Check out Soundtracker, like Pandora for Italian music

As someone who has a hard time remembering what it was like to listen to music before you could hit “shuffle” or curate a digital playlist, I’m a big fan of automated music recommendation and Internet radio service Pandora.

But that streaming service offers almost no Italian music, whether you want classic folk, pop power ballads or moody dubs in dialect.

Enter Soundtracker,  launched in 2010 by two Italian entrepreneurs. Best part: it offers a lot more than just Italian music and the interface is in English.

Register for the site (it’s free) and start listening to artists you know before stone-stepping to those you don’t.

Start with Pino Daniele and you’ll soon be listening to Quintorigo, Almamegretta, 99 Posse and Bandabardo’.

Not sure how the algorithm works, but  it seems a little more freewheeling than Pandora — starting with 70s melodic rocker with a social conscience Fabrizio De’ Andre station got me to an aggro hip-hop number from Caparezza in under four tracks.

You can also download it as an app for your iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and, if you’re so inclined, share your location and tracks with your friends.

Buon ascolto!

Complex Legal System? Italy’s Justice Minister Finds There’s an App for That


Italy’s Justice Minister used an iPhone to cite a wiretapping law during a prime-time talk show.

Minister Angelino Alfano, best known outside Italy for a controversial immunity law meant to save the bacon of beleaguered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, pulled out a iPhone clad in a patriotic tricolor sticker to consult an app called Laws and Codices (Codici and Leggi).

The 19.99 euro app promises to guide users through Italy’s notoriously complicated legal system, which often makes the old quip true that “in Italy, under the law, everything is permitted, especially that which is prohibited.”

Alfano used it on the show to quote verbatim a much-debated law on wiretapping, the talk show was about the “war over wiretaps,” which has again exploded recently.

While there’s no shortage of politicians who use Apple products — of late iPad aficionados Norway’sPrime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Russian premier Dimitri Medvedev —  this may be the first time one relies on an app to get it right in public.

Via iPhoner, hat tip to Andrea Nepori

Italy’s “Brain Drain” Becomes Big-Screen Drama

Modern Italian great minds are fleeing the country, unable to get valuable research done in the face of shrinking funds, nepotism, red tape, penurious salaries and colossal inefficiency.

Now this drama is being turned a movie called “Il Bene Oscuro” (loose translation: the dark good), riffing on the common expression “dark evil” (il male oscuro) a euphemism for cancer or other lethal illnesses.

While Italian scientists and researchers have often left for other shores, one study found the number of Italian college grads heading abroad, often to Europe or the US, quadrupled in the 1990s. Italy will surely have to face consequences of a country bled dry of potential Leonardo Da Vincis and Enrico Fermis as it exports 30,000 researchers yearly and imports just 3,000, according to one program aimed at getting some of them back.

If you think the subject matter of genius lost is important but doesn’t lend itself to nighttime drama — watch the trailer. The gloomy, tension-filled treatment looks like something out of CSI: secret phone calls, shattering glass, a woman thrown across a lab table, threats and accidents and the word “researcher” repeated hauntingly throughout.

The producers are hoping to get it picked up by a national network and it shows: at least of the actors was from a popular soap opera, an Italian friend who watched it thought it might be a satire until the sponsor logo from Milan city government and Bayer popped up. If it’s a success, it will, however, raise money for an oncology research center in Milan’s San Raffaele hospital.

It’s hard to do any reporting on Italy’s scientific community without coming across the loss of human capital issue — one research lab I wrote about had lured back brain drained researchers from Canada but there are a many stories of researchers who’ve gone abroad and then been lulled back home, too, to mixed results.

Italians Text Help to Earthquake Victims

After the worst earthquake in 30 years struck L’Aquila killing 250 and leaving 17,000 people homeless, Italians are text messaging donations to help.

Italian mobile operators, including TIM, Fastweb, Wind, Tre and Vodafone, made a single number available for SMS donations to earthquake victims. Cell phone users send a blank text to 48580. They’re charged one euro for each text, cell phone companies promise to donate the entire amount of each message. (As zoomata reader Fabio pointed out, the text donation won’t work from abroad. There are bank transfer details here and, if you don’t know Italian, here’s the Red Cross UK donation page.)

Texters are sent a confirmation that says, “Thank you. With this message you’re helping people in Abruzzo who have been hit by the earthquake.”

Thumb tribes have been sending in support in Italy since 2002, when another earthquake in Southern Italy prompted the first cell-phone fund drive. Other text-based relief campaigns in a country where there are more cell phones than people include €27 million for 2005 tsunami victims.

Image used with a CC license, thanks to marca_pasos

Questionable Holiday Greetings from Oliviero Toscani

Oliviero Toscani tshirt Shock fotog Oliviero Toscani’s latest exploit is a limited edition T-shirt for the holidays that says “It’s Christmas? Shall we F***?” in Italian (E’ Natale? Scopiamo?) with his name under it.

It’ll be sure to liven up the otherwise soporific unveiling of Christmas lights in Milan shopping mecca Via della Spiga, where the tees with celebrity slogans go on sale for charity (€60, circa $90) Thursday.

While some of his recent projects (the spiffy privy, the naked anorexic clothing campaign) make me long for his Benetton ads, Toscani gets some credit for shaking things up.

His message, which reportedly made Milan mayor Letizia Moratti blush, certainly tops the other ones: you couldn’t pay me to wear designer Roberto Cavalli’s which says “Santa Claus exists…”

La Dolce Vita: Capri in a video game

AnacapriIf you can’t jet to the idyllic Italian island of Capri soon, you can always play the video game.
That’s the idea, at least, behind forthcoming computer game “Anacapri: The Dream.”
Players take on the tired-sounding role of an Indiana Jones-type expert who must search for an ancient artifact and save the village best known to tourists as the more affordable part of the glam island.
The real draw? If you’ve ever had that Fellini-esque feeling of being surrounded by a colorful cast of extras while visiting Italy, you’re in for a treat. Aiding or thwarting your quest are real locals, historical figures (perhaps Debussy?) plus some 8,000 awww-inducing actual images of the island.
Check out the trailer here.

Italian Porn Star Hands Scepter to Geek

Rocco Siffredi, the Italian Stallion of porn, recently handed his legacy over to a bespectacled, overweight crossword expert.

Well, sort of.

Omar Monti, who came in second on the Italian version of “Beauty and the Geek,” now fills Siffredi’s considerable shoes in some potato chip ads.
Geek Power
It’s one way to drum up publicity after equivocal ads for Amica Chips — with Siffredi peacocking around a pool Hugh Hefner style making references to women’s genitalia that even the bambini got — were censored last year.

For weeks, Siffredi stared down billboards in a dressing gown asking who would be man enough to take his place.

Thanks to an online contest, it’s an unlikely 31-year-old self-proclaimed virgin who wades through throngs of hot women to the tune of “Daddy Cool” in the refurbed spots.

Proving, once and for all, that geeks are sexy.

Italian Fashion in Second Life

Second LifeItalian multimedia designer Diana (aka Bianca Foulon) is launching her first collection of virtual togs in Second Life for media agency Interzone March 8.

Timed to coincide with celebrations for International Women’s Day, models hit the catwalk on the Interzone Island at 1p.m. SL time or from 10:00 p.m. GMT.

Diana/Bianca hopes the fashion line, called Gina’s, will encourage indie designers from the Bel Paese to create more moda for this new world.

Zoomata editor Nicole Martinelli has been tapped to model and is furiously practicing graceful turns with the keyboard in hopes of not falling off the runway.