Divine Business / 2

After the Devoted Followers of Fashion came out on BBC Magazine, the renowned Moncrieff show on Newstalk radio in Dublin contacted me for an interview.

They wanted to have a glimpse of the Vicenza fair and I was happy to have a chat with them – here’s what happened.


Divine Business

My Catholic upbringing evolved around a couple of concepts: money is bad, girls are evil, and masturbation makes you blind. At that time I was already wearing glasses and half-blind so, as you can imagine, I didn’t really pay attention to that part.

When I stepped into the Fiere di Vicenza last week, a laborious town in the north east side of Italy, I realised that Don Aldo, the grouchy foul-mouthed chain-smoking priest that chased us with a stick around the church when we were children, gave us the wrong impression of religion.


Vicenza, every couple of years, hosts the largest religious fair in the world where producers and manufacturers from around the globe gather in this small town to trade holy merchandise, from Pope Francis fridge magnets to life-size statues of the Virgin Mary – quite impressive I would say.


Smiling young girls with stilettos and miniskirts show priests and high clergy around the newest trends in tunics and robes, a wide array of holy water sprinklers and high-tech devotional candles that operate with a contact-less credit card.


I mingled with priests and nuns for a couple of days to see what they’d buy and what they’d look for at this enormous fair and I came to the conclusion that Catholicism is not only about sacrifice, atonement and punishment. And that nuns are not immune to religious fashion.

More to come on BBC Magazine.

These marvellous pictures are Andrea Pasquali’s, an old friend, a tireless cyclist and a great photographer.

Fifty shades of gerontocracy

2046931-seduta_comuneThe Italian Parliament has just started to vote for the successor of Giorgio Napolitano, a president that represented an anomaly since he was re-elected for two more years to allow Italy to undergo a period of structural reforms in a time of high political uncertainty.

It is hard, once again, to explain to my foreign colleagues and friends the political dynamics of the Bel Paese. PM Matteo Renzi, seen abroad as talkative innovator, met multiple times former PM Silvio Berlusconi, ousted from the Senate for tax fraud and banned from political activity for two years.

Yet again, Berlusconi represents the nucleus of the Italian center-right and Renzi is trying to find an agreement with his predecessor to elect a bipartisan figure on top of the Italian political hierarchy.

The profile traced by both Renzi’s and Berlusconi’s parties is of a “person that has to be a politician and not a technocrat, with international recognition and a great knowledge of Italian institution” but it seems both the Prime Minister and the media mogul haven’t agreed on a name yet that would satisfy the center-right and center-left.

Today the Parliament will be called for the selection of the new President in the first round of voting and Mr. Renzi is said to back constitutional court judge Sergio Mattarella.

Mattarella is a well-respected politician whose highest point in his career was to resign 35 years ago because of his hostility to a law that later on facilitated Berlusconi’s media empire.

Is Mattarella the change Renzi is looking for? The best profile the process can produce?