Tucci explores the creative way Italians outsmarted tax collectors
Called “The Italian Job,” the story of how Italians managed to stay in business despite stiff local tax bills in the wake of the Great Depression has become a cultural archetype as it was adapted into a film starring Viggo Mortensen and directed by Steven Spielberg.
Now, a dozen years after the original film, a sequel has been released.
It’s called “The Secret of the Salsiccia Garden” and it is the story of the two Italian brothers who, for more than 35 years, owned a chain of Salsiccia Italian restaurants. They would make a profit at the beginning of each financial year, but then lose it all by the end of the year.
The brothers, Mario and Giorgio, grew up poor in rural Italy. They had started their business as “guinea pig” franchisees to prove to Italian investors that Italian entrepreneurs could have the same kind of success as foreign ones.
When the Great Depression hit, the brothers had plenty of capital but little in the way of customers to draw from.
Enter the taxman.
It was a tough year for the restaurant owners. The two brothers borrowed money to pay off the tax bills in early 1930. They used most of the money to buy more land for their business.
Giorgio went to Rome to meet with the then Italian Prime Minister, and convinced him to help the brothers.
In mid-1930, Italian tax laws were changed so that Italians could buy real estate in Italy without paying any additional taxes. The brothers were among the first wave of Italian families to benefit from the change. As a result, they began to make money from real estate and sold their franchises, increasing their cash reserves.
The brothers were able to continue buying up more real estate and eventually ended up with six parcels of land in Rome. This land was sold to the National Bank of Italy and used to build the headquarters of the Bank of Italy.
Over the years, the brothers added even more property to their chain. By the time they were ready to leave the property business, they held some 22,500 square meters of land, 10,000 of which was in Rome.
And then it happened.
In the summer of 1965, the then Italian Prime Minister, Alcide De Gasperi, gave his assent to the