Paul Merton in Europe: Episode 4

Sunday 7th February 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul heads to Milan to see how the city’s twin loves of football and fashion have joined together with the concept of a footballer living in a department store. He watches a violent game of medieval football before meeting a group of men who have shed their macho image by learning housework. In Rome, Paul visits the spot where Julius Caesar died and encounters a self-styled ‘TV terrorist’.

Paul’s European tour continues with a trip to the home of spaghetti, espressos, the Catholic Church and Vespas. His first stop is the elegant northern city of Milan, famed for two things – football and fashion. Paul’s guide, Genevieve, shows him how a local department store has gone one better by fusing the two together. While being dragged around the shops, Paul is surprised to stumble across a semi-naked footballer, Andrea Vasa, living in a department store.

Andrea eats, sleeps and showers in the aisles for passers-by to see. This living, breathing bit of window dressing even parks his Porsche on the shop floor. The idea is the brainchild of the store owner, who believes that football is the language of the 21st century…

Next, Paul attends a game of calcio storico, a medieval mixture of rugby, football, wrestling and outright war. A recreation of a medieval match takes place every year. The game pitches two teams of locals dressed in 16th-century clobber against each other in a free-for-all stampede of gouging, stomping and head-bashing.

In the Tuscan town of Petra Santa, Paul enjoys a rather more genteel time at the Association of Househusbands. For centuries Italian men have been the embodiment of the macho male. But in this small town a quiet revolution is taking place as husbands learn ironing, washing and cleaning. Paul learns one possible reason for this change in male attitude has to do with the fringe benefits they can earn in the bedroom…

Paul’s new guide, Kim, takes him to meet Dominico Albion, a shoemaker with a difference. Dominico owns a bizarre hotel that has never had any paying guests! The establishment is part of Dominico’s strange private world, which he explains is governed by its own laws – known as the ‘30 rules of the Spaceman’. Holed up in his private space, Dominico can practise his very surreal art, which mostly seems to involve a lot of naked models.

Paul then makes tracks for Rome. The Eternal City is home to the Colosseum, the Forum and the Vatican – but Paul has some rather more offbeat sights in store. His guide is Francesco, a local journalist who has written a book probing the volatile minefield that is the Italian psyche. After keeping Paul waiting, Francesco finally shows up and decides to take him to the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Paul is bemused to discover this key historical site is now home to a cat sanctuary.

Francesco introduces Paul to Paolini, a self-styled ‘TV terrorist’ who takes great delight in disrupting TV broadcasts. Paolini has done so no fewer than 20,000 times. He intrudes on the airwaves to promote safe sex, although he often is dragged away before he can espouse the virtues of the humble condom to the Italian people.

After a few false starts, Paul has become quite fond of eccentric Francesco. Before leaving Rome, he recreates one of the city’s most famous films by taking a very special bike ride into the sunset, à la Audrey Hepburn.

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