Nobody was surprised when Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti presented a draconian "save Italy" emergency Budget decree on Sunday - that's what he had been nominated to do. But the full impact of the measures, especially hitting pensioners, became stunningly clear when Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, invited by Monti to present her ministry's section of the decree to the press and TV, broke down (SLYT) and was unable to bring out the word "sacrifice".
In "a comedy of errors", a professor of business at Canada's University of Guelph was accidentally named the Junior Minister of Agriculture for Italy. An interview with Professor Francesco Braga tells the confusing story. It turns out the Prime Minister's office had meant to name Professor Franco Braga, of Sapienza – Università di Roma, to the post.
On July 13, 2010, a cargo container arrived in Genoa, Italy from Saudi Arabia. It was emitting torrents of radiation. No one knew what was inside. And no one knew what to do next.... [more inside]
In a protest against the Wiretapping Act that is set to be discussed in parliament this week, the Italian edition of Wikipedia has been blocked, with all access being redirected to a single page statement (also available in five other languages); so far no timeframe for the protest action has been stated. Comment in support by Wikimedia on this unprecedented initiative; an editor leaves in disagreement; other users discuss.
Most people know that Venice has long been threatened by chronic flooding, but in recent years the Queen of the Adriatic has faced a rising tide of a different sort: advertising. From the Doge's Palace to St. Mark's Square to the bittersweet Bridge of Sighs -- named for the grief its splendid views once inspired in crossing death row prisoners -- immense billboards lit late into the night now mar the city's most treasured places. Allegedly built to cover the cost of restoration work in the face of government cutbacks, the ads have brought in around $600,000 per year since 2008 -- a fraction of the shortfall -- and show no sign of going away any time soon. Their presence prompted a consortium of the world's leading cultural experts led by the Venice in Peril Fund to air an open letter demanding the city government put a stop to the placards that "hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind." Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, for one, was not moved, saying last year "If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
Amanda Knox freed by Italian appeals court An Italian appeals court has thrown out the 2009 convictions of herself and her co-defendent, and has ordered Amanda Knox to be freed immediately.
Evan Osnos joins a tour group from China as they traverse Europe. In the front row of the bus, Li stood facing the group with a microphone in hand, a posture he would retain for most of our waking hours in the days ahead. In the life of a Chinese tourist, guides play an especially prominent role—translator, raconteur, and field marshal—and Li projected a calm, seasoned air. He often referred to himself in the third person—Guide Li—and he prided himself on efficiency. “Everyone, our watches should be synchronized,” he said. “It is now 7:16 P.M.” He implored us to be five minutes early for every departure. “We flew all the way here,” he said. “Let’s make the most of it.” [more inside]
The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox. In an in-depth new article in Rolling Stone, writer Nathaniel Rich makes a compelling case for the innocence of the American student at the center of a sordid, long-running Italian crime drama. [via Longreads]
In 2002 a Mrs. Soile Tuulikki Lautsi, a Finnish/Italian woman and member of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists objected to the crucifixes on the wall of her child’s public school. [more inside]
Italy's PM: can I privatize water supply, guarantee private investors a minimum 7% ROI on investments in water supply infrastructure, avoid showing up at scheduled court hearings and build a few nuclear plants, please? NO, you can't, answered nearly 30 million italians (95% of the voters, 57% of the people that held the right to vote) in the latest italian national referendum, whose final results are just about to be published (italian). [more inside]
"We have assembled objects in the form of a human figure, objects of all types that we found here each day and selected for their form and color, to obtain a familial nucleus that is the unity through which the individual forms itself and develops its ability to live and realize itself in the world." Artworks by Dario Tironi. via iGNANT
Thank God Silvio Exists! A beautiful blond woman, standing in a grocery store beside a pile of bananas, sings, “There’s a big dream that lives in all of us.” A throng of women belt out the chorus together under a cloudless sky: “Menomale che Silvio c’è”— “Thank God there’s Silvio.” Other women in various settings pick up the tune: a young mother in a pediatrician’s office, surrounded by nurses; a brunette in a beauty parlor, dressed for work in a camisole that barely covers her breasts. To American eyes, the ad looks like a parody, or perhaps some new kind of musical pornography that’s just about to erupt into carnality. (from a New Yorker blog post) [more inside]
Before Qaddafi, the closest thing to a national icon that Libya had was Omar Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert. Mussolini thought of Libya as the Fourth Shore of Italy; the natives were not pleased with this idea, and under the leadership of Mukhtar, a school teacher, successfully resisted the Italians for twenty years with almost no resources. Italian rule in Libya was harsh: Libyans were rounded up into concentration camps, tanks and aerial bombardment were used against civilians, and half of the population of Cyrenaica - the eastern part of Libya - died. To stop Mukhtar from receiving supplies from Egypt, the Italians built a 168-mile long barbed-wire fence essentially dividing the country in two. Mukhtar was finally captured and hung on September of 1931; he remains a symbol of Libyan independence. [more inside]
Current TV previously & previously, the media company founded by Al Gore after the 2000 election, has picked up the kinds of in depth long form journalism being rapidly dropped by major networks, but has been tantalizingly unavailable for those without cable; until now. They have been putting their Vanguard episodes up on their website and on YouTube. [more inside]
Didn’t you notice the palpable difference between what is happening in Libya and what is happening elsewhere?
"[T]he real target of Western bombers and soldiers is in no way the wretched Gaddafi...For the target of the bombers is definitely the popular uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Tunisia, it is their unexpected and intolerable character, their political autonomy, in a word: their independence." Philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the left's support for the NATO intervention in Libya. Background: Europe's economic entanglements with Gaddafi's Libya in the Irish Left Review.
How does Venice work? Short Vimeo documentary on the practicalities of Venice's architecture and civil engineering. More at Venice Backstage.
L'Eroica in Italy offers something truly unique: a race on ancient roads using obsolete bikes, surrounded by gorgeous scenery and fuelled by a mouth-watering selection of food and wine. [Official site]
Minding his own business looting a tomb near Lake Nemi, south of Rome, an Italian man, now in custody, has led police to what they believe is the resting place of one of the most famous emperors in history, Caligula. [more inside]
Brazil won't extradite an Italian writer convicted for political murders in the 1970s, so a Venetian official wants his books out of libraries. Not only Cesare Battisti's works, but also those written by Italians who supported him through petitions.
The Wu Ming group is on the case (English translation), fearing this will worsen and spread to the rest of Italy. [more inside]
The Wu Ming group is on the case (English translation), fearing this will worsen and spread to the rest of Italy. [more inside]
Villanova University, who first made the VR Tour of the Sistine Chapel, have made more of the Vatican’s most sacred sites virtually available online: the basilicas of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major, as well as the Pauline Chapel. Bonus: smaller panoramas from other historic Roman sites, but you'll have to deal with tourists.
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. According to legend, the tiny country of San Marino was founded in 301AD by Saint Marinus of Rab, and is thus the world’s oldest republic. Occupying 24 square miles around Mount Titano in the middle of Italy, it is the fifth smallest country in the world. [more inside]
Italy’s government teeters on the brink: tomorrow (Tuesday) a no-confidence vote should decide whether we have another three years of bunga-bunga partying, "escort" (= prostitute) scandals and international gaffes from the leader of this NATO partner and founding EU member, or whether Silvio Berlusconi will be sent home. Some think it’s a hilariously stupid (SLYT) to suggest he might step down. [more inside]
Bar Portraits — Dignified gentlemen sit for their portraits in bars and cafes across Italy. Contrast that with The Waste Land, a series of intimate portraits of young intoxicated people, photographed during or after parties, festivals, and raves. Both are portrait projects of Piero Martinello. [more inside]
Maria Laura Rodotà an Italian journalist bemoans Berlusconi´s philandering and the culture of machismo that celebrates his habitual womanising. Rubygate - the latest of many scandals involving teenage girls is shrugged off by the 70 year old as My Passion for women is better than being gay. How much longer can he cling to power? (previously)
Gotthardt rail tunnel breakthrough in pictures (click photo for popup gallery). The 35 mile/ 57 km long tunnel through the Alps is the longest in the world. The breakthrough is130 years after it's predecessor was finished in 1880. It took 15 years to build and cost 10 billion dollar, largely because of extra security requirements. The breakthrough in the middle happened today. Description in English.
The Geometry of Pasta. If you click on a shape, on most of them, it tells you a bit of history and recipe suggestions. l Pasta shape names l Recipes l Farfalle (butterflies/bow-ties) with Prosciutto and cream animation. The geography of pasta l The origins of pasta. Glossary. More pasta shapes. [more inside]
World's first 'tree cathedral' takes root in Italy The remarkable work designed by Italian environment artist Giuliano Mauri [Italian Wikipedia link], who died last year, has been completed after months of work and presented as one of the initiatives marking the International Year of Biodiversity.
After 900 years, Giorgia Boscolo has become the first female to pass Venice's rigorous gondolier examination, something she has been trying for years to accomplish.
Early into the Egypt-Italy Science Year 2009, a crater was found by a research team with Google Earth on the hyperarid southern edge of Egypt. Not associated with the earlier documented Clayton craters located in the south-east corner of Egypt, the recently discovered crater is unique for its untouched, pristine nature that appears more similar to other planets and moons with thin atmospheres, even though the impact has been estimated to be a few thousand years old. The crater, labeled Gebel Kamil, will be the 177th known impact site on Earth, as logged by the Earth Impact Database. [more inside]
"If these people can't predict an earthquake, then what's the point of them?" Italian seismologists accused of manslaughter. (via simon singh)
Italy is no more a democracy. According to freedom house, in 2009 the italian press was only "Partly Free"; but from today, it is definitely Not Free.
There are Real Fake Buildings, Real Fake Watches, real fake books, and of course, "The Internet's LARGEST Selection of Real Fake Rocks!" But for truly high-end fakes -- the "realest" of the fakes -- there's the Museum of Fakes in Southern Italy, or even better, the Museum of Art Fakes in Vienna, which includes etchings from "last living master forger from Germany." "The Museum of Art Fakes, almost directly opposite the Hundertwasserhaus, is unique in Europe. It is filled with paintings from not only world famous forgers (such as van Meegeren, Tom Keating, David Stein, Konrad Kujau, Edgar Mrugalla, Lothar Malskat), but also so-called ‘identical-forgeries’ of Schiele, Klimt, Monet, Raffael and many more."
For Sale: Rural Italian countryside, Priced to MOVE! A landslide (mud flow?) splits a hillside apart in the southern Italian town of Maierato.
"They come from nearby Florence or Siena by bus and carve "Edward Forever!" into the walls while laughing giddily." The small Italian town of Volterra struggles to retain its authenticity amidst New Moon Tours and dungeon shows. Pictures. "'Vampires don't have souls,' Boelen points out. 'But Volterra does.'" [more inside]
In 2006 some Italian teenagers filmed themselves assaulting a youth with Down Syndrome and uploaded the video to Google Video Italia. It was pulled from the site within hours, but that did not satisfy the Italian Down Syndrome support group named Vivi Down, who filed a complaint that resulted in a two-year investigation. That lead to charges and indictment of four Google executives, who were never aware of the video until after it had been removed, for violating Italy’s privacy code. Today the Italian court ruled that three of the four - chief legal officer David Drummond, global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer and former CFO George Reyes - are guilty, and sentenced them to 6 months to a year of jail-time. The fourth, Arvind Desikan, former head of Google Video in London, was acquitted. [more inside]
In May of 1940, "Mad Jack" Churchill became the only man in WWII to record a kill with a longbow. [more inside]
Italians cheer as police move African immigrants out of a small town in Calabria, following clashes in which immigrant farmworkers were shot at, severely beaten and run over. Rosarno is said to be a hotbed of the 'Ndrangheta, which controls the labour market of illegalized seasonal day labourers living in inhuman and desperate conditions. While the Pope urges Italy to respect migrants, leftist newspaper 'il manifesto' put this on the front page.
Milanese businesswomen Lorella Zanardo made a short documentary critiquing the sexist depictions of women on Italian television. That documentary - Il corpo delle donne (Women's Bodies) - is available to watch online (with subtitles) here.
The Via Francigena (fran-chee-jena) (also here) was the pilgrim road leading from Canterbury to Rome and one of the most important routes of communication in the Middle Ages. The Italian government has this week launched a project to recover the Italian leg of it. [more inside]
Calcio Fiorentino was an early form of football (YT) that originated in 16th century Italy (YT). The modern version (Foto Gallery) allows tactics such as head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking, but forbids sucker-punching and kicks to the head.
Luigi Russolo was a futurist painter, experimental composer, and instrument builder. In his 1913 manifesto "The Art of Noises" he declaimed the death of traditional Western music and foresaw the dawning of a new music based on the grinding, screeching, moaning, crackling and buzzing of mechanical instruments. He and his assistant Ugo Piatti built the Intonarumori to bring these new sounds - "the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags" - to life. Listen to them, then and now.
Sung in incoherent pseudo-English, Adriano Celentano's Prisencolinensinainciusol (1973) could be thought of as an early example of rap.
"A jaw-dropping feat of architecture has risen in the Italian city of Nola, just a stone’s throw away from the cataclysmic Mt. Vesuvius. Designed by Renzo Piano, Vulcano Buono is an epic cone-shaped commercial center crowned with a gorgeous sloping green roof. Piano’s 'good volcano' contributes a vital new space to the southern edge of the Nola commercial district, which is the most most important freight terminal complex in southern and central Italy."
A new documentary by a Swedish-based Italian filmmaker examines how media mogul turned two-time president Silvio Berlusconi's 30-year grip on Italian television has shaped the country, its politics, its culture and society. Erik Gandini's Videocracy, which screens at the Venice Film Festival, starts 30 years ago, when Berlusconi introduced a quiz show whose female contestants stripped for the camera, and charts 30 years of showgirls, celebrities, reality TV shows and Berlusconi's rise to political power, and interviews characters of the system, including a talentless but fame-hungry TV contestant, a fascist-sympathising media fixer, and a paparazzo/extortionist turned celebrity. More details here and (with a trailer) here. [more inside]