With elections in Italy just weeks away, polls show leftist parties with a comfortable lead. Yet attention is focused on the battle between the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the current prime minister, Mario Monti, an austere technocrat.
Monti's platform calls for continued austerity, budget cutting and labor reforms.
While Berlusconi and Monti are the two big names in next month's race, the expected winner is the leader of the leftist Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani.
In Italy, a Catholic priest has stirred widespread outrage after he blamed incidents of domestic violence on the way women dress. Father Piero Corsi's remarks were in a Christmas message he put on a church bulletin board; photos of the note soon went viral.
As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, "a record 118 women have been murdered this year alone in domestic violence" in Italy, reportedly the highest number in Europe.
Here's more from Sylvia, in Rome:
"The title of message was 'Women and Femicide, How often do they provoke?'"
In an effort to safeguard some 20,000 jobs at a time of rising unemployment, the Italian government has taken an unprecedented step. It has reversed a court order that called for the partial shutdown of Europe's biggest steel plant because it spews cancer-producing dioxins.
The ILVA steel factory in the southern port city of Taranto pits the government versus the judiciary in a battle over health issues and the need for economic revival.
We're in Milan. We're not happy. We're waiting for a bus that doesn't seem to come. Then we see this:
Three different sized sheets of bubble wrap, sized for how long you expect to wait: a little square for three minutes, bigger for five minutes, biggest for 10 — and the sign on top says: "Antistress For Free!!"
Everyone knows what to do. First, you calculate.
Then you choose.
Then you forget all about the bus and spend the time happily popping polyethylene-wrapped air bubbles.
Anyone who has visited Rome and its antique monuments has also seen their four-legged residents: the many stray cats that bask in the sun amid the ruins.
One site in central Rome is known as "cat forum," thanks to its adjacent cat shelter. But Italian archaeology officials have issued the Torre Argentina Cat Shelter Association an eviction notice, and feline lovers from around the world are bracing for a cat fight.