Italian Language Blog

Andiamo a votare Posted by on May 21, 2011 in News

Here in Italy on the 15th and 16th of May, many towns and cities held elections to vote for their new administration. Amongst these was our local town, Pontremoli.

Here in Pontremoli four groups put themselves forward as candidates for election: ‘Cara Puntremal’ (‘Dear Pontremoli’. ‘Puntremal’ is the dialect spelling for Pontremoli), ‘Amo Pontremoli’ (‘I love Pontremoli’), ‘Agire Insieme’ (‘Act Together’), and ‘Cittadini per Pontremoli’ (‘Citizens for Pontremoli’).  However, as is usually the case with politics here in Italy, it’s necessary to delve a bit deeper, i.e. you should never judge a book by its cover. So, let’s investigate a bit further and find out what lies behind some of these quaint and nostalgic names:

‘Cara Puntremal’ (‘Dear Pontremoli’), is actually the PdL or Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà, center-right party; ‘Amo Pontremoli’ (‘I love Pontremoli’), turns out to be Berlusconi’s arch rivals, the PD or Partito Democratico, a center-left party and the second main one in Italy; and ‘Agire Insieme’ (‘Act Together’), is the alias for the Lega, the separatist party of Northern Italy. To me there is a certain irony in the fact that a separatist party would choose a name such as ‘Act Together’! The only one of the four groups not trying to deceive us was the recently formed, forward thinking, apolitical group ‘Cittadini per Pontremoli’ (‘Citizens for Pontremoli’).


We leave our village on foot and follow the Via Francigena footpath down into the valley, cross il ponte medievale (the Medieval bridge), and climb up the other side to the village of Casalina. Following a series of indicazioni (signs) taped to various walls, we pass through Casalina, dietro al campanile della chiesa di San Matteo (behind the bell tower of San Matteo’s church), down a narrow vicolo (alley), finally arriving at the seggio elettorale (polling station). The official sounding seggio elettorale actually turns out to be the rustic kitchen and bedroom of a tiny old stone house built a couple of hundred years ago!

The Italian flag is draped on the front of the house, and the entrance is guarded by a couple of poliziotti (policemen). Crammed into the tiny kitchen are gli scrutatori (the election watchers) together with a number of their  family and friends who have come along to keep them company and are passing the time by gossiping about the voters or, more importantly, who hasn’t turned up to vote. We hand in our tessere elettorali (election cards) and our carte d’identità (identity cards), but one of the officers recognizes me and says: “Conosco la signora, non c’è bisogno del documento” (I know this lady, we don’t need her document). They give us each a scheda elettorale (ballot paper) and a pencil and point towards the bedroom, which contains la cabina elettorale (polling booth).

There is a problem however: my husband has forgotten his reading glasses and is worried about making a mistake on the ballot paper (God forbid that he should accidently give his vote to Berlusconi!). One of the scrutatori asks him: “Che misura le serve?” (“What strength do you need?”) A quick consultation amongst those present, and one of the officers removes his glasses and hands them to Geoff. This has the knock on effect of creating an amusing incident because two scrutatori now have to share one pair of reading glasses whilst trying to fill in their forms. In the end one of them reads the data from the identity card, then passes her glasses over to the other who writes it down in the register.

In the meantime, inside the cabina I make an X over the symbol of the lista (list of candidates, or group) that I want to vote for, and write the name of my favorite candidate next to the X. I then fold the scheda and drop it inside l’urna (the ballot box, literally ‘the urn’), which is actually just a simple cardboard box with a slot in the top. Pencil and glasses are handed back, documents returned, hands shaken, smiles exchanged and we head back home again. Just for the record: although my husband Geoff is a British citizen he has la residenza (residency) here in Pontremoli, therefore he’s entitled to vote in local and European elections, but not for the national government.

The results:

Cara Puntremal (the PdL) won the election with 2593 votes out of a total of 5193, second came Amo Pontremoli (the PD) with 1512 votes, followed by Cittadini per Pontremoli (the independents) with 698 votes. Agire Insieme (the Lega) ended fourth with 192 votes.

The most striking results however took place elsewhere. For example, in Milano, Berlusconi’s hometown, the PdL, who have run the city for almost 20 years, have been kicked out (Hurray!). The same situation prevailed in Torino and Bologna. Let’s hope it’s a positive sign and that change might be on the way.

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  1. Rini:

    I am proud to say that I designed the posters for Cara Puntremal (Lucia Baracchini) and learned some new Italian words along the way 🙂

    • Serena:

      @Rini Ciao Rini, complimenti per il poster, ma vuoi davvero dare appoggio a Berlusconi? 😉

      Saluti da Serena

  2. Yvonne:

    Brilliant post! Another insight into the facinating world that is Italy. Grazie.

  3. Heitor Ferreira:

    Dear Italian Blog

    There you go again mixing Italian with your politics.
    That is not done, Madam.
    Very respecfully.
    Heitor Ferreira, New York, NY

    • Serena:

      @Heitor Ferreira Dear Heitor, do you have anything positive to contribute to my posts? This is your second comment, and my reply to your previous comment applies here as well. Here it is again in case you neglected to read it the first time:

      My remit as the Italian blogger for is to write about Italian culture and language. The blog does not exist to simply teach people Italian but to make them aware of all aspects of Italian culture, including, of course, politics.
      I’m afraid anyone who visits this blog just to learn about ‘La Bella Italy’ will be very disappointed.

      If you really want to maintain your delusion that it is possible to write about Italian culture without mentioning politics then perhaps it would be better if you found one of the many Italian blogs that like to propagate the ‘Bella Italia’ fantasy. Alternately, I suggest that you come and live in Italy and discover for yourself what a massive negative impact our politics have on a very large percentage of us Italians.

      Cordiali saluti, Serena

  4. Edoardo:

    Bravo Serena. The americans live in their own universe, or other Galaxy.

  5. William Auge:

    Salve Serena,
    E’ interessante confrontare il sistema d’italia con quella negli stati uniti. Il nostro sistema ha elaborato elettronicamente. Il vostro sistema sembra essere adatto per frode. Sono felice vedere Berlusconi si ha indebolito.

    tanti auguri, William

Leave a comment to Rini