The school bus pulls up to reveal our three children waving self-made Italian flags. It can mean only one thing. The official celebration of Italy’s 150th birthday is upon us. This being a thoroughly divided nation, it has of course been dubbed the Festival of Unity.
For months the children have been returning from school singing what must be one of the most improbable choruses of any national anthem: ‘Stringiamoci a coorte / Siamo pronti alla morte / Italia chiamo’ or ‘Let’s all stand together / We are ready to die / Italy has summoned us.’ They do this with their right hands over their hearts and big grins on their faces.
‘It’s absurd,’ observes the eight-year-old. ‘But then so is the British one.’ She has a point. Nonetheless she has learned all the verses, including arcane references to Scipio, the blood of the Poles and so on, and needs little prompting to sing the whole thing over and over.
Italy’s popular president Giorgio Napolitano leads the celebratory tour of Rome, including a visit to the monument to Italy’s hot-headed revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Silvio Berlusconi is forced to accompany him and draws whistles and calls of ‘Resign’ and ‘Buffoon’.
This is tame compared with the last day of Carnival — the traditional party to consume all the stuff that cannot be consumed during Lent — in our nearby village of Cornetto. This year, instead of dressing up as cartoon characters, the men of the village regaled themselves as full-bosomed, heavily made-up prostitutes and arrived in a bunga-bunga car, groping anyone they could lay hands on. There then appeared a Berlusconi character, who set up a large table and proceeded to hand out Viagra to residents of the village before being violently and graphically humped by the bunga-bunga ladies.
All this went on, needless to say, while the children of the village were towed around, watching, in a toy train pulled by a tractor. Who says there is no hope for this country? ‘Siam’ pronti alla morte…‘
More leaked phone taps suggest that Silvio’s advice to Ruby was to pretend to be insane. While Silvio would pretend to have believed that she (Moroccan) was Mubarak’s granddaughter. The great thing is that in Italy you can actually say this kind of stuff in court. There is also more detail from Ruby’s first police interview in which the Silvio link came up.