The pleasure of dishonesty

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Italy is a paradise. You just have to get the information before you come. Anyone, like Andrea who might want to invest in a farm-based tourism activity finds the natural habitat with us. However they have to act in illegality to avoid denunciation, loss of capital, and in the most serious cases, even prison. They have to build without permission, illegally get funds from the European Community, pay suppliers without getting invoices, and not register the building with the land registration. And once the work starts, not pay any tax and wait for the amnesty. To live in Italy is a pleasure, the pleasure of dishonesty.
Dear Beppe,
I was born and brought up in Bologna and for 9 years I’ve been living in California. My wife is American and I am trying to teach my two children, Alisa and Alessandro the language and the culture of Italy. Each year we come to Italy to spend our summer holidays so that my parents can see their only grandchildren and also because I don’t want to be cut off from my roots in the country where I was born and brought up. My wish is to come back to Italy to start an activity so that North Americans can see the marvels of our country.
Four years ago, my wife and I bought a property in Abruzzo to make into an agricultural tourism centre, Bed & Breakfast and/or Country House. I have planned the structure that includes a farmhouse building for living in and two other buildings. The plan was approved last October. I dealt with the local Town Hall for the paper work and the building instructions. I have tried to approach the Region, the Province and the Mountain Community to find out if there are any grants or any low interest loans that would make it possible to complete the work in an acceptable time.
In slightly over a year after the purchase of the property, my problems started. I was denounced by an estate agent that had, against the wishes of the owner, put onto their website, photos of the land and the buildings of the property. Given the distance separating us, I proposed to the agent, via my lawyer, a transaction in a reserved form equal to 3% of the price paid. The estate agent took me to court saying that the price paid was not what is registered and saying that he knows very well how things go in Italy! After this difficulty, that is still not sorted out, I decided to make a road to provide access to the old buildings, so that the construction firms can get access even with heavy machines. I got three estimates from three different companies from Teramo and choose the one that offered the best price. When the work was finished I received an invoice which was more than double the value indicated according to the price per metre and the estimate. I refused to pay the sum asked for and the second legal wrangle started.
My legal adventures are not finished because to finance the work I am obliged to sell an apartment I own in Bologna that was gifted to me by my father in 1993. I engaged a Bologna estate agent to sell the apartment. After about 6 months they find a “serious” buyer. In November I go to Italy to sign the sale proposal and to arrange for my mother to have power of attorney so she can sign the preliminary and final contract on my behalf. Negotiations continue until the buyer, because of the gifting, can’t get a mortgage from the bank. Through their notary, they propose that I revoke the gifting. I refused this because of the related costs and risks that I would have incurred. After some discussions with the estate agent, I asked them to respect the agreement that had been signed. But the buyer renounced on the purchase because of the impossibility of getting finance. As a person who is correct and honest, I asked the agency to give them back the 10,000 euro put down as a deposit and I managed to find another interested buyer. OK, this week I have received a letter from a law studio in Genoa that orders me to pay their client the sum of 10,000 euro for the withdrawal caused by my blatant non-fulfilment of the contract
When I announced this latest denunciation, my wife, as a serious and correct Anglo-Saxon, told me to sell the lot, to give up my dreams and hopes, because a country of dishonest opportunists, does not deserve our presence….
I read recently that out of 26 inspections on 26 agro-tourism activities that are partially financed with money from the European Community, only 6 were functioning! The other 20 have become luxury country residences restructured with tax payers money. The problem is always the same. A thin thread that separates what is legal from what is not. And the politicians who should intervene are at times active participants.

I hope that things can change. Only then can I, together with many other small investors, contribute to the development of the most beautiful country in the world, bringing our experience and knowledge as emigrants. Sincerely.” Andrea from Palo Alto, California

V2-day, 25 April, for freedom of information:
1. Put your photos on with the tag V2-day
2. Put your videos on with the tag V2-day
3. Give your support to V2 day

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Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:39 AM in | Comments (11)
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Posted by: domenico Sicignano | February 27, 2008 11:57 AM

what a state of affairs (again). i have had similar problems living in italy and trying to sort things out.

"foreigner" or "non italian" must translate into italian as "complete idiot who needs to be fleeced".

anything i do here i need to do it with my father or brother inlaw in tow so as not to get ripped off or taken for a ride.

even then the red tape here is completely bonkers and worse COSTLY.

i agree with the other posters here, italy is unfortunately a thrid world country. a beautiful one nonetheless but maddening to live in.

you are better off in california andrea, im thinking of a move to orange county.

Posted by: pat kerr | February 27, 2008 10:51 AM

Dear Andrea,,
I'd love to post your stories on my blog...
In the meantime, have a good read, because, while there are so many wonderful things going for it, the graft & corruption by those in and out of the government will be its demise.

Posted by: Francesca Maggi | February 26, 2008 11:13 PM

My heart goes out to you Andrea. I understand very well your frustrations with Italians and the Italian way of doing things. As much as I love Italy and consider myself lucky to have been born there, I have nothing but comtempt for Italian bureaucracy and Italians that no sooner sense you're not familiar with their way of doing things they scam you in every way possible. As much as I hate to say it, it seems you can't trust anybody in Italy. I think Italy's national sport is not soccer but how to screw as much as possible the other person. The ugly thing is that Italians think that's normal behaviour. To be sure, other countries are far from being perfect, but most Western countries never reach the degree of everyday dishonesty like it does in Italy. Is it any wonder that usury and extortions is running rampant over there? I know that there are many honest and angry Italians denouncing all these national shortcomings (as Grillo's blog shows) but they're up against a system of persuasion (that's different from a system of information)that not only marginalizes them but, paints them as loosers, malcontents to be despised and mocked. A system of persuasion exploiting those Italians in the habit of idolizing media's "beautiful people" "powerful politicos" "chattering show hosts" "filthy rich, furbi, arrogant, vaudevillian, self-appointed party leaders" and a "entrepreneur class ready and willing to demolish and toxify Italy to satisfy their greed. I may be naive but I think it's still possible to build somekind of movement that will save Italy and Italians from self-destructing. I think writing on this blog and letting know what the Italian system put you through is important and goes a long way in helping building that movement. What Italy and Italians need are Italians living in other countries able to compare and judge Italy from a distance. Our voices from afar are important and thank Grillo for his blog fixing a point of reference.

Posted by: L P | February 26, 2008 03:30 PM

The following is an email I sent to all my Italian friends after reading Beppe piece on The Pleasure of Dishonesty.

Hi All:
Now you understand better than I do why Italy is the land of Chaos. I haven't even mentioned the crooked politicians that have gotten Bills passed granting themselves amnesty from prosecution for their crimes. I haven't mentioned the Land of Fires burning around Naples or the garbage that still clogs the streets. I haven't mentioned the Camorra and Mafia et alia that control four Regioni. I haven't mentioned the bureaucratic snarl that invades every aspect of your lives, and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It's true Italians would rather watch football than have sex. They would rather watch football than get involved with their freedom. They'd rather watch Christians being eaten by lions than stab Caesar and cut the cancer out. The true crime is that you're not willing to fight for what's is yours.

It's a crying shame and the shame is on all Italians.

If you don't get off your collective asses you'll get another El Duce, and I don't mean the Economic El Duce. The "V Day" will be one on you.

You may not like what Beppe Grillo stands for. At least he stands for something! V-------lo!!!

I complain because I love Italy and its people. You can't blame me for producing videos that draw attention to the absurdity and inconceivable incongruity of what Italy is really like underneath the Ruins, Architectural wonders, the Renaissance, culture food, wine and language.


Posted by: David B. Monier-Williams | February 26, 2008 03:07 PM

Italy is a third world country where dishonesty reigns undisturbed.
I'm living in USA since 1994, once in a while I consider to go back to Italy, also because my wife, still having her parents andrelatives there, would like it a lot but whenever I go there, I see everyday's life and I read stories like yours, I still prefer to live here in US.
Our stupid politicians made so many laws that now are clashing between each other, making it easy for dishonest people to get ahead of the taxpayer.
Here in US, to get hold on some Italian Delicatessen I have to spend a little bit more than in Italy but, compared to what my liver and my bank account would look like in Italy, I still prefer to live in US, where I can still do my job without worry about ass-kissers, backstabbers and, despite the low value of the US$ I can still get some decent life.

Next April the Italian people will get another shot at going nowhere.
We need a good reset: get rid of those idiots and start a new life by starting to pay off the old debt and downsizing the ranks of those people who work within the political scene without merit.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | February 26, 2008 02:13 PM

To Andrea:
Hi Andrea, I wish you good Luck; I am sorry to hear that you had so much problems.

I luckily am not in this situation: I live abroad like you do, though: I am consultant for electrical engineering activities in the area of semiconductors and live in Munich, Germany.

I also own an apartment in Germany, but we (my Wife, me and our two childreens) rent an apartment in Verona, in Italy too.

For me also sounded somehow interesting and attractive the possibility to continue my activities from Verona or at least to expand them also there somewhen in the Future;

sofar, I decided anyway to stick to my Umsatzsteuernummer in Germany, I do not have any VAT nr in Italy, neither I plan to do serious activities in a short time there...
from what I hear from you I fear this is (unluckily for you) the sound decision...
have you ever considered to open a shop in California, instead ?
Why can you not import italian wine and italian food there ?
Of course, is not what you wanted exactly to do in the first place, but perhaps more feasible ..


Posted by: Alessandro Ogheri | February 26, 2008 01:16 PM

Italy Approximation!
I am pretty sure it must be me, although I am trying as hard as I can but is still escaping me.
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country with a Justice in shamble, everyone expects the Rule of Law to prevail?
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in the south every day 100ds of people gets arrested for breaking the Law, their assets seized although they walk the streets still and live in the same seized Properties (Probably using the same Bank Accounts?)?
By my rough calculation half of southern Italy should be in jails by now?
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country incapable of solving any of the most glamorous trials (From Moro to Ustica, from Andreotti to Berlusconi, from Brescia to Piazza Fontana, from Bologna to the G8 in Genova?) whiles everybody expects answers due 40 years ago?
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country that glorify “I furbetti del quartierino” for frauds worth billion, calmly still working and in the limelight of the VIP’s?
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country where Politicians for the 61 Governments are still ranting and raving about their successes, while the Country is on the brink of melting down?
The Campania region is under Special Administration for 15 years, and absolutely nothing has been resolved?
Mr Rutelli can’t manage a simple internet site for Tourism (At the tune of 35 Mil?) and now gingerly runs for Major of Rome?
More than half of Sicily population makes their living illegally, although they clamor for the Rule of Law?
Each and every Industrial might of Italy becoming viable only under foreign Management? (Examples: IRI, Nuovo Pignone, Fiat Train, Alitalia, Fiat you fill the blanks?)
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country 20% of population live the Dolcevita on the miseries of the other 80%, and nothing changes?
Does any Italian ask him/herself, how is it possible that in a Country where everybody appreciate SLOWFOOD and SLOWLIFE, while at the same time pretend the mail within 3 days?
Italians, the honeymoon with renaissance is over, if you want Law, Civility, Freedom of Enterprize, Free Press, Information, Accountability, Morality, Freedom to pursue your dreams, well it has to start with yourself.
Nothing is for free in this world, and you are getting back exactly what you put into it.
Garbage in, garbage out, Einstein rightfully sat, nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, and everything is transformed!
The future looks bright wear shades.

Posted by: Giacomo Chiametti | February 26, 2008 12:50 PM

To: Andrea at Palo alto in California,

I really, really know how you feel about the mortgage problem you have encountered in Italy.

My mother donated her house to me and I have the same issue, they will not give a loan on a donated home because of fear of title imperfections or protests from other relatives, in the USA we have a solution for this and it is called:

"Title Insurance".

You would think bank institutions in Italy who invented almost everything else would use this modern instrument of insurance.

Therefore I am trapped in my own property and cannot enjoy the full benefits of it, such as being able to finance it, but however I must pay full taxes on the property, what a rip off.

As far as having to do with the Italian legal system, my advise to you is pack and head for the hills, in no way entangle yourself with an Italian lawyer (some of them are however honest, but by far, much more dishonest than our American counterparts).

I have been in a legal case with someone in high power for almost ten years now (yes ten years!!!),

Yes, I really said TEN YEARS!!!

And while I was in New York my wonderful Italian Lawyer calls me up, and tells me that the person that I sued lost the case and was given one month domiciled prison.

It was a lie, and after tens of thousands of dollars I had chosen to surrender the case, and forget about all the damages that I suffered, I was tired of combating dishonest lawyers and a never ending slow juice system, they would postpone the case always to the next year!!

However for me traveling to and from NY got very costly and I had to leave NY to come and take care of my mom that is seriously disabled, I have been here steady for two years now, I am 47 unemployed and here in Campania have no hope to get a job, unless you have a "raccomandazione" from one of the political pigs that run this country. The employment offices here do not help you find work they have basic functions of record keeping of how long a person is unemployed, how stupid, they should just close them.

If I want to do something in the private sector the licensing is a hell story, and I will not go into that.

I am however down but not out, we Italians have a way of coming back up when we are down and we are full of ideas for getting out of the worst of situations.

However Andrea your wife is very correct and that is the way I feel, but I'm not giving up my space to them, no way, and I am forming my own tourist company, if you would like to know more about it you can email me for info at:

It would be a pleasure to here form you.

Best regards,

R. M.

Posted by: Rinaldi Moscatiello | February 26, 2008 12:06 PM

This is for Andrea , Palo Alto ( CA )
In Italy you either belong to the 15% of Italians that live of politics ( the Caste and the other criminal organizations) or you are a bondman, working,if you are lucky, for your food and paying more than 70% in taxes to a state that gives only lip services.
If you want to have the freedom to say "that two plus two make four" than prepare yourself to fight for all your life and for your life.
Good luck.

Posted by: giuseppe vidozzi | February 26, 2008 12:05 PM

I an only simpathyse with my Bologna "Connazionale" from California. I have had similar shady underhand dealings with both the Italian bureocracy (modern feudal system) and, unfortunately, unscrupulous family members on property deals. It turned out so incredibly sad that I decided to sell everything in Italy as quickly as possible and vowed to never have any future business delings in Italy involving Italians. It turned out the best decision ever made although understadably heartreaking.
Basically I have discovered that Italy is a county without the "RULE of LAW" which makes it impossible for us Italians used to the bigger wider world to reconcile with. When even your own flesh and blood play this game and are really convinced that being more "furbetti" than you are is a sign of pride!!
It is disgusting.
My advise is get rid of all business assets you have in Italy and rather look at more deserving lands. I am now looking at Malta where at least besides English being an official language they are proud of maintaining the RULE of LAW.

Posted by: Maurizio Odello | February 26, 2008 11:52 AM

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