Italian jailbirds learn how to go inside con brio

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DON'T indulge in too many farewell hugs and kisses - you will start to cry. Just say 'don't worry, I'll be back soon' and grimace like Gary Cooper when he rides off into danger.

And remember you may be photographed or filmed when you come out. You do not want to look like that top Fiat manager who emerged tieless and carrying his wife's weekend case, or the ex-Communist treasurer with his belongings in a cardboard box tied with string, do you?

As Italy's corruption investigations roll on, a spin-off industry is growing: advising supposedly respectable, God-fearing people on what to do when arrested and carted off to jail.

'It can happen to anyone,' writes Saverio Lodato, a journalist, in his paperback, Handbook for the Aspiring Prisoner. He should know, having been catapulted in among the Mafiosi in a Palermo's notorious Ucciardone prison in 1988 for embezzlement, only to be found innocent two years later.

While Mr Lodato explains cell etiquette and how to handle the guards, Mario Zamorani, reputedly Italy's most-investigated manager, tells in this week's l'Espresso how to act when arrested. Starting with the dreaded ring on the doorbell between 6 and 7.30am: 'Close the door that leads to the bedrooms, shut the dog in the kitchen so he does not wake everyone and switch the burglar alarm off.' Then offer the arrest squad coffee.

He also has inside knowledge: a former deputy head of Italstat, a state holding company, he has spent 61 days in jail in Milan, 38 in Turin, 18 in Pordenone and a further 50 under house arrest.

Mr Zamorani believes in assembling everything in advance and leaving a list of last-minute items on the dressing table. Among those is grated parmesan - it will go mouldy if packed too soon. Food, a camping stove and pans are vital - and a pair of striped pyjamas. 'It helps at the first impact with your cell-mates: they laugh.'