MAINZ, Germany - Germany's reputable Der Spiegel magazine calls Italy's leader a "bizarre archon." The Süddeutsche Zeitung daily writes "Europe is bewildered by Berlusconi".
As Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faces charges that he paid a teenaged nightclub dancer for sex and later covered it up, have Italy's European neighbors become enstranged by a “bella Italia gone wild“?
"I am very surprised that the family-loving Italians have not gotten rid of Berlusconi yet," says 25-year old Sarah Levy, who is a mass communication major at the University of Mainz. "But this will not stop me from vacationing in my beloved Italy," she said, adding that she spent her family vacation in Italy every year until she turned 18.
Since the 1950s, when vast amounts of war-torn German tourists started flocking over the Alps with a yearning for picture-book summer beach nights with kitchy sunsets, Italian seaside holiday resorts, like Rimini, have been dubbed the "Teutonic Grill."
Today, Germans do not have to travel far to express their love for the (so non-German) laid-back, disorganized and flirtatious lifestyle of their southern European neighbors.
A visit to the Italian-run pizzeria around the corner, with names like "da Bruno" or "da Mario," or simply a scoop of "Straciatella" at one of Germany's Italian ice cream parlors – traditionally run by families from northern Italy during the spring and summer seasons – will often suffice to catch the spirit of "bella Italia."
Yes, in fact, Germans are more Italian than most people think.
The young generation here no longer bids farewell with a good ol' German "Auf Wiedersehen," but commonly uses "Ciao" these days. And a coffee is no longer called "kaffee," but has to be "espresso," "latte machiatto" or "cappuccino" in German street cafes and restaurants.
Yet, something seems to be different about Italy at the start of spring this year.
Suddenly, leading German radio stations have been cracking jokes about Italy's new image and its troubled prime minister, who has repeatedly been described as a “horny old man“ in the German press due to his alleged relations with a woman who goes by the stage name of Ruby the Heartstealer.
Ahead of Silvio Berlusconi's "Rubygate" sex scandal trial, German public radio SWR3 ran a 30-second Italian-German-English song parody that ridicules Berlusconi and feeds only negative cliches.
First Waka Waka, now Bunga Bunga
Inspired by Shakira's World Cup tribute “Waka Waka,“ the tune received new lyrics that read "Bunga with the Grappa / Daddy will pay / Shake Shake with the bottom / that's how Silvio is."
And now “Bunga Bunga“ has become a hit on German radio, and even inspired a lifestyle.
"The Berlusconi scandal is the hot topic when I chat to my German guests," says 71-year old Giuseppe Bruno, who has been running his restaurant Da Bruno in Wiesbaden for more than 38 years.
"Many of my German friends say that Berlusconi's behavior is terrible. But honestly, I don't mind Berlusconi and we usually laugh it all off over a glas of red Italian wine anyway," says Bruno, who has become somewhat of a legend after living 53 years in and around this central German city.
Meanwhile, university students across Germany are catching on to Italy's new party lifestyle and are organizing their very own Bunga Bunga gatherings.
"Celebrate like a real statesmen" read the invitation for a Bunga Bunga party at the law department of Hannover University.
And, students from the economics department in Mannheim designed a stylish and catchy "Silvio Wants You" poster for their Bunga Bunga celebration.
"I would do some intensive research before visiting one of these campus parties," say Sarah Levy. "Bunga Bunga sounds like it is all haywire, pure anarchy, without any rules and morality," Sarah added.
But frivolous Italian entertainment concepts are not all new in Germany.
In the early 1990s, German private broadcaster RTL aired a popular adaptation of Italian erotic game show "Colpo Grosso" (“The Great Coup")which was callled "Tutti Frutti" in Germany.
With some very basic and to the viewer often confusing games – which none of the people who tuned in probably really cared about – candidates on the show scored points that made a group of female striptease dancers in funny fruit costumes take off layers of their already minimal outfits, until they were left dressed with only their panties on.
And to top the cheesy game show concept, candidates could take off their own clothes to score additional points.
"The Berlusconi saga is no more than a modern-day Tutti Frutti show. It will soon be forgotten in both countries," says Albert Knechtel a German filmmaker, who speaks Italian and has shot documentaries in Italy.