Monday Morning Fish Wrap: The Mafia’s Got Wind In Its Pants (pocket)

This is not Sicily

The Fish Wrap: an occasional grouping of interesting links, mostly centered around finance topics, largely from personal finance blogs. A carnival of sorts, arranged in no consistent fashion, and governed by lazy editorial standards. Years ago, Mafia references used to bug me to no end. On learning of my Italian ethnicity, the inevitable quip about criminal parentage would come out. But it helps to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. I learned long ago to reply with with a wink and a nod, and sometimes even a mock affected NY accent "That's right. I know people who know people."* Smiles or laughter or follow-up jokes all around (or even a semi-startled double take), and we get on with business. It's even become a jokey byline … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Habemum Papam!

pio per culo photo

We have a Pope? No, not really. The picture caption is just a very clever play on words in Italian.  And even though we know that if you have to explain a joke, it's no longer funny, we're all about edification here.  So here we go. Pio is the Italianized name for Pius, a common Pontiff monicker. The phrase Pigliare per il culo could be translated politely as "making a fool of" or "taking for a ride", or more crassly and literally, "to grab by the ass" (Spanish speakers will recognize culo).   Pigliare is the Tuscan dialect version of prendere, or "to take".  Hence, Pio is a contraction of the verb's conjugation in first person singular: piglio (pronounce like a double L in spanish: pillo).  Hence: Pio Perculo. See? If you … [Read more...]

Why Are Europeans So Skinny?

Crappy Breakfast Foods in Italy.... at least it's in English

Why are Europeans so skinny.  Or rather, why are Italians so skinny? Breaking it down outline style, in no particular order. 1. more walking 2. better food 3. light breakfasts, massive lunches, light dinners 4. less sodas, more fizzy water 5. less snacking 6. smaller portion sizes 7. less hard-core drinking 8. frenetic arm-waving in casual conversation 9. Energetic tax evasion 10. Making da love all da time More walking... Italian towns are teeny tiny, and parking is at a premium. During morning errands, we parked and left our car in one spot. Walk to the bar (cappuccino time!), walk to the bank, the laundry, the newspaper stand, the hardware store, up the hill to the grocery store, and back to the car laden with the … [Read more...]

Financial Tips – Italy in September, Part One


This is part one of a two (or three) part series on a recent trip to Northern Italy.  Just some random snapshots of food, travel and experiences, along with some aspects of personal finance and investment thrown in. Earlier this month, my boss and I had to go for a week of meetings with our new subsidiary in Northern Italy.  We traveled on a Saturday, arriving later in the afternoon, with a whole Sunday to kill before the start of our mission on Monday morning.  We figured we’d drive around nearby Lago di Como (Lago = lake) on a Sunday, eat somewhere, eat some more, drive some more, perhaps to Lugano in Switzerland, and retire early. Suicidal Drivers Since we had 4 people to drive around for the week, we requested a larger … [Read more...]

Random Travel Notes about Italy, and Random Links

The Colleoni Chapel - Bergamo, Italy

  Pretty cathedral, huh?  Actually, it’s a chapel tacked on the the main cathedral in Bergamo in northern Italy.  It seems that one of the prominent citizens of the city, a certain Bartolomeo Colleoni, a noted and successful condottiero, wished to leave his own legacy by building a chapel.  Tired of talking zoning permissions with the city fathers and religious leaders, he simply had his private soldiers knock down part of the main cathedral, and commence construction on this gorgeous piece of architecture. (Brief aside on Condottieri, for those who many not be familiar with the term.  In Renaissance times, Italian city-states conducted extreme politics by outsourcing the dirty, icky work of fighting battles to … [Read more...]

Der Spiegel: Italy’s German-speaking Province Escapes the Crisis

Image via Wikipedia This is a rather interesting article in Der Spiegel about one of Italy least-known regions, the dual language province of Trentino Aldo Adige.  The German part of the region, South Tyrol, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after World War I, when it was ceded to victorious Italy.   German is widely spoken,  and in many parts it is the primary language.  I visited the region  many years ago (too many, it seems) on a school field trip. I distinctly remember the distaste that some folks showed at having to speak Italian. This region has remained prosperous even in today's difficult economic times, with low unemployment and little government debt, while the Italian government sinks ever deeper into a … [Read more...]