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Pizza, Mafia, Pasta and Scooters, Italy Versus Apple


Oh dear, Italy is not at all happy with the creators of offensive Apple app ‘What Country‘, which succinctly sums up Italy with four words: pizza, mafia, pasta and scooters.  Indeed, so discontent with this affront to Italy is Italy’s Minister of Tourism Brambilla that she has instructed lawyers to gird their loins and take legal action against Apple.  I think I know who will end up eating humble pie.


‘What Country’ an app which costs 79 Eurocents on Apple’s iTunes store simply seems to be a bit of wicked fun (as the apps makers describe it), and let’s face it, the summary of Italy is not wholly inaccurate.  What got Minister Brambilla on her high horse was the use of the word ‘mafia’.

Trouble is, people do associate Italy with the mafia, like it or not, Ms Minister Brambilla.

Taking the case to court, if it ever gets that far, may prove somewhat embarrassing for Italy, and for its tourism minister, one suspects.

Apple might bow to pressure and remove the Italy offending app from its iTunes store, or it might decide to poke the lions and let Italy make itself look rather foolish in front of a high court judge.

I can see it now, Apple’s lawyers just happen to call one Minister Brambilla to take the stand.

UPDATE: 18 October 2010

Something has happened and the word ‘mafia’ is no longer used to summarise Italy.  No, now the word is the much more innocuous ‘mandolin‘.  A victory for Italy, even if the damage was done, and, hopefully, noted.

End of update.

In the Courtroom – Italy v Apple 2010

Apple Lawyer: We wish to call as a witness for the defence the honorable Michela Victoria Brambilla, Italy’s minister of tourism.

Italy Legal Team: W-w-what? W-w-why?

Apple Lawyer: Well, the minister is Italian is she not? We’d like her to answer a few questions about Italy.

Italy Legal Team: Objection!

Judge: On what grounds, may I ask?  Is Minister Brambilla not Italian?  Does that not make her a suitable representative of her country and the Italian people?  Objection dismissed.  Minister Brambilla, please take the stand.

Brambilla: But I can’t, I’m not prepared.

Judge (glaring at MVB): Now, Minister Brambilla, please take the stand. I will not ask again.

Brambilla does as she’s told, looking somewhat flustered.

Apple Lawyer: Now, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, you are Italy’s Minister for Tourism, are you not?

Brambilla: Well….

Judge: Please answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Minister Brambilla.

Brambilla: (hesitates) Yes, I am Italy’s Minister of Tourism.

Apple Lawyer: Minister Brambilla, is it true you are Italian and that you ate a bowl of pasta for lunch today, yesterday and the day before? (Produces fifty photographs of Minister Brambilla eating various pasta dishes).

Brambilla: Yes, it is true.

Apple Lawyer: Minister Brambilla will you please confirm that the people in these photographs eating pizza in the restaurant with you are all Italians? (Produces more photos)

Brambilla: I don’t see what this has got to do with anything.

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Judge: Minister Brambilla, kindly answer yes or no.

Brambilla: Yes, it is me, and the people with me are all Italians.

Apple Lawyer: (keeping a professionally straight face) Minister Brambilla, do you own a red Vespa scooter?

Brambilla: Yes.

Apple Lawyer: And would you confirm that the Vespa is a world famous brand of Italian scooters?

Brambilla (turning white): Yes.

Italy Legal Team: Objection.

Judge: On what grounds?

Italy Legal Team: You have pizza in America too.

Judge: Overruled! I will not tolerate flippancy.

Apple Lawyer (nods head): Quite, your honor. Minister Brambilla would you confirm that the word ‘mafia’ is Italian?

Brambilla (swaying gently): Yes, it is an Italian word.

Apple Lawyer: And would you confirm the existence in Italy of an official investigatory body with the initials DIA? The ‘Antimafia Investigation Department‘?

Brambilla: Yes, the department does exist.

Apple Lawyer: On the basis of the existence of the DIA, it could be argued that Italy has a problem with organised crime, could it not? And that the collective term used to refer to organised crime in Italy is ‘mafia’ is it not?

Brambilla: I suppose it could, yes. And, yes, the word ‘mafia’ is used in this way.

Apple Lawyer: Thank you Minister Brambilla. You have just confirmed that the words pizza, mafia, scooters, and pasta clearly reflect everyday aspects of life in Italy.

Brambilla faints.

Judge: Case dismissed. Costs awarded in the favor of Apple Inc.


Perhaps Italy’s esteemed Minister of Tourism might like to call off the legal dogs, before it is too late.

OK, so the hypothetical hearing above is simplistic and superficial, but the point is, like it or not, the word mafia is associated with Italy as much as pasta, pizza and scooters.

It’s not the makers of ‘What Country‘ Apalon which have a problem, it’s Italy.  Years of complacency and inaction, probably on the part of Italy’s politicians, can be blamed for this stereotype, as can Roberto Saviano‘s book Gomorrah, as well as hundreds of other books on the subject of mafia, and the Wikipedia entry entitled ‘Sicilian Mafia‘.  There are over six million results on Google when one searches for the term ‘Italy mafia’.

Yes, I know there is more, much more to Italy than the four words used in ‘What Country’, but the fact remains: Italy has an image problem.  Time to do something about it, is it not?

For the curious, Apalon‘s ‘What Country’ iPhone app can be found here on iTunes: What Country Only one good thing will come out of any case brought buy the Italian government, Apalon’s sales will sky rocket.

Let’s see if Apple plays ball.

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