"Ti amo!" Welcome to the newsletter that believes Italy needs more Regional Government Managers who manage...no one, "Only In Italy!"
Thanks to the many "oh-so-funny" love letters we've received recently regarding our latest newsletters that touched the "oh-so-delicate" topic of Italian politics, perhaps we should take a look at what Nonna left us in the cupboards and see if we can come up with a few more recipes that will leave our subscribers with their mouths open.
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Luca Zaia denied Thursday that his appeal to get Italians eating foods grown locally was protectionist.
"It's not a campaign against pineapple. It's a symbol of a product that travels 2,500 kilometers to arrive at our tables, while in Italy we cultivate 4,500 typical products," he told reporters in a telephone interview.
While coffee-loving Italy also imports beans for one of their favorite beverages, Zaia said he isn't issuing a similar appeal, because there are no local alternatives.
"At Christmas, people should eat typical Italian products, like zampone and cotechino," Zaia said, referring to two sausage-like northern Italian holiday specialties traditionally served with lentils. Zampone is a pig's foot stuffed with pork meat and cotechino is pig's skin stuffed with pork meat.
A typical holiday food basket, a common gift among friends in Italy, often includes tropical fruit, alongside local specialties such as zampone, cotechino and panettone sweet holiday bread.
If looking for a more suitable alternative to pineapple, "people could eat oranges, mandarins, apples and kiwi," Zaia said, noting Italy is a leading producer of kiwi.
Italian agriculture contributes 60 billion Euros (84.35 billion USD) to the country's gross domestic product, Zaia said, with more than 1 million farms producing.
"There isn't a head of state or agriculture minister in the world who doesn't want to give a hand to the agriculture producers. There's nothing scandalous," Zaia said.Hey "Minister Cacasenno!" The Italians cut the umbilical cord long ago when the first Italian Republic failed!
"At Christmas, people should eat typical Italian products, like zampone and cotechino," For our health conscious readers, Zampone is heart disease on a plate.
The most common dinner for the Zampone is New Year's Eve served together with lentils. According to tradition, the lentils are considered "denari" or coins. The tradition is that each lentil represents a coin to be earned during the year and the Zampone is the designer purse.
Zampone is usually a 75% meat to 25% fat mix. Additionally the snout and other pieces considered delicacies may be included. The meat, coarsely chopped or ground, is then mixed with salt, pepper, cloves, garlic, nutmeg and some red wine. The pigskin or "cotenna" is cleaned with vinegar and the pig foot is left on. Finally the meat mixture is placed in the skin, wound and tied and then left to cure.
"Cacchio", if it's not the gas that will keep you up and dancing all night, the espresso will.
"It's not a campaign against pineapple. It's a symbol of a product that travels 2,500 kilometers to arrive at our tables..." Two can play at this stupid game. Why not export our Zampone and the side dish of "coins" to Brazil where the pineapple is native? It will go great with a pot of espresso.
Dottor Frank N. Beans: "Your cholesterol level is over 375, Signore Minchione."
Dottore: Ah, I see where this is going. May I suggest you dramatically cut back on the "purses" and eat more fruit...like pineapple?
Rome - January 12, 2008 - A crackdown on absenteeism among public sector workers has proven hugely successful and could raise Italy's GDP by a percentage point, Civil Service Minister Renato Brunetta said on Monday.
"Absenteeism has plunged by 45%," Brunetta told a TV interviewer, stressing that "this means that we have some 100,000 more workers showing up every day".
"You can see the difference in schools, in hospitals, in (public) offices....but this is still not enough".
"I'm not taking a swipe at public workers. In fact, I would like them to take pride in their work, have them say: 'as a public worker I'm playing a fundamental role"'.
His comments came amid a flap over a remark made during the weekend that public workers were ashamed of their jobs, unlike workers at Ferrari.
"If someone is a teacher, a bureaucrat or clerk at the land registry office they're ashamed to say what job they do. Instead, if he can tell his son 'I'm a lathe turner at Ferrari, he does so with a smile, with pride and dignity".
The comments sparked an uproar in the center-left opposition and Communist Refoundation Party leader Paolo Ferrero urged him to quit.
According to Brunetta, if productivity increases by 20-40%, GDP would grow by a percentage point and "do its bit to help Italy overcome the credit crisis". The minister says his drive to increase the presence of staff in public offices means more service and a better quality of performance, with fewer queues and more offices open.
Brunetta's campaign against the so-called 'fannulloni', or slackers, has made him one of the most popular ministers in the center-right government led by Silvio Berlusconi. His crackdown followed publicity over public sector workers who were taking unnecessary sick leave, getting colleagues to clock on and off for them, or arriving at the office to stamp their own cards before leaving again.
The minister has also announced plans to introduce a reward system which will be based on how effectively workers do their job as well as the number of days they turn up for work. He has also set up badge-swipe turnstiles at the premier's office.(20 phone rings later) "Ma porca vacca...customer service, who is it now?!"
Their motto: "Let's get nothing done and onward to the next cigarette."
"Absenteeism has plunged by 45%...this means that we have some 100,000 more workers showing up every day". Meanwhile, office supply thefts, sabotage, blackmail and extortion have increased by 45%. Nothing more dangerous like forcing 100,000 spiteful and vengeful Italians back to work.
"You can see the difference in schools, in hospitals, in (public) offices....but this is still not enough". Oh si! They work quite well, when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
And when one calls these toll-free numbers for public assistance and guidance and is fortunate to have someone answers, it's hard to get any coherent information. It would be helpful if they stop eating while talking. "Mamma mia", you can actually hear little chunks of food flying out of their mouths and into the little holes of the receiver.
The "little minister who could" should introduce a reward system for workers who do their job as well as the number of days they turn up for work. Start with the following incredibly competent public employees:
Absenteeism from Italian Parliament:
Gold Medal: Berlusconi 98.5%
Naples - January 13 - The Italian Mafia's fondness for religious reading matter was confirmed this week when police found a well-thumbed copy of a book by Pope John Paul II in the hide-out of a mafioso who slipped through their fingers.
Giuseppe Setola, a Neapolitan Mafia killer who got out of jail last year on a bogus medical certificate attesting to virtual blindness, "appeared to have dropped" the pope's 2004 autobiography Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, before he made his escape through a tunnel and sewers, police said.
Setola, 38, who is wanted for 17 murders committed for the Camorra clan exposed in Roberto Saviano's worldwide bestseller Gomorrah, left the book behind in his third escape from police raids.
A day after Setola's flit, police in Naples on Wednesday broke into the attic lair of Camorra 'lieutenant' Franco Imparato, adorned with statues of the Madonna and Padre Pio and a wall sticker saying "God is like Mamma, He never abandons you".
Setola and Imparato are not the first Mafiosi to have been found with spiritual succour. Boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano was found with a favorite Bible in his Corleone farm hideaway when police caught up with him after 43 years on the run in 2006. Provenzano insisted on hanging onto the studiously annotated copy of the Holy Book in jail but he was given another copy instead, as code busters got to work on linking the highlighted passages to his associates.
Four years previously, in April 2002, Provenzano's right-hand man Antonino Giuffre' was caught in a converted sheep-pen with a clutch of religious cards with pictures of Padre Pio, Our Lady of Fatima and Jesus.
The mobsters' apparent devotion fits a stereotypical image of the assassin and churchgoer, a combination that has come to define part of the Mafia lifestyle. Michele Greco, the so-called Mafia 'pope' who died in prison last year, was a dedicated Bible student while Provenzano's co-boss Toto' Riina, a wearer of heavy golden crosses, kept devotional images of the patron saint of Corleone, Saint Leoluca.
But Pietro Aglieri, arrested in 1997 when he was No.2 in Cosa Nostra, probably outdid them all. As well as having a sort of chapel built into his hide-out, he had a Carmelite monk come and confess him while he was a fugitive. At his arrest, the Mafia boss was in the middle of reading a Russian book called The Road of a Pilgrim, which tells of a farmer who abandons his town and takes up the life of a mystic.
The relationship between Mafia figures and religion has always been strong, perhaps not surprisingly given the devout Catholic culture they live in. The Mafia does not discourage its members from playing a part in the Sicilian church, and even encourages it. One of the younger generations of Mafia dons, Benedetto 'Nitto' Santapaola, is a former student of Salesian priests and once said he would have become a priest had he not felt the call of the Mob.
The merging of mafia and Roman Catholic cultures goes beyond the individual to some of the rites of Cosa Nostra, which borrow heavily from church ceremonies and rituals, observers say.
Over the years, films and books have made familiar the religious rituals with which budding Mafiosi seal their pacts: the figurines in the background, the blood-stained saint's images that are burned in the hand after a finger is fatefully pricked. Many Italians were skeptical that the film image fully matched reality, but in 1996 leading informant Leonardo Messina confirmed the initiation rite in all its detail:
"The day I became a man of honor they pricked my finger. The blood was used to stain an image of the Madonna which was set alight, burning as I passed it from one hand to another. I was asked to pronounce the formula: 'as paper I burn you, as a saint I adore you: just as this paper burns, so must my flesh burn if I betray Cosa Nostra"'.
Italy's other mafias vie with Cosa Nostra in religiosity.
The mafia in the southeastern region of Puglia is called Sacra Corona Unita (United Sacred Crown), while the Camorra, the subject of Saviano's 2006 book and a 2008 film vying for an Oscar next month, is famous for its lavish funerals for fallen Mafiosi.
The pope's autobiography was not Setola's only reading matter, police said. Officers also found a copy of a book on the Camorra by a Naples journalist, Rosaria Capacchione, who like Saviano is under 24-hour police protection. Italian dailies noted Wednesday that Setola would probably have been disappointed if he had got to the end of Capacchione's book, Camorra Gold. He is mentioned only once.
"Giuseppe Setola, a Neapolitan Mafia killer who got out of jail last year on a bogus medical certificate attesting to virtual blindness..." Bravo! The good doctor should take our advice and go into dry cleaning.
Fact: Scholars have documented the obscure relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mafia since at least 1861, when the Italian State confiscated church property and the Church in turn refused to recognize the authority of the new Italy.
Sicily was strongly Catholic, but in a strongly tribal sense rather than in an intellectual and theological sense, and had a tradition of suspicion of outsiders. The friction between the Church and the state gave a great advantage to violent criminal bands in Sicily who could claim to peasants and townspeople that cooperating with the police (representing the new Italian state) was an anti-Catholic activity.
It was only in the 1980s that the Catholic Church took a firm stand against the Sicilian Mafia, at the time of the murder of Giovanni Falcone, the Palermo prosecutor.
Still, bosses in hiding managed to have their children baptized and even marry.