For the first time in almost three millennia, Rome’s top official will be a woman.
At just 37 years old, lawyer Virginia Raggi has taken up the helm of one of the world’s oldest cities and pledged to fix its most enduring issues.
And in case being a young woman wasn’t trailblazing enough, Raggi is also a member of one of Italy’s more intriguing political parties: the ‘anti-corruption’ Five Star Movement.
The party – which claims it can’t be placed on the left-right political scale – is antigrowth, Eurosceptic, and claims it can clean up Rome’s scandalised city hall.
The young lawyer to lead Rome
According to Italian news site ANSA, Raggi – who turns 38 next month – will also become the youngest mayor in Rome’s (very extensive) history.
Raggi grew up in the central quarter of Rome’s San Giovanni and studied law at the Roma Tre University before joining local neighbourhood boards.
As a lawyer, Raggi reportedly specialised in copyright and technologies law, and according to ANSA has been described by her colleagues as “precise, determined, and a stickler for detail”.
Raggi is married to radio director Andrea Severini (who reportedly introduced her to the Five Star Movement) and the pair have a seven-year-old old son called Matteo.
The new mayor has not been shy about the significance of her appointment, beginning a victory blog post with the words, “The first thing I would say … is that finally Rome will have a female mayor”.
“At a time when equal opportunities are still a myth, this victory is of extraordinary value.”
Regardless of her credentials and determination, Raggi will now have to walk the walk – and clean up a politically scandalised city.
The Five Star Movement
Her party, also known as the M5S (movimento cinque stelle), was started by Italian comedian and blogger Peppe Grillo – an unlikely political renegade.
Proudly populist, anti-establishment and antigrowth, the movement’s five pillars are: public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, right to internet access and environmentalism.
In 2006, Grillo initiated Vaffanculo Day (which translates to ‘F*** Off Day’) or V-Day, which encouraged Roman citizens to sign a petition against politicians convicted of crimes or who had served more than two terms being able to re-apply for election.
Despite only requiring 50,000 signatures, the first V-Day gained 336,000 – and displayed Romans’ appetite for political change.
Once considered simply a party of protest, the M5S rose to take out 19 out of 20 Roman districts in the recent elections.
The party was fuelled by the anger created by the likes of Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who gave Italy a reputation for political corruption.
One major setback for Raggi is that she used to work in the office of ex-Berlusconi lawyer and convicted judge-briber Cesare Previti. This fact was highlighted by the press during her mayoral campaign.
Raggi claims her office’s first order of business will be cleaning up city hall.
The damaging Capital Mafia scandal revealed a network of corrupt relationships between politicians and criminals who were siphoning city funds.
“This is just the beginning,” Raggi has said of her relatively inexperienced party.
“It’s our turn now.”