Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talking Murder in Florence

Leighton Gage and Annamaria 
This past weekend, we got a wonderful visit from the gifted mystery novelist and generous crime-writing colleague, Leighton Gage. Leighton is literally an international man of mystery. (Yes, I know, I should find a more original way to say so, but I cannot resist my only opportunity to write this sentence and mean it.) Having lived in several countries and visited many more, Leighton now lives in and writes about Brazil. You can read about him and his fascinating books at

We talked murder at the dinner table, walking in the piazza, and sitting on the terrace. We also covered a lot of South American history and territory of which he has an encyclopedic knowledge.

On Saturday, we witnessed a parade that seemed to be the investiture of a new group of rookies for the Polizia Municipale di Firenze. It included a Renaissance Band in costume, lots of flags, and handsome modern day citizens portraying Dante and Beatrice and Savonarola (presumably at some point in his life between the Bonfire of the Vanities and point where he himself was burned at the stake in the Piazza Della Signoria).

The newly-minted cops looked great in their full dress uniforms. I dare any other municipality to show us a chicer police force.

This got me to thinking about effect all this pomp and circumstance might have on the success of law enforcement. In New York, after all, our young police officers, as far as I know, get what amounts to a High School graduation ceremony with uniforms. If they are lucky, they hear a speech by the mayor and have an opportunity to get their picture taken with their mother. To my knowledge, a guy wearing red and white stockings and carrying sword has never attended.

So what of the crime rate in these parts? A brief Google search produced the following paragraphs from Wikipedia:

“At 0.013 per 1,000 people, Italy has the 47th highest murder rate in the world. This makes the murder rate in Italy less than 1/3 that of the United States. Italy is also safer than Finland, France, Iceland, Australia, Canada and the U.K. and only marginally less safe than Spain, Germany and Holland.

Italy is also a country with lower rates of rape than most other nations of the Western world. It has the 46th highest per-capita rate of rape in the world meaning that Italian women are 7 times safer than American women. Similarly, Italy has a lower per capita rate of rape than most of the advanced Western countries in the European Union.”

Do you think this gift of safety for the Italian people has anything to do with the ghost of Savonarola showing up when the municipal police recruits receive their badges?

Annamaria Alfieri

PS: I scanned the crowd at the parade and saw no trace of Hannibal Lecter. Perhaps he was off somewhere having lunch.


  1. Fascinating photos of a very colorful graduation! When I graduated from the New York City Police Academy in May, 1968, it was in the Armory at Lex and 25th St. and, yes, the Mayor said a few allegedly inspiring words--nothing close to the Florence spectacle--but we rookies did get to throw our soft caps in the air: a thing I can't see these rookie doing with those big white cones?
    Bob K.

  2. Excellent article and information. You are really a whiz at sharing your trip. Thelma

  3. To Kate and Bob - behold - my email has come back on this trick-- it's magic or witchcraft!! tjs

  4. Bob, I hoped you would weigh in from the NYPD perspective. Yes, the PMdiF helmets are hard. Maybe they need more protection from getting sapped from behind. Thanks, Thelma for your kind words. I am really enjoying sharing it.

  5. When I was in Naples, the police who (finally) showed up in force at the museum to break up a labor demonstration wore alice-blue knitted pullovers over shirts and ties and navy trousers, as I recall. I don't remember any head coverings at all. They were beautiful young men, as the Italians tend to be. What caused the demonstration to melt away was the row of empty minivans they provided to carry prisoners.

  6. Kate, I can see them now. Better not to wear hats and cover up that lustrous dark, curly hair!!! I used to think that Italian cops spent more time checking out the crease in their trousers than keeping the peace, but given the low crime rate, I was wrong. They are either working vey hard, or they just don't have that much to do!

  7. Oh, them Italian men - now that P.M. is ...; well, that's another thriller... tjs

  8. Thelma, it is unlike you to bring up such a subject in an otherwise civilized discourse!

  9. Aha, don't judge a book by its cover! Things are seldom what they seem!!!