There is a weight of passion, wit, intellect and fun to be found on Italy’s screens, in its speakers and in its print. Monocle delves into the quirks of the country’s news and entertainment, and finds the best of its leaders and merchants.
Welcome to the glossy part. Over the next 12 pages, we’d like to offer you a wide-angled view of contemporary Italian media with 20 close-ups of the companies, individuals, brands, programmes and publications that could only exist in Italy, which set the bar for industriousness and imagination, and that we love.
In Italy, proud national brands meet a richly regional media scene. Publishers are still paper people, while TV isn’t all glitz and girls (although we doff our cappello in that direction, too) and Italian pop can be collectible, international and just perfetto.
From the Proustian rush that accompanies the scent of a freshly opened packet of Panini football stickers to the man that makes Il Sole 24 Ore the world’s most handsome newspaper and from the majesty of Vogue Italia’s perfect pages to the might of the all-conquering sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, we present the best you can enjoy with eyes, ears and aerials across Italy. Prego.
If teenage robots were lovesick, they would listen to Italo disco – synth-driven, over-the-top pop with melancholic melodies, made in Italy in the 1970s and ’80s. There’s an innocence to the music but the birth of Italo disco was in part commercial.
US record imports were expensive in the 1970s, so the Italian music industry – with one eye on producer Giorgio Moroder’s success, and the other on new, affordable synthesisers – sent session musicians and singers to studios in Milan and Verona to make electronic dance tunes for the European market.
“Since the Italian sellers discovered there’s a new market for Italo, it’s much harder to find it cheap,” says DJ Marcello Giordani who runs the Italo Deviance record label. The rarity of Italo bangers is compounded by the fact that many records were melted down in order to recycle the vinyl. But the shortage only boosts the sleuth-like instinct of young Italo enthusiasts willing to pay hundreds of euros for a rare 12-inch single. As long as the chart-topping likes of Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy keep referring to Italo disco in their music, the demand will only increase further.
Milan’s versatile concept store unites vintage clothing, design accessories and vinyl records under one roof. Plod through the vinyl stock of approximately 200 used Italo classics and discover current dance music inspired by old masters from labels such as Moustache, Italians Do It Better and Flashback Records.
Corso di Porta Ticinese 10020123 Milano
Set up by a Swiss immigrant in 1870 in Milan, the Hoepli bookstore is one of Europe’s largest. It has a collection of more than 700,000 titles laid out over five floors of a 1950s modernist palazzo close to La Scala. The independent seller has a wide range of fiction and magazines, and Hoepli’s publishing arm puts out an extensive number of scientific and technical textbooks, and reference materials. For bibliophiles there’s a rare-books section where you can browse 18th-century tomes on botany and gastronomy, and a travel section chock-full of guides.
Italy has often punched below its weight news-wise in recent years but those with an interest in matters of state can now get their views across on paper. Launched in 2011, Longitude is an English-language monthly devoted to world politics.
Editor-in-chief Pialuisa Bianco doubles as special adviser to Italy’s foreign minister but the publication survives on private funding. More international than Italo-centric in its take on events, it draws contributions from academics, diplomats and correspondents from major dailies such as La Stampa and Il Sole 24 Ore.
Report: Investigative journalist Milena Gabanelli anchors her hard-hitting Sunday night news programme, which is often first to uncover political corruption and unethical business behaviour.
Che tempo che fa: TV presenter Fabio Fazio, who hosts the annual Sanremo music festival, invites politicians, top personalities and foreign celebrities on prime time for informal interviews.
La Zanzara: Financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore’s radio chat show relies on provocateur Giuseppe Cruciani getting a rise out of guests and it often works.
Italian TV abounds with talk shows where newspaper editor-in-chiefs and columnists offer their opinions on politics and society. Daniela Hamaui, who runs La Repubblica newspaper’s weekly supplement, D, has long preferred to snare readers on the page with gripping stories and arresting images. From 2002 to 2010, she was editor of L’Espresso, Italy’s leading newsweekly.
You were the first woman to edit an Italian news magazine. What was that experience like?
Newsweeklies before liked to run cover stories accompanied with a picture of a topless woman to increase newsstand sales. For one, it was misleading. You don’t need nudity if you have a well-researched story. I focused on hard-nosed investigative reporting with short titles in big bold lettering. In a few seconds you need to capture the reader’s attention, so covers were styled like political campaign posters. Stories were original.
You place a lot of value on photography. Why?
Since the beginning I’ve believed in photo-reportage. I was the first to bring the work of Sebastião Salgado to Italy for example. A picture is not just for shock value. You can relay a lot of information with one image if the photographer knows what they are doing.
How has D evolved?
I launched D in 1996 and have come back to it. These were seen as women’s weeklies with articles about style, sex and relationships. They didn’t cater to a female’s curiosity. I brought in more stories to interest readers.
Annexed from Austria by Italy after the First World War, the majority German-speaking region of South Tyrol enjoys certain privileges, including greater autonomy over its affairs and a newspaper written in the local tongue. Dolomiten is part of local publishing powerhouse Athesia. Its coverage is, not surprisingly, favourable to the SVP, the regionalist party that’s held power since 1945.
The big business in weekly “collect the set” publishing is controlled by a brace of Italian behemoths. Since its first football cards collection in 1961 (sold from its Modena newsstand) Panini has been synonymous with the frittering of pocket money. Rome’s De Agostini started publishing its Calendario Atlante geographical encyclopaedia in 1904 and has since diversified brazenly into robot kits that take anything up to three years to complete. Time-honoured dedication indeed.
Blob first aired in 1989 on public broadcaster Rai 3, walking in the footsteps of an Italian penchant for TV montages. Airing every day at around 20:00, it lasts somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes. The format is simple: splice together a reel of clips from the previous 24 hours of the best (and worst) from all of Italy’s broadcasters. A sex scene from a straight-to-video movie, a scuffle in the Chamber of Deputies, the dead-air of an uneventful few minutes of Grande Fratello (Big Brother), a pensioner swearing on the evening news. No commentary, no captions, just the masterfully ironic edit of the producers. The result is political and social satire at its most pure and abstract, and it continues to draw in millions of viewers every night.
Family-run Corraini began life as a contemporary art gallery in Mantua. Forty years on, it has built up an impressive publishing house with titles focused on design, illustration and out-of-the-ordinary books aimed at children. “We like to go against the grain and create a market with something original rather than chase after a market,” says Pietro Corraini, second-generation owner together with his parents. They operate bookshops in Milan, Bologna and Turin, the latter a recently inaugurated space at the Pinacoteca Agnelli museum. In addition to a long list of titles by the late Italian creative Bruno Munari, the family works with graphic designers, most notably via its magazine, Un Sedicesimo, where each issue a well-known figure (Italo Lupi, Milton Glaser, etc) is given carte blanche to illustrate whatever they see fit.
Whether on a train trip or visit to a doctor’s waiting room, it’s hard not to find someone with pen in hand engrossed in a copy of La Settimana Enigmistica, a weekly pamphlet for fans of puzzles that sells tens of thousands of copies each issue. In print since 1932, the popular magazine, free of adverts, is sold at supermarkets and news kiosks, and is filled with crosswords, cryptograms and Sudoku together with comic strips. Regular features include riddles, anagrams and wordplay. General knowledge games let readers play lawyer and detective to work out how a case is solved.
TV game shows in Italy test contestants’ knowledge but they’ve been known to include a bit of titillation. Recently, boundaries have been pushed, with bikini babes climbing ladders and dancing to distract audiences. Ciao Darwin, a gameshow-cum-variety romp, saw models strutting in lingerie in between contestants trying to avoid the water tank. In post “bunga bunga” Italy, skimpy outfits are less common but showgirls in form-fitting outfits still perform the ritual stacchetto (short dance numbers) to break the monotony of question-and-answer time. State broadcaster Rai has its flagship quiz L’Eredità relying on a quartet of girls dubbed “the professors” to back up slick, perma-tanned presenter Carlo Conti.
Launched in 2008, IL is the monthly supplement put out by Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. The magazine focuses on news, trends and big-think pieces in a smart-looking format that stands out on newsstands. The publication’s innovative graphic design has led to numerous awards for its art director Francesco Franchi.
What’s the inspiration for the magazine’s visual look?
One of its strong features is the use of the grid. The typography and headline design take inspiration from Swiss formalism, the look of 1970s Italian magazines and influence from fashion and style titles. For a new section, ‘Tabloid’, we drew on post-war Italian gossip weeklies. I’m inspired by the work of Massimo Vignelli, Bruno Munari, Italo Lupi but my in-house team and I also do lots of research, spending time in the library poring over old newspaper designs.
You often use striking infographics to tell a story.
The infographic is an important element because it summarises the concept of the magazine: imparting information while still taking care with the aesthetic and visual look. Unlike an article, we aren’t constrained with making it a linear story.
Your book, Designing News, looks at media in the digital age. What’s the future for print?
Other than reading headlines, I still don’t find an app that does well when it comes to getting news on a phone. I subscribe to a magazine in tablet and print editions and when I flip through an issue I realise I missed things in the digital version. The eye loses the details. Print still has lots of unexplored potential.
Italians’ love of football runs deep so it’s no surprise the longest-running show on television chronicles calcio. Aired on Sunday nights on state broadcaster Rai for the past 60 years, La Domenica Sportiva is a two-hour romp of highlights and armchair analysis of the weekend’s Serie A matches. In the studio, talking heads (all men) pontificate about tactics and pore over replays. To keep viewers tuned in, Barbie doll TV presenter Paola Ferrari presides over the debate.
Set on a corner of Via Veneto, a Rome street made famous by Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the Pieroni newsstand has been in the Manzari family since the early 1900s. Close to luxury hotels and embassies, the kiosk does a brisk trade with passing diplomats as well as concierges in need of Arab and Japanese broadsheets for their guests. Besides a healthy selection of dailies the owners cater to residents on the lookout for home interiors magazines: ranging from the cult (Apartamento) to the high-end (The World of Interiors).
Via Vittorio Veneto corner, Via Lombardia
When piled up flat in a café or bar, even crisply unread newspapers might be overlooked. Enter an unsung hero, the newspaper rod. With this discreet backbone, the most unwieldy broadsheets can be hung up tidily on display.
The Italian market appears to be booming: Maco Creazioni, a boutique Piedmont woodware specialist, now sells more of its stained ash newspaper rods in Italy than to Germany.
Based inside the walls of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano is often mistaken as the Pope’s personal broadsheet but newsroom staffers declare it the “semi-official” organ of the Catholic Church’s leader. Published six times a week it gives plenty of column space to the pontiff’s activities and speeches but under current editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian has updated its look with colour photographs and coverage of pop culture. Harry Potter and The Simpsons have received positive reviews of late. The publication doesn’t enjoy a monopoly on pious readers since the country’s bishops have their own daily, Avvenire, which gives their slant on hot-button issues and at times varies in tone with its print rival.
Found in hair salons, bars and living room side tables, Italy’s gossip weeklies do a brisk trade in retelling the peccadillos and past-times of celebrities. Top-selling Oggi and rivals Chi, Gente and Novella 2000 dish the lowdown on the loves and break-ups of actors, singers and footballers with lurid headlines and lowbrow copy heavy on innuendo. Readers, it seems, can’t get enough grainy pictures – courtesy of the paparazzo and his telephoto lens – of frollicking bikini-clad showgirls. Then there’s the staple night-time snap of VIPs smooching on city sidewalks. While society scions (read Lapo Elkann) and socialites are popular fodder, Silvio Berlusconi gets his fair share. And why not? His family owns Chi.
Debuted in 2012, Alla Carta is a biannual magazine that serves up two of Italy’s greatest strengths (fashion and food) in an appetising visual format. Readers can peruse still-life images of espresso and editorials where lithe models lounge among bowls of summer fruit or get tips on skin treatments involving extra virgin olive oil. Interviews with chefs, industrial designers and other creative types take place around a leisurely meal. “The enjoyment of food is a typical Italian characteristic, and we have found food essential for sharing thoughts, opinions and creative ideas,” says Alla Carta co-founder and fashion director Fabiana Fierotti.
Franca Sozzani (pictured far left) would be your perfect star witness in any sort of fanciful, fictional court case in which the multi-billion euro fashion industry were to stand accused of being silly, lightweight or throwaway. Sozzani would elegantly dispatch the case for the prosecution with honesty, wit, grit and enough flair to repaint the ceiling of the Duomo.
Sozzani’s intellectual vigour meets her knack for making magazines from which one is unable to look away – Vogue Italia’s issue that featured only black models and talent; an issue dedicated to plastic surgery titled “Makeover Madness” – is the key. They want to advertise in it. You want to read it.
Unmistakably elegant and none-more hardworking, it’s no coincidence that with L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Bambini and the iconic mothership of the main magazine, Sozzani is in charge of the most best Vogue in the world. “Oh, Franca,” indeed.
Milan Italy’s most read newspaper is La Gazzetta dello Sport, an essential daily fix for fans on game, race or match day. — From Como to Catania, from the throat to the toe of the Italian boot, La Gazzetta dello Sport is a fixture in cafés and offices, bars and the backseats of taxis. You’ll have seen it, too, eye-catching and pink, on newsstands across the world. Boasting the largest readership of any paper in Italy at some four million, it’s universal. “Gazza” to some, “La Rosea” to others; ask for “una gazzetta” anywhere in Italy and La Gazzetta dello Sport is what you’ll be given. The noun’s become proper. It’s the Daddy.
Editor-in-chief Andrea Monti is only too aware of the paper’s wide reach. “On my first day here at La Gazzetta I had a gardener trying to work out my little garden and he said, ‘Wow! You became the editor,’ and then I had to go and see a banker who also had La Gazzetta on his desk,” he says. “So yes, I know everybody reads the paper.”
While Milan’s January fog has turned to stair-rod rain and the clock strikes 19.00 this Sunday evening, La Gazzetta’s offices hum and chatter as Monti’s troops conclude their front-page conference. AC Milan will play in a couple of hours, the team’s first game with their former midfield talisman Clarence Seedorf as manager. The ordinarily teeming Sunday night schedule of Italy’s first division, Serie A, has been cleared by a busy Saturday and the stage is set for Seedorf’s men, including the wild and wilful striker Mario Balotelli and their current midfield general, Brazil’s Kaká, to own the evening’s drama – sporting or not; to keep Milan’s attention rapt, and by extension, become the cover of tomorrow’s Gazzetta; the substance of Italian debate.
Italian debate? Does this pink paper really set an agenda beyond sport, when it doesn’t do ‘real’ news? “This country has an incredible way of building up stories about itself; when politicians talk they use the metaphor of sport,” says Monti, “and we sell wonderful stories everyday; people use La Gazzetta to support their stories about their team and their country.” The direttore is saying, in his American-flecked baritone and with something of a shrug at the obvious, “this is Italy, my British friend; people are obsessed with this stuff.”
Walking back from Monti’s traditional office through the open-plan spaces that house most of the rest of La Gazzetta’s editorial departments, are a hundred reminders of these stories: Italian World Cup glory; a floor-length photograph of Enzo Ferrari nonchalantly leaning on one of his many championship-winning cars; Valentino Rossi in his sponsor-spangled leathers; cyclists sprinting toward triumph in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia; tennis players; swimmers; Olympians of all stripes, and, more recently, basketball players (the American NBA is covered in La Gazzetta and Italy’s burgeoning home basketball scene is well catered-for by the paper). And while football dominates, all sports are incorporated in each edition.
Heading out to the Milan match we walk past clusters of desks, each reflecting a section of the pink pages. There are specialists within each speciality: editors and staff who follow the fortunes of a single football club; analysts that comb matches and races for their fine details and statistics; scouts with ears pricked for the latest transfer news and quotes garnered from training grounds and, naturalmente, a team dedicated to a team and its tifosi – Ferrari. With all these pages dedicated to everything that could pique any Italian’s sporting interest, does La Gazzetta have a reader in mind? “We’re talking to so many different readers from team allegiance to geographical and social allegiance,” says Monti, “La Gazzetta has to tell – ‘the truth’ is too much of a big word – a possible truth; what we believe is true about sport and tell the story.”
With the story in mind the mighty 80,000-seater edifice of the San Siro stadium awaits, where truths, possible or otherwise, will be replaced by the barrage of chanting from the rossoneri (AC Milan’s kit-inspired nickname for team and fans alike – the red and blacks). AC Milan’s fans are piled into the Curva Sud of the ground that they share with Internazionale, their bitter Milanese rivals of the Curva Nord. Tonight’s foes are the gialloblu of Hellas Verona, a team who sit above the recently faltering AC Milan in the table.
In the taxi, the chat between driver and La Gazzetta’s correspondents implies that AC Milan’s owner Silvio Berlusconi isn’t as keen to spend on players as he was and personally appointed Clarence Seedorf as manager to be a “man of dreams” for the Milan faithful, reminding them of former glory days for team, manager and owner, perhaps.
Of Milan’s stars only one, Mario Balotelli, is in his peak years but many here who scrutinise politics and football (for shorthand call them “Italy”) spotted increased spending on marquee signings around the time Berlusconi was seeking re-election as Italian prime minister. Could AC Milan’s supporters be swayed to vote one way or another by investment in their team? Did it take a self-styled “man of dreams” to have appointed another? Sport and politics are branches of the same tree in Italy, as anywhere but here it seems the roots are also on show.
Alessandra Bocci is La Gazzetta’s chief AC Milan correspondent (of three divided between print and online) and she’s got match-day on lockdown. iPad, BlackBerry, Wellington boots, woolly hat, fur coat; it’s wet outside the stadium and cold in. We arrive 15 minutes before the 20.45 kick-off and scale eight flights of stairs inside the concrete behemoth to the press stands – the lift doors are theatrically drummed-on and Bocci’s eyes roll – and then Milan’s contemporary Coliseum explodes onto the senses: floodlit, impossibly green, booming with noise. The press section is perhaps a dozen tiers high. La Gazzetta’s 10 or so spots, each fitted with power-points and mini-TVs, sit among the national daily newspapers, the two other national daily sports papers, the mass of TV and radio commentators from Rai, Sky and Mediaset, a spattering of Japanese journalists here specifically to cover the fortunes of new signing Keisuke Honda and the recent preponderance of blog and online magazine writers. The latter, while ploughing their own editorial furrow, have slaked the thirst for breaking news, gossip and scandal very nicely, too.
Like any well-structured squad, La Gazzetta’s scuderia possess strength in depth. Each section of tomorrow’s paper allotted to the match is marked by separate, circulating journalists: one will write the main report, one will tell the story of the key player of the game, one will deconstruct the contest in terms of technical analysis, one will rate the players of both teams, one will focus on tactics, another on the opposition, yet more will pick apart the coaches’ quotes after the match. Of the eight segments of Monday’s Gazzetta given to Sunday’s match, each has a different byline. Tonight Bocci will write il personaggio on Seedorf, offering readers the analogy that Milan’s new manager is like “Gaudí architecture, a baroque character” whereas the former coach Massimiliano Allegri was like the Brooklyn Bridge – “more simple and really, all that you need to live.”
Of course La Gazzetta, subtly edited to region, will drop onto the breakfast table of Italy’s football managers before anyone else’s. So how does Bocci keep relationships with the clubs candid? “They always know when we’re telling the truth,” she says. And is there a part of the reports she doesn’t relish? “For sure they read the ratings first thing in the morning while pretending they don’t, if you give low marks, you receive phone calls for sure.”
Bocci is well known and well liked at this; a home game for her. There are more than a dozen female journalists in the press stands working across the board from bloggers to Bocci’s senior position on the prime daily but she doesn’t see the press box as a fairytale of social transformation. “To work at a high level in Italian society you have to be old,” she says with an arch smile. “We’re not a good country for young people.”
On the night one young Italian found some succour, however: Balotelli’s penalty in the 82nd minute spared the blushes of his team and their man of dreams, smartly suited on the sidelines. While AC Milan fans take their singing to the streets, the tapping on laptops takes over. Deadline for La Gazzetta is midnight which means a flurry of activity in the press box; a legion of men hammering their machines with two fingers, a dozen women typing with 10.
During the match and our way-past-midnight dinner afterwards, Bocci frequently mentions David Beckham’s short tenure as an AC Milan player as the touchstone for the perfect way to handle the press. “It’s not exactly like we can expect eleven gentlemen, but one is very nice,” she jokes. Who is interesting and charming in the current AC Milan team? “It’s difficult to have a relationship with Balotelli, he’s protected,” she says after the game. “We don’t have big characters to write about. In England you have José Mourinho [the Portugese manager of Chelsea], in Germany they have Pep Guardiola [the Spanish manager of Bayern Munich]. This is where the focus for football and stars are.”
In the past decade the balance of power in Italian sports reporting has shifted from print to TV just as elsewhere. In the end TV, especially the commercial broadcasters, pay everyone’s wages and so highly hair-gelled, mic-toting reporters from Sky and their decidedly more sober opposites at Rai get contractually agreed access to players and coaches. The words themselves may be PR-speak, footballing cliché-ese, but the instant turnaround of contemporary media has advanced another turn; the cycle clicks on another notch.
In a way, this is why La Gazzetta is still a success, continues to make money, enjoys the highest readership of any Italian paper. “Our readers say, ‘I have to read that paper because I have to be informed’,” Monti had said earlier in the evening while muting the shouting TV set in his office. “They’re willing to pay a price to know what La Gazzetta thinks about the game.”