The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

San Remo, or Italy at its best

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There is (at least) one week every year in which everything is put on hold, in Italy, and the entire country focuses on one specific event: the Sanremo Music Festival.

It’s a 5 day-singing competition, where basically people sing songs, a jury gives votes, each day someone is excluded, and eventually one wins. Normally, the songs are cheesy and boring. One of the boring songs wins the festival; there is a separate category for the “Young Promises”, with its own winner. Sometimes good singers have come up from the Festival (one being, for example, Alex Baroni – whom I really liked and who, sadly, died a few years ago). On the downside, the Festival has given to the world Andrea Bocelli.

The weeks before the Festival are characterised by a build-up of national thrilling about what the guests will be, who will present the show, who will do what, who will say what, and sometimes even who will sing what. There is normally a standard structure: the presenter is a man, a popular face from TV or music. Then there are two co-presenters, one at his left and one at his right: these are, by rules, mega-hot women with a (recent) past of being sluts or similar. The Festival has just started and will run until the 18th of February. This year’s and last year’s team was the same: presenter, the man, the famous singer from the 60s, Gianni Morandi; left wing, Elisabetta Canalis, famous for being Goerge Clooney’s date for a while; and Belen Rodriguez, famous for having long legs.

Here’s a group picture:

Morandi is the one in the middle.

Being at its 60th-something edition, there is some concern that the attachment of the Italian population to the festival might decrease. So, the authors have devised a series of cunning strategies to attract a bigger audience.

This was the most successful one, which took place on the first night of the Festival. Enters one of the co-presenters, Belen Rodriguez:

Yes, you may want to zoom in.

The day after this show, the Vatican expressed harsh criticisms.

The target was a man called Adriano Celentano. A guest of the Festival, during the show he publicly called for people to stop reading L’Avvenire, the Vatican’s newspaper. The Bishops commented that Celentano’s comment was inappropriate, and that he should not appear again at the following nights of the Festival.

Immediately after that, an executive of RAI, the Italian national TV channel that hosts the Festival, and who has an interest in getting as big an audience as possible, joined the Vatican’s condemnation, pointing out that Celentano’s language “was unsuitable for public service”.

More songs, and more vaginas, to come in the next two days.


Written by TheItalianist

17/02/2012 at 14:30

Kissing and peeing

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There are people that do things that can even make a long-dormant blog suddenly awake.

One of this is Carlo Giovanardi. He has appeared on this blog in the past, and he still looks the same, that is, like this:


Interviewed today on the Italian radio, Carlo The Straight was asked to express his view on same-sex unions. Here is his fine answer:

“There are organs designed to receive, and others designed to expel. There are also some delicate issues, like bacteria, and so on and so forth, which require great attention when certain activities are performed. This is to avoid diseases. Therefore, when sexual education is taught in schools, providing a model is normal, right and physiological: men’s and women’s organs were created for specific functions, and relations between two men or two women are not equally natural ”

Then he was asked: “What kind of reaction would you have in seeing two women kissing each other?”

He replied:”Well, what kind of reaction would you have in seeing someone peeing? If he does it in the toilet, it’s fine, but if he does it in the street, it can be disturbing”.

Written by TheItalianist

13/02/2012 at 11:25

Posted in Great Italians

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Article on the Sidney Morning Herald

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The Italianist has made it into the national press – here’s my article on Berlusconi’s resignation, which appears on today’s SMH.

Written by TheItalianist

16/11/2011 at 02:20

Zen and the Art of Tone Moderating

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The recent events in Italy have caused some turbulence in Italy’s political class. First, Berlusconi has resigned as Prime Minister, an event that led to celebrations in the streets of Italy unseen since the 2006 Football World Cup Final. Given the lack of success of Italian football teams, politics gave the Italians a chance to feel pride at their country again.

These celebrations have been immediately condemned by important newspapers such as Il Giornale, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, for their aggressiveness, vulgarities, and display of hatred. What was overlooked by the important newspaper was the image of members of Berlusconi’s giving the finger to the crowd in front of them as they were leaving Palazzo Grazioli after B’s resignation.

Second, Mario Monti has been appointed as new Prime Minister. Monti is a man whose character  could not be more different from Berlusconi’s (hopefully). In the current economic and political turmoil, there has been a general appeal to follow his example and “moderate the tone” of the discussion, the latter being an art in which Italian politicians have never really excelled (see the previous video).

Take Francesco Storace. A man of the Right, member of the now-extinct Alleanza Nazionale, ex-ally of Gianfranco Fini (who last year, for a moment, looked like Berlusconi’s main antagonist), Storace is famous for his reply to a journalist who once asked him to say something right-wing: “You faggot!”, he said, to fulfill the journalist’s request.

Storace, like many others in Italy, struggles with moderating the tone of the discussion. Two days ago, at the convention of his political movement La Destra (“The Right”: one can imagine the massive brainstorming they had to go through before picking this name), while talking on the stage, he openly attacked Fini, yelling “Now you must resign too! Now you have to become unemployed too! You must go get a job! Pig!! Pig!!!” The crowd in front of him cheered and clapped hands – surely in a moderated way.

Interviewed on Radio24, Storace minimized the event. “I did not say maiale (pig), I said meno male (thank God)”, he said, laughing. The interviewers laughed back and replied “Come one, be serious: you’ve said some pretty serious stuff about the third figure of the State” (Fini is the President of the Chamber of Deputies).  After a few more jokes, Storace concluded:

“I did say maiale, but I did it unbeknownst to me”.

(The audio interview, in Italian, can be found here.)

Written by TheItalianist

15/11/2011 at 05:33

This is how it all started..

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13/11/2011 at 10:03

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One Million Jobs

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Written by TheItalianist

08/11/2011 at 03:45

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Black Bloc, the Invisible Hand

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We’ve all seen what happened in Rome last Saturday. What was meant to be a peaceful demonstration, displaying empathy to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, turned into destruction of the city and violent clashes between the police and the protesters. Those responsible for it, surprise surprise, are still them: the Black-Bloc.

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that ‘Black Bloc’(BB) is not a group, an organized anarchist faction, etc., but is “a strategy”. Which in itself says something very interesting: being a BB means to wear black clothes, and a black helmet. It is easy to be a BB. In Italy, BB have a particularly strange vampire-like behaviour: they sleep for most of the time, and then suddenly wake up at anti-government protests.

We saw this in Rome last week as well. Suddenly, out of the blue (of the black?), the BB appeared and brought havoc into the protest: the police, eventually, broke in, the protesters (all of them) were dispersed. Outraged condemnations, from politicians, of the violence immediately followed everywhere on the media. Even those usually wary of joining the current government, have supinely endorsed the anarchist-plot argument. Sadly, also IlFattoQuotidiano, probably the only readable newspaper in Italy, has decided to stop asking questions, and to serve the master instead. In the last 24 hours, the frustrated reader has had to go through a series of embarassing fairy tales about anarchists who ‘trained in Greece’, ‘trained at NO TAV protests’: a further depressing symptom of how bad information in Italy is. I should stop now with this, but i is worth repeating it, those of IlFatto have turned into mercenari too.

Anyway, apparently two hundred thousand people took part in the protest.The BB were between 300 and 500. Of them, TWELVE have been arrested by the police. That is 12 individuals, nothing more than that.

Twelve is a pretty small number. It’s basically a football team, plus the referee. Not a great reaction from the police, really – some have pointed out. Why did the police not intervene more heavy-handedly? Why did this thing happen only in Italy? why were the other OWS protests around the world kept under control by the police? why such a failure, given that the police now claims the destruction was caused by ‘the usual suspects’, anarchists already well known?. These questions briefly appeared on some Italian media shortly after the riots, yet they were quickly replaced by stuff like that appeared on IlFattoQuotidiano. So the question now is: why no one asks these questions anymore?

Here is one hint. Please read.

Here’s another hint. Please watch.

The Italian government today declared its intention to crack down on ‘the anarchists’ (even if they are not black). It is expected that the lord-major  of Rome will today declare a one-month ban on street protest in the capital. This, let’s make itclear, in the interest of security, and of no one else.

Written by TheItalianist

18/10/2011 at 10:55