• Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty

    Cougar Crimes

    Italy’s Killer Boytoys

    In a disturbing new phenomenon, young Italian males are trolling websites looking for older Italian women to date—and then to attack.

    “Antonella” is a 53-year-old divorced woman who lives in Genova. After 25 years in a violent marriage, she thought she could finally find the sort of non-committal relationship she wanted with a much younger “boy-toy” boyfriend she’d hooked up with on the Internet.  Instead, last week she was beaten near death after weeks of verbal humiliation.  She suffered broken ribs, a broken nose and untold psychological damage.  “Beatrice,” a 50-year-old divorcee from Turin, wasn’t as lucky.  She was stabbed to death in December by a man 15 years her junior whom she’d been dating for just under a year. 

    Domestic violence that often leads to femicide is sadly not a new phenomenon in Italy where one woman is killed every three days at the hands of men who once loved them, according to Italy’s primary domestic violence Telefono Rosa, which takes thousands of calls from women under attack each year. 

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  • © STRINGER Italy / Reuters

    The Venice Sex Game Gone Wrong

    The body of an Iranian student was found in a Venice lagoon wearing only a pearl necklace—and police say she’s the victim of a ménage a trois gone terribly awry.

    No one knows exactly why 29-year-old Iranian costume design student Mahtab Savoji turned up dead in the Venice lagoon last week.  Her body, nude except for a string of pearls around her neck, got tangled up between two water taxi drivers near the Via Cipro dock in Venice Lido on January 28.  After fishing the corpse out of the lagoon, a Venetian coroner determined that the woman—then unidentified—had been strangled to death at least 24 hours before her body was thrown into the murky water.  Her lungs did not contain water from the Venice lagoon, and her body showed no apparent signs of violence other than strangulation.  But no one knew who she was or why she was there.

    Meanwhile, 250 miles away, the day after the mysterious body floated to the surface of the lagoon, Savoji’s friends in Milan—where she had shared an apartment with two hospitality workers from India since November—were starting to get worried.  Savoji hadn’t been answering her cellphone, which wasn’t like her. She missed a Tuesday appointment at the school where she was studying costume design, which tipped off her friends that something might be wrong.  When she missed another appointment later that day, at the Iranian social club where she and other friends from Tehran gathered for fellowship, her friends called the police.

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  • Salvatore Laporta/AP

    Domestic Violence

    Teaching Italy's Boys Not To Kill

    A new high-school curriculum in Italy aims to tackle skyrocketing femicide rates by training boys to fight the urge to hurt or murder their girlfriends.

    It’s 8:45 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and the first lesson of the day in this Italian high school—as well as a handful of others like it—is about how to fight the urge to kill your girlfriend. Adolescents are taught relationship respect through texts and role playing. A boy is asked to confront his girlfriend about a text message he found on her phone without raising his voice or using violence. The girl is asked to stand her ground and not let him dominate her. The students are also shown news reports about the hundreds of women who were killed or gravely injured in domestic violence attacks in recent years. The anti-violence initiative, which kicked off this year in the northern town of Turin, is a last-ditch effort to fight fatal domestic violence epidemic sweeping Italy. In 2010, 127 women were killed; 129 were killed in 2011 and 124 were killed in 2012. In 2013, so far, nearly 80 women have been murdered at the hands of men who once loved them.

    On average, one woman is killed by her husband, partner or ex-lover every two days in Italy. On Monday, Marta Deligia, 29, was strangled by her ex-boyfriend Giuseppe Pintus, 36, in Sardinia. Pintus had been threatening to kill his former lover unless she agreed to rekindle their relationship. Deligia had complained to the police for months that he was stalking her and sending her threatening text messages. “Save me,” she told police in a formal complaint against him in early September. “He is crazy and he wants to kill me.” Deligia was right to be worried. Pintus waited outside her apartment until she left for work at 5:30 am Monday morning. According to police reports, he jumped her, strangled her, loaded her corpse in his Fiat Brava and dumped her body in the countryside. Then he called the cops and reportedly confessed that he had suffered a “raptus” of emotion. “I went crazy, but I don’t want to spend 30 years in prison. I’m going to kill myself.” Police were able to trace his cellphone and arrest him.

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  • A photo taken from a memorial page set up for Marilia Rodrigues Silva contains numerous notes of support.

    Horrific

    Italy's Acid-Slay Femicide

    A pregnant 29-year-old Brazilian was brutally murdered near Brescia last week—and police say her secret lover is to blame. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.

    When it comes to femicide, it is difficult to categorize one murder as worse than another. But the latest case in Italy—the 852nd since 2000—is inarguably one of the most tragic cases on record.

    When the body of 29-year-old Marilia Rodrigues Silva Martins was found last Friday soaked in acid on the floor of the charter airline office where she worked as a booking agent, near the northern Italian city of Brescia, almost no one suspected the company’s 32-year-old pilot Claudio Grigoletto. After all, Grigoletto’s wife had just given birth to the couple’s second child a few weeks before, and the decorated war veteran seemed every bit the doting father and husband. He even positively identified Martins' body for the police since she had no next of kin in Italy. Odd, perhaps, was the fact that Grigoletto had come home from work the day before Martins’ body was found with scratches on his neck and a cut on his hand that his wife lovingly tended to with disinfectant and bandages. With the stress and distraction that comes with tending to a newborn infant and a fidgety toddler, who could blame Grigoletto’s wife for not connecting her husband’s injuries with his assistant’s death?

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  • Chinese immigrants wait to be questioned in a holding cell in the Prato police precinct, after an early morning raid at a textile factory, in Prato, Italy, June 15, 2010. (Nadia Shira Cohen/The New York Times, via Redux)

    Human Trafficking

    Italy’s Garment-Factory Slaves

    Barbie Latza Nadeau reports on the growing number of Chinese immigrants trafficked into Italy to work in inhumane conditions at garment factories or in the sex trade.

    Aside from the cobbled streets and terra cotta rooftops, the Via Pistoiese that dissects the Tuscan town of Prato outside Florence is not like other Italian streets. You won’t smell sautéed garlic here. Instead the pungent smell of peanut oil and dongpo pork permeates the air. The storefront signs are almost all in Chinese hanzi on vertical ribbons of red or blue with tiny Italian translations across the bottom. The grocery stores carry classic Chinese staples like rice and bamboo shoots instead of pasta and cans of tomatoes. The faces, too, are almost all Chinese. “There is absolutely no integration. They live in their part of town and we live in ours,” says lifelong Prato resident Giovanni Braccini, 73, who has watched the slow evolution of his city into what he describes as a foreign capital. “You aren’t in Italy here,” he says. “This is China now.”

    Chinese immigration into Italy has tripled in the last decade, according to Italy’s official statistical agency Istat, which estimates that more than 210,000 Chinese live in Italy, although only 41,000 are legally registered. The number of Chinese-owned businesses has grown by 232 percent across the country since 2003, with the largest influx into Milan, Naples, and Prato. Many of the Chinese who live in Italy illegally came to the country by way of human traffickers, in what is reported to be a made-to-order market for garment workers who have specialized skills for the ready-to-wear market. Last week 75 people in France and Spain were arrested as part of an intricate human-trafficking ring that brings such workers to Italy.

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  • Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty

    HELP WANTED

    Italians Seek Shelter From Abuse

    New laws are ineffective without improved system, experts say.

    About 75 percent of murdered Italian women from 2000 to 2012 were killed by their male partners—and more than 80 women died from domestic abuse this year alone, according to Italian news outlets. Prime Minister Enrico Letta recently passed new stringent measures to combat domestic abuse, but many Italian women say it misses the mark. Advocates say what the country needs is a better system of shelters and assistance networks to help abused women. Rome’s main shelter for battered women is a three-room apartment that can house only three women for no more than one week, and it serves the entire Lazio region of Italy. According to a Council of Europe task force, Italy should have 5,700 spots available in shelters, but it currently has only 500.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • The floral-decked white coffin of Fabiana Luzzi, the teenage girl burned alive by her boyfriend, is carried by pall bearers during her funeral service in Corigliano Calabro, Italy, on May 28, 2013. (Francesco Arena/EPA, via Landov)

    Femicide

    Italy Says Basta to Domestic Violence

    Just before its summer recess, the Italian government passes strict measures that will crack down on cyber-stalking and make it easier to go after abusers.

    At long last, it is now safer to be a woman in Italy—at least on paper. On its last day of business before a two-week summer recess, the Italian government under Enrico Letta passed new laws that will make it easier to protect women against domestic violence, especially of the kind that typically leads to femicide. The new measures also will make it easier to prosecute perpetrators before they have a chance to abuse again. “We are at war against femicide,” said Letta at a press conference. “We need to send a clear signal to combat the relentless struggle against the phenomenon of femicide in this country.”

    The new law is a step in the right direction, even though it won’t help the 81 women killed since the beginning of this year, with 75 percent of the murders perpetrated by husbands, boyfriends, or exes. Between 2000 and 2012, more than 2,200 women have been killed in Italy, according to a study by EURES, the European Union’s agency that tracks social affairs and employment. That computes to one murder every two days for more than a dozen years. The new law is too late for Italy’s youngest femicide victim, 16-year old Fabiana Luzzi, whose boyfriend dragged her into a forest in May and stabbed her 20 times in the chest before going back into town to find gas to set her on fire. Miraculously, as the boyfriend later admitted to police, she survived the bloody stabbing and tried to fight him off, even spilling gasoline on his clothing, before he pushed her to the ground and fatally ignited her. The new law also won’t help Cristina Biagi, a 38-year-old waitress whose husband shot her in the chest at the restaurant where she worked in a fit of jealous rage just two weeks ago.

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  • Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi on March 1. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty)

    CONVICTED

    Silvio Berlusconi Guilty in Sex Case

    Sentenced to seven years, banned from office.

    Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly been convicted of abusing his power by engaging in sex-for-hire and sentenced to seven years in prison and barred from holding political office. The ruling will not be implemented, however, until Berlusconi has had the opportunity to appeal. 

    Read it at BBC
  • Sean Gallup/Getty

    NO PANTS, NO SERVICE

    Baring Bikinis Banned

    Italian tourist town restricts swimwear to beach only.

    Want to wear a bikini off the beach? Too bad. The southern Italian coastal town of Vietri Sul Mare got fed up with residents and tourists wandering around in skimpy beachwear, so the local government took matters into its own hands. A restriction on bikinis and bare chests was introduced in 2010, but the law was reaffirmed by Vietri Sul Mare’s mayor, and now includes a fine of £500 (about $670). This is not the first time beachwear has been banned in the tourist-heavy region. Another town banned “skimpy clothes” in 2010.

    Read it at The Huffington Post
  • Fabio Muzzi/AFP/Getty

    Italy

    Official Resigns Over Rape Call

    Dolores Valandro, of Italy’s xenophobic Northern League, stepped down after saying the country’s first black female minister should be sexually assaulted.

    Earlier this week, a shocking post appeared on the public Facebook page of Dolores “Dolly” Valandro, a 58-year-old party official with Italy’s xenophobic Northern League. In an attack on Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s new minister of integration and the country’s first black minister, Valandro exhorted, “Why does no one rape her, so she can understand what the victims of atrocious crime feel?”

    The comment, made in reference to the recent alleged rape of a Genoese woman by two Somali men, was the latest in an escalating barrage of racist and sexist criticism against Kyenge, an ophthalmologist, who legally emigrated from the Congo to Italy to study medicine when she was 18. She became Italy’s first black minister last month as part of a new center-left government formed by Enrico Letta, who was appointed by Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano to lead the country out of its political stalemate last month.

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  • Gary Edwards/Corbis

    The Internet

    Italy's Teen Cyberbullying Suicide

    Prosecutors are investigating whether to sue Facebook for not removing posts that drove a young girl to her death.

    Could Facebook be held liable for an Italian teen’s suicide? If an Italian prosecutor has his way, the social networking giant could face criminal manslaughter charges.

    Carolina Picchio was a 14-year-old girl from Novara, Italy, near Milan, with an enviably pretty face and a bright future. Then, late on the night of January 4, she jumped out of her bedroom window from her family’s fourth-floor apartment. She died instantly when she landed headfirst on the pavement below. Before she jumped, she updated her status on Facebook with a chilling suicide note: “Forgive me if I’m not strong. I cannot take it any longer.”

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  • The funeral service for Fabiana Luzzi, the teenage girl stabbed and burnt to death by her boyfriend, was held May 28, 2013. (Francesco Arena/EPA/Landov)

    Fatal Love

    Italy Rages Against Teen Murder

    A 15-year-old victim of a gruesome crime might finally be the last straw in Italy’s fight against femicide. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.

    Fifteen-year-old Fabiana Luzzi made a fatal mistake last Friday night when she told a 17-year-old suitor, known only as Davide M. in court documents, that she did not want to have sex with him. The two teens, who had reportedly been waffling on the edge of romance for quite some time, had wandered off into a forest on the edge of Corigliano Calabro in Calabria in southern Italy to do what teens do best—explore the oft-frustrated intrigue of young love. They kissed and cuddled, but when Fabiana resisted intercourse, her not-quite-boyfriend admitted to police that he lost his head and pulled out his knife. He stabbed the young woman—whom he had wanted to make love to only moments earlier—more than 20 times in her chest, abdomen and back, in what Italians call a raptus, or fit of rage. Then, he reportedly admitted to police, he left her bleeding in a ravine for over an hour before returning with a canister of gas to burn the evidence of his crime of passion. But when he drizzled the gas over Fabiana’s body, she sprang to life and found the energy to lunge at him, trying desperately to knock the gas canister out of his hands, spilling gas on his clothes. The two struggled but ultimately Fabiana, weakened by the loss of blood from her stab wounds, collapsed. Davide lit a match, threw it on Fabiana, and walked away. “She was still alive when I set her on fire,” Davide told investigators according to the police report seen by The Daily Beast. The ashes from what was left of her singed corpse were found the next morning. When Davide was arrested, he reportedly confessed to the horrible crime.

    Fabiana, who would have turned 16 on June 13, is the youngest known victim of femicide in Italy, a moribund crime category also referred to as intimate partner or intimate personal violence that has reached epidemic proportions in recent years. In 2012, 127 women were murdered by men they loved—by husbands, boyfriends and sons. Chillingly, 47 women escaped death last year but were so brutally beaten, their cases are tagged as attempted femicides by the authorities that tally such gruesome statistics. The women who lived are scarred for life, both physically and psychologically. Many have suffered disfiguring facial fractures, broken ribs and even acid burns. Some of those who died last year were thrown off balconies, strangled with appliance power cords, and stabbed with their own stiletto heels.

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  • Not all of Europe is equal when it comes to the well-being of children. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

    Depressing

    Italy's Lost Generation

    A new report warns that Italy's children are lagging far behind the rest of Europe due to creeping poverty and high dropouts rate, Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.

    There are more than 720,000 children across Italy living in absolute poverty right now, making the country one of the worst places in Europe to be a child these days, according to a new report by Save the Children Italy as it launched a “Childhood Alarm” initiative on Monday.

    What this statistic means in practical terms is that those children do not have enough food to eat; they lack proper health care including vital vaccines and standard hearing and eyesight checks; and, in many cases, they don’t go to school—or if they do, they are often too hungry or distracted to concentrate. It also means that their childhood is not focused on living for the moment, like it is supposed to be. It is focused on surviving the moment.

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