Showing posts with label Sergio Mattarella. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sergio Mattarella. Show all posts

8 August 2023

Giuseppe Conte – politician and academic

Lawyer who led Italy despite having no political experience

Giuseppe Conte was head of the Italian government between 2018 and 2021
Giuseppe Conte was head of the Italian
government between 2018 and 2021
Former Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte was born on this day in 1964 in the town of Volturara Appula in the province of Foggia in Puglia.

Conte served as Italian Prime Minister between 2018 and 2021, becoming the longest serving politically non-affiliated prime minister in the history of Italy.

He was Italy's fifth technocrat prime minister - defined as being appointed without any previous political experience - and the first from southern Italy since Ciriaco De Mita in 1989.

A law professor for a large part of his career, Conte is often referred to as ‘the people’s lawyer’ (l’avvocato del popolo), as this is how he described himself during his first speech as Prime Minister. He is now the president of the Italian political party Movimento Cinque Stelle - the Five Star Movement.

Conte’s father, Nicola, was an employee of the local authority, and his mother, Lillina, was a school teacher. After the family moved to San Giovanni Rotondo, another town in the province of Foggia, Conte attended the nearby liceo classico and then went to study at the Sapienza University of Rome. To this day he remains an avid AS Roma fan, having started to support the club while at university.

After qualifying formally as a lawyer, Conte went to study abroad and later either researched or lectured at several universities. He is currently professor of private law at the University of Florence and sits on the board of trustees of John Cabot University in Rome.

When the 2018 Italian general election resulted in a hung parliament, Conte was proposed as the independent leader of a government that was a coalition between the Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) and La Lega (formerly known as Lega Nord), despite never having held any political position before. He was sworn in as prime minister on 1 June 2018 by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Giuseppe Conte (left) and president Sergio Mattarella meet during the Covid-19 pandemic
Giuseppe Conte (left) and president Sergio
Mattarella meet during the Covid-19 pandemic
In August 2019, Le Lega filed a motion of no confidence in the coalition government and Conte offered to resign as prime minister. Then M5S and the Democratic Party agreed to form a new government between them, with Conte remaining at its head.

As a result, Conte became the first prime minister to lead two separate Italian governments made up of right-wing and left-wing coalition partners.

Despite having begun his political career as a technocrat, Conte became increasingly influential and popular in the field of Italian politics. He introduced a guaranteed minimum income and nationalised important Italian industries

After Italy was badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, his government became the first in the western world to implement a national lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

Conte resigned from office in 2021 after the Italia Viva party, led by Matteo Renzi, himself a former Prime Minister, withdrew its support for his government.

In 2022, Conte was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the M5S to represent Lombardy.

The village of Volturara Appula in Puglia, where Giuseppe Conte was born
The village of Volturara Appula in Puglia,
where Giuseppe Conte was born
Travel tip:

Volturara Appula, where Giuseppe Conte was born, is just over 50km (31 miles) west of the city of Foggia situated in rugged countryside not far from the border with Molise. It was once an important city in Puglia but is now a comune with a population of less than 400. Its first mention was in a document of Pope John XIII dated 969 where it is listed as a bishopric. The village has a Romanesque cathedral with a large bell tower that dates back to the 13th century and a so-called ducal palace.

The modern campus of Sapienza University, near Roma Termini railway station, was built in 1935
The modern campus of Sapienza University, near
Roma Termini railway station, was built in 1935
Travel tip:

Like many other Italian Prime Ministers, Giuseppe Conte graduated from Rome University, often known simply as La Sapienza, which means ‘the wisdom.’  It can trace its origins back to 1303, when it was opened by Pope Boniface VIII as the first pontifical university. In the 19th century the university broadened its outlook and became recognised as the country's most prestigious seat of learning. A new campus was built near the Termini railway station under the guidance of the architect Marcello Piacentini in 1935. Rome University now caters for more than 112,000 students.

Also on this day:

1849: The death of priest and patriot Ugo Bassi

1919: The birth of film producer Dino De Laurentiis

1920: The birth of songwriter Leo Chiosso

1988: The birth of basketball player Danilo Gallinari


6 January 2023

Piersanti Mattarella - assassination victim

President’s brother assumed to have been killed by Mafia

A newspaper front page reports the murder of the politician amid claims of terrorist involvement
A newspaper front page reports the murder of the
politician amid claims of terrorist involvement
The politician Piersanti Mattarella, whose brother, Sergio, is the current President of Italy, was shot dead on this day in 1980.

The 44-year-old Christian Democrat, who was president of the regional government of Sicily, was about to drive to Epiphany mass from his home in Via della Libertà in Palermo when a gunman or gunmen appeared at the side of his car.

Mattarella was shot at point blank range in front of his wife, Irma, their daughter Maria, and his wife’s mother, who were passengers in his Fiat 132. Sergio, at that time a lecturer at the University of Palermo, was called by his nephew, Bernardo, who had not been in the car. He was one of the first on the scene after the shooting and took his brother to hospital. His efforts were in vain; Piersanti was already dead.

Yet the identity of his killers was never established and doubts surrounding the motives for the attack never completely removed.

There was every reason to suspect Piersanti had been the victim of a Mafia assassination because of his drive to clean up political corruption on the island. His ambition was to break the cosy relationships the Mafia enjoyed with too many politicians, mostly in his own party. 

Piersanti had vowed to clean
up corruption in Sicily
His late father, also called Bernardo, who served as a government minister on the mainland in six administrations between 1953 and 1963, was himself accused on more than once occasion of having links with the Cosa Nostra, although none was ever proved.

Piersanti was aware that public works contracts inevitably went to Mafia-linked companies. He passed a law forcing Silician contractors to adhere to the same building standards used in the rest of Italy, which had the effect of making many of the Mafia's building schemes illegal.

But shortly after the murder had taken place, a claim for responsibility was reportedly made on behalf of a right-wing terrorist group, Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, which later in the year would be blamed for the worst terrorist atrocity in Italian history, the bombing of Bologna railway station, which killed 85 people.

Vehemently anti-communist, NAR might have had a credible motive, too. Mattarella had been an admirer of Aldo Moro, the politician who had been a central figure in the so-called Historic Compromise that brought about a political accommodation between the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in the 1970s. Moro was kidnapped and killed in 1978.

Mattarella had sought and gained support from the PCI in Sicily when, as newly elected president in 1978, he sought to govern as head of a centre-left coalition. Although the role of the PCI was at that time external, their involvement in any form was viewed in Sicily, as on the mainland, as a step closer to direct participation in government, which those on the far right in Italian politics were determined to prevent.

Mattarella's Fiat 132 car, its windows blown out by gunshots, at the side of Via della Libertà
Mattarella's Fiat 132 car, its windows blown
out by gunshots, at the side of Via della Libertà
It was this hypothesis that formed the basis of an investigation into the killing by Giovanni Falcone, the anti-Mafia magistrate who would himself be murdered in 1992. He concluded that the killing of Piersanti Mattarella was carried out by Giuseppe Valerio Fioravanti and Gilberto Cavallini, two prominent NAR operatives.

Fioravanti, more often known as Giusva, was in Palermo at the time and his description matched that provided by Irma Mattarella, Piersanti’s widow, of one of the two involved in the attack.

But when, in 1995, Fioravanti and Cavallini eventually came to court to face charges, they were both acquitted for lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, during the 1993 trial of former prime minister Giulio Andreotti over alleged Mafia associations, a Mafia pentito - turncoat - by the name of Francesco Marino Mannoia, named four mafiosi - Salvatore Federico, Francesco Davì, Santo Inzerillo and Antonio Rotolo - as the killers, and pointed the finger at the 10 members of the Sicilian Mafia Commission, which purported to control criminal activity on the island, for ordering the murder. Andreotti, Mannoia said, had privately appealed to Mafia bosses not to kill Mattarella.

However, although all the members of the Commission, including the notoriously ruthless Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina (whose elevation to capo di tutti capi - boss of all bosses - on the island began a bloody campaign to eliminate high-profile opponents), were convicted of the murder in 1995, Mannoia’s evidence was considered unreliable and none of the alleged physical killers was convicted.

Speculation remains that both the Mafia and the NAR were involved, with the latter perhaps carrying out the assassination on behalf of the mob in return for money or favours. But the theory remains unproven.

Sergio Mattarella, who was elected President of the Italian Republic for the first time in 2015 and re-elected in 2022, has said he decided to enter politics after his brother’s assassination, having previously been content with his career as a lawyer and academic. 

A memorial was placed close to the spot where Piersanti Matterella was killed
A memorial was placed close to the spot
where Piersanti Matterella was killed 
Travel tip:

Via della Libertà, where Piersanti Mattarella lived, is a long, straight road in the centre of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, linking the junction of Viale della Croce Rossa and Viale Diana with Via Dante. Stretching for just over 2.5km (1.2 miles), it passes the Parco Piersanti Mattarella, formerly called the Giardino Inglese, an area of gardens that dates back to 1851 and has been subsequently renamed in memory of the former politician. A memorial to Mattarella has been mounted at the side of the road close to his former home. Flowers are placed there at a ceremony each year on the anniversary of his death.

The harbour at Castellammare del Golfo, where Piersanti Mattarella was born
The harbour at Castellammare del Golfo,
where Piersanti Mattarella was born
Travel tip:

Castellammare del Golfo, where Piersanti Mattarella was born, is a fishing town and tourist resort in the province of Trapani on the northern coast of Sicily, about 65km (40 miles) by the coast road to the west of Palermo. Although Mattarella was on the side of law and order, the town is noted for having been the birthplace of many American Mafia figures, including Salvatore Maranzano, Stefano Magaddino, Vito Bonventre, John Tartamella and Joseph Bonanno. It takes its name from its castle overlooking a gulf, which dates back to the Arab occupation of Sicily in the ninth century and was fortified by the Normans in the 11th century. It originally sat right on the edge of the gulf at sea level, surrounded by water and connected to the land by a drawbridge.

Also on this day:

1695: The birth of oboe player Giuseppe Sammartini

1819: The birth of painter Baldassare Verazzi

1907: The first Montessori school opens in Rome

1938: The birth of singer Adriano Celentano

2016: The death of actress Silvana Pampanini

Befana - Italy’s 6 January tradition


22 November 2017

Paolo Gentiloni – Prime Minister of Italy

Current premier is both noble and a Democrat

Paolo Gentiloni has been prime minister of Italy since December 2016
Paolo Gentiloni has been prime minister
of Italy since December 2016
Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.

A member of the Democratic Party, Gentiloni was asked to form a Government in December 2016 by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

A professional journalist before he entered politics, Gentiloni is a descendant of Count Gentiloni Silveri and holds the titles of Nobile of Filottranno, Nobile of Cingoli and Nobile of Macerata.

The word Nobile, derived from the Latin nobilis, meaning honourable, indicates a level of Italian nobility ranking somewhere between the English title of knight and baron.

Gentiloni is related to the politician Vincenzo Ottorino Gentiloni, who was a leader of the Conservative Catholic Electoral Union and a key ally of Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, who held the office five times between 1892 and 1921.

Gentiloni attended the Classical Lyceum Torquato Tasso in Rome and went on to study at La Sapienza University in the city where he became a member of the Student Movement, a left wing youth organisation. He moved on to become a member of the Workers’ Movement for Socialism and graduated in Political Sciences.

He came director of La Nuova Ecologia, the official newspaper of Legambiente, which led to him first meeting Francesco Rutelli, who at the time was leader of the Federation of the Greens.

Gentiloni was a member of the Olive Tree coalition led by Romano Prodi
Gentiloni was a member of the Olive
Tree coalition led by Romano Prodi
He became Rutelli’s spokesman in his campaign to become Mayor of Rome. After being elected as mayor, Rutelli appointed Gentiloni as Jubilee and Tourism Councillor on Rome’s city council .

Gentiloni was elected as a member of parliament in 2001 and helped found the Daisy party in 2002, serving as the party’s communications spokesman.

He was elected again in 2006 as a member of the Olive Tree, the coalition led by Romano Prodi.

Gentiloni helped found the Democrat party in 2007 and was elected again in the 2008 election, which was won by Silvio Berlusconi.

Gentiloni came third when he ran for Mayor of Rome in 2013 but was elected to the Chamber of Deputies again in the same year.

He supported Matteo Renzi in the Democratic party leadership election and was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs when Renzi became prime minister in 2014.

Gentiloni stated on television that Italy would be ready to fight in Libya against the Islamic State because there was an active terrorist threat to the country only a few hours away by boat. He was subsequently threatened by ISIL.

After a car bomb exploded outside the Italian consulate in Cairo, he said that Italy would continue to fight against terrorism.

Gentiloni and US president Donald Trump
Gentiloni and US president Donald Trump
Gentiloni also negotiated the release of two Italians held hostage by Syrian terrorists in 2015.

In December 2016, after Renzi announced his resignation, Gentiloni was asked by President Mattarella to form a new Government.

Since taking office, he has signed agreements with Libya and Tunisia to try to prevent immigrants entering Italy illegally.

He hosted the 43rd G7 summit in Taormina in Sicily, attended by British premier Theresa May and US president Donald Trump.

In January 2017, during an official trip to Paris, he suffered an obstructed coronary artery and received an emergency angioplasty. The following day he tweeted that he felt well and would be back at work soon.

Yesterday, on the eve of his 63rd birthday, he held talks with trade unions and told them his Government had prepared a significant, sustainable package on pensions and retirements.

The Palazzo Chigi, the Italian PM's official residence
The Palazzo Chigi, the Italian PM's official residence
Travel tip:

When in Rome, Paolo Gentiloni lives in Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Italy, which is a 16th century palace in Piazza Colonna,  just off Via del Corso and close to the Pantheon.

The port city of Ancona is the capital of Le Marche
The port city of Ancona is the capital of Le Marche
Travel tip:

Gentiloni holds the title of Nobile of Macerata, which is a city in the Marche region. He also holds the titles of Nobile of Filotranno and Nobile of Cingoli, two nearby towns. Le Marche is an eastern region, located between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic. The capital, Ancona, is a port city surrounded by medieval villages. Nearby is Pesaro, the birthplace of the composer Gioachino Rossini.

23 July 2017

Sergio Mattarella – President of Italy

Anti-Mafia former Christian Democrat is Italy's 12th President

Sergio Mattarella, the 12th President of the Italian Republic
Sergio Mattarella, the 12th President of
the Italian Republic
The first Sicilian to become President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, was born on this day in 1941 in Palermo.

Mattarella went into politics after the assassination of his brother, Piersanti, by the Mafia in 1980. His brother had been killed while holding the position of President of the Regional Government of Sicily.

Their father, Bernardo Mattarella, was an anti-Fascist, who with other prominent Catholic politicians helped found the Christian Democrat (Democrazia Cristiana) party. They dominated the Italian political scene for almost 50 years, with Bernardo serving as a minister several times. Piersanti Mattarella was also a Christian Democrat politician.

Sergio Mattarella graduated in Law from the Sapienza University of Rome and  a few years later started teaching parliamentary procedure at the University of Palermo.

His parliamentary career began in 1983 when he was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies in a left-leaning faction of the DC that had supported an agreement with the Italian Communist Party led by Enrico Berlinguer. The following year he was entrusted with cleansing the Sicilian faction of the party from Mafia control by DC Secretary Ciriaco De Mita.

Mattarella's brother, Piersanti, was
killed by the Mafia
In 1985 Mattarella helped a young lawyer, Leoluc Orlando, who had worked alongside his brother, Piersanti, to become Mayor of Palermo.

Mattarella was appointed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and subsequently Minister of Education.

He stood down from his post, along with other ministers, in 1990 when parliament passed an act liberalising the media sector in Italy, which he saw as a favour to media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.

Mattarella  became director of the Christian Democrat newspaper, Il Popolo, and in 1994 when DC was dissolved following Tangentopoli, he helped form the Italian People’s party.

Mattarella was one of the first supporters of the economist, Romano Prodi, at the head of the centre left coalition known as The Olive Tree.

Two years later he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence in the Government of Massimo D’Alema, the leader of the Democrats of the Left.

Mattarella with his predecessor Giorgio Napoletano
Mattarella with his predecessor Giorgio Napoletano
In 2007 Mattarella was one of the founders of the Democratic Party, a merger of left-wing and centre parties

He was elected to be a Judge of the Constitutional Court in 2011 and served for nearly four years.

His wife, Marisa Chiazzese, the mother of his three children, died in 2012.

Mattarella was elected President of the Italian Republic in 2015, replacing Giorgio Napoletano who had served for nine years.

In December 2016 the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi announced his resignation following the rejection of his proposals in the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum and Matterella appointed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, to be the new head of Government.

The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its spherical red domes
The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its
spherical red domes
Travel tip:

Palermo, where Mattarella was born and where he taught at the University, is the capital of Sicily, on the northern coast of the island, with a wealth of beautiful architecture, revealing both northern European and Arabian influences. The Church of San Cataldo in Piazza Bellini has a bell tower typical of those in northern France and three spherical, red domes on the roof of Arabic style.

The Courtyard at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome
The Courtyard at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome
Travel tip:

President Sergio Mattarella lives in Palazzo Quirinale in Rome at one end of Piazza del Quirinale. This was the summer palace of the popes until 1870 when it became the palace of the Kings of the newly unified Italy. Following the abdication of the last King, it became the official residence of the President of the Republic in 1947.