Sylvia Poggioli

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Italy is on the verge of a constitutional crisis after anti-establishment party leader Luigi Di Maio called for the impeachment of President Sergio Mattarella.

An angry Di Maio, of the 5-Star Movement, made the unprecedented demand after Mattarella rejected a euroskeptic for the key post of economy minister — virtually foiling a bid to form Europe's first fully populist government.

One of Rome's must-see sights is the Vatican's Sistine Chapel — but it's usually so packed, visitors have a hard time absorbing the majesty and beauty of the frescoes painted by Michelangelo.

Now there's a new spectacle in town, where visitors can sit comfortably in plush theater seats and feast their eyes on every detail of the Sistine's masterpieces.

Every Sunday when he is at the Vatican, Francis ends his remarks to the crowd in St. Peter's Square with a typical Italian saying: "Have a good lunch and arrivederci."

It's that common touch that has so endeared the Argentine-born pope to millions of people across the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, since his election five years ago, on March 13, 2013. But in recent months, Francis has also become the target of criticism on various fronts, and the image of him as charismatic reformer has suffered some hits.

The Italian political world has been struck by a populist tsunami — 50 percent of voters in Sunday's parliamentary elections chose candidates from anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and euroskeptic parties. However, no party amassed enough votes to form a government on its own, and this makes weeks of political instability likely while government negotiations are underway.

"Italy ungovernable," read a Monday headline in the daily La Stampa.

In Italy, polls ahead of Sunday's general elections suggest the maverick 5-Star Movement is more popular than any other party. Founded in 2009 on an anti-establishment platform by Beppe Grillo, a vitriolic comedian, it's setting its sights on heading Italy's next government.

5-Star claims to be an Internet-based direct democracy movement and has attracted many Italians disaffected with traditional parties. It's openly populist — with positions that are anti-immigration, anti-vaccination and anti-European Union.

A satirical movie that envisions dictator Benito Mussolini staging a comeback opened in Italy just as the campaign for March 4 general elections was getting underway. It has received rave reviews.

The mockumentary I'm Back is an Italian version of the 2015 German film, Look Who's Back, which envisioned the return of Adolf Hitler.

When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this month, he lashed out at victims of sexual abuse and accused them of "calumny" regarding a bishop who is suspected of covering up abuse they endured by a pedophile priest.

The pope said there was "not a shred of evidence" against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros," he said, "I'll speak."

Now the pope is sending a top envoy on a mission to Chile to look into survivors' claims.

In the months since allegations of sexual harassment by major media figures took center stage in the United States, the #MeToo movement has had a ripple effect in Europe, prompting national conversations on a once-taboo topic. In some countries, the movement has been embraced.

But in Italy, the public has largely reacted with scorn and skepticism.

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Pope Francis visited Bangladesh today. And in a meeting with dignitaries, he called for them to care for the plight of refugees.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Italian).

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On a recent Saturday in Rome, several thousand angry Italians marched through the streets of downtown. They came to protest a bill that would grant citizenship to children born in Italy to long-term resident foreigners.

Sara Polimeno came from the northern Piedmont region to demand a stop to migrants.

"There's an invasion of Muslims imposing their religion on us," said Polimeno. "They have different customs and culture and they're upsetting all our habits. They're demanding too much. Enough!"

Tourism is booming in Italy, which welcomed close to 50 million visitors over the summer. That has helped some places that have been struggling to survive. But for one destination, it might be too much of a good thing.

Civita di Bagnoregio is in the northern corner of the Lazio region, 75 miles north of Rome, tucked between Tuscany and Umbria.

On the road, signposts point the way to "Civita, The Town That Is Dying."

And in fact, not so long ago, Civita was at death's door — shrinking because of erosion and landslides and in need of constant restoration.

Large sections of Norcia's ancient walls lie in rubble. Its many centuries-old buildings are wrapped in steel girders, off-limits to the few people who visit what now looks like a ghost town.

Coffee — it's something many can't start the day without. In Italy, it is a cultural mainstay, and the country is perhaps the beverage's spiritual home.

After all, Italy gave us the lingo — espresso, cappuccino, latte — and its coffee culture is filled with rituals and mysterious rules.

Caffé Greco is Rome's oldest café. Founded in 1760, it's also the second oldest in all of Italy, after Florian in Venice.

Nearly 2,000 years after he held sway over ancient Rome, a notorious emperor is again causing outrage. The reason: Italian authorities approved construction of a massive stage amid the ruins over the Roman Forum for a rock opera about Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 A.D.

Archaeologists and art historians are up in arms, denouncing what they see as the commercialization of the country's heritage.

During papal audiences with heads of state, the exchange of gifts comes after the private encounter and at the end of the event. It offers the press a chance to witness the body language of the two leaders and listen in as they explain their gifts.

It also offers a glimpse of what the two leaders think of each other.

For example, Pope Francis gave President Trump a large medallion depicting an olive branch as a symbol of peace.

The pope said, "I give this to you so that you can be an instrument of peace."

The president replied, "We can use peace."

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to have cultivated ties with far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front in France. He also seems to have forged an alliance with Vatican hard-liners who oppose Pope Francis' less rigid approach to church doctrine. The New York Times reported this week on Bannon's connections at the Vatican.

Italy has been described as the world's biggest open-air museum.

And with illegally excavated antiquities, looting of unguarded, centuries-old churches and smuggling of precious artworks, it's also an art theft playground.

But thanks to an elite police squad, Italy is also at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in artworks — believed to be among the world's biggest forms of trafficking and estimated to be worth billions.

At a busy office in central Rome, the man who oversees Italy's national network of committees that process asylum requests sits behind a desk with tall piles of folders.

Angelo Trovato says each committee has three members — representing police, local authorities and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

"Each applicant is interviewed by one committee member," says Trovato. "But when it comes to deciding the destiny of an individual, the decision can't be by a single person. It must be reached collectively."

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She was one of the great female protagonists of the late-Renaissance art world. Forgotten in the 18th and 19th centuries, she was rediscovered in the 20th as a feminist icon.

Thirty paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi are on view at Rome's Palazzo Braschi, in a major new exhibit running through May 7, 2017, that aims to showcase the female artist as a great painter — one of the most talented followers of Caravaggio.

Italy is headed toward a period of political uncertainty following voters' crushing rejection of constitutional amendments and of their champion.

The 41-year-old Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is slated to hand in his resignation Monday after only 2 1/2 years in office and after acknowledging his stinging defeat in Sunday's referendum.

Just over an hour after the polls closed, Renzi appeared before the media.

Usually brash and confident, he held back tears acknowledging defeat.

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Europeans are anxiously watching Italy where a Sunday referendum on constitutional amendments could bring down the government and make it the latest casualty of the anti-establishment wave sweeping the West.

Italians are being asked to vote "yes" or "no" to constitutional changes aimed at bringing the Italian political system more in line with the European norm.

The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of parliament, the Senate, shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate's power to bring down government coalitions.

Rome's Via Ramazzini is a residential street with a sprawling park that belongs to the Italian Red Cross. That's where newly arrived migrants are being sheltered in a tent camp.

Outside on the sidewalk, three young African men say they're from Eritrea, here for the past two weeks after making a dangerous sea crossing.

Yarid Hailah, 25, says his boat, with 190 people aboard, was filling up with water. Ten hours after they left Libya, they were rescued. "Nobody died," he says.

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