17 memorable quotes from Italy’s rollercoaster election campaign

Divisive far-right rhetoric, expressions of public despair at politicians and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's colourful phrases have characterized the campaign so far ahead of Italy's general election on Sunday. Here's a selection of the most memorable quotes ahead of Sunday's vote.

17 memorable quotes from Italy's rollercoaster election campaign
Election posters in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Granny spin-doctors

“My first face-to-face of the campaign was with my spin-doctors – my grandmothers. We should move forward step by step, just the way they taught me.”

Former prime minister Matteo Renzi, the 43-year-old head of the centre-left Democratic Party, in a Facebook post accompanied by a picture of him with the two elderly women – one aged 97 and the other 88.

'White race'

“We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society continues to exist or if it will be wiped out.”

Attilio Fontana with Berlusconi. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

'Nothing can change'

“We're at 40 percent, we are the majority. In two weeks, nothing can change.”

With all his years in politics, Silvio Berlusconi really should have known better.

'Dumb' Italians

“I find Italians to be very dumb. It might be controversial but it's true: they are strange people.”

Alessandro Di Battista, a leading candidate for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

'Good wine'

“I'm like a good wine. I only get better with age. Now I'm perfect.”

Photo: Alessandro Di Meo/Pool/AFP

Berlusconi again, an 81-year-old media tycoon who has served as prime minister four times but can no longer be a candidate because of a fraud conviction.

Attilio Fontana, the anti-immigration Northern League party candidate for governor of the Lombardy region. His comments were condemned by mainstream parties and he later said it was a “slip of the tongue“.

'Psycho dwarves'

“Don't give in to this stupid new age made up of psycho dwarves and fake TV news.”

That was the M5S founder Beppe Grillo, writing on his blog. He's been using the neologism 'psiconano' (psycho dwarf) to refer to Berlusconi for several years in a possible dig at the 1.65-metre-tall billionaire's stature.

'Makes me sick'

“'I'm not a politician, politics have always made me sick. Even politicians know that it's very far from the best of what human activity can be.”

This quote came from four-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

'Wrong to trust humans'

“I was wrong to trust the human being, but there's time to remedy this.” 

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio commented on the revelation that politicians from his party, which campaigns on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption platform, had faked repayments of their salary and pocketed a total of over €1 million. 

'No-one will marry you'

“Don't shake hands like that. Too strong. Otherwise men will think: this one is going to beat me up, and no-one will marry you. Be careful.”

No prizes for those who guessed this quote came from Berlusconi too, at the end of an interview with a BBC reporter.

'Not racist'

Italians first. I am not racist but I say that people who come to Italy should come and work and not carry out crimes or commit violence.”

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Evaristo Bellu, 56, a supporter of the radical-right League in the Veneto region.

'Why not, peasants?'

“I said you stank. Now I want your vote. Why not, peasants?”

Photo: Riccardo De Luca/Avaaz

A placard by the Avaaz campaign group mocking League leader Matteo Salvini's attempt to win votes in southern Italy – a region which his party has traditionally dismissed as backward and a drain on public funds.

'Want a great shit?'

“To shit, don't use [laxative] Guttalax, use Di Maio – the laxative that won't let you down, the laxative that will help you. Want a great shit? Use Di Maio.”

Further proof that Italy's politicians won't shy away from vulgarity when criticizing their rivals, art critic and former mayor and MP Vittorio Sgarbi filmed a clip of him sitting on the toilet insulting the Five Star leader.

'Stop loving me'

“Stop loving me so much and vote for me more.”

Photo: Thierry Roga/Belga/AFP

A plea from Emma Bonino, a long-time radical activist and one of the country's most popular political figures, for votes for her small centre-left More Europe party.

'Racism against Italians'

“There is racism in Italy, against Italians.”

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Turin's Egyptian Museum became an unlikely flashpoint for Italy's far-right after offering a discount to Arabic speakers. This quote came from Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, who led a rally outside the cultural site.

'Blessed by the gods'

“He's an exceptional man… He's a real pillar of Italy, someone blessed by the gods.”

Elga Morati, a 70-year-old retired nurse, in reference to Berlusconi at a recent campaign event in Milan.

'Can't be worse'

“When you see what we had before, you think that it can't be worse.”

Rita, a fishmonger in the town of Guidonia near Rome, which has elected a mayor from the Five Star Movement.

Mussolini returns

“Governing this country is not impossible, it's pointless.”

A quote from the character of Benito Mussolini from a comedy that came out during the campaign and imagines the fascist dictator returning to modern-day Italy.



Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Brazil’s former president may soon face legal charges after last week’s attempted coup. Here’s why he’s considering becoming an Italian citizen to escape extradition from the US.

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has figured heavily in international news lately after hundreds of his supporters stormed government buildings in the capital Brasilia on Sunday, January 8th, in what has now been widely recognised as a failed coup. 

And though there is currently no evidence that Bolsonaro directly ordered Sunday’s insurrection, Brazilian media reports suggest the former president may, in the words of Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros, have to “answer for his crimes and be interrogated on the terrorist acts he always incited”.

It is precisely the prospect of legal prosecution that, in a turn of events very few would have been able to anticipate, might tie Bolsonaro’s fate to Italy.

Brazilian news media Istoè and O globo both recently reported that Bolsonaro, who has Italian origins, is currently planning on formally requesting Italian citizenship – a process which two of his five sons, Flavio and Eduardo, started back in 2020.

But why would becoming an Italian citizen allow Bolsonaro to evade prosecution in Brazil?

Bolsonaro is currently in Florida, USA, which he entered on December 30th, two days before his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as the new Brazilian head of state. 

Aftermath of failed coup in Brasilia, Brazil

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, on Sunday, January 8th. Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

But his position in the US is shaky, to say the least. A single criminal charge – Bolsonaro is already under investigation in at least four pre-coup criminal probes – and sufficient evidence to show probable cause would be enough for the States to accept Brazil’s extradition request. 

Conversely, as an Italian citizen residing in Italy, Bolsonaro would be most likely shielded from extradition as the current agreements between Rome and Brasilia exclude extradition for crimes of political nature and the Italian Constitution (article 26) bans the “extradition of [an Italian] citizen unless international conventions command so”.

So, it seems Bolsonaro would effectively be able to evade prosecution by acquiring Italian citizenship. But should he ultimately choose to request citizenship, how likely is it that he would be successful?

While there’s no way to predict what the final outcome would be, he’d have good chances, at least in theory.

Italy is far more lenient than other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry (also known as ‘right of blood’ or jure sanguinis).

In fact, there are no limits on how far back up the line of descent the applicant’s Italian ancestor is located as long as the Italian national in question was alive on or after March 17th 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was officially born. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

Bolsonaro’s paternal great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro, moved to Brazil from Anguillara Veneta, Veneto in the late 1880s or early 1890s at the very latest.

Other than that, the issue of Italian citizenship is dependent on one remaining condition, namely that no Italian national along the line of descent formally renounced their Italian citizenship prior to the birth of their descendant. 

Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani

Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani has recently confirmed that no request for Italian citizenship has been made yet by Bolsonaro. Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

There’s no way to know whether this requirement is actually met in Bolsonaro’s case, though, if it were, his path to acquiring Italian citizenship would be pretty clear. 

As with all things Italian, the process of getting an Italian citizenship application approved is usually very lengthy (taking over three years in most cases). However, there is a ‘fast-track’ option which, while requiring the applicant to relocate to Italy and become a legal resident, cuts overall processing times to around one year. 

So, should Bolsonaro ultimately go for the fast-track route – and provided that he applied immediately and all his documents (including birth, death and marriage certificates of all his relevant ancestors) were in order – the earliest he could become an Italian citizen would be at some point in 2024. 

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

This is of course all purely hypothetical at present, especially as Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani confirmed on Wednesday that Bolsonaro hasn’t (yet) submitted a request for Italian citizenship. 

But the mere prospect of Brazil’s former president applying for citizenship has caused a stir within the Italian political landscape – several left-wing forces have already asked that the request be immediately rejected should it ever come through.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro in Italy

Bolsonaro already has honorary Italian citizenship, which was granted by the small town of Anguillara Veneta in 2021. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Some Italian social media users also highlighted the fact that it’s relatively difficult for children born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain Italian citizenship.

“Before (possibly) giving Italian citizenship to the Bolsonaro family you must give it to all children born and living in Italy who wish to be Italian citizens,” said one.

The former president already has honorary Italian citizenship, granted by Anguillara Veneta, the small town Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather originally emigrated from. However, the town’s mayor is now under increasing pressure to revoke it.

Making Bolsonaro an honorary citizen was a “grave error then” but failing to revoke the award after Sunday’s events would be nothing short of “incomprehensible”, stated Veneto regional councillors Vanessa Camani and Andrea Zanoni, both with the Democratic Party.

As for the Italian government, PM Giorgia Meloni took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the insurrection in Brasilia. However, neither she nor any other member of her cabinet have so far taken a stance on Bolsonaro’s contentious citizenship issue.

Also, at the time of writing, no member of the League, which largely supported Bolsonaro during his tenure as president and praised him as the “pride of Veneto” in October 2018, has spoken out on the topic.

Whether it’s just a bad bout of forgetfulness or deliberate reticence, the silence is deafening.