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Philip Willan

Roma, Italy
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About Philip
Philip Willan is a freelance journalist and author who has worked in Italy for more than 30 years. He has specialised in cold war intrigues and parapolitics. As well as reporting for electronic media, Philip writes for the Times of London and, on information technology, for IDG News Service.
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Former justice minister investigated for shoplifting allegations

26 Apr 2024  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Police are investigating Piero Fassino, a former Italian justice minister and centre-left politician, for allegedly shoplifting a bottle of Chanel perfume worth €130 at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Fassino, who is part of the Italian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, claimed he was distracted by a phone call and unintentionally placed the perfume in his pocket. The incident occurred on April 15.

Music festival keeps elegance alive on Greek holiday island

04 Apr 2024  |  italianinsider.it
The Patmos Chamber Music Festival in Greece, co-founded by Italians Massimo Fino and Roberto Prosseda, concluded its second season, drawing visitors with chamber music from world-class artists. The festival, inspired by Patmos' cultural history and Orthodox Christian pilgrimage, has gained support from Greek cultural and political authorities and sponsors. Despite logistical challenges, such as transporting grand pianos, the festival's success is attributed to the island's beauty, collaborative music selection, and the camaraderie among musicians. With free access to concerts, the festival aims to offer an alternative to mass tourism, promoting elite cultural tourism. It has quickly become one of the top music festivals on Greek islands, with plans to expand to major European capitals.

In Positano, the location that inspired The Talented Mr Ripley

31 Mar 2024  |  www.thetimes.com
Tom Ripley, the central character of Patricia Highsmith’s novels, was conceived in Positano, Italy, in 1951. Highsmith, inspired by a solitary young man she observed on the beach, created the character while on holiday on the Amalfi coast. Her reflections on this moment were later published in the literary magazine Granta.

The world’s best pesto — as crowned by the Genoese

25 Mar 2024  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
In Genoa’s Ducal Palace, the tenth Pesto World Championship saw a hundred finalists compete to create the best pesto. Mattia Bassi, a naval engineer from Liguria, used his grandmother Rosetta's utensils and shared his secret technique. The event celebrated the cultural significance of pesto, with aromas of fresh basil and garlic filling the air.

Italian MPs approve controversial migrant centres in Albania

24 Jan 2024  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Italian MPs have voted in favor of a deal to establish two migrant centers in Albania where asylum seekers rescued at sea could be held. The lower chamber of parliament passed the agreement with a vote of 155 to 115, with two abstentions. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who leads the hard-right Brothers of Italy party and was elected on a platform to halt migrant arrivals from North Africa, saw an increase in migrant landings to nearly 156,000 last year, up from about 105,000 in 2022.

Minister in charge of protecting Italy’s cultural treasures is accused over stolen painting

16 Jan 2024  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Vittorio Sgarbi, Italy’s junior culture minister, is under investigation for allegedly possessing a stolen 17th-century painting and illegally exporting another valuable artwork. Prosecutors in Macerata have seized 'The Capture of St Peter' by Rutilio Manetti from one of Sgarbi's properties. Sgarbi, a prominent art critic and former adviser to Silvio Berlusconi, is known for his controversial public persona.

Captured kiss sparks friendship for couple’s son and photographer

28 Dec 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
An iconic photograph taken by Italian photographer Ugo Borsatti in 1954, capturing an American soldier, James Swaim, kissing his Italian fiancée, Graziella, through a train window, symbolizes love amidst war. Decades later, Borsatti formed a lasting friendship with the couple's son, Christopher Swaim, highlighting the enduring impact of the moment.

Pope begs for Gaza ceasefire in plea for worldwide peace

26 Dec 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in the Middle East, Ukraine, and Africa during his Christmas message from St Peter’s Basilica, condemning the arms trade for its role in global violence. Despite his health issues, the Pope delivered his message sitting down, emphasizing the significance of Bethlehem and the birth of Christ.

Cancer survivors in Italy granted right to be forgotten

07 Dec 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
The Italian Senate has unanimously approved a law that grants former cancer patients the right to be forgotten, aimed at protecting them from health discrimination. This law, which received cross-party support and was fast-tracked through parliament, will benefit around a million individuals by allowing them not to disclose their past illness when seeking mortgages, insurance, employment, or adoption.

Italy bans lab-grown meat to protect farmers and culinary tradition

20 Nov 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Italy has outlawed the sale of lab-grown meat and high-protein insect powder to safeguard its farming sector and culinary heritage, as announced by the right-wing government. The legislation was passed in the senate, making Italy the first country to implement such a ban. Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, who is related to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, criticized multinational companies for seeking profits at the expense of citizens' jobs and health. Ettore Prandini, head of the farmers' association Coldiretti, expressed pride in Italy's pioneering move and raised concerns about the public health implications of these products.

Pope criticised for renewing Xi deal as trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen reopens

24 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
The Vatican's renewal of a secret deal with China on bishop appointments has sparked international criticism, coinciding with President Xi Jinping's consolidation of power and the reopening of Cardinal Joseph Zen's trial for supporting pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. The timing has been seen as an embarrassing moment for the Pope, with accusations of moral appeasement directed at the Holy See.

Meloni’s flirty partner scores with Italian satirists

19 Oct 2023  |  thetimes.co.uk
Andrea Giambruno, the TV presenter partner of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has been caught in off-air scenes where he flirts with a female colleague and makes jocular remarks. These exchanges were released by a satirical TV program, showcasing Giambruno's informal behavior, including swearing and complimenting his colleague's dress sense and intelligence.

Pope Francis: God knows being the Pope is no easy job

10 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Pope Francis, in an interview marking the tenth anniversary of his election, reflected on the challenges of being the Pope, noting that it is a role for which no one can fully prepare. He addressed conflicts with conservative opponents of his reformist agenda but stated that these conflicts have not caused him to lose sleep. He drew parallels with Saint Peter, emphasizing the unexpected nature of their respective callings.

Pope Francis greets faithful from wheelchair after treatment for knee injury

05 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Pope Francis appeared in public in a wheelchair for the first time after injuring a ligament in his right knee. Following a therapeutic knee injection, doctors advised him to rest for two weeks. Previously, he used a wheelchair during his recovery from colon surgery last year. The Pope seemed relaxed as he joined about 900 leaders of female religious.

Italian villa ‘under Tutankhamun’s curse’ is seized from Putin ally

05 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Italy’s tax police have seized Villa Altachiara, a panoramic villa in Portofino, from a Russian oligarch. The villa, built in 1874 by the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, is linked to the legend of Tutankhamun’s curse following the death of the 5th Earl, who financed Howard Carter's excavation of the tomb. The 30-room villa, featuring a swimming pool and helicopter pad, was purchased by a Cyprus-based company in 2015 for about €25 million.

Meloni secures return of US windsurfer killer

01 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Enrico 'Chico' Forti, a former windsurfing champion imprisoned for 24 years in Miami for the murder of Australian businessman Dale Pike, will be returned to Italy. This diplomatic success is a significant achievement for Giorgia Meloni's government. Forti, who denies the 1998 killing, has been highlighted in Italian media for procedural irregularities and lack of physical evidence. Forti moved to Miami in the early 1990s, married model Heather Crane, and had three children.

Trans men apply for Miss Italy in protest at ‘born female’ rule

01 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Approximately 100 trans men have applied to the Miss Italy beauty pageant in protest against the rule that only individuals born female can participate. This follows the crowning of Rikkie Valerie Kolle, the first transgender woman to win Miss Netherlands. Patrizia Mirigliani, the organizer of Miss Italy, defended the rule, calling recent changes in beauty contests absurd. Federico Barbarossa, a trans activist from Bari, is among the applicants, using his deadname to register.

Giorgia Meloni sues Placebo singer for calling her a fascist racist

01 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is suing Brian Molko, the lead vocalist of the British rock band Placebo, for calling her a 'fascist, racist' during a concert in July. The incident occurred at the Sonic Park festival in Stupinigi, near Turin, and Molko is already under investigation by Turin magistrates for insulting Italian institutions. If convicted, he could face a fine of up to €5,000.

Pope Francis visits art festival and delivers mass in Venice

01 Oct 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Pope Francis visited the Venice Biennale, highlighting the Holy See pavilion featuring works by contemporary artists and prisoners. Despite health issues, he appeared in good form, traveling around Venice and delivering messages on the importance of art, environmental care, and youth engagement. The visit underscored his focus on inclusivity and the contributions of women in art.

Seven more die as Mediterranean migrant crisis grows

13 Aug 2023  |  thetimes.co.uk
Seven people, including a baby, were feared drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia, contributing to the escalating Mediterranean migrant crisis. The incident occurred as the number of people attempting to cross from North Africa to Italy rises. Italian officials in Sicily recovered one body, and the Ocean Viking charity ship was asked to perform 15 rescue operations, rescuing 623 passengers.

Art collector Silvio Berlusconi’s terrible taste in nudes

04 Aug 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Silvio Berlusconi amassed a collection of 25,000 artworks, many purchased late at night from TV auctions. Alessandro Orlando, a TV art sales pioneer, recounted an incident where Berlusconi bid €50,000 for a painting, initially met with skepticism. Berlusconi eventually secured the painting for €62,000 and went on to buy about 2,500 paintings from Orlando, including Madonnas, female nudes, and 1,000 'Russian' paintings. Art critic and junior culture minister Vittorio Sgarbi was among those who commented on Berlusconi's collection.

‘Drunk’ skipper questioned after Amalfi coast speedboat crash kills Bloomsbury USA president

04 Aug 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Adrienne Vaughan, president of Bloomsbury's US division, died in a motorboat accident off the Amalfi coast in Italy after her boat collided with a yacht. The incident occurred near the Furore Gorge, and Vaughan was thrown into the water and struck by the propeller. Despite being taken to the port of Amalfi, she succumbed to her injuries before reaching the hospital. Vaughan's husband, Mike White, and their two children were also on board; White sustained a shoulder injury.

Venice ‘should be’ on Unesco danger list

31 Jul 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
UNESCO has recommended that Venice be added to the list of endangered world heritage sites due to the negative impacts of new construction, mass tourism, and climate change. The organization urges Italian authorities to take greater action to protect the historic city and its lagoon. The recommendation will be considered for adoption at a UNESCO world heritage committee meeting in Riyadh in September.

Italy tries to escape ‘atrocious’ Chinese Belt and Road deal

31 Jul 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Italy's defense minister, Guido Crosetto, has expressed the need for Italy to withdraw from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while maintaining trade relations with China. Crosetto criticized the decision to join the BRI, made by the previous government under Giuseppe Conte, as an 'improvised and atrocious act' that resulted in a trade imbalance. The current administration, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, aims to realign Italy with its traditional economic and political alliances.

Archaeologists find theatre where Nero fiddled as Rome burnt

26 Jul 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Archaeologists have potentially located the remains of Emperor Nero's private theatre in a Renaissance palace garden adjacent to the Vatican. The site, which was part of Agrippina the Elder's pleasure gardens, is where Nero is historically remembered for playing the lyre and reciting poetry during the Great Fire of Rome. Rome's chief archaeologist, Daniela Porro, announced the significant find, which matches descriptions from ancient sources but had remained undiscovered until now.

Sheikh’s superyacht ‘violated’ Tuscan bay

25 Jul 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Italian environmental campaigners have accused the UAE's foreign minister of violating protected waters off the Tuscan island of Giannutri with his superyacht, potentially straining Italy's diplomatic relations with the UAE. The environmental charity Legambiente highlighted the incident, criticizing the activities of the superyacht Opera in the protected marine area.

Freed Egyptian activist demands justice for murdered Cambridge student

24 Jul 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Patrick Zaki, an Egyptian human rights activist and Christian, who was recently pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has called for justice for Giulio Regeni, a murdered Italian Cambridge doctoral student. Zaki was convicted of spreading false news about discrimination against Coptic Christians and spent 22 months on remand before being sentenced to three years in prison. His case gained significant attention in Italy, and he has now been awarded a degree by Bologna University.

Boy, 5, killed in YouTube Lamborghini stunt crash

18 Jun 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
A five-year-old boy, Manuel Proietti, was killed when a Lamborghini Urus, driven by Matteo Di Pietro and his friends for a YouTube channel stunt, crashed into a Smart car near Rome. The group, known as The Borderline, was attempting to drive the Lamborghini for 50 hours straight. The accident has sparked outrage over the use of social media for broadcasting dangerous stunts.

Pope Francis surgery went ‘without complication’, says Vatican

07 Jun 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Pope Francis successfully underwent a three-hour abdominal surgery without complications and is expected to stay at the Gemelli Hospital for several days. This is his second major abdominal surgery in two years. The Vatican has cancelled all his engagements until June 18, and his surgeon, Sergio Alfieri, noted that the Pope is awake and in good spirits.

Bridge offers clue to Mona Lisa’s locale

03 May 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Recent research by Italian historian Silvano Vincenti suggests that the backdrop of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a valley near Laterina in Tuscany. Vincenti identifies a Roman bridge, Romito, in the landscape, which was busy between 1501 and 1503. The portrait is of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy cloth merchant, Francesco.

Police arrest 200 in raids on ’Ndrangheta mafia

03 May 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
More than 200 people were arrested in seven countries in the largest European crackdown on Italy’s most powerful mafia, the ’Ndrangheta. Police described it as the biggest operation against the crime network, seizing assets worth €25 million. The investigation, known as Operation Eureka, involved ten countries and began in 2019 to probe drug smuggling between Calabria and Genk. Suspects face charges of international drug trafficking, money laundering, and possession of weapons.

Journalists to walk out over Giorgia Meloni ‘censorship’

25 Apr 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Journalists at Italy's public broadcaster RAI plan a 24-hour strike to protest the perceived politicization of media under Giorgia Meloni's government. The strike, organized by the Usigrai trade union, follows an incident where Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, an ally of Meloni, complained about a report on Italy's migration deal with Albania. The union condemns the government's control over journalistic work, accusing it of turning RAI into a government mouthpiece.

Italian surgeons restore blind man's sight

26 Mar 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
For the first time, surgeons at Molinette Hospital in Turin have restored sight to one eye of an 83-year-old man, Emiliano Bosca, who had been completely blind for six years. The innovative procedure involved combining tissue from both eyes. Bosca, who had suffered from ocular pseudopemphigoid and damage to his retina, had previously undergone two unsuccessful corneal transplants.

Italians hail US teacher forced out for showing pupils David

26 Mar 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, has invited Hope Carrasquilla, a teacher who resigned from Tallahassee Classical School after showing Michelangelo’s David to her students, to Florence to receive an award and view the statue. The school's conservative Christian affiliation and a parent's complaint about the nude image being shown to children without prior notice led to her resignation. Nardella criticized the incident as 'simply ridiculous' and emphasized respect for those who teach art.

Professor says Leonardo da Vinci research shows his mother was slave

15 Mar 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Carlo Vecce, a professor at Naples University, has claimed that Leonardo da Vinci's mother was a Circassian slave from the Caucasus, based on new archival documents he discovered. This challenges the previous belief that she was a Tuscan peasant woman. Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary named Piero and a woman named Caterina, whose background was largely unknown.

Low tides leave Venice gondolas stuck in the mud

20 Feb 2023  |  www.thetimes.com
Venice is experiencing exceptionally low tides, stranding gondolas in mud and disrupting water ambulances and supply deliveries. The low tides are attributed to a lack of rain affecting northern Italy, raising concerns of a repeat of last year's severe drought, which significantly impacted the agriculture sector. Tidal measurements in Venice were significantly below normal levels, revealing debris in the canals.

Milan’s La Scala opera house to broadcast online via pay-per-view

20 Feb 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Milan's La Scala opera house is expanding its reach by offering a pay-per-view online television channel, lascala.tv, which will feature live streams of seven operas, nine concerts, and three ballets, as well as pre-recorded shows and special content. The initiative, led by artistic director and chief executive Dominique Meyer, aims to broaden the audience beyond the physical capacity of 2,030 seats. The service, which was introduced with performances of Verdi's The Sicilian Vespers and Mozart symphonies conducted by Daniel Barenboim, offers various pricing options for access.

Silvio Berlusconi says US should withdraw support for Ukraine to pressure Zelensky into ceasefire

13 Feb 2023  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Silvio Berlusconi, part of Italy's right-wing government, has accused Ukrainian President Zelensky of being responsible for the war in Ukraine. He suggests that the US should cease financial and military support to pressure Ukraine into a ceasefire. Berlusconi, a former prime minister and ally of Putin, also criticized Giorgia Meloni for her recent meeting with Zelensky.

Emanuela Orlandi: Secret evidence implicates gang in disappearance of Vatican schoolgirl

08 Aug 2022  |  thetimes.co.uk
New evidence has implicated an underworld gang in the kidnapping of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old Vatican schoolgirl who vanished in Rome in 1983. The case, which has troubled the Holy See for decades, also involved theories linking her disappearance to Turkish terrorists who aimed to blackmail the Vatican for the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II.

Pope says he may retire amid health concerns

31 Jul 2022  |  www.thetimes.com
Pope Francis, 85, has indicated his readiness to resign if he feels it is God's will, following his first foreign trip in a wheelchair. He mentioned the need to cut back on his activities due to his age and health limitations, suggesting the possibility of stepping aside. Despite showing signs of pain, he emphasized that changing the Pope would not be catastrophic.

Matteo Salvini’s ties to Kremlin ‘behind Italian government’s collapse’

28 Jul 2022  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Alleged Kremlin influence over Matteo Salvini and his League party may have played a role in the Italian coalition government's collapse. Intelligence reports suggest a Russian diplomat inquired about the League's ministers' intentions to resign from Mario Draghi's government well before their actual resignation. The government, which supported Ukraine, fell when the League withdrew support, leading to political turmoil as the League is set to join forces with Giorgia Meloni's far-right Brothers of Italy.

After his final eccentric appearance Renato Bialetti was buried in his family's tomb at Omegna

06 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Renato Bialetti, the Italian businessman known for the iconic Moka Express coffee maker, made a final eccentric appearance by having his ashes delivered to his funeral in a 24-cup version of the pot. The Moka Express, which has been produced by his family since 1934, features a logo based on Bialetti's own image. Bialetti passed away in Switzerland at the age of 93 and was buried in the family tomb at Omegna, northern Italy. The coffee pot was originally patented by his father, Alfonso, in 1933.

Pope Benedict is said to be physically frail but as mentally lucid as ever

06 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, has expressed concerns about the Pope's declining physical health in an interview with the Italian magazine BenEssere. As Benedict approaches his 89th birthday, Gänswein describes him as a fading candle, yet still serene and at peace. Despite the physical frailty and the need for a walking frame, Benedict is said to remain mentally sharp, maintaining his interest in world affairs and his subtle sense of humor. Benedict XVI, noted for being a respected theologian, made history in 2013 by being the first Pope to resign in over 700 years.

Philip Willan reports for France 24 from St Peter's Square on the Pope's Easter message.

The sufferings of migrants from North Africa begin even before they take to sea. Philip Willan reports on Skype for France 24.

Berlusconi’s Worst Nightmare

26 Jan 2011  |  Foreign Policy
The article discusses the ongoing legal battle between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Milan public prosecutor Ilda Boccassini. Boccassini, known for her left-wing sympathies and anti-mafia work, has been investigating Berlusconi for nearly two decades, focusing on his alleged corruption and ties to organized crime. The article details the polarized public opinion in Italy, with some supporting Boccassini's pursuit of justice and others viewing it as a politically motivated witchhunt. The stakes are high as Boccassini seeks a fast-track trial for Berlusconi on charges of illegal prostitution and abuse of office, which could potentially end his political career.

10,000 police to guard VIPs and pilgrims

05 Apr 2005  |  the Guardian
George Bush will lead a US delegation to the Pope's funeral, which is expected to draw 2 million pilgrims and 200 heads of state to Rome. Security measures include 10,000 police, surveillance of airports and train stations, and airspace closure. Authorities aim to manage the large crowds with spot searches and hand-held metal detectors. The event's success hinges on persuading visitors to follow the ceremony on giant screens outside St Peter's Square. The logistical challenge is significant, with measures in place to ensure the safety of VIPs, pilgrims, and the press.
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