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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"Business, Italian Style and Pizza with Hot Dogs!"

(05/11/04)

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"Buona sera!" Welcome to the only newsletter that would outlaw Italian soccer and 'bocce', "Only In Italy!"

Let's discuss some serious pizza.

It appears that our article on real authentic pizza has brought in some mixed feedback. For starters, we would like to confirm that an "Association of Real Neapolitan Pizza" does actually exist. Yes, of course we realize that people from Naples are particular and can be trusted as far as a pizza can be flung in the air but we have to painfully admit that they know their pizza.

Dear Only In Italy,

I didn't see any (article) mention of pepperoni, Italian sausage, etc. Do Italians, in Italy, eat meatless pizza? Here in the states we eat meat. Richard

Thanks for the letter, Richard!

Believe it or not, most Italians in Italy will not eat pizza with meat mainly because they are very health conscious and do not trust the origin of the meats used (chopped beef, salami, sausage, horse, etc.).

However, we will occasionally order a pizza with:

-mushrooms
-prosciutto (ham)
-prosciutto crudo (raw ham)
-eggs
-olives
-french fries
-onions
-eggplants
-anchovies
-4 cheeses

and sliced baby wurstel (small hot dogs).

That's right! We don't trust a pizza topped with common meats but we'll certainly eat a pizza topped with hot dogs and french fries!

"Buon Appetito!"

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       

 

For Economic Distress, Do As The Italians Do

Rome - May 24, 2004 - When Italy's near-bankrupt national airline announced an emergency restructuring plan in early May that would have cut the workforce by 14 percent, Alitalia's employees knew exactly what to do.

Sciopero! Strike!

Thousands of stranded passengers and $50 million in further losses later, a deal was reached. In exchange for a pledge to keep working, the unions won the ouster of the chief executive officer and a promise not to lay anyone off until after the June elections.

In the meantime, state-owned Alitalia, the only major international carrier that did not cut staff after the 9/11 attacks, continues to lose $60,000 an hour.

Welcome to capitalism, Italian-style. The world's eighth-largest economy has long been "notorious," as one recent analysis put it, "for its sclerotic labor markets, lack of respect for the rule of law and stifling bureaucracy." Not to mention the militancy of its trade unions and the unwillingness of politicians to stand up to them.

What's new is a growing body of evidence that Italy's bad habits are having a measurably corrosive effect on the country's economic standing. The saga of Alitalia is just one example of how Italy which joined the club of rich nations after a rapid post-World War II industrialization is still hamstrung by a culture that seems not quite willing to accept the unpleasant parts of free-market capitalism.

"The idea of a market economy that functions on its own without strict government controls is foreign to Italy," said Alan Epstein, a Philadelphia-born Roman who is author of As the Romans Do, an admiring take on Italian culture. "Rewarding personal initiative is not really the way in which Italians look at life. They believe you take care of as many people at a lower level as possible."

Italians also seem to be struggling with technology and globalization. Only about 27 percent of them use the Internet, compared with 59 percent in Britain, 62 percent in Korea, and 69 percent in North America, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. And while its birthrate is among the world's lowest, Italy has severely restricted immigration, blocking a wellspring of innovation.

There is a price for those attitudes, and economists say it can be measured in Italy's high unemployment, high taxes, low growth, high inflation, worrisome brain drain, and decaying infrastructure. Those trends could worsen as Italy is forced to compete with low-tax, low-wage Eastern European countries that recently joined the European Union.

What's more, because of its aging population and stratospheric public debt, Italy, like most of Europe, will not be able to afford its current welfare and pension system much longer, analysts insist. It will face the painful choice of either raising taxes or slashing benefits, they say.

Many of the 57.4 million Italians know all this, yet most have been unwilling to stomach major changes that might sacrifice short-term comfort for long-term gain. Italy reformed its state-dominated economy somewhat in the 1990s to qualify for the European single currency, but conversion to the Euro has brought painful price hikes that may have soured Italians on further sacrifices.

"Italians are worried, but they don't seem to be ready to do anything about it," said Stéphane Garelli, a Swiss economist who oversees the annual World Competitiveness Yearbook. Italy ranked 51st out of 60 industrialized or industrializing countries this year, a drop from 31st in 2000. The country is now well behind such new EU members as Hungary and Poland.

"Italians prefer to fight to preserve what they have, rather than to take the risk of something new," he said. "I have the feeling that Italy is going to reach a situation where, suddenly, people are going to realize they are going full speed into a wall. The problem is, they may not realize it until they hit it."

Garelli's survey measures such factors as tax burden, regulation, labor rules, government efficiency, and quality of infrastructure. Anyone who spends time in Italy can see why the country is falling behind on those measures, why entrepreneurialism is stifled, and why foreign companies swallow hard before attempting to enter the market.

All it takes is a trip to the post office, where people wait in line to pay bills in cash because utilities do not accept checks. Or a ride on Rome's dingy, overcrowded two-line subway system, which makes London's oft-criticized Underground look like the model of efficiency and comfort.

Among Italy's major problems is one of the world's lowest workforce participation rates, 59.6 percent, compared with an EU rate of 69 percent. This high level of what some experts call "disguised unemployment" is fueled by a lack of women in the workforce and a pension system that allows workers to retire in their 50s with annual payments of nearly their entire salaries.

Another issue is labor rules. It is risky to fire anyone, because they can bring lengthy and expensive court proceedings to get their jobs back. Berlusconi liberalized those rules a bit in what may be his most far-reaching reform effort, but experts say Italians remain steeped in a "job for life" ethos.

Unions claim to represent 60 percent of the workforce, and Italy is one of the few places in the world where workers still march in the streets flying the red Communist flag with hammer and sickle.

But it's not just labor. Italy's public sector is among the world's most bloated, while its private economy is dominated by small and medium-size businesses that have used their political clout to erect high barriers to competition.

The retail sector is an example of that, according to a recent report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Italy is a country of small shops because protectionist rules have kept out big chains. That sounds quaint, but Italian retailers have the lowest employee productivity and highest markups in Europe, the report noted.

At least retailers have had to live by basic economic rules. Not necessarily true of state-controlled monopolies like Alitalia, which posted losses in 10 of the last 11 years. (Alitalia is a publicly traded company, but the government owns 60 percent of the shares, the value of which have dropped by 90 percent from their 1998 high.)

The airline's pilots fly hundreds of hours per year less than competitors, analysts say, and many of its 22,000 employees are redundant. Yet when it comes to delays and lost luggage, Alitalia ranked at or near the worst of 27 airlines in the most recent consumer survey by the Brussels-based Association of European Airlines.

The post-9/11 travel downturn, coupled with competition by low-fare competitors, have decimated Alitalia's revenues. Analysts say that even if job cuts are eventually forthcoming, Alitalia is headed for bankruptcy unless the government bails it out. But a bailout would be tricky because EU rules forbid direct aid to individual companies.

"Alitalia has been run for the benefit of unions and politicians," Jarach said, and in that respect, the company is symbolic of much of the economy.

One Alitalia pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, concurred.

"Lufthansa has three times more planes than us, and the same amount of staff," he said. "In Italy, everybody is good at employing people, but no one wants to fire people and be unpopular."

Let us enter the "Wonderful World of Italy Business":

One could probably think that shopping is very easy. But it isn't.

It is always advisable to know how much change you should get when you pay for something, otherwise you will probably be left short-changed.

Italians also like to have long lunch breaks, typically up to two hours. It is important to take the receipt with you when you leave the restaurant, otherwise you can legally be charged for your meal again.

Italy is a country of polarities. The more industrialized north part is rich, compared to the poorer south parts of Italy. Italian government has for a long time tried to attract industrial enterprises to southern part of Italy trough tax and other incentives and is still doing so with little success. This area is known as the Mezzogiorno which comprises the provinces south of Rome; Sicily, Sardinia and certain small islands. Tax concessions are limited to the southern regions and consist of a 100 percent tax haven from corporation income tax for a period of ten years after incorporation.

The Italians' English skills are not very good. They often add something that sounds like "No". In Italian "No" means "Yes". The "No" in the English speech can then be misunderstood. Secondly, Italians like to talk a lot, and that means that business meetings tend to be long. They also like disputing, so they might disagree with you just to have a chance to argue.


Italy School Stops Cheaters by Blocking Cell Phone Signals

Rome - June 18, 2004 - Mobile phone-savvy teenagers tempted to cheat on exams by sending text messages or scanning pictures of tests could be thwarted by a device that jams signals inside the school walls.

The Enrico Tosi Technical Institute school in northern Italy has found a way to foil the next generation of would-be cheats with the help of military technology.

"Most schools try and confiscate phones before exams, but this way we can be sure nobody slips through," said Benedetto Di Rienzo, the head of the school in Busto Arsizio which is testing the devices for the Education Ministry during exams this week.

The box-like units, called C-Guard, were developed by experts from the military and defense industries for Netline Communications Technologies. They jam signals in a 262-foot radius in enclosed spaces.

They could eventually be installed across Italy to prevent cheating during university exams.

Di Rienzo said they have been so successful that the school plans to start using them during regular classes, a measure likely to ruffle feathers in mobile phone-obsessed Italy where not even the teachers like to be left incommunicado.

"We hope to keep complaints to a minimum by turning the instruments off during lunch breaks," he said.

"Porca Miseria!" Do you remember the good ol' days when we use to pass little paper notes back and forth during exams or when we use to write the answers on our stinky little hands? It was considered harmless and cute.

Now Italian teachers are armed with sophisticated military defense technology to prohibit 'school impaired' jackass students from cheating. And by the way, if you're not from Italy, you should know that most universities in Italy are called "autogrills" or rest areas for kids who have nothing else better to do in life.

However, here's a frightening fact: The most successful hackers in the Internet world are Italian teenagers!

That's right! If you take 10 Italian teenagers and give them scooters, mobile phones, laptop computers, french fries and dump them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or both, they'll find Osama in no time!

 

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Italy To Ship Off Elderly To The Movies During Heat Wave

Rome - June 18, 2004 - Italian officials have suggested that the elderly should be herded into air-conditioned cinemas or supermarkets to avoid a repeat of last summer's tragedy, in which a record heat wave claimed some 8,000 lives.

"It is a system that has proved successful in the United States: make use of cool places to shelter vulnerable people at the hottest hours," Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia said in an interview.

"We will not be in a position to keep specially air-conditioned buildings running for three months," he explained.

The proposal which has raised a few eyebrows in Italy is one of a series of measures designed to limit the health hazards of a possible heat wave, which the health ministry is due to submit shortly to parliament.

Along with much of Europe, Italy experienced a record heat wave in the summer of 2003, with 7,660 more recorded deaths than usual for the period, most of them among the elderly. France was the worst hit, with an estimated 15,000 elderly lives lost to the scorching temperatures.

Drafted in consultation with medical experts, the plan aims to "avoid the 8,000 deaths of last summer," said the minister, himself a doctor by training.

According to Sirchia, one third of Italians aged 75 and over, nine percent of Italy's population of 57 million, fall within the high-risk category.

"We are talking here about people who may not understand whether it is hot or cold, who may stop eating or drinking or poison themselves with food that has gone bad," he said.

Each Italian town will be asked to draw up a list of inhabitants aged 65 and over and identify those most at risk.

The health ministry document will emphasize the role of friends and family in watching over the frailest elderly people if temperatures start to soar.

"I am myself 71 years old, and am therefore classified as elderly, but I have no physical nor psychological problems that could make me vulnerable to extreme weather conditions," the minister added.

The plan is likely to meet with resistance from local authorities, who have rejected charges that their slim, summertime staffs had neglected old people in need during last year's blistering heat.

Last week saw temperatures in the northern cities of Turin and Milan briefly rise to a sizzling 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

"Grazie Grazie!" Why do they have to treat these poor old folks like cattle?

Most of them have had poor childhoods, experienced WWII and fascism, receive pathetic pensions and are ignored by their conceited children. Now, they are forced to pull up their pants, made sure they are wearing matching socks and then rounded up to be put away in cinemas and supermarkets.

How come Florida doesn't have these problems but Italy does?

 

Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
 
 
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