Public Transport Strikes: The next public
transport strike is planned Friday March 22nd for 24 hours and affecting
all forms of transport.
Pope Francis Elected
If this happens the only news publication
you ever read then you may be one of the few people who didn't already know
that we have a new pope! Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos
Aires, was elected Pope Francis after just 24 hours of voting in the Sistine
Chapel's ultra-secret conclave. Deliberations began on Tuesday 12th March
and the famous white smoke was seen rising from the chapel's chimney by early
evening on Wednesday 13th to rapturous applause. Crowds had kept vigil in the
rain-soaked St Peter's virtually around the clock but when the news was
announced even more people descended on the square.
Sources inside the Vatican had expressed
concern that the process would take quite some time, with several apparent
front-runners emerging at the start of proceedings and no clear sign of any
one reaching a majority of votes after the first ballot. However, this opinion
contrasted with reports in Italian newspapers stating that cardinals expected
the election to be quite a short-lived affair.
Pope Francis will be officially sworn in on
Tuesday March 19th and will be the first ever Jesuit pope as well as the first
pope from South America, which is home to 40% of the world's catholics.
Berlusconi Trials Further Complicate Election Process
March 20th sees talks reconvene between the
front runners in February's national election, when leaders of both Houses
will be elected, but the political stalemate shows no signs of abating
following further complications in the trials of Silvio Berlusconi.
Prosecutors had requested that the two separate
trials underway be accelerated in light of the fact that markets are increasingly
nervous about Italy's political vacuum. However Mr Berlusconi's legal team have
requested the trials be delayed for medical reasons. The 76-year old Italian
media magnate, billionaire and three-time prime minister has been in hospital
this week with an eye infection, but is also currently appealing against a
conviction for tax fraud and at the same time standing trial for allegedly
having sex with a 17-year old teenage prostitute. Judges in the latter trial
have ordered a house visit by doctors to verify the severity of the infection.
Supporters of Berlusconi agree with his assertion
that there is a judicial campaign against him and these latest events will
only serve to further polarise his party from the other main parties at a
time when the country's economy is crying out for stability and inter-party
No Further Forward After Elections
February 24th and 25th saw the national
elections come and go without a clear outright result. Both Silvio
Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom Party (PDL) and Pier Luigi
Bersani's centre-left Democratic Party (both coalition parties) led the
polls with around 30% of the vote a piece. An outright majority is required
to form government. Incumbent technocrat Prime Minister's central coalition
party, for whom Berlusconi withdrew support some months ago, finished a
disappointing 4th place with around 10% of the vote.
The surprise factor in this election however,
has been the sudden rise to prominence of Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement.
Founded only five years ago by the popular blogger and comedian, the
anti-establishment movement finished a narrow third with 25% of the popular
vote. Grillo cannot personally stand as prime minister due to a manslaughter
conviction some years ago.
The Five Star Movement, whose popularity is
largely based on their outright rejection of the status quo, have stated that
they will not form coalition with either of the two main parties - leaving
Italy with a hung parliament and the very probable necessity for another election.
British Embassy and Comune di Roma Work Together for Women
March 8th was International Women's Day and here in Italy
it's traditional to hand out mimosas to, well, all and any women you happen
to chance upon during the day. On a more serious note however, the British
Embassy in conjunction with the Comune di Roma put on a special
show at the Colosseum on the evening of 7th March to help raise awareness
of violence and sexual violence against women as a weapon of war.
It's understood that one of the UK's prime
objectives during its current term of EU presidency is a campaign initiative
entitled 'Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict'. The event features the
projection of images onto the Colosseum.
Fashion House Fendi to Fund Trevi Fountain Restoration
Italian fashion giants Fendi,
responsible for the Made in Italy brand among others, have
announced their intention to contribute €2.1m towards a four-year
project to restore five of Rome’s best known fountains, beginning
with the most famous - the Trevi Fountain.
One of Rome’s most popular landmarks,
the Trevi Fountain was finished in 1762 and is one of the most famous
in the world, immortalised in the iconic 1960 Federico Fellini movie
La Dolce Vita. Today, popular folklore predicts that tossing a coin
into the fountain ensures a return to the Eternal City, but sadly
parts of the fountain recently became damaged as a result of abnormally
low temperatures in Rome last winter.
Following the restoration, a plaque noting
Fendi’s contribution will be placed on the fountain, while rumours
persist that the conclusion of the project in 2015 may just coincide
with a fashion show in front of the fountain to celebrate Fendi’s
Alarm as Mafia Business Interests Flood Rome
The president of Rome's Appeals Court,
Judge Giorgio Santacroce, has expressed deep concerns over the apparent
sudden increase in business acquisitions in the Eternal City by
southern-based Mafia organisations such as the Camorra and ’Ndrangheta.
“Mafia organisations are acquiring properties,
companies and commercial businesses, that are often not on the market, in
which they invest money gained from criminal sources, giving the earnings
the appearance of legality,” said Judge Santacroce.
Last year employer organisation Confesercenti
claimed that Italy's four principal mafia organisations, the Campania-based
Camorra, Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, Calabrian ’Ndrangheta and the Sacra Corona
Unitá of Puglia, made an estimated combined annual profit of €100 billion
- equivocal to around 7% of Italy's GDP.
No More Concerts At The Colosseum
Cultural Undersecretary, Francesco
Giro, has announced there are to be no more music concerts
at the Colosseum. He explained that musical events would
not be permitted at the Roman amphitheatre even if organisers
paid for the privilege. “To my knowledge” said
Giro “Nobody has ever paid anything to use that location.”