TIME Italy

A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Elisabetta Carugno (@elisabetta_carugno) via Instagram Instagram user Elisabetta Carugno posted this photo with the caption, "I'm too much small for this too much snow!! #snow #winter #weatherchannel #WinterGoHome #capracotta #molise #neve #me"

And you thought Boston was bad

The front doors in the village of Capracotta, Italy, are snow-where to be found.

In just 18 hours on Thursday, the village received 100.8 inches (8′ 4″) of snow,CNN reports, likely setting the all-time mark for most snow in 24 hours (though it’s not official yet).

That’s more snow than Boston got in January and February combined, but just short of the 107.9 inches that have inundated Beantown so far this year.

Capracotta is a town of 1,000 residents sitting at an altitude of 4,662 feet. The city is in the mountains a three-hour drive east of Rome and roughly halfway down the Italian Peninsula, and vulnerable to weather coming from the northeast.

The World Meteorological Organization will confirm whether the snowfall at Capracotte exceeded the 24-hour record of 75.8 inches in Silver Lake, Colorado, in 1921.

[CNN]

TIME Italy

Americans Who Carved Initials Into Rome’s Colosseum May Face Penalties

Colosseum in Rome, Italy
Guy Vanderelst—Getty Images

They took a selfie with their handiwork before being caught

Two American twenty-somethings may face a judge in Italy for apparently carving their initials into Rome’s Colosseum, according to a report Sunday.

The tourists from California, aged 25 and 21, snuck away from their tour group Saturday and used a coin to carve their initials into the amphitheater, the Guardian reports, despite signs in English and Italian that say defacing the ancient structure is forbidden. They carved a “J” and an “N” into one of the walls restored from the 1800s and took a selfie before being caught.

The women may be put before a judge, the report adds, and potentially face steep penalties. A Russian tourist caught carving a letter at the site just over three months ago was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and fined about $20,000.

[Guardian]

TIME Italy

Migrants Risk Death to Escape War and Get to Europe

Migrants protect themselves from the rain as they wait to disembark from a ship on Feb. 17, 2015 in Porto Empedocle, south Sicily, following a rescue operation of migrants as part of the International Frontex plan.
Marcello Paternos—AFP/Getty Images Migrants protect themselves from the rain as they wait to disembark from a ship on Feb. 17, 2015 in Porto Empedocle, south Sicily, following a rescue operation of migrants as part of the International Frontex plan.

Driven out of his home by poison gas, Mohammed will take any risk to start a new life

When sea water started seeping onto the deck of an old fishing boat as it listed under the weight of hundreds of people in the middle of the Mediterranean, Mohammed decided not to tell the other passengers. He knew that panic could be as lethal as a holed hull or heavy winter seas.

The migrants set sail from Libya in darkness hours earlier. Mohammed, 33, a Syrian salesman who was made homeless by a chemical weapons attack, says he tried not to think about the danger of drowning as smugglers crammed him and hundreds of others onto a large boat in the early hours of Feb.18.

He was following an itinerary shared by hundreds of thousands. Since 2013, civil wars and oppressive regimes in the Middle East and Africa have forced ever-increasing numbers of people on the dangerous journey to Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), arrivals so far this year are up 45% on 2014 and more than 330 migrants have died, compared to 36 in January and February last year.

After a few miles at sea, they were forced onto smaller vessels. Mohammed, who did not want his surname published as his family are still in Damascus, found himself at the front of the 11-metre long vessel as it motored towards Italy. “The sea was cold and I was worried about the condition of the boat,” he says. His photographs from the voyage show people covering every inch of the boat. They huddle in thick jackets and hats and some stand to create more room. Mohammed estimates that there were around 400 people on the boat, including 12 women and 20 children. “The children seemed afraid,” says Mohammed. “The boat was tilting. We were sitting at the front and at a certain point water started to come in the boat, but we didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want to scare everyone.”

Mohammed had already traveled through five countries and been arrested, assaulted and forced to beg on the streets. With his pregnant wife and 20-month-old daughter still living in Syria and waiting for him to get them to Europe, he was determined not to be beaten by the sea when he was so close to his goal.

There are no legal ways for people fleeing Syria’s civil war or other situations in Somalia, Palestine, Mali or Eritrea to apply for asylum and resettlement in the European Union (E.U.). Instead they have to find a way to plant a foot on European soil and then request refugee status in that nation.

Most European governments seem determined to keep migrants out as they face political pressure from anti-immigration parties. New external border fences are going up and existing barriers reinforced but the desperation to escape remains strong. There are 3.7 million Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and the total number of refugees worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the Second World War. In 2013, 60,0000 people tried to reach Europe over the Mediterranean, with 600 dying, UN High Commission for Refugees figures show. Last year, that figure surged to 218,000 attempting the journey, with more than 3,500 deaths.

Libya has always been an attractive departure point for economic migrants from Africa and the Middle East. When Muammar Gaddafi was in power, the E.U. paid him to stop migrants setting sail to Europe but since his death, the flow of migrants has increased.

Political division and civil war have created a vacuum where smuggling gangs operate unimpeded and often in cohorts with militias. There are huge sums to be made, with each migrant paying up to $1,500 for the sea crossing. But the danger in Libya has also increased, so rather than wait for calmer seas, this year migrants are willing to risk hypothermia or drowning to escape the chaos, says Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the IOM. “Many migrants told us that, even if they knew that the journey is dangerous and that they could die in the desert or at sea, they did not expect all this violence in Libya,” he says.

Mohammed’s journey began on Aug. 21, 2013, when Ghouta, a Damascus suburb where he lived, was hit with rockets carrying the nerve agent sarin. At least 350 people were killed, but Mohammed and his wife were in central Damascus that day. They could not return to their contaminated home and stayed in the capital to continue with their life, but found it difficult. “Many times when I was traveling for work I found myself in the middle of the fighting, and I had to hide underneath the van,” Mohammed says.

He was struggling to make enough money to provide for his family, and when he heard that he was due to be conscripted, he decided to escape to Europe. At the beginning of November last year, he said goodbye to his wife and daughter and boarded a plane to Algeria.

Mohammed, his 14-year old nephew and three other men planned to travel overland through Algeria and Tunisia and into Libya, where they planned to make the boat trip to Italy. But the Tunisian police caught them and forced them to return to Turkey, where Mohammed had to re-plan the entire journey.

For two months he stayed with friends in Istanbul, making contacts with smugglers and trying to raise more funds. Eventually a smuggling gang agreed to get them Libyan visas under the premise that they were businessmen flying to Libya for work. On Jan. 15, they boarded a plane to Tripoli — only to find more hardship awaiting them. “The airport we flew into was controlled by rebel forces,” says Mohammed. “They took everything from us and locked us away for a week.”

As Mohammed had only agreed to pay the smugglers in Turkey their $2,500 fee once they were safely en route to Europe, they intervened — although Mohammed wonders if it was all a set up from the start. “It seemed like [the smugglers] had an agreement with the rebels because in the end they said each of us had to give them $300 and we’ll let you go,” he says.

They were freed but the rebels kept their belongings and for 10 days the men were forced to beg on the streets. Eventually their personal items were returned, and the smugglers took them on the final overland leg of the journey to the coastal town of Zuara. “We were beaten during the trip to the boats,” Mohammed says. “They punched me in the face and beat me on my feet.”

On the boat, Mohammed worried that they were not heading in the right direction. “When we got into this little boat we didn’t know where we were going — we were almost freezing and without hope,” he says.

Water was pooling at his feet and there was nothing he could do but stay still. He didn’t want to cause a panic. In one of the worst migrant boat disasters, a vessel carrying 515 sank within sight of the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013. A fire on board caused a panic, and as people rushed to the sides to fling themselves into the sea, the vessel capsized. At least 300 people were killed.

It was around midday when the passengers spotted an oil rig. An hour later an Italian navy ship arrived and rescued the migrants.

A week earlier, around 300 migrants had not been so lucky. Armed smugglers on the Libyan coast had forced hundreds of people into four inflatable dinghies, despite unusually rough seas. Only one dinghy made it to Italy with a handful of survivors on board. The rest were lost. The incident happened days after 29 migrants died of hypothermia while they were being towed to safety by an Italian coastguard vessel.

The tragedies provoked scorn at the E.U.’s response to the growing crisis at sea. An Italian naval operation saved 150,000 lives between October 2013 and October 2014 but was replaced by a more limited E.U. mission called Triton operating with fewer staff, a smaller budget and a limited range.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, said that the 29 migrants would never have frozen to death if Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation was still running. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, called Triton “woefully inadequate”. The E.U. responded by extending Triton to the end of the year, but its scope remains unchanged.

Italy meanwhile is preparing for unprecedented numbers of migrants arriving. Already the shelters on Lampedusa are full and hundreds of migrants arrive at Milan Central Station every week. Mohammed is currently staying at a shelter in Milan for 50 people that houses 100.

The E.U. has offered another €13.7m to help Italy look after the new arrivals, but Gabriella Polifroni, spokeswoman for Milan’s director of social affairs says they also need an overhaul in E.U. policy and a fairer distribution of the refugees. “There is a whole continent, so why can’t we organize them better?” she asks.

Mohammed certainly doesn’t want to stay in Italy, where it can take up to a year for an asylum application to be processed. He has already spent $9,000 in getting to Europe and he won’t stop until he gets to Germany. “My main focus now is to go to a country in Europe where I can reunite with my family,” he says, before he returns to his room to plot the final stretch of his journey.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Alessandro Volta, Forefather of the Modern Battery

Undated picture of Italian physicist and inventor Alexander Volta (1745 - 1827)
AP Photo—AP Undated picture of Italian physicist and inventor Alexander Volta (1745 - 1827)

*Throws metal strips in saltwater, changes world forever*

A new Google Doodle is celebrating what would have been the 270th birthday of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, who in the year 1800 published a theory that led to the modern battery.

As TIME wrote back in 2007, Volta “realized metals could produce a current and developed the first battery, or ‘voltaic pile,’ a series of copper and zinc strips in salt water that gave off an electric current instead of static electricity.”

Born Feb. 18, 1745, in Como, Italy, Volta’s invention was the result of a professional competition with Luigi Galvani, who discovered that dissected frogs’ legs would twitch when probed with a wire.

Galvani believed the frogs’ muscles generated the electricity, while Volta thought the animal tissue was only a conductor.

The debate galvanized Volta to experiment with conductivity (often on his own tongue). Eventually, Volta put together a stack of metal disks, and when metal wires were connected to both ends of the stack, an electric current flowed through the pile, proving that animal tissue was not necessary to generate an electric current.

The Google Doodle honors Volta’s discovery with an animated battery that is reminiscent of both a voltaic pile and a battery-life reminder on a modern-day smartphone.

TIME Italy

More Than 2,000 Migrants From Libya Have Been Rescued by the Italian Coast Guard

Italy Migrants
Francesco Malavolta—AP Migrants wait to disembark from a tugboat after being rescued in the Pozzallo harbor in Sicily, Italy, on Feb. 15, 2015

They were attempting a perilous journey in just 12 small boats

The Italian coast guard rescued more than 2,000 migrants who got into difficulty between the Libyan coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday.

The rescue teams were also threatened by four men armed with Kalashnikov rifles who approached them by speedboat from Libya, reports the BBC.

The gunmen forced the rescuers to return one of the boats after the migrants had been taken off it to safety, said Italy’s Transport Ministry.

Local media reported that all 2,164 migrants aboard 12 boats had been saved and taken to Italy.

The stretch of Mediterranean between Northern Africa and Italy is a perilous crossing for those in unseaworthy vessels. The U.N. said almost 3,500 people died attempting the voyage in 2014.

Last week, at least 300 migrants perished in the Mediterranean as their overcrowded boats sank in stormy weather.

On Friday, another 600 migrants, on board just six dinghies, were rescued by the Italian coast guard after their rubber craft got into trouble.

[BBC]

TIME

World’s Richest Candy Maker and Nutella Founder Died on Valentine’s Day

Owner of Italian chocolate company Ferrero dies at age 89
Alessandro Di Mrco—EPA Michele Ferrero attends the funeral of the heir to the Italian chocolate company Ferrero, Pietro Ferrero, in Alba, Italy on April 27, 2011.

Michele Ferrero was the patriarch of the Ferrero family, whose company spawned Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Italy’s richest man and the candy maker behind the iconic Nutella hazelnut spread died as millions of Americans indulged in his sweet creations on Valentine’s Day.

Michele Ferrero, whose company spawned Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Kinder eggs, died at age 89 at his home in Monaco. According to BBC News, Ferrero had been battling illness for months.

Ferrero’s father created what would later be widely known as Nutella during World War II when cocoa was in short supply. He used hazelnuts to stretch the little chocolate he had. Years later, Nutella is among one of the most beloved treats in Italy and across the world. Forbes described Michele as the “richest candy man on the planet.”

In a statement, according to the Associated Press, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Ferrero was, “always ahead of his time thanks to innovative products and his tenacious work and reserved character.”

TIME Italy

300 Migrants Feared Dead After Ship Sinks In Mediterranean

Migrants who survived a shipwreck arrive at the Lampedusa harbour
Antonio Parrinello—Reuters Migrants who survived a shipwreck arrive at the Lampedusa harbour in Italy on Feb. 11, 2015.

The sinking took place off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa

At least 300 may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after a boat carrying them from North Africa sank earlier this week, according to the United Nations. The boat is believed to have left from Libya.

The Mediterranean Sea crossing is the world’s most deadly, responsible for 3,500 deaths in 2014, around three-quarters of the total worldwide.

It was described as a “tragedy on an enormous scale” by United Nations High Commission for Refugee regional director Vincent Cochetel, who was quoted by the BBC saying that “Europe cannot afford to do too little too late.” Wednesday’s report came just two days after 29 people died of hypothermia after being rescued by the Italian coastguard from a boat drifting in the Mediterranean.

Italy wound down its ‘Mare Nostrum’ search-and-rescue operation in November, after rescuing around 400 migrants every day for a year. The program was launched after a boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa in Oct.2014 killing more than 360 migrants,

The E.U. now runs “Operation Triton”, a much smaller border control mission with fewer ships and less than a third of Mare Nostrum’s budget.

Italy has pushed for the E.U. to do more to support their rescue efforts. Cochtel said the latest boat disaster is “a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea.”

[BBC]

TIME Travel

The 9 Most Spectacular Lost Cities in the World

These sites are famous for their beautifully preserved ruins

One day in the incomprehensibly distant future, our descendants will gaze upon the ruins of the Statue of Liberty or the Mall of America, and ask, “Mommy, what is that?” Over the course of human history, an astonishing number of cities and towns have been lost, drowned, abandoned, and leaving us with mysterious, and often beautiful, ruins. Here are some of the world’s most spectacular lost cities.

  • Chernobyl’s Ghost Cities, Ukraine

    A decayed house in Chernobyl, Belarus on July 9, 2014.
    Pacific Press—LightRocket via Getty Images A decayed house in Chernobyl, Belarus on July 9, 2014.

    After the worst nuclear disaster in history, the Soviet Union evacuated the towns near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, including the Ukrainian city of Pryp’yat. Twenty years later, the city still stands, ghostly, overgrown, filled with wild animals. No one lives there anymore, but you can take a day trip.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • Termessos, Turkey

    View of the Greek theatre of Termessos in Gullukdagi National Park, Turkey on Jan. 1, 2003.
    DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI—De Agostini/Getty Images View of the Greek theatre of Termessos in Gullukdagi National Park, Turkey on Jan. 1, 2003.

    Like a real-life Game of Thrones fortress, the Eagle’s Nest was an impenetrable city 1,000 meters up a mountain. Even Alexander the Great, rampaging through Turkey, bypassed it rather than try to conquer it. But the Eagle’s Nest lost its water supply around 200 CE and was abandoned. It has been left essentially untouched for the last 1800 years.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • The Sunken City of Baia, Italy

    Roman thermal complex in the Archaeological Park of Baia in the Campania region of Italy on April 8, 2014.
    DEA / S. VANNINI—De Agostini/Getty Images Roman thermal complex in the Archaeological Park of Baia in the Campania region of Italy on April 8, 2014.

    Baia was the Las Vegas of the Roman Empire, a hedonistic vacation town of villas and spas. Sacked and abandoned, the city was eventually submerged in a bay near Naples. Today you can tour it in glass-bottom boats or by scuba, and see amazingly well-preserved underwater buildings and statues.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • The Gedi Ruins, Kenya

    Architectural ruins at the Gedi Historical Monument in Kenya on June 13, 2012.
    Brian Miller—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Architectural ruins at the Gedi Historical Monument in Kenya on June 13, 2012.

    One of the great mysteries of African archeology, Gedi was a large, advanced city on the Kenyan coast. It had flush toilets—more than 600 years ago!—but has been abandoned for centuries.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • Ani Ghost City, Turkey

    Once a rival to Baghdad and Constantinople, this medieval Armenian city of 200,000 was sacked and abandoned 500 years ago. The skeletal remains—many of them churches—are ghostly and incredibly beautiful.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • Geamana, Romania

    The former village of Geamana was engulfed by the copper exploitation residues, shown near the village of Lupsa, Romania on Sept. 20, 2011.
    DANIEL MIHAILESCU—AFP/Getty Images The former village of Geamana was engulfed by the copper exploitation residues, shown near the village of Lupsa, Romania on Sept. 20, 2011.

    A cute Romanian town. A picturesque valley. And then, in 1978, they found copper. The Communist dictatorship evacuated Geamana and dumped a flood of toxic sludge into the valley, drowning the town and creating a garish, poisonous lake. A few of the town buildings remain visible, roofs jutting out above the waterline.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • The Lost City of Heracleion, Egypt

    One of the world’s greatest port cities and the gateway to Egypt, Thonis-Heracleion sank into the Mediterranean Sea more than 2,200 years ago. Now nearly three miles off the coast of Egypt, the city was rediscovered by a French archeologist in 2000. Its submerged ruins include eerie 16-foot high statues, tiny sarcophagi holding animal sacrifices, and a huge temple.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • Nan Madol Ruins

    The ancient ruins of Nan Madol on Pohnpei Island, Micronesia on Jan. 28, 2008.
    Stephen L. Alvarez—National Geographic/Getty Images The ancient ruins of Nan Madol on Pohnpei Island, Micronesia on Jan. 28, 2008.

    Just off the coast of a small island in Micronesia is an artificial archipelago—more than 100 man-made islands filled with houses, warehouses, and royal buildings. Erected 800 years ago, but abandoned for hundreds of years, Nan Madol also inspired the novelist HP Lovecraft, whose malevolent deity Cthulhu hibernated in a submerged South Pacific city.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

  • Neversink

    The most ironically named place in the United States, the upstate New York town of Neversink was founded in 1798 and grew to a population 2,000. Then, in 1953, New York City needed a new reservoir, and Neversink was sunk—flooded to form the Neversink reservoir.

    More at Atlas Obscura.

    This article was written by David Plotz for Atlas Obscura.

TIME Italy

Freed Aid Workers Return to Italy Amid Anger at Suspected Ransom Paid to Militants

Italian aid workers abducted in Syria last summer, Greta Ramelli (L) and Vanessa Marzullo arrive at Ciampino airport in Rome early on Jan. 16, 2015.
Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images Italian aid workers abducted in Syria last summer, Greta Ramelli (L) and Vanessa Marzullo arrive at Ciampino airport in Rome early on Jan. 16, 2015.

Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli were abducted from the Syrian town of Aleppo in July

The two kidnapped Italian aid workers landed in Rome at four on Friday morning. They looked subdued, huddled in their parkas, as the Italian foreign minister escorted them through the darkness between the plane and the arrival hall.

The two women, Vanessa Marzullo, 21, and Greta Ramelli, 20, had been abducted from the Syrian town of Aleppo in July. They had most recently been seen in a YouTube video posted on December 31, dressed in black veils and warning that they were “in big danger and could be killed.” But even as their release offered a glimmer of good news from a conflict that has been unrelentingly grim, they have hardly returned to a hero’s welcome.

In the newspapers and on social media, the rescue of the aid workers was subject to flurries of criticism after a Dubai-based media outlet reported that the Italian government paid a 12-million euro ($13.8 million) ransom for their release. “I’m happy that the girls are free and alive,” says Riccardo Pelliccetti, a top editor at the conservative daily Il Giornale. “But the fact remains that when you bow to blackmail, you’ve lost the game.”

The outpouring of anger represented a rare moment of debate in Italy over negotiating with terrorist groups that hold hostages. The United States and Great Britain have refused to pay ransoms, and citizens of those countries — including the journalist James Foley and British aid worker David Haines — may have been executed as a result. Even so, the kidnapping groups do very well out of the ransoms that are paid. An investigation by the New York Times in July found that Al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups had taken in at least $125 million in money paid in ransoms since 2008, most it from European countries.

Italy, by contrast, has a long tradition of being willing to do nearly anything in order to save a hostage’s life, says Sergio Fabbrini, a professor of political science and international relations at Rome’s LUISS University. When leftist terrorists kidnapped the former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978, many close to the government wanted to negotiate his release. “There is a common understanding in Italy that life is the superior value, so everything should be done in order to save people,” he says. “Our Catholic attitude tends to hold life as an absolute.”

The Italian government has neither confirmed nor denied that a ransom had been paid in exchange for the release of the aid workers. In remarks to Parliament, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni dismissed the reports as “speculation.” He said that Italy was “against paying ransoms” and added that the country had acted within international norms and in line with the polices of previous Italian governments, but he stopped short of categorically stating that a ransom had not been paid.

Some of the criticism was politically motivated. Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right Northern League, an opposition party, tweeted on Thursday that if the government had indeed paid a ransom it would be “disgusting.” But the anger could also be seen on the website of Corriere Della Sera, the closest thing Italy has to a paper of record. The headline — “Greta and Vanessa in Italy” — was sober and the article was factual, but the comment section was full of bile — in particular over the money being spent.

“If these two young ladies wanted to do something good, they could have gone to distribute meals at the cafeteria of [the Catholic charity] Caritas,” read the top-ranked comment. “Or is that not cool enough?????” The website asks readers to click on an icon representing their mood after reading an article. As the day progressed, the percentage of respondents who had selected the angry face hovered at just below 90%.

Many commenters described the two women as naive. They had been kidnapped just days after entering Syria for the second time, during a period in the war when entering the country had become synonymous with danger. They were working for an NGO they had founded with another Italian. “It’s one thing if a journalist goes into Syria to inform, as part of his job, or if a technician goes to Nigeria to work on the oil wells, but these were volunteers,” says Il Giornale’s Pelliccetti. “They went in knowingly, at a moment when there was a civil conflict.”

In an article in the morning’s paper ​Pelliccetti estimated that the Italian government has paid 61 million euros ($70 million) to militant groups since 2004. “How many operations like [the attacks on the editorial offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo] can you fund with that type of money,” he said. “You have to consider not just how many lives you save, but how many are you killing.”

Read next: Growth of Muslim Populations in Europe Map

TIME Italy

Italian President Steps Down, Citing Age and ‘Fatigue’

Resignation of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano
Evren Atalay—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano greets people as he leaves the Quirinal Presidential Palace in Rome, Italy on January 14, 2015.

The resignation of a seasoned ally poses a test for Italy's youngest ever prime minister, Matteo Renzi

Italy’s 89-year-old president, citing age and “signs of fatigue,” tendered his resignation on Wednesday, leaving the current Prime Minister short of one key ally in an ambitious plan to push legislative reforms through the country’s fractious parliament.

President Giorgio Napolitano cut short his second term in office after acknowledging his fading energy in an end-of-the-year address to the nation, the Wall Street Journal reports. His resignation comes as Italy’s youngest ever Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, prepared a raft of bold economic reforms aimed at lifting the nation’s economy out of a series of painful contractions.

Napolitano had gained a reputation as a seasoned politician who could corral Italy’s divided parliamentarians into voting blocs. His resignation itself is expected to open up a contentious parliamentary vote over a successor.

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