"Si, la vita fa schifo!" Welcome to another blessed issue of "Only In Italy!"
Without any further headaches, we bring you our latest articles.
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Ferrara - March 5, 2008 - An 80-year woman was denied a national health card because, according to health officials, she had been dead for 25 years, the local press reported on Wednesday.
The incident took place at the national health office in nearby San Giuseppe di Copparo, where Ultimina Dalla Pria was told that their official records showed that she had been dead since January 1, 1983. After recovering from the initial shock, the 80-year-old told officials that she was still quite alive and kicking and had no intention of dying.
"But this didn't change anything. Even after I showed them my identity card, proving there had been a mistake, they wouldn't budge and refused to give me a national health card," Dalla Pria told reporters.
"At that point I went to the public records office where official records showed that I was clearly not dead at all", she added.
In order to be alive again for the national health service, Dalla Pria must file with the local public health office copies of official documents attesting to the fact that she is alive. This process will involve hiring a lawyer and in the meantime she will not be able to have free prescription medicines because, as of January 1, a national health card must be shown in order to receive them.
"I hope my doctor can find a way around this," Dalla Pria said."Sono viva, testa di cazzo!" Sit back, relax and enjoy, folks. Italian state employees hard at work creating the perfect work and social environment.
Although the intoxicated Dante didn't realize it at the time, he perfectly described the labyrinth of Italian government offices and bureaucracy when he wrote "Abandon hope all who enter here".
Poor Ultimina. As if she could negotiate anything with these health officials. These are people who spent their childhoods skinning farm animals, producing countless jugs of tomato sauce and indicating which direction the wind blew.
But one can't help but wonder how many jugs of cheap wine, spumante and grappa did these "stronzi" chug down in that health office on New Year's Eve, 1982, for Ultimina to be declared dead the day after.
Rome - February 27, 2008 - Lovers of traditional Sicilian cuisine will soon be able to dine and stay at a country property that once belonged to Italy's bloodiest Mafia boss.
The three-acre site five kilometers from Corleone, once a fief of Salvatore 'the Beast' Riina, has been turned into an 'agriturismo', or farm-holiday restaurant-cum-inn.
"There'll be room to feed 88 people, and 16 beds for people to stay over if they've had a bit too much," joked Floriana Di Leonardo of the Pio La Torre Cooperative.
"The days of Riina are long gone. All you'll find here now is good old country cooking and a nice comfortable bed".
Di Leonardo, whose cooperative is named after a famous anti-Mafia land-reformer and Communist Party leader gunned down in 1982, pointed out that the new eatery was "just down the road" from a popular local tourist attraction, the Gorgo del Drago natural park.
Riina ruled the Mafia in a reign of fear from the 1980s until he was captured in 1993 soon after unleashing a bloody assault on the Italian State that claimed the lives of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Several of his former properties, as well as those of his townsman and fellow Mafia chief Bernardo Provenzano, have been seized by the State and turned into schools, farms or restaurants.
The countryside around Corleone, once dotted with dons' trophy villas or hideaway farms, is now producing honest fruits after a wave of confiscations from Cosa Nostra bosses. Youth cooperatives have moved into the rural crime triangle between the fiefs of Corleone, Monreale and San Giuseppe Jato and have started making pasta, olive oil, wine, honey and other produce on the ex-Mafia lands.
Thanks to an agreement with the Coop supermarket chain, the products are now sold all over Italy. Many of the products are made by the cooperative Placido Rizzotto - Libera Terra, named after a land reform campaigner murdered by the Mafia in 1948.
Corleone, a big-screen byword for the Mafia, was Riina's notorious power base in the hills near Palermo where he bred a fierce new breed of Mafioso in the '70s and '80s. Italian authorities have made a point of putting confiscated Mafia property to good use, preferably something involving public institutions, so as to symbolize the return of the State's control. A set of luxury apartments in Corleone belonging to Riina, for example, has been turned into the local headquarters of the tax police.
The "Cosa Nostra" mafioso is, in every sense, part of the territory he lives in and eats the exact same food as other people. What changes is the relationship with food, especially the rituals associated with convivial encounters involving members of the organization.
The diet of Sicilian peasants includes plenty of vegetables, all homegrown, and relatively little meat, with a preference for that of sheep or goats, which the mafioso would transfer in large herds from one area to another. There is always pasta, usually with tomato sauce, and often vegetable soups as well. Broad beans are widely used in Sicily, as well as whole artichokes, roasted over the fire.
Cosa Nostra 'business lunches' reinforced links between the various families and provided an opportunity to organize new illicit activities, prepare new offensive strategies or reflect on attacks received. These eating sessions, called "schiticchi", took place in the countryside, preferably in a friendís baglio, or stone courtyard. It went on behind closed doors, with someone placed prudently at the door to keep an eye open. The schiticchio was a demanding event, both in terms of time and in the type of foods to be eaten, and especially so for the organizers, who undertook to find the ingredients, keep the fire burning and so on.
In early 1992, Toto Riina attended a lunch with the Mafia families of Marsala and Mazara del Vallo (Trapani), to organize a counteraction against a rival criminal organization, A member who was among the guests had declared that Riina was by no means an enthusiastic eater. There was always someone waiting to peel his fruit for him.
The lunch led to a dozen murders in broad daylight in the center of Marsala. One of the gangsters stated that he would celebrate a successful criminal venture by skipping his the dinner prepared by his wife and order pasta with conger eel sauce.
Antimafia investigations in Trapani also brought to light the 'boiled sheep', an ancient dish popular with shepherds, who consumed it according to precise rituals. The dish takes a long time to prepare and is deliberately designed to encourage socializing and prolonged meetings in the countryside, around a large pot containing pieces of mutton. It takes a long time to cook because the water, aromatized with herbs, has to be changed three times. The third pot of water will be used to cook the soup served before the boiled sheep.
This is a typical shepherd-peasant dish from this part of Sicily, and the original heart of Cosa Nostra.
Eating boiled sheep is like consuming one of the fundamental elements of the Mafia and helps to explain the rationale of the criminal organization. Hard and merciless as the life of a Sicilian shepherd, and anarchic by vocation, the Mafia is instinctively opposed to any form of law and prepared to commit the most awful violence with a fatalistic view of life that is to some extent shared by every Sicilian.
Vatican City - March 5, 2008 - A Vatican official has warned priests that they should call in the exorcists when faced with a member of their flock who is possessed by the devil rather than try to deal with the problem themselves.
In an interview with Vatican daily Osservatore Romano, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Apostolic Penitentiary said priests should proceed with caution in cases involving "diabolic or mystic phenomena with a presumed supernatural element".
Girotti said that he deals with incidents linked to mysticism, which often manifest themselves in "delusions, hysteria and other symptoms". But when faced with "possessions, obsessions and persecutions" it is best to call in trained ghostbusters who can perform an exorcism, he added.
Girotti is currently running a six-day refresher crash course at the Vatican for priests who hear confession in an effort to address a crisis of confidence among church-goers in Italy.
A survey revealed that many believers were unhappy with the performance of priests in the confession box and said they found it difficult to talk about their sins. Topics covered in the course include what to do with homosexual and divorced Catholics, with the bishop recommending that priests avoid "assuming an apocalyptic tone".
"Ahhh! Sei posseduto!" "Ahhh! Va a cagare!" How does one convince that Vatican that "delusions, hysteria, possessions, obsessions and persecutions" are also manifested when members of the flock are condemned to waking up early and going to work? They do not need an exorcist; just anyone to explain to that satan of a spouse that he/she needs the evil entity of aggravation evicted from their daily lives.
To the surprise of none, Italians are a complicated people. Many of them, especially the older folks, are ardent believers in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, a large chunk of the population, especially in the south, believes in the infamous "malocchio" (evil eye).
If your world begins to crumble around you - a bad school grade, an injury, a sickness, extortion or embezzlement gone wrong - chances are a lovely person probably already had a "malocchio" cast upon you. Relax. No need to call in an exorcist with too much free time. Just call a "nonna" (grandmother), preferably one whose face could cook a seven layer lasagna just by staring at it.
She'll put drops of oil in water, chant something ridiculous and incomprehensible, look at her artistic design of the oil and water mixture and tell you if you had the "malocchio". Amazingly enough, 9 out of 10 times, you will have the "malocchio".
The nonna will rid you of the "malocchio" for free and bore you the rest of the time about all the other evil aspects in your lifeyou should be ashamed of that's causing misery to your family.