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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April 2004
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"Dangerous Italian Women and Olive Oil"  

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"Buon Giorno!" Welcome to the only newsletter that could possibly save Venice from sinking into the lagoon, "Only In Italy!"

As usual, all of us at the news office thank you for all your great positive (and negative) feedback on our articles and site. It's very much appreciated.

Yes, it's true that Sicilians are sometimes considered to be lazy people. We have to blame this defect on the hot Sicilian sun that mesmerizes us to relax and catch a nice tan. But we assure you it's not the case with us and we are definitely going to catch up with your missed issues of "Only In Italy". We owe it to you!

Ueeeee Pasqua, please, contact your bioengineers at NRC in Milan and find out if these modified beans are going to affect the "Pasta e fasul" dish. I'm very concerned. I think I'll switch to the Borlotti beans. Does it mean that the new "fasul" will be gas free? Thanks for your interest in this serious matter. Millions of expatriates around the world are standing by to learn your answer. Anthony

Thanks for the letter, Anthony. Are millions of expatriates really waiting to find out what Italian beans they can eat that won't force them to pass gas? We can't help there. Besides, who would want to eat "gas-free" beans?

We honestly think Italians love to pass gas after eating "Pasta e Fagioli". It's a very relaxing treat and an effective way to stop boring after-dinner conversations and get rid of unwanted guests, relatives or both! Agree?

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


The Olive Oil Is Fine; But Is It Italian?

Massarosa - May 7, 2004 - To divine the secrets of the famously Italian olive oils that are exported from the famously Italian countryside here, it is instructive to go right to the source. Not endless olive groves lovingly tended as if they were old friends, but more typically, a charmless tanker truck bearing foreign olive oil.

Trucks hauling many tons of olive oil at a time arrive regularly at the new ultramodern factory here that bottles Filippo Berio, a popular brand in the United States that portrays itself as an old-style favorite from a land where olive oil is the national nectar.

Into the Berio containers, the ones with labels that say "Imported from Italy," goes olive oil from Spain, Greece and Tunisia. Occasionally, the oil is from Italy itself, though usually not from Lucca, the celebrated olive-growing region in Tuscany that is the factory's home.

The Italian olive oil industry has long been built on this illusion. Consumers the world over want Italian olive oil because it is supposed to be the finest, redolent of la dolce vita, and so the industry finds a way to give it to them, sort of.

In truth, Italy does not grow enough olives to meet even its own demand, let alone foreigners'. Spain, not Italy, actually has the world's largest olive harvest. As a result, Italy is one of the world's leading importers of olive oil, part consumed, the rest re-exported with newly assumed Italian cachet.

The industry has a ready justification: what is important is not where the olives are picked and pressed, but where the oil is refined and blended. The olive oil is Italian, the argument goes, because it has been processed by skilled Italian experts who choose oils from around the Mediterranean to create an oil for the foreign market.

"Our object is to make our customer satisfied, regardless of where the oil comes from," said Alberto Fontana, president of Salov, whose family has exported Filippo Berio for five generations.

He said that depending on the year, as little as 20 percent of the oil in Berio might come from Italian olives. (Berio's main rival, Bertolli, which also has roots in the Lucca region, uses foreign oils, too.)

For export, the factory even churns out an extra light olive oil, a bland concoction that is about as enticing to a native Italian palate as bowl of SpaghettiOs.

Whether the Italian practice is proper depends on the interpretation of different laws in Italy, the European Union and the United States. As the producers carefully point out, if a Belgian chocolatier uses cocoa from Ivory Coast, does that mean that the chocolate is African?

A New York lawyer named Marvin L. Frank agreed. In the late 1990's, Mr. Frank responded to the Italian business custom with an American one: he filed a class-action lawsuit against Bertolli, charging that it used deceptive packaging and advertising, including slogans like, "Born in the Tuscany Mountains."

Mr. Frank said he settled after Bertolli agreed to modify its labels. Now, fine print on the back label indicates the oil's countries of origin, even though the front label still says "Lucca" and "Imported from Italy." Bertolli's lawyer in the case would not comment on it.

Perhaps most dissatisfied are the Italian olive growers themselves, who grumble that the Italian producers are disloyal and buy so much Spanish olive oil because it is cheap. That, insisted Nicola Ruggiero, president of Unaprol, the Italian growers association, is the only advantage of the Spanish oil.

"Their oil has a bad odor," he sniffed.

It is difficult to trace an oil's source, olive oil fraud is not uncommon in Italy. Giuseppe Fugaro, a senior Italian agricultural official, said he brought more than 1,000 cases of fraud last year, involving label tampering and other unsavory practices.

Asked about the legality of using foreign oil and describing the product as imported from Italy, Mr. Fugaro smiled and said there was nothing that he could do.

"It is not fraud," he said, "but it is cheating."

"Che fregatura!" Just goes to prove, "you can't judge a book by it's cover."

Here's a great lesson to teach to Italian restaurant owners:

Italian restaurant owners (particularly in the USA) are known to be people with little patience, bad tempers and psychotic behaviors. They will always preach that Italian cooking is the best you can eat in the world supported by the claims that their chefs use only the finest Italian ingredients.

Based on research, many Italian restaurants are supplied with "Berio" and "Bertolli" Italian olive oils; olive oils that, according to this article, are obviously not all Italian.

The next time you go out for Italian food and order a dish that is not up to par (or even if it's good but you just want to bust some Italian chops), complain to the manager that the dish was sadly ruined by the restaurant's poor selection of olive oil used to prepare the dish.

Even if you're a stock boy for Wal-Mart, tell them that your super trained connoisseur palate can tell that the olive oil used was obviously not Italian and that they should be ashamed.

Nine out of ten managers will bring to your table an actual can or bottle of "Berio" or "Bertolli" olive oil used to prepare your dish. As soon as it is presented, shake your head, make a disappointed frown and state that you were absolutely correct in your assumptions.

Right before their blood pressure sets off the fire alarm and they mumble Italian curses, tell them to read the fine print in the back of the can/bottle and they will discover that the olive oil originates from either Spain, Greece, Turkey or all three countries!

Then demand for dessert and after-dinner drinks on the house.

Women's Roles in the Italian Mafia Are Growing

Milan - May 9, 2004 - "Love, love and love" are no longer enough for Italian women.

In Italy, the first-ever study on women in Italian organized crime reveals that women are rising up the ranks to leadership positions. This is both because the Mafia is changing, and women are changing the Mafia.

From la dolce vita, the sweet life, to the malavita, the underworld, the growing presence of women is being felt everywhere in Italy.

Until recently, this was almost unthinkable. The first woman arrested for "criminal association" was just five years ago, in 1999. Police have known that women play a supporting role within the Mafia: As mothers, wives, and daughters, they've carried out minor tasks.

Occasionally, women have even stepped in to run things temporarily when their men have been jailed or murdered.

But a new study shows that women within the Mafia are rising through the ranks and becoming bosses in their own right. And it says that the Italian judicial system should start paying closer attention.

Ernesto Savona of the Catholic University of Milan, one of the report’s authors, says criminal organizations are becoming more appealing to women. "Criminal organizations are changing. They’re producing less violence. Less people are killed in Palermo and Columbia and in others in proportion to how many were killed before. They’re transforming the hierarchical organization into a more flexible one. That means you'll get more women having managerial roles. We call them 'sweet criminal organizations'," he told Deutsche Welle.

As underworld activities have shifted to financial crimes, violence has dropped. Organizations have also become less centralized.

"That you find women having managerial roles in small criminal organization shows that it's very flexible and not hierarchical," Savona explains. "Especially juvenile gangs. Sometimes you find a woman who has the leadership in the organization."

The evolution of women in the criminal world is exactly the same as that of women in the business world.

Pierluigi Vigna, who heads up Italy’s national anti-mafia office, says that with politically motivated crimes, women are just as willing to kill as men. Mafia women, however, aren't as willing when it comes to business. The researchers say that’s because women find murder for profit harder to justify. And their roles reflect this difference in values.

"They’re mainly found in areas that require a certain finesse," Vigna explains, "like money laundering rather than murder."

While there are no statistics on the exact number of women in the Italian Mafia, the researchers say that more women in key positions are being arrested. In April, a 28-year-old Sicilian woman was found guilty of 50 percent ownership of a thriving underworld business.

This may not be this kind of emancipation feminists had in mind, but it does show that women in Italy need to be taken seriously in all facets of life.

"Porca puttana!" A man used to feel good about dating and marrying a beautiful Italian women. Now, you can't even trust them.

This could get very confusing for the average, ugly, stupid, single man. Let us explain...

Mafia people usually blabber in code among themselves for obvious security reasons. So, how are men supposed to interpret what a beautiful 'Mafiosa' woman would say to them during social gatherings?

"Baby, I'll make you an offer you can't refuse."

Hmmm...Are we suppose to accept this as an invitation to bed, a threat to our lives, or both? These touchy situations could cause your 'private parts' to want to pack up and leave!


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Divorce Steadily On the Rise in Italy

Rome - May 8, 2004 - Italy's Divorces have increased steadily in the 30 years since the law was introduced, according to a survey reported by national news agencies.

In 1974, the year divorce became possible in Italy following a referendum, the courts granted 17,890 divorces.

In 2002, the last year with available statistics, divorces had risen steadily to 41,835, or 125 out of every 1,000 marriages.

The news agencies said 86.4 percent of divorces are by mutual consent.

The divorce law was passed despite strong opposition from the Vatican and from the Christian Democratic party which was in government at the time.

"Tutto il mondo è paese!"

Of course divorces are on the rise. Some of us poor Italian men are married to dangerous gangsters. They belong in a prison cell not in the kitchen!

We HAVE to take out the garbage.
We HAVE to put the toilet seat down when we're done.
We HAVE to remember our anniversary.

What choices are we left with?

It's either obey, mysteriously disappear, or get a divorce and then mysteriously disappear.


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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