All posts tagged crisis


Published April 10, 2013 by Tony


Standard of living and lifestyle have influenced and still influence the way how people spend their weekend. If we take as a reference two medium families, one from Naples and another from New York, both formed by working parents, with one or more adult children, probably in a month the Neapolitan parents spend one Saturday or Sunday to dine out, while the New Yorker parents spend three. For New Yorkers the Saturday “evening dining out” was, until recently, an obligation, especially for couples with both engaged in work. Due to the popular demand, in order to go to a restaurant or pizzeria in New York, a Saturday evening reservation even was necessary. Where the New Yorker didn’t go out to dinner, as an alternative there always was a dinner party hosted by some friends at their home or in a pub. A lifestyle difficult to eradicate, even in view of the fact that wives were not inclined to spend weekend at home, between cooking and dishes.
Aside from this substantial cultural difference, there was another of economic nature, because an average Neapolitan family certainly did not have the same economic opportunity of the overseas peers.
Although a normal dinner in a normal restaurant in the Neapolitan hinterland costs less than the one in a similar restaurant in New York, the average Neapolitan family culturally is more “conservative” and traditionalist, with wives, who, although involved in work, have not lost their  “housewives” identity, preferring to stay at home during the weekend.  In Naples, there has never been a “dining party” culture, and instead of Saturday dining out, if anything, the custom of a Sunday lunch away from home has always been more in vogue. But occasionally and not as a weekly habit. The Neapolitan wife has always been very attached to the house and the children and  weekend is just a chance to spend more time at home with family, and attend to all those household chores that she has not been able to do during the week.
Our habits have not changed much over the years. The economic situation has led, if anything, to renounce to some Sunday lunch at the restaurant and be thriftier in foodstuffs purchase.

Americans, instead, after a hard week spent at work, look forward to weekends, planning in advance for them.  For many weekend means going out with friends or relatives, outdoor activities or watching a game in a stadium.
In the past, one of the largest changes in American eating habits was the increasing reliance on food eaten away from home (FAFH). FAFH increased from 33% of total food expenditures in 1970 to 47% by 2003. Most of this is at table service and fast food restaurants.
Much of the growth is attributed to the rising value of household time, especially as induced by more female labor force participation, and rising household incomes.
As a 2009 Zagat Survey showed, eating out was a way of life for many Americans, with 50% of all meals prepared outside the home. In short, restaurants became the family kitchen for the busy two-career families. According to Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat, “Americans are still eating out in restaurants, they are just making smarter choices.”

Recently, the economic downturn, occasional jobs and financial turmoil in America have made it difficult for people to find enough money to afford their “dining out” habit.
Lately, Americans are making family dinner more often than dine out, a trend that slowly took root before the recession. Mostly, they’re cooking with and eating a narrow range of foods — and relying, to some extent, on prepared, frozen, and canned items to feed their families quickly and economically. “It’s very boring. That’s the sad truth,” says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst for the NPD Group, a national market research company. “For the most part, we’re looking for what’s the eaesiest way out of this, what’s the cheapest way out of this.” Balzer said, the number of restaurant meals an American family eats — dine-in or takeout — has been flat, at just under 200 a year, correlating to plateaus of both women in the workforce and household incomes.

Even the New York Times supported the thesis of the “end of the dinner party” because people do not have more money, time and wish to do so.  Someone else says that beyond the crisis there is a lack of good manners and savoir faire, with people no longer able to have a conversation and that’s why lately “finger food” and “standing up” are preferred to dinner party.



Published April 5, 2013 by Tony



Speaking of Naples in my previous posts, I already said that Neapolitans are generous, sympathetic, able to adapt, make do and find solutions.
Once there was the custom of the “paid coffee”, to wit, rich persons who often left another paid coffee at the bar, and this for any eventual worse-off who had no money for a coffee, but now it is the turn of the pizza.
One of the oldest and most famous pizzeria in Naples, Sorbillo’s, recently launched a new initiative, those who have no money can eat a pizza today and pay the next week, a sort of IOU. An initiative against the crisis to help people.
This custom existed in the past, especially after the war, when the economic situation was not rosy.

Crisis and unemployment have led to an increase in the poverty, so in many neighborhoods some retailers of food are returned to the old custom of giving goods on credit, transcribing “purchased” products on a sheet in duplicate (a sort of credit or promissory note) and wait until the end of the month for the payment. This is a risk, we know, but a way to sell and not lose customers, and the retailers adapt and are confident.
Hunger increases crime and leads to steal, as happened a few months ago in a neighboring country where a man (a good person) stole some pizzas from the hands of a customer coming out of a pizzeria, then saying to the victim: “I’m doing it to feed my family, this is better than stealing money or anything else.”

Sorbillo’s pizzeria says that his initiative is aimed at students, street urchins, older and pensioners whose he makes note of their personal information before delivering pizza on credit, hoping that they, by serious people, then keep the promise to pay. If someone does not pay, it goes well, doesn’t matter, considering about 800 pizzas sold per day, there is also the gain of the few pizzas no longer paid.
Probably this is also a way to get publicity, but economics trends is real and we all felt it.



Published February 11, 2012 by Tony


Started in Madrid about a year ago with the “movement of indignados”, the juvenile mobilization that occupied for months Puerta del Sol, then spread throughout north central Europe and even United States, asking for “respect for the majority of ordinary people that are crushed by privileges and bad choices made by a handful of privileged lobby who hold the reins of political and economic system in the world“.
On 9 November, fifty young – then step by step  growing in number – left Nice to go in Greece passing from Italy, the two countries most severely affected by the financial tsunami. The march, which began last November, should end in May. Last week they pitched their tents in Rome and are now in Naples. As usual, they will devote themselves to explain and try to share with as many people as possible their political dream, with meetings, sit-in and press conference on many issues. Previously, to participate in the worldwide event “Occupy the world“, many Italian cities and many places around the world had been occupied by local indignados people, protesting “against the dictatorship of the banks and financial speculation that use global crisis to attack and dismantle public services, welfare, education, at the expense of human rights and take possession of commons goods”. Italians indignados met  on the web and  their manifesto reported the slogan:” Do not bring flags and party or union symbols, but only the Italian flag and the constitution. Do not act in a violent way”.
In Naples, the marchers are now camped in Piazza del Gesù, someone walks barefoot and I regret that during this period, weather conditions have not been very lenient.
Come on guys! If I were 30 years younger, I’d be for sure at your side!




or watch this



Published December 30, 2011 by Tony


A sip of spumante, traditional lentils and a bit of entertainment, without overdoing. The New Year’s Eve for Italians will be sober and dedicated to austerity. Based on data from a survey of Confesercenti, our families, put to the test by the crisis and the new taxes introduced by the operation Save Italy, make drastic cuts in spending on these last holidays: 86% of Italians will celebrate the arrival of 2012 at home, without trips or holidays. 3 million the Italians who will do the countdown at home, 7%  more than 2010. This is the highest number of the last five years.
According to the survey, the reduction of costs bring people to spend 2.4 billion euros, just 328 million less than last year with an average expenditure around 75 – 92 euros per consumer. The percentage of Italians enjoying the new year night in a restaurant collapses from 7% to 2%, while only 2% in a disco.
Because of economic difficulties, four out of ten Italians will not do any celebration. Will simply consider the evening of December 31 one of the many nights of the year, though with a plate of lentils as good luck.
Home has been the privileged place for these festivities. Italians who made plans for New Year holidays are only 6% compared with the 10% of the last year, with someone moving towards European destinations.
Nothing to be astonished considering we are referring to  large families and middle class groups mostly.


Published November 10, 2011 by Tony



Italy, Parliament and European debt crisis.
Yesterday the PM Silvio Berlusconi promised to resign after a humiliating vote in Parliament. Some of his key ally just gave up, by voting against in the lower house of parliament, so the coalition government brought down and Berlusconi lost the majority. In the meanwhile the austerity measures and structural reforms will go ahead and then the President of the Repubblic, Giorgio Napolitano, will have to propose a provisioning government.
Il Cavaliere (the cavalier), as the Prime Minister is nicknamed in Italy, would therefore remain in power to oversee the passing of the “Stability Bill,” and then would tender his resignation to President Napolitano. Parliament is expected to vote on the measures next week.
Opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani of the PD party had taken the floor to ask Berlusconi directly to quit, while Umberto Bossi, his ally and head of the Northern League, asked the Prime Minister to step aside and make way for Angelino Alfano, secretary of Berlusconi’s own PDL party.
Probably, the Cavalier has become famous throughout the world for about sarcasm and his gaffes.
The high regard for himself has led him to compare himself, at different times, to Jesus Christ, Napoleon and a saint, and while his frequent jokes and digs brought smiles to his supporters, his gaffe-prone or blunders speeches often caused global consternation during his last presidential term of office.
What follows is a list of the most famous Berlusconi gaffe-prone and  blunders, surely the first PM  become a YouTube hit for a lot of footages.

1 Caused a political row at the start of Italy’s EU presidency by referring to a German MEP, Martin Schulz, “I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps – I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo (a guard chosen from among the prisoners) – you would be perfect.”
2 Offended China by declaring: “Read the black book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields.”
3 He advised investors in New York to relocate to Italy because the secretaries were better looking than their American counterparts.  “Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries… superb girls.” He also told the New York stock exchange: “Italy is now a great country to invest in… today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one.”
4 During a group photo of EU leaders in 2002 he made the Italian horned “cuckold” gesture with his hand behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister, suggesting he was being cuckolded.
5 Silvio Berlusconi missed a symbolic NATO photo and a ceremony for fallen soldiers because he was too busy talking on his mobile phone.
6 The self-made billionaire said his response to the global economic crisis was different to that of President Obama because “I’m paler”. “I’m paler because it’s been so long since I went sunbathing. He’s more handsome, younger and taller,” said the media mogul.  Also accused of being racist, or at least gauche, in November 2008 when he hailed then President-elect Obama as “handsome, young and also suntanned”.
7 He caused Italian outrage by saying that although he was considering deploying 30,000 troops to Italy’s cities, there would never be enough soldiers to protect Italy’s many “beautiful girls” from rape.
8 Relations between Rome and Berlin would have been further strained after it was reported he referred to chancellor Angela Merkel an “unfuckable lard-arse”, in a telephone conversation with a newspaper editor. Recorded in a tapped telephone call: “They can tap my telephone calls. I don’t give a fuck … I’m getting out to mind my own fucking business, from somewhere else, and so I’m leaving this shitty country, of which I’m sickened.”
9 Boasted that he had had to “dust off my playboy charms” to convince Finland’s female prime minister, Tarja Halonen, to set up the EU Food Safety Authority in Parma (Italy), rather than in Finland. Added the observation that: “Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don’t even know what prosciutto is.”
10 His response to the sex scandal allegations became a scandal itself because the philandering affirmed: “As always, I work without interruption and if occasionally I happen to look a beautiful girl in the face, it’s better to like beautiful girls than to be gay”. The term “Bunga-Bunga” swept the nation after a series of women alleged Berlusconi had “sex parties”.
11 On the plight of victims of the Abruzzo earthquake: “Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping.”
12 On his sexual appetite: “Last night I had a queue outside the door of the bedroom. There were 11 … I only did eight because I could not do it anymore”. “But this morning I feel great, I’m pleased with my stamina”.
13 On allegations that he entertained prostitutes at his villa: “Even though I am a little mischievous … 33 girls in two months seems like too much even for a 30-year-old.”
14 During a G20 photocall at Buckingham Palace, Berlusconi offended the Queen who was heard asking “why does he have to shout?”.
15 “Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday in (internal) exile,” Berlusconi tells Britain’s Spectator magazine, replying “yes” when asked if he thought the World War Two dictator was “benign”.
16 On balding, “I have little hair because my brain is so big it pushes the hair out”.
17 With regard to the crisis and the media who report the increase in poverty and income too low Berlusconi comments on the state of Italy’s economy was, “Life in Italy is life in a prosperous country. We see that on every occasion, consumption has not gone down, the restaurants are full, you have trouble booking seats on airplanes, holiday areas are totally booked out on long weekends. I don’t think that if you went to live in Italy that Italy is feeling anything that could resemble a serious crisis.”
18 In remarks to party deputies in parliament, Berlusconi suggests his ruling PDL party should rename itself “Forza Gnocca!,” (which translates as “Go Pussy” or “Go Crumpet”),  a play on the name of his original Forza Italia! (Go Italy!) party, using a slang term for female genitals.
19 “Only Napoleon did more than I have done”, he tells a TV talk show.
20 “One citizen is equal to another (in the eyes of the law) but perhaps this one is slightly more equal than the others, given that 50 percent of Italians have given him the responsibility of governing the country,” he said, referring to himself, during an appearance at his corruption trial in Milan.
21 “The most keen can certainly find a second job, maybe unofficial,” Berlusconi says, encouraging laid-off Fiat workers to seek employment on the black market.
22 On how tough it is to be a billionaire: “In absolute terms, I am the most legally persecuted man of all times, in the whole history of mankind, worldwide”.

We all are asking ourselves now, will be Italy better off with or without Berlusconi?

During his government, certainly some good law was passed, but – apart from the recent global crisis – many social achievements obtained in the past, after long years of labor struggles, have been  eliminated inexorably,  dividing further Italy into two, North on a side and South on the other. As usual, the employees have been the most harassed category in recent years.
I think that Italy will resume only when the policy will be no longer a profession. Most of our politicians, who over the years have made a political career trying to advance, they did it because not with the wish to contribute selflessly to their country, but to get a “chair” that guarantees privileges and wealth. In Italy there are good laws indeed, perhaps too many, but everyone who governs “brings grist to own mill” and legislates according to his own private interests, first of all. The fact that in Italy there are too many posts, too many parties and too many politicians, including many ignorant and ill-prepared, let us understand that politics is not a mission, but only a business not devoted to the selfless sacrifice, just a lucrative job. At each annual Financial Bill, the government asks citizens to make sacrifices, but the first to be exempted are just MPs and senators while they, on the contrary,  should lead by example. And in the meantime, the ruling class, industrialists and big traders think about their business only, avoiding any participation, albeit modest, implying an economic sacrifice. It is well-known that in young people no longer exists a nationalistic spirit, safeguard and foresight, but the fault is mainly of politicians in which, for first, these basic idealisms are lacking, and for a long time!