracle, it is clear this problem is not going to go away soon. On Saturday, the European Union's Enviroment Minister Janez Potocnik, of Slovenia, warned Italy it may face sanctions if it doesn't  resolve the crisis. Last March, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy had contravened EU rules by having failed to set up an adequate waste management system.
Happy Birthday, Silvio
Sep 29, 2010 at 10:00 AM

ImageWill he or won?t he? Of course he a vote of confidence. Today is the day Italian politicians have been awaiting for over a month, holding their breath on over the outcome of a parliamentary vote which could decide the fate of the present government and, as a consequence, whether or not Italians will be called to the polls sometime soon, and that is well before the natural end of the legislature in 2013. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said his government will continue in office only if he wins more than the requisite 316 votes on a confidence vote scheduled for today, September 29th, which by the way coincides with his 74th birthday. I write about this not because I really care (since the center-left opposition is currently a real mess, in a vote he would only win again), but becuse Italian newspapers, TV and related political pundits have talked about nothing else over the last six weeks with the result that most of us simply can't stand it any more.


Back to School
Sep 26, 2010 at 09:46 PM

ImageWell, it's September and it' "back-to-school" time in Italy as more or less everywhere else in our parts of the world. But in Italy, September is even more of a "starting-over" period. The summer - which for the majority boils down to August - is lived so intensely that when people do come back home - the so-called rientro - it's kind of like a rebirth. Anyway, this time I, too, kind of bailed out on you readers for a while. I was only away for a short period of vacation. But as the news from Italy was mostly depressing, and as I have had a great deal of work, I did somewhat neglect Stranitalia, for which I apologize.

So September came and Italian children went back to school, but their parents, at least, were not in the best of spirits. The recent Italian school reform, put into effect by the Berlusconi government and spearheaded by Italian education minister, Mariastella Gelmini, has angered both teachers and parents. Many teachers are pissed because the reform does little to relieve the unhappy situation of the thousands - the figure seems to be around 110,000 - of substitute teachers who do not have full-time contracts and who are not likely to see one anytime soon. Parents are upset because classes are too big and afternoon hours in some cases have been cut back significantly.

And others are upset because despite a norm that says no class should have more than 30% of foreign-born children, this is not always the case. For example, in the Iow-income Roman suburb, Tor Pignattara, this year the two first grade class will be made up entirely of the children of immigrants, with only two Italian children out of 39 students. One of the sections, will b made up of 19 children, all of whom have foreign-born parents, for the most part - in this case - Bengalis and Chinese. Many elementary schools in Milan are also in a similar situation but worried parents should remember that mot of these children were born in Italy and therefore already speak Italian.

A few days after the school year began, the Rome city government's education councillor came under attack from the left by referring to immigrant children in another Roman school as "foreigners". But that is what they are. Italy, unlike the United States or neighboring France where citizenship is a birthright (those who are born there. Automatically become citizens, unless they are children of foreign diplomats), does not automatically confer citizenship on a person who is born here. So a child born to immigrant parents who are bonafide residents will have all the privileges of a bonafide resident but only at 18 years of age can he or she apply for Italian citizenship (which, barring special circumstances, should at that point be more or less automatic).

The next school question to come up was that of a new elementary school in the town of Adro, near Brescia in the Italian north, which mayor Oscar Lanciani, had had decorated (some 700 were plastered on walls, desks, windows and even wastepaper baskets) with a green flower symbol that is the symbol of the sometimes secessionist Northern League party. Minister Gelmini ordered him to remove the symbols, which had replaced the Italian flag, but so far - and despite various protests by political activists and parents and now by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano - he has not done so saying he would only follow orders form party leader, Umberto Bossi. Subsequently, the same mayor made more headlines announcing that the school cafeteria would not offer special menus for Muslems. "Anyone who doesn't like Brescia food is free to go have lunch at home". He was quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, the rientro did not bring with it anything new in the field of politics. Stay tuned and I'll explain better later this week.


New Italian driving rules take force
Aug 15, 2010 at 05:59 PM

ImageAs Italians continue their summer holidays (statistics released last week say 22 million Italians, that is, almost a third of the population, have chosen August for their vacations), there is one more obstacle to perfect happiness - along with some bad weather over this holiday weekend of Ferragosto (August 15th), mounting political instability and concern about this fall's economic situation: As of August 13th, in fact, the new and stricter Driving Code (Codice della Strada) took effect making it clear that officialdom would like to crack down on the worst of Italian driving defects, although how effective they will be remains to be seen.

Il Divorzo: It's final!
Jul 31, 2010 at 04:47 PM


After months of very boring to- ing and fro-ing, the divorce between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his once principle ally, former Alleanza Nazionale chief Gianfranco Fini, currently Italy's Speaker of the House (presidente della Camera dei Deputati), now appears to be final and Italians, most of whom are understandably much more interested in a) their summer vacations, b) job opportunities and taxes in a struggling economy and 3) whether or not the national soccer team will ever recover from its embarrassing performance in South Africa, are now being told to worry about whether the government will fall or whether Berlusconi may call for early elections. If you read the papers, or listen to the TV news broadcasts, it would seem as if new elections or, at the very least, a cabinet re-shuffle, are inevitable. But are they? For although Silvio Berlusconi appears to be in a more vulnerable position than at any time since his party's victory at the polls in 2008, I wouldn't be counting him out any time soon. 

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