March 4, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Quiz show

By |2018-03-21T18:38:21+01:00October 5th, 2009|"Notebook"|
Ask yourself: Is Padre Pio the patron saint of cab drivers?

n a recent article in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, columnist Ernesto Galli della Loggia encouraged legislative changes that would streamline Italy’s naturalization procedures. As part of a proposed law, the citizenship process could take five years instead of the current 10, so long as adult applicants proved a working knowledge of Italian and of “civil life in Italy and the constitution.” At the same time I also learned that the Educational Testing Service, the folks that write and administer the American SAT test, has a global branch that helps write tests for foreign ministries. Here are some sample questions for an Italian citizenship exam.

— The Italian head of state is:

  • a. Silvio Berlusconi;

  • b. Giorgio Napolitano;

  • c. Pippo Baudo;

  • d. Pope Benedict XVI.

— The abbreviation “P2” refers to:

  • a. The morning after pill opposed by the Vatican;

  • b. A rogue Masonic lodge implicated in a 1980s political scandal;

  • c. A colloquial name for the second year of a liceo classico;

  • d. A new kind of mobile phone.

— Padre Pio is:

  • a. The center of a lucrative cult that aims to defraud and delude the credulous;

  • b. The priest who administered the last rites to Elvis Presley;

  • c. A saint whose good works and popularity has attracted envy and hostility from the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy;

  • d. The patron saint of taxi drivers.

— The Posta Italiana (PT):

  • a. Sells stamps;

  • b. Sells financial products;

  • c. Sells music CDs featuring Italian artists;

  • d. Delivers mail;

  • e. All of the above except D.

— The Risorgimento refers to:

  • a. The violent colonization of the Italian south by the Piedmontese military machine

  • b. A common name for a street or piazza in Italy;

  • c. An Italian department store;

  • d. A popular movement that led to the unification of Italy and its becoming a modern nation-state;

  • e. The introduction of modern civilization to the backwards and corrupt Italian southerners by enlightened northerners.

— The correct procedure to adopt when behind a slower vehicle in the left lane of the autostrada is:

  • a. Approach the slower vehicle until reaching a one car-length distance and flash lights. When the slower vehicle moves to let you pass, wave cheerily.

  • b. Approach slower vehicle at high speed to a distance of one-meter and flash lights vigorously. When slower vehicle lets you pass, wave.

  • c. Same as above, but if driver of the slower vehicle fails to change lanes, accelerate and pass on the right. Make rude gestures and swear.

  • d. Any of the above but without the hand gestures.

— The Italian national anthem is:

  • a. “Fratelli d’Italia” by Goffredo Mameli;

  • b. “Vincerò” by Giacomo Puccini;

  • c. “Va Pensiero…” by Giuseppe Verdi;

  • d. “Bella ciao” by an unknown hero of the Marxist Resistance;

  • e. “Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare!)” by Domenico Modugno and Franco Migliacci.

— Fascism and its leader Benito Mussolini were:

  • a. A political movement that was occasionally violent but made the trains run on time;

  • b. A political movement that gave Italy the international role it deserves until it was undermined by a conspiracy of Communists and Anglo-Saxon capitalists;

  • c. The only Italian government that might have crushed the Mafia;

  • d. A political movement that combined centralized socialist economic policies with a dictatorship and personality cult.

— The Red Brigades are:

  • a. Volunteer groups that clear away red algae blooms affecting Italy’s Adriatic coast;

  • b. The Italian branch of Germany’s now-defunct “Red Army Fraction”;

  • c. A violent, left-wing group that kidnapped and killed Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978;

  • d. A popular Milan hip-hop group whose political lyrics are critical of imperialist multinationals and the EU.

Raccommandazione refers to:

  • a. A kind of letter whose sending requires filling out fiddly little forms;

  • b. The 1929 agreement reached by Mussolini that formalized relations between the Italian state and the Catholic church;

  • c. The practice of calling on members of the same social or familial clan to secure sustenance in the form of jobs, academic positions or career advancement;

  • d. The legislative policy that makes Sicily and the Trentino autonomous regions;

  • e. The name that hardline Communists gave to the party they formed after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

— A bidello is:

  • a. A kind of long pasta typical of the Veneto region which is usually dressed with an anchovy-based sauce;

  • b. A house of prostitution. Also used colloquially to mean “a big mess”;

  • c. The Italian bathroom fixture that non-Italians mistakenly think is a second toilet;

  • d. A school staff member who appears to do everything but is responsible for nothing.

— You face the esame di terza media, or upper level high school exams, in two weeks and haven’t studied all year. You…

  • a. Study hard and try to catch up;

  • b. Copy the answers of the student beside you during the exam;

  • c. Nothing. Everyone fails sometime;

  • d. Nothing. A well-connected uncle will ensure you get a raccommandazione.

— Which of the following is known to cause cancer among Italians?

  • a. Drafts;

  • b. Indigestion;

  • c. Not wearing a woolen undershirt;

  • d. Smoking.

— Which of the following is appropriate while waiting for an appointment with a doctor or state bureaucrat?

  • a. Discussing health details such as your bowel movements with strangers;

  • b. Keeping your seat despite the presence of pregnant women or the elderly;

  • c. Walking in on someone else’s ongoing appointment because you have a “minor” question;

  • d. Waiting your turn.
Madeleine Johnson has written her "Notebook" column for more than a decade. She lived in Italy for almost 30 years, mostly in Milan, before returning to the U.S. in 2017. Her work has been published in the "Financial Times" and "New York Post."