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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"BBB: Blair, Berlusconi and Bandannas"


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"Buon Giorno!" Welcome to another snap, crackle and pop issue of "Only In Italy!"

I want to thank you for your newsletter. I'm a second generation American/Sicilian/Italian and your newsletter touches me. It makes me laugh a lot... love your news... keep up the good work! Carmella

Thanks for your letter, Carmella!

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Blunder As Italian Police Fax Press Secrets of Blairs' Italy Holiday

Rome - August 11, 2004 - As one of the world’s leading statesmen, Tony Blair is protected by state-of-the-art security apparatus. When he goes on holiday, every building is swept and secured in advance. His police and MI5 minders plan for everything.

Everything except the Italian police, that is.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s summer holidays sparked a new controversy when it emerged that the police inadvertently sent security details of his forthcoming trip to Italy to media outlets.

Siena police headquarters in Tuscany said the release of the five-page fax detailing arrangements for the Blair family’s visit was down to a malfunctioning fax machine. The document was originally sent to police chiefs at the weekend. But it was retained in the fax machine’s memory and was subsequently sent out to various media numbers.

Alarm bells started to ring yesterday lunchtime when more than a dozen news organizations in Tuscany, where Mr. Blair is due to arrive on Saturday, received the fax.

One Italian journalist said: "I couldn't believe it when this official document came over marked ‘Reserved Eyes Only’.

"It had places and dates of the Blair visit and in the wrong hands it could have caused absolute mayhem. It’s a huge mistake to make and the police are very embarrassed about it.

"We called the police department and they had no idea what had happened and asked us to fax it back to them immediately. Then a few minutes later an officer arrived to pick up the fax and take it away.

"The fax machine pours out dozens of documents a day but you don't expect to pick up the security details of the British Prime Minister’s visit."

Siena’s chief of police, Vincenzo Giacobbe, said: "We were contacted by telephone and e-mail by the people who received the fax and of course we asked them to send it back to us.

"An investigation has been launched, but we know how the mistake was caused - it was simply a mistake by the receptionist."

"Hopefully it will not change too much of the Prime Minister's visit but things may alter."

In London, neither Downing Street nor the Foreign Office would comment on the Italian police blunder. But the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman and North East Fife MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, said: "This seems like a good argument for holidaying at home. They would have never done it in St Andrews."

"Fantastico!" We're telling you the comedy doesn't stop coming from this befuddled country, folks. We're like a big bunch of dancing monkeys!

We're arguing about which part of the article is more fascinating:
1) that the police demanded that the news organizations fax back the fax or
2) that they went to go pick up the faxes.

"An investigation has been launched, but we know how the mistake was caused - it was simply a mistake by the receptionist." Hmmm...You would have gotten a better excuse from a drive-up clown at McDonald's.

Hopefully, the cops will now understand they have trouble understanding.


Peeping Through the Keyhole at Berlusconi's Super Villa

Rome - July 29, 2004 - Did Tony Blair have any idea of what he was letting himself in for when he accepted Silvio Berlusconi's invitation to stay at the tycoon's villa in Sardinia? The controversy over Mr. Blair's friendship with a man whom the Economist thinks unfit to govern Italy pales in comparison with the intrigue surrounding Villa Certosa itself.

The building project, the Italian papers has noted sardonically, is Berlusconi's greatest public work. He has owned land in Sardinia since the early 1980s. Only now, however, is his vision of a fortified coastal retreat taking shape. The Italian PM hopes it will be completed by mid-August when the Blairs are due to arrive.

Tony and Cherie are said to adore Tuscany. But what they will find at Mr. Berlusconi's villa complex on the Costa Smeralda bears little resemblance to Siena or Lucca.

The local papers published sketches of the property for its readers last month. (Mr. Berlusconi incautiously allowed them to appear in a coffee-table book called Exclusive Villas and Resorts.) It shows a marble amphitheater big enough to seat 400 built in the Greek style, with a turret overlooking the stage. Nearby is a citrus grove, statues and an artificial lagoon surrounded by more than 2,000 species of cactus. The outdoor Jacuzzi pools are fed with seawater pumped from the coast two miles away.

The villa's interior is a riot of neo-classical columns, swags, pelmets, striped sofas and Roman-style swimming pools. Another turret serves as a bathroom, where, with the flick of a switch, the glass in the windows can be tinted to ensure guests' privacy.

The complex is somewhat reminiscent of a 300-acre country retreat built by the emperor Hadrian in the second century AD outside Rome, where upmarket coach tours regularly pause to admire the quantities of statuary, the large bath complex and a moated theatre to which Hadrian would retreat.

Underneath the grounds lies a tunnel connecting the villa to a new landing stage. Mr. Berlusconi claims this is needed to ensure the privacy of his better-known visitors. Locals complain it has been built on a public beach and without proper planning permission; the prime minister says the work is entirely legitimate.

Were the island ever to be attacked, one of his aides told reporters, the PM and his guests could escape in safety via the lift and passageway. It could also serve as a seat of government should Berlusconi's palace in Rome be put out of action.

Members of local opposition parties who tried to visit Villa Certosa to inspect the preparations for themselves have been turned away. Better-known visitors, such as the Spectator editor, Boris Johnson, and Mussolini biographer Nicholas Farrel, have been made very welcome.

Johnson conducted an interview with Mr. Berlusconi at Villa Certosa last year and provided a few insights into the inspiration for the design. Mr. Berlusconi had considered building himself a maze, he explained to Johnson, but then had a better idea: he would create a museum devoted to cacti. Guards with automatic rifles were patrolling the premises, wrote Johnson, and the PM had just cut down a number of trees to create a small heliport.

"In [nearby Porto Rotondo], they tell you that Berlusconi will pay for it all out of his own pocket," wrote the local reporter earlier this year. "Their tone is half-admiring, half resigned. You can't be certain whether they are talking about the money, or the votes, too."

"Figlio di puttana!" This story is dedicated to any of our readers who get up at 5:30 am and chant the words, "We care about our customers".

Berlusconi: Italy's modern day Caligula

- His biggest tragedy: the one time breakfast was served cold.
- He has more food caught in his teeth than an average Italian eats the whole day.
- Italians take a bath, he's plays Christopher Columbus in his swimming pools.
- Italians defecate, he emits silk.
- Life in Italy is a prom: Italians are the losers in the corners without dates, he's the queen.

All there is left for him to do is to nominate a horse as a consul and his Roman empire will be complete.


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Berlusconi Bandana Confirms Hair Transplant Rumors

Rome - August 19, 2004 - Italy's Silvio Berlusconi can't seem to live down his unusual choice of holiday headgear.

After days of fashion debates over a white bandana the prime minister donned earlier this week during a walkabout with Britain's Tony Blair in Sardinia, the media is now speculating he may have been covering up a recent hair transplant.

"Initial curiosity has become suspicious gossip in response to the news that the premier was also wearing the bandana at night, something not even pirates do," newspapers wrote on Thursday. "Was he hiding something?"

A handful of newspapers cited eyewitnesses claiming to have seen Berlusconi enter a hair transplant clinic run by Dr. Piero Rosati in the northern city of Ferrara on Aug. 5.

But the doctor, called one of the five best hair surgeons in the world by a daily newspaper, denied the speculation.

"If my name is mentioned in the papers, I'll deny it. I deny it now," he told reporters. "Berlusconi never came into my studio, Berlusconi is not my client."

The prime minister's office did not comment on the rumors, while Rosati's clinic was closed for vacation.

It's not the first time Berlusconi's appearance has set tongues wagging.

The 67-year-old image-conscious politician disappeared from view for more than a month over the Christmas and New Year holidays and when he finally emerged in public he appeared tanned and taut after a facelift and diet regime.

Berlusconi said his wife persuaded him to undergo cosmetic surgery.

"I like the way I look. I feel fine. I look in the mirror and I like what I see and I think I'm more pleasing to others too," he told reporters at the time.

Still, a few observers are wondering how Berlusconi's bandana managed to eclipse important discussions with Blair.

During Blair's two-day visit to Berlusconi's Sardinian villa, the two published a joint statement urging a peaceful solution to the standoff in Najaf.

"Our home-grown media doesn't have the lenses needed to distinguish what's truly important and what's just a bandana," newspapers noted on Thursday.

"Che testa di..." I know a lot of people are thinking, "How can he run a government if he's too busy running his head?"

Berlusconi: "I like the way I look. I feel fine. I look in the mirror and I like what I see and I think I'm more pleasing to others too,"

Here are some other brilliant quotes from our rejuvenated prime minister:

Sept. 26, 2001: At a news conference in Berlin, Berlusconi said Western civilization was superior to Islam breaking ranks with the United States and other allies when they were trying to reach out to the Muslim world after Sept. 11.

"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights -- and in contrast with Islamic countries -- respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its values understandings of diversity and tolerance," Berlusconi said.

"Western civilization is superior because it has at its core, as its greatest value, freedom, which is not the heritage of the Islamic culture."

He said he trusted "the West will continue to conquer peoples, like it conquered communism," even if it means a confrontation with "another civilization, the Islamic one, stuck where it was 1,400 years ago."


December 2001: During a European Union summit in Belgium, Berlusconi tried to lobby for the Italian city of Parma to house a new EU food safety agency amid competition from Finland, which wanted the agency's headquarters to be in Helsinki.

"Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is. I cannot accept this," news reports quoted Berlusconi as saying. Italy and Finland ultimately agreed the agency would have two units, a headquarters in Helsinki and a smaller unit in Parma.


July 2, 2003: Berlusconi told a German lawmaker in the European Parliament he should appear in a movie as a Nazi concentration camp guard.

The comments, to German socialist Martin Schulz, came a day after Berlusconi took over the rotating EU presidency and led to a diplomatic spat with Germany.

"Mr. Schulz, I know there is a producer in Italy who is making a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you for the role of 'kapo.' You'd be perfect," Berlusconi said. "Kapo" is a German word that was used in Nazi concentration camps for privileged prisoners who guarded other inmates.


July 11, 2003: After a meal with dozens of EU-based reporters at a historic Roman villa, Berlusconi invited female reporters to come up with him to look at the view, then showed off a pink marble bathtub, saying Hollywood star Gary Cooper had once bathed there.

Amid the festivities, the premier was photographed jokingly making a hand gesture in the shape of horns, which is considered among the gravest insults in Italy. The gesture, often invoked by angry drivers, means that a man's wife is being unfaithful.


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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