La Sapienza in Rome is the largest university in Europe. This isn't necessarily an advantage: the place is famous for its overcrowded classrooms, Byzantine administration, no-show professors, assistants in de facto charge of courses, massive drop-out rates, er, too many cars. In an attempt to solve the last of these problems, work began n March on a new underground car park. The cost of the car park? Almost nine million euros (six million pounds). It's being built by a company called CPC (Compagnia progettazione e costruzioni), the chairman of which is the architect, Leonardo di Paola. Di Paola isn't just an architect and businessman; he also teaches at La Sapienza. His son Marco, CEO of CPC, and chairman of ANCE, the association of young constructors, does too. Last Friday, seven tax officers spent eight hours in the relevant offices to try and see where that odd fishy smell was coming from.
While they were there they had a closer look at the documentation surrounding a recent appointment. Maria Rosaria Guarini, daughter of La Sapienza's dean, Renato Guarini, became a researcher early last year after winning a concorso (competition) for the post. The specific subject she chose to present for the exam was Estimo (Estimation), taught by Professor Di Paola (sound familiar?). The first part of the exam was conducted in the Professor's private study, conveniently situated in the same building as the offices of CPC. Later parts were held in the Faculty of Architecture, where Ms Guarini, already an employee at La Sapienza, gallantly fought for the post against two other candidates, one of whom had failed to attach a list of publications to his application, while the other 'declared but failed to present three publications'. The only person to show up for the final written and oral exams was Maria Rosaria Guarini. It took a month and six meetings to give her the post, despite her failure to publish anything at all. Her sister, Paola, has been teaching at the university since October 2006 - officially; unofficially she'd been teaching for some time before that on a tecnico-amminstrativo contract. Her partner, a geologist, also teaches at La Sapienza. As Italians caught with their snouts in the truffle sack so often say: Tengo famiglia (I have a family to support)
The cherry on the cake? The deputy dean and head of the faculty of medicine, a certain Luigi Frati, whose votes were decisive in Guarini's election as dean, has also been investigated for nepotism. His wife and two children all work, you guessed it, in his faculty.