Barbie Nadeau

Stories by Barbie Nadeau

  • '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...