“Enterprising” Son of Mafia Boss Arrested

Giuseppe Salvatore Riina, an entrepreneur who tried to get a “Mafia-free” certificate, was arrested for getting involved in the real family business.The 25-year-old Riina, son of infamous “boss of bosses” Tot? Riina, received an early morning wakeup call from Palermo police charging him with Mafia association.

Crimes were classics of the Cosa Nostra trade: extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking and rigging public-works contracts. Among the 21 arrested with Riina were several prominent Palermo businessmen.
Giuseppe (also called Salvo) and his sister Maria Concetta made news recently for advertising an agriculture machinery business on the Corleone city web site. Although the site was ordered shut down by court, the banner is still on the city’s home page. Giuseppe also appealed Italian courts for refusing to give him a “Mafia-free” business certificate. Giuseppe wanted certification that the business was clean from Mafia ties to dispel public suspicion. After a two-year investigation, authorities discovered that operations were, in fact, a front for the family enterprises.
Father Salvatore “Totò” Riina is currently trying to appeal multiple life sentences. He’s serving time for organizing the 1993 bombings of the Uffizi, which killed five and injured 29, as well as the car bombings that same year in Milan and Rome. Older brother Giuseppe has been in jail since 1997 and was condemed to life in 2001 for four murders committed in Corleone.

Related Resources:
Midnight in Sicily
An intoxicating blend of Italian art, crime, food, history and travel, “Midnight in Sicily” is a fascinating account of events leading to the trial of Giulio Andreotti, seven times prime minister of Italy, for the killing of a journalist and for his association with the Sicilian Mafia.

Web wise June 11-18

La Scala Museum Reopens • Italian Practice: Love Advice • Listen in to Italian Reggae • Racy Italian Models

Italian Practice: Love Advice
Write in your love problems, read those of others, take a few quizzes…The name ‘TVTB’ comes from short message lingo for "ti voglio tanto bene."

Listen in to Italian Reggae
The good vibes from Italy are plentiful — check out the mellow sounds from groups like Africa Unite, Sud Sound System, Pitura Freska, Chop Chop, Reggae National Ticket and Giuliano Palma and the Bluebeaters…

Scala Museum Reopens
A few months later than promised, the collection of opera paraphernalia — including Lizst’s piano, Toscanini’s baton — is open to the public in a temporary location while the theater is being renovated for around three years. Across the street from Santa Maria delle Grazie (where Leondardo’s Last Supper lies) it’s a worth putting on the itinerary for a Milan stop — the stately palazzo adorned with neoclassic frescos is worth a look in itself and the surroundings are much less cramped than the original museum…Open Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Palazzo Busca, C.so Magenta 71. Tel. 02.43353521 Tickets 5 €
For a virtual tour of the collection & Palazzo Brusca…

Racy Italian (Car) Models
BBurago makes some of Italy’s best-known cars — in miniature. So if you haven’t the pocket change for that Lamborghini, check out the small scale type… In English & Italian.

Fighting World Cup Absenteeism

Italy may be a nation founded on work but employers fear passion for World Cup soccer may lead to mass abandonment of the workplace.
Just about anything short of changing the first article of the Italian constitution will be tried to keep workers from cutting out to watch soccer matches.

If the June 2 match, in which Italy trounced World Cup debutante Ecuador broadcast midday in Italy, is any measure it will become increasingly difficult to find anyone at work when the games are on.
An estimated 30,000 rushed to the main square in Milan alone. We spotted mechanics, construction workers, business people and teenagers.
“I just took a late lunch and won’t go back until it’s over,” said security guard Salvatore G.,36, who asked not to publish his last name, standing in front of the maxi-screen in Milan’s piazza Duomo. “I’m not really worried about getting caught — pretty much everyone did the same thing.”
This year because of the time difference between Korea/Japan and Italy most games that see “the blues” (gli azzurri) in action air around breakfast time in Italy.
Workers at Fiat factories will be able to take short “soccer leaves” of a few hours, a solution also chosen by the regional government of Catanzaro. Fanatics will then make up the time after the tournament. In Val D’Aosta, the hours of city offices open to the public will change according to the schedule.
Some try to curb workers skipping out by installing TV sets in the work place — a survey by Milan’s Chamber of Commerce reported that 25% of local companies had set up a World Cup viewing area. Not all employers can let workers take time off, some are taking preventative measures like blocking sports websites and requests for vacation time.
Fortunately for some, the question doesn’t arise. “I really only enjoy the games with a huge crowd like this,” said Silvia Manin, 47, during the Italy-Ecuador match in the piazza. “But I only work part-time so there’s no problem. This time around, I’m World Cup lucky.”

Fireflies Return to Italian Countryside

Many Italians can’t remember when fireflies brightened summer nights, but scientists say the luminous insects are making a comeback this season.
“We must thank biologically-friendly agriculture, which has exploded recently,” said professor Francesco Petretti of the University of Camerino, who studied the phenomenon. “Farmers are using fewer pesticides.”

Italy is the top producer in Europe of organic food (54,000 companies) with the most extensive amount of land organically cultivated at 2,965,620 acres. Organic produce, generically called ‘bio’ in Italian, makes up 2.4% of the national diet.
Scientists consider fireflies — called ‘lucciole,’ also slang for prostitutes — a sign of a healthy ecosystem. The insects, whose yellow glow is a product of protein intake and used as a mating call, live in unpolluted grass, bushes and hedges. The first fireflies were spotted in coastal regions in May, by scientists predict by July they’ll light up the rest of the Bel Paese countryside.

Late film director PierPaolo Pasolini decried the disappearance of fireflies, provoked by the industrial boom in the 1950-60s, in a well-known essay. "At the beginning of the sixties, the fireflies began to disappear in our nation, due to pollution of the air, and the azure rivers and limpid canals, above all in the countryside.." Pasolini wrote. "Today this is a somewhat poignant recollection of the past—a man of that time with such a souvenir cannot be young among the young of today and can therefore not have the wonderful regrets of those times."

Map of bio-friendly products throughout Italy

Web-wise June 3- 11

Prada’s new Luna Rossa boat ? Italian Practice: Brum Brum–Vespa Travels ? Following the World Cup online
Following the World Cup online
Catch all the action via web. Forza azzurri!

The official World Cup site

Follow it with the Italians:





Italian Practice: Brum Brum–Vespa Travels
Follow authors and photgraphers on a four-year trip 254,000 kilometer around the world on Italy’s best-known scooter..Author interview in Real video, photo gallery, click on book cover for a sample and review…

Prada’s new Luna Rossa boat
The latest in high-tech sailing was just baptized by fashion maven Miuccia Prada, it’s now set to gear up for competition in the America’s Cup next fall in New Zealand. Read all about the 26-meter e.90 million boat, in English or Italian.

Soccer-inspired vocab

Soccer, “pallone” is the national sport and a national obsession every four years when the World Cup comes around. Ever since Silvio Berlusconi co-opted the hurtling cry “Go Italy” (Forza Italia) for his political party and peppered speeches with increasingly sporty metaphors (“scendere in campo” is another favorite) Italians have become a little more shy of using soccer terms in daily life. Here are some that continue to stick around.

More on everyday language? Try the Dictionary of Italian Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Term Rough Translation/Use

(salvarsi in) calcio d’angolo

Saved with a corner kick. Used outside soccer to mean saved at the last minute, saving a situation with a less risky solution. "Ti perdono. Comunque ti sei salvato in calcio d’angolo con il complimento successivo.." I forgive you — you saved yourself with a corner kick thanks to that last compliment.



Scoring for the other team. Fare autogoal = make a stupid mistake, bite one’s own tail.

(nel) pallone

Literally in the ball. Often mistaken as similar to "on the ball" in English, in Italian it means confused, muddled. Avere la testa nel pallone = have one’s head in the clouds, sick with a head cold, or generally out of it. "Suo marito aveva la testa nel pallone. Non riusciva a prendere una decisione." Her husband was in a muddle, he couldn’t make a decision.
fischio d’inizio Kick off. Used also for meetings conventions etc. "Il meeting quest’anno è stato fatto all’ombra del campanile di Paderno del Grappa; un centinaio di persone sono in attesa del fischio d’inizio." This year’s meeting was held in the shadow of the belltower in Paderno del Grappa; hundreds were waiting for the official kick-off.
scendere in campo


Literally take to the field, throw one’s hat in the ring, take action. Used by many, considered a Berlusconi trademark.

serie B


B series, A series is the professional league. Used to mean second rate. "Cittadini di serie B" second-class citizens, another one used by Berlusca.

(sbagliare un) calcio di rigore


Penalty kick. Missing the penalty kick is making a banal mistake, not being able to meet one’s objectives for silly reasons.

palla lunga e pedalare


Keep the ball rolling and run. Keep going,

cartellino giallo

Literally yellow card — when a foul is committed it’s the first warning. Sometimes used to describe foul play or a warning in general. "Ha ricevuto il cartellino giallo dal giudice." The judge gave him a yellow flag.

fare dribbling To dribble — borrowed from the English basketball term but often used in soccer commentary (and everyday language) to mean fancy footwork. Antonella ha dribblato le domande dei giornalisti con un "no comment". Antonella dribbled the journalist’s questions with a "no comment."
(prendere in) contropiede Stealing the ball. When someone is caught unawares or unprepared. "Il premier israeliano ha posto una nuova condizione che ha, almeno apparentemente,preso in contropiede gli Stati Uniti e ha suscitato imbarazzo a Washington." The Premier of Israel made a new demand, which apparently caught the US unawares and embarassed Washington."
1-0 palla al centro 1-0 and the ball’s back in the center. Way of telling someone, succinctly, that you’ve just "scored" or are ahead of them, or that they owe you one.
(in) panchina On the bench. Someone who is out of action, standing on the sidelines. "E’ rimasta in panchina per tutta la riunione." She spent the whole meeting on the sidelines.

Take the Princes’ Walk in Florence

For the second year in a row, the city of Florence will allow visitors to take the “Path of Princes.”

This priviledged walkway was constructed in Renaissance times to keep the ruling Medici family head and shoulders from the riff raff — and the smell of hides soaked in urine being treated on the city’s famous old bridge.

The walk leads from Palazzo Vecchio walking above the Ponte vecchio (in the evocative Vasari Corridor, usually closed to the public) and on to wind up at the grotto in the Boboli Gardens on the other side of the Arno. Visitors will be able to see a virtual reconstruction of the corridor, which sustained damage in the 1993 mafia bombing, the way it appeared when commissioned by Cosimo I dei Medici in 1565. At the end of the two-and-a-half hour tour, visitors can stroll around the Boboli gardens.

The Rub
Visitors will be able to walk the princely walk from June 3 – July 13 and from Sept. 6 to December 28, 2002. As with many of these special initiatives, getting in is half the battle — but trust us it’s worth it. Visits can be made on Fridays and Saturday mornings. English-speaking guides available for groups.

Obligatory reservations in (operators speak English, Italian, French and German) from 8:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. weekdays, Saturday 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m..
+39.(55) 2654321
Tickets cost €. 26.50 for adults (over 25 years old), €. 18.90 for EU citizens between 18-25 and €. 11.30 for under 18.

Related resources:
Companion Guide to Florence
A thorough yet entertaining guide to the city’s art treasures and history…

Contested Obelisk Struck by Lightning

The Axum Obelisk in Rome, a much-contested Ethiopian treasure, has been shattered into pieces by lightning.
Taken by order of Benito Mussolini in 1937, the Ethiopian government has been trying to get it back for over half a century. Lightning struck the deserted piazza around 1 a.m., probably attracted as much by the shape as the steel braces added when the monument was transported.
More than 1,000 years old, the monument once crowned the city of Aksum, then center of trade in ivory, animal skins and grain in the ancient Ethiopian empire.

The Obelisk was the latest in a series of heated arguments for return of stolen art — one that found Italians as the accused. Owning over 60% of the world’s art treasures, according to UNESCO, usually places Italy in the position of petitioning for its own looted treasures. One recent example: after years of negotiations, the Getty Museum in California was prevailed upon to return 500 terracotta and bronze pieces to a Calabrian museum in 2001.

Foot-dragging by Italian authorities meant that agreements to return the obelisk to Ethiopia, signed as early as 1947, never amounted to action. Italian government officials, most vocally Vittorio Sgarbi, have protested the restitution both because of political instability in the African region as well as complications in shipping the 178-ton monument.

Placed at the center of piazza di Porta Capena, close to the Circus Maximus, Italian Culture Minister Giulio Urbani told newspapers the 78-foot sculpture will be restored and sent home.

More on the history & protests…


Slave Auction at Roman Fest

For the fourth year running hundreds of would-be gladiators from all parts of Italy met in Alessandria (Piedmont) for a three-day “Roman Fest ” held the last weekend of May.
In addition to parades, feasts and didactic programs for children, the
reenactment featured a slave market with Roman currency.
"It will be possible to see, but also participate in the classic slave
market, particularly fashionable in the Roman Empire," recites the program. Slave owners, it points out, are only entitled to an "unusual chat" at the Roman inn on fairgrounds.
Officials also softened up the bloodthirsty nature of the gladiator bouts, by emphasizing that contestants- winners or losers -are expected to leave the ring on their own legs and not on a stretcher, as "times – in good or bad – have changed. "

The official site, in English & Italian

Italy by Numbers: Changing Food Habits

3-4 hours, daily food preparation (1952)
30-60 minutes, daily food preparation (2002)
15 kg meat per capita, yearly (1952)
49.5 kg meat per capita (2002)
104 liters, per person wine consumption (1952)
52liters, per person wine consumption (2002)

Rapid changes after the postwar period are in turn responsible for revolutionizing Italian eating habits, breaking some long-standing stereotypes. In the early 1950s, the Italian mamma spent a good chunk of her day preparing a hearty lunch, while her new millennium counterpart, less likely to be a stay at home mother, spends just a third of that time in the kitchen.
Fifty years ago, Italians spent half of the family income on food, in recent times it takes up some 20% of the budget. Meat consumption has more than tripled, while wine drinking has been cut by half. According to the study by Federalimentare, Italians are on average 15 centimeters taller, live between 13-15 years longer and around half are overweight.
Some staples of the Italian postwar diet that have now disappeared include smoked herring (often eaten with polenta), tinned milk and carob beans (sucked like candy).

Related resources:
Celebrating Italy — Food & Traditions
Recipes and folklore from the Bel Paese