Barbie Nadeau

Stories by Barbie Nadeau

  • Say Hello To The Silicon Dons

    Think Sicily, and most people imagine bloody gang scenes from "The Godfather," played out against the picturesque backdrop of a wild and mountainous Mediterranean isle. But it's time to take another look at Sicily. Sure, the mafia is alive and killing. Mount Etna still smokes and rumbles. Yet the place that has long been one of Italy's poorest provinces--an economic and social black hole, where unemployment runs at 25 percent and incomes are among the lowest in Europe--is fast turning into something surprisingly different. To wit: an emerging electronics and high-tech hub. Welcome to "Etna Valley," as locals call it, where the mystique of godfathers meets the geeks of Silicon Valley.Improbable as it may seem, given Sicily's historic backwardness, multinational companies are opening factories and research centers in record numbers--60 in the last year alone. Why has Sicily suddenly become a business paradise after so many years of neglect? Money. New European Union incentives-...
  • Italy's New Patriotism

    Italians have never been particularly patriotic. Only 72 percent say they are proud to be Italian, according to a recent survey. More than 40 percent can't identify the colors of their national flag. They consistently confuse it with Mexico's tricolors.All that may be about to change, if the flag-waving coalition government of Silvio Berlusconi has its way. For too long, the country's leaders seem to feel, Italy has been a largely geographic expression, somehow lacking a certain something in cultural unity. So now comes a slew of new measures to make Italy just a little bit more, well, Italian. For the first time in the country's history, laws have been proposed that would designate Italian as the country's official language. (As opposed to what, one might fairly wonder.) If all goes well, Italy will also soon get a bona fide national anthem, the "Mameli Hymn," long sung at football matches and public events but never quite rising to the status of an Italian "God Bless America" or ...
  • The Stigma Of Disability In Italy

    Diego Chiapello, legally blind since birth, isn't one of Italy's famous "mama's boys" who live with their parents into adulthood. The 27-year-old lives alone in Milan, works as a network administrator, loves diving and dreams of sailing across the Atlantic with an all-sight-impaired crew.Obviously, he's not your average disabled person--but especially so in Italy. The country throws up more barriers to integration than almost anywhere else on the Continent: among European countries, Italy ranks third from the bottom in accessibility for the disabled, ahead of only Greece and Portugal. People who use wheelchairs, especially, find it difficult to navigate the country's cobblestone streets, ride buses or visit restaurants, shops and museums. Less than a quarter of Italy's disabled hold jobs, compared with 47 percent for Europe.But the biggest obstacle for the country's physically challenged may, in fact, be the fabled Italian family. Because of the social stigma that still attaches to...
  • Always Home

    When he was 4, Michael Portegies-Zwart asked his mother, Carolyn, the question that all parents dread: "Where do I come from?" But instead of reaching for the anatomy books, she pulled out the atlas. "[I'm] from the United States, your father is from Holland and you were born in Vienna," she explained. The young boy looked at her quizzically. "Yeah, but where am I from?" he pressed. She shrugged, not quite knowing how to respond. Three years later, the family moved to Rome for his father's job with the United Nations. After living there for nine years and attending international schools, Michael, now 19, finally figured out the answer: "I'm from the world," he says.Portegies-Zwart is part of a burgeoning community of nomadic kids who are growing up globally. Called third-culture kids--or TCKs--these children of diplomats, aid workers, missionaries, military personnel, journalists, academics and business executives are being raised in a culture that lies somewhere between their...
  • The Tenor In Cowboy Boots

    There aren't many men who could fill Luciano Pavarotti's shoes. But Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra seems destined to do just that. Last May, New York's Metropolitan Opera flew the 34-year-old Sicilian over on the Concorde to be on standby for Pavarotti, who had caught a flu bug before his string of scheduled farewell performances. On the night of the Met's season finale, Pavarotti canceled just before the curtain went up on Puccini's "Tosca"--and an unfazed Licitra stepped in. Four thousand ticketholders, some of whom had paid as much as $1,875 to see Pavarotti, were already in their seats. "In front of that American audience, I sang the best I could," Licitra says. "The whole audience wanted to see Pavarotti. You could hear them saying, 'Who is this Licitra?' At the end they gave me a standing ovation. It was something I will remember always: to arrive there, to perform there was a dream."It hasn't been a dream for long. Licitra didn't begin singing until he was 19. And it was his...
  • Back To 'La Dolce Vita'

    In Federico Fellini's 1976 film "Casanova," a giant Medusa rises out of a Venice lagoon and looms menacingly over Donald Sutherland's character. Back then the film was considered a work of genius for creating such dazzling effects. Directors everywhere aspired to Fellini's imaginative camerawork. Rome was known as the Hollywood of Europe; Italian films like "La Dolce Vita," "8i" and "La Strada"--as well as American movies filmed in Rome, like "Cleopatra" and "Ben Hur"--won admirers and breathless reviews all over the world.Some of that heat is returning to Rome, but for different reasons. Instead of borrowing from Fellini's surreal poetic style, major Italian films are taking a page from Hollywood and investing in better technology and glitzier special effects. The country's latest blockbuster, Roberto Benigni's "Pinocchio," is the most expensive film ever made in Italy, costing more than ¤40 million, mostly for special effects like the lengthening of the puppet's nose. It's also...
  • Sale Of The Century

    It's a developer's dream: 20,000 square meters of premium property in the heart of Rome. Simply convert the Colosseum into a colossal shopping mall. (Need parking? Raze the ruinous Roman Forum nearby.) And why stop at the capital? A spectacular theme park and resort could go up on the island of Elba. Hundreds of kilometers of pristine Mediterranean beaches could house retirement communities or tourist havens. Imagine the possibilities...The Colosseum may never go on the auction block, but a government plan to raise cash has alarmed preservationists. Strapped for euros and fending off critics who say it doesn't adequately care for the country's cultural treasures, the Italian government is considering a novel solution: sell them off.Of course, officially, it sounds better than that. Ministers speak of "privatization," the policy of transferring state-owned money-losing assets to entrepreneurs who presumably can manage them more efficiently and turn a profit. Properties that can't be...
  • Listen To Me, Doc

    At first glance, Dr. Lucilla Ricottini's office seems just about normal for a pediatrician in Rome. The colors are muted, the lights are fluorescent and kiddie toys litter the waiting room. But it doesn't take long to realize that Ricottini isn't your typical doctor. She can spend hours consulting with a single patient. And she chooses carefully from an arsenal of ancient remedies, including beetle secretions and the fresh venom of a bushmaster snake. Is it voodoo medicine? "It's really about listening to the patient," says Ricottini. "Official medicine is still vital, but sometimes it makes a patient feel like a machine and that the doctor is just changing a part."Ricottini is one of a growing band of physicians embracing homeopathy, a holistic approach that takes into account not just a patient's symptoms but myriad other life factors as well. Do you feel optimistic? Do you socialize, or sit in your apartment every night? How a patient answers determines what a homeopathic doctor...
  • 'Carp' Diem

    From the Ponte Sisto in Rome, the view of St. Peter's is postcard perfect. The ancient bridge across the Tiber was built from remnants of various pillages--a chunk of marble from the Colosseum, a cornerstone from an ancient temple. Savor the moment but avert your eyes from the river. This summer it was a sewer of dead fish, killed by no one knows quite what. The stench still lingers and the embankments shimmer with an oily residue, festooned with dead carp and eels.If a river is a city's symbolic lifeline, Rome is in trouble. It may be the Eternal City, but London or Paris it's not. While other European capitals grow ever more chic and modern, Rome is in a rut. If it's scenic vistas and good food you seek, great. But for cultural liveliness, business vibrancy and the conveniences of modern living? Forget it. Torpidity and decay seem to be Rome's watchwords. Yes, it's still the seat of government, proud citadel of a prosperous G7 nation and a leader of the European Union. But what to...
  • Travel: Flying Tots

    Taking a toddler on a trans-Atlantic flight? It's enough to make both Mommy and Baby weep. But skip the Benadryl. Just plan ahead:CARRY-ONS: Along with necessities, take a few sets of clothes for your kid and an extra shirt for you. And buy a collapsible stroller that fits in overhead bins. International gates can be miles from baggage claim, so never be without wheels.SEATS: Don't book in the first row. Yes, there's more legroom, but there's no place to stow carry-ons. And don't be cheap. Buy your toddler her own seat.TOYS: Surprise kids with new toys--like coloring books--but don't forget comforting old favorites. (Gift-wrapping little toys adds to the fun and keeps small pieces together.) Also, enjoy the free "toys" onboard, like toothbrushes and sleep masks.FOOD: Don't ask for a kid's meal. The grown-up fare is almost always healthier.
  • Travel: Spit-Ups At 10,000 Feet

    You've just boarded a transatlantic flight with two kids, a stroller and a diaper bag. As you make your way up the aisle, other passengers avert their eyes, their body language shouting: "Please, don't sit here!" You know well the acute sense of relief they feel as you limp past them on your way to the back of the plane--after all, you used to be one of them. But flying across the ocean with the under-5 set doesn't have to be a total nightmare. A little preparation and some intelligent packing will go a long way.Planning your flight:Choosing a route is often the first step in making a long-haul flight with kids successful. Direct flights are best, but if you have a layover, try to schedule it near the beginning of the trip. "There's no way I'd want to tell the kids they have another flight after they just survived 11 hours in the air," says Scott Grove, who crosses the Atlantic as many as five times a year from Rome with his wife and three kids.Seating arrangements:Many travel...
  • Yes! We Have No Bananas

    When Italian authorities stumbled upon a suspicious merchant ship sailing in the Mediterranean two years ago, they were sure they had captured a key part of an international drug-smuggling ring. Instead, when they stormed the ship at gunpoint all they found was ... a boatload of bananas from Ecuador."They must have peeled peeled almost every single banana before they realized there was no cocaine," an official of the European Anti-Fraud office, OLAF, told NEWSWEEK. "Even then it took a while to sink in that the contraband was the bananas."Who would have guessed? Smugglers have learned, says the OLAF spokesman, that they can get higher payments from their bosses for trafficking in bananas rather than hauling the cocaine, arms or even humans that are all standard cargo in Italian waters.The trade is big enough now that the Italian authorities are becoming concerned about lost revenue. When officials completed a two-year probe into illicit fruit smuggling this week, they found the...
  • Trouble In The Mountain

    In the towns and villages that dot the side of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that buried the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, life seems normal enough, except there's expectation in the air. Ugo Corati, who has lived and worked on the mountain all his life, was 12 years old when it erupted, in 1944. It was a bad time. A slow stream of lava destroyed 800 homes and the villages of San Sebastiano and Massa di Somma, and killed a few dozen people. Since then, scientists have installed all sorts of fancy equipment to monitor the mountain for signs of trouble, and local authorities regularly sound sirens and lead evacuation drills. Corati, sipping espresso in a local cafe, doesn't seem at all reassured by this activity, but neither is he particularly troubled by the danger. "What can you do about it?" he says with a shrug. "All these safety measures and all this monitoring equipment are in place, but if the mountain goes, we're all as good as dead."A chilling assessment, and...
  • The King And His Cars

    It's been a bad year for Giovanni Agnelli, the ailing king of Italian industry. This spring the Rome press was writing eulogies for the Fiat founder after he failed to appear in public for several weeks. Worse, false news of his death sent Fiat stock soaring on the hope that the faltering conglomerate, Italy's largest private employer, would be better off without him. As it happened, the 81-year-old tycoon was in New York undergoing treatment for a prostate condition; he returned this month to new rumors, this time that he had come home to die. More likely, he's come home in a last ditch attempt to save his empire.Once the pride of Italy, Fiat looks increasingly like just another old family business, out of step with a changing Europe. On a continent where trade barriers are falling and brand loyalty has increasingly little to do with nationality, Fiat's flagship auto business is losing market share--even at home--to foreign rivals. For decades it was Europe's largest and most...
  • When In Rome...

    Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe was in Rome last week, making waves and raising eyebrows. First he declared that his government's notorious land-grab policies are a "visionary" solution to hunger. Then there was his mere presence inside European Union borders. Strictly speaking, he shouldn't have even been there. (He's been officially barred entry due to his intolerant treatment of political opponents.) But he managed to skirt the ban through a loophole that allows any leader--blacklisted or not--to attend a U.N. conference. In this particular case, it was the U.N. World Food Summit.All this was nothing next to his extravagance. While his people back home continued to suffer, Mugabe, his wife, Grace, and his entourage took full advantage of Rome. Let's begin with their accommodation: rooms at the five-star Excelsior hotel at $650 a night (the average income in Zimbabwe is only $480--a year). While the summit addressed the "general economic crisis" in Zimbabwe and warned of...
  • Doctor Of Hope

    Nothing about Luigi Di Bella stands out. He's not tall. His dark suit, by Italian standards, is rather plain. Even the restaurant where he's having coffee is unremarkable. But it is easy to see why a cancer patient would be drawn to this kindly 90-year-old doctor with grandfatherly eyes and a face like a koala's. Di Bella is a terrific listener. His consultations with patients can last hours. He wants to hear about symptoms, complaints and life stories. Then, taking all this into account, he fixes up a special cocktail--of prescription and nonprescription drugs, vitamins, hormones and homeopathic medicines--tailored for the patient at hand.By most accounts, patients are satisfied. In 35 years, Di Bella has used his "multiple therapy" treatment on roughly 10,000 cancer sufferers. His Web site displays their testimonials. Claudio of Turin thanks the doctor for providing hope in his fight against throat cancer; Marzia of Milan writes of the courage and renewed hope the doctor has given...
  • OVER TROUBLED WATERS

    In ancient times, sailors lived in fear of the violent and treacherous passage between Calabria on the Italian mainland and the island of Sicily. Homer wrote of a whirlpool that swallowed ships whole, and a six-headed monster lying in wait for sailors foolish enough to make the crossing. The concerns have changed, but the general sentiment hasn't. Nowadays, the road to Calabria's ferry dock is a notorious smugglers' route and is known for carjackings, road rage and murder. The ferryboats are decrepit. And the strait's fierce waters still on occasion swallow a ship or two.Now the Italian government seems poised to leapfrog these troubles by building a gleaming new suspension bridge. At five kilometers, the Messina Strait Bridge would be a modern engineering marvel. Weighing in at 54,630 tons, the mammoth structure would span 3.3 kilometers of water, beating the two-kilometer record currently held by Japan's Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. It would also fulfill a campaign promise by Italy's...
  • The Rites Of Spring

    Spring has sprung in Sicily. The wildflowers are blooming, pale northern tourists are heading for the beaches--and bulldozers are showing up outside people's homes. Giuseppe Micciche can see one from his window. "I'm trying to save the house my father built," he said by phone from the southern town of Licata. Sure, it's too close to the coast. And yes, it was built in total disregard for all relevant rules and regulations. But heck! "You should see how beautiful it is!" ...
  • Riding The 'Underwater'

    Venice has long been in trouble. Its population is shrinking. Its historic buildings are crumbling. The whole city is sinking slowly into the sea. You could say the town is going down the tube, figuratively speaking. And soon that may be true literally, as well. ...
  • First Person Global

    There is perhaps no better place in the world to have a baby than Italy--at least so it would seem. The icons of motherhood, the Madonna and child, hang on every street corner and piazza in the form of carved shrines laden with roses and candles. We real mothers, too, are generally flowered with adoration. Complete strangers walk up and rub my swollen belly for luck. I haven't waited in a line for months, since Italians are happy to let a vision of fertility go first. And forget about standing in a bus--it just doesn't happen. ...
  • Reading The Leaders' Minds

    NOTHING IS AS IT WAS. THE LINES ARE DRAWN. IN AMERICA'S WAR ON TERROR, WORLD LEADERS MUST CHOOSE. WHERE DO THEY STAND? HOW DO THEY WEIGH THE STAKES, CALCULATE THE PROS AND CONS OF THIS OR THAT COURSE OF ACTION? NEWSWEEK OFFERS A BRIEF SCORE-CARD FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF SOME OF THE MEN IN THE GEOPOLITICAL SPOTLIGHTf
  • Rome, Fearful City

    Rome's Piazza di Spagna is famous as a meeting place for tourists and Italians alike, a place to see and be seen. But this week, it became a symbol of all that is happening in and to America and the perceived danger that faces not only Americans but their allies.Metal detectors were installed inside the American Express office just off the piazza. Armed police in flak jackets blended in with tourists who mingled outside its doors. Across the piazza, a McDonald's restaurant buzzed with customers, but, according to the manager, there was an increase in takeout meals versus those wanting to while away a mealtime in a purely American establishment. This week, the U.S. Embassy sent out a communique to all Americans living in Italy: "The State Department has received information that symbols of American capitalism in Italy may be targeted for attack in October," it stated. "American citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects and people."That warning...
  • Rebuilding The Colosseum

    The Colosseum is like Rome itself. After all these centuries, it never runs out of surprises. One of the latest turned up on a second-tier corridor only a few weeks ago: an amateurish but detailed drawing scratched into the wall. The subject is a crouching gladiator armed with a bow and arrow. Experts say the graffitist was probably a fight fan (a teenager or a grown man, to judge from the picture's complexity and its height above the floor) passing the wait between bouts, 1,600 or more years ago.As trivial as the discovery may sound, it's pure treasure to Roselle Rea. She's the chief archaeologist for an eight-year, $18 million restoration project currently underway at the mightiest of Rome's ancient monuments. When the overhaul is finished in 2003, visitors will be able to explore parts of the Flavian Amphitheater (the Colosseum's proper name) that have been out of public view for centuries--and a few that were off-limits even in the days of the emperors. Rea's enthusiasm is...
  • Rebuilding The Colosseum

    The Colosseum is like Rome itself. After all these centuries, it never runs out of surprises. One of the latest turned up on a second-tier corridor only a few weeks ago: an amateurish but detailed drawing scratched into the wall. The subject is a crouching gladiator armed with a bow and arrow. Experts say the graffitist was probably a fight fan (a teenager or a grown man, to judge from the picture's complexity and its height above the floor) passing the wait between bouts, 1,600 or more years ago.As trivial as the discovery may sound, it's pure treasure to Roselle Rea. She's the chief archaeologist for an eight-year, $18 million restoration project currently underway at the mightiest of Rome's ancient monuments. When the overhaul is finished in 2003, visitors will be able to explore parts of the Flavian Amphitheater (the Colosseum's proper name) that have been out of public view for centuries--and a few that were off-limits even in the days of the emperors. Rea's enthusiasm is...
  • Now That's Italian!

    The hilltop village of Montefalco is a sleepy Umbrian hamlet with characteristic views of olive groves, vineyards and crumbling old villas. Villagers sip their morning cappuccino standing up at a counter, and the scent of garlic being sauteed in oil wafts through the air. There aren't many unspoiled scenes like this in Italy's tourist hot spots, where visitors sometimes seem to outnumber the locals. In Montefalco, the few tourists are mostly out of sight--in the basement of the Pambuffetti Villa, learning the difference between al dente and overcooked.Everyone knows you can eat well in Italy. But why stop there when you can spend your vacation digesting the fine art of making Italian cuisine? Instead of tramping through churches, museums and shops, increasing numbers of visitors to Italy are enjoying culinary tourism: chopping and stirring, pressing olives, learning how to produce wine. Tuscany is the most popular spot for cuisine-related travel, as it is for many other kinds of...
  • Righting One Wrong Tower

    For much of the last decade, Italy's leaning tower of Pisa was a huge construction site. Crews piled 900 tons of lead bricks around the tower's base. More recently, they drilled holes beneath the tower, inserted pipes and sucked out 70 tons of soil to be carted away by a fleet of dump trucks. As a safety net in case the tower toppled during this operation, restorers encircled its midsection with a four-centimeter-thick cable. Then, a few weeks ago, they packed up their earth-moving machines and went home. The latest effort to keep the 800-year-old tower from becoming yet another of Italy's many ruins had come to a close. And, with any luck, so ends a series of engineering gaffes and accidents that stretch back over most of the second millennium. On June 16, the engineers will turn it over to the city of Pisa at a gala affair, followed the next day by the annual celebration of Pisa's patron saint Ranier. Candles will be floated down the River Arno, and tenor Andrea Bocelli will give...
  • The Mountain Is Rumbling

    Each spring, residents of Catania walk the Sicilian's town's narrow streets chanting prayers and touting relics of Saint Agatha, their patron saint and protectress against an eruption of Mount Etna. All the while, the mountain looms overhead, belching smoke, ash and lava. Although villagers have gotten used to these displays of defiance, this year they have reason to pray with more than the usual fervor. In the past few weeks, seismologists have logged hundreds of earthquakes near the mountain's summit. Each quake is far too weak to mean much to the hundreds of villages on Etna's slopes and foothills. But taken together, they suggest that Europe's most active volcano is about to deliver a whopper. ...
  • The Plan To Refloat Venice

    The chic Quadri restaurant in Venice's Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's Square is known for its signature saffron scallops, its baked gelato--and its Wellington boots. For much of the last year the restaurant's ground-floor cafe, patronized by dukes and countesses yesterday and celebrities today, has been flooded with seawater from the Adriatic. Manager Adriano Zirardi came up with the idea of handing out Wellies so diners could keep their Manolos dry as they sloshed their way to the tables upstairs. How bad does the flooding get? It's not uncommon for patrons to sip their cappuccinos standing knee-deep in water. "Sometimes the customers have fun with it," says Zirardi. "But for those of us who live and work in Venice, it is really kind of a nightmare." ...
  • Is It Terrorism Redux?

    The whacking of Massimo D'Antona had all the earmarks of a commando operation. For days, the killers hid in two stolen vans parked on opposite sides of the busy Via Salaria, where their quarry lived. Last Thursday D'Antona, a top economics adviser in the government of Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, stepped from his home and walked a hundred paces toward the university where he teaches labor law. He carried a briefcase in one hand and a laptop in the other. Two young men in denim pants and jackets, one with a pink shirt, one in a baseball cap, climbed from the vans and converged on him as he passed behind a sidewalk billboard. Screened from view, they shot him six times, then dropped their .38-caliber pistols and calmly walked away--apparently after first unscrewing and pocketing the silencers.People close by neither saw nor heard the shots. D'Antona staggered into a wall and fell to the pavement, his white shirtfront stained with blood. A tour bus full of Americans pulled...