Living in Italy is like being inside a really bad soap opera, it’s an emotive, quirky and melodramatic place filled with controversies, corruption and paradoxes.
Italy is a place of great beauty, creativity and unique experiences which can be overshadowed by equally abhorrent ugliness, criminality and hypocrisy. The Italian people themselves manifest these conflicting traits.
I have come across many prominent Italians in the spot-light who are flamboyant types and seem more like characters in a satire rather than real people. There are many well-known figures who are famous in Italy but are relatively unknown outside of the country, so I thought I would occasionally share some truly outstanding characters who will leave you slack-jawed and flabbergasted.
One particularly impressive Italian who comes to mind is Vittorio Sgarbi, he is to be admired as an art critic, teacher, defender of the history of this country and voice of common sense in amongst loads of rhetoric. Yet some of the things he has said and done, really make me cringe!
Sgarbi’s academic qualifications are impressive graduating with a degree in philosophy, specializing in art history from the University of Bologna, one of the best universities in Italy. He has also been responsible for the maintenance of historical sites and art for the region of Veneto of which Venice is the capital. Sgarbi has published many books dedicated to visual art, one on my bookshelf includes a systematic analysis of art from Giotto (Renaissance) to Picasso (twentieth century). Pretty impressive, right!
However Sgarbi has some shady elements to his own personal character which tarnishes his impressive resume. He sees himself as a playboy professing to be incapable of being faithful to a woman and allergic to marriage, as a result he has three illegitimate children which he has been forced to acknowledged through the courts. He has declared: ‘I am against parenthood. The category of Father isn’t one I want to belong to. Everything said I am against abortion. There were women who wanted to have children by me, not I with them, why should there be the obligation to become a Father.’
Original Italian quote taken from Wikipedia: ‘Sono contrario alla paternità. Quella del padre non è una categoria a cui ritengo di dover appartenere. Ciò detto sono anche contrario all’aborto. Ci sono donne che hanno voluto figli da me, non io da loro perché non può esserci l’obbligo di diventare padre.’
Sgarbi has many contrasts in his character, he is an intellectual who has admitted and been charged with plagiarism (if this was any other country his academic life would be finished after such a scandal, not the case in Italy!) His career as an art critic has coexisted with his work as a television personality and politician. Vittorio Sgarbi is an amazingly controversial character and I really can’t get enough of him! Following Sgarbi is like watching really bad reality television, it draws you in despite your own better judgement.
Even Sgarbi himself admits his polemic nature as a guest on endless Italian t.v programs through the years he has created some legendary rows on the small screen. There is an endless list of conflicts and verbal insults launched by Sgarbi who is arrogant, chauvinistic and passionately defends his own point of view, not always in the most polite way. If this was an Anglo-Saxon country there is no way he would ever been invited on as a guest after being seen as a loose cannon, apparently not an unattractive attribute in Italy.
As a guest on the 1990’s popular talk show hosted by Maurizio Costanzo, Sgarbi presented a popular segment dedicated to the world of art and after rows with other guests he has the dubious honor of pronouncing the first live to air swear word in the history of Italian television!
From 1992 to 1999 Sgarbi conducted his own program titled Sgarbi Quotidiani on Canale 5, the most famous episode of this series was when Sgarbi himself remained silent for fifteen minutes, the entire length of the program as a protest against Silvio Berlusconi who had vetoed any criticism of himself on his personally owned television stations. The episode was watched by more than three and a half million viewers!
As a politician Sgarbi is a chameleon chopping and changing parties and roles through the years. It is confusing how often he has shed his political skin originally he started out with the Italian Socialists then moved to the conservative right and the Christian Democrats leaving them behind to join Berlusconi’s Forza Italia movement who he left to become a member of the Radical party founded by Marco Pannella, next he moved to The consumers list with the center left, then went to the radical left of the Unione. Sgarbi was Minister for the Arts at Milan and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the same city. Sgarbi returned to the center right to became mayor of the Sicilian city of Salemi from 2008 to 2012.
A recent cause the irrevocable Vittorio Sgarbi has taken up is the debate against wind turbines and solar panels, suggesting these waste millions of Euro’s and are the center of organized ‘Mafia’ crime interests and contributes to damaging the environment and the Italian countryside. He has even accused the governor of the region of Apulia,Nichi Vendola of disfiguring the entire region and I don’t think he is too far of the mark.
You have got to admit Sgarbi certainly speaks his mind and the Italians love him for it even if he has been accused of defamation in the past.
Ironically Sgarbi’s surname comes from the Italian word ‘sgarbo’ meaning rudeness.
Vittorio Sgarbi a truly flamboyant Italian.
For more information on this character in the Italian spectrum see his chic web page here.