On writing/reading in 2016

 

The day after Brexit, and the day after the US election, I found myself wandering along the slow and dark waters of two rivers I have at heart: the Thames and the Po.

In both cases, and at the end of two, long, sleepless nights, I genuinely felt adrift. It seemed like journalists (me included) were going astray, that we became unable to focus on what really matters. Sure, we are the first to comment on Donald Trump’s latest tweet; of course, we’ll pour tons of ink on Vladimir Putin’s dog; and yes, we’ll swiftly sell our mothers for a profile on Nigel Farage.

Our obsession with these characters – who look a lot like the cast of some bizarre medieval play – distracted us from reporting on what’s important: real life, and the struggle to understand a world that is spinning too fast.

We didn’t see the Rust Belt region; we misinterpreted voter intentions in England and Wales and, above all, we failed to understand people, what they’re asking for, their aspirations, and their needs.  The year made me think of the kind of journalism I’d like to do, the topics and the issues I’d like to focus on. Less golden palaces, more loud suburbs.

A selection of what I wrote:

The Mystery of the Stolen Klimt

Brexit, what happens next?

Corbyn, explained

The secret lives of the Mafia hunters

A selection of what I read:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari

PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, Paul Mason

Racconti Romani, Alberto Moravia

Pereira Maintains, Antonio Tabucchi

The perfect soundtrack for 2016:

The Double Theft of the Double Klimt

When I travelled back to my hometown this summer, I thought my visit would be short and painless.

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Me with one of the Klimt replicas found in Piacenza

Instead, three months in, I’m still here.

The reason is pretty simple: I got caught in a story I HAD to write for it is mysterious, juicy, it has at least a dozen plot-twists and a missing Klimt.

It’s a fascinating tale of a sharp-eyed art student, a double portrait, a double theft, innumerable replicas scattered around Italy and the 20-year quest to find Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady, the only double portrait the Vienna Secessionist has ever painted.

Two scribbled notebooks later and endless nights discussing conspiracy theories with the undoubtedly talented Ferruccio Ceriati (pictures) and Carlo Arcelli (editing), the piece finally landed on BBC Magazine for you to read it in all its glory. Plus, you can watch the short video we put together on BBC Art with an original soundtrack composed by the most talented jazz pianist I know, Nathan Britton.

I know, it reads like a novel and it stretches credulity. But I promise you it is all true. And, yes, they should make a movie out of it.

Enjoy –

* edit – I’m on Wikipedia. And when I told my mama, she was about to flip.

The Age of Inciucio

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Welcome back to the ’90s. From left: Silvio Berlusconi, Romano Prodi and Massimo D’Alema

 

What Italians loath more than their PMs is the inciucio – the political scam, Italian-style.

It started with Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s Frank Underwood, in 1994 when, as leader of the centre-left party, he promised to Silvio Berlusconi that he had no intentions to touch what he had dearest to his heart: his media empire.

The inciucio, the exquisite Italian tradition of never losing a political battle, allowed unfit candidates and unstable governments to hold power with variable parliamentarian geometries throughout the ‘90s and the early 2000s.

Those who view the Constitutional referendum as a vote against Europe and a revolt against globalisation are misleading you.

The Italian referendum is a mere domestic issue. It’s the struggle for power of those political figures that PM Matteo Renzi, The Scrapper, wanted to get rid of to shape his own version of Italy for the next decade. With the ultimate inciucio, a far-from-perfect deal struck by centre-left and centre-right, Mr Renzi wanted to pave the way for a third Republic, take advantage of the centre-right in a comatose state and give a clear majority and an unambiguous mandate to whoever was to run for the premiership. Specifically: himself.

The reform was flawed, of course, and it was indeed the result of a dubious compromise between unelected leaders.

Matteo Renzi, however, underestimated his political opponents, both from within and without his party. Namely, Silvio Berlusconi and Massimo D’Alema who adopted Tomasi di Lampedusa’s most memorable quote as their political motto: “Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same.

The missed opportunity of a Constitutional reform is a perpetuation of this old habit, a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of a political class that is too scared to go to general election and will prosper in economic stagnation, producing the much-adored ‘scalene triangle’ government: everybody wins but nobody is in charge.