Italy News: 11.16.08

Some news from Italy for your Sunday reading pleasure:

  • By now, everyone’s probably heard about the Italy PM’s stupid remark about the US President-elect being “young, handsome, and suntanned” – well, apparently Berlusconi and Obama had a “cordial” conversation recently where they didn’t discuss that comment. More interesting to me in that article is Berlusconi’s continued assertion – every single bloody time he says something stupid – that people just don’t understand his sense of humor. (I’d like to get my hands on a copy of the Berlusconi gaffe list that Corriere della Sera evidently collected. Reminds me of all the Bush-isms that news outlets collected over the years.) I’m pleased to note, however, that a group of Italians has started a website saying that Berlusconi doesn’t speak for them.
  • [begin sarcastic tone] Because Italy’s PM Silvio Berlusconi is so well-known for his diplomacy and communication skills, it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s offered to mediate the missiles dispute between the US and Russia. [end sarcastic tone]
  • James Bond films have been set in some pretty stunning places, but this year’s “Quantum of Solace” attempted to capture Siena’s Palio for one dynamic scene (Daniel Craig was reportedly in the city for the filming, but his sequences were filmed elsewhere much later). The opening scenes of the film take place in Lake Garda.
  • It looks like the beleagured Italian flag carrier Alitalia is set to be taken over by a business consortium, which will rescue it from completely going under. But that doesn’t mean Alitalia employees are happy about it – many walked off the job in Rome on Monday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights in several Italian airports. Police were brought in to quiet understandably annoyed passengers. And to add to this chaos, transit workers (not affiliated with Alitalia) also staged a strike on Monday, causing traffic jams throughout the country.
  • I cannot tell you how much I am in love with this service – an Italian farmer’s co-op that delivers food to your front door (so long as your front door is in one of the northern regions of Italy). And with Nicole at Zoomata and her friend already vouching for it, I’m calling it a winner. I can’t wait to have an Italian front door so I can sign up!
  • Birds might seem like they’d be no match for a jet plane, but after some birds hit a Ryanair jet that had left Frankfurt the plane had to make an emergency landing in Rome.
  • The new film from English heartthrob Colin Firth is “Genova,” set in the Italian port city. This article takes a look at the town from a tourist’s perspective.


  • Miriam Makeba, one of South Africa’s most famous singers, died in Italy last week after collapsing after a performance near Naples.
  • When I saw an article about “Europe’s Most Scenic Drives,” I expected Italy to appear on the list. What I didn’t expect was that it would only show up twice – while Greece would make the list three times at least. Not sure what’s up with that one…
  • One of my Italy-loving blogging buddies is the delightful and witty Miss Expatria, who made me giggle the other day when I read this post about some Italian pronunciations. The last one, the idiom about how to say “I’m full,” is the one I loved.
  • I’ve talked before about the fantastic Florence leather markets, so I’m sure you already know what a great shopping destination this Renaissance city is… But just in case you need more convincing, the Times Online has a few more thoughts on the subject.
  • The Italian woman who has been in a vegetative state for 16 years will be taken off life support, an Italian court has ruled. Her father has been trying to disconnect her feeding tube for some time now, but the case was held up in the courts. Finally, Italy’s highest appeals court has sided with the father.
  • Who doesn’t love hot chocolate, especially when it’s that super-thick European variety? This list of Europe’s best eating experiences includes a hot chocolate enjoyed in Venice.
  • Every culture has its quirks, but as an Italophile I’m particularly interested in the Italian quirks. So I love this list of funny things Italians do – and I hope Cherrye keeps this series going. (The persimmon story is particularly hysterical.)
  • Omigod, I love this new downloadable “Ancient Rome 3D” thing from Google Earth. Not as much as I love Google Street View for Italy, but this is pretty friggin’ cool.
  • Rome is going to be the first city in Europe to get a Waldorf Astoria hotel.
  • Italofile lists the 25 best hotels in Italy from the Forbes Traveler article – these aren’t budget spots, however, these are luxe all the way.
  • National Geographic Traveler’s Insider maps are cool in the magazine, but they’ve now got a few of them online – including Vatican City – that let you take a bit of a 3D stroll around.
  • It’s official – Italy is now in a recession, having posted negative growth for the second quarter in a row. Neighboring France has managed to avoid a recession as yet, but the Eurozone as a whole is in its first recession since its formation.
  • In the Molise region, there had been a ban on the feeding of stray dogs; a regional court has temporarily suspended that ban. An animal rights group says bans like that are “in violation of national and regional animal protection laws.”
  • When the EU said it was going to lift its ban on the sale of “ugly” fruits and vegetables, I think most people thought, “Finally, that stupid ban was laughable.” Italian farmers, on the other hand, are opposed to lifting the ban. Why? Because they’re equating “ugly” produce with “low quality” produce. Nevermind that of two identical cucumbers, the one that was crooked instead of perfectly straight would have been considered “ugly.”
  • Police officers in Parma are under investigation for beating a student from Ghana (who they thought was a drug dealer) in late September.
  • A 1.05kg truffle has been found in Molise, and it’s a good bet it’ll be this year’s record-setting truffle at auction.