Can most young people in Italy communicate in English fluently? Does their language education system in schools help them to communicate?

No.

Most of Italians (regardless of age) are not able to speak English fluently.

As others have said, there may be a few reasons behind this:

  1. Very poor school system/teachers, totally detached from reality, with maniac attention to obscure grammar rules or English literature authors who nobody (in real life) cares of. Students are forced to memorize English grammar rules like monkeys, without actually being able to train and speak the language. Soon after school finishes, the difference between “poisonous” and “venomous” as well as the “Rhymes of the Ancient Mariner” are quickly forgotten and students remain still unable to speak the language. I can only assume that this occurs because: (a)the selection process of teachers across the Country is very lousy (based on my experience, I believe teachers themselves have only a textbook knowledge of the language as they rarely can speak English fluently); (b)English is regarded as a low-priority topic at school from professors & parents (so much so that students are pushed to get the best grades in topics which are regarded as more important for their CV, like Italian Literature, History, Philosophy, Latin, Greek, Math, etc.); (c)Teachers are required by the School system to teach English Grammar & English Literature as they have always been taught for the past 6 decades, i.e. in a way that prevents the students to actually learn how to speak the language.
  2. Zero chances to speak English in real life. Nobody speaks English on the street, or at work or at the Universities. We have very few English-speaking white-collar immigrants sharing the workspace and requiring Italians to speak a language different than their own. Over 85% of Italian companies have less than 12 employees: almost all of them have little to zero international breadth. Only an extremely limited number of Faculties in Italy give lessons in English in the attempt to appeal to a potential wider audience (and even in that case, for example at the Milan Polytechnic, there was an infamous strike – with great resonance on the national press and media in general – from the Professors who vehemently opposed to be required to give lessons in English – very depressing). At the end of the day, Italian is regarded as the only language you need to know (on top of your hometown dialect, which is sacred in most parts of Italy for heritage/cultural reasons). This is very shortsighted from the Italians and we are all witnessing how they are paying this dearly in the worldwide markets (43% of youth unemployment as of May 2015).
  3. Everything even remotely related to entertainment is translated from English to Italian (and in an excellent way, actually): movies, documentaries, TV shows, books… everything. There is simply no incentive to learn the language as everything is already translated in Italian. If one day you ask your friends to go and watch a movie in its original English language, you may be easily considered a martian by your peers (if a Cinema with movies in English can ever be found in your city).
  4. Appropriate knowledge of English language is generally regarded as a low priority by younger and older generations alike, reflecting the “insular” culture still permeating Italians of every age.
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Why is southern Italy poorer than northern Italy?

This is a very complex question that has puzzled historians, politicians and economists for decades now.

As others have said, Sicily was once among the wealthiest regions in Italy until 200 years ago. Equally, Naples was considered a world capital until 19th Century, together with Rome and Paris.

There is a constellation of reasons why the South of Italy has lost its advantage compared to the Northern part of the Country and it is now among the less developed areas in Europe, no matter how many billions of Euro the Central Government and the European Union pump every year in the attempt to revive the South of Italy’s economy.

In particular:

1. Times have changed and culturally Southern Italians have been unable to adapt: the southern part of Italy was an agriculture-based Economy for centuries. In the last 150 years agriculture has lost its dominance over the Economy: first in favour of the Mechanical Industries (the Industrial Revolution sparkled by the Brits), secondly in favour of the Services Industries. Southern Italy missed completely both of these economic revolutions.

These huge missed opportunities had three main consequences that you can still notice today:

  • Few risk takers: there is a very low entrepreneurial attitude among Southern Italians (especially the middle class): most of “the best and the brightest” (and there are many, very smart and able) end up in the Government bureaucratic machine not unlike what happens in Japan. This (and this only) is considered — work-wise — a “success” in the South of Italy, with the result that thousands and thousands of smart, young and very able Southern Italians of every possible root apply every year for any available vacancy within the bureaucratic machine. Jobs are simply “requested” by the base as a sort of welfare and award for the smart, hard-working & able, and not the natural by-product of a healthy local economy. Nowhere is thought to the younger generations that entrepreneurship is a valid option for the smart and able;
  • No highly specialised service economy: as mentioned above, the service economy in the South of Italy has translated into bureaucratic jobs manufactured by the Italian central government for the sole purpose of giving jobs to the people in the (lame) attempt to revive the local economy. As a consequence, this has created enormous State-owned conglomerates with zero public usefulness and has instated an iron-clad mentality into people that the safest / best jobs anyone could find are those with the State (i.e. you cannot be fired and once you get the job, you are set for life). The Central Government originally fuelled this attitude by hiring more than 180k people from South of Italy in their internal bureaucracy just in the few years after the WWII. There was a huge inflow of Southern Italians all over the bureaucratic machine at all levels and, in a critical time of reconstruction of the Country, this destroyed the need for Southern Italians (or at least their middle class) to approach the real market and create jobs that were actually needed and not “manufactured” for political purposes. To date, it is estimated that in the South of Italy, 1/3 of the active population is unemployed, 1/3 works in private companies and 1/3 works for the State or State-owned companies. This means that half of the working population works for the State (with higher than average salaries and protections, compounded by ridiculously low level of productivity). Things are slightly improving now, but in the meantime the generation of our parents was lost forever.
  • Structural lack of social mobility: children end up doing the same jobs of their parents. This is (unfortunately) a common trait of all Italians, but according to the statistics it is even worse in the South of Italy (and they love it like this).

2. Brain drain: for generations, the extreme poverty and structural lack of social mobility forced millions of bright, risk-taker, Southern Italians to leave the Country, in most cases in favour of Southern and Northern America. This prevented a cultural change at home, because the incumbent people with the “old” mindset had firmly the reins of the political, financial and administrative machine for generations and no change of mindset was conceivable to come from the system’s insiders (who traditionally have been profiting from the status quo for generations). In recent years, the emigration abroad was reduced thanks to substantial subsidies by the central government, while it increased the internal migration from southern regions to the north of the Country (in 2015 alone, 138k Southern Italians under 30 years old moved to the Northern part of the Country).

3. Organised Crime: in the last 150 years a small part of Southern Italians have developed a net of strong, violent and highly profitable criminal organisations with foothold in the social and political system of almost every city in the Region. This system sucked resources both from the (already lagging behind) economy and also from the Central Government investment in the infrastructure & health-care system (both among the most corrupted in Europe). These criminal organizations have been able to command the political agenda for decades, and, not unlike what happened in certain South Americans states, have been willing to corrupt and oftentimes even kill magistrates to escape justice and to deadlock any attempt by the central government to repress the crimes and reform the legal gray-areas that allow criminality to thrive (e.g. legalization of marijuana).

4. Higher rates of school abandonment: for decades, Southern Italy has seen higher rates of kids abandoning school at the early years of education.

5. Inefficient investments by the Central Government: the politicians have been unable to help the South of Italy economy in any way other than:

  • colossal & useless infrastructures: like colossal bridges, dams, highways, aqueducts, etc. in most of the cases never going to be completed (or even pass the initial construction stages).
  • subsidy of mega-factories from private companies (most of them would relocate elsewhere once the subsidy ended: e.g. FIAT Auto);
  • Periodically hiring a ridiculously high amount of people in the Public Administration before any election cycle (e.g. the Municipality of Naples has now accumulated approximately 20k employees, Rome 23k). These public sector employees are heavily unionized and are able to blackmail any government (local or central alike) willing to update the rules governing their employment, de facto preventing any possible reform of the system which is still the same of 40–50 years ago (fantastic privileges and normal rules pertaining to the private sectors do not apply to them). In Rome there was a three-day strike by basically all the Municipality employees once the Major of the town proposed to remove their fake “productivity bonus” — a subsidy given to all Municipality employees without any productivity requirement even checked. Many of these employees are not even required to show up for work: a job in a Municipality is regarded nothing more, nothing less than a sort of welfare subsidy for the employees’ family, without any requirement to carry out any actual job whatsoever.

The politicians managed to damage the economy even more by regularly awardingpublic procurement contracts to companies connected with the organised crimes.

6. High level of corruption among Public Officials and State Employees: this is very unfortunate and, until very recently, purposely only blandly punished by the law. The phenomenon is widespread across all sectors and levels of the bureaucracy, political parties, State-owned entities, and it greatly contributed to the draining of resources from the legitimate economy. The former President of Region of Sicily (the highest seat in one of the most populous Italian regions) just finished serving a 7-year jail sentence for being a Mafia-aide. Mr Marcello Dell’Utri, who for a lifetime has been the right-arm of Mr. Berlusconi, is currently in jail in Rome for a similar sentence.

7. Huge “underground” economy: to exacerbate the problem, hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the economic system completely un-registered. These people are often-times paid very low-salaries, have no social-security, do not pay taxes, etc.

8. Ineffective Rule of law: in the southern part of Italy the Government has traditionally weaker control of the territory. For decades, this allowed all sorts of behaviour by people willing to breach the Law with impunity (e.g. 1) tens of thousands of houses built in environmentally protected areas — particularly in Campania, Sicily and Calabria; 2) one of the lowest tax compliance in Europe; 3) millions of civil and criminal proceedings for petty claims.

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How did you lose your wealth? How much did you start with, and how much was left after you lost it?

My uncle (the brother of my father) never got married. He was born in 1950 and always lived the good life: he never had kids, not one Euro of debt, drove fast German cars, had amazing girlfriends (women literally adore him), made exotic travels, had tailor-made suits, knew literally most of the Bel Paese best restaurants in big and small cities alike, etc.

He started working in the Italian branch of a British company (at the time based in Naples) at 21 as a clerk and became a top manager in his late 40s. He was suddenly fired in the late 90s because of a restructuring and since he was already in his late 40s it was impossible for him to find a similar job at a competitor. Actually he could not find any job at all. Once out of the job market for a few years he basically gave up on looking for even a low-level job.

Nevertheless, he had saved enough money to make a (very good) living without any job: in particular his wealth consisted of 4 flats in the city center where he was living. Normally, he would sell one flat and make a living for the next 10 years. He calculated that his flats would allow him plenty of money for the rest of his life.

In 2004 he was driving on the highway late at night when a truck driver crashed on his sporty car (police ascertained that it was not my uncle’s fault).

The accident was very serious: my uncle was taken to hospital in critical conditions, had a few surgeries and eventually had a heart valve replaced during a very risky operation.

When he was still at the hospital, the insurance very ably tricked him into quickly signing an amicable settlement for 70k Euro: this seemed a lot of money right after the accident but soon revealed to be “peanuts” given the kind of injuries he suffered and the expenses he would have subsequently incurred in order to fully recover.

He got the insurance money immediately.

The surgery, rehabilitation and other expenses of the next 5 years basically cost him one of his flats (i.e. instead of lasting him 10 years, it lasted only 4-5).

Most importantly, after his heart was fixed he was not allowed to drive a car for some time and was very lonely (old friends disappeared quickly), slipped into depression and his lifestyle changed: he was buying a myriad of useless stuff like (admittedly majestic) Iranian carpets and expensive furniture, he was traveling continuously to some exotic locations with some new fake friends, had a few high-maintenance girlfriends scattered across Europe, etc.

The money from the second flat he sold lasted him only 4 years.

After he sold that second flat, he remained with only 2 more flats (and he was living in one of them).

He finished the money of his third flat in 3 years. He gradually started selling, one by one, all the useless stuff he bought (often times for very little money).

He then went into “panic mode” since he had no money, no other income and only his flat where he was living.

Also, because of the recent economic downturn in Italy and lack of expensive refurbishment works, his last flat was rapidly decaying and had dropped in value almost 40% in just a few years: to sell it would have been a disastrous decision.

At that point he was basically broke as he had one asset — the last flat — but had literally no cash.

He sold his last “substantial” asset (a Toyota Yaris he bought used just a year earlier) for 3k euro.

With this money he managed to live 3 more months when he received a letter confirming that the State will finally start issuing a pension.

This was summer last year: since September last year he is a happy – albeit very frugal – pensioner.

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Why is Spain and Italy’s youth unemployment still so high?

I can answer for Italy alone, as I do not have any knowledge of the Spanish economic fabric.

Regarding the stubbornly high youth unemployment rate in Italy (now back above 40%, as of January 2017 and it has been hovering above 35% since 2009), there are multiple reasons behind it:

AThe Italian State genuinely hates entrepreneurs: it is basically impossible to do business in Italy. Those doing a business in Italy should be considered modern heroes, in my opinion. There is a constellation of bureaucratic hurdles, notaries, accountants, lawyers, whatever, that you are forced by the law to consult (and pay hefty fees) even BEFORE you start a business. After you start it, there will be a multitude of completely irrational tax deadlines with draconian penalties (that change every year), bureaucratic checks, useless controls, etc. that actively make your business frankly impossible. Bureaucrats live in medieval times, detached from reality, and they hate businessmen & risk-takers.

B. Lack of financial credit. Italy lacks a modern and efficient banking system. Money is lent by banks to friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends, etc. This approach proved disastrous and was able to take very important financial institutions (like Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the 3rd largest bank in Italy and Banca Popolare di Vicenza) to collapse because of Non Performing Loans generated by a handful (0.01%) of clients.

CClosed market sectors: this is the elephant hiding behind the curtains of the room. In Italy entire market sectors are purposely closed to competitors (i.e. newcomers) in order to maintain the good life of the incumbents. Nobody is willing to touch the incumbents’ privileges because any action against them would be politically very pricey. Pharmacists, Notaries, University Professors, Taxi Drivers, etc. are just a few examples of ferocious pressure groups that have been able to blackmail and eventually force the legislator for decades to prevent by the law any innovation in their relevant sectors so to close their markets to any potential competition. Many excellent Pharmacy Graduates, Law Graduates, or would-be Taxi Drivers (these are just examples) are not able to enter the market and do their job because there is an artificial limit legally set forth by the State to the lucky few “members” who are allowed to practice that profession. Regardless how high is the youth unemployment rate, the legislator will not open these markets to new players as the existent ones would have to face new competition (and, potentially, compressed profits).

DSecondary school system (particularly Universities) is totally detached from reality, living in a universe where the actual job you will be asked to do is completely irrelevant. After the students will graduate, they will not have acquired any set of skills useful in the market. Once you will have spent 4–6 years to get a degree, you will need to start from scratch to learn the skills needed in the market. (I have been suggested by Luca Accomazzi that this situation is currently improving).

E. As other answers here have already stated, the judiciary system in Italy is purposely archaic and inefficient: if you need to recover a debt, be ready to wait years while you carry out expensive litigation, and the result is far for certain thanks to the many loopholes that Italian lawyers are able to exploit to delay and eventually avoid to repay their clients’ debts.

I hope this helps.

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How did Jews escape Germany in World War Two?

In order to escape Germany, a jewish family had various routes:

a. The Western Route: obtaining a Visa to France or Switzerland;

b. The Eastern Route: once reached Trieste, there was the Lloyd Triestino express passenger route to Bombay and Shanghai by sea. Many jewish families used this route to eventually reach Australia.

c. The Southern Route: from France or Italy to Northern Africa.

d. The Northern Route — through the Baltic sea, which was immediately cut as soon as the Nazi invaded Poland, first, and, later, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Switzerland was considered quite safe throughout the war, but there was always the fear that Hitler would have eventually invaded even the Swiss territory. As we know, the Nazis even started planning for it.

For this reason many jewish families decided to try the French route: at the time, France had one of the largest army on the planet and had a history of good integration of the jewish communities in the French social and political fabric.

After having entered into France (relatively safe until 1940’s invasion), the jewish family could either settle there (especially in the South) or had to find a way to go to the border with Spain and get a second Visa to Spain.

After 1940’s occupation, la Republiquewas not safe anymore (even for high profile “ethnically-jewish” families who had long converted to catholicism) and, at the southern border, the lines of people trying to enter the (relatively) safe Spanish territory became interminable: the wait for normal people to get a Visa was normally of weeks (if not months) and many of them were eventually denied the Visa.

There were exceptional cases of high profile / wealthy individuals who were able to get the Visa to Spain skipping the long lines (most probably by bribing the right person at the Embassy or by using ultra-high level connections in the French / Spanish diplomacy).

For example: André Meyer — the legendary (jewish) partner of the French Bank Lazard Freres & Co. who later became the financial advisor of American Magnates and CEOs and even of Jackie Kennedy — was able to leave France through Spain, with almost treasonous speed, given how difficult this was even for other members of his own family(*).

Even after entering Spain (under the Fascist’s Francisco Franco regime at the time), the odyssey was not finished as there were no direct, accessible, connections to the Americas and the Generalissimo’s regime — formally an Ally of Hitler — was not a guarantee of a safe haven for the jewish community.

Those wanting to escape to US, for example, had to either reach Portugal or Morocco or Algeria (depending on which Visa they would get first) and then obtain (normally after many months’ wait) the even more coveted Visa to the US.

Once in Portugal, for example, there were at least the following options:

  1. By plane: there was the Pan Am Clipper— a large seaplane — connecting directly Lisbon to New York (with a short refueling stop in the Azores) with an almost impossible “waiting list”; or alternatively
  2. By boat: there were the American Export Linesships also connecting by sea Lisbon to New York.

I hope this helps!

(*) The Austrian-born Felix Rohatyn — himself son a Polish jewish — recalled that until very recently there were relatives of André Meyer whom he met in Paris many years after the war when he was appointed US Ambassador in France, saying that they will never forgive André for leaving and leaving them behind because he left through Spain and they were not able to do so. Mr. Rohatyn himself, together with his family, left Austria for France in 1935 and, after Hitler’s invasion in 1940, unable to follow the Spanish route, started a two-year odyssey which took him first to Casablanca, then Oran (Algeria), Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro and, finally, New York City (mostly thanks to forged Visas and the help of legendary Brazilian Ambassador to France, Martins de Souza Dantas, later dubbed “the Schindler of Brazil”).

You can also watch the very interesting video below of Mr. Rohatyn himself explaining how he escaped the Nazisduring WWII:

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Is there really such a thing as a professional “hitman”, or are they just a creation of fiction writers?

I work in finance and I am not a criminal lawyer (thus I don’t have a big professional experience on the subject) but I once stumbled in a case with not just one but two hit men.

A Milanese, extremely wealthy, investment banker in his 50s, with the typical “perfect” family (a beautiful wife, his only son studying in London, an awesome mansion, etc.) had a South American “lover”.

She was very beautiful, albeit jobless: she was a sort of former prostitute / former model, even if the line between her two jobs was really blurred.

Everything went fine between the two until she (unexpectedly) got pregnant.

She did not ask him for money, but asked the Milanese Banker to marry her.

This was simply not an option for the Milanese Banker so he had the very “smart” idea to hire two Venezuelan drug dealers to kidnap the girl and eventually kill her.

The two drug dealers were paid a 50% deposit upon taking the instructions, with the promise of receiving the other half once their job was completed.

The two Venezuelans swiftly kidnapped the girl while she was jogging one morning and took her to an abandoned building at the outskirts of Milan.

They kept her there a few days while they were discussing vigorously how to kill her (apparently even for a professional hitman it is not so easy to shoot and kill a pregnant woman).

Eventually they realized that they did not have the heart to kill her (and the baby) and they set her free.

They also kept the 50% deposit they already got and went back to their normal drug dealing business.

In case you are interested in how the story ended up: she went back to normal life and started getting a small “salary” from the Milanese Banker (she gave up on the idea of marrying him anyway).

A few weeks after giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, she confided the kidnapping to a friend during a walk in the park.

This friend went to the police and, after some checking, they arrested the Milanese Banker a few days later…

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What do Italians call “La Bella Figura”?

Bella (or Brutta) figura means: Looking Good (or Bad) in the eyes of society.

This is an extremely powerful concept in the Italian Culture where everybody is subject to and judged by the “Social eye”.

An example of this concept may be the following.

In 2000, Fiat Auto was collapsing because of persistent poor sales and inability to penetrate the global markets and it was on the verge to be sold to the then Daimler-Chrysler group for 13 Billion USD.

This would have required Gianni Agnelli to admit his failure as the entrepreneur who inherited the company from his grand-dad. Selling to Daimler-Chrysler would also have meant thousands of blue-collar jobs to be erased overnight in his home-town, Torino.

In other words, to sell the Company, even if it would have yielded 13 Billion USD for the shareholders of a quickly declining company, would have been for l’Avvocato (“The Lawyer”, Gianni Agnelli’s nickname) a terrible “Brutta Figura” and, as Vanity Fair once commented: “This is the classic term for just about the worst crime an Italian can commit: looking bad in the eyes of society. Agnelli knew that the sale of a 100-year-old Italian car-maker to the Germans would have made him appear treasonous.”

To keep the Company and save it together with thousands of jobs at home would have been a “Bella Figura”, regardless of the price to be paid in order to achieve it.

Naturally, Gianni Agnelli opted not to sell “at all cost”.

The company shed 10 Billion USD of its value in the following 3 years (a bloodbath for the shareholders who lost 75% of their investment) and the whole “extended” Agnelli family’s stake in the company was virtually pulverized in order to save the Company (of the 80+ members of the extended Agnelli & Nasi families, only John Elkann remained with a substantial control stake) but, thanks to the Bella Figura,their face in front of society was saved.

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Are you bullish or bearish on Bitcoin?

Look: I will cut the story ultra-short (oversimplifying for the sake of brevity).

  1. Scarcity: there can only be 21 million Bitcoin ever to be mined.
  2. Security:So far the Bitcoin protocol has been proven unbreakable in its aim at preventing double-spending: the cryptography behind it has been 100% bulletproof.
  3. Decentralization: Nobody can sue Bitcoin as there is no Bitcoin Corporation: it is fully decentralized and the Bitcoin protocol will be alive as long as there will be an internet connection and some miners keeping the network alive.
  4. Network effect:Nobody knows for sure what will happen in the future but almost everybody is coming to terms with the fact that Bitcoin is becoming the decentralized, digital version of gold (a store of value accepted from the US to Saudi Arabia, from Moscow to Paris, in Africa as well as in India). No other digital currency has been able to match Bitcoin’s network effect. It is an amazing technological advancement, a generational shift.

If you are able to invest your money during the dips and ably buy at least 1 Bitcoin while everybody else panics, you will certainlybe among the top 21m Bitcoin holders on the planet. This means that you will be in the top 21m holders — on the planet — of next generation’s gold. Even if you are able to buy only 0.1 Bitcoin, you will still be among the top 210m holders on the planet (and there are 7bn people around!). Already an amazing achievement.

People still have not realized how rare Bitcoins are if you think in planetary terms and the fantastic potential of the technology, its decentralisation and its monstrous network effect.

Obviously there are risks but this is an asymmetrical bet, with known, limited losses if the project somehow fails and unlimited potential if it succeeds.

Short term price fluctuations should not distract anybody: there are very few opportunities like it in the market today and if you “get it”, investing in it is a no-brainer.

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Why did AC Milan fall apart?

AC Milan has been the victim of the very same revolution that its owner, Mr Berlusconi, ignited 30 years ago: the attitude of pouring an irrationally enormous amount of money on the football teams in order to obtain enormous visibility at home and abroad (and hopefully victories too).

Unfortunately for Mr Berlusconi, his fortunes have been dwindling due to his (and his companies) problems with Justice in Italy and abroad and the persistent economy crash of his home country, which he formidably contributed to generate by being his PM for approximately the last 15 years.

Time has passed: now the Sheiks from the middle east and the Russian Oligarchs set the price for the most talented players and this price, most of the times, cannot be even remotely afforded by Berlusconi anymore.

This lack of resources would require a new approach to the squad building: growing up young new talents in-house, hiring promising but undervalued players, supporting a Manager during good and bad times, etc. Unfortunately for AcMilan, no new approach is to be found at: quite the opposite.

Mr. Berlusconi’s inability to cope with the changing times in a new way is now legendary: he is a stubborn victim of the nostalgia of the good old times (for this reasons he hired – and subsequently sacked – both Seedorf and Inzaghi). Mihailovic has not even been able to complete his first season and has been already replaced by Brocchi (with zero coach experience in Serie A) with only 6 games of the season 2015-2016 season left.

As we know, Mr Berlusconi is also tied to Mr Galliani – the co-Ceo of the team – who cannot be fired without paying him a golden parachute of more than 100m Euro (apparently Berlusconi offered him 100m Euro but he refused and was ready to sue his employer and his daughter for libel): another payment that the Milanese tycoon at present cannot afford.

The problems have been recently exacerbated when Mr Berlusconi had the smart idea to appoint his youngest daughter Barbara (!) as co-Ceo (she wanted to be a Ceo of something, like her two older siblings, apparently!).

She proved to be an arrogant & dilettante woman with no previous working experience whatsoever (she had the bright idea to start dating Alexandre Pato as soon as she took office and sacked Ac Milan’s former head of marketing so she could hire Mr Geronimo La Russa, another embarrassing individual who happen to be one of her best friends).

The idea to appoint her as co-Ceo of a team with a 200m Euro turnover has been a complete disaster: she dated a player, wanted to kick out Galliani the day she stepped in, she wanted to be the boss of Marketing with no experience, and then… her huge failure to execute the plans to build the new stadium is still regarded as a hugely expensive and embarrassing mistake by the Berlusconi family.

A faux pas like this would have been simply impossible 10 years ago: not only they will not build the long awaited new Stadium, but they are currently being sued by the owner of the Stadium’s construction site because AcMilan rescinded the contract right after having won it – ridiculous.

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How does it feel to narrowly miss a flight which subsequently crashes and leaves no survivors?

Augusto Bianchi, one of my former bosses, was a very wealthy Milanese business lawyer and in the 80s he missed a flight that ended up crashing.

The day he missed the flight was a Thursday and he was so grateful with the destiny for the incredible struck of good luck that he decided to give a party at his legendary Corso Venezia mansion in Milan for every Thursday of the rest of his life.

He kept his promise and his parties, called “Il Giovedí” (Thursday in Italian) became a sort of small cultural phenomenon in Milan (I just found that they are also mentioned on his Wikipedia page: Augusto Bianchi Rizzi – Wikipedia) and they won a Milanese Municipal Award in 2012.

He even founded a “Il Giovedí” Book Prize to encourage and promote the books of young Italian writers.

Sadly, he prematurely died of cancer on October 2014.

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Why are there so many Italian sports car manufacturers?

Gianni Agnelli was once asked the same question by (a young) Jeremy Clarkson (check the quick vid below).

L’Avvocato replied that Italians in 20th century developed a multitude of small mechanical repairs shops to assist consumers fixing their cars (the car market was booming in Italy and this created a wealth of opportunities for ingenious people to put themselves to work).

These small repair shops usually employed all kind of people, especially poor guys with no money but with a lot of passion for fast cars, huge imagination and gusto.

After they gained some experience, these guys used their creative approach not just to repair someone’s else cars but to manufacture their own.

At the times there were no over-zealous regulations so this could be done even by a small family shop.

Many of them did not last more than a few years, but occasionally a few thrived and developed into great brands that have made the history of cars.

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What are some lifestyle changes that save money?

A.Do not go into debt: Never buy anything you cannot afford to fully pay upfront. You don’t need 99% of that stuff anyway. This applies not only to expensive stuff but also to cheap things as well. They just add clutter to your life and clutter is very bad, so do not buy them. Occasionally, you will really need something (like a bike to commute, a hat to keep you warm, a decent shirt, a new computer, etc.): in these cases, do not buy the cheapest thing on earth either. You are buying something that you really need so it is better for it to last. Buy something that will be durable even if it ends up costing more (within reason). Remember: “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

UPDATE:It may look counter-intuitive, but this often applies to real-estate purchases as well: I see many of my friends buying a hugely expensive house (that they cannot afford) thanks to a 30-year mortgage and they even boast that this is the best investment they ever made. If you crunch the numbers and look at the expenses, ROI, etc. … most of the times, buying an expensive house with a long mortgage actually does not make any (financial) sense as renting is often cheaper and a more financially sound option.

B.Sell your car & your motorbike. In theory, cars are amazing, complex machines to go fast from A to B, but since these days everybody has one, we all end up stuck in traffic, get nervous and spend a lot of money in gas. Also, all the million cars out there are killing our atmosphere by releasing huge amounts of CO2 while you seat behind the wheel going to work at the speed of a donkey. It’s dumb. Same for motorbikes, except that they are an order of magnitude more dangerous and capable to kill you (given that they offer zero passive protection in case of an accident). Use a bike or, even better, the public transport (which is way cheaper, safer and also allows you to read books during transfers & commuting, a great added benefit if you want to become a better person – and not just to save money: more on this below).

C.Food shopping with brain: do not do food shopping while you are hungry (ie. before lunch or dinner, for example), as you will be instinctively pushed to buy useless stuff to satisfy a temporary craving. Also, there is no reason to buy bottled water and all that sugary/processed stuff (chocolate, biscuits, gummy bears, fake cheese, potato chips, snacks, sugar-added white bread, etc.). Try to eat decently and in moderation: vary your diet, spend your money wisely and, as a rule of thumb, only for food that your grandma would still look at and define as “food”.

D.Diet: eat less red meat (once a week should be fine) and eat more greens, beans & eggs instead. Reduce beer/wine, eliminate super-alcoholic drink (vodka/gin/whiskey/etc.). Stay away from fast foods even if they are conveniently located, cheap and occasionally irresistible (I am terrible at resisting to MacDonald’s French fries). There are plenty of delicious & healthy recipes you can (quickly) cook by yourself for 3$ or less (check Quora).

E.Ditch fake friends (both from real life and social media): stay away from poisonous relationships. You don’t need all these “fake” friends anyway. They don’t add anything to your life: most of them really do not like you or appreciate you, they are competitive, boring, unavailable when you need them and will be actively working (occasionally jointly conspire!) against you. They are terrible. Choose quality over quantity: tell them you’re “very” busy, do not answer to them on Whatsapp, slowly clean them up from your social media. Slowly they will lose interest in you. That’s fine. You will feel lonely (or even a little guilty) at the beginning: that’s just an impression and this is why they invented very interesting books to keep you busy when your true friends are not available to go out (more on this below).

F.Invest your savings (wisely): stay away from the investment funds with really cool/impressive names that your tie-wearing banker will be eager to recommend you. They are crap, really. Do this instead: invest part of your monthly salary (10/20/30%, the more the better) on a very cheap ETF based on the performance of a large basket of North American companies (like Vanguard’s VOO, or other similar ones: look at the commissions you are paying for that, they must be low… like 0.0x%). You must do this every month, no matter what. Save and do not touch these savings. Ever. [This point is essential]

G.No TV: sell your TV on eBay and cut all cable TV services/bills. TV is useless, addictive and makes you dumb. If you really miss some good TV Shows (I like Magnum P.I.) you are smart enough to use Google. Also, there are amazing documentaries from the BBC and NatGeo on Youtube (I love those about WWII and African animals). As a commenter suggested, obviously the same applies to Cinema.

H.Go to gym or do some running: Exercise regularly (twice a week should be a good start), as this will keep you away from huge medical bills down the road. Running for 45 minutes doesn’t cost a dime and it’s a great stress reliever (I noticed it also helps my brain work better afterwards). Stay away from those expensive/”posh” gyms where people only go in order to show off their immaculate Nike outfit, stare at each other and drink Gatorade. 🙂

I.Read more books (mostly non-fiction). Follow your passions, focus on certain topics, read everything about them and then vary the topics. I cannot overestimate how much this is important. Reading a lot of good books will make you smarter. This is a time consuming exercise that may require you to plan your daily routine accordingly: so do it.

J. Do not eat outside:cook at home. Eating at restaurants is impossibly expensive and makes you fat. Learn how to cook good meals at home. Your waistline (and not just your wallet) will thank you. Learn new recipes from other countries. Some are really amazing, cheap and super easy to prepare. Cooking is – incidentally – a very interesting activity “per se” and it’s also a great way to impress your partner (as most people these days don’t cook at all). Your parents, friends and partner will really appreciate that you dedicated yourself to “create” something for “them” to enjoy. It is a good thing.

K. Consider leaving your salary job and becoming an entrepreneur.Salary jobs are really a great thing (it’s awesome to know that, no matter what, you will get a pay-check at the end of the month) but they are not fit for all of us. Think about it and if you believe that you are better fit for an entrepreneurial job, don’t be scared of this. Get prepared, save more money, start working on your ideas and then… act! There has never been a better time in the history of humanity to be an entrepreneur. You don’t really need to change the world but if you will be capable to execute your ideas ably, the financial reward will be an order of magnitude larger than most salary jobs you can find out there.

L. Stop smoking cigarettes, immediately. Smoking costs a fortune, gives you many different types of cancer even at young ages (for real) and makes your breath disgusting. If you smoke you don’t look sexier, you look dumb. It’s incredible that people still smoke these days.

M. Prepare for the unexpected.Remember that things do not always go in the right way: people you trust won’t keep their promises, you will make stupid mistakes that will cost you money, you can lose your job, people will behave irrationally with you, the stock market may crash tomorrow, you may fall down from your bike, you can have impossible tooth-ache, and the list goes on. All these things happen, often without a reason. It is useless to cry and blame the bad luck. Be prepared, save money in the bank so that you have a ready-to-use emergency fund in cash (3/5 times your monthly salary should be fine) and act to fix things promptly (a la Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction). Having cash in the bank and acting quickly will make a world of difference in these difficult situations that happen to all of us.

N. Be critical. Be critical of what other people tell you. Be critical when certain things/people seem too good to be true: 99% of the times they really are not, so it is better for you not to be disappointed (and save your money/time). Be critical of other people’s values: you will be the result of a myriad of your own decisions, not of other people’s. You should be proud of this. Other people may be in good faith when they speak with you and try to convince you of something. But most of them simply do not have your same background, nor your same outlook on the future. Give your ears to a wisely selected few. Be critical also with yourself and your own values. You are not the repository of truth either and you should constantly check if what you’re doing is right or wrong (ideally you should do this at least on a daily basis): do not be afraid to realize that you have made a mistake (even a painful or costly one). That’s normal, but still you owe yourself to learn from it and not have this experience pass without you becoming a better, wiser person. Also: many mistakes can be fixed if you spot them early enough. Being critical is very important.

O. Do not do gambling, lotto, lotteries, sporting bets, dog races bets, cock-fighting bets, poker, black jack, etc.They are simply not worth your time (and even less your money). If you do, you spend your precious time and hard earned money to make someone else rich, think about it. It’s ridiculous.

P. Try “Zero Dollar” days. Can you manage to live one full day without touching a penny? We should all experience frugality regardless of our social and economic status: eating whatever is on the fridge, enjoying life for the experience you can have, not for the things you can buy. Regardless of the actual saving, it is satisfying to realise that you do not actually need money to enjoy life. Frugality has a value in itself. Not being dependant on money to enjoy a night with your partner or your friends. Not being dependant on money to have a good meal at home. You don’t need to “go shopping” to enjoy a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Q. Reduce social media. Analyze your interactions with social media. If you have reason to believe that social media are not adding much to your life (and this is valid for the vast majority of us), you can decide to go on a “social media diet”. Initially, you can just reduce the friends & followers from Facebook and Twitter (starting from the “fake friends” for example). The more you reduce them, the less cluttered your newsfeed will look. Eventually you will see less updates and you will realize that it won’t hurt you at all if you don’t check Facebook or Twitter regularly. Once you get out of the habit of regularly checking them, you will not only save time (and thus money), but also find it easier to ditch Social Media completely. Try it.

R. Travels. Book economy flights. Do not fall into “upgrade” traps to travel business. Check carefully for Hotels with offers or discounts. Prefer AirBNB whenever more convenient (usually – but not always – they are). Prefer public transports (whenever available) compared to renting a car. Do not buy stupid plastic souvenirs to bring home: nobody wants to keep on their desk a plastic gondola made in China.

S.Buy a good health insurance. Many health insurance policies provided by employers are really poor with a coverage which is pathetic at best. Check yours: if you think you are not covered enough, buy a (better) health insurance on your own.

T. Take care of your teeth, every day. This point is self-explanatory.

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What happens if I do not eat for 2 days?

I did it last December.

The fasting started at midnight of a Thursday so the first “lunch” that I skipped was the Friday breakfast and I went on until Saturday at Midnight.

The first 24h you will feel a slight (albeit persistent) sense of hunger but physically and mentally you will be fine (almost 90%, I would say).
I recommend you to drink abundant water (+ an espresso when you feel a bit sleepy).

The second day (the Saturday) the sense of hunger subsidizes a little but you will feel increasely tired and it will take you a bit longer to do simple tasks and also focusing on certain things.

Unexpectedly I had to work very hard that second fasting day because of an emergency at work (I had to walk a lot bringing some heavy stuff to some places and also focus to write some long work-related emails) and, as a consequence, I got a very strong head-ache + strong sense of vomiting which I can only link to the fact that I was fasting (and not drinking enough of water).

I interrupted the fasting after 48h.

By the way: fasting for 3 days (72h) is recommended to reboot your immune system: Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system

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Why does Tim Cook care so much about diversity at Apple?

In real world it is not so easy to choose the “most qualified people”.

Being “qualified” for a job is not something simple to assess (or achieve), like a college score or a “cum laude” degree.

Outside of Academia, most of the abilities that you need to be “qualified” for a job are gained by putting your skin in the game (i.e. by gradually gaining experiences and achieving results with increasingly complex tasks).

If candidates are not given the opportunity to put their skin in the game, they will never gain these abilities and eventually they will never be “qualified” for a job.

This is a self-perpetuating vicious circle which has been proved very difficult to break in the corporate world: if white males keep hiring only white males candidates, there will only be white males at the office and only white males will eventually put their skin in the game and be the most qualified.

This is not just a matter of gender equality or political correctness: lack of diversity stifles innovation in the workspace because new ideas spurt out of diversity and by adopting (and mixing) new approaches to old problems.

In my personal experience, law firms and investment banks are probably the most glaring examples of working environments where – except of the occasional leaflet left by HR in the canteen – the standard hiring mentality is stubbornly against accepting/allowing diversity in the workspace and in fact most of them show decades-long dwarfed rates of innovation.

They can go away with it because the market sector where they operate is firmly in their hands and cannot be easily disrupted (thanks to legal barriers which have been shaped through many decades of lobbying and perpetuation of status-quo).

This is not the case for the tech and other sectors where “new ideas” are potentially able to completely disrupt entire markets in a matter of just a few months.

“New ideas” are the golden currency of our era and companies like Apple know that to get them “inside” their workspace is an order of magnitude cheaper than “buying” them on the market.

Apple knows that if they want to keep coming up with new ideas at all levels (from their boxes, to their laptops, from a logistic process to an internet service, etc.) it is crucial to have a diversified working environment and for this reason they have decided to try to tackle this issue boldly under Tim Cook’s helm.


Also, I believe that giving opportunities to gain exposure & experience in the workspace to all candidates regardless of sex, race, etc. is the right thing to do.

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Why is there a giant middle finger outside of Milan’s stock exchange?

It is a sculpture from Maurizio Cattelan recently placed in a quiet square in front of the Italian Stock Market.

It is considered a giant “F**K YOU” to the Stock Market from the “People”, whose “fingers” have been butchered by the scammers-turned-entrepreneurs who have dominated the Italian Stock market for generations.

It is a fierce critique of the “Italian” way to interpret the capitalism whereby the profits are quickly secured by the “entrepreneurs”, the losses are subsequently “socialised” among thousands of small investors and the regulators and politicians consistently turn the blind eye so to keep the game going.

It is a very good reminder, especially for all the people working at the Stock Market (so called “entrepreneurs”, investment bankers, lawyers, accountant, auditors) of the disasters that they have contributed to commit against the small investors.

Almost none of them will face the consequences of their crimes or negligence since in Italy the legislation is on purpose extremely bland against these types of crimes but they have a perpetual reminder made of marble placed there to remind them of what the Italian people think of them.

The location of this iconic sculpture is fantastic as it is placed exactly in front of the Italian Stock Exchange which has seen a multitude of Stock frauds carried out in the last 20 years without the regulators being even remotely able neither to tackle the core issues of a too-easy-to-rig stock market, nor to appropriately punish the multitude of “white-collar” professionals who actively contributed in executing them.

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