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While doing research into my Italian ancestry for my book, Whatever happened To Ishtar? I read somewhere that if you wanted to know what it was like living in 19th Century Italy, you might wish to read Village Commune by Maria Louise Ramé, otherwise known by her pseudonym, Ouida. It turned out to be very good advice. I searched for the book online and found it  in a tiny obscure USA second hand book shop. When I received what is now a prized possession, I discovered it was a First Edition published 1881!

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Published in 1881

My great grandparents, Aristodemo and Annunziata Frandi experienced similar hardships to those described by Ouida in Village Commune. Many young men from poor families were conscripted into the regular army to fight against the Austrians, as was Aristodemo, who came from a family of farmers. The Frandi family, by then including three young children, emigrated to New Zealand in 1876 and I now fully understand why.  Although Aristodemo talked to family about life in Italy, both of his hated time barracked with the regular army  in the far north of Italy, and his time fighting in the south of Italy with Garibaldi, I had no real understanding of just how difficult life was at that time.

I had always thought of Italy as a wonderful country, full of poetry, art, fabulous food and generous citizens. I have visited the country often and I have never been disappointed. But of course there was, and is, another side to Italy altogether.

Ouida’s eloquently written and absorbing stories of life in northern Italy are heart-rending. Farmers and agriculturists, whose families had lived on the land for generations, had their land taken at the whim of wealthy, corrupt government officials and were left homeless and hungry. The burgeoning Industrial Revolution needed land for factories, and dwellings for workers moving onto the countryside. Land was also needed to build mansions for wealthy officials, and for railways.

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The Commune

Note the prices listed for Ouida’s publications. The handwritten name and date came with the book.

 

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The author connects on an emotional level with the reader, as she relates beautifully crafted, albeit harrowing, life stories.  One such story is of a young Florentine farming peasant :

He was a peasant who had been taken by conscription just as a young bullock is picked out for the shambles, and he had never understood why very well. His heart has always been with his fields, his homestead, his vines, his sweetheart. He had hated the barrack life, the dusty aimless marches, the drilling and the bullying, the weight of the knapsack and the roar of the guns; he had been a youth, ere the government had made him a machine…If the enemy had come into his country he would have held his own hamlet against them to the last gasp; but to be drafted off to Milan to wear a fool’s jacket and to eat black bread while the fields were half tilled, and the old people sore driven…no, he was not a patriot, if to be one, he must have been a contented conscript. 

 Ouida gives a vivid portrayal of the numerous Roman Catholic and other festivals:

Italian merry-making is never pretty. The sense of colour and of harmony is gone out of our people, whose forefathers were models of Leonardo and Raffaelle, and whose own limbs too, have still so often the mould of the Faun and the Discobolus. Italian merry-making has nothing of the grace and brightness of the French fairs, nor even of the picturesqueness and colour of the German feasts and frolics; even in Carnival, although there are gayety [sic] and grotesqueness, there is little grace and little good colouring. But the people enjoy themselves; enjoy themselves for the most part very harmlessly and very merrily when they forget their tax-papers, their empty stomachs, and their bankrupt shops.

Ouida writes extensively and in detail about the corruption and cronyism of government officials, and the cruelty they meted out to hapless villagers. If citizens had wealth, and were well connected, they had plenty of food and their sons escaped conscription! But peasants lived frugally off the land, and life for them was harsh and often brutal.

One of  Ouida’s famous quotes “petty laws breed great crimes” highlights her intimate knowledge and understanding of what life was like for the peasant landowner (agrario).

The commune of Vezzaja and Ghiralda, whose centre is the village of Santa Rosalia, is, like all Italian communes, supposed to enjoy an independence that is practically a legislative autonomy. So long as it contributes its quota to the Imperial taxes, the Imperial government is supposed to have nothing to do with it, and it is considered to be as free as air to govern itself. So everybody will tell you; and so inviolate is its freedom that even the prefect of its province dare not infringe upon it – or says so when he wants to get out of any trouble.

Anybody who pays five francs’ worth of taxes has a communal vote in this free government and helps to elect a body of thirty persons who in turn elect a council of seven persons, who in turn elect a a single person called a syndic, or as you would call him in English, a mayor. This distilling and condensing process sounds quite admirable in theory. Whoever has the patience to read the pages of this book will see how this system works in practice.

Now, in Vezzaja and Ghiralda the thirty persons do nothing but elect the seven persons, the seven do nothing but elect the one person, and the one person does nothing but elect his secretary; and the secretary, with two assistants dignified respectively by the titles of chancellor and conciliator, does everything in the way of worry to the public that the ingenuity of the official mind can conceive. The secretary’s duties ought to be the duties of a secretary everywhere, but by a clever individual can be brought to mean almost anything you please in the shape of local tyranny and extortion; the chancellor (cancelliere) has the task of executing every sort of unpleasantness against the public in general, and sends out his fidus Achates, the usher, all kinds of summons and warrants at his will and discretion; as for the conciliator (giudice conciliatore) his office as his name indicates, is supposed to consist in conciliation of all local feuds, disputes and debts, but as he is generally chiefly remarkable for an absolute ignorance of law and human nature, and for a general tendency to accumulate fees anywhere and anyhow, he is not usually of the use intended, [my emphasis] and rather is famous for doing what a homely phrase calls setting everybody together by the ears…Power is sweet and when you are a little clerk you love its sweetness quite as much as if you were an emperor, and maybe you love it  a good deal more.   

She elaborates further: Tyranny is a very safe amusement in this liberated country. Italian law is based on that blessing to mankind, the Code Napoleon, and the Code Napoleon is perhaps the most ingenious mechanism for human torture that the human mind has ever constructed. In the cities, its use for torment is not quite so easy, because where there are crowds there is always the fear of a riot and besides there are horrid things called newspapers , and citizens wicked enough and daring enough to write in them. But away in the country, the embellished and filtered Code Napoleon can work like a steam plough; there is nobody to appeal and nobody to appeal to. The people are timid and perplexed; they are as defenceless as the sheep in the hand of the shearer; they are frightened at the sight of the printed papers and the carabinier’s [sic} sword. There is nobody to tell them they have rights , and besides, rights are very expensive luxuries anywhere and cost as much to take care of as a carriage horse.

In Village Commune Ouida dissects the family lives of unfortunate peasants in 19th Century Italy. I believe that many of these soul destroying Italian tragedies are on a par with the famous Greek plays left to us by Aeschylus or Sophocles. There is much irony within the pages of Village Commune

There are far too many long sentences, semi-colons and commas in this book, but they take nothing away from the wit, sarcasm and  beautiful prose flowing from Ouida’s pen. I highly recommend this wonderful little book… if you can find a copy.

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OUIDA’S headstone

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-Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory – All Rights Reserved  14 April 2016

 

 

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Lucida Mansi sold her soul to the devil………find out more……..

http://www.tuscany-villas.it/to-tuscany/2013/tourist-attractions/legend-lucida-mansi-lucca

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Nexus 4 Nov 027

Silhouette in Bagni Di Lucca

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Painting and Poem  Silhouette In Bagni Di Lucca   Copyright  To Anne Frandi-Coory –

All rights reserved 4 November 2013…..

Painting by afcoory –  acrylic on canvas 100cm x 75cm

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Read my poem *Silhouette In Bagni Di Lucca

here in DRAGONS DESERTS and DREAMS

 

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Dedicated to my great grandmother Raffaela Marisi Mansi Grego (Greco) -the Mansi name probably originated in Saxony. Mansi ancestors moved to Italy as wealthy silk traders when Italy was ruled by Germany.

Read more about the origins of the Mansi family name: My Fascination With Italian Surnames

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My maternal Italian grandmother Maria Cajetan Grego Frandi

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In Memory of all those mothers, children, and grandmothers who followed their men to the other side of their world. To lands not always welcoming…nothing changes

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Exiles

Exiled from home. The far sea rolls

between them and the country of their birth;

the childhood-turning impulse of their souls

EVA Exiles

My paternal grandmother, Eva Arida Fahkrey (Coory) 15yrs old & married, Bcharre, Lebanon

pulls half across the earth. Exiled from home.

No mother to take care that they work too hard,

grieve not too sore;

no older brother nor small sister fair

no father any more.

Exiled from home; from all familiar things;

the low browed roof, the grass surrounded door;

accustomed labours that gave daylight wings;

loved steps on the worn floor.

Exiled from home. Young girls sent forth alone

when most their hearts need close companioning;

no love and hardly friendship may they own,

no voice of welcoming.

Blended with homesick tears the exile stands;

to toil for alien household gods she comes;

a servant and a stranger in our lands,

homeless within our homes.

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– Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (1914)

AUDIO: Exiles 

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See later post: Italian Villa With Virgin

See Immigration & The Promise

Updated 31 October 2016

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DANTE by R W B Lewis is a fascinating account of Dante’s life,   including his exile from his beloved Florence and  the years he spent writing Divina Commedia. Commedia is Dante’s spiritual testimony through Hell and Purgatory, guided by Virgil, and finally to Paradise, by Beatrice.  Dante met a girl called Beatrice at the age of nine. This young woman ‘continued to exert a profound and lasting influence on his work’ until his controversial death. Dante was born in Florence in 1265. In 1309 he was banished from his birthplace for political reasons, and sentenced to death in his absence. 

I enjoyed this book so much, not least because the author quotes Dante’s Italian throughout.    I have taught myself the language, because only then can one appreciate fully its poetic beauty. This is beautiful literature at its finest.

Dante: “I have unjustly suffered punishment. I mean of exile and of poverty. After it was the pleasure of the citizens of that fairest and most famous daughter of Rome, Florence, to cast me out of her dearest bosom…I have wandered through almost every region to which the tongue of ours extends. A stranger, almost a beggar. “

Dante Alighieri is entwined everywhere in Italy’s culture,  He is their own Sommo Poeta.  The American poet, Longfellow, was inspired by Dante when he came across the original Divina Commedia in Rome in 1828.  Totally entranced by the great poet,  Longfellow set about translating the epic poem after he had lectured on Dante for many years at Harvard.   He completed the task in 1867.

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-Anne Frandi-Coory 4 April 2014

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DIVINA COMMEDIA

– Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

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Oft have I seen, at some cathedral door,

A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,

Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet

Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor

Kneel to repeat his paternoster o’er;

Far off the noises of the world retreat;

The loud vociferations of the street

Become an indistinguishable roar.

So, as I enter here from day to day,

And leave my burden at this minster gate,

Kneeling in prayer,  and not ashamed to pray,

The tumult of the time disconsolate

To inarticulate murmurs dies away,

While the eternal ages watch and wait.

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How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!

This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves

Birds build their nests;  while canopied with leaves

Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,

And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!

But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves

Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,

And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers!

Ah!  from what agonies heart and brain,

What exultations trampling on despair,

What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,

What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,

Uprose the poem of earth and air,

This mediaeval miracle of song!

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I enter, and I see thee in the gloom

Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine!

And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.

The air is filled with some unknown perfume;

The congregation of the dead make room

For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine;

Like rooks that haunt Ravenna’s groves of pine

The hovering echos fly from tomb to tomb.

From the confessionals I hear arise

Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies,

And lamentations from the crypts below;

And then a voice celestial, that begins

With the pathetic words, “Although your sins

As scarlet be,” and ends with  “As the snow.”

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I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze

With forms of saints and holy men who died,

Here martyred and hereafter glorified;

And the great Rose upon its leaves displays

Christ’s Triumph, and the angelic roundelays,

With splendour upon splendour multiplied;

And Beatrice again at Dante’s side

No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.

And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs

Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love,

And benedictions of the Holy Ghost;

And the melodious bells among the spires

O’er all the house-tops and through heaven above

Proclaim the elevation of the Host!

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O star of morning and of liberty!

O bringer of the light, whose splendour shines

Above the darkness of the Apennines,

Forerunner of the day that is to be!

The voices of the city and the sea,

The voices of the mountains and the pines,

Repeat the song until the familiar lines

Are footpaths for the thought of Italy!

Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights,

Through all the nations,and a sound is heard,

As of a mighty wind, and men devout,

Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes,

In their own language hear thy wondrous word,

And many are amazed and many doubt.

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See Previous Post:  THE DANTE CLUB

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Dante’s Florence – Ancient Wall as seen from Michelangelo Piazza. (Photo: afcoory)

GARIBALDI  

by Jasper Ridley – A Book Review

Updated 6 December 2013

My  great grandfather, Aristodemo Giovanni Frandi, fought in Garibaldi’s ‘army’ and eventually emigrated to New Zealand in 1875. Many were the tales he told his family about the betrayals of the Catholic Church, of its priests and nuns, who informed on Garibaldi’s fighters time and again. Read more about Aristodemo and Annunziata Frandi

 

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Garibaldi 001

The Catholic Church has the audacity to say that  Catholics made a fundamental contribution to creating a united Italy and a national identity, in a message marking the country’s 150th birthday.  Pope Benedict XVl has in the past stated that Christianity helped forge a national identity that resisted political fragmentation on the Italian peninsula,  and foreign domination.  He stated that the Church’s contribution came through education, literature and the arts in general, listing such personalities as Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Bernini, whose works were often commissioned for religious purposes.  Is the pope trying to publicise a dwindling Christianity in this age of free thinking and science?

Benedict obviously lives in a religious fantasy world.  Artists were stymied and never allowed to paint what they pleased in case it offended the Catholic Church.  Many artists lived a life of subsistence because of this and it is well documented how the Catholic clergy, including extremely wealthy popes and cardinals,  enforced their sexual proclivities on young artists.  The 19th Century Pope did all he could to quash any attempts at the unification of Italy.  It would mean that the papal states would shrink to the City of Rome and finally to Vatican City.  Giusseppe Garibaldi led the Risorgimento;  he and his followers hated the Catholic Church (Papal Rome) because so often they were betrayed by nuns, priests and cardinals.  It was Garibaldi and those politicians who supported his quest for unification, who finally forced Austria, papal sycophants, and France, out of Italy.  Garibaldi’s heartbreak was that Nice, his birthplace,  was ceded to France in 1861 by politicians, as part of the deal that they leave the peninsula.

It is such a joke that Pope Benedict could come out and say it was through Catholic education and literature that Italy was united.  The truth is, only ‘the list’ of books approved by the Church were available for the general populace to read.  Most literature that made its way to Italy was burned or hidden in heavily fortified libraries only accessible to Monks and Cardinals.  See previous post Vatican Library.   As for resisting political fragmentation; the only reason they exiled or brutalised any political opposition was because the Church did not want to lose the corrupted power base they possessed.   The Church was fully funded and supported by the Spanish, French and Austrians.

If any group can be held responsible for seeding the Risorgimento (resurgence) it was the people of Italy themselves; mostly peasant farmers, some elitists, and mercenaries who had fought with Garibaldi in South America.  Peasant farmers, led by Garibaldi, almost single-handedly drove foreign power out of Sicily, and this was the catalyst that began the unstoppable unification of the peninsula.  The Roman Catholic Church opposed unification simply because it would mean the end of the vice grip they held over Italy.  Read Garibaldi by Jasper Ridley, it is very enlightening and I would hazard a guess that it is not one of the Vatican’s favourite books.

– Anne Frandi-Coory 6 December 2013


See post:  Terroni by Pino Aprile    “All that has been done to ensure that the Italians of the South become ‘Southerners’…

Silvio Berlusconi – Fake Tan, Fake Hair, Fake Man

Thousands of Italian women are protesting in the streets at Silvio Berlusconi’s sexual antics.  Banners read: “Berlusconi illuminate us – set yourself on fire!” “We are neither virgins nor whores”  “You old pig! Take your hands off her!”

I would have thought even Berlusconi would have shown more self-control and discretion in light of the paedophile priests scandal going on within the Catholic Church.   Berlusconi’s latest scandal involves a 17-year-old prostitute, ‘Ruby’  to whom he gave almost $10,000, a diamond necklace and a new car.  He says he was helping out a friend’s grand-daughter who was having financial difficulties.  Why?  Weren’t the other politicians paying her enough?  The friend whose grand-daughter Ruby was supposed to be?  None other than that Pharoah himself, Mr Hosni Mubarak.  It so happens Ruby is nothing of the sort.  It gets worse.  Not only did Berlusconi  pay the girl for her services, but he rang the police station himself, when he heard that Ruby was being held in prison for theft.  He told the police to let her go.  He says he did this to prevent a diplomatic incident!  When has Berlusconi ever been concerned about diplomacy.  We know the man has always acted as a buffoon on the world stage.

I find it interesting that these two elderly men have jet black hair – nary a grey hair between them (Berlusconi was almost bald not that long ago.  Not sure about Mubarak).  Saddam Hussein, I noticed, also had jet black hair when he was a tyrant and flaunting himself via his state controlled media.  When he was found hiding in an underground bunker, he was completely grey.  The thing I don’t get is that these fascists don’t think they are ever going to die!  Reminds me of the powerful heads of most giant corporations and banks who caused the latest GFC.

The orgies held at Berlusconi’s home are legendary.  You would think that a 74-year-old man would have better things to do with his life given that he can’t have too many years left.  He must spend a fortune on Viagra pills.  He has five children and I wonder what damage all this has done to them.  It seems that his gluttonous life has finally caught up with him and the people of Italy want him out!  Berlusconi controls Italian media and it reflects his gaudy, debauched appetites.  Berlusconi is emulating the very worst of the Roman Emperors; believes he has power over judges, he owns Italy’s media, Cinema and owns a  large stake in Associazione Calcio Milan or A C Milan.

Pope Benedict has suggested that politicians should take the example of St Joan of Arc and die for their faith.  I nearly died laughing when I read that.  To top that off, it may be that Joan was mistaken for another woman!

See post Joan of Arc & the Pope

Article below By Marianne Arens and Peter Schwarz:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is notorious for the fact that he flouts elementary democratic principles and unscrupulously uses his power to defend his own personal interests.

On a number of occasions he has modified laws in order that both he and his relatives could evade legal proceedings and to keep control of his media empire. He has used his influence over both private and public television channels in order to suppress criticism, and to agitate against those judges who are investigating big business corruption and criminality. His authoritarian behaviour has now reached a new pinnacle with his amendment of election law six months before parliamentary elections are due in order to prevent the looming victory of the opposition.

Berlusconi’s total abuse of the right to vote follows an international trend: Five years ago, George W. Bush stole the US election without achieving a real majority, and in Germany, leading politicians are about to form a grand coalition following neo-liberal policies, openly ignoring the wishes of the electorate.

It is fitting that female judges will hear Berlusconi’s trial.  Italy is a country in which misogyny reigns supreme.  Tobias Jones, the author of  ‘The Dark Heart of Italy‘, dubbed Italy as “the land that feminism forgot,” ranked 74th out of 134 countries in a World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, behind Malawi and Kazakhstan. With the exception of Malta, Italy has the lowest ratio of working women in the European Union, 46 per cent.

Rome is Burning – Berlusconi Rises Again!

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday scraped through a crucial confidence vote in parliament, overcoming one of the most serious crises in his 16-year political career.

( See my post Is Berlusconi…….

Poor Italy – Corrupt government – Corrupt Vatican.  A bit like FIFA – MONEY TALKS??!!)

Berlusconi won with a razor-thin majority, as 314 politicians voted in his favour with 311 against and two abstentions in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies lower house.

His government earlier won a comfortable majority in the Senate.

Tens of thousands of anti-Berlusconi protesters meanwhile marched through Italy’s biggest cities. Some of the protesters in Rome set off smoke flares, hurled bottles and threw firecrackers, while police fired tear gas.

“Summing up what’s wrong with Berlusconi would be a very long list! But basically he hasn’t managed to cope with the economic crisis,” said Andrea, a school pupil taking part in the protest in Rome.

Silvia, a teacher, said: “I don’t see a future for young people.”

The vote followed heated debates in both chambers of parliament and a fight broke out between some supporters and opponents of the prime minister in the tense minutes before the announcement of the result in the lower house.

Berlusconi earlier voiced confidence in a victorious outcome as he arrived in parliament and said he “absolutely excluded” his resignation, demanded by former allies from his centre-right coalition who rebelled against him.

Berlusconi first launched himself onto a corruption-ridden political scene with an election win in 1994. He has since gone on two more elections in 2001 and 2008, brushing off a series of sex and graft scandals along the way.

The government’s current mandate is set to run out in 2013 but some analysts have argued that Italy will now still have to hold early parliamentary elections because the government’s narrow majority could paralyse parliament.

“This is a country that is tired and wants change,” the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani, said ahead of the vote.

Antonio Di Pietro, a former anti-corruption judge and leader of the Italy of Values party, said Berlusconi’s “papier-mache empire” was finished.

“Go to the Bahamas! This is what awaits you: giving yourself up to the judiciary or fleeing,” Di Pietro shouted at Berlusconi.

But Fabrizio Cicchitto, the leader of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party in the lower house, said: “Berlusconi’s story is not over.”

The confidence vote followed a bitter split within the ruling coalition after the rebellion earlier this year of Berlusconi’s once-loyal ally Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of parliament, along with around 40 politicians.

Berlusconi had appealed to Fini’s supporters on Monday, calling on them to show “responsibility” and saying: “We must unite for the good of Italy.”

He asked his former partners not to “betray the mandate from our voters.”

The 74-year-old also argued that a vote of no-confidence would be damaging for Italy given the current turbulence on eurozone financial markets.

He warned against the “political folly” of ousting him at such a time.  “Berlusconi: The Day of Truth,” read a headline in La Repubblica, while Corriere Della Sera said the government was “on the razor’s edge.”

“Parliament will today probably finalise the collapse of the structure of centre-right coalitions for 16 years – the alliance between Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini,” Corriere della Sera said in an editorial.

La Repubblica criticised Berlusconi’s attempt to rally his former allies from the centre-right, saying: “It’s a little prayer to try and survive another bit with the illusion of still having a government, a majority.”


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