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  • Round up: Wacky News from Italy
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Every time I pick up an Italian newspaper or magazine lately, I find myself saying, “Only in Italy!” The abbondanza of outlandish news stories to come out of the homeland is sometimes amusing, often heartwarming and always a credit to the creativity and charm of Italians. Here, three recent bits of news that will have you sharing my sentiments:

    Music to your ears Italian pensions are up for debate. Controversy swirls about Italy's tenure as the president of the European Union. Terrorism is the modern plague. But the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a former musical entertainer for a cruise ship, still has something to sing about. The PM wrote 14 love songs that are appearing on a recently released album, Meglio na' Canzone.

    The album's singer, Mariano Apicella, won over Berlusconi in 2001 while performing a song about a love affair between a local and a French tourist in Ischia, an island in the Bay of Napoli. Reportedly, Berlusconi made suggestions about how the song could be more appealing to Italians who do not speak the Neapolitan dialect, and he hired Apicella to entertain him “at a moment's notice” for at least a year. A match was made. And 30 more songs are already in the can for a sophomore effort, according to the UK paper, The Guardian. Again, Italy will be making love (songs) while the world is making war.

    Necessity really is the mother of invention In Italy (especially in the south), families are often known by their “soprannome” or nickname. My nonno, for instance, was known as Giovanni u' baffaro (or Giovanni the double chin) in Ischia and, by association, my father, his siblings, aunts and uncles were called “baffaro.” The nickname might go as far back as Di Meglio. Frankly, the soprannome has more meaning to locals because there are hundreds of Di Meglios on the island and we're not all related.

    Recently, a Sardinian truck driver Salvatore Cabras grew tired of explaining who was who and where they were because there were so many people with the same names. So, Cabras decided Sardinian phone books should include one's regular contact info and nickname, according to Zoomata, a Website that advises people who want to move to Italy. All I can say about Cabras' brilliant idea is that it's about time, people!

    Here she comes… The Italian beauty standard keeps getting higher. Real people – no matter how gorgeous and glamorous – might not even stand a chance soon, especially now that Italy is kicking off The Miss Digital World beauty contest. This competition asks digital artists (the likes of which have built babes for the Lara Croft videogame and the Matrix films) to build a virtual superwoman – stacked and packed with perfection.

    The winner, who will be “crowned” in November 2004, will undoubtedly set the contemporary standard for the ideal woman. Shoot, I just quit trying to look like Monica Bellucci. Now, I have to compete with a virtual woman whose every flaw can be wiped away with a click of the mouse. No fair!

    What would you like to see me write about? Send me your brightest ideas now at I can't wait to read what you have in mind. Grazie mille!


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