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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May 2004
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"Do the Gladiator Walk & Talk"  


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"Ciao Bambini!" Welcome to the only newsletter that could have saved the entire population of Pompeii from Mt. Vesuvius, "Only In Italy!"

Here's an Italian gourmet tip of the day brought to you by Chef Pasquale:

Apparently we've shocked some readers with our news discovery on the Italian olive oil market of the United States. We were very surprised by the confusion this article has caused. We would never want to offend our wonderful readers but how can it be so difficult to buy real olive oil?

Here's a perfect example of a distressed & confused consumer of olive oil:

Hi Pasquale, now that we know whom to distrust, are you free to tell us which olive oil companies are the best? Even in my return e-mail? I am totally confused by all the labels. One brand I often buy has different colored caps indicating their usages. I have yet to find a great dipping oil off the grocery shelf.

Then I hear that oil is virtually sterile as far as health benefits go... :( What about it! Rita

Thanks for your letter, Rita, and have no fear for we were put on this Italian planet to help thee.

FACT: Over 99% of the kitchens in Italy are stocked with real extra virgin olive oil for everything from dipping bread to salads to main courses. And we have known for centuries that it is plays an essential part of our diet. It's either extra virgin olive oil or it isn't. That's it!

We do not have olive oil with stupid colored caps to advise us which day of the week a certain oil should be used or which oil your horoscope suggests would go well with your "Pasta and Fagioli". It doesn't really matter what brand olive oil you buy. All you have to remember is that it has to be extra virgin olive oil which can be found in good supermarkets and gourmet shops. Yes, of course, it costs just a little more than regular oil but at least you'll be confident that it's real olive oil and you won't insult your fickle and back-stabbing Italian dinner guests.

TIP: To make sure you are buying true Italian extra virgin olive oil, read the fine print on the back of the bottle. True olive oil comes directly from Italy and it is NOT mixed with olive oils from Spain, Turkey, Greece, etc.

If you bought any olive oil with the words "10W-40" stamped on the back, you could be in trouble!

Have no fear if you already have fake olive oil ruining your dishes and stinking up the kitchen. It's not a total loss. Just put the unused olive oil in your tool shed or garage where it can be put to good use.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Rome's Anniversary Marked by 'Gladiators'

Rome - April 19, 2004 - Hundreds of fans of ancient Rome dressed up as gladiators and marched by the ruins of the forums Sunday (April 18) to mark the birthday of the city, which legend says was founded on April 21 2,757 years ago.

The actual anniversary is Wednesday, but the "gladiators," armed with spears and sporting helmets, turned out to stroll down Via dei Fori Imperiali, which is closed to traffic on Sundays.

The boulevard leads to the Colosseum, Rome's monument which hosted bloody gladiatorial combat to the thrill of the masses in the city's ancient days of glory.

The enthusiasts came from as far away as the United States, Hungary, France and Germany.

Legend has it that Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, on April 21, 753 B.C.

"I'm a retired military from the United States Air Force and this is my hobby," said Dan Hight, from Utah and dressed up as Vespasian, the emperor who began construction of the Colosseum during his rule from 69-79 A.D.

Others dressed up as Roman senators and legionaries. Leading the marchers was a young woman dressed a vestal virgin, a select group of young girls whose duties included tending the sacred fire.

"Porca Puttana!" It's amazing the amount of free time that exists on the Italian planet!

It's also comforting to know that after 2,757 years, foreigners of questionable sanity are still walking down the streets of Rome armed with spears and wearing helmets and sandals.

And you would think that a retired US Air Force service man would spend his free time eating soft yogurt and strolling the malls in Florida rather than flying over to Italy to imitate a Roman emperor.

He should be thrown to the lions...

Rome Attracts Latin Lovers and Gladiator Fighting

When in Rome, do as the Romans do... or at least did. Except for the post-supper vomiting bit.

Rome - May 20, 2004 - Tourists have long been drawn to the Colosseum and ruins of magnificent Roman temples in the heart of the Italian capital, but starting this week they can immerse themselves in ancient history and even pick up beginners' Latin.

The regional government along with two historical societies is offering free Latin classes to tourists in a bid to lure even more of the sword-and-sandals loving crowd to Rome.

"Given all the excitement over the Roman Empire lately, we thought it was crazy not to do something here in the heart of it all," said Alessandro Pediconi, one of the organizers.

They say interest for everything ancient skyrocketed after the success of Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator and is expected to just keep growing with films such as Troy, starring Brad Pitt, which opened in the US recently.

The first courses are being offered for English and French speaking tourists using a comic book starring Caesar and featuring cursory history and language lessons.

But the fun won't stop with Latin.

For those itching to really live the Roman experience, organizers plan to team up this summer with the Scuola Gladiatori Roma, or gladiator school, to offer a package with Latin classes and a crash course in gladiator fighting.

After donning tunics and helmets, tourists would be treated to a typical Roman feast.

"Tourists are always looking for something 'typical' of a region well for ancient Rome it doesn't get much more typical than gladiator fighting and Latin," said Pediconi.

Still, he said the ancient post-supper vomiting ritual would be dropped.

"Hail Caesar!" Gladiator schools!

All of us here at the news office have to give credit to the Romans of today who really know how to milk a movie and unconscious tourists. However, they shouldn't stop with the schools. Why don't they just stop modern civilization all together and turn back time completely?

- We need chariots. Let's have stallions pull our cars!
- No more dry cleaners! Throw away the entire wardrobe and wear togas and sandals.
- Want to know the time? Look at the sun!
- We're better off talking in Latin because no one understands the incomprehensible street lingo the kids speak on the streets today.
- Empty the medicine cabinet. We'll heal ourselves with potions, tonics and leaves.
- Need a shower? Just go down to the local public bath house.

We agree that the post-supper vomiting ritual should not be taught. After all, you could offend Rome and risk a public execution at your favorite piazza.


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Clashes Over Shocking Milan Art Work

Milan - May 18, 2004 - The shock installation swung from its tree for less than two days. Three plastic "children" had been hanging from the ancient oak in Piazza XXIV Maggio, Milan's oldest tree, and only a stone's throw from the Navigli canals. This surrealist art work was intended to catch the attention of passing drivers and pedestrians like a blow to the stomach.

But it was such a powerful blow that yesterday evening, one local resident decided to cut the three small "victims" down. He took a ladder and climbed up the tree then, hanging upside down with his legs wrapped round a branch, cut through two of the ropes with a hacksaw. Finally, clutching the third doll in exhaustion, he started to shout, "Help me! I can't hold on any longer". The man fell to the ground, striking his head against the railings.

The installation that sparked off two days of arguments, on the streets and in Milan town hall, is by Maurizio Cattelan, dubbed "Andy Warhol's heir" and the most highly regarded living Italian artist. The incident will serve to enhance his reputation as a provocateur.

Cattelan's work was commissioned and financed by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi. It took Milan back to the days of the avant-garde, when extreme forms of figurative art could shake the city to the core. And that is precisely what happened. Under the oak in Piazza XXVI Maggio, office workers, shoppers and students discussed philosophy, art and aesthetics. There were also more instinctive reactions ("Give me a stick and I'll get them down!" one man was repeating insistently yesterday afternoon). However, some residents, heedless of the work's artistic significance, were demanding that the three hanging children should be taken down.

Franco Di Benedetto, 44, lives a few meters from the imposing oak. For two days, he sat at his window, brooding over the three dolls that to him seemed so lifelike. "Those kids have got to be taken down. I'm going to do it," he warned several times. At 9.00 pm, he decided to take the matter into his own hands. "The man went over to the tree," says the Ambrosiana Vigilanza security guard hired to keep an eye on the installation, "and started to shout. I convinced him to leave, but he came back. At about 9.40, he got his ladder and there was nothing I could do to stop him. He climbed the tree".

Di Benedetto appeared to be a little confused. As paramedics were putting him onto the ambulance stretcher, he was still strong enough to whisper, "The children... the children". He was taken to the Fatebenefratelli hospital with multiple fractures.

"This is sheer cultural vandalism. People who do this sort of thing should be arrested. It's like when they took a hammer to Michelangelo's Pietà," commented critic and former junior minister for the arts, Vittorio Sgarbi, who arrived in the square soon after the incident. He was intending to take a look at the work and instead found a crowd gathered round the tree.

The third doll was also removed, this time by fire-fighters who intervened with municipal police and carabinieri. It was taken away with the other two figures. "The only person who comes out of this ahead is Cattelan," noted Mr. Sgarbi ironically.

The evening's final gesture came at the end of a stormy debate within the ruling majority group on the municipal council. "If the council won't take them down," said Matteo Salvini, head of the Milan council's Northern League group, "the Northern League will do it, armed with ladders and pruning shears". Mayor Gabriele Albertini replied, "This is artistic expression. You can admire it or criticize it, but don't forget that the free expression of thought is the keystone of our civilization".

"Ma Vaffanculo!" This is what we consider Italian art today because there is no shame in Italian society.

Michelangelo created the "Pieta" sculpture when he was just 23 years old and Bernini masterminded the breathtaking designs at St. Peter's and all around Rome when he was in his late 30's. This Maurizio Cattelan hangs three plastic children from a tree in Milan and they consider him "Andy Warhol's heir".

Does Andy know about this? Why doesn't someone dig him up and show him what his so-called heir is up to?

"Porca Puttana!" This isn't cultural art! It's cultural stupidity! A drive-up clown at 'McDonald's' has more artistic expression and compassion than Cattelan's work. Franco Di Benedetto's nose dive into that sidewalk had more avant-garde artistic form.


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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