All posts by WeirdItaly

5 Lesser-Known Museums in Italy Worth Visiting

It’s no secret that some of Western civilization’s greatest treasures are housed within the world-famous cultural mausoleums that litter the Italian peninsula.

From the bustling Uffizi Gallery in Florence to the majestic Borghese in Rome and the imposing Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy’s greatest museums are flocked to by tourists and locals alike all year round.

However, while you can’t blame a traveller for wanting to catch a crowded glimpse of Michaelangelo’s David as part of their Italian Bucket List, it’s important not to lose sight of some of the equally unmissable yet off-the-radar cultural highlights. Across Italy’s biggest cities and smallest towns, you’ll find plenty of lesser-known and often smaller museums which happen to house some of the most important artefacts in Western History. If you want to beat the crowds and soak up some of the best of Italian culture and history, read this round-up of the best lesser-known museums in the country.

Keats-Shelley House, Rome

Tucked away in a corner right next to the bustling Spanish Steps, Keats-Shelley House is a touching homage to the life and death of some of Britain’s great poets and authors. Although the original Victorian decor within feels like a little slice of Britishness right in the heart of Rome, this intimate museum tells the story of a fascinating period of Italian history. The early 19th Century was a time when the city was in vogue with the jet-set crowd, and Byron, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) are all connected to this little flat in Rome. Check out the huge collection of original writings and memorabilia, as well as the bed where Shelley died of tuberculosis.

Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence


Few can deny that the imposing Duomo building which dominates the Florentine skyline is one of Italy’s most breathtaking and unmissable highlights. However, this little-known museum just to the east of the mighty Duomo houses many of the iconic artworks that were originally commissioned for display in the Cathedral. Among stunning and iconic religious works such as Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, you’ll find an awe-inspiring pieta by Michaelangelo himself, originally designed for his own tomb! The museum is a great place to shake off the hordes of tourists which flood the centre of Florence in the summer, and an ideal way to spend an afternoon exploring seven centuries of quintessentially Florentine artwork.

The Money Museum, Rome

Weird Italy The-Money-Museum-Rome 5 Lesser-Known Museums in Italy Worth Visiting What to see in Italy
Source: Pixabay

Opened by the Bank of Italy back in 1993, the Money Museum is an engaging and informative journey through the history of money in a country that arguably invented and popularised the use of currency. This intimate and beautifully built museum houses 5000 years of history, showcasing coin collections from ancient Rome, all the way up to the Euro, in a touching and thought-provoking narrative. The museum also tells the story of Italy’s transition from the Lira to the Euro, and how this has affected current trading conditions today. The country adopted the Euro shortly after joining the EU in 1999, becoming one of the first countries to do so. The exhibitions tell a fluent and fascinating story that will definitely teach you a lot about an often neglected subject.

Villa Necchi Campiglio, Milan

Weird Italy Villa-Necchi-Campiglio 5 Lesser-Known Museums in Italy Worth Visiting What to see in Italy
Source: Villa Necchi Campiglio via Facebook

Bringing it forward right into the 20th Century for this one, the Villa Necchi Campiglio was built by a wealthy industrialist family at the height of their wealth in 1930s Milan. This place definitely makes a difference from the ornate Rococo and Renaissance architecture so synonymous with Italy, given the smooth, minimalist design that was all the rage during the Mussolini years. The severe building was home to the city’s first heated swimming pool, and has since starred in films, fashion shows, and housed all of Europe’s leading royal houses. All well as a roving display of contemporary art exhibitions, the house, tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling Milanese city centre, also showcases beautifully designed pieces of Italian futurist and Bauhaus furnishings, art and everyday appliances. The grounds are also a uniquely serene experience.

Museo Della Zisa, Palermo

Weird Italy Museo-Della-Zisa 5 Lesser-Known Museums in Italy Worth Visiting What to see in Italy
Source: Pixabay

Swinging by Sicily for this last one, this 12th Century castle, also known simply as the Zisa, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a dramatic monument to a violent, chaotic and vital moment in Italian history. The name of the castle derives from the Arab world for “splendid” and was envisioned by the Norman King William I of Sicily as a magnificent summer residence for his family. The castle is one of the few remaining Moorish designs in the region, with the Arabic inscriptions gracefully carved across the exterior, as well as extensive Islamic mosaic and tile collections helping to paint a vivid picture of the Arab history of Sicily. An unforgettable building with luscious gardens, you can easily spend an entire day here soaking up the dramatic history and lounging by the water features.

If you know of any lesser-known museums which you think deserve more recognition, let us know in the comments!

The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d’Este

The Villa d’Este in Tivoli is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

The villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Alfonso I and Lucrezia Borgia (Ferrara 1509 – Rome 1572), on a site of a Roman villa.

The history of its construction is linked to the events of its first owner. Pope Julius III thanked the Cardinal d’Este for the essential contribution made in 1550 to his election to the papal throne by appointing him governor for life of Tivoli and its territory. The cardinal arrived in Tivoli on 9 September and made a triumphal entry, but discovered that he would have to live in an old and uncomfortable convent attached to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, built centuries earlier by the Benedictines, now held by the Franciscans and partially readjusted to governor’s residence.

Hippolytus decided to turn the convent into a villa. This would have been the twin of the grand palace that he was building at the same time in Rome, in Monte Giordano; while the Roman palace was intended to serve the “official” receptions in Rome, the villa of Tivoli should have been a pleasant place for meetings.

Weird Italy tivoli-waterfall The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Great Cascade, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, between 1890 and 1905.

It is no coincidence that the place where the villa was built had the name “Valle Gaudente”.

Weird Italy hall-of-Glory The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Noble apartment, hall of Glory

The works were entrusted to the architect Pirro Ligorio, flanked by an impressive number of artists and artisans.

Weird Italy The-Godess-Nature-Fountain The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
The Godess Nature Fountain in the garden of Villa d’Este in Tivol, Italy

The Cardinal barely had time to enjoy the solemn inauguration of the villa, which took place in September 1572 with the visit of Pope Gregory XIII; in fact, he died on December 2nd of the same year.

Weird Italy tivoli-villa-d-este The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. View of town. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer. Glass lantern slide, hand-colored.

The first owners were three cardinals of Este governors of Tivoli: the patron Hippolytus II, the nephew Luigi until 1586 and finally Alexander, until 1624.

Weird Italy One.hundred.fountain.at_.villa_.deste_ The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
The One Hundred Fountain (Le Centro Fontane) at the Villa d’Este

In 1918, after the First World War, the villa passed to the Italian State that began important restoration work and opening it to the public. Another series of restorations was then performed after World War II to repair the damage caused by bombings during the last world war.

Tivoli italy gardens images

Weird Italy tivoli-villa-d-este-2 The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Shaded walk. 1925 summer. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer. House Architecture: Pirro Ligorio, 1560-1575. Landscape: Pirro Ligorio and Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este.
Weird Italy Fresco-of-hall-of-Apollo-in-Villa-dEste-Tivoli The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Fresco of hall of Apollo in Villa d’Este (Tivoli)
Weird Italy Villa-dEste-Tivoli-Lazio-Italy-8 The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
View to Sabine Mountains from villa. Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer.
Weird Italy Tivoli-Villa-Este-second-cave-grotto The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Tivoli, Villa d’Este: second cave grotto between Organ Fountain and Fountain of Neptune (one of the so-called “caves of the Sibyls”)
Weird Italy noble-apartment The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Noble apartment, room of the Hunt
Weird Italy the-hall-of-Nobility The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Tivoli, Villa d’Este: rooms on the main floor, the hall of Nobility

Image source: Wikimedia

Two Of Frankie Dettori’s Finest Moments

Frankie Dettori is arguably the most famous jockey in the world of horse racing.

The 47-year-old has claimed over 500 victories in class races during his illustrious career, with a pinnacle moment emerging in 1996 at British Champions’ Day at Ascot when he rode all seven winners at the event. Dettori has been named British flat racing Champion Jockey three times, although his last crown came in the 2004 season.

The Italian remains one of the elite jockeys in the sport even due to his advancing years, reeling off an impressive win at Prix de l’Arc Triomphe guiding the impressive filly Enable to victory. Dettori has produced a series of outstanding performances and we hope to see the same from the competitors in the Gold Cup this year with a number of fine horses considered strong contenders on Oddschecker among leading bookmakers.We’ll now break down Dettori’s best performances that those competitors will be determined to emulate next year.

Enable – Prix de l’Arc Triomphe 2017

Weird Italy Two-Of-Frankie-Dettoris-Finest-Moments-2 Two Of Frankie Dettori's Finest Moments Latest Italian News and Videos
Source: Equidia_Live via Twitter

Dettori was handed the reins to Enable for the 2017 season by trainer John Gosden. The bay filly had a win and a third-place finish under her belt before passing into the charge of Dettori. The three-year-old was not considered the favourite for the Cheshire Oaks, but she put forward a fine performance to secure the win in her Class One debut.

Enable then secured further triumphs at the Oaks and the Irish Oaks before competing at the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. She defeated a number of quality competitors to claim the crown by five lengths. Enable then ended the English flat season with another fine win at the Yorkshire Oaks.

The pressure was on Dettori, Gosden and their charge at Chantilly for the l’Arc after being named the favourite for the event. In her first outing on French soil, Enable was outstanding with Dettori guiding the horse through the field before cantering down the stretch to win by a comfortable margin. The bay filly was dominant and Dettori ensured that he filled his potential.

Golden Horn – The Derby 2015

Weird Italy Two-Of-Frankie-Dettoris-Finest-Moments Two Of Frankie Dettori's Finest Moments Latest Italian News and Videos
Source: HorseandHound via Twitter

Dettori enjoyed similar success two years earlier with Golden Horn. The trainer was once again Gosden and the bay colt made a strong start to his Class One career with a victory at Newmarket in the Feilden Stakes. Dettori was not in action as the horse won the Dante Stakes in York, but returned to the saddle for one of the most prestigious races in the flat calendar.

Golden Horn rose to the occasion at Epsom to deliver a brilliant display, surging through the field towards the end of the meet to beat out Jack Hobbs by two-and-a-half lengths. Although it was not the cleanest of rides on the bay colt, Dettori and his charge were clinical to secure the victory.

He was not able to keep the winning run going at the International Stakes at York, losing out by a neck to rank outsider Arabian Queen. However, the bay colt restored his reputation with triumphs at the Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc Triomphe at Longchamp, although his career ended with a narrow loss at the Breeders’ Cup. The performance at Epsom still stands out at it was such a fine display so early into his Class One career over a talented field.

Why is Italian Food Still Surging in Popularity?

There’s something really rather comforting about Italian food, wherever you’re from.

Whether you’re a fan of pasta, pizza, steak or fish, nothing beats a sprinkling of Italian authenticity, and time and again people go back for a slice of the action. No high street or food court is complete without a classic Italian restaurant full of the sights sounds and most importantly, the smells of Rome, Naples or Turin.

Along with Chinese and Indian food, it is an absolute staple of the Western diet. But why is it that Italian cuisine is so popular the world over? Let’s take a look at just a few reasons that, in a culinary sense at least, the Romans managed to take over the world.

Weird Italy zizzi Why is Italian Food Still Surging in Popularity? Italian Dishes and Food  food
Source: Zizzi via Facebook

Simplicity

Depending on your culinary expertise, rustling up an Italian feast isn’t as arduous as you might think. Many of the ingredients are readily available from a supermarket or, better still, most likely already in your cupboard, and with the swift filling of a pot or pan you can whip up a plate of pasta in minutes. This simple www.bbcgoodfood.com spaghetti bolognese recipe is within the realm of even the world’s most desperate chef and for those with a whiff of ability in the kitchen, the world is your oyster.

Personality

It might sound pretentious, but it’s important your food talks to not only your taste buds but to your mind as well. With so many different food options vying for your attention nowadays, the very sight of a menu should conjure up images and feelings connected to its offerings, and Italian food does that better than any other. There’s an authenticity to an Italian restaurant, a sense of warmth other cuisines can’t match.

Availability

We’ve already mentioned the fact that Italian restaurants play a starring role in any town centre, and in the UK alone there are tens of thousands. If you’re a fan of Greek or Thai food you might not be lucky, and so the easy availability of a Romany feast on an evening out plays a big part. What’s more, new business is adding to this phenomenon and websites such as www.deliveroo.co.uk are making it easier for customers to enjoy their favourite Italian bite by delivering it straight to their door, with the group owning UK food chains Zizzi and ASK Italian claiming the delivery service was behind their 12.5% growth this year.

Affordability

It’s dependent on the restaurant in question of course, but on the whole, Italian restaurants are pretty reasonably priced compared with some of their “fancier” counterparts. It’s the same for home cooking, too, with pasta in particular available cheaply in any supermarket.

Weird Italy italian-food-popolarity-pizza Why is Italian Food Still Surging in Popularity? Italian Dishes and Food  food

Flavour

The most important examination of any cuisine is taste test, of course, and to that end, Italian food passes with flying colours. Compared with the food of other countries, it’s relatively difficult to get it wrong; a dodgy paella or bone-dry baklava is likely to turn the stomach far more than an under-par carbonara, and when Italian food is done right, well, it’s something very special indeed. The very thought of the combination of staple flavours tomato, basil, garlic and cheese is enough to make the mouth water.

Health

We wouldn’t recommend ordering a pizza every day, but in terms of a comparison with other cuisines, there’s a whole lot less to feel guilty about after an Italian meal. Most Mediterranean dishes offer a pretty balanced smattering of ingredients and food types, and from an authentic restaurant, your food is unlikely to be relatively free of grease or fat. For dieters, it’s perhaps the easiest option for a meal out.

With the Italian restaurant industry on the rise and rise and showing no signs of slowing, it seems these attributes are, to diners at least, as important as ever. Whether you fancy cooking up a storm at home, heading out for the evening or ordering in, you can’t go far wrong with Italian cuisine.

Image: Wikimedia

6 Things You Could Never Have Guessed Are Actually Italian Inventions

Italy’s contribution to culture and gastronomy is undisputable. From ancient Roman times to the present day, Italians keep coming up with ideas and inventions – and legendary culinary feats and restaurants – that shape not only Italian culture but transcend borders to influence other nations, too.

And even though the first examples that spring to mind when we think about things that were invented in Italy are quite obvious – raise your hand if you also thought of pizza or opera – there are quite a few things that hardly spring to mind, but are truly Italian!

1. Jeans

Although jeans are thought of as typical American clothing, they actually originated in Italy – even their name is a tip of the hat to their Italian birthplace, Genoa. When Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis first started out in manufacturing jeans, they used a fabric called denim – which is another reference to the French town Nîmes.

But weavers in Nîmes actually were trying to copy the sturdy cotton corduroy typical of Genoa – a cross-weaved, strong type of fabric used since the 15th century in Genoa by shipbuilders and merchants to make sails for their ships and work clothes.

It was sometimes dyed blue by indigo brought from India, which resulted in the name “bleu de Gênes” (blue from Genoa) when they were exported to France – ring a bell?

The name was converted into “blue jeans” in English.

Weird Italy jeans 6 Things You Could Never Have Guessed Are Actually Italian Inventions Italian Dishes and Food Italian History  venice Nutella inventions food casino
IMAGE SOURCE: pexels.com

2. Shopping malls

Built around 107-110 AD, the awe-inspiring structure that was later named Trajan’s Market is the world’s first public shopping centre.

Ancient Romans would flock into this industrial complex that housed roughly 150 shops and offices across various levels – smaller shops would stand on the ground floor, where clients crowded the tiny entrances, while an arcade of shops was found on the higher level and most probably individual apartments on the last floor.

The entire left wing of this building marvel representative of Ancient Roman architecture that spread in the form of a hemicycle housed a covered shopping arcade.

3. Casinos

Human history is filled with games of chance – every civilization, from the Ancient Greeks to the Mayans, had their very own gambling games. Yet casino entertainment as such was born in Italy: the word casino itself is of Italian origin, as a derivative of the root word casa, which means house.

Casinos were originally country villas where people would take their summer holidays or social club. In 1638 the first casino establishment in the modern sense of the word opened its doors to the public – the Casino di Venezia, which still operates today.

Indeed, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the term extended to other public buildings – usually within or on the grounds of a larger villa – that housed various fun social activities, from dancing and music to sports and games of luck.

Weird Italy italian-casino 6 Things You Could Never Have Guessed Are Actually Italian Inventions Italian Dishes and Food Italian History  venice Nutella inventions food casino
IMAGE SOURCE: pexels.com

 

4. Batteries

Yes, it was an Italian who brought this incredibly handy invention to the world – that in turn sparked the invention of numerous portable devices.

In 1791, Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist and chemist from Como, published a paper in which he debunked the claims of fellow Italian Luigi Galvani – and the popular theory of the time – that electricity was produced only by living things. Volta proved instead that electricity could be generated chemically and went on to invent the first wet cell battery – now know as the voltaic pile.

Oh, in the process, he also discovered methane, set the foundations for the development of electrochemistry and had the SI unit of electric potential, the volt, named after him. Not bad at all.

5. Pretzels

Few foods are thought of as more typically German – but pretzels were actually invented by an Italian monk around 610 AD.

He came up with the baked goodies to reward children who were meticulous in learning their prayers and Bible verses; so legend has it that the shape of the folded dough is meant to resemble the crossed arms of children deep in prayer. Whether that is true or not remains a mystery, but he did call his invention pretiola, which means “little reward” in Latin, which later probably got distorted into pretzel.

Weird Italy Pretzels 6 Things You Could Never Have Guessed Are Actually Italian Inventions Italian Dishes and Food Italian History  venice Nutella inventions food casino
IMAGE SOURCE: pexels.com

6. Nutella

This one many people probably suspected is Italian, and we are happy to confirm; yet any list of Italian inventions would be severely lacking if it did not mention the incredibly popular hazelnut chocolate spread: Nutella. The history behind it is fascinating; Nutella was invented by one Pietro Ferrero, a professional pastry maker.

Mr. Ferrero was seeking a solution to the cocoa shortage experienced in Italy during WWII – and he turned to the ingredient that his native Piedmont had in abundance: hazelnuts. He used hazelnut paste mixed with sugar and just a touch of the rare cocoa to invent the predecessor to the famous spread.

The list of course does not stop here – countless more inventions and products that sprung up in Italy have spread all over the world, creating a deep impact and many imitations or improved versions in other cultures.

Man accused of kidnapping British model says case a ‘sham’

LONDON (AP) — A lawyer representing a suspect accused of kidnapping a British model says the entire case may have been fabricated as a publicity stunt.

The case involves British model Chloe Ayling, who said in August she had been lured to Milan for a phony photo shoot, then drugged, stuffed into a suitcase and held by criminals who offered to auction her online unless her agent payed a 300,000 euro ($355,000) ransom.

The scheme was said to have been carried out by a little-known group called “Black Death.”

One suspect, 30-year-old Lukasz Herba, is in custody in Italy, having been arrested after delivering Ayling to the British Embassy on July 17, six days after she was reportedly kidnapped. He denies wrongdoing.

His brother, Michal Herba, was in Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday fighting extradition to Italy. His lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, said there were numerous problems with the case that suggest the model’s claims were fabricated.

Scott said “there is a real risk that the entire case is a sham” that fooled Italian detectives.

“This case has a unique set of anomalies which might lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped and that their process has been abused,” he said.

Among the weaknesses he cited with the case was the claim that the model and her kidnapper went shoe shopping while she was being held.

A ruling on extradition is expected Friday.

Source: APnews

Ways to find a good place to play

Italy is the world’s fourth-largest gambling market. Gambling is everywhere: bars, land based casino, sport betting and so on.

Since 2011 is one of the first member of UE to develop a legislation that enable the gambling to be fully legal under certain very specific rules.  Italy has been an example to other UE countries that one by one followed the path of Italy, developing their own legislation for the gambling industry.

How can we choose a good online casino in Italy? Surely it has to show the AAMS license on the homepage, namely has to be part of the club of sites approve by the AAMS which is a state owned agency which controls the gambling industry. In the realm of questionable gambling club names the most essential variable to consider is a sites notoriety. What most card sharks neglect to comprehend is that in spite of high danger of the betting business when all is said in done, there are some of extra dangers that wouldn’t need to be troubled with in a live casino.

The most consoling strategy to find the best online slot machine is investigating a betting site’s dependability and validity is to peruse the greatest number of client audits as you can get your hands on. With each individual having their own observations, predispositions, and benchmarks of value and client benefit, perusing at least 30-40 audits will help you normal out their surveys, giving you a clearer picture of how the site really is. There are likewise various signals  that give you point by point and genuine assessments with respect to your approaches, rules and controls, items, and client benefit records.

Players need to confirm that a betting site have the important licenses and is enrolled with the fitting experts on the grounds that there are a lot of questionable sites that are running without the imperative licenses. There are a few organizations that ordinarily house a large portion of the top betting locales, for the most part as a result of their casual authorizing standards.

These incorporate the purviews of Gibraltar, Malta, Alderney, and the Isle of Man. You don’t have to employ a legal counselor to get these locales’ permitting points of interest since this data is commonly shown on the site, alongside permit and enlistment numbers.

Any destinations even offer free wagers, selective VIP rewards, and even have a refund framework set up. It is important that one read every one of the terms and conditions and principles and controls with respect to a gambling club’s advancements. This won’t just help you comprehend the different “rollover” parameters and confinements, yet will help you maintain a strategic distance from superfluous dissatisfaction later on. All gambling clubs offer an underlying enlistment reward, which is generally shown as a blazing pennant, with the standard reward being 100% of your first starting store, all however clubhouse conceal to initial five stores with a reward. However, before you bounce into the site that offers the “apparently” best advancements, look at their leeway rates first. Will some unmistakable littler sums at lightning speed, others may oblige you to play and spend so much that the reward doesn’t appear to bode well!

Italian minister – Investing more will help West tackle growing populism

BERLIN (Reuters) – Italian Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said on Wednesday that boosting investment would help western democracies counteract growing populism.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the German Economy Ministry in Berlin, Calenda also said Europe needed to come up with a system that would protect against unfair trade.

He said it was necessary to set up a system to protect against takeovers from countries that are not market economies and to expand free trade agreements in a balanced way.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Joseph Nasr)

Topic: growing populism in West, unfair trade

Nutella maker fights back on palm oil after cancer risk study

ALBA, Italy (Reuters) – The $44 billion palm oil industry, under pressure in Europe after authorities listed the edible oil as a cancer risk, has found a vocal ally in the food sector: the maker of Nutella.

Italian confectionery firm Ferrero has taken a public stand in defense of an ingredient that some other food companies in the country are boycotting. It has launched an advertising campaign to assure the public about the safety of Nutella, its flagship product which makes up about a fifth of its sales.

The hazelnut and chocolate spread, one of Italy’s best-known food brands and a popular breakfast treat for children, relies on palm oil for its smooth texture and shelf life. Other substitutes, such as sunflower oil, would change its character, according to Ferrero.

“Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward,” Ferrero’s purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella told Reuters. He features in a TV commercial aired in Italy over the past three months that has drawn criticism from some politicians.

Any move away from palm oil would also have economic implications as it is the cheapest vegetable oil, costing around $800 a ton, compared with $845 for sunflower oil and $920 for rapeseed oil, another possible substitute.

Ferrero uses about 185,000 tonnes of palm oil a year, so replacing it with those substitutes could cost the firm an extra $8-22 million annually, at those prices. The company declined to comment on these calculations.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in May that palm oil generated more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than other vegetable oils when refined at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. It did not, however, recommend consumers stop eating it and said further study was needed to assess the level of risk.

The detailed research into the contaminant – known as GE – was commissioned by the European Commission in 2014 after an EFSA study the year before, into substances generated during industrial refining, identified it as being potentially harmful.

EFSA does not have the power to make regulations, though the issue is under review by the European Commission. The spokesman for Health and Food Safety, Enrico Brivio, said guidance would be issued by the end of this year. Measures could include regulations to limit the level of GE in food products, but there will not be a ban on the use of palm oil, he added.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization flagged the same potential risk that EFSA had warned of regarding GE, but did not recommend consumers stop eating palm oil. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has not banned the use of palm oil in food.

The issue became a hot consumer topic in Italy after the largest supermarket chain, Coop, boycotted palm oil in all its own-brand products following the EFSA study, describing the move as a “precaution”. Italy’s biggest baker, Barilla, also eliminated it and put “palm oil-free” labels on its wares.

The retailers’ decisions followed pressure from activists, including Italy’s main farming association Coldiretti and online food magazine Il Fatto Alimentare, which called on all food firms to stop using palm oil.

High temperatures are used to remove palm oil’s natural red color and neutralize its smell, but Ferrero says it uses an industrial process that combines a temperature of just below 200C and extremely low pressure to minimize contaminants.

The process takes longer and costs 20 percent more than high-temperature refining, Ferrero told Reuters. But it said this had allowed it to bring GE levels so low that scientific instruments find it hard to trace the chemical.

“The palm oil used by Ferrero is safe because it comes from freshly squeezed fruits and is processed at controlled temperatures,” Tapella says in the TV ad, which was filmed at the firm’s factory in the northern town of Alba and was accompanied by full-page ads in newspapers carrying the same message.

EFSA declined to comment on the possible risks of refining palm oil at lower temperatures.

ITALIAN SALES HIT

Ferrero is by no means the only big European food firm to keep using palm oil in its products since the EFSA report. The likes of Unilever and Nestle use it in products including chocolate, snacks and margarine.

The two companies said they were monitoring the contaminant issue and were working with their suppliers to keep GE at lowest possible levels.

Ferrero is the only big European food company to mount such a public defense of the use of the ingredient in its products following the EFSA opinion.

The company told Reuters it carried out “hundreds of thousands of tests” on contaminants in both the palm oil it uses and finished products.

Retail sales of Nutella in Italy fell by about 3 percent in the 12 months to the end of August, which Ferrero partly blamed on rivals promoting products as palm oil-free.

To address consumer concern the company launched its advertising campaign in September and says it is now showing results.

Nutella sales in Italy rose 4 percent in the last four months of 2016, said Alessandro D’Este, the head of Ferrero’s Italy business.

Global Nutella sales have been unaffected by the EFSA opinion and are growing at 5-6 percent annually, the company said. Family owned Ferrero, which is not publicly listed, did not disclose its sales for Europe outside its home market.

The group ended its fiscal year to August with total revenue of 10 billion euros ($10.5 billion), of which around 2 billion euros came from Nutella sales.

ENVIRONMENT CONCERNS

EFSA’s 284-page study comes on top of environmental concerns that have dogged the palm oil industry for several years. Green groups have accused the industry of causing deforestation.

Several firms using the ingredient, including Ferrero, say they buy palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which works with producers to reduce the negative impacts of cultivation on the environment.

Tapella told Reuters that Nutella had contained palm oil since its creation in the 1960s and that the group relied only on palm plantations certified as sustainable.

Ferrero’s advertising campaign has drawn some political fire.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which is running neck-and-neck with the ruling Democratic Party in opinion polls, has asked the Italian advertising authority to block Ferrero’s campaign and fine it for misleading consumers on both health and environmental risks.

A spokeswoman for the advertising authority said it had yet to decide whether to reject the 5-Star complaint or take measures against Ferrero, adding that the process could take several more weeks.

The palm oil industry, dominated by producers in Malaysia and Indonesia, believes Ferrero is playing an important role in addressing what it regards as misconceptions among consumers.

“It is good that Ferrero has clarified that the palm oil they use is safe and sustainable,” said Yusof Basiron, chief executive of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

He said Malaysian producers had not suffered any impact on their European exports after the EFSA opinion. The Indonesian Palm Oil Association also said there had been no impact

By Francesca Landini and Giancarlo Navach

(Additional reporting by Emily Chow in Kuala Lumpur, Paul Sandle in London and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Pravin Char)

Italian PM unveils new government, but centre-right ally threatens to quit

ROME (Reuters) – Newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni unveiled his government on Monday, keeping almost all the outgoing ministers in place in a sign of continuity aimed at reassuring financial markets.

However, a small centre-right party that had supported the previous premier Matteo Renzi, said it might not back the new government, raising doubts over whether Gentiloni will have the numbers in parliament to form a majority.

In a rapid transfer of power from Renzi, who quit last week after losing a Dec. 4 referendum on constitutional reform, Gentiloni took just a day to put together his team of ministers.

Among those reconfirmed in their post was Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, who is overseeing Treasury efforts to prevent Italy’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, from collapsing under the weight of bad loans.

Many other key ministers, including those overseeing the defence, industry, health and justice portfolios, remained unchanged, with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) maintaining the lions’ share of positions.

Gentiloni was foreign minister in the last administration and he passed the job over to Angelino Alfano, previously interior minister.

The new cabinet is due to be sworn in later in the day, opening the way for confidence votes in both houses of parliament this week, formally allowing Gentiloni to take office at the head of Italy’s 64th government in just 70 years.

However, the vote in the highly fragmented upper house Senate was thrown into doubt when Denis Verdini, head of the small Liberal-Popular Alliance for Autonomies party (ALA), said his group would not back Gentiloni in parliament if his group was not sufficiently represented in the new cabinet.

Renzi relied upon the support of Verdini, who used to be one of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s closest advisers.

ALA and its sister party Civic Choice, have 18 senators. They might deprive Gentiloni of a majority if they all vote against him. If, however they abstain, the new government should be able to take office.

Assuming he passes this hurdle, one of Gentiloni’s main tasks will be to draw up a new electoral law. If this reform is completed quickly it could open the way to an election in the first half of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

Italy has different electoral laws for its two chambers and the president has said they need to be harmonised to try to make sure a solid government can emerge from the next ballot.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is pushing for a rapid reform and a vote as soon as possible. Renzi also wants an early election, hoping to steam-roller critics within his PD and present himself as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

“The next election, presumably in June, will be held with a proportional voting system,” Renzi said in an interview with Quotidiano.net.

By Crispian Balmer and Antonella Cinell
(Additional reporting by Isla Binnie and Steve Scherer; Editing by Gavin Jones)