"Buon giorno, cari studenti!" Welcome to the only newsletter that cannot explain why politics make strange bedfellows, "Only In Italy!"
I love your online newsletter. It is so funny! Keep it coming.
Love to hear about the Italian and Sicilian people. My grandfather came from San Biagio Platani, Sicily, and my grandmother came from Casteltermini, Sicily. My father's people came from Rende, Italy.
I traveled to Italy, several times and love anything Italian, I married 2 Italian-American husbands and one English. All are gone. Thanks for your newsletter, it really makes me laugh out loud! Marianne
Thanks for your lovely letter, Marianne.
Our news office is very close to those two Sicilian towns. Charming little places although, we would never go there, not even at gun point.
Hmmm...three husbands. You must be some little firecracker. If we may humbly ask, what made you make the leap from the two Italian-Americans to the English chap? Your "Garden of Eden" must have been something incredible.
We're sure the apples had nothing to do with your husbands' departures.
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - January 18, 2007 - Modern women are bucking Italian family traditions, giving birth at a later age and opting for fewer kids, according to a report on motherhood released on Wednesday.
The study by the national statistics institute, Istat, found that the myth of the Italian 'mamma' is losing its grip, with women prioritizing studies and work over starting a family.
The average age for women to have their first child has risen from 25 to 29, said Istat, which surveyed 50,000 women who gave birth in 2003.
And although Italy has the lowest female employment rate in Europe, with only 45.3% of women between 15 and 64 holding jobs, a growing number of mothers are realizing that having kids doesn't necessarily mean quitting work. This in turn means that more and more women are looking to their parents and in-laws for help. Around a fifth of population is now either a 'nonna' (granny) or 'nonno' (grandpa), and 57% of these regularly look after their grandchildren, according to Istat.
In fact, over half of all toddlers are left in the care of grandparents when their moms head for work.
According to MP Sandra Cioffi, who chairs parliament’s Bicameral Childhood Committee, this indicates that "the family in this case the grandparents continues to be the fundamental unit in society."
"The fact that 53% of children are left with grandparents shows that they have assumed the role of reconciling domestic responsibilities with work," she said.
But she admitted that for many working parents with young children there was no choice, and called for support structures across Italy to be strengthened. In fact, a frequent complaint among the women questioned was the lack of childcare facilities.
Nearly a third said they would have liked to send their kids to nursery or kindergarten but were unable to, owing to either the distance, the lack of places or the high cost. Another common complaint was the difficulty in trying to balance work, children and domestic tasks, the report found. While women may be shaking off traditional family roles in some respects, in others, few advances have been made.
Nearly two thirds of working moms said they received no help whatsoever around the home. Over half of those who had support relied on cleaners, while just 17% said they could count on their partner to give them a hand.
Finally, the report also confirmed that the Italian stereotype of massive families no longer has much basis in reality. Most of the women questioned said they only wanted one child, or at the very most two, reflected in the fact that there are currently just 1.33 kids born for every Italian woman of fertile age.
"Italy has one of the lowest fertility levels of any industrialized country, the result of a steady decline in births, which has been under way for around a century," the report noted."MAMMA! Il cafe è pronto?"
Italy has the lowest female employment rate in Europe. Italian women do not prioritize work or studies over starting a family. The truth is having kids in Italy is a pain in the Italian ass.
There is so much to deal with.
Life is Beautiful: "Little Domenico has all the luxuries of an Italian yuppie; a good job teaching at the University, a car, designer clothes, and, of course, a modern cell phone. But in reality, Domenico is a Mamma's Boy, still living at home at 33 and unashamed of it. "It's true that life at home is easier," he says. "I have fewer expenses and my mother still brings me coffee in bed each morning. But I chose to stay put because my relationship with my family is excellent. Until I see a valid reason for leaving, I'll stay."
What would be a valid reason for little Domenico? The laws should have been laid down for little Domenico 33 years ago in the delivery room.
According to Istat, 57% of 'nonni' regularly look after their grandchildren. And then the ramblings begin; "Oh, let me tell you about my childhood. During WWII, my uncle, Luigi, had to pick bugs off his brother Sal just to eat."
Nearly two thirds of working moms said they received no help whatsoever around the home. Over half of those who had support relied on cleaners, while just 17% said they could count on their partner to give them a hand. "Aiuto?" How do you get help from Italian men who pace themselves like a slug?
Italian men are lazy and do complain a bit too much. We once heard my cousin Romeo say some heart touching words to his wife, Juliet; "I love you more than anything else in the world but please, STOP AGING! If you get any older than this, I can't stay with you. Get some help. Call Ponce Deleon. I can't believe I'm married to a 42-year-old!"
"And the unbelievable thing about all this is that I'm getting younger and better looking!"
Florence - January 20, 2007 - The world's most famously enigmatic woman may have shed some of her mystery. An amateur historian said Friday that he has found the final resting place of the woman some believe inspired Leonardo da Vinci's most renowned painting, the "Mona Lisa".
A death certificate shows that Lisa Gherardini, the Renaissance woman some believe was the model for the "Mona Lisa", died on July 15, 1542, in Florence and is buried in a convent in central Florence, Giuseppe Pallanti said.
"Maybe Leonardo chose a woman like many others," Pallanti, a high school economics teacher in Florence, told reporters. "She was not a noblewoman, or a princess. She was a family woman."
It's not certain Gherardini, who was born in 1479 and married a rich silk merchant called Francesco del Giocondo, is the woman in the painting whose smile has inspired speculation for centuries.
Is she smiling to "tempt a lover" or "to hide a broken heart?" Nat King Cole wondered in a song written in the 1950s.
Tradition links Gherardini to "La Gioconda," as the painting is known in Italian, because Giorgio Vasari, a 16th-century artist and biographer of Leonardo and other artists, wrote that da Vinci painted a portrait of del Giocondo's wife.
Pallanti, who has written a book about the Mona Lisa, also points out that del Giocondo was a neighbor and acquaintance of the artist's father, Piero da Vinci.
"I'm not taking a stance, I'm not an art historian," Pallanti said. "But it's hard to believe that Vasari lied."
Alessandro Vezzosi, a Leonardo expert and the director of a museum dedicated to the artist in his hometown of Vinci, said Pallanti is a respected researcher whose work gives interesting information on Gherardini.
But he said she is not the woman depicted in the work that hangs in Paris' Louvre Museum. "There is a basic mistake, to say that this is the real Gioconda," Vezzosi said.
A letter that Leonardo wrote indicates that the Mona Lisa was probably a lover of the artist's sponsor, the Florentine nobleman Giuliano de Medici, Vezzosi said.
"This doesn't mean that he didn't also paint del Giocondo's wife," he said. But that portrait has yet to be located.
Vasari also noted the beautifully painted eyelashes and eyebrows in the portrait of Gherardini, features absent from Leonardo's most famous work, Vezzosi said.
Pallanti, who unearthed Gherardini's death certificate shortly before Christmas, said Gherardini was a mother of five, plus a sixth who was adopted. Her home was near Florence's Basilica of San Lorenzo, which in turn is near the Convent of St. Ursula where she is said to have been buried.
That same convent became the home of one of Gherardini's daughters, who became a nun.
"Her husband's will said that after his death, she would go and live with her daughter," Pallanti said, explaining what led him to search through documents there and eventually discover her death certificate.
Pallanti said the convent is not in good shape, and he has not tried to find the actual tomb."Oh, ma chi se ne frega?!"
"She was not a noblewoman, or a princess. She was a family woman." This person is not a historian, or an archeologist. He is a high school economics teacher...who should go back to teaching the mesmerizing principles of supply and demand of the Italian economy.
Is she smiling to "tempt a lover" or "to hide a broken heart?" Nat King Cole wondered in a song written in the 1950s. Someone should have told Nat that Mona had six kids. That's the sick smile that will appear on your face too when you're expressing happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness from raising that many Italian kids. "Unforgettable" would have been a more appropriate tune, Nat.
It is noted that Mona Lisa has no visible facial hair at all including eyebrows and eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck them off, since they were considered to be unsightly. Maybe the historian/economics teacher could shed some light on why Italian genteel women discovered the art of shaving their unsightly legs and armpits towards the late 1980s.
Rome - January 20, 2007 - Italian EU commissioner Franco Frattini has in an unusual step criticized his own institution for not translating a website promoting the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Italian. "I cannot suppress my bitterness and dissatisfaction over this decision that hits the Italian language", Mr. Frattini said in a statement circulated among journalists. The statement adds that "the commission cannot and must not ignore certain aspects of its past and presence which are crucial for our collective memory. I ask this grave deficit to be urgently repaired."
The commissioner, himself an Italian, was referring to the fact that the Rome Treaty was signed in Italy. He also argued that the Italian-speaking community is one of the largest within the 27-nation bloc. On the website of the commission's External Relations directorate-general, an explanatory text on the March anniversary celebrations is available in the three working languages of the EU; French, English and German as well as Spanish, but not available in Italian.
The European Commission for its part called the incident "a misunderstanding" and pointed to the fact that the responsibility for the website lies with the External Relations directorate. "There are no fixed rules for a DG [directorate-general] when it comes to languages", a commission spokesperson said. He added that "all official websites" related to the EU's 50th birthday and launched by the Directorate General for Communication, officially responsible for the matter, are carried out in all 23 official languages, "including Italian".
But Mr. Frattini's complaint is yet another proof how languages are becoming a touchy issue within the bloc and the language issue seems to be a more delicate one for Italy, amid concerns by Italian political circles that Rome is slowly losing its influence in the EU. Lately Emma Bonino, an Italian minister for European affairs, criticized the fact that her country is under-represented in the European Commission structures, with only a few Italians in top jobs."Porca Troja!" I think we don't understand we have trouble understanding.
"Italy, the slowest-growing economy among the dozen sharing the Euro, has "serious problems" and "very low potential for growth," the European Union monetary affairs commissioner, Joaquin Almunia." We could be wrong but it appears that Italy is looked upon as the "special" child of the European Union.
"Italy has complained at EU Commission plans to drop Italian translation from some of its press briefings." That simply means the "special" child has to go and learn English, German, or French.
Europeans are vicious towards Italy. You should see the looks on the faces of the EU Commission members in Brussels during hearings and press conferences. They act surprised when they see us wearing shoes.
You know, we normally feel ugly when we travel outside Italy but we have never felt as ugly as we do when we visit other European countries.
A tourism portal on line, Italia.it, costing 45 million Euro "created to promote the tourism we can offer via the Internet as well as to promote the cultural, environmental and whole food wealth of Italy" and as it says on page 16 of its brochure "uses an interactive program to organize and plan the journey".
The "special" child started the project in March 2004 and has still not completed it.