The Gianni Agnelli Funeral: A National Identification Rite

in Italian Politics
Author: Gaspare Nevola
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On 24 January 2003, Gianni Agnelli, honorary president of Fiat, patriarch

of the most important Italian entrepreneurial family, Senator for

Life, died in Turin. The death of the octogenarian Avvocato, as he was

called, seemed to have a traumatic effect on Italian society. Commentators,

public personalities, politicians, and ordinary people quickly

saw his death as a sign of the end of an era. The media coverage of

the event was striking, for both its quantity and intensity. Radio and

television provided immediate reports, with special broadcasting that

filled the airwaves for days; the printed press reacted in a similar way.

The major national dailies ran nine column headlines to report the

news and followed with 20 to 25 pages (more in some cases) of editorials,

backgrounders by publishers or prestigious opinion-makers,

and front-page interviews with the president of the Republic. News

stories alternated with portraits and commentaries from some of

Agnelli’s closest collaborators, creating what often seemed like a retrospective

of the country’s history. There was an abundance of personal

recollections and declarations of affection and esteem from

ordinary citizens and leading figures in sports, economics, politics,

and cultural life. The news resonated in the foreign press as well.