(ANSA) - Jesolo,
October 28 - Giulia Arena, a 19-year-old Sicilian-born university student with a
Dante quotation tattooed above her heart, was crowned the 74th Miss Italia in
this seaside town near Venice Sunday night.
Arena's triumph was the first
shown on independent left-leaning broadcaster La7 after State TV RAI dropped it
following a long row sparked by House Speaker Laura Boldrini accusing it of
feeding perceptions of women as eye candy.
Amid talks on who would carry
the show, Boldrini slammed it as sexist and anachronistic, saying: "only 2% of
women on television voice their opinions or even talk. The rest are dumb and
often scantily clad".
The 63 contenders responded by parading along
Jesolo's seafront in T-shirts saying "Neither nude nor mute".
One of the
presenters, Neapolitan comedian Alessandro Siani, denied the show was a waste of
taxpayers' money, telling the audience Italy needed to cut taxes, political
corruption, bank aid and the influence of the mafia before "dashing these girls'
dreams". Arena, the green-eyed, light-brown-haired daughter of a tax-police
officer and a homemaker in Messina, has just enrolled at Milan's Catholic
University to study law.
She said she was influenced in her choice by a
"passion" for English fuelled by trips to the United States, Canada and
Arena is an animal lover who has two dogs, two parrots, two
squirrels, a rabbit and several tanks of fish at her parents' home in the
southeastern Sicilian city.
The Dante tattoo just below her left shoulder
bears some of the most famous lines in the Inferno, a stirring exhortation by
Ulysses to his veteran crew to make one last daring trip in search of knowledge
beyond the Pillars of Hercules.
"I'm a proud daughter of Dante," said
Arena, who succeeds another Sicilian, Giusy Buscemi from Agrigento, as Miss
Audience figures Monday showed that, far from flopping as many
media critics had predicted after its migration from RAI's flagship channel, the
pageant won a sizeable 16% of ratings when the crown was placed on Arena's head.
Miss Italia, first broadcast on the radio in 1950, has tried to address feminist
concerns since its first live TV show in 1987. Starting in 1990 the chest,
waist, and hip measurements of the contestants have no longer been judged, and
in 1994 the contest was opened to married women and mothers. The 1987 winner was
disqualified when it was later discovered she was married. In 1996 Denny Mendez,
originally from the Dominican Republic, became the first black Miss Italia
before finding TV success and getting a small role in Ocean's
Among the other participants who achieved later success in cinema
and entertainment, most of whom did not win the competition, are: Silvana
Pampanini, Sophia Loren, Lucia Bosè, Stefania Sandrelli, Simona Ventura, Anna
Falchi and Martina Colombari.