Thursday, February 28, 2013

Elections 2013

After two days of feeling unwell it's like I woke up from hibernation this morning, and to a very confused Italy. On Monday at 3pm the polls closed, and straight after various percentages from different exit polls and instant polls (the difference being in that the exit polls were conducted outside polling stations, and instant polls on the phone.) Initially all the various polls showed that the centre-left coalition was ahead, which makes sense as after all, who would ever admit that they voted Berlusconi...? Then when the real results started to come in they showed a different picture...

In this year's elections voters could choose from 169 parties. Yes, that's right. 215 originally submitted their logo and list for the election, but many were rejected for having copied logos or for lack of paperwork. But it was three parties - or two coalitions and one party to be precise - who won the large majority of the vote. The centre-left led by the Democratic Party's Bersani, the centre-right (Berlusconi's lot), and ex-comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement. Monti and his coalition with Centrist leaders Casini and Fini won only 10% of the vote in both houses, which I found surprising. It's no secret that Monti and his austerity plans haven't been popular in Italy, but to be honest I expected the result to be a bit higher. So with around a third of votes for both houses going to both the centre-left and centre-right coalitions, and around a quarter to Grillo's Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement) nobody's reached the number required to have a majority in either of the two chambers of the Italian parlament, the Senato (Senate, the upper house) and Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies, the lower house). Which leaves Italy in a state of deadlock.

Yes, around 30% of the Italian population voted for the PdL-Lega Nord coalition. The PdL is Berlusconi's party, and the Lega Nord is basically Italian's version of the BNP, but worse. They want to create their own break-off state from Southern Italy, and one of their catchphrase is Roma ladra - thieving Rome. So yes, for us foreigners the Lega aren't nice people, seeing as they'd love to see us all out of their country. And unfortunately for me in the regional elections in Lombardia the Lega won the majority of the votes, which naturally makes me a bit anxious.

Grillo's party was the success story of the elections. He refused to appear on tv, and barred members of his party (nicknamed 'grillini') from making any appearances on any channels. He was scheduled to appear on Sky TG24 a few days before the elections, but at the last minute his appearance was called off. Instead of tv, he has been touring Italy as part of his Tsunami Tour, filling piazzas up and down the country.

So at the moment the situation to me seems to be a typically Italian one, lots of chatter but nothing actually being done. Grillo has refused to form a government with the centre-left, and no party has a majority to rule on their own. There's even been talk of the centre-left joining the centre-right to form a government. That'd be like Labour and the Tories in government together, only in crazy Italian style. Another strong possibility is more elections, possibily in the autumn. And if that's the case, will the result be the same as this time round?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Song of the week

For someone who didn't watch it I seem to be writing an awful lot about Sanremo this year. My favourite song this week is the one that won Sanremo Giovani. There's a category in the festival for giovani - or young - singers. I knew who some of them were, such as Andrea Nardinocchi and Il Cile, but others were unknown names to me. This year's winner was 26 year old Antonio Maggio, who first found success thanks to 2008's edition of X Factor where he was part of Aram Quartet, a band he and his friends put together. In 2010 the band split, and this year Andrea entered Sanremo in the Giovani category. His winning song was Mi servirebbe sapere.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sanremo : The Critics' Choice

Yes, I know, I don't watch Sanremo, but this song is genius, trust me. Elio e le storie tese are... unique. Out of their two entries for the festival this year one stood out more than the other. La canzone mononota. Does the word mononota remind you of something? Monotona/o means monotonous, but this song isn't monotonous, it's mono nota - the Italian for note. It's the song with one note! It came second, and won the Premio della critica, the critics' prize for best song.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Countdown to Eurovision 2013

This year nothing changed, I had no interest in Sanremo apart from finding out who would be representing Italy in this year's Eurovision Song Contest. I love music, and Italian music, but it's a part of Italian culture that I haven't been able to embrace. There's too much useless chatter, people looking for a scandal - such as Belen's famous butterfly tattoo last year - and how long does it go on for every night?? Last night the winner and also Italy's choice for the Contest was revealed - 24 year old Marco Mengoni.

Marco won the 3rd edition of X Factor in 2009, which was the year when I was in the audience for one of the shows. I liked him, because he was a bit eccentric and not your typical talent show contestant. He also entered Sanremo that year, finishing third. He has sold over 270,000 copies of his album and three EPs, and was the first Italian singer to win Best European Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2010. His winning song from Sanremo was L'essenziale, but the song that he's going to be taking to Malmo has yet to be announced.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Carnevale in Venice

A couple of weeks ago I had the idea of going over to Venice for Carnevale. It's something I've wanted to do since being in Milan, but never got round to. But on Saturday I got up at the crack of dawn to experience my first Venetian carnival!

The first spot was a bar for some elevenses in true Venetian style - a spritz with two pizzette, two little pizzas. For those who don't know, the spritz is the drink of Venice, it contains prosecco wine and a bitter liqueur; ours contained Aperol which gives it a bright orange colour. After the pit-stop it was time to go to Piazza San Marco to see the costumes!

There were some more unusual costumes too!

There was a wonderful party atmosphere, with adults and children dressed up or wearing masks. Outside the train station there were face painters, and of course there were plenty of stands and shops selling masks and wigs.

And there was confetti everywhere!

Of course, there was a lot of people in the streets, especially around Piazza San Marco. There were even officers from the local police controlling the flow of human traffic in the narrow streets and on the bridges! And the amount of people in Venice caused a lot of problems for me using public transport to get there and back. The train I got from Milan around 7.30am on Saturday morning was jam packed. By the time we got to Verona, around two hours from Milan on the regional train I took, and an hour and a half from Venice; the train was so full people could no longer get on. Unfortunately that was my fate returning home on Sunday evening at around 6.45. I was getting on the train at Venezia Mestre, the last stop on the mainland before Venice itself, as I was staying with a friend; and just from the people who got on at Venice the train was full to bursting. A few people managed to squeeze on, but many of us were left on the platform. It took three hours for me to be able to get on the train, on the fourth train that I tried catching, and the last one of the day to Milan. There had been so many people even going through Mestre station that McDonalds had ran out of hamburgers! So if you ever want to go to Venice for Carnival do not under any circumstances get the regional trains, and book the fast trains in advance, not only to save money but also as some of those were also full on Sunday. No special trains are put on, and there aren't enough to accomodate all the people travelling. Even though the weekend ended in a very stressful way, it's an experience that can't be missed!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

San Biagio and the Leftover Panettone

To be filed under: Today I Learned.

February 3rd is the feast day of San Blaise's, known in Italian as San Biagio. There's a tradition associated with it in Milan. It's the day when the panettone left over from Christmas is eaten, traditionally at breakfast, to protect from throat illnesses. San Blaise was an Armenian doctor who lived in the 3rd century AD; and the story goes that Saint Biagio saved a child who had a fishbone stuck in his throat, by giving him some bread to eat, which dislodged it. Much later, after the panettone had been invented, a Milanese lady took hers to be blessed by a monk - even today panettone are taken to church for the priest to bless them - who told her to leave it and come and pick it up in a few days. The lady didn't return until the 3rd of February, by then the monk had eaten all the panettone. The monk went to give the lady the empty wrapping which once contained her panettone, but instead of its remains he found a panettone twice the size of the original.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Word of The Week

Photo credits: Andrew Winn

La salute - health

It's a bit of a tough time of year as far as the old salute's concerned. It's flu season, and there are constantly items on the news about how many people have influenza and how to avoid catching it. The photo is of a farmacia, or pharmacy, in Piazza Duomo, they're easily identifiable with a green cross which is lit when the pharmacy's open.