Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's international desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. Most recently, she travelled to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by an ultra-rightwing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal for the latest on the euro-zone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including: the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody and National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor's degree in Romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

On the first Saturday of August, a funny thing happened to 150,000 people on their way to the Roman Forum.

While a pianist and sax player set the mood, people looked upward and watched anxiously as acrobat Andrea Loreni made his way slowly on a tightrope stretched across Via dei Fori Imperiali, the wide avenue flanking the Forum and leading to the Coliseum.

The acrobat's walk was meant as a metaphor, a bridge reuniting ancient squares.

Every two years for over a century, lovers of contemporary art convene in Venice for the oldest and largest noncommercial art exhibition in the world.

The Venice Biennale has none of the glitz and conspicuous consumption of art auctions in London and New York. Instead, it's a dizzying and eclectic array of sights by both celebrity artists and total unknowns.

This year's works are not just paintings, sculptures and installations, but also performances, videos and music.

A group of Italian researchers who have studied troves of World War II documents have found no evidence that Giovanni Palatucci, a police official long credited as the "Italian Schindler," saved the lives of 5,000 Jews.

The findings are demolishing the Italian national icon and angering supporters of the man who has been honored at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and who has been put on the track to sainthood.

'Unfounded' Claims Of Heroism?

After some 20 trials over two decades, Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi received his first definitive conviction Thursday for evading almost $10 million in taxes while he was prime minister.

After more than seven hours of deliberations, Judge Antonio Esposito read the ruling of the five Supreme Court judges: "In the name of the Italian people," the judge declared, "Berlusconi's conviction and prison term are irrevocable."

The fragile architectural treasures of Venice are endangered by rising sea levels, and a growing number of critics now say the city and its canals are at risk from massive cruise ships as big as floating skyscrapers.

On an average day, tens of thousands of passengers lean over the railings of cruise ships that can be 300 yards long and 15 stories high. The tourists peer down at the majestic Doge's Palace as they sail into St. Mark's basin and down the Giudecca canal.

Against all Vatican expectations, the pope's Twitter account in Latin has gained more than 100,000 followers in six months and continues to grow.

Followers are not exclusively Roman Catholics or Latin scholars, but represent a wide variety of professions and religions from all over the world. Some go so far as to claim that the language of the ancient Romans is perfectly suited to 21st-century social media.

Italy has secured its place in the global diet with the likes of espresso, cappuccino, pasta and pizza.

The latest addition to the culinary lexicon is ... gelato, the Italian version of ice cream.

And despite tough economic times, gelato-making is a booming business.

At Anzola dell'Emilia, a short drive from the Italian city of Bologna, people from all over the world are lining up for courses in gelato-making.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are a grave sin. But the existence of active gay prelates in the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Roman Curia has been considered a poorly held secret for centuries.

Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, says the normal definition of a lobby as an organized group of people pushing a specific agenda does not apply here.

He prefers to call it a gay subculture.

The name Niccolo Machiavelli is synonymous with political deceit, cynicism and the ruthless use of power. The Italian Renaissance writer called his most famous work, The Prince, a handbook for statesmen.

An exhibit underway in Rome celebrates the 500th anniversary of what is still considered one of the most influential political essays in Western literature.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are also following a subtler story of economic devastation, even with all the news about unemployment in Europe, this next number is hard to absorb. In Italy, among younger people, the jobless rate us close to 40 percent. The government is focused on the middle-aged and the elderly leaving little room it seems for their kids

Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING AND SHOOTING)

Over the past week, Pope Francis has launched a crescendo of attacks on the global financial system and what he calls a "cult of money" that does not help the poor.

American gourmets and lovers of Italian food products, your days as food smugglers are over.

No more stuffing your suitcases with delicacies bought in Italy, hoping the sniffer dogs at JFK or other American airports won't detect the banned-in-the-USA foodstuffs inside your luggage.

In the U.S., they're called cured meats, the French say charcuterie and in Italy, the word for cured-pork products is salumi.

For close to 400 years, the painting was closed off to the world. For the past 124 years, millions of visitors walked by without noticing an intriguing scene covered with centuries of grime.

Only now, the Vatican says a detail in a newly cleaned 15th century fresco shows what may be one of the first European depictions of Native Americans.

Tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe are reviving a humble tradition that began some one-hundred years ago in the Italian city of Naples. It's called caffè sospeso — "suspended coffee": A customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee.

The newly elected pope's focus on the poor and the marginalized has instilled great faith among many Catholic women. They hope the papacy of Pope Francis will promote a leading role for women in the church.

A group of American nuns and Catholic women recently made a pilgrimage to Rome to make their requests heard.

Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass praying for world peace and urging a diplomatic solution to the standoff on the Korean peninsula.

Only two weeks after his election, the first pope from the developing world continues to make his mark on the Catholic Church.

St. Peter's Square was bedecked with flowers and packed with joyous pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's turn to news this morning in Italy. In a surprise ruling, Italy's highest court has ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox. She's the former exchange student who, along with her former boyfriend, was charged in the murder of her British roommate. Today's ruling overturned the 2011 acquittal of the two defendants after they spent four years in jail.

We're joined by NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line from Rome. Good morning, Sylvia.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Good morning.

Last-minute preparations are under way at the Vatican where the conclave to elect the new pope begins Tuesday.

The 115 cardinal electors will remain at the Sistine Chapel incommunicado from the rest of the world as they vote. In the era of social media, however, Vatican officials are taking every precaution to prevent cardinals from yielding to the temptation to tweet and text.

The College of Cardinals is holding its first official meetings at the Vatican on Monday. The top agenda item is choosing which day to start the closed-door conclave that will elect the new pope. With no clear front-runner, the conclave outcome is unpredictable.

The papal resignation has put the cardinals in an unprecedented situation in modern history.

"The real mood is of shock and disappointment — this resignation desacralized the figure of the pope," says Massimo Franco, author of several books about the Vatican. He says a pope cannot be treated like a company CEO.

Italy's election campaign has been dominated by an upstart comedian-turned-politician whose Five Star Movement is soaring in the polls. The movement is not expected to win in the weekend vote, but its strong presence in Parliament could be destabilizing and reignite the eurozone crisis.

Beppe Grillo is a standup comedian and the country's most popular blogger; 63 years old, with a mane of grey curly hair, he's hyperactive and foul-mouthed. His last name means "cricket," and he's the most charismatic politician in Italy today.

Three years of spiraling economic crisis in Greece have devastated every sector of the economy. The Greek media are among the hardest hit. Many newspapers and TV outlets have closed or are on the verge, and some 4,000 journalists have lost their jobs.

Many people believe the country's news media have failed to cover the crisis — and lost credibility along the way. And many Greek journalists acknowledge that a massive conflict of interest sooner or later had to explode.

On April 19, 2005, when wisps of white smoke puffed from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Catholic Church had its first German pope since the 11th century.

Just one day before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered a homily that, many analysts later said, became the platform of his papacy.

He denounced modern trends he said were undermining Catholicism and Western civilization.

The first German pope in a thousand years is a cold, distant intellectual who never served as a parish priest. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican Enforcer, became Pope Benedict XVI. As successor to John Paul II, Benedict was never as beloved by the faithful but still attracted crowds matching those of his media-savvy predecessor.

Pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican received a special treat Saturday, when some 4,000 members of the Knights of Malta marched in procession to the tomb of St. Peter.

The last of the great chivalrous orders is celebrating the 900th anniversary of its official recognition by Pope Paschal II. On Saturday, the Knights attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and received an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

In exchange for multibillion-euro bailouts, Greece was required to sell state-owned assets. But the sweeping privatization process is behind schedule. In addition, European governments are nervous that Chinese, Russian and Arab companies are lining up to take advantage of the Greek fire sale.

Greeks are feeling the squeeze. The social repercussions of three years of austerity measures imposed by international lenders are hitting hard. Thousands of businesses have shut down, unemployment is nearly 27 percent and rising, and the once dependable safety net of welfare benefits is being pulled in.

With further cutbacks and tax hikes about to kick in, Greece's social fabric is being torn apart.

Nowhere are cutbacks more visible and painful than in health care.

Escalating political violence from both the left and right is raising fears of political instability in debt-burdened Greece. The conservative-led government is cracking down on leftist groups, vowing to restore law and order.

But the opposition says authorities are trying to divert people's attention from growing poverty and despair.

Take the latest explosion in Athens — a firebomb at a crowded suburban mall last month that slightly injured two security guards.

For the past two decades, in a small town in southern Italy, a pianist and music teacher has been hunting for and resurrecting the music of the dead.

Francesco Lotoro has found thousands of songs, symphonies and operas written in concentration, labor and POW camps in Germany and elsewhere before and during World War II.

By rescuing compositions written in imprisonment, Lotoro wants to fill the hole left in Europe's musical history and show how even the horrors of the Holocaust could not suppress artistic inspiration.

With elections in Italy just weeks away, polls show leftist parties with a comfortable lead. Yet attention is focused on the battle between the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the current prime minister, Mario Monti, an austere technocrat.

Monti's platform calls for continued austerity, budget cutting and labor reforms.

While Berlusconi and Monti are the two big names in next month's race, the expected winner is the leader of the leftist Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani.

In an effort to safeguard some 20,000 jobs at a time of rising unemployment,
the Italian government has taken an unprecedented step. It has reversed a court order that called for the partial shutdown of Europe's biggest steel plant because it spews cancer-producing dioxins.

The ILVA steel factory in the southern port city of Taranto pits the government versus the judiciary in a battle over health issues and the need for economic revival.

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