"Ciao ragazzi!" Welcome to the only newsletter written by Sicilians who are convinced they could have outrun the volcano before it buried Pompeii, "Only In Italy!"
Why you chose to write more about the witches of Sardinia than why George Clooney was visiting his girlfriend's family is beyond me. Who cares about the witches? I would have wanted to read more about the reason for the visit...is George thinking of finally settling down? Jo S.
Tell us the truth, Jo. Were you a little sad when you heard the news Giorgio might settle down with our cute little Italian bubblehead? It's ok, Jo. We understand and we're here to comfort you. Let us sum up for you the outcome of his trip to Sardinia:
Ever watch a nature film when they show a coyote eat his own leg off to escape a trap? Look closely...Giorgio is chewing.
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - October 11, 2010 - Lazio, the region around Rome, has started using a 'jargon translator' to help citizens and firms cut through the impenetrable legalese and 'bureaucratese' most Italian public documents are written in.
"How can you expect an unemployed man with a primary-school education to understand what the standard-issue benefit claim is saying," said Regional Labor Councilor Mariella Zezza, who helped put together the 'simplifier'.
"I took a leaf out of my experience as a journalist and started off from the basic five Ws - Who? What? Where? When? and Why? - Zezza said.
Zezza was presenting a ten-million-euro tender for firms to get subsidies for hiring disadvantaged workers. It was the third such announcement to be simplified using Zezza's translator, which has been dubbed 'Tribe'.
Zezza said info for the sight-impaired would be put through Tribe before going into Braille while Tribe-treated documents for immigrants would be translated into a slew of languages.
"Tribe has been online from today on the revamped website of the employment agency with the aim of spelling out how to use procedures and get benefits," said Lazio Governor Renata Polverini.
Italians have been grappling for decades with the Byzantine and tangled lingo used for all kinds of applications and procedures, and many turn to agencies whose sole business is making sense of them.
An Italian president once famously said a tax form contained "lunar" language. That same year there was a rash of suicides among tax consultants.
"Signore e Signori, itís my firm opinion that the fiscal budget should be apprehended in its entirety, and the authenticity of the outcome is a reality."
Bureaucracy in Italy is legendary, and not for its efficiency. Just imagine a mule sitting in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, refusing to budge...and laughing. It can be frighteningly slow to get anything processed or done. In fact, our Italian government offices often offer a peculiar two speed system: one for normal applications which will be handled nice and slowly, and another which receives fast track processing but for which you must shell out some cash.
The basic five Ws for understanding our bureaucracy:
Who: Who cares anymore?! "Minchia", if I knew what the hell the electric company wanted to hook up my electricity I'd win $64,000!
What: From what I understood, the state wants to endorse the sale of spray paint and free sneakers for Napolitani.
Where: I have to obtain this paperwork from my local town hall, then bring it to a lawyer to have it deciphered, stop by the provincial office to have it looked at for one minute and then finally have it deposited in some labyrinth in a regional government building. "'Fanculo", looks like I'll need Indiana Jones for help in selling my Vespa!
When: How long?! No no, "coglione", I can't wait until Haley's Comet returns.
Why: I don't know how I wound up on the roof of the house! I was reading this and trying to get through all the 'bureaucratese', and before I knew it, I hypnotized myself! "Look into my own eyes..."
Florence - October 11, 2010 - The remains of the Italian woman who was the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa were dug up 30 years ago and now lie in a municipal garbage tip, an Italian expert has claimed.
Lisa Gherardini died in Florence in 1542 and was buried in the grounds of Sant'Orsola convent.
Over the centuries the Franciscan convent was used as a tobacco factory and a university teaching facility but in the 1980s a redevelopment was launched to convert it into a barracks for Italy's tax police, the Guardia di Finanza.
The developers had no knowledge that it was the final resting place of da Vinci's famous model that was only discovered in 2007 and during work to build an underground car park, the convent's foundations were excavated, along with the crumbling remains of graves and tombs. The rubble was then dumped in a municipal landfill site on the outskirts of Florence.
Giuseppe Pallanti, an expert on da Vinci, who has spent 30 years studying the archives trying to establish Lisa Gherardini's final resting place, is convinced her remains are interred in the dump, now a grassy mound nearly 100 feet high.
"The tombs have all been lost," he said. "Sadly, when the works were carried out in the 1980s no thought was given to the historical importance of the building and its artifacts.
"They just wanted to build new barracks for the Guardia di Finanza and the material they excavated was disposed of."
Mr Pallanti, the author of "Mona Lisa Revealed: The True Identity of Leonardo's Model", added: "It is sad that the tomb of Lisa Gherardini has been destroyed without anyone realizing it at the time".
The prosaic end to the life of one of the best known figures in art history has only recently come to light through a fresh building project for the convent site. Florence city council wants to turn the half-built police barracks, which has lain semi-derelict and bricked up for years, into a 26 million Euro community arts center.
Surveys of the site have shown that the site was excavated in the 1980s to such a depth that no tombs or other historical artifacts survived.
"What we found inside is a kind of devastation. All that remains of the old Sant'Orsola convent are the external walls and some fourteenth-century arches," said an architect on the project, Luigi Ulivieri.
Gherardini is believed to have been born in Florence in 1479. At the age of 16 she became the second wife of a wealthy silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, with whom she had five children. She moved into the convent after his death, staying there for the last four years of her life.
She is believed to have died in the convent at the age of 63 in 1542, according to a document unearthed three years ago by Mr Pallanti during his research. He found a funeral record in a church archive known as a "Book of the Dead" which reads: "Lisa di Francesco del Giocondo, died July 15, 1542 buried at Sant'Orsola".
The portrait that came to be known as the Mona Lisa, which now hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, was completed by Leonardo in 1506 when she was about 24.
The arts center is due to be completed in 2015 and Mr Pallanti wants the authorities to incorporate some sort of commemoration of Gherardini.
"The renovation of Sant'Orsola presents an ideal opportunity to create a memorial to Leonardo and Mona Lisa.
"I would like to see the building named the Mona Lisa Art Center. What could be more fitting and suitable?"
By the way, the Louvre just called. All of them are throwing up. They're all unconscious...
"Incredibile", it took four years, almost the same length of time it took Da Vinci to paint her, for the Mona Lisa to have a $7.5 million dollar room of her own at the Louvre. And the real Lisa, along with the community of sisters in that convent who devoted their lives to a life of pure religion, are spending eternity in a garbage dump.
- Could one blame Da Vinci for packing his bags, his paintings, and moving to France?
- Whatever happened to the man who was the model for Da Vinci's world-renowned drawing, the 'Vitruvian Man'?
- How could one look at those Florentine "faccie di culo" developers and say that thereís love in the world? You find the love and beauty in them and we'll convert.
Giuseppe Pallanti: "Let me tell you something about my background. I'm an expert on Da Vinci, and have spent 30 years studying the archives trying to establish Lisa Gherardini's final resting place."
In conclusion to this sorrowful story, let us add this little glimmer of hope: At least no money was stolen.
Rome - October 12, 2010 - Environmental organizations today expressed outrage over a plan by local authorities in the Abruzzo region of central Italy to combat prostitution with deforestation.
For decades, local law enforcement and politicians have struggled to put in order the 'Bonifica del Tronto' road, a refuge for the sex trade that runs inland for more than 10 miles from the Adriatic coast alongside the river Tronto. Over the years, cameras have been installed, raids mounted, 24-hour patrols implemented and the mayors of towns near the road have signed bylaws imposing fines on prostitutes' clients. None have brought positive results.
At the end of last month, the regional government's public works chief, Angelo Di Paolo, announced that the time had come for drastic measures. He said he had agreed with provincial and municipal representatives to cut down all the vegetation "around and along the banks of the river Tronto", in which the prostitutes practice their trade.
A local authority "ought to contribute to the solution of problems relating to law and order," said Di Paolo. But in a statement three environmental groups, including the WWF, said that the scheme would destroy 69 acres (28 hectares) of woodland vital to local ecosystems, saying the only crime of the thousands of trees on the local authorities' hit list had been to "offer with their petals shelter and intimacy to sex slaves".
The authorities, they added, had "not even taken into account mitigating circumstances". "Among these are having absorbed thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and given man precious oxygen," they said. They also prevented fertilizer and pesticides from reaching the river.
A census this month by an NGO found almost 600 prostitutes at work on the Bonifica del Tronto. Most were Nigerians, but they included Romanians, Brazilians, Albanians and Chinese.
Di Paolo is a man known for resolute responses. Some years ago, when he was mayor of the town of Canistro, he won national fame for shooting at a bank robber whom he then chased and caught.
Mah...What country is this?
As Italian citizens, we apologize to our readers, environmental groups, and Green Peace. We love nature, animals and the great cause of saving our environment. The hikes we take in the forests of Sicily and the photos we take bring us calm, peace, serenity and life in the moment.
During our last hike, we ran into a little Sicilian 'Paolo Bunyan' who pulled up in a hay wagon pulled by a team of horses. He said, "I was listening to the news on my little transistor radio here. Sixty-nine acres of my trees gone because of 'zoccole' and 'escorts' running rampant?"
"No no, porca di quella vacca, did I choose this world...or am I stuck in it?"
Would you believe street prostitution in Italy was legal until 2008? Then a Minister for Equal Opportunities named Mara Carfagna, a former topless model and 'escort', came along and introduced a national system of fines and jail time for people caught buying or selling sex. She called it the first substantive action against the sex trade in 50 years. Is that like a whore calling an escort a prostitute? Boh...
Now, we weren't aware it was the forests' fault there are prostitutes running around in Abruzzo. The Mafia and a corrupt political class dominates our Sicily. What should we do? Sink the island?
Regardless, we would like our readers to know there's no cause for alarm for this asinine idea to stop our 'zoccole' will not follow through. After all, how can you take seriously a person who would propose such an idea...and can't read his watch while still at a red light?