Angelo Vassallo, the fisherman-mayor

Italy is full of unsung heroes, ordinary people who do extraordinary things and pay for it dearly, often with their life.

Il sindaco pescatore – the fisherman-mayor – is one of these.

Angelo Vassallo, a fisherman by trade, was elected mayor of the struggling coastal municipality of Pollica in the beautiful Cilento area south of Naples in 1995. At that time the local environment was in a state of degradation as a result of pollution and building speculation and the economy was in ruins.

During three successive mandates Vassallo turned the town around with intransigence and determination, making the pursuit of legality and defence of the environment his guiding principles.

He activated the abandoned local water purification system, organised an efficient local rubbish recycling scheme, created pedestrian areas and introduced hefty fines for dropping cigarette butts, among other things.

Slowly, tourists started to return to the area, the municipality won the prestigious international Blue Flag eco-label and national Legambiente ‘5 Vele’ award and the economy flourished.

Meanwhile, Vassallo’s administration became a model of good governance all over the world.

However, the influx of money and tourists into the area brought with it other problems, most notably drugs. And, like all other problems, the fisherman-mayor faced this one head on. This may have been his undoing.

In March 2010 Vassallo was elected to a fourth mandate with 100% of the vote. The following September while driving home one evening he was gunned down.

Four years later, in February 2014 an Italian gangster named Bruno Humberto Damiani was stopped at Bogota’ airport on an international arrest warrant for drug pushing in the Cilento area.

Police said the suspect, who was alleged to have connections with the Camorra operating in Naples’ Scampia neighbourhood, met with representatives of a family of hoteliers and criminals just hours before the fisherman-mayor was riddled with bullets.

Last month prosecutors opened investigations into a further three people in connection with the assassination.

The four suspects are all being probed for aggravated complicity in murder.

Vassallo’s story came to my attention by chance a few weeks ago, when I learned that pupils at a primary school here in Monterotondo are doing project work inspired by him.

While the Vassallo family, the community of Pollica and Italy as a whole wait for justice to be served, this surely has to be a fitting tribute to his memory.

Becoming an Italian citizen / 3


My legalized birth certificate and police certificate were delivered by DHL courier at 12.21 today.

Next step: to have the documents translated into Italian and the translations legalized via an agency in Rome

(There is still a doubt in my mind about the level of legalization I need; on the interior ministry website it says ‘traduzione legalizzata’,  while the translation agency insists that I need a ‘traduzione giurata’, and says they aren’t the same thing. I’ll have to sort it out when I take the documents in…)

It remains to be seen whether the Italian civil service will be as efficient as the civil service in the UK.

Certainly in the process of gathering the documents needed to apply for Italian citizenship I have been at a big advantage compared to people who come from countries where the civil service functions less well.

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 1 click here

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 2 click here

New murderous attacks against women rock Italy

There seems to be no let-up in the litany of murderous violence in Italy perpetrated against women by their current or former partners. Three horrible incidents in less than two days. One woman, 38, is fighting for her life in a Naples burns unit after being set fire to by her partner outside their Pozzuoli home. The couple’s child, delivered at 34 weeks by C-section after the woman was admitted to hospital on Monday, is reportedly doing OK. In Catania a 41-year-old woman was strangled by her ex after a row allegedly over the management of their four-year-old son. And in Brescia a woman, 56, was stabbed to death by her husband, reportedly also after a fight. The man then killed himself by deliberately driving the wrong way down a motorway.

Here is the link to my round-up for Ansa

Becoming an Italian citizen / 2

My police certificate arrived by post on Friday, exactly 18 days after I made the on-line application to the ACRO criminal records office in the first step towards becoming an Italian citizen (see Becoming an Italian citizen / 1).

Much to my relief the certificate did carry an official signature of sorts, so I was able to proceed with the next step of having this document and my birth certificate legalised.

This involved sending the two certificates together with a completed legalisation application form (downloadable from the website), a blank A4-sized envelope and confirmation of payment (£30 per document plus £14.50 to have the documents returned by courier) to the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes.

The documents went into the post this morning and the application should take 48 hours to process, so with any luck I should have them safely back by early next week.

In the meantime I now need to investigate appropriate certified translation services in readiness for the third step towards becoming an Italian citizen.

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 1 click here

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 3 click here


Richiedente asilo del Gambia violentato da italiano

Talvolta sono i migranti e richiedenti asilo a compiere aggressioni e abusi ai danni di donne e uomini nei paesi di accoglienza, come nella terribile notte di Capodanno a Colonia e in diverse altre città della Germania.

Ma a volte succede anche il contrario, ed è bene dirlo per correttezza e completezza d’informazione e per mettere freno ai populismi che cercano di imporre la loro narrazione semplicistica e monodimensionale ai danni della coesione e della solidarietà sociale.

E’ il caso di un richiedente asilo diciottenne del Gambia, giunto in Italia dopo una traversata in mare e ora ‘ospite’ (passatemi il termine) del centro di accoglienza per i richiedenti d’asilo (CARA) di Mineo, la cui triste vicenda è riportata oggi dall’agenzia Ansa.

Sarebbe stato violentato da un 23enne italiano nella stazione di Termini Imerese mentre si stava recando in visita da un suo connazionale. Il giovane è riuscito infine a dare l’allarme e l’aggressore è stato identificato e arrestato con l’accusa di violenza sessuale grazie ad alcuni dati sul cellulare. La polizia scientifica ha trovato tracce biologiche nella sala d’attesa della stazione che potrebbero confermare l’aggressione, permettendo forse al ragazzo gambiano un giorno di ottenere giustizia.

La protezione internazionale è un’altra storia.

Una scialuppa in mezzo al mare, ovvero l’accoglienza dei profughi a Monterotondo

IMG_0682So che il Natale è finito da un pezzo, ma nella chiesa di Gesu Operaio a Monterotondo è rimasto un presepe che ho scoperto solo oggi, e che desidero condividere con i miei lettori.

L’allestimento progettato e realizzato da Franco Iannelli s’incentra sul tema dell’accoglienza dei profughi in arrivo dal mare.

Invece della tradizionale capanna, la sacra famiglia è sistemata in una scialuppa in mezzo al mare, con Giuseppe che tende la mano verso due profughi aggrappati al bordo. Uno di loro tiene in braccio un bambino in fasce che allunga verso la barca, per metterlo in salvo. Sullo sfondo, ‘l’isola della speranza’, un paesaggio povero ma lindo, con le case illuminate da dentro e le porte spalancate e con le persone che sono in attesa di ricevere i nuovi arrivati.

E noi?


Becoming an Italian citizen / 1

Today I took the first concrete steps towards becoming an Italian citizen.

It is something that I have been considering for many years – in fact, since 2003 when I became entitled to apply for Italian citizenship on grounds of being a EU citizen resident in Italy for four years.

However at that stage my future in Italy still felt too uncertain.

I returned to the prospect more recently, in 2010, when I became doubly entitled to apply for Italian citizenship after being married to an Italian national for two years.

But at that time I had more pressing things to do, with my first child on the way and no desire to spend endless hours pursuing the necessary documentation between Italy and the UK.

Now, at the start of 2016, much has changed. I’m definitely here for the long haul and I now feel an urgent need to engage more fully in the civic and political life of my adopted country (one of my ‘projects’ is to apply to take part in international electoral observation missions and another is to enter local politics on a non-party political basis). The October referendum on the constitutional reform bill currently before parliament (it cleared its second identical reading in the Chamber of Deputies today) is looming, and while I do not believe my ‘no’ vote would make much difference to the final outcome I still feel compelled to take part. I would also like to vote in the next general elections to choose a replacement for Renzi…

Then there is the issue of the probable exit of Britain from the EU and the many practical consequences that this would have for me as a British citizen living in Italy. In the event of ‘Brexit’ I would presumably be stripped of my European citizenship rights, which would boil down to the right to be here in the first place on my present terms. Life could suddenly become quite complicated.

Nor do I want to lose my European citizenship on principle; I have benefitted hugely from the concept of the EU – it is thanks to this that I was able to move to Italy without hindrance in 1998 to make a new life for myself here – and I am firmly committed to the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights that it purports to represent.

Like many, I have also been deeply affected by recent challenges facing the EU, from the Greek economic crisis to migration. I have been saddened and frustrated at Europe’s inability to act decisively and with one voice… But I see this as no reason to abandon ship; rather, it seems all the more important to lay my cards on the table, roll up my sleeves and get stuck in.

So, today I filed an application to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for a police certificate for immigration purposes (NOT to be confused with a criminal record check, which is something different), one of the supporting documents required by the Italian ministry of the interior in the application for citizenship (the others are a full birth certificate, duly translated into Italian and legalized, receipt of payment of the €200 application fee and a copy of an identity document).

I had to present two proofs of my current address, my full address history with dates for the last 10 years, my last UK address, a passport photo, a copy of my passport and endorser details and pay £45.00 for the service.

I made the application via the ACRO website (very easy provided you have all the information and documents ready to upload) and the certificate will be sent to me by post. I just need to keep my fingers crossed that it will carry an official signature so I can then send it to the FCO Legalisation service to be legalised, before getting it translated (and the translation legalised) into Italian…

And this is only step one…

It was my dear friend Barbara Fabiani who first made me aware of the “beauty” (her word) of the Italian Constitution, way back in 2003 – long before actor and director Roberto Benigni sung its praises in his televised performance La Più Bella Del Mondo in December 2012. I remember her talking about the painstaking work of synthesis carried out by the constituent fathers to create a fundamental charter that might truly balance the aspirations of all the political forces that had opposed Nazi Fascism in Italy during the Second World War and protect the country against dictatorship in future. I went home that evening and read the fundamental principles and part I – rights and duties of citizens in one breath. It was love at first sight…

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 2 click here

For Becoming an Italian citizen / 3 click here

Correction: ‘arancione’ is a model of good government on the centre left

I got it wrong.

In my ‘A glossary of the Italian centre left’ posted on December 15 I erroneously wrote that the term arancione (orange) refers to exponents of the newly formed political movement (not yet a full-blown party) called Sinistra Italiana comprising defectors from the Democratic Party (PD), Sinistra Ecologia e Libertà (SEL) and disenchanted former members of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) and that modello arancione is the epithet for the alliance.

Sinistra Italiana does, it seem, have a logo comprising white writing on an orange background.

However, the ‘orange’ that crops up time and again in current reporting on the shambles within the centre-left in fact refers to exponents of another movement, Movimento arancione, launched by incumbent Naples mayor Luigi De Magistriis in 2012 to bring together politicians and civil society representatives unhappy with traditional political parties. They created an alternative model of centre-left government – the so-called modello arancione – based on democratic participation and civic revival.

Key exponents of this movement are Giuliano Pisapia, Marco Doria and Massimo Zedda, respectively incumbent mayors of Milan, Genoa and Cagliari, who were behind a recent call for unity within the centre left in view of local elections next year.

Separately, further research has turned up two more factions within the PD:

Sinistra è cambiamento: per una primavera democratica (Left is change: for a democratic spring), launched by agriculture minister Maurizio Martina in June 2015. Described in journalese as the sinistra dialogante (the left that is prepared to dialogue), as opposed to the minoranza dem led by Roberto Speranza that disagreed with Renzi over the Italicum electoral law before the summer and remains openly hostile to the government to this day.

Area riformista: launched in April 2014 as an aggregate of minority factions within Renzi’s PD loosely grouped around party heavyweights Pierluigi Bersani (so-called bersaniani), Massimo D’Alema (dalemiani), Enrico Letta (lettiani) etc. The area also includes the minoranza dem.