Italy today mourns the death in Rome at age 95 of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In 1999 a two-thirds majority elected him on the first ballot to become the tenth president of Italy, an office he served through 2006. For his successor, President Giorgio Napolitano, Ciampi brought Italy "prestige and respect."
Even as the ever larger tourist crowds jam its narrow calle, Venice continues to lose almost four local residents every day. What is to be done? Seeking answers, the young Venetians of "Generazione 90" staged a successful march, with shopping carts.
A sour note will be heard in Italy's otherwise glorious September song: the economy. A fundamental problem: nine Italian families out of ten are relatively poorer today than were their parents back in the last century.
To begin anew after an event as horrifying as the earthquake in hilly Central Italy takes courage. At least 300 lives were lost, and ongoing tremors continue to terrify survivors. For the future: prevention, prevention, prevention.
The death toll from the quakes -- so far seven serious tremors have devastated these lovely ancient towns in the Central Appenines -- is over 240, and will doubtless increase. These are moments which bring out the best and worst of us, and you too can contribute.
An important three-way summit brings together Matteo Renzi, François Hollande and Angela Merkel, meeting on board ship Aug. 22 off the isle of Ventotene. On the storm-tossed agenda: Brexit and the Italian economy.
Italy has never had a woman president, but women here are taking giant political steps. Among the most visible are Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies; Federica Mogherini, foreign affairs minister for the European Union (EU), Emma Bonino, former Italian foreign affairs minister; and two big-city mayors, Virginia Raggi of Rome and Chiara Appendino of Turin.
With the Ferragosto holiday just two weeks away, Italians are relaxing into vacation mode on beaches and in the mountains, but also at home -- and indeed especially at home. As the research institute Dempolis statistics show, one out of five Italians is vacating, so to speak, at home, while at least half are going no farther afield than their own region. Resorts and even big city parks are jam packed, and not only with the multitude of foreign tourists who prefer holidaying in Italy to some of its more turbulent neighbors.
More than ever before, Italy is a summer festival, with programs on offer from Sicily to the Val d'Aosta, from the Maremma to the Alta Irpinia. Topics range from communications to creativity, to how humanism can confront the terrible wave of terrorism.
Summer is the perfect time to explore Italy's outlying small towns, those magical ancient "borghi" on hilltops out of reach of cruise ships and big tour operators. Keeping these towns alive is a challenge being met by Italians as well as by foreigners. For the independent traveler, they are a treasurehouse.