Basta! Man protests austerity on St. Peter's dome

VATICAN CITY (AP) — An Italian man who eluded Vatican security to scale the 130-meter (426-foot) high dome of St. Peter's Basilica spent a full day Wednesday protesting the austerity measures that Italy has passed to combat its debt crisis.

The man, identified as Marcello De Finizio, the owner of a beach-front concession and restaurant in the northern city of Trieste, climbed up Tuesday evening. He has refused appeals from ministers offering to meet with him if he would come down.

In a surreal contrast, Pope Benedict XVI's regular papal audience — which draws tens of thousands of pilgrims on Wednesdays — went on as scheduled despite the protest on the dome above.

De Finizio put up a banner saying "Help! Enough Monti!" — referring to President Mario Monti, the architect of Italy's economic reforms.

"I am not a crazy who wants to kill himself," De Finizio told Sky24 by cellphone from his perch. "So far there have been only promises, they have only made cuts."

"I have spoken by phone with some ministers, but I won't get down to receive only a pat on the back and a kick in the behind, like always," he added.

Italian media said he had spent three nights on a 70-meter (230-foot) tall metal structure in Trieste earlier this year in a similar anti-austerity protest.

De Finizio has demanded that officials hold talks with the owners of Italian beachfront concessions to discuss government reforms that will force auctions for existing establishments and limit the length of the licenses.

The government passed the measures in accord with EU norms to try to make the sector more competitive by preventing licenses from being passed from generation to generation. But the concession owners say they make considerable investments in the properties, including mortgages, that they stand to lose.

The concessions cover more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) of Italy's lovely coast __ more than half of it __ renting out lounge chairs, umbrellas and changing rooms and offering a coffee bar or restaurant.

De Finizio, who reportedly lost his restaurant in a fire and has struggled to get a loan to rebuild, has received moral support from other concession owners, who issued a statement saying they shared his "uncertainty about the future."