Tomfoolery on April 1 is a longstanding Italian custom, and includes newspapers
By Robert J. Cannavo
The end of fascist rule in Italy under Benito Mussolini is celebrated on April 25 each year. It also celebrates the liberation of Italy from all Nazi occupation within its borders. However, this year the Sicilian Socialist Party has declared that Sicily will withdraw from the Republic of Italy and will soon hold elections to form its own independent government and elect a Sicilian Prime Minister for the newly sovereign nation. The island’s independence marks the first time since 1860 that Sicily isn’t part of the country of Italy.
No, this isn’t “fake news,” but rather a custom in Italian media outlets on April 1, known as Pesce d’Aprile or April’s Fish Day, the Italian version of what we know as April Fools’ Day. Tricks have been played throughout the years by radio, TV, and in modern times via the internet. These outlets would spread inaccurate news, only to reveal the hoax later that day. For example, in 2001 the newspaper La Stampa announced that some complex forms of biological life, huge worms, existed on Mars, and that they had left their traces on our planet. The newspaper La Repubblica announced a Finnish experiment on telepathy, citing an imaginary scientist that claimed it soon would be a genuine human mental faculty.
Celebrating this custom only really became popular in Italy sometime during the years 1860-1880, especially in Genoa —
which started this tradition — and was initially practiced primarily among the upper classes of society. Pulling pranks on April 1 would soon transcend economic classes and Italians from all ages and backgrounds would start joining in on the innocent mischief.
Much like in America, children love taking part in the tomfoolery. In schools across Italy the common antic is for students to stick paper fish to the back of their classmates, and the longer it takes to be discovered, the funnier the joke. Then they scream out “pesce d’aprile!” once the prank has been realized. This year, Sicilian schools will participate in the shenanigans of the day along with the Italian mainland, as this article was my contribution to the nonsense that ensues on April’s Fish Day.