Italy: Dreams of La Dolce Vita

If you read about Italy in the financial press, you might be excused for thinking that the days of la dolce vita, literally the sweet life, have gone very sour.

The Curse of Approval

In 1240, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II built his military fortress, Castel del Monte, on a lonely hill in central Puglia, where he had a perfect view of approaching enemies.

Rome: A Whole New Beginning

Rome has been built, pillaged, burned and buried so many times that archaeological treasures are commonplace. However, last month new finds impressed even jaded Romans.

Volcano Fatigue

While Giuseppe D'Emilio is drawing down cappuccinos at the Ercolaneo coffee bar, Mount Vesuvius may be on the verge of erupting beneath his feet. D'Emilio, though, doesn't look like a man who is worried.

O, SILVIO!

I promise! From now on, two months of absolute sexual abstinence!" Like an athlete saving himself for the big game, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made the ultimate campaign promise recently by vowing celibacy until the country's April 9 elections.

Can Rocca Rev up Torino?

A new sport has taken hold in Italy ahead of the Winter Olympics, which are set to kick off in Torino on Feb. 10. Dubbed "block the torch" by locals, it pits Italy's ardent anarchists against Olympic organizers trying to generate excitement by relaying the Olympic torch across the country.

Travel: A Golden Getaway

Tickets are still available to the Winter Olympics, which opens in Torino, Italy, on Feb. 10. Here's how to book a last-minute trip. The cheapest way to get there is through a do-it-yourself itinerary.

Relighting the Olympic Fire

Alberto Tomba is unquestionably Italy's greatest skiing legend. The 39-year-old has won five Olympic medals and more than 50 World Cup skiing events during his 15-year professional career.

Monuments And Money

In A.D. 64 Nero built his palatial golden palace, the Domus Aurea, sparing no expense in the most elaborate display of decadence Rome had ever seen. Frescoes adorned the walls of its 150 rooms, inlaid with precious gems and exotic seashells.

Fashion: The Pope Wears Prada

He may never make the best-dressed lists, but Pope Benedict XVI is nothing short of a religious-fashion icon, riding in the Popemobile with red Prada loafers under his cassock and Gucci shades.

The Devil in Pictures

For the first 22 years of her life, Anneliese Michel was an unremarkable young woman--a teacher in training and part of a devout Roman Catholic family in Germany.

Poor, Poorer, Poorest

The ruins of Matera in Italy's southern region of Basilicata are a grim reminder of how desperate life has been for the region's poor. Generations of families once lived here in squalid, windowless caves cut out of the steep ravines, often sleeping alongside their pigs, chickens and goats.

Private Lies, Public Figures

Antonio Fazio is not the type of man most Italians associate with corruption. Governor of the Bank of Italy, the 69-year-old father of five is the very picture of civic rectitude, with a loving wife and a reputation for fairness and scrupulous honesty.

A Funeral Like No Other

By Wednesday afternoon in Vatican City, the weekend quiet of prayer and contemplation was gone as Italian police corralled the faithful into clusters separated by gaps of open space--a tactic to avoid the fatal crush of a stampede.

LAND OF RUINS

The reopening of Rome's magnificent Palazzo delle Esposizioni this month was to be the premier social event of the year. Romans proudly called it "our MoMA," destined to become one of the most prominent cultural centers in Europe.

UNDER THE VOLCANO II

The view from Mount Vesuvius is one of Italy's finest. The Bay of Naples shimmers beyond lush olive groves and vineyards that cascade down the mountain's flanks.

DON'T YOU HATE SUVS?

Even for the quick and the nimble, driving in Rome has never been anything but a chore. At the best of times, it's a smog-choked labyrinth of buzzing mopeds, toddling grannies and chugging Fiats vying for cobblestone space.

THE BUZZING SOUND OF SUMMER

The telltale sound of summer in Rome used to be the clapping of plastic tables on the cobblestone streets as restaurants prepared to serve dinner under the stars.

DUELING BILLBOARDS

Rome's Spanish steps have always been a seductive spot, but never quite like this. On the facade of the church sitting at the top, a billboard featuring huge glossy lips advertises Glam Shine lipstick--maker of such colors as Diva and Siren.

HIGHER CALLING

When you walk through the doors of St. Peter's Basilica these days, you might just catch the glow of a laptop or wireless PDA through the smoky haze of burning incense.

BAD DAYS FOR IL CAVALIERE

It's only January, and 2004 is already looking like a bad year for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The cancerous Parmalat scandal has roiled the Italian economy, and prosecutors warn they'll soon finger a handful of "high-ranking politicians" for suspected complicity in the case.

Opposites Attract

They call him "La Mortadella," after the pink, bland sausage from his hometown of Bologna. As prime minister, Romano Prodi preferred commuter trains to limos and famously ran his 1996 election campaign out of a secondhand schoolbus that he often drove himself.

Doggone It: A Dangerous Decree

Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of dogs. But a recent wave of pit-bull attacks in Italy has so frightened me that I've become uncomfortable about living in Rome.

Technology: Back To School Guide

Heading back to school used to mean weeks of wardrobe preparation. Nowadays most kids would rather spend their hard-earned summer-job money on high technology than high fashion.

Food: Italian Delicacies

BARBIE NADEAUIt's summer, and thoughts naturally turn to polenta. Well, maybe just in northern Italy, where a host of small villages hold annual celebrations of what was once a peasant staple.

Market Watch

If you're planning to shop in Europe this summer, there are bargains to be had. Be sure to browse through these famous markets:Warsaw Stadium. Warsaw. If you're looking for smuggled vodka, kittens or even hand grenades, this is your place.

Fun For The Kids

At Porto Pirata on Portugal's scenic coast, a disturbance threatened to destroy the peaceful holiday tableau. A British guy was trying to get behind the wheel of a big green truck parked outside.

Feeling The Heat

Imagine this. The president of the European Union is hosting a historic summit. Exhorting fellow ministers to admit Russia to the European Union, he brandishes an emphatic fist in the air--where the lights of the world's assembled TV networks catch his electronic-surveillance bracelet.

Food: Pizza Problems

To an American, especially one who suffered through this winter, living in southern Italy sounds nice. But for the young men who train in Naples to become pizzaioli--professionals certified to make pizza in the original style of the Neapolitans--staying at home holds little allure.

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.

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