Since Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, a little more than a year and a half ago, the Argentine has radically changed the tone and the mood surrounding the Catholic Church. But the question remained: How would he handle the difficult doctrinal issues of sexuality and family life that have divided the Catholic world? We are beginning to find out, in the work of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family, which opened in Rome this week and whose daily sessions continue until October 19th. On Monday, Read more [...]

IN NEW YORK, RENZI MANIA OR RENZI REMORSE?, New Yorker, September 27, 2014

Matteo Renzi, the Prime Minister of Italy, quite self-consciously made Silicon Valley the first stop of his first official American visit: “not New York, not Washington, not Boston,” Renzi pointed out, somewhat undiplomatically, to his audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, in New York, a decidedly more staid group than the ones that he had met at places like Google and Twitter. (The Italian Prime Minister is an inveterate tweeter.) Renzi has a sense for political theater. He had surprised Read more [...]


In some ways, it is surprising that Pope Francis made news by travelling to Calabria and excommunicating members of the Mafia. He went to a town where members of a local Mafia group, known as the ’Ndrangheta, had murdered a three-year-old boy, together with his grandfather, and burned their bodies, in a case tied up with suspected drug trafficking. The Catholic Church, under Pope Francis, had excommunicated an Australian priest for his support for the ordination of women and for gay marriage. Surely Read more [...]

The Return of Berlusconi — end of reform? La Repubblica, July 23, 2014

MERCOLEDÌ, 23 LUGLIO 2014 Pagina 29 - COMMENTI LA VOGLIA DI ESSERE DIVERSI   ALEXANDER STILLE APPENA arrivata la sentenza di assoluzione, Silvio Berlusconi comincia di nuovo con le vecchie abitudini: domande di grazia, nuove leggi ad personam, eccezioni alle norme per permettergli di ricandidarsi. Avete notato che l’Italia è diventato un paese un po’ diverso da quando Berlusconi è stato costretto dalla sua Read more [...]

The Rise and Fall of Right-Wing Populism in France and Italy, New Yorker, May 28, 2014

The extraordinary success of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, in France, and of other right-wing, populist parties has, with good reason, been the main story of last weekend’s European Parliamentary elections. Running on an anti-euro, anti-immigration platform, Le Pen won a historic twenty-five per cent of the vote, handily outpolling France’s main conservative party, the U.M.P., which earned only twenty-one per cent, and trouncing the Socialist Party of President François Read more [...]

Dancing to Nowhere, review of “La Grande Bellezza,” New York Review of Books blog, Jan. 9, 2014

If the character Marcello in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita—played unforgettably by Marcello Mastroianni—had spent another four decades flitting about the high life of Rome he might have turned into someone like Jep Gambardella, the protagonist of Italian film director Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty). A self-conscious twenty-first century version of the Fellini classic, La Grande Bellezza is a visual feast, one of the relatively few films that takes full Read more [...]


Sixty-three governments in sixty-eight years, with twenty-seven different Prime Ministers—so why should we care that Italy has a new government, with yet another Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi? It is understandable if observers find the dizzying nature of Italian politics exhausting and pointless. It can seem like a merry-go-round: the people on the painted horses change, but when the music stops we are in the same place. In the past twenty years, Italy’s problems have remained depressingly familiar: Read more [...]

Aug. 8, Berlusconi trying to change the subject

There is a famous saying among defense attorneys: when the facts are against you argue the law; when the law is against you, argue the facts; when both the facts and the law are against you, yell! That’s what we’re seeing after the conviction of Berlusconi in his tax fraud case: much yelling, as a kind of diversionary tactic. The latest is an attack on Judge Antonio Esposito, of the Italy’s highest court, the Cassazione, for a few words (possibly not said) in an interview he gave to the Neapolitan Read more [...]

Aug 4, Threats of “civil war.”

What is astonishing is that Berlusconi's supporters scream and shout about democracy being subverted, magistrates ignoring voters. But of course they never talk about the actual facts and evidence of the cases against Berlusconi. The fact that three different courts have found incontrovertible evidence that completely phony transactions were invented in order to inflate the apparent cost of buying movies in order to divert tens of millions of euros from Mediaset into secret bank accounts controlled Read more [...]