Showing posts with label Antonio di Pietro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antonio di Pietro. Show all posts

20 June 2018

Luigi de Magistris - politician

Popular and progressive Mayor of Naples

Luigi de Magistris has been Mayor  of Naples since 2011
Luigi de Magistris has been Mayor
of Naples since 2011
Luigi de Magistris, who was Mayor of Naples for 10 years following a shock win in the 2011 local elections, was born on this day in 1967.

A former public prosecutor with a reputation for standing up against corruption and organised crime, De Magistris was the Member of the European Parliament for Southern Italy between 2009 and 2011, when he ran for Italy of Values, the centre-left party founded by another former magistrate, Antonio di Pietro.

He stood in the 2011 mayoral elections in Naples with the support of minor parties on the left and the right and won in the second round of voting with 65 per cent of the vote, defeating Gianni Lettieri, the candidate for a centre right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

In office, De Magistris faced difficult times because of the city’s precarious financial situation, which at times saw local transport suspended because fuel bills were not paid and rubbish piling up in the streets because of continuing problems with the disposal of domestic refuse that had reached a peak in 2008.

A strong advocate of public ownership of essential services and the managing of natural and cultural resources for collective benefit rather than profit, De Magistris claims year-on-year improvements in refuse collection as one of his success stories.

Others include the taking into public ownership of the previously privately-owned Naples Water Company, the purchase of new vehicles for the city transport network, including 10 new Metro trains, the pedestrianisation of the waterfront and the reopening of suspended restoration projects on a number of monuments and historic buildings.

De Magistris is an advocate of bringing essential services and resources into public ownership
De Magistris is an advocate of bringing essential
services and resources into public ownership
By cracking down on tax evasion, De Magistris was able to introduce a minimum monthly income of approximately €600 for residents of Naples of working age with an income below the poverty threshold, provided that they agree to work or take part in socially useful activities.

He has also campaigned for powers to be granted to city mayors to direct the police force, following the model adopted by many cities in the United States, believing it to be the best way to reduce crime. Naples, of course, is the home of the Mafia-style Camorra organisation.

One commentator wrote about De Magistris, who won a second mayoral election in 2016, as a figure seen by many citizens as a last chance “to save whatever is left of the glorious capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies”, adding that “Neapolitan disenchantment with politics and total distrust of politicians started with the unification of Italy and has basically persisted to this day.”

Born in Naples, De Magistris attended the Adolfo Pansini High School in the Vomero district of Naples before going on to study law at the University of Naples. In 1993 he began a career as a magistrate, following in the footsteps of his father, his grandfather and great-grandfather.

From 1998 to 2002 he worked at the Public Prosecutor's Office of Naples and then moved to be Deputy Public Prosecutor to the Court of Catanzaro.

He presided over a number of high-profile corruption investigations involving business and politics, although he was controversially removed from a couple of cases over “procedural irregularities” after the names of top politicians began to emerge.

De Magistris has clashed with the Rome government over immigration and refugees
De Magistris has clashed with the Rome
government over immigration and refugees
De Magistris had a period of suspension imposed on him during his office as mayor, although he resisted calls for him to resign and the suspension was subsequently annulled and he was acquitted. He has since written about “obstacles placed in my way and attacks on me and my profession” by his political opponents.

A fiercely outspoken advocate of Italy giving refuge to immigrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing war and persecution, he clashed with Matteo Salvini, the anti-immigration politician who was Italy’s Minister of the Interior, over his refusal to allow the Aquarius, carrying 600 refugees, to dock at an Italian port.

In 2017, De Magistris was given the Valarioti-Impastato Award for "having fought crime and corruption for more than 20 years as magistrate and politician, for breaking the relationship between the mafia and politics in the political-administrative management of the city of Naples and for having contributed to the moral redemption of Naples and removed the Camorra breaking the system of waste and eco-mafia".

A fervent fan of SSC Napoli, the city's Serie A football club, De Magistris is also the author of several books, the most recent of which is La città ribelle: il caso di Napoli (Naples: Rebel City).

(This article was updated in June 2022)

Vomero's lofty position offers spectacular views over Naples
Vomero's lofty position offers spectacular views over Naples
Travel tip:

Close to centre of Naples, Vomero is a hilly residential area popular with the wealthy middle class. It has grown rapidly since the beginning of the 20th century with numerous houses and apartment built around Villa Floridiana, Castel Sant'Elmo and San Martino, including villas in the late Art Nouveau style and large apartment houses. The oldest and most popular neighbourhood in Vomero is Antignano, in which can be found some historic buildings as well as plush apartments and gated villas, such as the Villa del Pontano and an old building of the Bourbon customs office.

The City Hall of Naples overlooks Piazza Municipio
The City Hall of Naples overlooks Piazza Municipio
Travel tip:

Naples City Hall, where Luigi de Magistris has his office, is located on Piazza Municipio, not far from the medieval Castel Nuovo, a 13th-century castle known to locals as the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep). The castle is home to fragments of frescoes by Giotto and Roman ruins under the glass-floored Sala dell'Armeria (Armoury Hall). The castle's upper floors house a collection of mostly 17th- to early-20th-century Neapolitan paintings.

More reading:

Antonio di Pietro - former policeman who led mani pulite corruption probe

How the fiery Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi laid foundations to move right-wing politics into Italy's mainstream

Why Veneto politician Luca Zaia is tipped as a future prime minister

Also on this day:

1891: The birth of Neapolitan opera soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi


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.

29 May 2017

Franca Rame – actress, writer and politician

Artistic collaborator and wife of Dario Fo

Franca Rame in a publicity shot from a brief but unsuccessful movie career
Franca Rame in a publicity shot from a
brief but unsuccessful movie career
The actress and writer Franca Rame, much of whose work was done in collaboration with her husband, the Nobel Prize-winning actor, playwright and satirist Dario Fo, died in Milan on this day in 2013 at the age of 83.

One of Italy's most admired and respected stage performers, her contribution to Dario Fo’s work was such that his 1997 Nobel prize for literature probably should have been a joint award. In the event, on receipt of the award, Fo announced he was sharing it with his wife.

Rame was also a left-wing militant. A member of the Italian Communist Party from 1967, she was elected to the Italian senate in 2006 under the banner of the Italy of Values party, a centre-left anti-corruption grouping led by Antonio di Pietro, the former prosecutor who had led the Mani Pulite (“Clean Hands”) corruption investigation in the 1990s.

Later she was an independent member of the Communist Refoundation Party.  Her political views often heavily influenced her writing, in which her targets tended to be the Italian government and the Roman Catholic Church.  She was also an outspoken champion of women’s rights.

Her politics made her some enemies, however.  In 1973, she was kidnapped at gunpoint on a Milan street by a group of neo-Fascist men who raped and tortured her. When she was released, the group said it was revenge against her and Fo for their political activism.

Franca Rame in 1952, when she began her relationship with Dario Fo after they met through work
Franca Rame in 1952, when she began her relationship
with Dario Fo after they met through work
Born in Parabiago, a town of almost 30,000 people in the north-western quarter of the Milan metropolitan area, Rame was the daughter of an actor and a militant socialist father and a strict Catholic mother. She was almost born on the stage, appearing in a performance with her mother when she was only eight days old.

At the age of 18, and with the photogenic looks of a 1950s blonde bombshell, she began a theatre career in Milan. She met Dario Fo when they were members of the same company. Fo was smitten from an early stage and to his surprise and delight the attraction was mutual. They married in 1954 and their son Jacopo, now himself a writer, was born in 1955.

Rame had a brief but only modestly successful movie career before switching her focus to the theatre. As a professional partnership, she and Fo's first hit, Gli Arcangeli non Giacano a Flipper – Archangels Don’t Play Pinball – played at the Odeon theatre in Milan in 1959, where they were subsequently invited to write and perform a new play every year. 

Subsequent successes included Isabella, Tre Caravelle e un Cacciaballe – Isabella, Three Sailing Ships and a Con Man – set in Spain in the early years of the inquisition, in which Rame played Queen Isabella.

Dario Fo with Franca Rame and their son Jacopo
Dario Fo with Franca Rame and their son Jacopo
In time, however, they gave up commercial theatre in favour of forming co-operative groups and in 1970 founded their own militant theatre group, La Comune, based at the Palazzina Liberty, an abandoned pavilion. It was there that Rame starred in Fo’s acclaimed Non Si Paga! Non Si Paga! (Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!) and that she wrote and performed in a one-woman show Tutta Casa, Letto e Chiesa (It’s All Bed, Board and Church).

Their relationship was turbulent at times and at one stage she announced their separation. Yet they patched up their differences and even sent themselves up in a play, Coppia Aperta (The Open Couple).

Rame and Fo were particularly despairing of Italy’s support for Silvio Berlusconi when the country shifted to the right in the 1990s, even more when he was granted a return to power in 2001. Their play L’Anomalo Bicefalo (The Two Headed Anomaly), a satire about a political rally in Sicily which features an assassination attempt on Berlusconi and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, infuriated Berlusconi when Rame’s performance in a comic scene as his wife, Veronica, was praised by Veronica herself.

Her opposition to Berlusconi was part of her motivation for joining forces with Di Pietro, for whom Berlusconi’s scorn had been undisguised during the Mani Pulite trials, prior to her election to the senate.

Rame is buried at the Monumental Cemetery in Milan.

The Prepositurale church in Parabiago
The Prepositurale church in Parabiago
Travel tip:

Parabiago grew as an industrial centre in the 1960s, when its footwear industry, established in the late 19th century, enjoyed a boom. It became known as The City of the Shoe. Notable churches include the Prepositurale church dedicated to saints Gervasio and Protasio, built in 1610 on the orders of the Bishop of Milan, San Carlo Borromeo. The neoclassical façade, added between 1780 and 1781, was designed by Giuseppe Piermarini. Parabiago is also home to Villa Maggi-Corvini , or simply Villa Corvini, located at the beginning of the historic Via Santa Maria. The villa is part of the Parco Corvini municipal park, which is open to the public.

The Palazzina Liberty used to be the cafeteria-restaurant at the Verziere market in Milan
The Palazzina Liberty used to be the cafeteria-restaurant
at the Verziere market in Milan
Travel tip:

The Palazzina Liberty in Milan’s Parco Vittorio Formentano, on the eastern side of the city centre, was built in 1908 to house the cafeteria-restaurant in the Verziere fruit and vegetable market but fell into disuse when the market moved to a different location. Dario Fo took it over in the 1970s and in 1980 it became home to Milan’s civic orchestra before being renovated in 1992 and opened as a cultural and recreational facility for the city, hosting orchestral concerts, film festivals and poetry events among other things.