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Internazionale is an Italian weekly magazine founded in Rome in 1993. It has built a reputation as a magazine of reference in a country where international news is often neglected. Along with a selection of "the best articles in the international press", the magazine regularly publishes articles and opinion from globally known writers and intellectuals.
Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age
Barbara Leda Kenny

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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Photograph of the volcano of Stromboli, with ash rising high into the sky
Maurizio Ripepe

Stromboli, The Volcano Helping To Predict When Others May Erupt

Stromboli, located in Sicily's Aeolian Islands, is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, attracting tourists for its pristine black sand beaches. Yet due to its characteristics, including its uniquely consistent and predictable eruptions, it has also become an international reference point in the study of explosive dynamics.

Explosive volcanic eruptions can be so violent and sudden that they catch most monitoring networks by surprise. These phenomena pose not only a scientific challenge but a serious danger, especially for those volcanoes located in inhabited areas or visited by hordes of tourists.

Take the sudden eruptions of Mount Ontake in Japan in 2014 and White Island in New Zealand in 2019. Despite being constantly monitored, these volcanic eruptions resulted in more than 80 deaths among unsuspecting hikers.

One of the most famous explosive volcanoes in the world is Stromboli, located in the Aeolian Islands, off of Sicily. Its gentle yet spectacular explosions, which launch lava and incandescent fragments to several hundred meters in height, have been occurring at a nearly constant rate every 10-20 minutes for thousands of years.

This ongoing, moderate explosive activity is unique and allows for close observation of an erupting volcano. This is how Stromboli has become an international reference point in the study of explosive dynamics. Many of the technological innovations and methodologies commonly used in volcano observatories today were developed and/or calibrated on Stromboli.

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Image of people on the beach, with the sea in the background, in the city of Fiumicino.
Marianna Gatta

Fiumicino Postcard: A Cruise Ship Giant Wants A Seaside Town As Its Own Roman Port

Not far from Rome's international airport, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship company bought a state concession to try to build a massive new port to host its Oasis-class cruise ships – 72-meter-high skyscrapers on the sea. Locals in Fiumicino say one major transport hub in the area is more than enough.

FIUMICINO — In front of the old lighthouse in this Italian coastal town, about 30 kilometers southwest of Rome, the clouds cast shadows on the translucent sea. A rusting, half-buried moped emerges from the sand. Here, it seems that time has run itself aground, caught in a fisherman's net.

On this piece of land between the delta of the Tiber River and the Mediterranean Sea, what was once a strategic point for ancient Rome and close to the longstanding home of Rome's international airport, a large new deepwater port will soon be built.

In Feb. 2022, Fiumicino Waterfront, a company controlled by cruise line Royal Caribbean, bought a state concession at an auction that includes a vast area of the coast. The company now owns 55,000 square meters of land and 988,000 square meters of water. The project plans include space for 800 moorings, two of which are for Oasis-class cruise ships – 72-meter-high skyscrapers on the sea, twice the height of the lighthouse, which serves as a symbol of Fiumicino’s past and as a historic guard post for the coast.

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Tourist Trap: How Big Investors Are Changing The Tuscan Valley Forever
Alessandro Calvi

Tourist Trap: How Big Investors Are Changing The Tuscan Valley Forever

Along with mass tourism, large investors have arrived in the Tuscan Valley — investors with no ties to the traditions and agriculture of the place. If the residents leave, the landscape of this countryside will disappear forever.

PIENZA — The farmyards in Val d'Orcia are closing, the new owners locking themselves away in farmhouses transformed into villas . A world that has always been open disappears, without fanfare — almost without a voice at all.

“The farmyards were intended for the use of the farm, but they were also a free plot: people with animals in tow could stop and find hospitality,” says Marco Capitoni, a farmer and winemaker. “Now, they have become green fields, irrigated, lit up day and night, monitored by video cameras, and surrounded by fake stone walls or railings.”

His is not the lament of someone who looks to the past regretfully. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Capitoni's company stands on the side of a hill by the town of Pienza, surrounded by splendid, almost empty countryside , windblown and silent on a peaceful Siena afternoon. From his farmyard di lui, he looks at the hills and recounts his bewilderment at a sudden, almost violent change, that is affecting Val d'Orcia — even the very landscape, which is what transformed the fortune of this otherwise poor valley not long ago .

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Image of a sign on a road indicating the speed limit.
Alice Facchini

The Fastest Path To Sustainable Cities: A Very Low Speed Limit

Bologna is the first major Italian city to join the city30 initiative, taking on a model that limits the speed of cars in cities to 30 kilometers-per-hour (18.6 mph) and aims to return road space to pedestrians and cyclists.

BOLOGNACity30, a program that lowers the speed limit of major cities to 30 kilometers an hour (18.6 mph), has several goals: it aims to increase road safety, promote sustainable mobility through the reduction of pollution and emissions and to advance the local economy. The new model has already taken hold in various cities around the world, and has now arrived in Italy as well.

Starting in June, Bologna became the first major Italian city to set its speed limit to 30 kilometers per hour. The first Italian city to do so was Cesena, which led the way in 1998, and was followed in 2021 by Olbia.

To become a city30, however, more has to be done than just lowering the speed limit. Rather, it is a broader and more complex intervention, that is both infrastructural and cultural. The urban environment must be redeveloped with the aim of returning public road space to pedestrians and cyclists.

“In Italy, we still consider the road to be solely the realm of the car," says urban planner Matteo Dondè, who specializes in cycling planning, traffic calming and the redevelopment of public spaces. “It is above all a cultural problem: we are the only country where the pedestrian thanks the motorist for stopping at the pedestrian crossing... and if you respect the speed limit you are seen as a loser.”

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Image of ​Amazon BLQ1 in Castelguglielmo, Province of Rovigo, Italy.
Antonio Fico

How Amazon Worker Exploitation Looks In Small-Town Italy

In the Italian province of Rovigo, Amazon’s arrival appeared to be an opportunity to revive the area's economy and create jobs. But two and a half years later, it's clear that the giant has had a negative impact on the struggling area.

CASTELGUGLIELMO — When he works the morning shift, Matteo Tacconi* is out of bed by 5 a.m.. He grabs a coffee, jumps into his old car and travels 30 kilometers from his rented home to the Amazon plant in this small tow in the northern Italian province of Rovigo.

At 52, he has only been able to find two types of work in the southern city where he was born: "Agriculture, or black market agriculture." Both are precarious, poorly paid jobs, and so after an interview with an agency that provides temporary workers for Amazon, he didn't think twice, and moved north with his family to accept a three-month job. “The hope was that after a few more temporary contracts, they would eventually decide to hire me," he says.

As Tacconi reaches the factory in the morning, thousands of other Amazon workers are traveling from their homes in Polesine and other neighboring provinces to reach Castelguglielmo, where one of Amazon’s largest distribution centers has been built in an area surrounded by soybean and beetroot fields.

Like other such Amazon warehouses, it is located in an area plagued by high unemployment rates and issues with infrastructure and services. In many cases, the towns in the area are just a handful of houses gathered around the town hall and the bell tower, with few job opportunities and lots of emigration.

With an unemployment rate almost double that of the rest of the northeastern Veneto region and mediocre standards of living, the towns of the region saw Amazon’s arrival in fall 2020 as an opportunity to make changes. E-commerce was booming due to the pandemic, and so was Amazon’s business.

An exploitable area

Enrico Ferrarese, president of the province of Rovigo, summarizes the prevailing mood at the time: “The arrival of Amazon appeared as an opportunity to revive the economy of the area and give work to our unemployed. We certainly didn't expect a huge change in the situation, but an important change, yes.”

Two and a half years later, it is clear that the impact of the site is not solely positive.

Two and a half years later, it is clear that the impact of the site is not solely positive. Employment has increased, and Amazon alone has created 1,500 permanent jobs, becoming the number one private employer in the province of Rovigo. But the other side of the coin is the high number of temporary workers, who for a long time exceeded the number of workers with a stable contract.

These temporary contracts were renewed for three months at a time, affecting a fifth of the precarious workers, which created a pattern of using workers in low-skilled jobs with a continuous turnover. Research from the Veneto Institute of Economic and Social Research (IRES) and the University of Padua, which conducted the first comprehensive research on a plant of this type, illustrates the problem. In Dec. 2021, just over a year after Amazon opened in the town, only 37% of the workers initially employed continued to work in the plant, while a majority had been replaced.

For Francesco Melis, national coordinator for Amazon precarious workers with the NIdiL Cgil trade union, the situation is similar elswhere in Italy: “Precariousness is structural, and the turnover is so high that it soon runs out a pool of workers in the area and triggers a massive migratory phenomenon from other provinces and regions,” he says.

Another negative consequence was the 30% increase in rental prices and the newfound difficulty in finding affordable housing throughout Rovigo. In San Bellino, a single room can cost up to €400. The increase in prices also extended to the neighboring areas: in Rovigo, the local administration tried to calm protests of students who were competing for housing with the workers moving into the area. As a result of these changes in living expenses, Tacconi decided to look for accommodation 30 kilometers away, which was the only way he could have a roof for himself and his family.

Image of  the Castelguglielmo facility

The Castelguglielmo facility.

Antonio Fico/Internazionale

Amazon's manipulation

From Amazon’s point of view, investing in these areas means offering a concrete development opportunity, creating not only employment but "good employment." The starting salary of a warehouse operator, the company claims, is higher than the minimum wages established by the logistics contract, and also boasts added benefits such as health insurance and meal vouchers.

The union's accusation, however, is that the company has a precise strategy: make the most of the army of "disadvantaged" workers present in the area as a precarious and interchangeable workforce to cope with the variability of orders.

There are legal limits on the use of temporary contracts, which can only constitute a maximum of 30 percent of a company's employees. But the same law recognizes some exceptions. Some categories include those unemployed for more than six months, women, people under 24, unemployed people 49 years or older and migrants in the process of job placement, who are all not counted in the 30 percent. The use of these categories gives the company considerable flexibility, especially in the three years following its settlement in the area.

At the Rovigo plant in Feb. 2021, five months after its opening, temporary workers accounted for 84% of employees. A year later, they were 53%. Today, precarious employment has significantly decreased, but is still widely used to manage peaks and can represent a third of the total workforce.

For its part, the company claims to have a robust recruitment campaign that has led to a doubling of employees and a halving of temporary workers already in the first year of the plant's life.

A complex supply chain

The fulfilmment center is the center of Castelguglielmo. A distribution center for small items such as books, toys and household items, it can employ up to 1,500 people, whose job it is is to receive goods from suppliers, place them on shelves and fulfill orders by retrieving stored items using a digital scanner. Employees pack the parcels while other employees apply the shipping label. From there, parcels are loaded onto delivery trucks.

The sound of the belts that transport the goods to the loading and unloading areas is the permanent soundtrack of these highly automated centers, "Where the work can be very repetitive and, in some departments, very wearisome," says employee Ludovico Sorba*.

However, unlike the old Castel San Giovanni plant, where work is still done with forklifts, downtime is reduced in Castelguglielmo with the use of robotics and the introduction of mobile shelves in warehouses. Connected to orders in real-time, the shelves transport the products to the operator workstations. The plant works in a continuous cycle over three shifts with half-hour intervals, seven days a week.

The sorting centers, introduced by Amazon in 2014, which are smaller than the distribution centers and only have a few hundred employees, sort packages according to the final destination. There are also delivery stations, which are smaller centers that represent the last mile of Amazon's distribution system. There, parcels received from the larger warehouses are entrusted to drivers, usually contractors with external companies, for delivery.

There are 10 first-entry centers like Castelguglielmo throughout Italy, which are surrounded by about 30 sorting centers.

The location of the warehouses appears, above all, to be linked to logistical considerations. While the delivery stations are close to the final customers, close to large urban areas and the richest ones, proximity to major road infrastructures and airport hubs is crucial for almost all plants.

The Castelguglielmo Amazon site, in addition to being located on the Transpolesana road, is a few kilometers from the Valdastico (A31), a highway that crosses Rovigo from south to north and connects it to Padua and Vicenza, and from the A13, which connects Padua to the airport in Bologna.

For Matteo Poretti, transportation secretary of the CGIL of Rovigo, the size of the plants also counts: "A plant of 60,000 square meters is difficult to connect with the infrastructures of a freight village like the one in Padua, and the value of the land is cheaper in San Nice than in Segrate.”

On the other hand, the strategy followed means that Amazon's distribution and sorting centers end up being located “in areas inhabited by low-income social groups and therefore more ‘hungry’ for work,” notes Marco Veruggio of the Punto Critical publishing project.

To validate this hypothesis, the group of researchers tried to draw, starting in March 2022, a map of the Amazon settlements present in Italy, crossing the type of plants with the average taxable income and the employment rates of the areas concerned. The finding is significant: the average income in the settlement areas of the distribution and sorting centers is between €14,000 and €20,000 euros, with peaks of €21-22,000 euros in the north and generally low employment rates.

They are located where incomes are lower and unemployment is higher.

In Rovigo, for example, in 2020 the overall employment rate was 45 percent (the female employment rate was at 34 percent) with an average annual taxable income of just €15,000. By comparison, a large city like Rome has an average income of almost €25,000. “But even when the warehouses are in relatively affluent metropolitan areas, such as in the capital, they are located where incomes are lower and unemployment is higher,” Veruggio says.

Image of Amazon trucks outside the Castelguglielmo facility in the province of Rovigo, Italy.

The Amazon trucks outside the Castelguglielmo facility in the province of Rovigo, Italy.

Antonio Fico/Internazionale

A need for work 

Towns like Castelguglielmo need flexible labour. Amazon's "production system" is apparently similar to that of Ford, with strong automation and a rigid division of labour, but in reality, based on the principle of lean production where variations in the volume of orders are in control.

To deal with the peak of Black Friday (the day on which Christmas discounts and sales begin) and that of Prime Day (the annual discounts for Amazon Prime customers), the American company hires a large number of precarious contracted workers. “The number is much higher in the new factories, where the percentage of temporary contracts can even exceed 70 percent, while in the historical ones of Piacenza or Passo Corese the ratio between permanent workers and those under precarious contracts tends to stabilize. But even here the precarious workers are a lung that expands and contracts, according to the peaks, and which can even reach 40 percent of the staff,” says Melis.

For the trade unionist, who recognizes the significant presence of stable workers, the constant traits in all the plants are precariousness and an unusually high turnover rate, which can be explained in two ways, he says: “The extremely high work rates which deplete and lower the performance of the worker; the nature of temporary contracts, renewable for a maximum of twelve months, after which the company must justify the temporary nature of the contract with a reason. In both cases, the multinational prefers to replace the workers. Hence the need for the company to increasingly expand the personnel recruitment area.”

Here in Rovigo we don't have thinking heads or engineers, but only warehouse workers. This is no development.

The data collected by Ires Veneto and the University of Padua seem to confirm this hypothesis. “Although the province of Rovigo has both male and female employment rates lower than the Veneto average and much higher unemployment rates, just 42% of those employed are local, while six out of 10 come from other Veneto provinces or from outside the region,” explains Chiara Gargiulo, of Ires Veneto. “For a job that in seven out of 10 cases is a warehouse worker, just 4% are hired with an intellectual professional qualification.”

For the director of Confindustria, Paolo Armenio, the rhetoric of good employment crashes against the numbers: “Here in Rovigo we don't have thinking heads or engineers, but only warehouse workers. This is no development.”

Amazon replies to these accusations by citing a Nomisma study which states that since the opening of the plant there have been positive effects on the commercial activities of the area and on the manufacturing companies that serve the plant, driven to adopt more efficient production systems.

Despite this, in the perception of most of the local institutions and category representatives, Amazon and the local region remain far apart. If Amazon on the one hand says it is ready for dialogue, most of the territorial subjects claim that they are not aware of the company's development strategy, nor have they ever been involved in projects in which Amazon is the leader.

A giant in the region

In the specific case of the Castelguglielmo plant, these problems are linked to those of the area. “Amazon, in deciding to open in Rovigo, encounters an unprepared institutional and economic fabric,” observes the secretary of the chamber of labour, Pieralberto Colombo. “Castelguglielmo has 1,300 inhabitants; San Bellino has just over 900, and so do most of the municipalities in the area, while Amazon is a giant that employs almost 3,000 workers here alone. We need greater involvement in managing the consequences that a plant of this size brings with it.”

No one has bothered to figure out how to develop a local transport service.

There is not adequate space for the capacity of the vehicles entering and leaving the plant, for example, which raises a second challenge: “No one has bothered to figure out how to develop a local transport service that can bring people to work from the main neighboring cities to a plant built in the middle of the fields. A thousand people on the move is no small thing for a territory like that,” underlines Poretti.

The third problem is the housing shortage. The municipalities in the area, the ones from which one can realistically think of reaching the plant, are small, and "especially at the beginning,” says Sorba, “it was practically impossible to find an available apartment at affordable prices.”

With a three-month employment contract, it was difficult to provide the necessary credentials to secure a lease. Therefore, makeshift bed-and-breakfasts and other more flexible solutions have multiplied.

When Amazon arrived, the case of Massimo Straccini, 58, caused a sensation. He had been forced to live in a camper with his wife outside the factory in order to work. When his first contract expired, Amazon decided not to renew it.

Since then, some administrations have tried to equip themselves. Rovigo is focusing more on social housing and local welfare projects. But there are still no forms of territorial coordination, and it is difficult to ask the small municipalities of Medio Polesine to do the same.

The fourth problem is that of the working conditions in the plant. If, at a national level, the unions believed Amazon might be open to discussing contractual forms that guarantee greater employment continuity, Poretti says that “Amazon's opposition remains to open local bargaining tables, in which to discuss the application of the contract and flexibility, which we know is the heart of their system.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Image of the Tunisian Maritime National Guard intercepting boats of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea before returning the migrants to the shore of the Tunisian southern city of Sfax.
Migrant Lives
Francesca Spinelli

AI And Migration: Hi-Tech To Tighten Borders Or Save Lives At Sea?

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to approve the EU's first act regulating AI, which banned some potentially abusive AI tech but left the door open to others that could be used to track, control and deny people seeking refuge in Europe — instead of as a tool to save them.


ROME — When Syrian and Palestinian refugees were stranded on a scorpion-infested island on the Greek-Turkish border in the Evros River last summer, it took the Greek authorities more than 10 days to send relief supplies.

Greek authorities claimed they could not locate the abandoned migrants, despite having received their precise geographical coordinates. This far-fetched claim, refuted by an investigation by the German media company Deutsche Welle, is a perfect example of how selectively the European Union uses border surveillance technologies.

Another example of this selective use came four months later: in Dec. 2022, Human Rights Watch accused Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency, of using its drones and aircraft to locate and report refugee boats to the Libyan coast guard — who brought them back to Libya, where they experienced violence in which Frontex is undoubtedly complicit.

Available technology has not been used in crucial moments when it could save lives. Instead, it is used to turn away asylum seekers. In the aforementioned cases, the authorities did not hesitate to commit an illegal act by failing to rescue the migrants and instead conspiring with the Libyan coastguard, violating the fundamental rights of these asylum seekers.

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Photo of a protester shouting slogans through a megaphone during a climate protest in Rome.
Alice Facchini

No Green, I'm Gone — Meet The Climate Quitters

Climate quitting is a lasting residue of the larger mass resignation since the pandemic. The phenomenon mostly involves young people who change or quit their jobs if they consider it harmful to the planet.

ROME — When Andrea Grieco returned to his native Italy, he found a job for a consulting firm on what he'd been told were "sustainability budgets." The work was interesting, with a permanent contract and a good salary.

"One day I was asked to work on the green strategy of one of Italy’s largest oil companies," the 31-year-old recalled. "I said I disagreed, but they told me that this was a client they couldn’t do without. So I decided to quit.”

Grieco is what we call a "climate quitter," a young person who has chosen to quit his job for reasons related to protecting the planet.

Climate quitters are part of the phenomenon of the Great Resignation, in which thousands of people quit their jobs beginning in early 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic for various reasons. In this case, the specific motivation is to reduce one's environmental impact and devote oneself to areas such as the circular economy, sustainability and renewable energy.

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