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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"Buon Estate!" Welcome to the only newsletter that firmly believes communism was meant as a practical joke, "Only In Italy!"

The dreadful medical superstition, the "colpo d'aria" (blow of air):

The "colpo d'aria" is a superstition that Italians consider extremely dangerous, causing anything from a simple cold to paralysis that could last a few days.

People have claimed to have suffered a day-long stiffening of one side of their face and neck, due to riding in a fast-moving car with the window down and air blowing in on them.

The funny thing is, the "colpo d'aria" never seems to strike below the waist. An Italian woman who would escape for her life from the slightest draft coming in from a window will go out in January's worst weather, wearing a miniskirt, sheer stockings and skimpy high heels.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Tourists Clean Up Litter at Piazza Armerina, Sicily

Litter on the Mosaics - And Tourists Clean it Up

Palermo - July 18, 2004 - The man who started it is a black Californian who stands a well-built one meter 80 tall in his shorts and trainers. Louis wasted no time when he saw the piles of plastic bottles, cans and paper only a few meters from the Corridor of the Great Hunt. He bent down and started to carry the rubbish to the already overflowing waste bin. Louis was quickly followed by other Americans, then at the entrance someone got hold of some large plastic bags to tidy things up and set a good example.

This is the sort of thing that happens at Villa Romana del Casale. As if the acts of vandalism weren't enough, we now have the humiliation of tourists acting as rubbish collectors, making up for the neglect that shrouds one of the world's most important archaeological sites, visited by 600,000 people every year. "The mosaics are stunning," says Louis, "but the postcards we saw earlier are very different from what we actually found. It's a pity. Without upkeep, this place could die".

But the Americans were not the only ones administering moral reproaches. Holidaymakers from the Padua-based "Amici del Cuore" association wrote to the newspapers to say that "the condition of the mosaics makes it hard to discern the beauty portrayed on the postcards". The letter continues, "The mosaics are dirty, deteriorated and left exposed to dust and neglect". The list of complaints is a long one. There are weeds in the courtyards, litter and cigarette ends in the rooms, no caretakers to stop children running across the mosaics and a lack of explanatory signs.

Museum director Francesco Santalucia takes the offensive, "This is the result of choices made by the government, which has cut back funds for minimum entry-wage workers. They were the ones who used to ensure that the villa's interior was kept clean. Their contracts ran out last week and we found ourselves with no cleaning service. At the moment, we are trying to find a remedy". The caretaker issue is more complex, but typically Sicilian. "We have only eight of the 36 caretakers who are theoretically required. There are two on each shift. What controls can you make in conditions like these?" To make things even more difficult, transferring caretakers from other sites is hindered by a 1998 union agreement which lays down that caretakers in Sicily can only work in the place where they are resident.

The regional councilor for the cultural heritage, Fabio Granata, is critical. He talks about a "not very managerial approach by our executives. The problems exist," he says, "but ought to be solved. A start could be made by applying my decree, dated a month ago, which allows one third of the villa's receipts to be spent at the villa itself as a matter of course. For more general repairs, there are 18 million euros from the Agenda Duemila program. We want to give more autonomy to the Villa Romana management and the local authority to guarantee greater efficiency.

That efficiency and autonomy may have a name and surname, Vittorio Sgarbi. The art critic is taking his seat today on the new local council under the leadership of Maurizio Prestifilippo, the first mayor from the "Partito della Bellezza" (Beauty Party.) Sparks look likely to fly. "It's a disgrace," says Sgarbi, "The situation is as catastrophic as it was a year ago, when I made a lightning night-time visit and realized that Villa Romana is a sublime but neglected treasure. The scandal led to the formation of the list with which we won the elections at Piazza Armerina. Now I am here because I want the villa put under the administration of an external commissioner".

PIAZZA ARMERINA is a hillside village in the Erei mountains (721 meters a.s.l.), about 30 kilometers from Enna. It has 23,000 residents and more than 600,000 visitors each year. Piazza Armerina is Sicily's fifth-most popular tourist destination after Taormina, Siracusa, Palermo and Agrigento.

"Che Vergogna!" On behalf of Sicily and all of us here at the news office, we would like to sincerely thank all the wonderful tourists who visit our country and give a hand in cleaning it up. We sincerely appreciate your thoughtful efforts and kind concern.

Yes, we do employ more garbage collectors than any other European country and Italians do tend to flush everything but the cat but it appears we can't seem to get past the smelly bureaucracy of cleaning up after ourselves.

Look at Villa Romana del Casale. The museum requires 36 caretakers, theoretically:

8 to do a 1/4 of the job,
8 on standby in case of death or disease,
3 to alternately supervise work,
3 to lend museum equipment out to friends and relatives,
2 to supervise the supervisors and lending of equipment,
2 to prepare lunches and barbecues (for employees only),
1 to simply watch tourists,
1 to plant and garden fruits and vegetables (for employees only),
1 to confirm that everyone is paid overtime,
1 to prepare banners and pickets for the bimonthly protests and strikes,
1 to assist in accounting of museum receipts,
1 to tell tourists false and inaccurate stories on the history of the mosaics,
1 to discourage tourists from returning,
1 to water weeds,
1 to constantly get coffee,
1 to send daily reports to the local Mafia.


George Clooney a Welcome Distraction for Italians

Laglio - July 12, 2004 - George Clooney shoots baskets with the local kids, carries grandmothers' groceries uphill and works hard on pronouncing "Buon giorno."

He has international stardom and rascally good looks, but in this hamlet where Clooney owns an 18th century mansion with a private dock on Lake Como, the star is simply "bravo", Italian for "a good person."

Sure, the fans pitching tents outside Villa Oleandra are a nuisance, but locals say they don't mind the extra business their celebrity neighbor has generated since he bought the mansion two years ago.

"He's good and kind with everyone. All you have to do is not intrude on him," said Giordano Saibene, sunning himself on a narrow stone ledge with a view of the pine-shaded villa.

Intruding may include snapping photos, Saibene said Clooney's bodyguards once threw apples at a fan who was trying to take a picture of the villa.

On a recent lazy July day, word was out that Clooney wasn't in town. So Laglio, surrounded by forested foothills stretching toward the Alps and Switzerland, was enjoying a respite from celebrity watchers.

Only a few days earlier, however, star-watching was at a fever pitch as fans searched for a glimpse not only of Clooney, but his co-stars in "Ocean's Twelve," which was wrapping up filming in Italy. Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon are in the sequel to 2001's "Ocean's Eleven," which is a remake of a the 1960 Frank Sinatra movie.

"Everyone was outside the villa. Old ladies and entire families. There were even those who slept in their car. It was a pilgrimage," said Nearco Folloni, owner of Laglio's Lanterna bar.

Pitt liked to tool around in a rented motorboat, said Daniele Riva, whose family boatyard provided it. Riva said local authorities asked that boats not be rented "to the curious" who might disturb the stars at play. The Rivas, who have built boats for five generations for the rich who summer in Laglio, obliged.

Mariuccia Riva, Daniele's mother, said she first came across Clooney when he had locked himself out of the villa. Since then, he always tells her good morning.

"He says it like this, 'Buon giorno, signora,'" Mrs. Riva said, opening her mouth wide and rolling the vowels in an exaggerated imitation of Clooney's efforts to pronounce Italian.

Clooney is known for hopping into the boat with a white convertible top that he keeps at his dock, zipping guests across the lake to dine in other towns.

A Como newspaper published an appeal by Laglio's Catholic pastor, pleading to fans to leave Clooney in peace, saying Laglio's "tranquility" is its main selling point.

But Folloni contended celebrity is good for business: "Before, Laglio wasn't on the map. Now it is and we like that."

Townspeople say they have an easy relationship with Clooney.

"Maybe because none of us ever bothered him, he would invite us" to join him on a public basketball court, said Saibene.

Clooney would pedal the few miles to the court on his mountain bike, a basketball in his backpack. The actor was cycling one morning when he saw Saibene's 75-year-old grandmother trudging home with bags of milk, bread and other groceries and carried them for her.

"This man in a cap and dark glasses stopped and asked if he could help. She thought he was an American tourist," Saibene said. "She doesn't watch TV because she's in bed by 8 o'clock. She has hens and chicks to tend to."

"Ti Amo, Giorgio!"

These are the same people who, a few weeks ago, angrily complained that Giorgio was interrupting their busy, important and very interesting daily lives.

Now all the guys want to go and shoot hoops with their fellow "paesano" and the women are already planning their tactics on luring Giorgio to their personal 'Garden of Eden'.

Even the grandmothers!


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"You Are Nobody!" Is Officially Slander in Italy

Rome - July 9, 2004 - A driver who told a parking attendant "You are nobody!" has felt the weight of Italy's legal system, which ruled the seemingly innocuous words constituted slander and fined him heavily.

The tiff over a parking space led to Giulio C. being fined 300 euros (200 pounds) plus 500 euros legal costs when a court in the northeast city of Trieste turned down his appeal.

The court ruled the phrase 'you are nobody' "means precisely 'you are a nonentity' and to state that a person is a nonentity is certainly offensive because it is damaging to the dignity of a person."

The decision led celebrated commentator Beppe Severgnini to recall in his column on Friday that this was not the first time Italian appeal courts had deliberated on the definition of slander.

Indeed, over the years a sort of "guide to legitimate offence" has been formulated and Severgnini, quoting the courts, gave a few of the more common examples.

"Ball-breaker" is not slander because although "an undoubtedly rude expression it is now in common usage."

"I'll kick your arse" also passes muster because this is a "robust reaction which should be understood in a figurative way."

Under Italian law, the crime of slander is punishable by a maximum fine of 516 Euros.

"Per L'Amore di Dio!" 

It looks like the Italian courts have finally discovered the lost ancient temple dedicated to the 'God of Frivolous Law Suits'. Italian lawyers will be stopping by the temple every day to pray for legal wisdom and have the subpoenas blessed on their way to court.

And, of course, why should we stop here? Hereís a recent legal ad we found in a local Italian paper:

"If you have a human body, something on you probably hurts. And itís probably someone elseís fault that this body hurts. So, let us make the probably a definitely."

"Call us now!"


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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