Perugia was the final stop on a trip I took to several sites in central Italy. The last time I was in the country was several years prior, long enough ago that I haven’t had to understand spoken Italian and had some difficulty understanding what people were saying. When I first landed in Rome I had difficulty making out almost anything, but over the week and a half before I got to Perugia it started coming back to me and I was able to get around, order, understand the train announcements, and get the sense of what people were saying.
When I was in Rome I looked for books on the case, thinking that it wouldn’t be difficult to do and there may be some local books I wasn’t aware of. I stopped by a bookstore and asked a store assistant, giving the names of the people in the case and asking about “caso meredith,” the label given in the newspaper headlines every time there was an update. The first staff person I asked had little recognition when I said the names of the defendants and the victim, even when I wrote them down. We went to a second assistant at the checkout who recognized the names, but could not recall any specific books. The first assistant checked in the system and found one book (I think I recall it being Raffaele’s), but we couldn’t find it in the store.
In the US, due to the media cheerleading for Knox, there is at least some name recognition when you mention her name (though most people would look at you blankly if you said “Meredith Kercher”). In bookstores they definitely would be able to know the case, if not be able to recall specific books. And this was even before the current phase of popularity for true crime, due in part to the successes of the podcasts Serial and My Favorite Murder.
Unfortunately I did not find any books while I was traveling in Italy. The only media I encountered on the case was a brief mention of Rudy Guede in a magazine I was reading while in a cafe in Perugia, where Guede declared his innocence. Despite the lack of media I was still able to understand a bit of the Italian perspective while visiting Perugia.
I spoke to a shop clerk in Perugia about the case. After asking about some unrelated books, we started speaking in English and I asked if I could ask a few questions. I said I was visiting the town, since I had been following the case for years. I asked about the Netflix documentary, which had been released three months prior. The clerk was unaware that the documentary had come out, but recalled when some filmmakers came to town a few years prior saying they were going to do a movie on the media reporting around the case; the clerk was surprised that the movie focused on Knox.
Even nine years later, I saw the difficulty and pain the case had on the clerk and the town. The clerk spoke of the negative media attacks on Perugia that were published internationally. The negative media publicity changed the town, and they felt this every time the media came to town to report on the trial and the case.
In my conversation it was clear to me that in Perugia, this isn’t a trial about Amanda Knox. Perugia remembers the death of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was brutally murdered in a house she shared with three other girls. Perugia remembers the death, but they also feel the judgment of the international media on their city. The city is still recovering from both.