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Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's international desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. Most recently, she travelled to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by an ultra-rightwing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal for the latest on the euro-zone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including: the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody and National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor's degree in Romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

Every Sunday when he is at the Vatican, Francis ends his remarks to the crowd in St. Peter's Square with a typical Italian saying: "Have a good lunch and arrivederci."

It's that common touch that has so endeared the Argentine-born pope to millions of people across the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, since his election five years ago, on March 13, 2013. But in recent months, Francis has also become the target of criticism on various fronts, and the image of him as charismatic reformer has suffered some hits.

The Italian political world has been struck by a populist tsunami — 50 percent of voters in Sunday's parliamentary elections chose candidates from anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and euroskeptic parties. However, no party amassed enough votes to form a government on its own, and this makes weeks of political instability likely while government negotiations are underway.

"Italy ungovernable," read a Monday headline in the daily La Stampa.

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In Italy, polls ahead of Sunday's general elections suggest the maverick 5-Star Movement is more popular than any other party. Founded in 2009 on an anti-establishment platform by Beppe Grillo, a vitriolic comedian, it's setting its sights on heading Italy's next government.

5-Star claims to be an Internet-based direct democracy movement and has attracted many Italians disaffected with traditional parties. It's openly populist — with positions that are anti-immigration, anti-vaccination and anti-European Union.

A satirical movie that envisions dictator Benito Mussolini staging a comeback opened in Italy just as the campaign for March 4 general elections was getting underway. It has received rave reviews.

The mockumentary I'm Back is an Italian version of the 2015 German film, Look Who's Back, which envisioned the return of Adolf Hitler.

When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this month, he lashed out at victims of sexual abuse and accused them of "calumny" regarding a bishop who is suspected of covering up abuse they endured by a pedophile priest.

The pope said there was "not a shred of evidence" against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros," he said, "I'll speak."

Now the pope is sending a top envoy on a mission to Chile to look into survivors' claims.

In the months since allegations of sexual harassment by major media figures took center stage in the United States, the #MeToo movement has had a ripple effect in Europe, prompting national conversations on a once-taboo topic. In some countries, the movement has been embraced.

But in Italy, the public has largely reacted with scorn and skepticism.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Pope Francis visited Bangladesh today. And in a meeting with dignitaries, he called for them to care for the plight of refugees.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Italian).

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


On a recent Saturday in Rome, several thousand angry Italians marched through the streets of downtown. They came to protest a bill that would grant citizenship to children born in Italy to long-term resident foreigners.

Sara Polimeno came from the northern Piedmont region to demand a stop to migrants.

"There's an invasion of Muslims imposing their religion on us," said Polimeno. "They have different customs and culture and they're upsetting all our habits. They're demanding too much. Enough!"

The tarantella is a lively folk dance and musical style originating in southern Italy's Apulia region, the heel of the Italian geographic boot.

Tourism is booming in Italy, which welcomed close to 50 million visitors over the summer. That has helped some places that have been struggling to survive. But for one destination, it might be too much of a good thing.

Civita di Bagnoregio is in the northern corner of the Lazio region, 75 miles north of Rome, tucked between Tuscany and Umbria.

On the road, signposts point the way to "Civita, The Town That Is Dying."

And in fact, not so long ago, Civita was at death's door — shrinking because of erosion and landslides and in need of constant restoration.

African asylum seekers in Italy are becoming artists — and it's not only helping them cope with the trauma they've been through but also introducing their stories to the local community.

In Europe's migration crisis, Italy is ground zero. More than 500,000 migrants have arrived, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, since 2014.

Despite a smaller flow this summer, anti-migrant sentiment is growing.

Large sections of Norcia's ancient walls lie in rubble. Its many centuries-old buildings are wrapped in steel girders, off-limits to the few people who visit what now looks like a ghost town.

Coffee — it's something many can't start the day without. In Italy, it is a cultural mainstay, and the country is perhaps the beverage's spiritual home.

After all, Italy gave us the lingo — espresso, cappuccino, latte — and its coffee culture is filled with rituals and mysterious rules.

Caffé Greco is Rome's oldest café. Founded in 1760, it's also the second oldest in all of Italy, after Florian in Venice.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Nearly 2,000 years after he held sway over ancient Rome, a notorious emperor is again causing outrage. The reason: Italian authorities approved construction of a massive stage amid the ruins over the Roman Forum for a rock opera about Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 A.D.

Archaeologists and art historians are up in arms, denouncing what they see as the commercialization of the country's heritage.

During papal audiences with heads of state, the exchange of gifts comes after the private encounter and at the end of the event. It offers the press a chance to witness the body language of the two leaders and listen in as they explain their gifts.

It also offers a glimpse of what the two leaders think of each other.

For example, Pope Francis gave President Trump a large medallion depicting an olive branch as a symbol of peace.

The pope said, "I give this to you so that you can be an instrument of peace."

The president replied, "We can use peace."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to have cultivated ties with far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front in France. He also seems to have forged an alliance with Vatican hard-liners who oppose Pope Francis' less rigid approach to church doctrine. The New York Times reported this week on Bannon's connections at the Vatican.

Italy has been described as the world's biggest open-air museum.

And with illegally excavated antiquities, looting of unguarded, centuries-old churches and smuggling of precious artworks, it's also an art theft playground.

But thanks to an elite police squad, Italy is also at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in artworks — believed to be among the world's biggest forms of trafficking and estimated to be worth billions.

At a busy office in central Rome, the man who oversees Italy's national network of committees that process asylum requests sits behind a desk with tall piles of folders.

Angelo Trovato says each committee has three members — representing police, local authorities and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

"Each applicant is interviewed by one committee member," says Trovato. "But when it comes to deciding the destiny of an individual, the decision can't be by a single person. It must be reached collectively."