Dumped out of the World Cup, mired in political controversy, the country’s pride has been wounded. Time to take refuge in some traditional delights …

Millions of Italians have been understandably despondent for the past few days. The results of the regional elections in Sicily proved that former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in the big time. With a face that looks more sinister with each passing year, the 81-year-old politician took the credit for a victory in which his rightwing coalition won more than double the votes of the left.

Then, on Monday evening, the Italian football team were dumped out of the World Cup in the qualifying stages, beaten in the playoffs by the humble but hard-working Swedes. For the first time since 1958, the Azzurri – four-time winners – won’t even be at the tournament. “It feels like not being invited to your own birthday party,” said a glum Italian friend.

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