Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 'pitchfork' protests

Flying around the supermarket as I always do when I go grocery shopping after work, I didn't pay much attention to the near-empty fruit and veg shelves. It was only when I got to the check-out when the lady at the till was talking to one of her colleagues about it that I realised. The shelves were almost empty because of the strikes by lorry drivers, deliveries were unable to reach the supermarkets. What is known as the forconi, 'pitchfork' movement, started in Sicily; with lorry drivers protesting about the rising costs associated with their jobs, such as fuel prices and motorway tolls.

Monday the movement started to spread to mainland Italy with many motorway junctions all over the country blocked by the protesters. From Lazio, to Puglia, to Campagnia and up here in Lombardia, the protesters were blocking the roads with their vehicles causing tailbacks. I watched a report last night about how lorry drivers in the south of Italy were being forced to take part in the strikes by protesters threatening to damage their vehicles if they didn't. Yesterday one of the protesters was tragically killed in an accident, by a German lorry driver who was not taking part in the protests. Eleven protesters have been arrested today, and it's estimated that 50 tonnes of goods such as milk, fresh fruit, and flowers are going to waste every day; and it's reported that prices for these goods in shops are already starting to rise.

The government is trying to stop the roadblocks. Today they announced new measures to try and appease the protesters, such as reducing motorway tolls. The situation seems to be improving as far as road transport is concerned, but the strikes are far from over. There's a 24 hour train strike from 9pm on Thursday, again as a result of Monti's new proposed measures, on the 27th local and air transport will be affected by strikes, and on the 1st of February pharmacies will be closed. It's going to be a difficult few weeks for this country.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Classic

Bad Nerys, I've neglected one of my features yet again. But it returns. I know I've featured one of Rino Gaetano's songs before, but this is another one of my all-time favourites, Sfiorivano le viole from 1976.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Costa Concordia

Ever gone through the experience of turning on the radio and hearing sadness in a familiar voice but not knowing what you've missed whilst you've been asleep?

That happened to me yesterday morning. I woke up at 7.45 and as I do every Saturday and Sunday morning I turned on the radio pretty much once I'd managed to open my eyes. And straightaway I knew something was wrong. The Costa Concordia cruise ship had ran aground near the Giglio island, off the coast of southern Tuscany. At the time information seemed to be scarse, even though the accident had actually happened at some point between 9.20-9.40pm the previous evening.

For whatever reason it took a while for news to filter down to the Italian press. I'm used to that happening with international news, Italy's such a bubble and sometimes it can take days for big international news stories to be mentioned here. When I turned on the tv not long after hearing the news it wasn't mentioned anywhere. Not even on the news channels. Absolutely nothing. Yet another case of having to follow what was happening in the country I live in online because the tv just wasn't mentioning it.

By the afternoon there was increased coverage, and there were some shocking pictures of the ship on its side in the ocean, almost parallel to it. The focus however seemed to be on placing blame and creating scandal, and not presenting the facts of what happened. As disappointing as it was, it wasn't surprising for the Italian press.

By 7pm Italian time today five bodies had been found, and 15 people remain missing. The search for the unaccounted passengers and crew continues. The reason behind the accident is reported to have been a power cut on the ship; the captain, who has been detained by police for questioning (he has also been accused of leaving the ship before all passengers had been rescued) claimed that the rocks that cut open the ship's hull were not marked on any maps. I watched passengers recall yesterday how they had to swim to the island in the freezing water, one man saying it took him 15 minutes to reach the shore. It's still hard for me to believe how something like this could happen in the 21st century.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adverts from Italy 2

It might be a bit of a strange thing to notice so much, but being the musical person I am, something that stands out to me when I'm watching tv is the music used in adverts here.

The choice of which song to use for an advertising campaign doesn't always make sense to a native English speaker though. Take ING's adverts for their Conto Arancio (a kind of bank account which is advertised often on TV and radio) which uses the chorus of Gorillaz' Feel Good Inc.

I really do wonder how that choice of song came about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was having a discussion on Twitter with a friend a couple of days ago about the use of the word 'please' in Italy, and the subject was also bought up on the radio last night, so I thought it'd be an interesting thing to write about.

The Italian per favore isn't used anywhere near as much as 'please' in English. Being British I was bought up to use please and thank you all the time, but my usage of the word 'please' would seem excessive here. In informal speech it can be dropped completely, yet the request retains the same politeness that would be in the English translation. Over the years I've grown to prefer volevo when making a request, the imperfect conjunction of the verb volere; which means to want, to desire or to wish. It wasn't what I was taught at university, but something I picked up when I was studying in Urbino, specifically one day in the bus station when I wanted to buy a ticket to go to a town nearby. Back then I copied the language I heard around me a lot, and in shops or in similar situations I'd use phrases I'd heard people before me use. The other way this verb could be used when making a request is in the conditional form, which is 'vorrei' in the first person singular, it can be translated as 'I would like'. So, if you wanted a piece of pizza you could use Vorrei/volevo un pezzo di pizza. If you tacked 'per favore' onto that it would seem excessive and too formal. The politeness of the phrase seems to come across in the conjugation of the verb.

In more formal settings there are other phrases you can use for 'please'. For example there's per cortesia or cortesemente, the latter of these can be translated as 'kindly'. There's also per piacere which also translates as 'please'. What you'll also see a lot of is the verb 'pregare', in both formal and informal language. It translates as to ask, to beg or to request. It is used a lot in the passive voice where rules or laws are concerned, 'si prega, 'one asks'. For example Si prega di non fumare, means 'Please do not smoke'. In informal language it's used more to convey the idea of begging, Ti prego di non dire niente. "Please don't say anything."

It's quite a complicated idea to convey, and seeing as the Milanese aren't exactly seen as being very warm people, I know others will have different experiences. It's a different way of structuring language, and I don't think I've still managed to crack it after all this time!