Tuesday, July 15

Berlusconi - A report card on his trials & tribulations

School may be out for the summer, but I thought I'd give you a Report Card on the judiciary woes that have our favorite Prime Minister currently "working" (albeit only a few hours a week) at a Senior Citizen Home as retribution for one of his many prickly peccadillos.   
Just in case anyone wants to keep track:

1 - Found GUILTY for the Mediaset Tax Fraud case, in which he was sentenced to 4 years in prison, later reduced to 1 year for a law to reduce jail overcrowding, reduced to community service since he is now over 70 years old.  
He was also banned from public office for 5 years, but has managed to get that 'under review' as well.
1 - ABSOLVED due to his party changing the law so it would no longer be illegal
2 - Cases DROPPED due to a govt amnesty (surprise, surprise)
3 - Cases DROPPED - usually for statute of limitations.  To many, this is nothing short of incredible. In Italian trials, the clock keeps ticking even once you're on trial, so...your smooth lawyers can stall and stall and Whoa, really?! I'm off because we didn't try my case in time? Funny how that works. 
7 - Cases going to TRIAL

So, where does the "most persecuted man in history" stand on his many trials today?

  • RUBY RUBACUORE - the heart stealer who got him 7 years for sex with a minor - he is now getting it up in appeals.
  • RUBY TER - some of Berlusconi's illustrious Brat & Rat Pack got jail terms for basically running a prostitution ring at Silvio's playpen in Arcore (Sardinia), Berlusconi is going to be tried on corrupting witnesses, since he was paying his call girls - err... friends - nice stipends the whole time leading up to and during the trial [€5M to Ruby and 2500/month to others].
  • BARI ESCORT - more girl problems for Silvio from top to bottom of the Boot. Again, abetting prostitution and then lying about it.
  • BUYING VOTES - In Naples he's on trial for "convincing" a certain Senator (Sergio De Gregorio, who has confessed) to switch parties during a crucial vote; thereby impeding the govt
  • LODO MONDADORI - This coming October, Berlusconi is being asked to pay further damages to his biggest competitor, a certain De Benedetti to whom he was already forced to pay 494 Million euro. They're asking for about 90M more for the legal fees and interest payments.
  • DIVORCE - Ahhh yes, sometimes, when you're caught once too often with your pants down and with minors no less, your wife might say, Basta! Enough is Enough.  So now, the courts need to come up with a tidy alimony payment for her own public embarrassment and with the richest man in Italy.

* A terrific synopsis by the BBC on these cases here
You can find more on my favorite Italian, at The Silvio Show here

Sunday, July 6

Roma Termini Train Station - a place where living comes to life

Longtime readers of my blog will know that I have a few select memes regarding Life in Italy - one of them being, that the entire country needs a crash course in Marketing 101. Heck-they can even choose one of thousands online and free! And so it was, when I caught the new Rome Termini Train Station ad - website - and marketing program.  But, I'll be fair.  Their website is truly terrific.  Thought out nicely, excellent graphics, and even user-friendly.  So on that front, kudos to you web designers!  One trip over there, and you can see all that Rome's Central Train Station has to offer. 
But then there it was...front and center, their cool new moniker. I can't decide if it is tongue-in-cheek like the Brits would do, or if they are totally serious about this.  It reads, literally, "A place for living."  
Check out the Home Page - there's more to Rome's Train Station
than meets the eye!  
I imagine that what they mean by this, is in reality, "A place to experience the joys of life" or something along those lines. But, really? Because, when I think...a place for living, the hundreds of people actually living there come to mind.
picture from Il Tempo newspaper
Here, thanks to a mix of outstanding volunteer associations, our guests at least are treated to breakfast in bed - even better service than most of us get at home.
Volunteers help to do what they can for the homeless
in Rome's Termini Station
Adra Assoc
The other association that runs Binario 95 - a place that helps the mentally ill or infirm and locates beds around Rome does incredible work.  But their name?  Europe Consulting. Perfect for a marketing consulting firm in Brussels. Marketing 101 anybody? 

Sunday, June 29

Rome Tourists find sights hiding in plain sight

Picture & slide show from Archive9news.com 
Satirical columnist Dave Barry once penned in one of his most memorable columns, when describing his trip to Italy with his family, that as far as he could tell, "Each summer in Italy, not only do all the Italians empty out of the cities to the beach or the mountainsides, but so do all the statues as well." This summer, almost on cue, it's not the statues but rather all the big monuments that tourists are wont to view. Considering the lack of money Roma Capitale govt claims not to have, it looks instead that we are building for the next Olympics.
So, for tourists, here's your quick guide on what you may or may not be seeing this summer:
• They may have closed all the roads leading to the nerve center of Rome, so tourists can have a leisurely stroll up the Fori Imperiali, but still the Colosseum looks like it's wearing braces while it gets the deep clean of a lifetime [with financing by footwear magnate of Tod's]
• Over near the Spanish Steps clean-ups are a double feature what with the Barcaccia - the little boat - fountain that spouts much-needed cool water in the summer by Pietro Bernini (dad, not son) under wraps so tall they nearly cover the Spanish Steps.
Photo & slide show by UrbanVision.it
• Peep around the corner of the wall there and look up.  At the top of the hill sits the convent and church of Trinità dei Monti but you won't see a thing. I believe it's part of the facelift of the entire Spanish Steps compliments of Bulgari but I can't be sure.  Let's just hope we don't end up with a rubbery-looking staircase that looks like it came from an Italianate Smurf Village, like the lips of fashion models who parade down them each spring. Supposedly it will all be back to its original splendor in two years.
• And finally, on everyone's wish list is to run the gauntlet between the hoardes of tourists, pickpockets, street mimes, counterfeit vendors and beggars toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Well, not so fast.  Although it is still a sensational masterpiece with its wild horses, it too is under wraps.  But this project gives us something for the money -- the City just completed a walkway that will allow tourists to get a nice view of the restoration works in progress.  That is, if someone is actually there working over the hot summer months.  Nonetheless, it might keep you out of the way of the pickpockets long enough to enjoy a unique vantage point on gorgeous art restoration.

All links live above for cool slideshows of the works

Sunday, June 22

e-Harmony Italian style - Davvero?

...Really?!  I received in my inbox an invitation to try out eHarmony online dating. I think it was in Italian, and I thought, I would check out the types of guys they thought might be my perfect online match. After all, stranger things have happened. 
Now, I don't know if it was because I selected to receive their barrage of questioning in English, but, certainly, my country choice was Italy. So, I went in to face their 1375 questions that might identify that perfect person to spend the rest of my life with, or, in the very least, once mamma had been laid to rest.
The questions clearly did not change algorithms to your demographic. Suddenly, I felt like maybe it was a site for tweens trying to find someone to join them at a One Direction concert.  Who do you prefer? Madonna or Lady Gaga (citing one of the questions in which there was a minimum of name recognition)...Incredibly, None of the Above was not an option. If you chose one or the other, you received a quick, cheery message that chirped, "Great! You want to meet someone who likes Madonna!" Well, actually, no. But let's move on.
The queries were far too American-centered for my taste - and for Italy. And while I'm the first to admit that...if I've got a problem with the dating website, one can only fear for the actual date itself...One question after another referenced U.S. TV stars or movies I'd never heard of. Or shopping malls or other bizarre American traits.
So, I don't know if there's an Italian version of questioning out there, or if eHarmony just translates from that original set.  Skimming thru the questionnaire, I realized I needed a Red-White-Green version that would help me suss out the opposite sex and, pronto. 

Heart Graphic

ScrapsYard.com | Heart Break | Forward this Picture
So, eHarmony, here's a teaser for you to help you get a jump start on the Italian dating market:
  • Do you still live at home?
  • How old were you when you left your home?
  • Do you think it's okay for your mamma to do your laundry?
  • Do you believe that socks and underwear must be ironed to the point that they can stand up straight in a drawer?
  • Ironing is only for women, true or false?
  • Do you agree that courses served for all meals must be planned well in advance? And, perhaps in consultation with your mother?
  • Your ideal living situation is in the same apartment building as your mamma?
  • Laughing out loud is not good for women, true or false?
  • Animals are part of the family, or filthy beasts?
  • A kitchen is not fully cleaned until all bacteria is removed from every visible surface
  • Pizza shall be eaten with a fork and knife always? Or just under duress?
  • Sundays are for watching football? Being with mamma? Or relaxing at home?
  • Just because you're married 'doesn't mean I'm dead' - true or false?
  • Plastic surgery? Or botox?
  • Berlusconi or Beppe Grillo?
  • An 'open marriage' is only disrespectful if your partner finds out, true or false?
  • Do you think bare feet in the house causes warts?
And, if you're going to give me musician choices, let's hear: Pino Daniele? Jovanotti? or Ligabue?

Anyone have any more to add?

Tuesday, June 10

Italy: Bribe City & More - Same Time Next Year

Per quest'anno, non cambiare, stessa spiaggia stesso mare...
Per poterti rivedere...per tornare quest' estate insieme a me.
E come l'anno scorso....Sotto gli ombrelloni, lontano, lontano nessuno ci vedrà

This year, don't change a thing...
Same sand - same sea
So to see you again and relive this summer again with me.
This season, like the last one....
Under the large umbrellas, out of sight, out of sight, no one will see us...

This summer the headlines have been filled day by day of the titillating stories of the millions upon millions in bribes that our dear political hacks and their cronies have been pocketing over the large construction projects going up around Italy. Especially scintillating, since Milan ("Bribe City" of yesteryear) and Venice, the supposed scandal-free serenissima, are the locations of such sculduggery [for Milan's Expo2015 and Mose - Moses water divider project in Venice].
And while people seem to be aghast at the breadth and depth of these particular scandals, I am always astonished by them for a number of reasons:  

First off, it is not the untold millions stolen from hospitals, or school kids, or the elderly that I find stunning: It is the fact that people still find it surprising when it happens (or maybe, justifiably, that they get caught at all with their grubby hands in the till).
Secondly, that people actually believe that pursuant to the events of 1992-1996 Tangentopoli-Bribe City that took place in Milan and (supposedly) rid the country of a rotten political class, that the country was on the mend. I, for the life of me, cannot fathom the extent to which Italians live in such a state of marked denial.  And they say we're pessimists here. Al contrario, this is either raging optimism or, I'm afraid, hopelessness and lack of faith in our institutions; the first symptom of a failing State.

I mean, this is a country where you have to pay a bribe to get your driver's license.
• Where families pay off doctors to get a bed in a hospital room.
• Where the clergy have been shown (thru Vatileaks) to be on the take from everything from catering a concert to running illegal funds for deposit in Switzerland.
• Where people I know, from someone selling pencils to companies or someone building bank branches, have to pay someone off in order to seal the deal, large or small.

Moreover, people still are wont to believe that if we pay politicians (including low-life city councilmen) twice as much as U.S. Presidents, more than every other European country, shower them with perks, per diems, apartments and chauffeurs, that this would dissuade them from stealing from the pot. Not so.
As a former Wall Street trader put it, the more you rake in, you become addicted to getting even more, by any means possible.

But the one thing that irks me no end, is that, with all their oodles of money, (almost) nowhere do you see Foundations, University Chairs, Hospitals, et.al. being named after someone who cashed it in. At least our Robber Barons left us a few choice universities, innumerable foundations, hospitals, even abroad.  In Rome, even the founder of Kodak built a dentistry hospital. Do you see anything but villas and a generation of women with fishlips that Berlusconi has left as a legacy? He's just a regular Bill Gates, alright. Except that instead of vaccinating Africans, he started his very own training program: to teach Ghedaffi's Woman Guard how to Pole Dance.
No, these criminals and, sadly, the public at large, expect 'The State' to take care of it all. Really? After you've stolen all the public money? Again, citing a recent article about America's 1%:  The problem is, these people, with all their money, will still only be able to buy so many shoes (unless, of course, you're Imelda Marcos). By taking the money from millions, millions of sales are lost. Companies fold. Everyone loses. I've been inside Senator's houses that could be free-standing museums. Sadly, the works stashed away and hidden from cameras are never bequeathed to the public when the patron's free-wheeling ways and days come to an end.  And yet, we still believe. Year in and year out.
- Wasn't that Moses contraption supposed to divide the waters?
-  Yeah-but for now, it's only divvying up the bribe money.
The Fiamme Gialle financial police who uncover these crimes deserve a Shout Out from each and every honest Italian. But still, check out the bank accounts of any purchasing dept head in any company in Italy; there's still more to find, year after year, after year.
And, now, I'll close with another song lyrics that aptly portrays this new rendition of Bribe City:

Second verse, same as the first -- but a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse! 

Tuesday, May 20

Death in Italy - will Godfather-style traditions finally be eclipsed by Starbucks?

Considering the amount of play the most famous death on earth gets in Italy, on every church, museum, and homes from The Last Supper to the reenactment of the crucifixion by the Pope, to the resurrection and all that followed...for a foreigner, Italians have a very surprising way at "celebrating" the death of a loved one.  As I penned in my book, Burnt by the Tuscan Sun and recounted in other books, blogposts and presentations, well, those of us used to a sort of 'wake' after the Big Event, always feel like something goes missing when the Italian crowd simply dissipates into thin air after the mass & burial (or maybe, that's the point - it does, indeed, make a rather tidy metaphor).
Italians usually cite their Catholicism which is in play. To which I rebut, "Have you ever been to Ireland, or anywhere in Latin America, or - heck - Detroit?!" People party until they feel they're practically escorting the dead right up into heaven. But, maybe it's because people just like to eat.  One blogger on the subject states, "He would've wanted everyone to eat." So, why not in the country that made eating one of their national treasures?
I love this book title.
But, the article I found it on is equally compelling
So, leave it to Italian funeral home services to finally usher in a different kind of funeral, replete with dancing halls, an orchestra, and of course, a banquet. Taffo, the Company who brings us all the witty adverts on a level only found issued by Ikea, of course had to be behind it. As Shelley, An Americana a Roma has repeatedly pointed out, their ads just kill me (okay, apologies)...

I mean, this is the company that actually pays for 'product placement' in movies.
But, while they're - errrr - warming up to the idea of big festivities, they better watch out: The Funerary Company that wanted a Starbucks inside (naturally, only in the USA) just got ruled out by a judge...
Regardless, Heaven (for those left behind) can't wait.

here is the video of the ribbon-cutting

Saturday, May 3

You know you're in (yawn) Switzerland when a cheese merger makes front page news

Anyone who's ever come near Switzerland knows two things about it: You can get the most outrageous fondue on the planet, and that you will most likely have to mortgage your maison for that palatable pleasure. You walk off the pistes (or, as I am wont to do, you drive up the mountaintop and pull into the nearest parking spot) and into the everlovin' cheese chalet where you settle for the next hour dousing yourself in wine while your tastebuds battled it out with your brain: Fondue or Raclette?

These two items have been on every menu since the time 
that very first cow sat too long in the sun and cheese was born.

So it came as a shock to see on the front page of the newspapers, the awesome announcement that two mega-cheese producers would be merging into one.  Dubbed the "marriage of fondue & raclette" it rocked both financial markets and fondue lovers alike.  Who knew that one company was the no. 2 distributor of the line of cheeses for one item, the other, specialized in producing well, a type of cheese - called raclette? And, it wasn't until 2014 that the twain shall meet...excepting for on that wonderful liste of mouth-watering melted cheese meals.  Bon Appetit!

*And the best part about writing this up was discovering that there's a helpful app to help you sort it all out...Here, reviewed by padgadget.