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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"For Sale: Leaning Tower of Pisa"

(04/22/04)

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"That's Italiano!" Welcome to another loving issue of "Only In Italy!"

I'm back from my visit to your homeland. Everything went fine, except for the rain in Rome. Thanks for all your information. My grandson did not get to a soccer game, thank God.

Everything was as you predicted, except for 'Alitalia' (airline), it was WORSE than you said. They are the rudest, most incompetent people in any industry. I would really like to complain to somebody, but don't know who. Could you recommend a name or agency? Thanks again, sorry I didn't get to Sicilia to see you. Maybe next trip. Ciao! Geraldo

Thanks for the letter, Geraldo. We're happy to hear that your grandson didn't get the chance to see an Italian soccer game. However; the United Nations promised Italy that they'll send in peace-keeping forces to watch over the games next season so that they'll be safer to enjoy.

I can't really help you with the problems you experienced with our government-run airline, 'Alitalia', because the problem is...it's government run! I can give you the number of our Prime Minister who you can call but we're sure he's too busy trying to score with Russian women.

Please come visit us in Sicily on your next trip. We'll prepare the 'cannoli' and take you to a couple of 'bocce' tournaments.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Vatican's Exorcist Battles It Out With Demons Every Day

Rome - May 2, 2004 - In a small room, well away from the street so that no one hears the screams, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth does battle with Satan. He is a busy man.

As the Vatican's top exorcist, Amorth performs the mysterious, ancient ritual dozens of times a week. A confused world engulfed in tragedy and chaos is turning increasingly to black magic, the occult and fortune-telling, he said, proof that the devil and his handmaidens are having a field day.

"These customs open the door to evil spirits and to demonic possessions," Amorth said. "Exorcism is God's true miracle."

The practice of exorcism, driving demons and evil spirits from people or places, has been experiencing a renaissance of late, from Europe to the Americas to Africa. In part, the rite owes its popularity to the need of people to believe that the devil is real, philosophers say, and that it is possible to get rid of him.

In Italy, the number of exorcists has increased more than tenfold in the past decade to about 300 nationwide; this year, one of the country's largest archdioceses established a special task force to handle the growing demand for devil detox.

Amorth is arguably the world's most famous practitioner of exorcism and certainly its greatest promoter. He co-founded the International Association of Exorcists, an organization of priests that meets in secrecy every two years, and he remains its president emeritus. Author of many books on the subject, he has had a hand in recruiting, training or inspiring most of today's exorcists.

Amorth said his calendar is always full.

"I have three this afternoon," he said recently.

With little prompting, he whipped out his equipment, sheathed in a weathered leather bag that is always at his side: a silver and wooden crucifix, an aspergillum for sprinkling holy water, and a container of baptismal oil. He acted out simple steps from the ritual, wrapping his purple priest's stole around the shoulders of a visitor and making the sign of the cross on her forehead. (All clear, he pronounced.)

In an exorcism, that opening is followed by prayers, anointment with the holy water and oil, and then a demand to the devil that he state his name and be gone. Anything can happen: If the person is possessed, and that's a rarity, he or she will often turn violent and fight the intervention, Amorth said.

"I've never been afraid of the devil," Amorth said. "In fact, I can say he is often scared of me."

Amorth, who turns 80 today, is a serious but not frightening figure. He has intense, piercing eyes encircled by dark rings, yet his features also relax easily into a smile and chuckle. Oval-faced, balding and dressed in a long black cloak, he's more Uncle Fester than Max von Sydow.

The devil is a stubborn foe, however, and no patient (as the possessed are called) is cured in a single exorcism, Amorth said. In fact, the "liberation" can take years but Amorth always wins, he insisted.

A case in point is Lucia, a 44-year-old mother of two. She had been undergoing exorcisms for 13 years, until her priest finally took her to Amorth.

Her symptoms were typical; the possessed experience a visceral, utter repulsion of all things holy. Each time the priest initiated the ritual, she would enter a trance, rant in languages she didn't know and show violent, superhuman strength. It was more than they could do to hold her down, her husband, Renzo, recalled. At one point, she vomited whole needles, her priest said, a symbol of diabolical torment.

"I know people say we are crazy," Renzo said. "You can't believe this stuff until you see it."

Amorth acknowledged that quite a few people -- including senior prelates in his church -- think all of this is more than a little nutty. It doesn't help, perhaps, that Amorth sees the devil in many places: A couple of years ago he fought to ban publication of the Harry Potter books because, he said, they teach sorcery to children.

"I know there are a lot of skeptics," he said. "The presence of the devil is often ignored."

The practice of exorcism in Christianity can be traced to at least the 2nd century. It enjoyed certain popularity through the ages but by the 18th century had fallen out of favor and was largely abandoned by the church, thanks in part to the Enlightenment, rationalism and advances in science.

The spirit of modernization possessed the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, and church leaders frowned upon clearly medieval and, in the view of many, backward rites such as exorcism. In drafting the Second Council guidelines, emphasis was placed on good, hope and compassion, and discussion of evil and demons was minimized.

Then the pendulum began to swing the other way.

Exorcisms made a comeback, spurred in part by the rise of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement, a Pentecostal faction that believes in healing and prophecy, and by the favors of the current pope, who has frequently referred to Satan as a dangerous force in the world. Even the success of "The Exorcist," the 1973 horror classic starring a foreboding Von Sydow, which was re-released in 2000, helped stir interest. (Amorth loves the movie.)

Pope John Paul II is reported to have performed at least three exorcisms, most recently in 2000 when a 19-year-old woman burst into shouts, spewed vulgarities and writhed violently during a papal Mass at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. He prayed over the woman for half an hour but failed to rid her of the demon, said Amorth, who also examined her.

For the first time since 1614, the Vatican in 1999 revised the rite of exorcism. Most prayers and exhortations were left largely unchanged, but the document included a new warning against confusing psychiatric illness with possession and urged priests to use "maximum circumspection and prudence" in deciding to exorcise. An exorcist must be so appointed by his bishop.

The growing popularity of these rituals, as well as of black magic and witchcraft, comes from the need of many people to believe that Satan is real, said University of Florence philosopher Sergio Moravia. It helps explain unspeakable tragedy and helps a suffering mankind cope.

But belief in the power of the devil to possess people, and of priests to free them, is too often a crutch that masks serious psychological and physiological disease, Moravia said.

"I don't think it's crazy. It's worse," he said. "An exorcism is the residue of a medieval practice completely devoid of any foundation of reason. It's a scam. You promise something to someone who is very sick and at best you offer a temporary cure."

Hmmm...It is a fact that the Vatican performs exorcisms but are they really credible? Do any of our readers believe in being possessed? Maybe the Vatican could help liberate our bodies of evil possessions.

Do you suffer any of these typical symptoms of being possessed?

- Demonic possessions: your teenage kids take permanent possession of your car one hour after they obtain their driver's license.

- If the person is possessed he/she will often turn violent and fight the intervention: any possessed attorney that overcharges you any amount.

- Enter a trance: when you listen to the incoherent and moronic ramblings of your wife's friends.

- Rant in languages you didn't know: when your boss tells you to work overtime because he expects you to do it for free.

- Show violent & superhuman strength: when the property value of your 30-year mortgaged home loses 68% in 48 hours due to the eleven wonderful foreigners that moved in next door.

If you suffer any of these symptoms, maybe you should set up an appointment with Rev. Gabriele Amorth at the Vatican.


Pollock Art Vandal Winds Up in Rome Mental Hospital

Rome - April 22, 2004 - One of Italy's most persistent art vandals was transferred from a jail cell to a psychiatric hospital Wednesday, a day after he scribbled on a Jackson Pollock painting. 

Piero Cannata attacked Pollock's 1947 "Watery Paths'' at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art with a gray marker. Museum officials said the damage was minor. At a hearing Wednesday, Cannata said he planned to vandalize a painting by Italian abstract artist Piero Manzoni. 

"I didn't find one of his, but I found an equally ugly one and damaged it instead,'' he said. 

Cannata, 52, is a well known art vandal. In 1991, he broke off a toe on the left foot of Michelangelo's famed statue of David in Florence. Two years later, he used a marker to deface a fresco by Renaissance master Filippo Lippi in Prato's cathedral. He spent time in mental hospitals after both incidents. "Watery Paths" is a classic example of Pollock's famed "action painting'' technique.

Cannata, who said he had given up defacing art for studying grammar and reproductive rights' laws, was hospitalized following his other exploits and subsequently released. 

Hmmm...Can you believe he's not in prison?

The best part of the article is he claims to have given up defacing art for studying grammar and reproductive rights' laws. That's like one that gives up armed robbery to go study dry cleaning and heart surgery.

Why did he have to break the toe of Michelangelo's David? At any time, did 'David' correct his poor use of grammar.

However; they do have a lot in common. Their craniums are made of marble.

 

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Total Disgust and Outcry as the Italian Government Starts to Sell Off its Heritage

Rome - May 1, 2004 - Italy's great asset-strip has begun. Desperate for revenue, Silvio Berlusconi's government has already made billions of euros out of amnesties to illegal builders and tax evaders. Now it plans to sell off the family silver, starting today.

The Italian state, says the Minister of Culture, Giuliano Urbani, owns far too much: thousands and thousands of buildings and plots of land, some of immense value, such as the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain, others of no real value. Many were properties bought as part of the practice of lottizzazione, by which the state forked out taxpayers' money to its friends and favorites for their often semi-useless buildings.

"First in the Fascist period and then in the [post-war] republic...the public sphere became greatly over-extended," the minister said. "We are not talking about selling the Colosseum, but for the first time we will establish what can be sold and what cannot."

What makes the sale possible is an elaborate regulatory code for cultural assets that comes into force today, laying down in detail how Italy's patrimony must be treated. Now state-owned buildings and land deemed of no real value can be listed for sale. If the cultural curators responsible for them do not object within 120 days, they can be sold.

Mr. Urbani said: "We have a demesne which is the product of a form of socialism that functioned like royalty. We don't have the money to conserve the works of art: we possess crumbling barracks, tumbledown historical palaces, uncultivated land, property of no interest. All this must go."

As a result, some extraordinary properties are going to come on the market. It may not be immediately obvious what one can do with a well-preserved 2,000-year-old nymphaeum (shrine of the nymphs) in central Rome or the Auditorium of Mecenate, which was once the property of the Emperor Tiberius. But these, along with a former convent and an ex-monastery, various disused barracks and some thundering 19th-century public buildings, are among the first 21 assets to be put on the list.

Heritage and environmental organizations have pounced angrily on the ministry's initiative. A group of professors and curators published an open letter, warning of "the grave danger to which our cultural patrimony is exposed".

Few believe that invaluable masterpieces such as Bernini's Trevi Fountain - famously "sold" to a tourist by the comic actor Toto - will ever end up on the block. But criticism has been focused on the "silent assent" mechanism.

Dr Marco Magnifico, director general of Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano, a conservation society, said: "The great problem with the code is that it does not take into account the desperate situation of the Italian curators, for whom it supposes an enormous role which it will be impossible for them to fulfill." The offices of the curators, according to Dr Magnifico, are chronically short both of money and qualified staff the people on whose informed decisions the success of the initiative depends.

"It's like inviting 1,000 people to lunch but there are only 20 people in the kitchen. The table settings may look fantastic but there's no one in the kitchen so there will be nothing to eat."

The eminent art historian and curator Arturo Carlo Quintavalle fears the new code will bring about the destruction of a century of conservation work. "Four generations of curators have given their lives protecting objects and environments," he commented. "Now we are to assist in the dissolution of that whole cultural system."

"Gesu Cristo!" See what Italy is being reduced to? These Italian politicians remind us of Nero who played the fiddle while Rome burned.

With corruption that has run rampant over many years like a virus, the Italian government has no choice but to sell off its property to recuperate funds that have been stolen or badly managed.

Imagine Bill Gates purchasing the "Piazza di Spagna". I wonder if he would put his stupid logo on the steps?

Or how about a Polish company buying the leaning tower of Pisa? It would be fun to watch them trying to straighten it, wouldn't it?

Let's just hope Italian legislature, senators and their assistants will stop humping each other long enough to listen to the sane & intelligent advice of art historians who are against these acts of stupidity.

 

Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
 
 
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