As the country whose people somehow still manage to keep doing business creating wonderful things (and looking fabulous) in spite of all that’s thrown at them, I’ve called Italy “Shitaly” lovingly for years—much to my mother’s horrified chagrin.

Every child left behind. Walking home from school in Naples, November 2010. AFP/Roberto Salamone (

I’ve written about Italy’s garbage crisis, its firmly entrenched sexism, and its willingness to look the other way if there’s a euro or two to be made, like, say, in getting the necessary permits for random pets-and-weapons emporiums. But now it appears that even Silvio Berlusconi, the sex-starved billionaire media titan who happens to be Italy’s prime minister (and who also happens to control most of the country’s media) is also fed up with the place.

Maybe this time he’ll take his own advice and leave.

Mamma mia, I can feel your eyes from here. (The Sydney Morning Herald, file/AFP)

The Guardian and others published a partial transcript of telephone recordings made by Italian police who were investigating Berlusconi’s claims he was being blackmailed because of his philandering. In a phone call on July 13th, police recorded Berlusconi’s tirade to his alleged blackmailer:

They can say about me that I screw. It’s the only thing they can say about me. Is that clear? They can put listening devices where they like. They can tap my telephone calls. I don’t give a fuck… In a few months, I’m getting out to mind my own fucking business, from somewhere else, and so I’m leaving this shitty country that makes me feel like puking.

The prime minister is on trial for allegedly paying an underage prostitute and then using his powerful connections to cover it up.  He is also on trial for tax fraud and corruption.

The Financial Times’ Guy Dinmore wrote over the weekend that the prime minister denies being blackmailed. Berlusconi says he gave some 500,000 euros to businessman and convicted drug dealer Giampaolo Tarantini (who also admits pimping for Berlusconi’s private parties) “out of the goodness of his heart” (quote is from Dinmore, not Berlusconi).

Meanwhile, the longer Berlusconi clings to power, the harder it will be for Italy to focus on what really matters, such as restoring its teetering financial health.

The Italian people deserve a leader who can champion their creativity and entrepreneurial energy, not drag them down into a big pile of garbage.

I hear Algeria's lovely this time of year (