At 97 years old, Giorgio Napolitano has this physical status:
Giorgio Napolitano (Italian: [ˈdʒordʒo napoliˈtaːno]; born 29 June 1925) is an Italian politician who served as president of Italy from 2006 to 2015, the first Italian president to be re-elected to the presidency. Due to his dominant position in Italian politics, some critics have sometimes referred to him as Re Giorgio ("King Giorgio"). In office from 2006 to 2015, he is the longest-serving and longest-lived president in the history of the modern Italian Republic, which has been in existence since 1946.
Napolitano was a longtime member of the Italian Communist Party and of its post-Communist social democratic successors, from the Democratic Party of the Left onwards. He was a leading member of a modernizing faction on the right of the party. First elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953, he took an assiduous interest in parliamentary life and was President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994. He was Minister of the Interior from 1996 to 1998 under Romano Prodi.
Napolitano was appointed a Senator for life in 2005 by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In May 2006, he was elected by Parliament as President of Italy. During his first term of office, he oversaw governments both of the centre-left, led by Prodi, and the centre-right, led by Silvio Berlusconi. In November 2011, Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister amid financial and economic problems. Napolitano, in keeping with his constitutional role, then asked former EU commissioner Mario Monti to form a cabinet which was referred to as a "government of the president" by critics.
When his seven-year presidential term expired in April 2013, Napolitano (then aged 87) reluctantly accepted re-election, becoming the first President of Italy to serve a second term, to safeguard the continuity of the country's institutions during the parliamentary deadlock that followed the 2013 general election. On being reelected as President with broad cross-party support in Parliament, he overcame the impasse by inviting Enrico Letta to propose a government in the form of a grand coalition. When Letta handed in his resignation on 14 February 2014, Napolitano mandated Matteo Renzi (Letta's factional challenger) to form a new government. After a record eight and a half years as President, Napolitano resigned at age 89 in January 2015.
Napolitano was often accused by his critics of having transformed a largely ceremonial role into a political one, becoming, during the years of his tenure, the real kingmaker of Italian politics. As of 2022, Napolitano is currently the only living former Italian President.
Napolitano was born in Naples, in 1925. His father Giovanni was a liberal lawyer and poet, while his mother was Carolina Bobbio, a descendant of a noble Piedmontese family. From 1938 to 1941, he studied at the Classical Lyceum Umberto I of Naples, but in 1941 his family moved to Padova and he was graduated to the lyceum Titus Livius. In 1942, he matriculated at the University of Naples Federico II, studying law. During this period, Napolitano adhered to the local University Fascist Youth ("Gioventù Universitaria Fascista"), where he met his core group of friends, who shared his opposition to Italian Fascism. As he would later state, the group "was in fact a true breeding ground of anti-fascist intellectual energies, disguised and to a certain extent tolerated".
An enthusiast of the theatre since secondary school, during his university years he contributed a theatrical review to the IX Maggio weekly magazine and had small parts in plays organized by the Gioventù Universitaria Fascista itself. He played in a comedy by Salvatore Di Giacomo at Teatro Mercadante in Naples. Napolitano dreamt of being an actor and spent his early years performing in several productions at the Teatro Mercadante.
Napolitano has often been cited as the author of a collection of sonnets in Neapolitan dialect published under a pseudonym, Tommaso Pignatelli, and entitled Pe cupià ’o chiarfo ("To mimic the downpour"). He denied this in 1997 and, again, on the occasion of his presidential election, when his staff described the attribution of authorship to Napolitano as a "journalistic myth". He published his first acknowledged book, entitled Movimento Operaio e Industria di Stato (which can be translated as "Workers' Movement and State Industry"), in 1962.
During the existence of the Italian Social Republic (1943–1945), a puppet state of Nazi Germany in the final period of World War II, Napolitano and his circle of friends took part in several actions of the Italian resistance movement against German and Italian fascist forces.
Early political career
In 1944, along with the group of Neapolitan Communists, as Mario Palermo and Maurizio Valenzi, Napolitano prepared the arrival in Naples of Palmiro Togliatti, the long-time leader of the Italian Communist Party who was in exile since 1926 when the Communist Party of Italy was banned by the Italian Fascist government, and Togliatti was one of few leaders not to be arrested, as he was attending a meeting of the Comintern in Moscow.
Following the end of the war in 1945, Napolitano joined the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and became its federal secretary for Naples and Caserta. In 1947, he graduated in jurisprudence with a final dissertation on political economy, entitled Il mancato sviluppo industriale del Mezzogiorno dopo l'unità e la legge speciale per Napoli del 1904 ("The lack of industrial development in the Mezzogiorno following the unification of Italy and the special law of 1904 for Naples"). He became a member of the Secretariat of the Italian Economic Centre for Southern Italy in 1946, which was represented by Senator Paratore, where he remained for two years. Napolitano played a major role in the Movement for the Rebirth of Southern Italy for over ten years.
Napolitano was first elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953 for the electoral district of Naples, and was reelected in every election until 1996. He was elected to the National Committee of the party during its eighth national congress in 1956, largely thanks to the support offered by Palmiro Togliatti, who wanted to involve younger politicians in the central direction of the party. He became responsible for the commission for Southern Italy within the National Committee.
In 1953 a document of the Italian Ministry of Interior reported Napolitano as a member of the secret armed paramilitary groups of the Communist Party in the city of Rome (so-called "Gladio Rossa").
Later on in the same year, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and its military suppression by the Soviet Union occurred. The leadership of the Italian Communist Party labelled the insurgents as counter-revolutionaries, and the official party newspaper L'Unità referred to them as "thugs" and "despicable agents provocateurs". Napolitano complied with the party-sponsored position on this matter, a choice he would repeatedly declare to have become uncomfortable with, developing what his autobiography describes as a "grievous self-critical torment". He would reason that his compliance was motivated by concerns about the role of the Italian Communist Party as "inseparable from the fates of the socialist forces guided by the USSR" as opposed to "imperialist" forces.
The decision to support the USSR against the Hungarian revolutionaries generated a split in the PCI, and even the CGIL (Italy's largest trade union, then supportive of the PCI) refused to conform to the party-sponsored position and applauded the revolution, on the basis that the eighth national congress of the Italian Communist Party had indeed stated that the "Italian way to socialism" was to be democratic and specific to the nation. These views were supported in the party by Giorgio Amendola, whom Napolitano would always look up to as a teacher. Frequently seen together, Giorgio Amendola and Giorgio Napolitano would jokingly be referred to by friends as (respectively) Giorgio 'o chiatto and Giorgio 'o sicco ("Giorgio the pudgy" and "Giorgio the slim" in the Neapolitan dialect).