(click on photos to enlarge)
With the appointment of our new President Sergio Materella, the weeks of political speculation have ended. He was inaugurated a week ago following the resignation of Giorgio Napoletano in mid-January.
It was strange to see the Presidential Palace (Palazzo del Quirinale) only flying the flags of Italy and the EU during the time that there was no President. Normally, the Presidential Flag flanks the Italian flag at the Quirinale. Hopefully, we will not see the flag staff bare again for some time. The President mostly plays a ceremonial role, meeting visiting dignitaries and such, but he can play a vital role in time of political crisis which seems to be the norm in Italian politics for the past few years. He is responsible for guaranteeing that Italian politics complies with the constitution and he appoints the Prime Minister.
Sergio Matarella is a Sicilian constitutional court judge closely associated with the fight against organized crime. He entered politics after his elder brother, who was the President of the region of Sicily, was murdered by the Mafia in 1980. Favoured by the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, his appointment will hopefully help to bring about the political reforms that Italy so badly needs.
Giorgio Napolitano resigned at the age of 89, claiming fatigue. He looks remarkably fit as you can see in the photo above but its no wonder that he’s tired. He tried to leave after his first term of office which lasted from 2006 to 2013 but no agreement could be reached on electing his successor, so he reluctantly agreed to continue for a second term. Last week, we were at a concert at Rome’s concert hall built by Renzo Piano. All of a sudden, spontaneous applause broke out on the main floor. We craned our necks to see what was happening and saw Napolitano walking down the central aisle to take his seat. Word must have spread because when the conductor Antonio Pappano came to the stage, he made a short impromptu speech thanking Napolitano for supporting the Arts during his term of office. It was very sweet and a nice way for Napolitano to start enjoying his well-earned retirement.