Milan-born photographer Dario Flores D’arcais stops by to help confirm the romantic truths, debunk the craziest stereotypes, and tease us with the “you’ll just have to experience it for yourselves” ideas that the world has about Italy.
Guisepe Verdi said, you can keep the universe, just give me Italy and if you’ve ever been, you know instantly what he means. Italy seems to have it all. The madness and romance of Rome. The pristine, perfectly colour coded class and style of Milan. The rugged and rich and endlessly tasty islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Cliché wise, Italy is a glaringly obvious choice for one of our MisInfoNation episodes. The whole world thinks it knows exactly what Italy is like. But those clichés can’t all be true. Can they? Is Italy really a country full of tall, dark, mafia-connected, passionate people who love pasta and make some of the best food on earth?
To find out, we’ve called in Milan-born photographer, Dario Flores D’arcais to help us sort through the facts and fiction (stylish fiction, but fiction nonetheless) of that big old beautiful boot jutting out into the Mediterranian Sea – Italia.
Dario’s picks for the best the Boot has to offer.
- PASSO DELLO STELVIO
The world’s most beautiful road. From the alps going south stop anywhere in Valtellina to eat one of Italy’s best and unknown dishes: pizzoccheri.
A decaying jewel – white and marble caves in the tuscan region. Eat a gnam gnam at tognozzi’s – A farinata inside a pizza inside a focaccia.
- FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA
Any place of your choice in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia that Shares the border with Slovenia and Austria. You can find the best natural wine in the entire world. period.
…or any other remote and wild island from the Eolie (eh-oh-lee-eh) archipelago. Don’t bring your mobile and forget about everything
- SARDEGNA (SARDINYA)
Italians forget it’s part of the country (literally there are maps where it doesn’t exist) Sardinians sometimes consider themselves as another nationality. Go and see the mamuthones festival and eat a slowly fire roasted suckling pig and you’ll never wanna go anywhere else…
This episode of Passport was written and produced by Neil Innes and Andrés Bartos.
Huge thanks to Dario Flores Dárcias for all of his thoughts on Italy.
Our theme music as always is by the enigmatic Nick Turner with other tunes coming from The Human Fund, Alan Smithee The Jingle Punks, Carlton Bansky, Rochelle Rochelle, Auracle, Hot Acid Alien Lust Bomb, Attitude, Fish and Chips and The Hebrew Hammer.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.
Eliza Engel is our Production Assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari, and Avi Glijansky would never go against the family. They also executive produce the show…
Which is hosted by Neil Innes and a man who as far back as he can remember has always wanted to be a gangster, Andrés Bartos.
We’ll see you in the next place!
EPISODE 31 – TRANSCRIPT
All right. And so is this your first time on radio?
DARIO: It is
ANDRÉS: but you do have a voice for radio
NEIL: You got a face for radio.
ANDRÉS: Ba da bing!
NEIL: I’m getting in there early
DARIO: All right.
ANDRÉS: It’s like the first time in a long time that we’ve done a MisInfoNation
DARIO: and it’s going to be the last.
DARIO: I care about your family, and this is going to end your work forever. You know that, right?
ANDRÉS: I mean, we came in here knowing that that was a danger. So there there’s one thing that I have to say, which is Katie, if you’re listening, you might want to sit this one out.
NEIL: You might want to sit this one out.
[PASSPORT MAIN TITLE]
ANDRÉS: A destination isn’t always a place.
NEIL: Sometimes it’s a new way of seeing things.
I’m Neil Innes
ANDRÉS: And I’m Andrés Bartos.
NEIL: From Frequency Machine, this is Passport.
ANDRÉS: Your ticket to everywhere.
[END MAIN TITLE]
ANDRÉS: There are things we think we know about places, but history, prejudice, stereotypes, and the viral nature of 24 hour news and social media has made common knowledge about far away places, even more twisted than ever.
NEIL: Today on Passport, we try and clear up some of the outright lies of an entire country by doing what we do best.
Having a chat with somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about
ANDRÉS: Today on MisInfoNation, it’s all cars, cappuccinos, carpaccio, and cannoli, or is it? Today, we head to that big, old, beautiful boot jutting into the Mediterranean Sea… Italy.
NEIL: Guisepe Verdi said, you can keep the universe, just give me Italy. If you’ve ever been, you know instantly what he means. From the rugged Alps in the North, the gorgeous alpine lakes and glacier carved valleys to drop dead gorgeous Tuscany, perhaps the best known region and beyond. Italy seems to have it all.
ANDRÉS: The madness and romance of Rome, the pristine, perfectly color coded class and style of Milan, the rugged and rich and endlessly tasty islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The beauty, the passion, the football, the mafia, the architecture, the music, the wine and of course, the cuisine.
NEIL: Cliche wise, Italy is a glaringly obvious choice for what we do here on the show.
So we’ve called in our guest for the week. Milan born photographer and dear friend Dario Flores D’arcais. And with Italy, he’s staring straight at an open goal.
ANDRÉS: The stereotypes of Italy sometimes irk him. They sometimes make him laugh, but he has a real problem today with the outsider’s view of Italy.
Does this make you nervous?
NEIL: It’s like I told you about
DARIO: Oh, it’s not for me. It’s for my country, man.
DARIO: So the problem for me with this is that there’s no sense you do a MisInfoNation about Italy.
ANDRÉS: Ah, let’s start there.
DARIO: For so many reasons.
ANDRÉS: This is perfect. First reason is that all misconception, cliche, they’re all true. So there’s no point of me being here trying to deny or what
ANDRÉS: Well, this is what we’re going to find out.
Is it a hundred percent true?
ANDRÉS: Oh god I hope so. If it is, we’re going to have a ball.
DARIO: It is.
NEIL: All right, guys, that’s it for this week. We’ll see you next week.
NEIL: But is Dario right? Is the world right? Is Google right? Is it possible that every single cliche of one of Europe’s most beautiful places ring true? Today on MisInfoNation with this unstereo-typical Italian, we’re going to find out.
So first things first, what does Dario think we’re going to ask him?
DARIO: Do we Italians speak while they eat all the time.
ANDRÉS: Oh, nice.
DARIO: It’s true. As I told you, everything that I’m saying is true.
ANDRÉS: It is all confirmed.
DARIO: I don’t want to try to deny it. According to true romance, which is an awesome movie, by the way, Italians do share some blood and genes with Africans.
DARIO: But yes, it’s true.
DARIO: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think this is the reason why we ended up being so fucking amazing.
ANDRÉS: God damn.
DARIO: This is easy. Do Italians eat pasta all the time? Yes. Do I really want to deny it? No, we do.
Where are we? So Italians do it better. You know?
NEIL: It’s just a general rule.
ANDRÉS: It’s a general rule. We do have a section that’s basically that.
NEIL: We do.
ANDRÉS: That’s fantastic.
NEIL: I know how that’s gonna go now.
DARIO: Listen. It’s like, it’s a saying.
ANDRÉS & NEIL: Yup
DARIO: And this is wrong actually. We are the best, also at the worst.
DARIO: No, no, no. This is fucking true guys.
NEIL: So you’re amazing at being great and terrible in equal measure.
DARIO: Yes. Yes. That’s the definition of Italians.
ANDRÉS: Oh wow. But you know what? I completely agree. All right.
DARIO: Are all Italians related to mafia?
ANDRÉS: Sure. Yeah, that’s definitely on our list, for sure.
NEIL: Yeah, that’s on our list.
DARIO: We definitely are. I mean, in a way, like if you think about the six degrees of separation, we are.
DARIO: Even I think three degrees of separation, I guess you are.
NEIL: This was just, just to be up front about it. This is the other worry that I had about doing this was that Dario is just going to say yup, it’s true to everything.
DARIO: It is.
ANDRÉS: I’m, but I’m already, I want to ask more questions so this is a good time.
DARIO: Oh we can discuss about it.
NEIL: But I’m excited about going for a 100% true MisInfoNation.
ANDRÉS: Right? If we can manage that, that would be incredible.
DARIO: I’m pretty confident we can.
ANDRÉS: With the confidence of Dario’s prediction in our minds, we got into some background. We’ve known Dario for a long time, and we’d always pictured a well-dressed kid growing up in Milan, church on Sunday, hair slicked over to one side, but it turns out that wasn’t really the case. The world of high fashion was strictly off limits.
DARIO: So my parents they’re kind of, uh, these leftist intellectuals.
DARIO: So for them, anything that had a brand on it, it didn’t have a sense.
DARIO: Unacceptable. I still remember my 14th birthday.
DARIO: I asked for it for a Ralph Lauren shirt.
ANDRÉS: That’s the one with the horse.
DARIO: Yeah, the one with the horse with the polo. And I opened the present. I knew it was a shirt by feeling the
ANDRÉS: You could tell from the fabric, right?
DARIO: Yeah, from the fabric. I opened it and it was this shirt with a polo horse, but the brand was Oxford. What the fuck? Like mom, come on, please. I had to fake I was happy. So I was crying. I had real tears of sadness and I pretended them to be, like, happiness.
NEIL: So somehow without argument, without a question, without hesitation, totally unconsciously, we went straight to style and it turns out it is incredibly important in Italy. Even a 14 year old kid raised by lefty intellectuals who had evenings out with Noam Chomsky could tell us that.
But hang on. Before we get to fashion, let’s have a look at Italy.
ANDRÉS: This country of 60 million people is divided into 20 regions, five of which are autonomous, self-governed states. But what most people don’t realize about Italy is that there are 34 spoken languages and dialects. 34 in a country the size of Arizona.
NEIL: By way of the nature of the Roman empire, a class system beyond comparison and multiple divisions and fractures in the Latin language, Italy grew into a weird and diverse mess of regional tongues.
DARIO: In Naples, they talk in a way that they only talk there.
ANDRÉS: Can you understand it if you go there?
DARIO: It’s hard.
DARIO: It’s really, it’s really complicated. It’s it’s a different language. Sicily, it’s considered a different language.
DARIO: Even like intellectually, like on the books it’s considered a language. This is the main difference in Italy.
Like you have so many languages, so many people, and this is also what makes it nice, I guess. It’s really diverse.
NEIL: A lot of the passion and competitive nature that we think of within the fiery Italian stereotype is probably based around the fact that tiny distances contain multitudes, including legendary rivalries between towns.
DARIO: Italy’s divided by so many things
NEIL: I got to, I got a word for it. Hang on,
DARIO: Campanilismo. Yeah, the campane is the bells. So we are divided, basically we are arguing among the bells of the towers. So they’re so close, it gives you an idea of what we’re fighting on. So even from two different towers, already, there’s a difference, there is an arguing, there is, uh, a fight.
NEIL: Two, two different church towers in two different towns.
DARIO: Church towers, bells.
NEIL: It’s like, they’re not the bells from my town, so fuck you.
ANDRÉS: Fuck those bells.
DARIO: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s everywhere. It’s not really Italian. I wouldn’t say this is really Italian.
ANDRÉS: Oh well, but he’s saying it’s true. It’s just true to the whole world.
NEIL: Shit, you’re right. So it’s true
DARIO: By the law of transition, the old world is Italy.
ANDRÉS: By the law of transition, the whole world is Italy. There’s an idea that Rome divides the North of Italy from the South, but also that Rome is not only the divider, but it’s its own thing entirely. Now, Dario couldn’t possibly define or didn’t want to what made the North and the South stereotypically different.
So I decided I’d have a go.
I’m going to try to get as stereotypical as possible. The South are lazy, criminal, potentially not very intelligent people.
DARIO: Yeah. The worst stereotypes you can find
ANDRÉS: Is what I’m saying right now. And then the North are kind of snooty, snobby, but higher than now, fashionista douche bags with big sunglasses.
DARIO: Yeah. This would sum it up pretty, pretty well.
DARIO: In terms of stereotypes.
ANDRÉS: Of course
DARIO: Which we want to find
NEIL: But we’re not doing a very good job
ANDRÉS: We’re failing miserably.
DARIO: Sorry guys.
NEIL: And of course, this division of the country takes us straight back to style. Why are Italian so fashionable?
DARIO: That’s a tough question, because you see, you have different types of fashion. In the North, you have like posh kind of fashion, which tends to, uh, to be more classical, more with a color palette.
DARIO: While in the South you have the opposite. You have gold, you have drawings and like it’s about showing off.
NEIL: Do they do fashion better than anyone?
DARIO: Of course.
NEIL: Would you say you do the worst fashion better than anyone else?
DARIO: Oh yes.
ANDRÉS: Nicely done. It’s true though.
DARIO: It’s true. Absolutely.
NEIL: There’s something about mid 50 year old Italian women’s pants that is just outstandingly bad, like bad.
ANDRÉS: Like screaming bad
DARIO: You mean like the jaguar thing texture?
NEIL: Like leopard print
DARIO: Leopard print, yeah.
ANDRÉS: or like gold lame
DARIO: A lot of gold
NEIL: They will look like Patsy and Edwina from Absolutely Fabulous. At a certain point, it just changes from like chic to just fuck it.
ANDRÉS: Yeah, right?
NEIL: There’s probably a very long list of reasons why Italians always look good, but the top one might not be what you’re thinking.
Designers, artisans, craftsmen, sure. But the special ingredient to looking your best is living with your mama for a long, long time.
Until you were 25 years old, you took all of your washing to your mum, right?
DARIO: Oh god. Jesus. I knew it. Is this a thing? Like did you find it on the internet?
ANDRÉS: No, no no. This is a thing that we all know.
NEIL: and that I found on the internet.
DARIO: Oh my god
ANDRÉS: No, this is a
NEIL: This is a huge thing.
ANDRÉS: I mean from all my Italian friends and the mama, and the nona,
DARIO: Jesus christ
NEIL: I already know from your body language that it’s true.
DARIO: Fuck it’s true.
ANDRÉS: How’s this for a thoroughly depressing statistic. Around 25% of people from the ages of 30 to 40 still live with their parents. You got to make them happy. And the only way to do that, it would seem is to stay with them forever.
DARIO: I lived with my parents until I was 23.
ANDRÉS: That sounds young for Italy.
DARIO: I was like the only one leaving.
Everybody was like, oh, you’re leaving. Oh my God. How are you doing it? And like, uh, like all my friends stayed until they were like 30.
DARIO: I know people that are 40, 50 living with their parents. But the main reason is if I live with my parents, besides having your clothes washed and whatnot, I can actually buy a nice car.
DARIO: Pleasing your parents is really Italian, I guess.
NEIL: Do you still have it?
DARIO: I think I cannot avoid it. There’s no way. Even after eight years of therapy, you cannot avoid it. It’s just one of those things.
NEIL: It’s definitely not an English thing.
ANDRÉS: Latin America has its own version of the mom thing, but it’s different than the Italian thing, because the Italian thing is like, as an outsider, feels like a love affair.
DARIO: It is. It is
ANDRÉS: When things are going well, when things are going bad, it’s, the intensity is high.
DARIO: Yeah. It’s Greek drama.
NEIL: Looking good, male grooming, branded everything are things that we can’t help but think about when it comes to the Italians. But Dario also takes this look your best national mantra back to something a little more lofty.
A little more psychological.
DARIO: You don’t want to show your, your, your weak side. This also has to do with the Machiavellian thing that people think we have.
NEIL: Saying one thing and thinking something completely different.
DARIO: Which is true also.
DARIO: I remember like the first year I came here and I was talking with my cousin’s wife who’s Catalian.
DARIO: And she was like, I can not understand why you Italians always say one thing, but think another one, I was like, well, it’s not like completely true, but then I was thinking of, fuck, we are like this. We totally are.
ANDRÉS: So amongst all this opposed closeness and slight of hand, there is of course, another family in Italy. La Cosa Nostra… the mafia. So your subconscious here would generally head to New York or New Jersey, I mean, such as the power of Italy’s most potent and controversial export and the silver screen life of the mob.
NEIL: But here specifically in Sicily and the south of the country, the mafia has existed shaken down and terrorized the country since the mid 17th century in some form or another. And by the early to mid 1900s, the crime syndicate had crept into every corner of the country. It’s fallen off over the last two decades, but even still today, everyone’s involved, right?
ANDRÉS: How many members of your family are in the mafia?
DARIO: Oh, it depends on what you mean by mafia.
ANDRÉS: The mafia that people think about, the organized crime in Italy
DARIO: That really doesn’t exist anymore. The mafia is in finance now and no, I’m not connected to the mafia at all. This is what makes me an unusual Italian also. I have no connection with mafia.
NEIL: I almost believe you.
DARIO: I am the only one. I’m the exception that confirms the rule.
NEIL & ANDRÉS: So is this MisInfoNation?
DARIO: Oh God. Yes.
ANDRÉS: Oh, Oh, we got one. And then, Dario gave us the low down on his own ideology of the small time crook and we felt like we were suddenly in a gangster movie.
DARIO: At some point during your life, you have two options. The hard way, which is the legitimate, bureaucratic way and then you have the easy way, which also sometimes can be the pragmatic way. You have a problem, how do you solve it? Okay, your moral will, will tell you go the hard way, but at some point you just have to do it the easy way just to get it done.
ANDRÉS: Sounds scary as fuck. Is he trying to get us off here?
NEIL: I feel like I’m about to be beaten to death with a telephone.
ANDRÉS: These underhanded dealings, taking the easy way, money under the table. There’s a thought from Dario that this quote unquote easy way just came from pure frustration, frustration at one thing… bureaucracy.
It’s an art form in Europe, but like we already know, the Italians do it better than anyone.
DARIO: Italian bureaucracy is the worst in the world. Like compared to it, Russian is what I imagine Russian bureaucracy is, is nothing.
ANDRÉS: Is it the kind of thing like you go to an office and they’re like, you need three photocopies of this specific document that you have to get from this office that’s in a different county…
DARIO: Then you have to call the other office to get the permission to contact the right office and then come back here in three weeks, you know,
ANDRÉS: stuff like that.
DARIO: Yeah. I don’t know why
ANDRÉS: the world is baffled too, just Google bureaucratic horror stories in Italy. It’s astounding.
NEIL: The mafia is one thing, but when it comes to the world that has gripped, controlled, destroyed, heartbroken, and elated an entire nation, there’s really only one thing. And that thing is football.
Every single Italian is crazy about the beautiful game. So we were certain we had him. We were positive that we had the only Italian, non football fan in the world sitting right in front of us. We’ve known Dario for about eight years and he has never, not once, mentioned football. So MisInfoNation, here we come.
NEIL: Yu’re obviously a crazy football fan.
DARIO: Of course, of course guys.
NEIL: He can’t even say it’s not true.
Who’s your team?
DARIO: AC Milan.
NEIL: Who’s the manager?
ANDRÉS: Who’s their forward?
DARIO: It’s the god, Ibrahimovic. Everybody knows that.
NEIL: What are their back four?
DARIO: Okay, so it’s…
ANDRÉS: Are you fucking serious?
DARIO: Guys, are you serious?
ANDRÉS: That is crazy.
NEIL: You’re a closet football fan.
DARIO: Of course, guys.
ANDRÉS: Oh my god.
NEIL: That just weirded me out.
ANDRÉS: I thought he was totally trumping us.
DARIO: It’s totally true. It’s super strong. And this is one of the thing that is the rivalry between the series among the teams is, it’s amazing. It finds itself like it’s an explosion.
NEIL: It’s unavoidable.
NEIL: So how did they do their last match?
DARIO: We won. We actually won the derby.
NEIL: What was the score?
DARIO: We won two-one against…
ANDRÉS: Neil is now searching on the internet to confirm or deny to see if Dario is actually messing with us or if this is real. Neal is now sad.
NEIL: I’m just weird. I don’t find many like kindred unsporty spirits in Europe.
ANDRÉS: I was convinced that he was not like that you had no football in you. That’s insane man.
NEIL: You’ve been leaping lying to me this whole time.
DARIO: You choose friends according to the team they are for.
DARIO: I have only one friend that is from, into the other.
NEIL & ANDRÉS: Wow
DARIO: It’s hard to have a relationship when you hate each other so much.
ANDRÉS: You’re really serious?
ANDRÉS: Did your Milan, uh, love come from your dad?
DARIO: Yeah, he took me to the city when I was eight and I remember it was us and a, another kid. We just there, I heard that the crowd was shouting, like insults to the, to the other team, which is va vangool, which is like a bad word, but I started to sing it.
My dad turned and said, yeah, you can do it. And the other kid started to sing also. And his dad slapped him, you’re not allowed to sing this shit.. So that was my father.
NEIL: You’ve just been lying to me for years. I’m so upset.
ANDRÉS: But he hasn’t, if, if I was doing like one of those, like I had a usual suspects moment where I was trying to think of all the times we’ve sat and talked.
You’ve never talked about football.
DARIO: I have friends just for that. Outside of that, we’re not, I wouldn’t consider them friends, but inside football, I know they would cover my ass in any situation. It’s a weird thing.
NEIL: Aw man. I feel better now
ANDRÉS: After the break, graph paper, superstition, Italian weather girls, exorcists and food, glorious food. We’ll see you in a minute with much, much more.
NEIL: We were thinking deeply about Italy for a good few weeks before sitting down with Dario, gathering odds and ends for our chat and producer Harry Stott mentioned to us to be sure to ask why all the paper in Italy is graph paper. You know, squared paper.
ANDRÉS: Why are you guys all using squared paper notebooks?
DARIO: Why, why, why not?
ANDRÉS: But what’s, what is the point of a squared paper notebook?
DARIO: It’s perfect.
NEIL: But not for writing.
DARIO: What? Every word, every number can be inside the square. It’s just fucking perfect. Why not? Like why have lines or, or not even anything. That’s the worst thing ever. Guys, like really.
NEIL: It’s just for like box writing.
Like if you’re learning how to do an M and you’re six
DARIO: Just to be organized.
ANDRÉS: But doesn’t it annoy you to look at the squared paper when you’re writing?
DARIO: It’s the opposite actually. If you give me a paper that is not a square, I freak out kind of, and an empty one, like blank page, it’s the worst. I get anxious just thinking about it. I never thought about it, but I cannot conceive a world without like a square notebook.
ANDRÉS: An American friend of Dario’s once told him that Italians need guidelines or else it’s chaos. Hence squared paper notebooks. You learn something new every day.
Italy actually has guidelines for everything which come in the guise of sayings, superstitions, hand gestures, and Dario is quite a superstitious person.
But maybe a little embarrassed about it.
NEIL: I know that you’re kind of a superstitious person.
DARIO: Fuck. How do you know? I never, we never talked about it.
ANDRÉS: Well, yeah, there was a period of time where you were gambling based on the fecal shape of your dog. Your dogs would take shits and you would take notes.
NEIL: You would photograph them and take notes.
ANDRÉS: I mean, it was deep, like you were serious.
NEIL: But just for the lottery.
DARIO: This is not superstition. Superstition is bad luck. This is just gambling. This is everyday gambling
ANDRÉS: I mean, it takes, it’s a difference…
NEIL: It’s more about the weirdness of the method.
ANDRÉS: Exactly. Very specific.
DARIO: I just think that, uh, since the dawn of times men have been thinking or, uh, to find the link between what happens like real facts and stuff he dreamed about, or have seen, you know, this kind of stuff.
So you basically put this in lottery. It is as easy as that,
ANDRÉS: he makes it sound reasonable
DARIO: like it’s fucking reasonable. It’s logic.
NEIL: It’s the link between your conscious and subconscious mind is just that
ANDRÉS: It’s just that.
NEIL: With dog shit and lottery.
ANDRÉS: You reach outside of your brain, into the ether.
DARIO: The dog shit is just in my case. I’m sure like there are people that see Jesus in a, in a toast
ANDRÉS: or Elvis. Yeah
DARIO: That’s it.
NEIL: Dario has never seen Jesus or Elvis on a piece of toast. But he has also never won the lottery. Anyway, we decided to hit him with a series of Italian superstitions to see just how deep into this stuff he was.
Never take a bath when you’re sick.
DARIO: Never heard of it.
NEIL: We got one.
ANDRÉS: 17 is unlucky.
DARIO: Fuck yes.
ANDRÉS: What’s up with 17?
DARIO: I don’t know.
ANDRÉS: All right.
NEIL: Because you guys have Friday the 17th.
DARIO: Yeah, of course.
NEIL: Friday the 17th is a day where
DARIO: I don’t know where that comes from.
ANDRÉS: Is that true?
ANDRÉS: Is the movie Friday the 13th, Friday the 17th in Italy?
DARIO: They kept it, but everybody’s thinking like, why.
NEIL: Never turn a loaf of bread upside down.
DARIO: Never heard of it.
ANDRÉS: Never put a hat on the bed.
DARIO: Never heard of it.
ANDRÉS: Nice. That’s straight from a drugstore cowboy text,
NEIL: uh, touch iron to avoid bad luck.
DARIO: Of course
NEIL: What is it, tocca ferro?
ANDRÉS: Tocca ferro.
DARIO: Yeah, but normally it will be the genitals.
ANDRÉS: Excuse me?
DARIO: Yeah you touched your genitals against bad luck. If a woman, your right breast
NEIL: To ward off bad luck if you’re a man, you touch your balls. If you’re a woman, your right breast and the worst thing to see, the worst bad luck… well
DARIO: If you go on a train and there is a nun, you touch your balls.
ANDRÉS: Excuse me?
NEIL: because it’s bad luck?
ANDRÉS: It’s like a black cat.
DARIO: Absolutely. You know, like take this from the point of view of the nun for a second. She’s going on public transport, people are just touching…
DARIO: Oh, she knows.
ANDRÉS: Can you explain it?
DARIO: The word that describes bad luck in Italian, it’s sfiga. S, F, I, G, A. Sfiga. The word for pussy is figa. So sfiga, every word in Italian that if you put a letter S on at the beginning of it, it becomes negative. So me, uh, literally it means, uh, the absence of pussy. So if there’s no pussy, there’s no luck, you know, this is the connection.
ANDRÉS: Nun is the absence of vagina.
DARIO: Yeah. Unless she’s really super hot, which is really rare.
ANDRÉS: Well, it’s rare and spectacular when it happens.
NEIL: It is. Yeah. There’s nothing. There’s nothing better than a hot nun. I mean, it’s top five.
DARIO: But when it happens, oh my god, you will try everything.
ANDRÉS: Oh, absolutely.
DARIO: On that train trip,
ANDRÉS: You will ruin your life.
DARIO: To try to…
NEIL: We finally did it.
ANDRÉS: I’m so happy we got to hot nuns.
So Italians do it better, even if it’s being the worst. Could the phrase which Dario wanted to live this show by be broken, we put him straight down to the test.
Does Italy do these things better than anywhere else in the world?
ANDRÉS: Oh, MisInfoNation.
DARIO: Most of the people that I know they do this burn broth and it’s not good and that’s wrong. I got to say that.
ANDRÉS: We got one.
DARIO: Of course. There’s not aperitivo in any other place in the world. Like in Italy you ask for a cocktail and then they bring you a lot of food with it.
So, and they treat you in a way that I haven’t found anywhere, so
ANDRÉS: Do Italians do it better, suits?
DARIO: Yes, but we share the mystery with the English.
NEIL: Damn right.
ANDRÉS: Shut up Australian.
DARIO: In terms of taste,
DARIO: There’s no, like I shared the taste with the English, but in terms of, uh, how do you call it? Like craftsmanship, craftsmanship. We do it better
DARIO: Oh, Jesus Christ. Um, yeah, I think we have the best.
DARIO: This is not a question. This is a statement. And it’s a fact and it cannot be denied
DARIO: Who says that?
NEIL: Google says it.
DARIO: Greece has the top list.
ANDRÉS: Wow. MisInfoNation.
NEIL: There we go.
ANDRÉS: Italy makes the best cars.
DARIO: Okay. Here’s the thing. It depends what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for something that will get you chicks and will make amazing noise that sounds like music and will go fast as hell,
DARIO: Then yes.
ANDRÉS: All right.
DARIO: Otherwise I would go German all the way
NEIL: Ice cream
DARIO: Of course. Come on. Any other place that can even get close to it. What is it? Just name it. There’s none.
NEIL: All right. Pizza.
DARIO: There’s nothing else besides Italian pizza. New York, Chicago pizza is not a thing.
ANDRÉS: I was going to ask you, that was my next question
DARIO: No, fuck, that’s not pizza. I mean, yeah, it’s pizza, but it’s, it’s good, but it’s not like anything close to what’s real Italian pizza. By the way, I have to say you can only create Italian pizza in a few places.
So don’t imagine that you go to Italy and you, any place you go to pizza is going to be great.
ANDRÉS: So where can I get good pizza?
DARIO: Normally you would go to the south. Normally you would go to Naples.
NEIL: And is there a difference between north pizza and south pizza?
DARIO: Maybe northern pizzas is more experimental, more gourmet style.
DARIO: While napoleon pizza’s gotta be that. And that only.
ANDRÉS: So the last, but not least. Italians are the best at sex.
DARIO: Oh god. Is that a real question?
DARIO: You should ask my wife.
NEIL: She says, no.
DARIO: Oh god.
NEIL: Should we call her?
ANDRÉS: Is this the moment we call her?
NEIL: Is this the moment we call Martina and ask her this question?
DARIO: Probably we shouldn’t. I remember when I was 13.
ANDRÉS: Yeah. In England, in summer, I got introduced to this girl and, uh, presenting myself as an Italian. I said, oh my god, I love Italian boys. Like with a really lusty voice
ANDRÉS: Thirsty as the kids say.
DARIO: Thirsty, yeah. And I was like, why? Is it cause we want to prove every time, all the time that we are the best. So we make every fucking effort possible to show that we were the best. Even if you’re not.
ANDRÉS: She looks like Ricky Gervais but I’m going to make this work.
DARIO: This is going so wrong.
NEIL: This outsider image of the lusting, Latin Lothario and the dangerous, but probably crazy Mediterranean beauty has been a staple in romantic comedies the world over since the talkies. There’s something pretty damn sexy about the Mediterranean lifestyle and people in general. The openness and the food and the wine doesn’t do anything to hurt it.
But something else about Italy really, really stands out as being incredibly an oddly sexual. The weather. Italian weather girls.
ANDRÉS: Yeah, man, what is going on?
NEIL: Like what the hell?
DARIO: Is this the question?
ANDRÉS: Yeah, that is the question.
NEIL: I mean, generally people forward facing on the television, they’re attractive…
ANDRÉS: In Italy they’re like…
NEIL: It’s obscene
DARIO: I know, I know where this is going. I know what you want to talk about. So let’s just fucking do it. You want to talk about Silvio Berlusconi.
ANDRÉS: He had us there. Of course we wanted to talk about Silvio Berlusconi. A right leaning, tax dodging, womanizing media tycoon with a populous style and a brash personality and no political experience who became the most powerful man in the country.
Sound? familiar. The pink flamingo in the room.
DARIO: The hot weather girls maybe are actually from the, uh, trials, it’s actually pretty clear that they participated in bunga bunga or as you call it, bunga bunga. So yes
NEIL: So where are the girls that have already been couched for bunga bunga clubs, and they get like siphoned off into television weather girl positions
DARIO: Of course.
ANDRÉS: So what’s the chicken and the egg. So do you end up
DARIO: So, this is something really old, like it was like this before bunga bunga.
ANDRÉS: Before Berlusconi.
DARIO: So I think that the weather girls comes with Berlusconi
ANDRÉS: Oh, wow.
DARIO: Yeah. The TV before Berlusconi wasn’t like this.
ANDRÉS: Right. Because Berlusconi was a TV guy.
NEIL: He was like, how do we pep this up?
DARIO: Yeah. So he came and he said, okay, let’s put some American pepper to it. You know? Like, so let’s like make it sexy. Let’s make it
NEIL: Do you look good in green?
NEIL: Here you go.
DARIO: But wait, my question is, isn’t like this in all over the world.
NEIL: No, no. All right. Let’s get out of the dark. Almost smack bang in the middle of Italy is something truly unique to the world.
Another country, a tiny country, which is about 0.2 square miles, just to the west of Rome.
ANDRÉS: It’s the smallest country in the world. There’s an ATM with instructions in the Latin. It owns a telescope in Arizona, USA. It has its own army and football team. It drinks more wine per capita than anywhere else in the world.
And it hates the Beatles.
NEIL: We’re talking of course, about Vatican City. Formed in the fourth century, a place of pilgrimage and the seat of the Catholic church, it became a sovereign nation in 1929 and obviously Italians are super proud of it.
ANDRÉS: In the middle of your country, you have this other country filled with dudes that wear kind of like red shoes and funny hats, no offense.
DARIO: That’s the thing, it is not Italy. It’s another country.
ANDRÉS: You don’t feel that it’s part of Italy?
DARIO: Not at all. I mean, just think about the guards, they’re Swiss.
DARIO: The army is Swiss
DARIO: I would say at least 50% and just, say with low numbers, is not from Italy.
DARIO: So I don’t know. I mean, the Pope is Argentinian.
But I like the guy I got to say.
ANDRÉS: Yeah, no, he’s alright. As far as Popes go.
NEIL: He’s like number three.
ANDRÉS: he’s got a sense of humor. So that’s something
NEIL: You really have to, to wear that outfit.
ANDRÉS: Around 80% of the population of Italy are Catholic. It also has the largest number of parishes and priests in the world. Rome alone has 900 churches and where there’s God, there’s the devil.
And that is always more interesting.
NEIL: Half a million people every year in Italy go to, or have exorcisms.
DARIO: I thought it was more actually.
ANDRÉS: Those people are play acting to pass as Catholics.
DARIO: Catholicism is really about the form,
DARIO: You have to do things, you have to say the exact words, otherwise it doesn’t count.
And basically exorcism is, it’s the same thing on the opposite way. Like to reject the devil. They behave like proper Christians is just, they’re following the form of it.
ANDRÉS: They’re ticking the box
DARIO: They’re ticking the box and so I would say a lot of people are doing that, but it’s something that’s really so much radicating in the, in the culture.
You don’t even think about it unless someone asks you and then you realize you you’re fucked up. That’s what we are as Italians.
NEIL: Carbonara, parmesan, tagliatelle, gnocchi, lasagna, tiramisu, porchetta, mozzarella, prosciutto, gelato, pizza, focaccia.
There’s no other European country which has taken over so many menus and that’s tough competition.
ANDRÉS: Everyone everywhere knows all of the things we’ve just listed and hundreds more Italian dishes and creations. Dario too. And then some. He’s a foodie like no other.
DARIO: Nobody knows nothing about Italian food.
I’m going to tell you this real thing. I mean, you can find recipes in the old Roman classics about like the way they used to feast with food. It’s been something as being around all the time and with really weird and specific recipes.
And so pizza, pasta is just really a small part of it. The Italian tradition is way, way, way more complicated than that.
NEIL: I don’t want to give him a big head, but Dario’s knowledge of food is pretty amazing. He owns a fridge just for cheeses. We’ll just leave it at that.
ANDRÉS: So we tried to get him on a few, um, lesser known dishes, the first one, casu marzu.
DARIO: Casu marzu. Oh, my God. It’s illegal now, you know?
NEIL: Is it really?
DARIO: It’s illegal. It’s completely illegal.
ANDRÉS: What is it?
DARIO: It’s rotten cheese.
DARIO: You expose it to flies, so they make
DARIO: Maggots in the cheese. And then after a while you eat it, I got to say, I mean, never tried it.
DARIO: But everybody who has tried, it said it’s fucking amazing.
DARIO: Yeah. It’s basically interiors
ANDRÉS: Of what?
DARIO: Of, I think it’s cow mainly just slow cooked tomatoes, herbs, spices and in the end you make a sandwich out of it.
DARIO: And it’s really good.
ANDRÉS: Pani ca meusa
DARIO: Pani ca meusa
This is Sicilian, so you have to understand I’m from the north no every time you’re presenting these things it’s, but this is like a spleen sandwich
DARIO: It wouldn’t be my first choice.
NEIL: We gotta be honest here. Dario was going to get all of these right. He’s super serious about food and we were starving. So we pretty much gave up. Sorry.
Everyone knows that there aren’t many places on the planet that can touch Italy for food. I once cooked a tomato garlic chili and basil fettuccine in an apartment on the Amalfi coast.
It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I’ve been chasing that for forever. Everything there just seems to taste better, fuller and richer.
ANDRÉS: But as we know, Italians are also the best at being the worst. So we thought we’d go straight for the one thing that at times are great at… insulting people. Here’s a speed round of pretty rude phrases and me and Neil destroying the Italian language.
NEIL: A cazzo di cane
DARIO: A cazzo di cane. Alright, this is a really good one. Like a phrase that explains the old Italian bureaucracy. It means literally, duck’s cock style
NEIL: A total disaster.
DARIO: It’s really done badly, it’s like, yeah, it’s not like done properly.
ANDRÉS: Cagare e mano.
DARIO: Uh, this is like, uh, shit in your own hands. It means like being really afraid of something…
DARIO: What do you mean no?
ANDRÉS: I know what it means, but I don’t understand the situation where I’m so scared
NEIL: More fearful
ANDRÉS: I just understood it.. So my hands are literally on my ass.
DARIO: You try to stop it, but no, your hands are covered.
NEIL: Avere coglione piene
DARIO: Avere coglione piene, yeah. Your balls are full.
NEIL: Your balls are full.
DARIO: Your balls are full. It means like, when you’re talking with someone and you’re so fed up, like my balls are full. I cannot have it anymore.
NEIL: I can’t take this guy.
ANDRÉS: Gira… [Speaking Italian]
DARIO: What? I, it’s the first time I hear it. It means round and round, the cucumber goes in the ass of the, of the shopkeeper. So, uh, so I think it means whatever you do in the end, you’re going to pay for it.
Where do you find this? It’s the first time I hear it.
NEIL: The Internet’s a wonderful place.
ANDRÉS: You’re welcome. I’d put money on the fact that Dario is a guy who’s been insulted all over the world, but maybe not by that many shopkeepers or cucumbers.
NEIL: Well, there are only a few things left on our list. So first, as always in MisinfoNation, national pride. Are you proud of being Italian?
DARIO: What is it being Italian? Like you can be labeled as someone who’s really pretending and addressing in a way that is showing off and so, so people try to think if you’re Italian, you’re one thing.
But Italy is so diverse, so diverse it’s really, you cannot label it.
ANDRÉS: There’s you within Italy, like who you are within your own country and then who you are when you’re outside of your own country. Like you get to be Italian when you’re not in Italy and when you’re in Italy, you’re in Milanese
DARIO: All the time you are uncomfortable because, uh, as I was born in Milan, but my parents weren’t from Milan.
So the kids that were from Milan, they would mock me up from, uh, for my accent, for the way I was talking. So I adapted my dialect to the Milan type and outside, like they would say Italy, oh yeah, of course. I love Naples. I’m from the fucking north. It’s like 1000 kilometers. Like it’s not even close.
It’s two different countries. So yeah. That’s what really makes sense. If you want to know stuff from Italy, I will welcome you in and talk you through a lot of stuff. Like you can understand a lot of stuff from the culture through food especially, but otherwise it’s so huge. Like nobody knows.
ANDRÉS: The judges here at Passport do know.
And according to our account in the nearly four hour conversation.. yeah, seriously, the world’s idea of Italy according to Dario is about 88% correct. Congratulations, Italy. We didn’t quite get to 100%, but we definitely have a new winner or loser depending, I guess, on how you look at it.
NEIL: As an unstereotypical Italian telling us all of these things about Italy are true. Does that mean that you’re telling us a complete lie in you’re thinking the other thing. Like are you walking MisInfoNation?
DARIO: I’m basically suggesting in a, in another way, in a hidden way that you should look for like really specific, small stories about Italy.
And that is the way to discover something nice. Otherwise it’s just a fucking postcard.
ANDRÉS: Uh, so of course, Italy is stylish. It is beautiful, but it’s diverse, also. It is more than just a postcard, but if it’s a postcard you want, it’s got that too. In spades. It’s both surface and hidden, almost everything right there on the table and maybe a little underneath.
Because remember, there’s Italy the easy way and there’s Italy the hard way, or maybe all of this is nonsense because Italians are always saying one thing and thinking the other.
NEIL: But we digress. Basically Italy, just as we suspected, is filled with division and rivalry, togetherness and family, mama’s boys, nice suits, fast cars. It’s crammed with endless arguments about important and meaningless things, sometimes at exactly the same time.
It’s both superstitious and traditional, trendy yet garrish. Even the simplest things can be so, so complicated, it’s obsessed with football and food and squared paper, but also with terrible sunglasses, skin tight animal print leggings, dog poop, and the lottery. It is the best at everything even if that is the worst.
DARIO: The beautiful things are such a cliche that you end up like, oh, come on, really? But then yeah, at some point it doesn’t mean they’re not true, even though they’re a cliche.
ANDRÉS: We need cliche to have cliche.
DARIO: I guess so. This is a cliche by the way.
NEIL: This week’s saved pins are Dario’s picks of some of his favorite spots around the whole of Italy. They’re mostly borderlands or terre di confine. A little off the beaten track where he insists you can only find the real Italy.
ANDRÉS: Number one is Passo dello Stelvio. It’s the world’s most beautiful road. From the alps going south stop anywhere in Valtellina to eat one of Italian best and unknown dishes: pizzoccheri.
NEIL: Number two, Carrara -a decaying jewel- white and gray marble caves in the tuscan region. Eat a gnam gnam at tognozzi’s or a farinata. It’s a flour flatbread inside a pizza inside a focaccia…
ANDRÉS: Number three is any place of your choice in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It shares the border with Slovenia and Austria and there you can find the best natural wine in the entire world. Period.
NEIL: Number four: Ginostra or any other remote and wild island from the Eolie archipelago. Don’t bring your mobile and forget about everything.
ANDRÉS: And finally, number five, Sardegna, birthplace of Dario’s ancestors, famous for shepherds. Italians forget that it’s part of the country (literally there are maps where it doesn’t exist). Sardinians sometimes consider themselves as another nationality. For some reason Americans think it’s better to go to Sicily. But go and see the mamuthones festival and eat a slowly fire roasted suckling pig and you’ll never wanna go anywhere else.
NEIL: That’s it for this week, guys, we’ll see you in two weeks after Thanksgiving on the 1st of December for a romantic journey by train through India. A love guru, a Bollywood director, and the fantasy and reality of finding love in truly one of the most special countries in the world.
Until then, keep an ear out for a little trailer from us for what’s coming up in December and January, wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on all social media or visit us a frequencymachine.com.
We’ll see you in two weeks.
This episode of Passport was written, produced by myself and Andrés Bartos.
Huge thanks to Dario Flores Dárcias for all of his thoughts on Italy and for keeping the fact that he’s a football fan secret for all these years.
Our theme music as always is by the enigmatic Nick Turner with other tunes coming from The Human Fund, Alan, Smithee The Jingle Punks, Carlton Bansky, Rochelle Rochelle, Auracle, Hot Acid Alien Lust Bomb, Attitude, Fish and Chips and The Hebrew Hammer.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.
Eliza Engel is our Production Assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky would never go against the family. They also executive produce the show.
Which is hosted by me, Neil Innes and a man who as far back as he can remember has always wanted to be a gangster, Andrés Bartos.
We’ll see you in the next place!
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