Ah yes, never a dull moment in Italian politics, that’s for sure. Last Thursday night Italy saw the fall of the Prodi government. Nothing terribly unusual in that because I think in the last 60 years or so there have been some 60 governments (61 now I think. Or is it 62?).
But what happened in the Italian senate was not only appalling but I must say, also typically “Italian”: pure chaos. When the president of the senate came out with the final tally which thus drove the nail into Prodi’s coffin, one senator (who was a former hoodlum in his youth!), a fellow by the name of Gramazio, uncorked a bottle of spumante while a colleague below him, whipped out, presumably out of his pocket, slices of mortadella (or Bologna ham as it’s also known in North America)! The mortadella was in clear reference to Prodi himself whose round face is often compared to the delicious ham.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The same senator who gulped down the mortadella began yelling repeatedly to an opponent senator: “You’re a piece of shit”! This was naturally picked up immediately by the foreign press. More was to come though: another senator spat at his opponent (who suddenly fell over ill) and showed him the classic hand gesture in Italian of someone who’s wife has screwed around on him (the gesture is the same that Americans in Texas use at football games—the Texas longhorns--or that deaf-mute people use to say “I love you”. The gesture in Italian means instead that you’re a “cornuto”! The senate cornuto gesture brings back memories of what happened many years ago in Rome when George and Barbara Bush came on an official visit when Sr. was US president. Barbara had gone to a Roman orphanage. She looked at the kids and said, “Do any of you speak English”? No was the reply from the kids. Barbara then asked, “Well, do any of you speak Spanish”? Again no was the answer. All of a sudden, Barbara showed all the kids the “cornuto” sign, saying: “Well, do you all know what this means? It means “I love you” in deaf-mute language”! her entourage from the embassy were naturally aghast when she showed the kids the “cornuto” sign! That night, the two were invited to the presidential palace in Rome for the official dinner. For the life of him, George Sr. couldn’t quite understand why along the presidential route Italians were showing him the “cornuto” gesture!).
All this, coupled with the atrocious and exceptionally embarrassing situation of the garbage problem in Naples which has been going on for the last 14 years (together also with the recent resignation of Italy’s justice minister over a classic case of Italian-style nepotism), helped (unfortunately) once again to put Italy on the same map as some Third World countries…