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.

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Europe
1:27 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Peace, Justice Elude Rape Victims Of Bosnian War

Bosnian Muslim women hold posters with the names of the missing during a protest at the U.N. office in Sarajevo in 2008. Hundreds of wartime rape victims were protesting the decision of the U.N. war crimes tribunal to reject the prosecution's request for rape charges to be added against two Bosnian Serbs who were on trial for other war crimes.
Hidajet Delic AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:50 am

Nearly two decades after the Bosnian War ended, thousands of Bosnian women who were victims of sexual violence are still seeking justice.

Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the start of the war this month with a young people's choir performing John Lennon's song "Give Peace a Chance." Row after row of empty red chairs marked the more than 11,500 people who died during the siege of the capital.

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Europe
4:22 am
Sat April 21, 2012

Amid Europe's Debt Crisis, A Sharp Rise In Suicides

Mourners gather at the spot in front of the Greek parliament in Athens where 77-year-old retired pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas shot and killed himself on April 4. Christoulas left a note saying he did not want to end up scrounging for food in garbage bins.
Simela Pantzartzi EPA/Landov

Originally published on Sat April 21, 2012 6:47 pm

The eurozone crisis has been under way for three years and has led to sharp welfare cutbacks and a credit crunch throughout the continent.

But one of the most serious effects of the financial crisis has been an alarming spike in suicides in debt-burdened Greece, Ireland and Italy.

Last Wednesday, about a 1,000 people gathered in central Rome for a candle-lit vigil to honor Italy's economic victims. Statics show that from 2009 and 2010, some 400 small-business owners took their lives.

There have already been 23 crisis-related suicides since January.

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Movies
1:20 am
Fri April 20, 2012

Italian Critics Don't 'Love' Allen's Roman Holiday

Woody Allen at the Italian-language premiere of To Rome With Love, in Rome, April 13.
Andrew Medichini AP

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 4:46 am

After shooting in London, Barcelona and Paris, Woody Allen made his latest European backdrop Rome. To Rome With Love opens Friday in Italy — in Italian.

The movie is a magnificent postcard of the eternal city — a carefree romp along cobblestone streets nestled between ancient ruins and Renaissance palaces. A soft yellow glow pervades every scene. It projects an image of the sweet life with all the charms under the Italian sun, set to the tune of old standbys like "Volare" and "Arrivederci Roma."

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Europe
1:28 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Two Decades After Siege, Sarajevo Still A City Divided

Twenty years ago this week, the Bosnian war began with the siege of Sarajevo, the capital. In this photo, smoke billows from a building in downtown Sarajevo, April 22, 1992, after a Serbian mortar attack.
H. Delich AP

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 8:30 am

April 6 marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the Bosnian war and the siege of Sarajevo. It was the longest siege of a capital city in modern history, and produced the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

Over three-and-a-half years of war, 100,000 people were killed, and half of Bosnia's population of 4.4 million — made up of a plurality of Muslims — fled their homes.

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Europe
1:11 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Italian Law Pits Older Workers Against Younger Ones

Members of the Italian metalworkers trade union Fiom-CGIL hold a placard reading "Enough now!" during a protest in Rome on March 9.
Filippo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 7:06 am

Italy's technocrat prime minister, Mario Monti, came to office less than five months ago as the country's finances were in a tailspin. And now he could be facing his toughest challenge yet — pushing through changes to labor regulations.

Italian labor rules ensure job security for older workers but can condemn the younger generation to a series of insecure, temporary jobs.

Since taking office, Monti has pushed through a round of tough austerity measures, budget cuts, pension reform and some deregulation.

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Europe
9:41 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Vatican Leaks Raise Questions Over Finances

Italian financial police officers talk in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Recently leaked Vatican documents have raised questions about the Vatican's financial transactions.
Angelo Carconi AP

The Vatican has launched a rare criminal investigation to uncover who is behind leaks of highly sensitive documents that allege corruption and financial mismanagement in Vatican City.

The documents also shed light on purported infighting over the Vatican Bank's compliance with international money-laundering regulations.

A television show in late January on an independent network first revealed letters addressed last year to Pope Benedict XVI from the then-deputy governor of Vatican City, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

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Europe
2:29 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Greek Bailout Fuels Rise Of Extreme Politics

Policemen shout slogans during a demonstration of Greek security forces against the new austerity measures in Athens.
Aris Messinis AFP/Getty Images

With Greece entering its fifth year of recession and dealing with harsh austerity measures imposed as part of a eurozone bailout deal to save it from default, its society is in upheaval. Opinion polls suggest the old political system is collapsing, and extremist parties are gaining popularity ahead of spring elections.

At a recent protest in Athens, a large bronze bell tolled as thousands of policemen in full uniform marched solemnly through the streets. They ominously waved their handcuffs at Parliament, shouting, "Take your bailout plan and get out of here."

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Europe
4:23 am
Sat March 17, 2012

Greek Bailout Is Accompanied By Greek Resentment

Shipyard workers demand their unpaid wages in central Athens on Thursday, the day that countries in the 17-nation euro zone formally approved a second bailout of $36.6 billion for Greece.
Petros Giannakouris AP

Originally published on Sun March 18, 2012 8:07 am

Debt-beleaguered Greece has secured a second international bailout. But for many Greeks, the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank — known as the "troika" — are a breach of their sovereignty.

A recent demonstration in central Athens was organized by a group of lawyers who claim the latest bailout agreement turns Greece into the ward of its international lenders.

Demonstrator Irini Lazana says it violates the country's legislative foundations.

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Europe
1:46 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

A Health Care Tragedy Plays Out In A Greek Port

Near the port of Piraeus and about 10 miles west of Athens, Perama developed after the Greek civil war of the 1940s, growing prosperous in the 1980s thanks to the ship-repair industry.

But now, the once-bustling piers are deserted. A few rusting skeletons of unfinished boats stand outside empty, abandoned warehouses.

That's because business migrated to low-cost Turkey and China, and in a few short years, industry jobs dropped from 4,500 to 50.

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Europe
1:13 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

With Cutbacks, Greeks Say Antiquities Are At Risk

The entrance to the Museum of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, is cordoned off last month, after two hooded thieves broke into the museum and made away with more than 70 ancient objects. The stolen loot included chariots, horses and a gold ring that was more than 3,000 years old. Greeks say such sites are vulnerable because of cutbacks that have reduced the number of guards.
Dimitris Papaioannoy EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 4:11 pm

At the Museum of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, lush pine trees and olive groves are filled with chirping birds. The one guard at the site looks nervously at the few visitors.

There is still a sense of shock in Olympia following the theft last month at the museum, when armed robbers broke into the building and tied up the single guard on duty.

Archaeologist Kostantinos Antonopoulos says they ran off with 77 priceless objects, including votive figurines, chariots and horses.

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Europe
10:01 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Portuguese Seeking Opportunities In Former Colonies

Protesters against government austerity measures march in front of the Finance Ministry in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this month. The country's debt crisis has prompted Portuguese workers to look to their country's former colonies for jobs.
Patricia de Melo Moreira AFP/Getty Images

Portugal is burdened with such big debts that some are calling it "the next Greece." Unemployment is soaring, and the debt continues to rise, despite draconian austerity measures.

But Portugal has something Greece doesn't have: former colonies, rich in natural resources and in need of labor, both skilled and unskilled. And in a type of role reversal, some Portuguese are now traveling to those places in hopes of improving their lives.

Antonio Valerio, who is studying pharmaceutical science at a university, is among those who see no future in Portugal.

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Europe
12:58 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Portugal Plays By The Rules, But Economy Slumps

A once-bustling vegetable market in Lisbon is now beyond the reach of many Portuguese — a sign of their country's economic problems.
Sylvia Poggioli NPR

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 9:25 am

The eurozone crisis has focused attention on debt-burdened Greece spiraling into decline. Meanwhile, Portugal is seen as the international creditors' poster-child for obediently slashing spending and welfare benefits.

Nevertheless, the Portuguese national debt continues to grow, and the country is mired in recession and soaring unemployment.

The Portuguese national character has long been identified with Fado music. Raquel Freire, an activist with the local Occupy movement, says the melancholy style helps explain decades of resignation.

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Religion
2:36 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

With Vatican's Backing, Catholics Address Sex Abuse

Cardinal Marc Ouellet presides over a penitential mass at St. Ignatius Church in Rome, Feb. 7, 2012. The mass, which asked the forgiveness of victims of clerical sexual abuse, was part of a Vatican-backed symposium addressing the scandal of pedophile priests and the church culture that enabled such abuse to take place.
Andreas Solaro AFP/Getty Images

A decade after the clerical sex abuse scandal erupted in the United Sates, Catholic religious officials from all over the world met in Rome this week to tackle the painful topic.

The Vatican endorsed the symposium — called "Toward Healing and Renewal" — the aim of which was changing the culture of how the church deals with cases of pedophile priests.

One of the highlights was a late-afternoon penitential mass on Feb. 7 — apparently the first time a senior Vatican official conducted a service to ask the forgiveness of abuse victims.

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Europe
4:10 am
Sun February 5, 2012

For Reporter, Cruise Ship Disaster Is A Local Story

The Costa Concordia cruise ship remains half-submerged three weeks after it crashed. It continues to be a source of anger for local residents.
Sylvia Poggioli NPR

Originally published on Sun February 5, 2012 4:49 pm

It rarely happens to a reporter that a major story breaks in her own neighborhood. And well, it's not really a neighborhood, but the Tuscan archipelago, where a cruise ship crashed last month. It's an area I know very well.

I spend summers there, and just last August I was boating a few yards from Le Scole, a rocky reef near Giglio island that is the scene of the disaster.

For the past three weeks, the half-submerged Costa Concordia has dominated the landscape of Giglio and looms ominously over the island's future as a haven for nature lovers and scuba divers.

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Europe
10:01 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

In Italy, Art As A Window Into Modern Banking

Oil painting by Marinus van Reymerswaele.
Courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:05 am

As Italy and much of Europe struggle with their finances, the city of Florence has staged an art exhibition looking at the critical — and controversial — role that financial institutions have played for centuries.

The recent Money and Beauty exhibit, held in the majestic 15th-century Palazzo Strozzi, illustrated how Florentine merchants got around the Catholic Church's ban on money-lending and bankrolled the Renaissance.

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Europe
12:03 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Italy's Cruise Crisis Spawns An Unlikely Star

Italian coast guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco (center) has become a national hero for ordering the captain of a sinking cruise liner to get back onboard and oversee the ship's evacuation. Here, De Falco arrives in court for a hearing on Tuesday.
Giacomo Aprili AP

Five days after a cruise liner slammed into rocks off Italy's Tuscan coast, the country is gripped by the contrasting profiles of two key figures in the drama — the captain charged with abandoning ship and the captain who demanded he get back onboard.

For many Italians, the accident has become a metaphor for a country that sees itself mired in economic and moral decline.

Francesco Schettino, the disgraced captain of the 1,000-foot-long floating palace known as the Costa Concordia, is under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.

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Europe
10:01 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Italy's Bad Economy Leaves Immigrants Vulnerable

Immigrants from Senegal protest against racism in Florence, Italy, on Dec. 17, 2011. Four days earlier, an Italian man killed two African street sellers and wounded three others in a shooting spree in Florence.
Maurizio Degl'Innocenti EPA /Landov

The Italian city of Florence prides itself on welcoming foreign migrants. But the killing of two Africans last month has raised new questions about racism in Italy.

With the economic crisis worsening, there are signs xenophobia could increase as Italians start to compete with immigrants for a slice of the shrinking economic pie.

On Dec. 13, a known right-wing extremist opened fire in two separate marketplaces, leaving two Senegalese dead and seriously injuring three others. The killer then shot himself.

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Business
4:01 am
Sat January 7, 2012

Italian Shopkeepers Say 'No, Grazie' To More Hours

A butcher shop serves customers in a Rome market on Dec. 31. A new law went into effect in Italy on Jan. 1, allowing shops, cafes and restaurants to stay open 24/7 throughout the year.
Alberto Pizzoli AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 7, 2012 5:50 pm

Italy's new prime minister, technocrat Mario Monti, wants to stimulate growth by boosting productivity and competitiveness. A new law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows shops, cafes and restaurants to stay open 24/7 all year long, holidays included. This deregulation puts Italy ahead of many European countries, but many Italians are resisting.

Friday — the Day of the Epiphany — was the first holiday of the year. In Rome, however, hardly anyone took advantage of the liberalized shop hours.

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World
10:01 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

Italians Are Mostly Window Shopping This Christmas

A woman gazes into a shop window in downtown Rome. Due to tough austerity measures, even wealthy Italians are buying less this holiday season.
Max Rossi Reuters

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 8:19 pm

A tour of how Christmas shopping is going in Italy starts with Via Condotti — Rome's premier shopping street.

It features high-end stores like Prada, Gucci, Armani, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Ferragamo. But salespeople are standing idly by the door. There's a yawning emptiness in these shops.

Two streets down, the only Christmas sound is a recording of a children's chorus singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo." But even in a toy store, well-dressed customers leave without buying.

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Remembrances
7:10 am
Sun December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel, Leader Of The Velvet Revolution, Dies

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who led a revolution to bring down the country's communist regime, has died. During the communist era, Havel was one of Eastern Europe's foremost dissident writers and champion of human rights.

Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic, his assistant Sabina Dancecova said. He was 75.

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Europe
2:22 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Modern Greeks Return To Ancient System Of Barter

In Volos, optician Klita Dimitriadis accepts partial payment in Local Alternative Units, or TEMs. She then spends the TEMs at a monthly farmers market, or exchanges them for other services.
Sylvia Poggoli NPR

It's Sunday in Volos, a fishing village nestled in a large bay in central Greece, and fishermen display their daily catch, which this day includes codfish, sardines and octopus.

Prices have been slashed, but customers are few.

Fisherman Christos Xegandakis laughs bitterly. He says business is so bad, it's time to start swapping goods.

"Give me two kilos of potatoes, and I give you a kilo of fish," he says. "Why not?

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Europe
1:51 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Monti Brings Experience, Clout To Italian Leadership

Italy's new premier-designate economist Mario Monti meets with journalists at the Quirinale Presidential Palace after talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome on Sunday. Monti told reporters that he will carry out the task "with a great sense of responsibility and service toward this nation."
Pier Paolo Cito AP

In a country where politicians shield themselves behind dark-tinted windows in sleek limousines, Roman paparazzi are having a field day with Italy's new premier-designate, Mario Monti, who actually walks down the street, without bodyguards.

But the longest sound bite reporters are likely to get from him is: "Isn't it a splendid day?"

Monti was chosen to replace the flamboyant Silvio Berlusconi, who was forced to step down over the country's worsening eurozone crisis.

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Europe
5:50 am
Sun November 13, 2011

How Berlusconi Created A Country In His Own Image

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi acknowledges applause before leaving parliament's lower chamber in Rome on Saturday. Berlusconi resigned after the lower chamber passed an austerity package.
Filippo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:15 am

With a party anthem called "Thank God for Silvio," humility is not a Silvio Berlusconi virtue. "I am by far the best prime minister Italy ever had," he said in 2009.

Berlusconi's resignation Saturday marks the end of a political career that tainted Italy's international image and helped bring Europe's third-largest economy to the brink of bankruptcy.

He survived tales of "bunga-bunga" orgies and more than 30 prosecutions for corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor.

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