Italians are still haunted by the Years of Lead

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ON a bitter day in December 1969, a bomb exploded at a bank in Piazza Fontana, near Milan’s cathedral. Seventeen died. The young anarchist arrested in connection with the atrocity mysteriously died in custody. Three years later, the policeman accused of his murder was executed on the street. Things dragged on like this for years: six people were killed in December 1976 alone. All told, Italians suffered the nightmare of the “Anni di Piombo”—“The Years of Lead”—for 15 bewildering years. Hundreds died in the numerous attacks. The country’s films, books and music are still contemplating its significance.   

The Years of Lead, so named for the number of bullets fired, emerged from the optimism of the economic miracle. While industrialisation gave Italians unimagined prosperity, it also kindled social disruption. Millions of peasants moved to scruffy apartment buildings in the city, smashing traditional family bonds and intensifying class tensions. Powerful new unions meant massive strikes became common….Continue reading

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