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Seven embarrassing moments from Italian politics you might have missed

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Seven embarrassing moments from Italian politics you might have missed
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has a long tradition of missteps - not all of which are swimwear-related. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy has a long history of political faux pas. Here are just some of the most cringeworthy things Italian politicians have said and done in the past few months.

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From Silvio Berlusconi famously describing Barack Obama as “tanned” to Matteo Renzi’s epic display of macaronic English when discussing Brexit in a 2016 BBC interview, Italian politicians have a long tradition of making a fool of themselves in the eyes of the world. 

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini reminded us of that on Thursday, when he pledged to tackle Italy’s rent crisis by creating an ad hoc ministerial department for it - even though such a department already exists within his own ministry. 

Salvini’s blunder was only the latest in a very long series of cringeworthy figuracce from Italian politicians. So, to help you understand what Italians are laughing about in conversations at the local bar, here are just seven of the most recent awkward moments in Italian politics.

Italy’s former 100-metre dash prodigy?

In a TV interview released in October 2022, former PM Silvio Berlusconi gloated about when, in 1948, aged just 12, he managed to run away from a group of communists looking to give him a beating, saying: “I've always been a running champion…I recall my 11 seconds record in the 100-metre dash”.

READ ALSO: Italy's Berlusconi addresses Forza Italia members from hospital

We can’t help but feel that the numbers may be a little off there.

The American Harrison Dillard won the 100-metre dash in the 1948 London Olympics with a time of 10.3 seconds. Was 12-year-old Berlusconi only seven tenths of a second slower than the olympic champion? Feel free to reach your own conclusions.

Questionable football motivation

In December 2022, as AC Monza, the Serie A football team Berlusconi is the owner of, prepared to undertake the second half of the season, the tycoon saw fit to give the team some “extra encouragement”.

So, he confidently grabbed the mic and, in a speech that gave Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday a run for his money, he promised to send “a busload of hookers to the dressing room” should the squad end up beating either Juventus or AC Milan. 

Unexpected fitness heroes

With summer just around the corner, the dreaded prova costume may have left you looking for some fitness inspiration following winter-time excesses.

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So here’s a video of Italy’s own Salvini celebrating an AC Milan Champions League win last month with some late-evening cardio on the treadmill.

We may never know why he thought it wise to record these 19 seconds of surreal footage.

 

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Salvini made multiple public displays of appreciation for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the years before the start of the war, even going as far as wearing a Putin-inspired T-shirt in 2014.

Sadly for him, his debatable outfit choices backfired during a diplomatic visit in March 2022, when the mayor of Przemys, a city on the Poland-Ukraine border, gifted him with the same T-shirt he’d worn in 2015.

The League leader wasn’t too pleased with the present and left the scene soon afterwards.

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Italian history masterclass

You might expect politicians to have at least some knowledge of their home country’s major historic events. Well, not Italian politicians. 

Earlier this year, the vice-president of Italy’s Senate, Maurizio Gasparri, confidently stated that the Crimean war was fought “between 1861 and 1863, when Italy hadn't been unified yet”.

For the sake of accuracy, the Crimean war started in 1853 and ended in 1856, and Italy was formally unified in March 1861.

Odd memorabilia

Speaking of history, Senate speaker Ignazio La Russa is known as a history buff with a keen (perhaps too keen) interest in the Fascist period.

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Last February, La Russa put an end to years of rumours by admitting that he does indeed have a bust of dictator Benito Mussolini in his home - and adding that, as it was a gift from his father, he could think of “no reason to throw it away”. Others may say there are plenty.

The quintessential supercazzola

Berlusconi’s recent absence from the public eye has dealt a blow to Italian politics’ comedic potential, but fresh talent is now looking to fill the void.

Last month, in her first public Q&A as the new secretary of the Democratic Party (PD), Elly Schlein showed her commitment to one of the cornerstones of Italian politics: the art of talking at length while saying absolutely nothing.

Here’s half a minute of impeccable Italian supercazzola, or speech that makes little to no logical sense generally leaving listeners bewildered.

Can you think of another awkward moment in Italian politics which should be added to the list? Please share it with us in the comments below.

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