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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October 2004
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"Adopt an Italian Grandfather Today!"


Fresh Dolce di Fichi from Sicily! Italian gourmet almond, fig & pistachio cookies baked and shipped from our little bakery in Italy to you; all natural, fresh, and made to order. Soft and chewy cookies with a crisp outside and tender inside. Your cookies are made exclusively from our own home grown natural almonds, figs, pistachio, the freshest farm eggs, flour, and sugar. Whatever your favorite Italian gourmet cookie is Adriana's bakery will satisfy.

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"Buon Giorno!" Welcome to another authentic ricotta and cannoli issue of "Only In Italy!"

Hello. My correct e-mail is as above. I am subscribing for:

1) I am Italian by enjection (my ex-husband is 100% Italian),
2) and one of my best friends is Italian and would LOVE this kind of humor!

So, please subscribe me, please, to ANY KIND of Italian humor, intelligence, etc. I am 50 and STILL cannot figure why so many Italians talk with their hands! Thank you and Ciao! Denise


Thanks for the letter and your subscription, Denise!

You'll be happy to know that we've also subscribed you to the "Catania Cornuto" newsletter and the Naples "Baccala Daily". They both give amazingly intelligent commentary.

Your letter could possibly be one of the reasons why Italians still talk with their hands. Did you ever think of that? After having read your letter, here at the news office, some of us still have our hands in our hair and are making gestures which indicate "va a quell paese!" Your letter was like eating a cannoli filled with cottage cheese.

Ciao Denise!


Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Lonely Senior Citizen Gets Adopted

San Polo dei Cavalieri - September 26, 2004 - A lonely pensioner who turned to Italy's classified pages to find someone willing to "adopt" him as a grandfather is finally heading to his new home and family in northern Italy this weekend.

Giorgio Angelozzi, 80, has lived alone outside Rome with seven cats since his wife died in 1992, but he took the unprecedented step of putting himself up for adoption last month via an Italian newspaper.

Not satisfied with just running the advertisement, Italy's main daily ran a front-page story about Angelozzi's plight.

Inundated with offers from families across Italy and as far away as New Zealand, Brazil and the United States, the retired schoolteacher has decided to go to live with Elio and Marlena Riva and their two teenage children in Bergamo, northern Italy.

"I was hit by a torrential downpour. I didn't think I would be able to choose among so many offers," the white-bearded Angelozzi told the press during his last hours in his simple two-room flat.

"But I chose the woman whose voice reminded me of my wife."

Angelozzi's appeal struck a chord in family-loving Italy where up to four generations have traditionally lived under the same roof or at least in the same neighborhood.

Today, one in five Italians is over the age of 65 and almost half of them live alone, partly because of the more mobile lifestyle of younger generations. Italy also has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.

"Remember that my problem is one that affects so many elderly people in Italy. Always remember that," Angelozzi had said during the initial flurry of attention.

He will travel with Marlena Riva to Bergamo on Saturday night where his new home boasts a garden with apple, cherry and pomegranate trees and a beagle called Pablo to replace his cats.

"I will become a grandfather, this was my plan. I will have the affection of this woman who is already calling me 'daddy' and the children who call me Grandpa Giorgio," said Angelozzi, who has a daughter working abroad with a charity.

The former classics teacher had told potential families he would contribute 500 euros ($615) a month to expenses, but the Rivas say what they really want is a grandfather.

"This grandfather needs help and we need him," Marlena told reporters. Her relatives live in her native Poland and her husband's parents recently died.

Their 16-year-old daughter Dagmara said: "I just want a grandfather, the rest isn't important."

"Che bello!" What a beautiful story!

It's so nice to hear that Italians could have such warm hearts and perform such breathtaking acts of sincerity, love and generosity.

How long will it be before the freshly adopted "Nonno Giorgio" starts hollering out the words:
- Put on something warm!
- Count the silverware!
- Rake the lawn!
- And turn down the music!

And how many times will the family have to hear that, during World War II, he had to pick bugs off his brother, Sal, to eat?

And how many times will the family have to remind him to wear matching socks, pull his pants up and stop pacing himself like a slug?


In Southern Italy, The Mafia Lives On, Quieter But Stronger

Corleone - July 15, 2004 - Here in the harsh, tawny hills of central Sicily, proud residents of Corleone are trying to take back the name immortalized by Marlon Brando and made synonymous with the Cosa Nostra.

That nasty reputation of their town as a home for murderous thugs is simply mistaken, they say. Oh sure, directions are often given in relation to the sites of famous slayings ("turn right where they offed the Bandito Giuliano ... "). And the wives and children of some of Sicily's most notorious Mafia dons (jailed or on the lam) live in Corleone.

But take the town's "Mafia tour," as 1,700 tourists have so far this year, and a visitor hears not only about the local history of organized crime, but also the efforts of a handful of brave souls to fight it.

Corleone is trying hard to shed its image. But is the Mafia ever really very far away?

"I think they're laughing at us," said Gino Felicetti, a young dentist who guides the Mafia tours. "They leave us alone for now. But if these tours ever take off and become moneymaking, they'll want to be part of it."

Like Corleone, the Mafia on this island of vineyards, ancient Greek temples and half-finished concrete buildings has spent the last few years carefully burnishing its public guise and courting a new air of respectability. But even if it rarely makes headlines these days, the Cosa Nostra is, in fact, flourishing.

Mafia capos have suspended their most vicious campaigns, the ones where they might blow up a prosecutor visiting his mother or melt a young boy in acid, and instead are running commercial enterprises, securing government construction contracts and calmly claiming protection money from vast numbers of Sicily's residents.

"The Mafia today is less violent but much more infiltrated into daily life," said Silvana Saguto, a judge 25 miles away in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, who, in 23 years on the bench, has sent many a mobster to jail.

Saguto oversees a program that confiscates Mafioso property and assets as part of the punishment meted out by the courts. She estimates having seized or "sequestered" about $7.5 billion worth of assets in the past decade.

And yet, she readily acknowledges, it's a drop in the bucket. This is a losing battle.

"No economic activity is untouched by the Mafia," she said. "As soon as we arrest one criminal, another takes his place."

False security?

Anti-Mafia activists fear that the relative peace seen in recent years is lulling Italians into a false sense that organized crime is no longer dangerous. The gains that began in the backlash after the murders of a judge and prosecutor are gradually being eroded, they maintain, especially during what they see as a permissive climate fostered by current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi, a multi billionaire businessman who is himself on trial on bribery charges, routinely rails against judges and prosecutors.

The Sicilian branch of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has for years been dogged by accusations of having mob connections. Party officials have denied the claim. A Mafia turncoat last year testified that Berlusconi once held a meeting with Mafia dons in his villa near Milan; the testimony came during the trial of one of Berlusconi's old friends and business partners, who is accused of ties to organized crime.

Berlusconi's infrastructure minister, Pietro Lunardi, whose office controls public-works projects, touched off a political firestorm three years ago when he said the Mafia was a "reality" that "we have to live with." He later said he was misunderstood.

The Cosa Nostra, along with its counterparts in the southern Italian provinces of Calabria, Campania and Puglia, will this year rake in profits equivalent to 10 percent of the national GDP, or about 100 billion euros, according to the Roman think tank Eurispes.

Although drug trafficking is the biggest moneymaker for these criminal organizations, Eurispes said, business corruption, construction deals and public-works projects constitute a major source of income, and Sicily's Cosa Nostra leads the pack in such pursuits.

In Corleone, a town of 11,000, residents note that the presence of an anti-Mafia center, inaugurated with great fanfare a few years ago and featuring life-size pictures of notorious crime bosses, would have been unthinkable in bloodier days. The center is an important stop on the Mafia tours.

Antonino Iannazzo, deputy mayor of Corleone, said residents who would have run in terror in years past are now happy to point out to visitors the houses where native-son mobsters lived. That courage seems born of a kind of mutually tolerated coexistence.

"The Mafia is always active, but they are acting in a more hidden way," Iannazzo, 30 and a member of the right-wing National Alliance Party, said in an interview in his office, where three photographs of Benito Mussolini grace the wall.

One of the world's most enduring criminal organizations, the Mafia was formed in Sicily's central farmland to defend feudal barons, especially from peasants who eventually demanded land. By the middle of the 19th century it had evolved into a loose network of crooks, thieves and hired guns.

Built on the foundation of secretive Sicilian clans, the Mafia grew to control numerous Sicilian villages and towns by the early 20th century. When Italy's Fascists rose to power, dictator Mussolini coveted the territory and suppressed the Mafiosi who were in charge, throwing many into prison.

His crackdown on the Mafia made its members natural allies of American forces that invaded Sicily during World War II. The Americans in turn allowed Mafiosi to become mayors across Sicily, and over time they moved from agriculture to urban businesses, construction in particular.

All the Mafia clans were violent, but the most savage was the Corleone gang. Writer Mario Puzo gave the town's name to his fictional "Godfather," Don Vito Corleone, in his 1969 opus, which became the basis for the classic film trilogy.

Public figures targeted

Although most of the thousands of Mafia murders through the generations had involved internal feuds and vendettas, the Corleone mobsters aimed their guns and bombs at public figures, including a raft of judges, police officers and incompliant politicians.

In 1992, the crusading anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone was murdered, blown up as he drove from the Palermo airport to the city. His wife and three police bodyguards were killed along with him.

Two months later, his associate and the chief prosecutor for Palermo, Paolo Borsellino, met a similar fate. A car bomb outside his mother's apartment building killed him and five bodyguards as he arrived for a visit.

The carnage had gone too far and unleashed a backlash, what Sicilian political scientist Umberto Santino calls a boomerang. The Sicilian public rebelled, tougher laws and longer jail sentences were enacted and, for a period, authorities scored significant victories in their fight against the Mafia.

After the arrest in 1993 of Salvatore "The Beast" Riina, the "capo di tutti i capi" - the Boss of Bosses - the Mafia under his successor, Bernardo "The Tractor" Provenzano, made a strategic decision to temper its methods, lower its profile and stick to the lucrative but less-visible business of corruption and protection rackets.

And thus it became what Palermo's chief prosecutor, Piero Grasso, calls the Invisible Mafia. It keeps out of the limelight, uses persuasion instead of murder, and has gradually, quietly expanded its grip on Sicilian economic life.

Smaller slices, bigger pie

Gone are the days when gangsters charged a handful of businesses exorbitant extortion fees. Now an estimated 80 percent of all Palermo's shopkeepers pay some amount of protection money known as the "pizzo."

It's part of the new style, Grasso said, citing today's mantra: "Pagare tutti, pagare meno," which essentially means: everyone pays less, but everyone pays. And no one goes to the police, Grasso said, speaking during an interview at Palermo's fortress-like Justice Ministry. Six of his bodyguards sat just outside his office.

Everyone in Palermo knows which Mafia family controls his neighborhood or the neighborhood of his place of business. From recovering stolen property to getting permits to open a shop, the Mafia has a hand in it. A legitimate business might secure a big building contract legally, but Mafiosi will then tell it where to buy cement or which ditch-diggers to hire.

"The Mafia doesn't even need to threaten anymore: People look to the Mafia and seek it out for favors," said Enrico Bellavia, a Sicilian journalist and author of a new book on the Cosa Nostra. "People don't ask themselves whether this organization is unpleasant or not they just see it as a force that can resolve their individual needs."

Remarkably, Provenzano has eluded capture for more than four decades. From his hideout, he famously communicates his orders by sending instructions on small pieces of paper to his associates and followers. And they write back, as do a number of Sicilians asking him for favors.

Prosecutors acknowledge it's quite embarrassing that he has not been caught, and there have been reports in the Italian press that a small group of Carabinieri, the national paramilitary police, are helping him hide.

At the same time, several officials quietly admitted that Provenzano's freedom in fact ensures the peace, such as it is. It's in his interest to keep the calm: As long as there are no massacres, he is free to conduct his business.

A new debate beginning to grip Italy is whether some elements of the Mafia are hooking up with militant Islamic cells known to be active in parts of the country. Pierluigi Vigna, the head of the national anti-Mafia office, recently told journalists that investigators had found a link between "Islamic terrorist groups" and the Camorra, which is the Cosa Nostra's counterpart in Naples. But when pressed, he declined to give further details.

Although it exists throughout Italy and certainly beyond, the Mafia has flourished especially in southern Italy, with its endemic poverty, long tradition of distrust for central government, secretive, clannish ways and emphasis on family loyalty.

Tragically, the corruption spawned by cooperation with the Mafia - millions of dollars in public funds and foreign aid have reportedly been siphoned off - only locks the region in economic misery.

In Corleone, unemployment is high and the pace is slow. But the streets are calm.

Social revival

"Corleone has changed a lot in 15 years," said Maria Stella Lino, a 46-year-old homemaker. The fear that kept people in their homes after dusk, shuttered businesses and discouraged small-town social life is gone, she said.

Lino recalled how Mardi-Gras-style carnivals, typical throughout Italy, were banned for years in Corleone because authorities worried that mobsters would use the masks and costumes as cover to murder their enemies.

"Now we have carnivals, with masks, every year," she said. "The Mafia is part of the culture. But it's hidden now."

Felicetti, the young dentist who ushers the Corleone tours as a sideline, and his partner, Fausto Iaria, like to surprise their guests with a first stop at the town's elaborate cathedral. Corleone gave the world two saints, they tell visitors.

The tour also includes wine-tasting at a local wine cellar, lunch on a farm and a visit to the "anthropological" museum that displays the evolution of farm tools. The main stop, however, is the anti-Mafia center, which also houses an archive of documents from major Mafia trials conducted in the 1980s, that sent scores of men to jail.

Felicetti and Iaria said they hope visitors take away another impression of Corleone. "But to be honest," Iaria said, "they come here because of 'The Godfather.'"

"Porca Miseria!"

Yes, thereís lots of Mafia here in Italy.
You know how Japan has raw fish wrapped in seaweed?
We have Mafia.

In general, Sicilians have become shell-shocked and immune to all the Mafia crime that surrounds them. If a typical Sicilian becomes witness to a live execution in the streets, he would say, "Thatís a terrible thing!" and they would keep walking.

You know, in a way, we're being light about it. He wouldn't keep walking, he'd run like a bastard just to get away from the trauma.

What could explain the audacity the people of Corleone have to start Mafia Tours in that forsaken town? Believe us, we're against leaving the house.

After reading this article, the only advice we can give to the "Corleonese" is go into dry cleaning and live out your lives.


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Italy Say Turn Off, Don't Tune In and Live Longer and Happier

Milan - September 20, 2004 - Turning off the television and tuning into a more active lifestyle will boost life expectancy, Italy's Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia has said.

"Abolish the television and you will have a longer and healthier life," he was quoted on Monday by news agencies as telling a conference of elderly people in Milan.

"Don't give in to the couch-potato life of television because it's unhealthy," he added.

It's not the first time Sirchia has come out with unconventional advice for the elderly. At the start of the summer he raised eyebrows when he suggested pensioners head to supermarkets to escape the heat.

"Madonna mia!" The Health Minister has finally lost his Italian marbles!

What are the Italian elderly supposed to do without the power of the "clicker" in their hands? Not utter a sound and stare at each other without changing the expressions on their faces?

Girolamo obviously doesn't understand that the Italian television is one of the five secret rules for a happy Italian marriage:

o Leave the TV on at all times,
o Argue about money,
o Never go to bed happy,
o Criticize each otherís weight,
o And leave the door open when you go to the bathroom (especially when it's number "two").


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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