At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Antonio di Pietro – magistrate and politician

Former policeman who led Mani Pulite corruption investigations


Antonio di Pietro led his own political  party, called Italy of Values
Antonio di Pietro led his own political
party, called Italy of Values
The politician and former magistrate Antonio di Pietro, who uncovered wide-ranging corruption in the Italian government in a scandal that changed the landscape of Italian politics, was born on this day in 1950 in Molise.

Di Pietro was the lead prosecutor in the so-called Mani Pulite trials in the early 1990s, which led to many politicians and businessmen being indicted and to the collapse of the traditional Socialist and Christian Democratic parties.

The Christian Democrats had been the dominant force in Italian politics since the formation of the Italian Republic at the end of the Second World War but after several high-profile arrests and resignations and poor results in the 1992 general election and 1993 local elections the party was disbanded in 1994.

The Italian Socialist Party was dissolved in the same year following the resignation of party secretary and former prime minister Bettino Craxi, who was the most high-profile casualty in the corruption scandal. It was also known as Tangentopoli, which can be roughly translated as “Bribesville”.

Di Pietro was born into a poor rural family in Montenero di Bisaccia, a hill town in the province of Campobasso in the Molise region.

Ex-PM Bettino Craxi was the major  casualty of the Mani Pulite probe
Ex-PM Bettino Craxi was the major
casualty of the Mani Pulite probe
Eager to better himself, he travelled to Germany as a migrant worker after leaving school, working in a factory in the mornings and a sawmill in the afternoons so that he could save enough money to study law at night school in Italy.

He graduated in with a degree in 1978, becoming first a police officer before joining the judiciary as a prosecuting magistrate, a job in the Italian legal system that is part lawyer and part detective.

Di Pietro was one of a team set up to investigate corruption following the arrest in 1992 of Mario Chiesa, a Socialist politician and hospital administrator in Milan, after he was accused of accepting a bribe from a young entrepreneur in return for awarding his company a cleaning contract.

The three magistrates – Di Pietro, Gherardo Colombo and Pier Camillo Davigo – were dubbed Mani Pulite – “Clean Hands” by the media. Di Pietro soon became the most prominent of the trio. Chosen as the spokesman for the investigating team, he became an instantly recognisable for his strong regional accent and his evident passion for his work.

The investigation became a high-profile news item for a considerable time after Chiesa’s evidence implicated many others on both sides of the Italian political divide, yet critics say it ultimately achieved very little.

Antonio di Pietro became a famous face in the 1990s
Antonio di Pietro became a famous face in the 1990s
More than half of the 3,000 politicians and businessmen arrested ultimately escaped punishment through legal technicalities. Some walked free after their trials were cancelled because they did not begin within a statutory time limit.

Corruption charges brought against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had to be dropped because the statutory time period elapsed.

And while the collapse of the Christian Democrats and Socialists was a seismic event in Italian politics, the individuals involved simply regrouped and rebranded themselves. Analysts say corruption is still rife today.

Di Pietro himself made many enemies, to the extent that he found it necessary to have a personal protection team after threats were made against his life.  Accusations of corruption began to be levelled against him and although none was proved his reputation suffered.

Although around 1,200 convictions resulted from the work of Di Pietro and his team, Mani Pulite eventually petered out and Di Pietro launched his own political career. Building on the experience he gained after the centre-left prime minister Romani Prodi made him Minister for Public Works in 1996, he was elected to the Senate.

He formed his own party, Italia dei Valori (“Italy of Values”) in 2000, standing against corruption, and served in government as Minister of Infrastructures when Prodi was elected again in 2006.

Di Pietro continued under the Italia dei Valori banner until 2014, since when he has been an independent. He was elected a member of the European Parliament in 1999.

Montenero is perched on a hill in Molise
Montenero is perched on a hill in Molise
Travel tip:

Montenero di Bissacia is a small town perched on top of a hill in Molise, which is probably the least well known of all Italy’s 20 regions, characterised by a narrow coastal plain – about 15km (9 miles) from Montenero – and a rugged and sparsely populated interior. Campobasso, with around 50,000 inhabitants and about 70km (43 miles) to the south, is the largest population centre in the region, worth visiting for the remains of the 15th century Castello Monforte and a number of interesting churches.  The coastal resort of Termoli, about 23km (14 miles) east of Montenero, has sandy beaches and a walled old town, yet is little known to foreign tourists.

The cathedral at Trivento
The cathedral at Trivento
Travel tip:

One town in Molise worth visiting for a glimpse of an Italy that no longer exists in many parts of the country is the well-preserved town of Trivento, which features a wide staircase – the Scalinata di San Nicola - of 365 steps linking the new town with the old.  The town is full of narrow alleyways, often decorated with pots of brightly coloured flowers, at the heart of which is the Chiesa di Santi Nazario, Celso e Vittore – Trivento Cathedral – built in the 11th century.


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