Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A 'Comedy Of Errors': Italians Appoint Wrong Minister

University of Guelph professor Francesco Braga.
University of Guelph professor Francesco Braga.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera called it a "comedy of errors."


Imagine you're a professor in Canada, 28 years removed from Italy and one day you get a call: While forming its new government, Italy wants you to be its junior agriculture minister.

University of Guelph professor Francesco Braga, who is an agronomist, was surprised but humbled. Here's how The Guardian reports what happened next:

Whatever doubts the professor may have had were swept away in what he called an "avalanche of congratulations". Among the first to express delight was the Parmesan cheese manufacturers' association.

Back in Rome, the agriculture minister, Mario Catania, declared in irreproachably technocratic fashion that his new deputy would "bring value added". He admitted that he had not actually spoken to the distinguished Italo-Canadian professor, but added: "I know him by reputation."

All of which must have been pretty confusing for Altero Matteoli, the infrastructure minister in Italy's last government, who had warmly recommended for a post in the new government one Franco Braga, also a professor, but of construction engineering at Rome's Sapienza University. "To tell the truth," Matteoli was quoted as saying in the daily Corriere della Sera: "I recommended him for infrastructure, but they put him in agriculture."

The Toronto Star reportsthat Braga even took calls from the prime minister's office and got to point where they were even wondering if he could rush to Rome for a swearing-in ceremony at Quirinale Palace.

Of course, they eventually found out that appointing the guy with an actual expertise for the job was a mistake. The Star adds:

Corriere della Sera pointed out Thursday that Francesco Braga was exactly the kind of economist and technical support Catania and Italy needed in the ministry. Franco Braga was not.

And Franco Braga appeared none too pleased and unwilling to accept, the Canadian Braga said.

"As of today, the guy has not been sworn in. The media can't find him."

The prime minister's office, however, says Franco Braga will be sworn in in a few days.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.