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Something to Bark About

An Italian woman has been granted sick pay to look after her dog. Lawyers in Rome cited Italy’s strict animal protection laws that subject individuals who abandon an animal to ‘grave suffering’ to up to a year in jail and a fine up €10,000. The woman, an unnamed academic from Rome’s La Sapienza University, brought her fight to the courts arguing she deserved to be compensated for the two days she had taken off to care for her pet. A judge accepted the lawyers’ case and ordered the university to count her two days off under an employee allowance for absences related to “serious or family personal reasons.” The president of one of Europe’s largest animal rights leagues said, “It is a significant step forward that recognized animals that are not kept for financial gain or their working ability, are effectively members of the family.”


The CEO of Germany’s Lufthansa has said the company would be interested in buying Italy’s troubled flagship carrier if an opportunity arose to “to create a new Alitalia.” His comments came just days before the October 16th deadline for the submission of bids. Ryanair recently pulled out of the running as it deals with a shortage of pilots that has forced it to cancel thousands of flights. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said, “Alitalia as it exists today is not up for debate. But if there was a chance of creating a new Alitalia, then Lufthansa would certainly be interested in the talks. Italy is an important market for us.” Alitalia, which has struggled to compete with low-cost rivals went into administration at the start of May, moving the airline a step closer to liquidation amid efforts to find a buyer. At the time, the government said it would provide a bridge loan to keep Alitalia planes flying for approximately six months, it has now added $355 million to the loan package and has extended its deadline for finding a buyer.

How to Create Bad Karma

Two prisoners who were invited to meet Pope Francis for lunch on his recent visit to Bologna took advantage of the occasion to escape. The men, who were being held in a rehabilitation facility, were reportedly among 20 prisoners who met the Pontiff earlier this month. They disappeared just after the lunch and have not been seen since. Pope Francis has made mercy one of the themes of his papacy and regularly meets prisoners on his trips outside the Vatican. It is unclear whether the Pope’s words to “go and seek Jesus” were misinterpreted by the two escapees.

Here Come da Judge

Prisoners in northern Italy will soon be able to offer judges a sweet deal, although serving up an extra smooth cappuccino is unlikely to be enough to get time off their sentences. The coffee shop in the courthouse of Torino is seeking baristas with an unusual professional background: prisoners or former prisoners looking for a way to pay their debt to society and start afresh. The city council signed off on the plan for the cafe, which serves some 900 court employees, as well as hundreds of magistrates, lawyers and members of the public. The bar, currently closed, will re-open in a few months.

La Scala Costumes on Display

A free exhibition has just opened at Milan’s Palazzo Reale which showcases an entire century’s worth of costumes from the city’s historic La Scala opera house. The show, which runs through January 28, includes more than 25 costumes spanning nearly 100 years. The creations on display include those by Gianni Versace, as well as costumes worn by opera diva Renata Tebaldi. The Friends of La Scala Association organized the show, following a restoration of the costumes, and in so doing, the association is celebrating its 40th anniversary in collaboration with the City of Milan, the Palazzo Reale and La Scala opera house. The oldest costume on display is that of Isabella in Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algieri,” which was created by Caramba (Luigi Sapelli) in 1933. Ballet costumes include the red dress designed by Luisa Spinatelli in 1987 for Carla Fracci’s performance in “La Fille Mal Gardee.” The most recent costumes are by Maurizio Millenotti for the stepmother and stepsisters in the 2015 production of “Cinderella” directed by Mauro Bigonzetti.

By the Numbers

Anyone who has driven in Italy has observed the rapid speed at which some Italians drive, especially on the Autostrada. So is there actually a national speed limit in the country? The answer is yes. It is 150 kilometers per hour, which is about 93 mph. Is there a national age in Italy regarding the consumption of alcohol? In certain Italian cities, most recently Palermo and Milan, local statutes establish that a patron must be at least 16 years old to purchase alcoholic beverages, while the national law says that no one under that age may buy wine, beer or liquor. In reality, the age limit is rarely enforced.  Alcoholism is quite rare in Italy, particularly in the south. Until a few years ago, the minimum age to purchase alcohol was 14. Before that, Italy had no minimum drinking age at all.