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Weird Europe: Convicts’ sundae service from Pope

News that you might have missed from around the continent, selected by Steve Anglesey.

An ice cream shop in Calabria celebrates a visit from Pope Francis. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis sent 15,000 ice creams to inmates in Rome’s two prisons during a summer heatwave that produced record temperatures.

Prisoners at the Regina Coeli jail on the Tiber in the city centre and the modern Rebibbia facility in the suburbs benefitted from the gelati, which were delivered as thermometers in the capital hit 40 degrees.

In 2018, the Pope and Polish cardinal Konrad Krajewski organised for 3,000 ice creams to be given to the city’s homeless during Easter.


A maize maze for children in Paal, Belgium is now much easier to get out of after a neighbouring farmer drove straight through it on his combine harvester.

The unnamed man said he wanted to get to his adjoining field, but Mil Meelbergs of the maize maze said: “This really wasn’t necessary. The farmer can get to his own field via his own land just as well.”

The farmer’s lawyer said the maize maze blocked a traditional access route that his client was granted the right to use in documents dating back to 1939.

A justice of the peace will rule on the matter later this month.


Italian pastry chef and Tolkien fanatic Nicolas Gentile wants to raise 1.5m euros (£1.28m) to build his own version of Middle Earth near Abruzzo.

The 37-year-old already lives in a Hobbit-style burrow and intends to build a large underground home and four other burrows on the site.

In August, he and three friends – all wearing full costume – made an 180-mile journey from his home in Cheti to Naples so he could throw a replica of the One True Ring into Mount Vesuvius, replicating the climax of Lord Of The Rings.


A man from Swindon who moved to a remote village near Granada, Spain, discovered that many of his new neighbours also hailed from around the Wiltshire town.

John and Sue Trueman first encountered people with Swindon connections as they queued at a property rental agency in Granada. Then, after buying a house in Nigüelas, they discovered their new next-door neighbours had dated in Swindon, enjoying nights out at the pub where John and Sue had held their own wedding reception.

Two more families from Swindon then moved into the village, and a handyman sent to fix John’s TV turned out to come from Highworth, a 20-minute drive away.

John said: “We went somewhere beautiful but remote, expecting to be the only Brits there. Though there were nine British families in the village – five with Swindon connections – we still managed to integrate into the Spanish way of life.”


A plane from Zurich to Larnaca in Cyprus had to make an emergency landing in Graz, Austria, after a passenger locked himself in the toilet and refused to come out.

Officials said the 51-year-old Russian had gone to the lavatory shortly after take-off. On landing, he co-operated with the crew and left the plane, which continued to its destination with the other 133 passengers on board.

Police said they were baffled at the man’s motivation as there were no dangerous or illegal items in his luggage and there was no damage to the toilet, but he still refused to say why he had locked himself in.


Officials are describing as “human error” a maternity ward swap that meant two Spanish girls have lived with the wrong families for nearly 20 years.

The mistake was discovered when one of the young women, now 19, learned through a DNA test that she and her supposed parents do not share the same genetic profile. She is now demanding 3m euros (£2.56m) compensation.

Sara Alba, health chief of Spain’s northern La Rioja region, said: “It was a human error and we haven’t been able to find out who was to blame. The systems back then were different and weren’t as computerised as they are now.”


Poland’s ZoomTV channel has been fined 20,000 zloty (£3,750) for showing a version of Channel 4’s Naked Attraction under the title Magic Of Nudity.
In the reality show, contestants pick a partner based on viewing their chests and genitalia.

Teresa Brykczynska, spokesperson for the National Broadcasting Council, said the show “violates the standards concerning the content of programmes” by “objectifying women and men and presenting them as sexual objects, thus violating the human dignity of both sexes”.

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