Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only In Italy is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news sources in Italy.
Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.
 
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February 2005
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"Enjoy the Traffic and Stop Moaning" 

(02/17/05)

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Ciao Pasquale,

There was a great bit on, I believe, NBC a year or so ago on "mammoni". Unreal! Some of these guys had completely finished apartments ready for the day they married and moved in. And they were still living with mamma. My wife's Sicilian and loved it... Gino

Thanks for the letter, Gino.

What you probably don't know either is these "mammoni" live in homes that are also maintained by their relatives. That's right. Mamma, papa and 'nonni' pay for the electricity, gas, water and local taxes.

You are obviously not comprehensive about Italian culture, Gino. Life can be very difficult for Italian single men. You do not know what tragedies have occurred when breakfasts have been served cold and "Dolce and Gabbana" shirts are not pressed enough.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Italians Told to Stop Moaning

Rome - January 30, 2005 - Italy's transport minister has refused to take the blame for traffic chaos which has caused misery for hundreds of people stuck on snow-blocked motorways, and has told people to stop complaining.

Some people were trapped for days as an unusually strong snowfall brought parts of southern Italy to a standstill. The opposition accused Transport Minister Pietro Lunardi of failing to deal with the problem and called on him to resign.

Lunardi rejected such calls on Sunday and said Italians should stop complaining and blaming the state.

"We need to cure the Italians of their childish illness -- moaning," he told Libero newspaper.

"The state cannot prevent exceptional snowfalls, even if Italy is the country of the sun and people think they have the right to have the snow melted immediately by the authorities."

Although Deputy Prime Minister Marco Follini apologized on Friday on behalf of the government, Lunardi said he would not say sorry. "I am not apologizing. The government has managed the emergency well, there have been no victims."

By Sunday, the authorities finally reopened a major motorway between Salerno and Reggio Calabria which had been blocked for four days as snow continued to fall.

"Looney Lunardi" This is a man who doesn't understand he has trouble understanding.

The Italian Infrastructure Gospel according to Lunardi:

In a novel road safety measure Italy aims to raise the speed limit on some motorways to 93 mph, despite having one of Europe's worst records for accidents. The transport ministry says higher speeds improve traffic flow and help motorists pay attention.
Lunardi: "All psychologists and doctors say people who go faster drive better and are more careful," Only 9% of fatal accidents were caused by speeding, he noted. "Where it is safe to go faster, it is the right thing to do."
He's absolutely right but how do you get a Fiat 500 over 50 mph?

After 2000 years of uncertainty, Italy committed itself to building the world's longest suspension bridge, a mega-span linking the mainland to the island of Sicily across the torrid straits of Messina. Lunardi declared that the first stone of a bridge dreamed of since Roman times would be laid by the end of 2004, or perhaps early 2005.
Lunardi: "The whole thing should be done within five or six years," Lunardi said of a project set to cost 4.6 billion euros ($4.3 billion) and described by some as a white elephant in waiting.
Five to six years? Even the Mafia in Sicily and Calabria are scratching their heads trying to figure out how are they going to pay off politicians, threaten people, siphon off construction funds and build the stupid thing in such short time.

The Mafia is expected to take its usual 5% or 10% of the billions of dollars that the Italian government plans to spend on contracts to improve road access to southern Italy.
Lunardi: "The Mafia has always existed and will always exist, unfortunately it's there, and we have to learn to live with it," he said.
This is a minister that would have been best friends with Emperor Caligula and his horse.

 

Robot Reptiles and Insects, Hi-Tech Zoo of Italian Household Helpers

The project by four Italian universities was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. Synthetic snakes will unblock pipes and artificial ants will clean windows.

Lucca - January 30, 2005 - A robot worm already exists. It moves with longitudinal oscillations of its body and sees the world through cameras instead of eyes. At its presentation, scheduled in roughly a year’s time, it will move by slithering along with the undulating action of a real snake. It will be an infallible explorer of pipes, and will be able to unblock them with its rotors and blades. The worm and the snake are only two of the creatures from the robot zoo, a collection of hi-tech wonders, that is taking shape in Lucca and Pisa thanks to the collaboration of four universities.

"It’s a course and a center - called IMT Alti Studi - for new professional engineering profiles", explains Paolo Dario, a member of the Scuola Sant’Anna staff and coordinator of the doctorate. "These engineers study the animal world in order to replicate its complexity, but at the same time they strive to enhance scientific, technical and humanistic knowledge. Just like the great Leonardo Da Vinci did".

Worms and snakes will be joined at the robot zoo by artificial life-driven insect robots. Already under study are cockroaches that will be able to explore high-risk areas of the home, such as power cables and gas pipes. There are bee and ant robots that will move and operate in swarms.

What will they do? "Clean skyscraper windows, for example", explain Arianna Menciassi, Cecilia Laschi and Maria Chiara Carrozza, researchers and teachers at the Scuola Sant’Anna and IMT, "because they will be able to communicate with each other and carry out simple tasks in co-ordination, exactly like biological bees and ants that habitually work together". There will be large aquarium full of silicon-scaled fish, all rigorously mechatronic, in other words a mixture of mechanics and electronics. One of the Italian researchers’ projects focuses on the environment and water purification. Large numbers of small robot fish will swim in ponds, reservoirs and rivers, cleaning them with micro filters. There will also be larger cat or puppy-sized robots. "They’ll be for housework", explains Arianna Menciassi, "but they will also be useful to amuse babies and children. They may replace other machines that are used as toys today, or even the tamagotchis that are so popular with the very young".

Finally, there is nanotechnology. Paolo Dario’s team is planning to create robot bacteria only a few microns in size for nanosurgery applications. Even a cell can be repaired and cured.

When will the robot zoo open? The first animals are already in residence but the most ambitious projects will mature in the next three years in the laboratories of Sant’Anna - opposite the Piaggio factory - and in the new IMT premises at Lucca in the San Michelotto complex.

Italians have made significant contributions thanks to Lenny. A number of items we use today have been created by those of Italian ancestry:

Cologne - Johann Maria Farina 1709
- A $2 bottle of putrid water that costs you $75-$100 when the name of another famous Italian, preferably a designer, is added.

Condom - Gabriele Fallopio 1564
- A piece of very uncomfortable rubber that hasn't been perfected and doesn't satisfy anyone (should have been invented by Da Vinci).

Double Entry Accounting - Luca Pacioli 1494
- Gave life to accountants and recently perfected by Enron, WorldCom and Parmalat.

Espresso Machine - Achille Gaggia 1946
- A machine that squeezes the caffeine from a pound of coffee into a cup the size of a thimble.

Eyeglasses - Salvino Armati 1280
- Helped Italians to take a real good look at who they were marrying.

Nuclear Reactor - Enrico Fermi 1942
- Hard to believe an Italian is indirectly responsible for all the chaos this planet is experiencing with North Korea and Iran.

Piano - Bartolomeo Cristofori 1709
- Without the piano we wouldn't have had Liberace!

Telephone - Antonio Meucci 1871
- Helped Antonio to reach out and touch someone. Inspired the imbeciles who invented call waiting, three-way calling and cell phone songs.

Typewriter - Pellegrino Turri 1808
- Invented by a lazy Italian with bad penmanship.

Zamboni - Frank J. Zamboni 1949
- An awkward looking lawn mower that is driven around to resurface ice rinks (named after an obviously egotistical Italian).

 

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Give Us Back Our Chariot, Umbrian Villagers Tell the Metropolitan Museum

Perugia - January 30, 2005 - A tiny Umbrian village is taking on the mighty Metropolitan Museum in New York, claiming that one of its most exalted exhibits, an Etruscan chariot, was illegally exported from Italy 100 years ago.

The sixth-century bronze and ivory chariot, the pride of the museum's Etruscan collection, was originally sold to two Frenchmen by a farmer who dug it up in a field at Monteleone di Spoleto, near Perugia, in 1902.

According to family lore, the farmer received two cows in exchange. The local mayor, Nando Durastanti, believes that he actually swapped the chariot, one of the world's greatest antiquities, for 30 terra cotta tiles. It was later dismantled and illegally exported from Italy, concealed in a grain shipment.

Dealers from Florence sold it to the Metropolitan in New York in 1903 - allegedly with the help of the financier JP Morgan, who would later become the museum's director - but Mr. Durastanti says that the museum has no right to keep it.

"That chariot is rightfully ours and they've got to give it back," he said last week. "There's no question. We've got a very good case.

"It belongs to our territory and was illegally exported from the country. When it was taken out of Italy, the issue was even raised in parliament in Rome."

The museum had failed to provide proof of ownership, or that Italy had approved its export, he said.

Said to be the only Etruscan chariot ever found intact, the 14ft by 4ft vehicle, showing scenes from the life of Achilles in relief, was part of a burial treasure.

It was found with the remains of two humans still sitting inside, along with two drinking cups, which helped date it to 530BC. The farmer, Isidoro Vannozzi, is said to have stumbled across it while digging a wine cellar. He hid the treasure in his barn, fearing that the authorities would confiscate it.

The village council in Monteleone (population 662) has instructed solicitors to demand its return from the Metropolitan "to its place of origin and people".

Sharon Cott, the vice-president of the museum and its chief legal counsel, said that the Metropolitan "respectfully declined" to give up the exhibit. "The Metropolitan has owned the chariot for over 100 years, long after any legal claim could be timely brought," she argued.

Undeterred, Mr. Mazetta sent a second letter last week, saying that Monteleone had the backing of Italy's Commission for Public Education and Antiquities, the Umbrian regional government and 37 cities and towns in the region.

He claimed that Morgan, who became the Metropolitan's director in 1904, had been instrumental in illegally obtaining the chariot.

Citing the case of an Atlanta museum, which two years ago handed back to Egypt a mummy exported to America in 1864, and Italy's decision to return an 18th-century Ethiopian obelisk plundered by Mussolini, he challenged the museum to make a "great and civilized gesture worthy of a great institution.

"What makes me so indignant is the offensive way these people viewed Italy," Mr. Mazetta said last week. "They treated the Italians like so many Indians, flinging a few trinkets at them, knowing they didn't have the power to fight the likes of powerful people like JP Morgan.

Mr. Mazetta said that when Mr. Vannozzi sold the chariot, he did so against Italian laws, meaning that subsequent buyers had also broken the law and were in receipt of stolen property.

Harold Holzer, a spokesman for the museum, said that Monteleone's claim was "like Italy saying it now wants France to give back the Mona Lisa. It's too late to discuss," he said.

It's no surprise that Italy holds more than half of the world's cultural treasures but thousands of these are being smuggled out of the country every year. In fact, archeologists say stolen Italian artifacts have been supplying the art market for more than 200 years.

In 1911, An Italian named Vincenzo Perugia stole the "Mona Lisa" and tried to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy for $100,000. Perugia claimed he stole the work out of patriotism. He didn't think such a work by a famous Italian should be kept in France. What Perugia didn't realize was that while the "Mona Lisa" was probably painted in Italy, Leonardo took it with him to France and sold it to King Francis I for 4,000 gold coins.

We cannot blame the Umbrian villagers for demanding the return of the Etruscan chariot because most Italians are convinced the artifacts that they find underground are left by their ancestors for them.

However, the real crime in this story was not committed by the Met Museum but by the incredibly brilliant business mind of farmer "Beppe" who had to swap the chariot for roof tiles. 

"Porca Puttana"... That roof must have really leaked.

 

Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
 
 
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