Arrivederci, Italia: Why Young Italians Are Leaving

This piece in Time–on Italy’s youth emigration–has gotten nearly 40,000 likes on Facebook.

It’s not the type of advice you would usually expect from the head of an elite university. In an open letter to his son published last November, Pier Luigi Celli, director general of Rome’s LUISS University, wrote, “This country, your country, is no longer a place where it’s possible to stay with pride … That’s why, with my heart suffering more than ever, my advice is that you, having finished your studies, take the road abroad. Choose to go where they still value loyalty, respect and the recognition of merit and results.”

The letter, published in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, sparked a session of national hand-wringing. Celli, many agreed, had articulated a growing sense in his son’s generation that the best hopes for success lie abroad. Commentators point to an accelerating flight of young Italians and worry that the country is losing its most valuable resource. And with reforms made all but impossible by Italy’s deep-rooted interests and topsy-turvy politics — a schism in the ruling coalition seemed this summer to threaten Silvio Berlusconi’s government once again — many are starting to wonder if the trend can be reversed. “We have a flow outward and almost no flow inward,” says Sergio Nava, host of the radio show Young Talent and author of the book and blog The Flight of Talent, which covers the exodus.

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The Eternal City’s Residents Fight Graffiti

My piece on the Americans fighting Rome’s Graffiti problem has just been published in Time.

On a blustery October day in the northern part of Rome, a group of nearly 100 volunteers spreads out along a leafy street and sets to cleaning. Pedestrian barriers are scraped free of rust and repainted in their original yellow. Old leaflets are peeled off walls. And graffiti, the group’s main target, is either scrubbed away or painted over. “This street is the Wild West,” says Paola Carra, who’s overseeing the operation. “We need to maintain it ourselves. We can’t wait for somebody else to do it.”

Many modern cities have trouble with vandalism, but Rome seems to be a case apart. Outside of the touristic center, it’s a rare public surface that hasn’t been plastered with leaflets or covered with graffiti: tags, slogans, declarations of love, outbursts against authority. And there are few signs that much is being done about it. In some areas, it’s possible to come across scribbled celebrations of soccer championships from before the turn of the century. “Inside [people’s homes], everything is perfectly clean,” says pharmacist Maria Vitale, 47, as she heads out to the cleanup. “Outside, everything is dirty. There’s trash on the ground. People don’t clean up after their dogs.” The problem, says Carra, 46, is the absence of personal responsibility. “We’ve lost our sense of community,” she says.

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In Naples, A Clash Over Trash

Here’s my piece in Time on the Naple’s garbage crisis.

In most cities, garbage collection is a discreet — almost invisible — service, making household waste disappear with only the rumble of a truck on trash day. But in the Italian city of Naples, it’s right there on the streets for all to see.

Garbage, in Naples, has become a political issue, a topic of contention, and a recurring plague. And for much of the past week, it has spilled back into the public discourse, piling up on the city’s sidewalks during a strike by garbage collectors, and exploding onto the streets during angry protests over a planned landfill on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

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