Monday 21 February.

Hostesses and stewards working for the Italian state airline Alitalia held a 24-hour strike over work and safety conditions, causing the cancellation of 176 flights.

Hundreds of starlings that sleep in the trees around Romes Termini station flew to their death against buildings and lampposts at dawn. It was thought that the birds were alarmed by a sudden noise.

Tuesday 22 February.

The watch-dog committee on privacy announced that its nationwide survey of closed circuit television systems had found that many videos were being kept for too long, and that often the public was not informed of the presence of CTV cameras. Both are infringements of the privacy laws.

Don Luigi Giussani, founder of the Roman Catholic group Communione e Liberazione died in Milan aged 84. The movement has followers in 70 countries.

Wednesday 23 February.

Italy and Spain protested at the decision by the European Commission to drop Italian and Spanish as languages used in translation at all but the Wednesday press conferences.

Italian textile and shoe manufacturers are pressing for labels to state the origin of goods imported into the European Union. More than 30,000 textile workers and 8,500 shoemakers lost their jobs in Italy in 2004.

Thursday 24 February.

Italys cell phone operators and ATAC, the transport company that runs Romes buses and trams announced that as from 10 April it will be possible to buy bus and tram tickets via SMS. The price of the ticket will be deducted from the cell phone account or from the credit on the telephone card. Confirmation of purchase will be sent via SMS to the purchasers cell phone with the number of the ticket, date, time of purchase. The price of the ticket will be 1, plus the price of the SMS.

Carlo Fontana, superintendent of the Teatro alla Scala, the Milan opera house, has lost his job; he and Riccardo Muti, the musical director, had been in disagreement for several months. The opera house staff reacted by threatening to strike on every first night of the 2005 season and the Milan city councillor responsible for cultural affairs has resigned.

Pope John Paul II was readmitted to hospital with breathing difficulties. Surgeons performed a tracheotomy in the evening and reported that the operation had gone well.

Friday 25 February.

Italys president, Carlo Azelio Ciampi, warned that Italy is losing ground to its European partners. He suggested that to increase competitiveness Italy needed better infrastructures, a solid banking system, more investment in research, a higher birth rate, a more open approach to immigration, and more cooperation between businesses.

The Italian minister for education promised to create 200,000 new permanent teaching jobs within the next five years, the first 50,000 by September of this year.

Saturday 26 February

Rome city mayor, Walter Veltroni, has announced that Rome will pay for the scrapping of old and unused vehicles if, in exchange, the owners agree to use public transport, convert to an electric car or join a car-sharing scheme. It is estimated that there are 50,000 such cars parked on the city streets.

A 33 year-old man from Catania in southern Italy held 2000 Jehovahs Witnesses hostage at a meeting hall in the S. Basilio area of Rome, threatening to blow them and himself up with a bomb. It took Carabinieri more than two hours to persuade the man to release the hostages. He was arrested and found to be carrying an unloaded gun.