Barbie Nadeau

Stories by Barbie Nadeau

  • Italy's Cement Stimulus

    in what has to be Europe's most ill-considered stimulus plan yet, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently proposed allowing owners to expand single-family homes by 30 percent, or 35 percent including "green" additions, with no need for approvals. No review by planning boards, by historic conservation types; no regulation in an age when regulation is coming back worldwide. Designed to inspire a free-market construction boom, the plan has been derided by critics as promoting the "cementification" of Italy and as bypassing restrictions that serve as tax checkpoints. Berlusconi has scaled back, but the plan still allows owners to add extra floors and balconies as they wish. Greens and historical preservationists fear concrete devouring the skylines of Florence and Sienna, and want more restraint. Berlusconi, a tycoon who is now renovating his own new home near Rome, has vowed that homeowners will be free.
  • Vatican Helps Italian Cops Combat Satanic Crimes

    In Italy, when the hosts (communion wafers) go missing, cops get as worried as the priests. In recent months, churches have reported a shortage of hosts and votives, and lower levels of holy water in the fonts. At the same time, police are finding candle wax, knives and other satanic paraphernalia left behind at burglaries. Last month in Perugia, police investigated four satanic-ritual break-ins, including one at the sealed scene of the 2007 murder of U.K. student Meredith Kercher.Police have noticed such a sharp increase in satanic-ritual crimes that they've started bringing priests along to help decipher crime scenes. The Vatican's Squadra Anti Sette, or antisect police force, has been around since 2006, but in the past year its numbers have doubled. "Satanic sects are proliferating," says the Vatican's chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, who has trained nearly 300 priests to perform exorcisms in Italy. He says more than 8,000 Satanic cults now operate there, with a membership...
  • Italy's New Immigration Crisis

    Since the economic crisis hit, most illegal immigration has slowed—in the U.S. it fell 21 percent last year. Why head north if there's no work? Yet in Italy, arrivals from North Africa doubled in the last year (from 13,000 to 33,000, according to the U.N.). Just last week, more than 2,400 immigrants landed on the Pelagic Islands, overcrowding detention centers.Why risk the perilous trip? Because conditions at home are even worse. The war in Somalia—which recently heated up—plus the global food shortage and an economic tailspin in Africa have sent refugees scrambling to Italy, which for many is the closest European port of call. (Sicily's outer islands are just 275 kilometers from Libya's shores.)This is producing a serious crisis in Italy, which was already suffering a major anti-immigrant backlash. Silvio Berlusconi won power April on promises to deal with the problem. Yet measures taken so far, like a deal signed with Libya's Col. Muammar Kaddafi in August, have proved ineffective...
  • Inside Europe's Heroin Capital

    Naples's crime-infested housing projects aren't as bad as a new film makes them out to be. They're worse.
  • Travel: Italy By Vintage Car

    Zipping around the Tuscan hills in a Maserati is fun, but those who really want to take their time and enjoy the view should grab the keys to a vintage Fiat 1300. The company Vintage Car Tour offers driving tours of Italy in perfectly restored Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia automobiles. The idea was the brainchild of three vintage- car aficionados—an American, an Italian and a Belgian—who wanted to offer a slower approach to seeing the country.Five separate itineraries include gourmet meals and accommodations in luxe historic villas and picturesque castles. A host valet/mechanic meets guests at their hotel each night to check tire pressure, wash and polish the vehicle and plan the next day's adventure. The Amalfi Coast trip includes a private side excursion by motorboat to the island of Capri, as well as lessons in how to make limoncello and mozzarella ($10,000 per person for five nights).The Rome to Milan tour starts with a vintage Vespa jaunt around the Italian capital and ends with...
  • Gomorrah Author Saviano Runs From the Mob

    Most nights, 28-year-old Roberto Saviano sleeps in safe houses. His only public appearances are on TV. He answers text messages from different numbers and can talk only briefly on his cell phone. He's "moved around like a package" daily, without knowing what is happening to him. He longs for a normal life.Scant hope of that: Saviano is the author of "Gomorrah," the bestselling exposé on the Neapolitan mob (the film version is out in British theaters this month). Since "Gomorrah" was published in 2007, it has sold more than a million copies worldwide. The film, for which Saviano co-wrote the screenplay, follows five foot soldiers of the Casalesi family, which controls the Naples suburb where Saviano grew up. Instead of using seasoned actors, director Matteo Garrone employed Neapolitan locals (five of whom have since been arrested for mob involvement) and shot on location amid the city's gritty streets. The result is a film of stunning authenticity that won the Grand Prix at Cannes...
  • Take a Spooky Halloween Tour

    Forget cute orange pumpkins and pop-culture costumes. A truly eerie Halloween begins in a medieval crypt. Siena, along with 32 other spooky Italian cities, is introducing Halloween itineraries called "Trekking and Mysteries" ( that take urban adventurers through graveyards, catacombs, crypts and medieval fortresses. The nighttime tours are available only Oct. 31, the eve of All Saint's Day, when Italians traditionally honor their dead.Urban trekking is a growing trend in Italy; these itineraries require two to five hours and cover from one to eight kilometers, depending on the location. The Palermo tour explores underground grottoes and catacombs; the Bologna trek follows the steps of John Grisham's novel "The Broker."But the capital of creepy is Siena, where the two-hour trek follows the city's darkest alleyways into the little-known Carnaio of Santa Maria Della Scala, where thousands of pilgrims who died along Via Francigena on their way from Canterbury to Rome...
  • Buying Villas in Sicily

    To stimulate investment, a town in Sicily is giving its dilapidated buildings away.
  • The Vatican and Modern Art

    The Catholic Church, after a few hundred years, gets back in the modern-art business.
  • A Volcanic Venue

    To reduce overcrowding at Pompeii, officials propose limiting visitors and renting out the ruins.
  • Italy: New ‘Sex Murder’ Riddle

    A new development in Perugia's 'extreme sex' murder raises questions about whether Italian police fumbled the investigation.
  • New Pompeii Plan Draws Fire

    Authorities have come up with a new plan to control visitors and raise money for the ancient site. Italians don't like the idea because it's too … American.
  • Rome Subway Dig Yields Surprises

    Construction of a new subway line in Rome has unearthed some valuable--and vexing--artifacts. What happens when there's too much history in one place?
  • Perugia Murder: Defending Knox

    Will Italian police ever charge Seattle student Amanda Knox for the 'extreme sex' killing of a British student? A lawyer examines the options.
  • Revisiting the Inquisition

    A Vatican exhibition tries to shed new light on one of the darker chapters in the church's history.
  • Italy: Berlusconi, Take Three

    When Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called for new elections on April 13, he set the stage for another episode of the Silvio Berlusconi show. If the 71-year-old former prime minister wins again—he's the front runner—he faces a new world, in which his reputation for sexist (he once invited foreign investors to consider Italy because of the beautiful secretaries) and racist (he called a German European Parliament member "kapo," slang for concentration-camp prisoner) comments could play badly with key allies. France has a new president whose new wife, Italian-born Carla Bruni, has denounced Il Cavaliere as an embarrassment to her native country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel shows little tolerance for Berlusconi's political buffoonery. Berlusconi may also have some bridge building to do with George W. Bush's successor, who could well be a woman or a black man. His trademark bravura won't help him here.