Sylvia Poggioli

In antiquity, Sicily was known as Greater Greece. Now, the eurozone crisis has led to sharp spending cuts and, with an economy based on public sector wages, Sicily is being called Italy's Greece. The central government fears the region's debt of more than $6 billion could further endanger the country's financial stability.

Worried about contagion, the Rome government is dictating on Sicily tough bailout conditions similar to those international lenders imposed on Greece.

Italy recently approved a decree that would grant work and residence permits to migrants who blow the whistle on bosses who exploit them in the economy illegally.

But in places like the southern region of Calabria, the law has little chance of being applied at a time when the economic crisis increasingly fosters an illegal, underground economy.

The main activity in Calabria is agriculture. Thanks to vast citrus fields, it's one of the major stops for migratory workers, mostly Africans without legal documents.

Last January, the captain of the Italian mega-cruise ship Costa Concordia committed an apparent act of maritime bravado a few yards from the shore of a Tuscan island. Thirty people were killed, and two are still missing.

Six months after one of the biggest passenger shipwrecks in recent history, relatives of the dead attended a memorial service Friday near the site of the disaster.

The solemn notes of Mozart's Requiem echoed through the small church of Saints Lorenzo and Mamiliano on the island of Giglio.

The Euro 2012 soccer championship ended last weekend with Spain's defeat of Italy. But many sportswriters singled out the second-place team as the tournament's unexpected surprise.

The star of Team Italy is the Sicilian-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, raised by an Italian adoptive family — and now Mario Balotelli is changing the notion itself of what constitutes Italian-ness.

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European leaders and global markets expressed relief after Greek conservatives' narrow parliamentary election victory over leftists who had vowed to ditch the tough austerity terms of an international bailout.

But the next government will have to deal with a polarized society and with widespread anger at wage and job cutbacks that have targeted the middle class and spared an entrenched political and business elite.

Debt-burdened Greeks go to the polls Sunday to choose between an establishment party, and continuing harsh austerity measures, or a leftist party that vows to replace the current bailout deal with less punishing conditions.

But many Greeks are aware that whatever the outcome, they face years of hardship in a rapidly unraveling society.

A recent TV news report on medicine shortages illustrated the anguish rippling through the country. The piercing screams of a woman in a pharmacy can be heard as she shouts, "Where am I going to find my medication?"

Greeks are headed back to the polls Sunday after last month's inconclusive parliamentary election left the country without a governing coalition. And like the last time, people are polarized over harsh austerity measures imposed on Greece as part of a large European economic bailout.

The scandal over leaked documents that has been engulfing the Vatican is the biggest breach of confidence and security at the Holy See in recent memory.

Known as Vatileaks, the crisis has shed light on a Vatican gripped by intrigue and power struggles like a Renaissance court.

Vatileaks erupted into a full-blown scandal with the publication two weeks ago of a book of Vatican documents alleging corruption and conspiracies among cardinals.

Casoria is a small town in the Naples hinterland known mostly as a hotbed of the local mafia. But last month, it achieved a different kind of notoriety when Antonio Manfredi, director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) launched his provocative challenge to the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Manfredi's "art war" consists of setting works of art on fire to protest cuts to Italy's arts budget. He's pledged to incinerate two or three pieces of art each week from a museum collection housing about 1,000 exhibits.

In debt-burdened Greece, the president has given a left-wing coalition a mandate to form a new government, but it faces an uphill battle following an election in which no single party was dominant.

The Coalition of the Radical Left, known as Syriza, vehemently opposes the austerity program imposed by international creditors.

Syriza finished second in the vote Sunday, when Greek voters decisively rejected the tough conditions for international bailouts.

According to exit polls, angry Greek voters have overwhelmingly punished the two major parties that endorsed draconian international loan agreements.

There is no front-runner in sight, but the fringe parties on the left and the right that strongly oppose the bailout terms have benefited the most.

The socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy parties that have alternated for four decades — and uneasily co-governed for the last six months — are imploding.

Greeks go to the polls Sunday in a climate of intense voter anger at the politicians they blame for turning their country into an international economic pariah. Protest votes could fill Parliament with an array of new parties, and most surprising is the growing popularity of the xenophobic Golden Dawn, which espouses a neo-Nazi ideology.

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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