"Buon Giorno!" Welcome to another informative issue for enthusiasts of Italian culture and goats, "Only In Italy!"
Get ready. It's almost time for another gut wrenching and boring season of Sanremo...zzz zzz zzz...
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - January 13, 2009 - An Italian teacher was sent to trial Tuesday on charges of gagging small kids to make them behave.
Prosecutors say Maria Teresa Carrarini, a Rome kindergarten teacher, used packing tape to tie up and gag unruly toddlers. The trial will begin in Rome on April 17. Carrarini's case emerged two years ago when she was reported by parents and a kids helpline.
"Miss is using tape to keep us quiet," the parents said their children told them.
Carrarini, who denies the charges, is suing the parents for defamation of character.
Since Carrarini hit the headlines in October 2006 there have been three similar cases in Pescara, Florence and Milan. The teachers involved could face four years in jail."Oh, 'fanculo... Hey bambini! Quiet! Silenzio! Zitti! Shut-up!"
The sheep shaver doesn't realize she is supposed to be a role model for Italian society.
"Povero bambini." Italian children have to deal with a lot of abuse. If it's not outmaneuvering the roofs of the schools that cave in, it's the badgering into selecting a political party at the age of four.
One of the hare-brained proposals of the Minister of Instruction, Mariastella Gelmini, is to attempt to create so-called "bridge classes". These separate classes, according to Gelmini, will ease the little rascals' integration, addressing first their most urgent problems with the speaking and understanding of the Italian language. We agree. Learning to speak the language could be an urgent problem, especially when "Miss" is using tape to keep them from speaking.
"What? Che cosa?! You need a pencil?"
Rome - January 13, 2009 - On a recent chilly afternoon, Andrea Eluca was standing outside the Roman Forum dressed as a gladiator. Small groups of tourists passed by and smiled at his leather breastplate, sword and motorcycle helmet festooned with a red broom brush. But none stopped to pose for a picture.
Winter is always tough going for gladiators or rather "centurions," as Mr. Eluca described himself. But this season is proving particularly tough.
"The quantity isn't down, but the quality is," Mr. Eluca said with a sniffle. "People are coming, they're just not spending."
The strong euro and worsening economic crisis have taken their toll on tourism even in Rome, where tourists are as reliable as death and taxes, and probably more reliable than people who pay taxes.
Returns are not in yet for December, but they are not expected to be stellar, thanks to the poor economy, frequent cancellations and strikes by Alitalia, not to mention the rainy deluge before Christmas that almost put the Tiber out of its banks in the city's historic center. Visits by Americans are expected to be off by 15 percent for December.
Things were not any better at the Vatican, where the number of visitors to papal audiences dropped by half a million in 2008, to 2.2 million.
Near the Coliseum, the horse-drawn carriage drivers were glum. "Business has dropped about 35 to 40 percent compared to three or four years ago," said Fabrizio Manzone, who charges between $65 and $135, depending on the route.
Tourists "will all go out for a pizza," he said. But when you're trying to save, "a carriage ride is the first thing you drop from the list."
Things are even worse in high-end tourism. On Via Veneto, la vita is decidedly less dolce these days.
At the swanky Excelsior hotel bar, famous for the best martinis in Rome, things were slow on a recent rainy weeknight. When a bartender was asked how things were going, his face dropped nearly to the floor in a neo-realist expression of gloom.
The staff had just been informed of layoffs, said the bartender, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
An older man walked in with two well-groomed young women, one wearing a Chanel necklace with two interlocking C's. They ordered drinks and chatted in Russian.
"Russians are the only rich Europeans now," the bartender said. "The Arabs come, and some Spanish, but the Americans hardly ever come anymore."
At the Hotel Danieli in Venice, which like the Excelsior is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, workers went on strike on New Year's Eve to protest proposed layoffs. Guests who had signed up for a Champagne and beluga caviar dinner were sent to ring in the new year elsewhere.
But amid crisis comes opportunity. The Excelsior and Danieli are offering rooms for as low as $335 a night.
Indeed, for those who have money, this is the time to come to Rome. Crowds are more manageable, airfare is cheaper, and shops are offering major sales.
Admiring the Pantheon, Ron Weintraub, an American telecommunications consultant based in Ankara, Turkey, had a one-word answer for why he came to Rome: "Saldi."
Like retailers elsewhere, Italian shops slash prices every January, but this year they are doing so more aggressively than ever. On the upscale Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps, shops like Gucci and Prada are offering discounts as high as 50 percent.
At Gucci on a recent rainy weekday morning, the customers eyeing such items as a leather bomber jacket with a fur collar, reduced 50 percent from the initial price of $4,500, were almost entirely Russian and Japanese.
Back near the Roman Forum, things were still slow for Mr. Eluca, the centurion. He rubbed his cold hands together and scanned the area for picture-takers. Then his cell phone rang. "Eh," he answered after fetching it from a red bag slung at his side.
"No, Mom, I have a little bit of a cold, but I'll be fine," he said. "Don't worry, I'll be home soon for lunch."
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do?" What? try to swindle anyone who doesn't speak English?
Rome is not an industrious city. It's the government offices, Vatican, and above all, the tourists that keep the city alive. So, the question is the following, "Cornuti", wasn't this expected when you bite the hand that feeds you? Don't blame a crisis on your greed and selfishness.
Welcome to the Eternal City!
Villa Borghese: "I attempted to buy a soda - asked the price and was told 6 euros (8 USD) for a small coke - then, got a nasty attitude when he put it back and did not complete the purchase."
-> You obviously don't appreciate our magnificent history. You could have sipped a soda at the exact same bar where centuries ago, Bernini relaxed and took his breaks from his sculpture work.
Piazza Barberini: "On my first trip to Rome with my husband, we had dinner outside by Piazza Barberini. I had spaghetti and he had some meat dish. The dinner was great, the view was great, the service was so-so, the bill almost made us choke. It was 135 euros (180 USD)! For a plate of spaghetti and a meat dish that only included one side of vegetables! We were astounded. We asked the waiter if the check was correct, he said it was. We asked him to explain why it was so much, he said "for the outside service".
-> You obviously didn't realize the historical significance of where you were eating. The 90-100 euro "outside service" surcharge was for the privilege of eating a bland pasta and overcooked meat where Cassius and Brutus frequently had lunch together arguing about how much a pain in the ass Caesar had become.
Pantheon: "I have seen many children including my great-niece and great-nephews running toward this woman while shrieking with joy, principessa, principessa! Well, this principessa (princess) or regina (queen) or whoever she was, who stood in front of the Pantheon, she was not very regale or generous in her manners. Instead of giving the children a hug back, or even just a slight pat on the head, she immediately pushed them away. They said I need to pay 5 euros (6.65 USD) for a hug."
-> "Cavolo", another example of ignorance displayed by tourists. During the Renaissance period, it was considered inappropriate and unbecoming for the peasants to be within the vicinity of nobility. However; if the nobles did not behave according to the rules of chivalry, these nobles were cast out and reduced to being treated like beggars and prostitutes. Therefore; it was a bargain to pay 5 euros to hug a whore.
Vatican: "The average price of a small cup of gelato is 1.20 euros (1.60 USD). Near the Vatican, I have seen the same cup sold for 5.50 euros (7.30 USD). Imagine a family of five - Mom, Dad, and their three children - who all want gelato after meals. The children, of course, want large cups. I don't know about you, but I would rethink my priority when the bill for gelato is 70 euros (93 USD) a day."
-> And for the last time: lack of appreciation for supreme culinary taste. The milk for the gelato is produced by the holy cows at the Vatican. They feed on the holy backyard grass and the raw milk is pasteurized by the holy friars.
Rome - January 13, 2009 - Home is a dangerous place, particularly for women and older people, the Italian housewives association, Federcasalinghe, warned on Tuesday.
Around 3.8 million people are injured annually and 8,000 eventually die as a result of accidents at home, said the association, pointing to statistics by the Institute for Workplace Protection and Security (ISPESL). Italian homes see around 4.5 million serious accidents each year, said ISPESL.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Italy has one of the lowest rates of female employment in Europe, women are almost twice as likely to be injured at home as men, accounting for two thirds of all accidents. Nearly a half of those injured are over the age of 65, said ISPEL, which based its conclusions on information from the national statistics institute, Istat, and government administrative offices.
The majority of injuries were fairly minor, with bruising topping the list at 40%, although Italians also reported fractures (23%) and burns (7%), according to Federcasalinghe. Hands were the body part most susceptible to injury (24%), closely followed by the head (20%) and legs (14%).
The figures were released by Federcasalinghe in a bid to raise awareness about the potential dangers at home and as part of its broader campaign to gain more recognition for the work homemakers, usually women, do at home. The association's president, Federica Rossi Gasparrini, urged the government to invest some of the 180 million euros it spends on accident prevention each year on tackling the problem.
Maria Rosaria Di Summa, of the national work institute INAIL, said there were currently around 2.3 million Italians insured for their work as full-time homemakers. But she said the government should do more to help prevent accidents and support people who choose homemaking as a life choice.
A separate study by economic think tank CENSIS recently concluded that some 4 million Italians suffer accidents at home each year, compared to a million at work and around 300,000 involved in road accidents.
According to the report, domestic risks stemmed mainly from shoddy building work, poor quality products and bad safety practices.
But the report also noted that nearly half of Italians (46.6%) had done something very risky or just plain stupid in the last three months.
"What am I doing?! I'm cleaning again! You came to help or 'rompere le palle'?!"
American women devote just four hours a week to household chores while Italians spend twenty-one on housework. There is just one small problem: Unsurprisingly, Italian housewives are hard to please and that's where part of the danger comes in.
You see, they believe they have to have a different product for every job. Italians ridicule the magical multipurpose cleaners, demanding one spray for windows and another for mirrors.
Six years ago, Unilever launched a spray that promised to clean any surface: FAIL!
Cleaning the floor is an art form that only devoted people like Da Vinci and Michelangelo would understand. And Italy's housewives have no time for over-sophisticated domestic appliances that wash, dry, spin and give cooking tips all in one.
Dishwashers also fail to convince. 31% own a dishwasher...
The funny logic behind their complaint is they don't want to rinse the plates before putting them in the dishwasher.
The washing machine is an appliance that should be driven carefully...
It should wash without ruining fabrics!
Then there's the obsession with ironing...
In the end, Italians devote 21 hours a week to household chores, of which five are spent ironing. Cooking is not included in the total...and it is always healthy and wise to not ask when dinner is ready.