Italians Rail Against a High-Speed Train Project

My piece on Italy’s No TAV movement has just been published by Businessweek.

On a day in late winter in a valley in the Italian Alps, about a hundred people set off on a walk. Their path took them by steeply terraced vineyards, through a small village, and over the crest of a hill to where the riot police were waiting for them. The officers stood in small knots, behind a fence topped with razor wire, spread out across a patch of cleared land where the government plans to break ground on an €8.2 billion ($10.8 billion) project to connect Italy and France by high-speed rail. Soldiers clustered nearby. A camouflage-painted Lince—Italy’s answer to a Humvee—moved in a lazy patrol. A medic’s jeep squatted under a concrete overpass.

The protesters had come to this part of the Val di Susa to make sure the project never gets off the ground. As part of a two-decade battle to impede the construction of a new train tunnel through the Alps, they have at times walked the roads of the valley in thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands. The No TAV movement (named for the Italian initials for high-speed train) has invaded construction sites, blocked highways, and battled police. “Our objective is to let them know we’re here,” says Alberto Perino, the movement’s longtime leader. “And that we plan to keep on coming.”

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A Bridge Too Far?

Time has just published my story on “How Corporations Want to Help Italy’s Crumbling Treasures — For a Price.”

When famed polish movie director Roman Polanski signed up to make the film Pompeii in 2007 — a now stalled big-budget epic about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 — Italy, home of the Pompeii ruins, was his first choice for shooting. But the production ended up moving to Spain, since tough-minded Italian officials typically object to film crews’ trampling over the archaeological site and the Spanish government beat out Italy with a cheaper offer.

In today’s feeble economy, Italian officials might have tried harder to cut a deal. As the euro-zone crisis..

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