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Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. These include going to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by a right-wing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal reporting on the eurozone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

She has also travelled with Pope Francis on several of his foreign trips, including visits to Cuba, the United States, Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody, National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many of the problems of societies around the world. In Italy, the first Western country hit by COVID-19, it revealed how much the country relies on its migrant work force. Many undocumented migrants work on farms, as field hands and harvesting crops — jobs that Italians don't want. With the pandemic, they were suddenly recognized as essential.

One African-Italian became the spokesman for hundreds of thousands of migrants — those who couldn't stay home, who were risking their health to go out to work.

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In Italy, the coronavirus pandemic is revealing just how much that country relies on its migrant workforce. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, many undocumented migrants were suddenly recognized as essential workers.

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Italy's prime minister, health and interior ministers faced hours of questioning in Rome Friday as prosecutors opened an investigation into possible government mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

Investigators want to know why the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro in the northern industrial region of Lombardy were not isolated and declared "red zones" as soon as the first cases were identified. As of now, no one has been charged.

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Italy is coming out from under one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world. But Italians are opening their doors onto a changed landscape, one of poverty and spiraling debt. Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.

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Today in Italy, the lockdown is letting up after eight weeks of restrictions. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that Italians are emerging from their homes cautiously, discovering a new and unfamiliar world.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUMMING)

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Tomorrow, Italy begins lifting the lockdown it imposed two months ago to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Despite some of the strictest measures in Europe, Italy's death toll continued to climb. Now it's more than 28,000, second only to the United States.

The novel coronavirus is reviving one of Italy's fiercest debate topics — immigration.

The Italian government is considering giving work permits to thousands of undocumented immigrants in the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens crop harvests.

Seasonal farmworkers usually go to Italy each year from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, but recent lockdowns have kept them home. That's creating a critical shortage of labor for picking fruits and vegetables needed for food and exports.

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In Italy, where the coronavirus has shuttered more than 2 million businesses and left 1 in every 2 workers without income, some Italians are putting a new twist on an old custom to help the needy and restart the economy.

In Rome, the Piazza San Giovanni della Malva used to echo with the noise of crowded cafes and restaurants. Now, the only business open is a grocery shop, Er Cimotto.

It's so small that social distancing forces customers to order through the window.

Soon after the coronavirus hit Italy, a parody video of the Naples mafia, the Camorra, went viral, showing a bunch of guys with shaved heads meeting in an empty lot to make a deal.

"I got a new business in my hands," one says.

"100% pure," another thug marvels, unwrapping a packet and taking a sniff. "But what about cocaine?"

"Who gives a s*** about cocaine?" the first thug says. The new commodity — hand sanitizer — is "transparent gold."

Italy has been hard-hit by the coronavirus epidemic, with a death toll of more than 16,000. Its economy is in near-shutdown.

Although Italy's south has seen fewer deaths from COVID-19 infection than the north, its poverty and jobless rates are high. In lockdown since March 10, Naples, a normally bustling city of more than 2 million, is now a ghost town. Acts of charity, long a hallmark of this city, have become more important than ever as a means of sustenance.

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Cities across Italy, the country hardest hit in coronavirus deaths, marked a minute of silence on Tuesday at noon to honor the many victims since the outbreak emerged about six weeks ago.

The death toll as of Tuesday had reached 12,428, and the total number of cases stands at almost 106,000. Italy's victims account for more than a third of the pandemic's global fatalities.

As the death toll of the global coronavirus epidemic continues to rise, Pope Francis celebrated an extraordinary ritual Friday evening at the Vatican.

The pope prayed for an end of the epidemic and delivered his homily against the dramatic backdrop of an empty St. Peter's Square, glistening in the rain.

In Italy, when political analysts say, "Here comes the cavalry" ("arrivano i nostri"), they're not talking Hollywood Westerns. They're saying, "Here come our guys: the USA has got Italy's back."

But today, the "our guys" have included less traditional friends.

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The number of coronavirus cases in Italy continues to soar. In what has become a grim daily ritual, Angelo Borelli, the chief of the country's Civil Protection agency, announced that in the last 24 hours, the death toll from the virus had risen by nearly 800 to a total of 4,825.

That is the largest daily increase since the outbreak was revealed a month ago today. Italy has already surpassed China with the largest number of deaths from the pandemic. It now has 55,578 cases of the coronavirus, up from 47,021 on Friday.

Daniela De Rosa, a 43-year-old veterinarian in Italy's southwest Campania region, made a video message over the weekend as she was hospitalized with COVID-19. Her video plea has gathered much attention in Italy, which has just surpassed China in the number of reported deaths from the new coronavirus.

"I've been in isolation in a hospital room for so many days I've lost count," she says. "I have no contact with anyone other than doctors twice a day."

It has been less than a week since, along with 60 million Italians, I was put under a government-ordered quarantine to try to curb the spread of Italy's coronavirus outbreak, the worst outside Asia. The new slogan is #iostoacasa — I'm staying home.

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The Italian government has announced extraordinary measures to contain the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday declared the entire country a "red zone," meaning people should stay home except for work and emergencies.

The move expands the emergency measures already in place in northern Italy, which is where most of the more than 9,000 confirmed cases are.

As of Monday, 463 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported through the country.

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Italy is undergoing the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside Asia.

After surfacing two weeks ago in northern Italy, its economic engine, confusion and fear have spread throughout the country.

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