"A little truth will help the lie go down." (Proverb)
Here's a little truth. When an Italian so-called friend asks you many questions, be careful. It may seem she's trying to help, but she's really looking for your weaknesses. "Oh, si-si..."
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Calabria - March 31, 2012 - Italian police have arrested a 56-year-old woman nicknamed "The Blonde" on suspicion of ordering three mafia killings.
One of the deaths was the grisly chainsaw hacking death of a rival mobster, police said.
"She was a real regent of the clan, including taking decisions on executions to be carried out," said Mario Parente, deputy head of the anti-mafia police, adding that a total of 58 people had been nabbed in "Operation Spider Web".
According to investigators, Nella Serpa rose through the ranks following the mob war killing of her brother Piero and has been the 'de facto' head of the Serpa clan since 2003, organizing the gang's extortion racket and ordering hits.
The police said she had "wide decision-making powers" in her clan and was involved in the killing of gangster Luciano Martello in 2003, with two mafia turncoats saying she was part of the team that actually shot him.
She is also alleged to be responsible for the death of another mobster, Rolando Siciliano, shot in 2004 and then hacked to pieces with a chainsaw.
Investigators said that a key indication of her importance in the crime organization was the fact that a rival clan had ordered a hit on her.
She also allegedly built up ties with other clans in the powerful 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate as well as with the Naples-based Camorra.
The 'Ndrangheta, whose name comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty, is one of the most powerful and secretive mafia groups in the world. Because of its tight-knit family structure it has been notoriously difficult to penetrate.
The group, based in the Calabria region in southern Italy, has been hit by a series of recent investigations and a trial earlier this month convicted 93 of its members, including the 81-year-old reputed boss of the whole organization.
Its annual turnover is estimated in the billions of euros.
"Porca Eva", what a captivating woman. Her family makes the Corleone crime family look like the Waltons.
Although roles have changed for women in Italy, the mother remains the dominant figure in the Italian home. She typically runs every aspect of domestic life, and you will see her helping her family in ways you consider excessive or unnecessary. Of course, Signora Serpa is no exception.
It may have seemed excessive to have had Rolando hacked to pieces after being shot or to have personally participated in the shooting of Luciano, but why go against an Italian mother's impeccable intuition?
Once a year, your mother and harassing aunts get together for that tomato sauce bottling party. Now, if the sauce has been slow cooking the entire day and YOU insist it has to be ready, your mother will say, "Just 10 more minutes". That's her intuition telling YOU to step away from the gigantic boiling pot...and mind your own business.
But YOU don't.
"Another 10 minutes?! 'Fanculo, what planet am I on?! This is insanity!"
The sauce is bottled. And when the first bottle is cracked open a couple of months later, your family discovers the sauce is not so great. Congratulations. YOU ruined every dish that calls for tomato sauce for an entire year. The 10 minutes didn't seem excessive or unnecessary, did it?
Here's some more advice for any of you who have a habit of challenging these godforsaken intuitions:
- Don't touch the saved junk in the spare bedroom.
Naples - April 01, 2012 - Antonio Cardillo, a 34-year old alleged crime boss affiliated with the Lo Russo clan of the Camorra in Naples, was arrested by Carabinieri police in a raid Saturday after they discovered a booby trap reminiscent of a classic spy novel.
Cardillo had been at large for 18 months but had apparently been living at home with his family in Marano di Napoli on the outskirts of the city.
The extravagant home called Villa Excelsia was surrounded by a large veranda and lush garden and was protected by high walls and an elaborate security system.
Acting on warrants sought by anti-mafia prosecutors, police raided the house early Saturday morning and found Cardillo's wife and two children asleep.
When police searched the master bedroom, where Cardillo's wife has been sleeping, they saw signs that the large bed had been used on both sides.
As they continued their search of the house they found a tiny remote control device that did not appear to belong to a television, computer or any other appliance.
But when they entered the walk-in wardrobe beside the master bedroom and activated the remote control, a full-length mirror that seemed to be attached to the wall moved aside.
The mirror was operated by a series of large hydraulic pistons and tubes activated by the remote control device and Cardillo was found sitting on a small red chair in the small room behind it.
Cardillo's bunker is the latest in a number of bizarre and often elaborate hideouts used by mafia bosses to evade police.
In August 2009 police arrested mafia boss Giuseppe Bastone who was found hiding in an underground bunker equipped with a skateboard he planned to use through a 200 yard secret tunnel to escape capture.
Bastone hid for a year in a 10ft by 10ft space beneath a house that was accessible through a hidden trapdoor.
Giuseppe Setola, a hit man for the Naples Camorra, evaded arrest during a police raid on his home north of Naples in January 2009 when he fled down a tunnel linked to sewers beneath his hideout.
He was captured two days later while seeking treatment for a wrist injury and is now serving a life sentence for ordering or carrying out up to 18 murders.
Naples is an odd place. I think we've mentioned this to you before. The land is filled with pizzas, magic homes, raging scooters, nursery-rhyme characters, and red hot mind-altering peppers. Why, one would almost wonder whether this land makes any sense at all?
But for all its oddities, Naples wonderland is home to an actual tear-filled bay of life lessons and advice that we can all learn from. So take another moment to dive into the world of Naples. And be careful what you eat there.
1) Be adaptable.
You poor tourist. One minute you're walking down an innocent alleyway, and the next you're clutching your travel bag with might, dodging traffic and avoiding eye contact with street vendors with psychic powers. Wonderland? "Mamma mia", this place is more like the Twilight Zone with bad Napolitano music.
Sometimes it can feel like you're the only sane person in a world gone loony. Acknowledge the insanity of it all, but push onward anyway. And even if some of your struggles never make sense, at least they'll make for a good story for your pompous-ass Italian friends.
2) Always smile.
You will first meet a friendly neighborhood Napolitano down the street from your hotel and discover the lively character can vanish and reappear at will sometimes leaving his grin and cheap after-shave fragrance behind (like Chesire Cat).
The Napolitano greets every challenge with self-control and a bewildered smile, and he becomes the only individual in Naples whom you could call a "friend."
It takes two to...
Gianfranco Tweedledum and Giancarlo Tweedledee are as alike as two Napolitano brothers can be. They dress alike, talk incoherently alike, even reason alike. But that doesn't stop the pair of them going to war against each other over a broken mobile phone...or a cute Napolitana in tight pants who suffers from delusions of adequacy.
Granted, we all have personal battles we need to fight at times. But there's something to be said for witnessing or assisting them. Sometimes it's better to head back to the hotel and see what there is to eat in the mini-bar than risk getting whisked away by irritable relatives.
Rome - April 02, 2012 - A blackout last week at the Rome hospital San Filippo Neri caused 94 embryos, 130 eggs and five sperm samples to be lost due to a refrigeration failure in the facility's fertility clinic.
Investigators examining the incident Monday said that criminal charges, including neglect, incompetence, as well as involuntary manslaughter in the case of the destroyed embryos, are being discussed.
Temperatures in the refrigeration unit shot up from -196 degrees centigrade to +20 degrees on the morning of March 27, said investigators.
On a serious note, this is such a shame because Italy is not the kindest place in Europe for people who need help having a child.
For example, we forbid single women and lesbian couples, whether they are attractive or not, from using artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to conceive. And Italy also bans all egg and sperm donations for IVF.
Italians also have a strong historic tie to that Vatican, which forbids IVF, primarily because the procedure may involve the destruction of embryos. And, Holy Maria, we've been trying to cut that umbilical cord for decades but to no avail.
We're not done...
They are also against artificial insemination because it believes procreation should only be by a husband and wife through the natural act of sex. It's at this point that everything flies out the window.
- Should the natural act of sex between husband and wife include pointing at each other and laughing?
And then there's the dreadful low sperm count...which has to be indirectly caused by lack of sex, ugly Italian women and cold water. Our Uncle Alfredo went to a fertility clinic for a consultation and to deposit samples after he noticed he was making less of a mess during that natural act. Just to be on the safe side.