It’s Good to be the King!

September 18, 2008


Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi simply can’t help himself when it comes to beautiful women. On this occasion, the subject of his all too obvious glancing is the newly-crowned Miss Italy Miriam Leone.

Many of his supporters certainly do forgive him, with the exception of his long suffering wife, Veronica:

Mr Berlusconi was appearing on the current affairs show, Porta a Porta, and found himself discussing the issues of the day with Miss Leone, a 23-year-old student who possesses a pair of enviably long legs.

But his admiring glance is likely to provoke the ire of Veronica, Mr Berlusconi’s long-suffering wife of more than 20 years.

She took the unusual step of contacting Left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica following reports that the politician had approached several women at a party and told them: “If I wasn’t married, I would marry you straight away.”

In her letter, she wrote: “These were declarations that I see as damaging to my dignity and cannot be treated as just joke. That is why I am asking for a public apology as I have not receievd one in private.”

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Italians unite against ‘il weekend’ – lingustic reactionaries target ‘Anglitaliano’

September 10, 2008

Wadda you mean ‘il weekend’? Basta! It’s fine settimana!

The pervasiveness of the English language in our world today can be attributed to many factors, history, economy, and culture foremost amongst them. Counting close to two billion speakers, it’s easy to say that English is a global language and in many parts of the world is the lingua franca even if it’s not native language.

English shapes and forms the new trends in other languages thanks to this massive presence. One need only think of the English term “football” (soccer in North America) to see how the language has influenced other languages. The Spanish refer to the game as “futbol” and Serbs simply spell it “fudbal”. English loan words then undergo a process of adaptation to best suit the native language.

The French refer to the mixing of English and French as “Franglais” which quite often is seen as a degeneration of the native tongue. So much so is Franglais seen as a threat that the French government finances the Académie française to ensure the French nature of the French language.

As French culture has come under increasing pressure with the widespread availability of English media, the Académie has tried to prevent the anglicisation of the French language. For example, the Académie has recommended, with mixed success, that some loanwords from English (such as walkman, software and email) be avoided, in favour of words derived from French (baladeur, logiciel, and courriel respectively). Moreover, the Académie has worked to modernise French orthography.

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Europe’s Most Beautiful Gardens

September 5, 2008

Courances, France

The UK Telegraph is counting down the 50 Most Beautiful Gardens in the World. Why don’t we take a look at some of the European selections?

Courances, France (image above)
Is this the perfect example of the French formal garden? Created in the mid-17th century – reputedly by Jean, father of the great Andre Le Nôtre – the garden is filled with water in many moods, although it is serenity that sets the tone. In front of the château, to the south, is an elaborate box parterre that prefaces a perfect rectangular still pool, surrounded by lawns and trees. This vista continues along a broad grassy walk to a small circular pool with a statue of Hercules (symbolising strength and virtue) and on to a larger pool and amphitheatre. The woodland on each side of the main vista contains many more delights, with allées cutting through and pools, canals and cascades to discover. The other side of the house is dignified by a pair of long rectangular canals. The singularity of the conception is what appeals so much and lends this place its sublime beauty.

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How to score a Sicilian villa for only one Euro

September 3, 2008

Salemi, Sicily – overlooking the Mediterranean

English homes are dropping in value like a rock and the Spanish real estate market has taken a dive. What about Italy? Tuscany is simply too, too expensive for the average or above average investor but there is a place further down south where you can get a villa on the Mediterranean for only one Euro.

Vittorio Sgarbi, the controversial mayor of the Sicilian town of Salemi is offering investors the chance to snap up villas in his town for a single Euro. But there is a catch as Richard Owen explains:

The catch is that you have just two years to restore the homes, which were abandoned after an earthquake 40 years ago.

Vittorio Sgarbi, the colourful Mayor of Salemi – just 72km from Palermo – hopes to attract buyers who had “both the aesthetic sensitivity and the economic resources to take part in this adventure”.But prospective property owners who think the offer is too good to refuse should bear in mind that thhe restorations will have to meet standards laid down by the council and respect the original character of the buildings.

Here is the contact info plus the terms and conditions:

— Salemi does not yet have a website but Vittorio Sgarbi does, at – e-mails can be sent by clicking on contatti. Inquiries can also be made to the council on (0039) 0924 991 111

— Buyers must use local builders, architects, decorators and plumbers since the aim ofthescheme is to help the local economy

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Grabbing Your Crotch is Good Luck in Italy

July 22, 2008

An American Girl in Italy

An American Girl in Italy – Ruth Orkin, 1951

For anyone who has grown up around Italians, the “crotch-grab” was a daily occurrance. It could mean anything from “I don’t care” to “what do I know?”. Why do they do it? Juliet Lapidos tells us that Italian men grab their crotches to ward off bad luck.

It’s the seat of fertility. The crotch grab goes back at least to the pre-Christian Roman era and is closely associated with another superstition called the “evil eye”—the belief that a covetous person can harm you, your children, or your possessions by gazing at you. Cultural anthropologists conjecture that men would try to block such pernicious beams by shielding their genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset: the future fruit of their loins. Over the centuries, the practice shifted. Men covered their generative organs not only to defend against direct malevolence but also in the presence of anything ominous, like a funeral procession.

These days, an Italian man might also grab his crotch in risky situations, like a high-stakes poker game. In such cases, the grab isn’t a defense mechanism against bad luck but rather a way to generate good luck. Once again, this practice relates to the folk belief that the phallus is auspicious because it’s the source of masculinity and reproduction.

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