Sylvia Poggioli

ROME — For centuries, Rome has been an art lovers' paradise, drawing tourists, historians and all manner of cultural connoisseur. But almost none of them has ever laid eyes on a majestic site just steps away from the central Via Veneto. It's a sprawling 16th century villa filled with masterpieces from antiquity to the Renaissance, and it's never been open to the public.

The property and its vast holdings are now at the center of an inheritance battle between a Texas-born princess and her stepsons. And on Tuesday, it goes up for auction.

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With COVID cases surging in Italy, Pope Francis led Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica hours earlier than normal. The pope's homily focused on the need to be close to the poor and needy. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has our report.

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Italian film director Paolo Sorrentino's latest work, "The Hand Of God," opens tonight in U.S. theaters. The film is about the tragedy Sorrentino experienced as a teenager and how he found escape in the art of cinema.

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Italy is launching some of the strictest anti-COVID measures. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that starting in October, government and private workers will be required to show proof of vaccination against the virus or lose pay.

In the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to vaccinate its population, Italy is making COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers — becoming the first European country to do so.

In a newly approved measure introduced Thursday by the Italian government, officials said digital vaccine certificates will be mandatory for all employees across the country.

TRIESTE, Italy — Tourists to Italy are likely to visit Rome, Florence, Venice — maybe even Naples and Sicily. Few venture as far as this city tucked in the country's northeast corner on the Adriatic Sea.

Once the flourishing port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste became a largely forgotten borderland after World War I. But today, those who visit find a blend of cultures and languages of Europe, with a rich literary legacy — a city that's lured great authors from Ranier Maria Rilke to James Joyce.

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — At a time of growing diffidence toward some new scientific discoveries, the one and only Vatican institution that does scientific research recently launched a campaign to promote dialogue between faith and science.

It's the Vatican Observatory, located on the grounds of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, a medieval town in Alban Hills 15 miles southeast of Rome.

ROME — Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a major revision of Catholic Church laws regulating clerical sex abuse, fraud and the attempt to ordain women. It is known as an apostolic constitution with the title, Pascite Gregem Dei, or "Tend the Flock."

ROME — In a TV landscape where racial insensitivity is rampant, Netflix's Italian-language series Zero is a milestone: Italy's first TV series with a predominantly Black cast.

A superhero fantasy meets coming-of-age story of second-generation Italians, Zero stands out for depicting the country's increasingly multicultural society.

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The Vatican's top enforcer of doctrine has sent a warning to U.S. bishops about a potential proposal by some conservative clergy to deny communion to Catholic elected officials who support legislation allowing abortion.

The possible plan could affect President Biden, among other Catholic political figures.

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Three decades after the end of the Cold War, it appears the Italian capital Rome is reviving its role as "Open City" – a crossroads of international espionage and intrigue.

Italy today ordered the expulsion of two Russian embassy officials following the arrest of an Italian Navy captain on spying charges. The captain, identified by Italian media as Walter Biot, was reportedly caught Tuesday evening as he handed over allegedly top-secret documents to one of the Russian diplomats in exchange for money.

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Pope Francis celebrated Mass today in Baghdad. It's the end of his second day in Iraq.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POPE FRANCIS: (Non-English language spoken).

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ROME — The second Roman Catholic president in American history is a devout man who makes no secret of the importance of faith in his life. President Joe Biden is a regular churchgoer, often quotes St. Augustine and carries a rosary that belonged to his late son Beau. In one of the first images released of him in the Oval Office, a photo was visible behind his desk showing him with Pope Francis.

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Women cannot be priests in the Roman Catholic Church, but Pope Francis is now giving them more leadership than ever before. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli explains.

Italians are used to hearing the words, "Once again, the government in Rome has collapsed." Now another Italian leader is resigning — but this time, it risks plunging the country into political chaos while still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and deep economic turmoil.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte handed in his resignation to the president on Tuesday following weeks of political uncertainty and a split in the governing coalition over his handling of the second wave of COVID-19 and recovery funds from the European Union.

Florence is one of the main stops on any art lover's European itinerary. At the Uffizi Galleries, visitors can have their fill of works by Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Of course, none of these artists are women.

In 2009, a new nonprofit foundation in Florence started to investigate why.

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When St. John Paul II died in 2005 after nearly 27 years on the papal throne, his funeral drew millions to St. Peter's Square. The crowd soon broke out into spontaneous chants of "Santo subito" — "make him a saint immediately."

Days later, John Paul was put on the fast track, becoming a saint a record nine years after his death.

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