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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April 2004
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"Fire: Not Always the Problem Solving Solution"


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"Buona Pasqua!" Happy Easter and welcome to another inflammable issue of "Only In Italy!"

Anger is apparently the mood we are beginning to feel in Italy as we approach the Easter Holidays. I think it could be the results from the so-called "Mafia's Annual Report" that was issued today.

That's right! Even organized crime has to satisfy fickle shareholders.

According to the report, the value of illegal business rose to 20 billion Euros ($24 billion) last year. That brings the estimated profit totals of Mafia racket to 132 billion Euros ($158 billion) in just 10 years. That is enough money to completely wipe out Italy's public debt and have enough left over for a nice barbecue inviting every Italian citizen!

Pasquale, Tante grazie, for enlightening me on the coffee protocol in Italy. I will be visiting there (God willing) within two weeks. As I do enjoy my coffee, knowing I will have a hard time buying "Americano Cafe", I certainly am grateful for keeping me straight on when and how to drink coffee in Italy. Ciao. Jerry

Thanks Geraldo! Make sure you read today's article regarding another very important protocol of Italy: driving. There are a few facts you should know when dealing with "Italian Road Warriors". Follow our advice and (God willing) you'll escape without having to call your insurance company.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       

Ghostbusters Study Sicilian Blazes

Messina - April 2, 2004 - The gate at the entrance to this tiny Sicilian village has come off its hinges and swings in the wind as cats wander into homes abandoned after a series of mystery fires.

This is not your average ghost town.

Canneto di Caronia has been taken over by an endless flow of scientists, engineers, police and even a few self-styled "ghost busters" searching for clues to the recent spontaneous combustion of everything from microwave ovens to a car.

The fires started in mid-January and have claimed home appliances and fuse boxes in about half of the 20 odd houses. The blazes originally blamed on the devil himself have not hurt anyone.

After a brief respite last month, the flames have flared up again almost daily even though electricity to the village was cut off long ago.


The 39 inhabitants of the town halfway between Palermo and Messina were evacuated after the regional government declared a state of emergency in Canneto, which occupies a single street nestled between a railway line and the sea.

"I've seen an air conditioner burst into flames and burn down in 30 seconds. These are not normal events, but I think we're going to have to start looking for a different kind of help," said Antonio Pezzino, whose house was first hit.

From the start, Gabriele Amorth, one of the Catholic Church's top exorcists suspected the devil was at work.

"I've seen things like this before," he told reporters. "Demons occupy a house and appear in electrical goods," he said urging the parish priest to take action.

The local priest, Don Antonio Cipriani, decided together with residents to let scientists have a first go at the fires.

After a brief visit to Canneto di Caronia, the head of the Committee for the Control of Paranormal Claims has also ruled out demons or poltergeists, at least for the time being.

"The fact that the phenomenon occurs only when there are people present makes it hard to believe that it is a natural, or even supernatural phenomenon," said Massimo Polidoro.

"But we don't exclude further investigation if things aren't eventually explained," he added.


Two fire trucks and a police jeep sit at the entrance of Canneto on alert for the next blaze while a van with a large, rotating antennae on top measures the radio waves.

A host of three-legged instruments to monitor geomagnetic, meteorological, electromagnetic and electrostatic indicators sit in apartments and next to lemon trees in the gardens. Colored markings on the street indicate the presence of volcano experts.

Police ruled out a possible prankster or pyromaniac after they saw wires burst into flames.

The hypotheses now range from a build-up of electrical energy caused by grounding wires running off the railway to a rare "natural phenomenon" in which surges of electricity rise from the earth's core.

The fires have even consumed unplugged lamps and an entire apartment. Black scorch marks still scar the apartment walls.

Italy's big utility Enel cut off electricity to the town and hooked it up to a generator but that caught fire as well.

More recently cellular phones and cars have also been acting up, with lock and alarm systems being set off without any apparent reason.


The evacuated families of Canneto di Caronia who gather almost every night in the three-star hotel perched above their abandoned village are giving up hope.

"I just want to go home," said Rosi Cioffo, a shopkeeper and mother of two. "I don't know what's causing it and I don't care anymore -- even if it's the devil."

Her nine-year-old daughter, who is frightened every time a TV or bathroom fan switches on, may not agree.

Spinnato, the mayor, sounds just as desperate.

"Someone wrote to us saying the solution was to sacrifice a black goat and collect its blood. At some point, that's going to start looking like a good idea."

Hmmm...This is not our classic example of Sicilian witchcraft.

Even our frightening, widowed, hard-headed, conservative, black dressed, Sicilian grandmothers can't explain this. At first, they assumed one of them (grandmothers) must have given a potent "evil eye" to some ungrateful relative and it just got out of hand. But it was later dismissed.

We just hope they find a rational solution soon before the goat sacrifices begin.

Driver Caught Passing Red Light, Sets Traffic Camera on Fire

Como - March 25, 2004 - The auto driver had been photographed for passing a red light.

Convinced to have gotten away with passing a red light, the undisciplined driver had immediately realized to have been photographed by the traffic camera while committing the infringement.

Without losing willpower, the man decided to turn back and set fire to the camera.

"Bravo!" This is just another normal incident where the law tried to intervene with a typical "Italian Road Warrior" and the law lost!

Rules for driving in Italy!

1.) "Minchia! Why is this guy making love to my bumper?"

Italians drivers are much more comfortable driving much closer than is typical in America. "An inch is as good as a mile" is easily translated into "a centimeter is as good as a kilometer," and they think nothing of getting that close. If you know to expect this and do not panic, you will not get hurt.

2.) "Porca di quella troja! Why is she trying to ram me off the road?"

When driving in Italy, your responsibility is to those in front of you and those to your side. Italians rarely use their rear-view mirror. If there is an opening in front of you, it is your obligation to fill it quickly, or someone will fill it for you. You learned in driver's education that you should have one car length for every 10 mph. This is a cute and amusing myth in Italy.

3.) "Cazzo! They almost ran me over!"

To which the Italian might respond, "I didn't, did I?" When you, as a driver, encounter pedestrians, they have to walk as straight as possible and you have to avoid them. It's "the pigeon in the piazza" effect. Try walking or even running through a flock of pigeons. The pigeons are everywhere and they are close, but they never hit you unless you stop quickly.

4.) "Puttana! Didn't she see that stop sign/traffic light?"

Italians ignore stop signs and traffic lights. This is a slowly fading myth. As less and less traffic is allowed in the center of the cities, the Italians are obeying traffic signals more. It is clear why; streets are wider outside of the center, traffic is increased and only major intersections have lights. No one would zip through an intersection that has a lot of traffic going through it. However; bus and emergency lanes are considered open season for all.

5.) "Culo, for the last time! There are cars parked on the sidewalks!"

Well, if Italians can't find a parking spot on the street, where else are they supposed to park their cars?


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Automatic Teller Does Not Return Bank Card - Man Sets Bank on Fire

Reggio Emilia - April 3, 2004 - When the automatic teller had "eaten" the bank card that was being used to withdraw cash, the angered and furious cardholder, armed with flammable liquid and lighter, decided to set fire to the bank institute, a Cooper bank branch, causing estimated damages of 50,000 Euros ($60,000). The crime occurred at 4:30 a.m. at Montecchio Emilia in the province of Reggio Emilia.

The suspect identified, thanks to eye witnesses who had seen him circling the bank zone and through the institute's closed circuit security cameras, is a young man of the town. Luca Vappiani, 28, unemployed and without criminal record, was arrested and charged with destruction of private property.

The fire that could have spread to the nearby residences had died out due to lack of oxygen in the small closed area where the automatic teller was located. Night security men of the town had seen the smoke and gave the alarm.

The pyromaniac was arrested at his home and admitted to the crime. The police had confirmed that the reason why the automatic teller did not return the bank card was because the personal PIN number was incorrectly typed.

What ever happened to the good ol' days when we used to pick up a phone and call customer service?

This pattern of behavior is starting to worry Italians. Why are people walking around armed with flammable liquid?

If your teeth are not completely straight, do have to set your orthodontist's chair and dental equipment on fire?

If the linguine from your favorite Italian restaurant is not 'al dente', do you have to set the table on fire?

If the radio doesn't play your favorite Pavarotti song, do you have to go down and set the radio station on fire?


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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