At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Giorgio Chiellini - footballer

Juventus star renowned for defensive excellence


Giorgio Chiellini won 97 caps for the Italian national team but missed out on trophies
Giorgio Chiellini won 97 caps for the Italian
national team but missed out on trophies
The footballer Giorgio Chiellini, renowned as one of the world’s best defenders, was born on this day in 1984 in Pisa.

Chiellini has played for much of his career at Juventus, winning an incredible seven consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2018, as well as numerous other trophies.  He was Serie A Defender of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and in 2017 was named in Juventus’s Greatest XI of All Time.

He also earned 97 caps for the Italy national team before announcing his retirement from international football in 2017, establishing himself as an automatic choice in a back three or four under five different coaches.

All of Chiellini’s successes so far have been in domestic football.  He was considered too young and inexperienced to be part of Marcello Lippi’s 2006 World Cup squad and hung up his boots with the azzurri without winning a trophy.

He has also missed out so far on success in European club competitions. He missed the 2015 Champions League final, which Juventus lost to Barcelona in Berlin, and finished on the losing side in the 2017 Champions League final, when the Italian champions were thumped 4-0 by Read Madrid in Cardiff.

Chiellini has won seven consecutive Serie A titles during a 13-year career with Juventus
Chiellini has won seven consecutive Serie A titles during
a 13-year career with Juventus
But he still has hopes of winning a Champions League medal now that Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored two of Real Madrid’s four goals in that match, has joined Juventus for the 2018-19 season.

Chiellini is regarded as a character of contradictions. As a player, he has broken his nose four times and been sent off five times. When he scores a goal he pounds his chest with closed fists. He is the archetypal Italian defender - rugged, ruthless and uncompromising.

Yet away from football he is softly spoken and a lover of literature, a calm and reflective personality not given to excess or displays of temper.

He was brought up in Livorno, a dockyard city on the coast of Tuscany with a seamy side, yet was always a conscientious student and would have left high school for university had he not been occupied with becoming a footballer. In the event, after becoming an established player, he enrolled at the University of Turin, where he completed a laurea - a bachelor’s degree - in economics and commerce and a master's in business administration.

The son of an orthopaedic surgeon, he would have studied medicine but found the work involved incompatible with being a footballer.

Chiellini in action against Cesc Fabregas of Spain
Chiellini in action against Cesc Fabregas of Spain
Growing up, being an enthusiastic follower of the Los Angeles Lakers, he dreamed of playing basketball, before his talent for football won out.

One of twin boys, he joined his local Livorno team at the age of 13. He played as a central midfielder and a winger before settling into the role of left-back, making his senior debut at the age of 17 in 2000.

Livorno then sold him to Roma but he was immediately loaned back to the Tuscan club, before being sold to Juventus, who loaned him to Fiorentina. He finally made his Juventus debut in the 2005-06 season and was part of a title-winning team, although the prize was later taken from them because of the so-called Calciopoli corruption scandal.

Many players left the club after the scandal, which also led to the team’s demotion to Serie B, but Chiellini remained as part of the squad that won promotion under Didier Deschamps in 2006-07 and became a key element in the rebuilding of bianconeri fortunes under a succession of coaches, culminating in three consecutive Serie A titles under Antonio Conte and four more under current coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Chiellini retired from international football in 2017 but is continuing his domestic career
Chiellini retired from international football
in 2017 but is continuing his domestic career
Chiellini made his debut for the Italian national team in November 2004 against Finland under Lippi, at the age of 20. He scored his first of his eight goals for the azzurri three years later.

Roberto Donadoni made him a regular member of the national team, although his first call-up for a major tournament did not get off to the best start. Preparing for the Euro 2008 finals, he collided with the national captain, Fabio Cannavaro, during a training session, with the result that Cannavaro missed the whole tournament.

He made up for that with some impressive performances, particularly against the eventual winners Spain in the quarter-final, which ended in a 0-0 draw before Italy were eliminated in a penalty shoot-out.

Subsequently, Chiellini was one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lippi in his second spell in charge of the national team, and for Cesare Prandelli, Conte and Gian Piero Ventura, even though his international career did not bring him the trophies he probably deserved.

His two World Cups were disappointing, ending in early elimination for Italy in 2010 and 2014, and though Prandelli’s team reached the final of Euro 2012 they were beaten 4-0 by Spain, with Chiellini substituted due to injury.

He announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, beaten in a play-off by Sweden.

In July 2014, Chiellini married his long-time girlfriend Carolina Bonistalli at the Sanctuary of Montenero in Livorno. The couple have a daughter, Nina, born in 2015.

Livorno's elegant Terrazza Mascagni promenade
Livorno's elegant Terrazza Mascagni promenade
Travel tip:

Livorno is the second largest city in Tuscany after Florence, with a population of almost 160,000. Although it is a large commercial port with much related industry, and also suffered extensive damage as a prime target for Allied bombing raids in the Second World War, it retains many attractions, including an elegant sea front – the Terrazza Mascagni - an historic centre – the Venetian quarter – with canals, and a tradition of serving excellent seafood.

The Sanctuary of Montenero in the Livorno Hills
The Sanctuary of Montenero in the Livorno Hills
Travel tip:

The Sanctuary of Montenero, where Chiellini was married, can be found in the village of the same name, part of the area south of the city known as the Livorno Hills. The complex, now elevated to the rank of basilica and maintained by Vallumbrosan monks, originated in the early 17th century and was expanded in the 18th century before a suppression of religious orders in the later part of the century led it to fall into disrepair.  It was fully restored in the last century.  A series of grottos exist behind the church, once a hide-out for robbers and a shelter during the Second World War, but these are now closed over safety concerns.

More reading:

The story of record-breaking coach Massimiliano Allegri

Marcello Lippi and Italy's fourth World Cup

Franco Baresi - Italy's greatest defender?

Also on this day:

1742: The birth of Pope Pius VII

1988: The death of car maker Enzo Ferrari


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Monday, 13 August 2018

Camillo Olivetti - electrical engineer

Founder of Italy’s first typewriter factory


Camillo Olivetti in 1930, at around the time he handed the reins to son Adriano
Camillo Olivetti in 1930, at around the
time he handed the reins to son Adriano
The electrical engineer Camillo Olivetti, who opened Italy’s first typewriter factory and founded a company that would become a major player in electronic business technology, was born on this day in 1868 in Ivrea in Piedmont.

The Olivetti company that later produced Italy’s first electronic computer was developed by Adriano Olivetti, the oldest of Camillo's five children, but it was his father’s vision and enterprise that laid the foundations for the brand’s success and established the Olivetti name.

Camillo came from a Jewish middle-class background. His father, Salvador Benedetto, was a successful merchant. His mother, Elvira, came from a banking family in Modena but her interests were more cultural. She was fluent in four languages.

Elvira had full care of Camillo after Salvador died when the boy was only one and sent him to boarding school in Milan at a young age.  Although his mother’s fluency in four languages was a help - he learned English early in his life - she understood his inclination to work in electronics.

After graduating from the Royal Italian Industrial Museum (later the Polytechnic of Turin) with a diploma in industrial engineering, Camillo broadened his knowledge by travelling. He spent more than a year in London working in an industry that produced electrical instrumentation and later went to the United States with his former university professor, Galileo Ferraris, who in Chicago in 1893 introduced him to his hero, Thomas Edison.

The first Olivetti typewriter, the M1, which Camillo designed himself for production at the Ivrea factory
The first Olivetti typewriter, the M1, which Camillo
designed himself for production at the Ivrea factory
Olivetti remained in the United States after Ferraris returned to Italy, taking up a position as electrotechnical assistant at Stanford University. 

Back in Italy in 1894, he teamed up with a couple of old college friends in his first business venture, importing typewriters, before deciding to go into production with a factory making electrical measuring instruments, entering into partnership with a number of investors.

The business grew, moving to factories in Milan and then Monza to enable increased production, but Olivetti had disagreements with his investors over how much of their budget should be spent on research, so the venture ended.

Taking 40 workers with him, he then moved back to Ivrea and, in 1908, opened the first dedicated Olivetti typewriter factory, a distinctive building in local Canavese red brick.

The original red brick factory was retained when Olivetti built new modern premises in Via Jervis in Ivrea
The original red brick factory was retained when Olivetti
built new modern premises in Via Jervis in Ivrea
The first typewriter produced - from 1911 onwards - was the M1, which Olivetti designed himself based on the knowledge he had acquired in the United States.

At first, production was on a relatively small scale - about 1,000 machines per year - and the business began to grow exponentially only after the First World War, when Olivetti shrewdly diversified into aircraft parts, which were technologically advanced and therefore in constant demand.

When life returned to normal after the war, Olivetti was well placed to expand and developed a much improved typewriter, the M20.  His business model, visionary at the time, included setting up Olivetti branches in Milan and then other Italian cities - and eventually abroad - to provide assistance to customers at local level.

Throughout much of his life, Camillo Olivetti was active politically. As a young man, a socialist by inclination, he was appalled by the what he saw as contempt for working people by the ruling classes and travelled to Milan in 1898 to take part in the so-called bread riots, when soldiers opened fire on protesters, resulting in 500 deaths. Angered by what he had seen, he considered raising his own armed force with the intention of stirring up revolution.

Adriano Olivetti shared his father's vision and concerns for the workforce and the local community
Adriano Olivetti shared his father's vision and concerns
for the workforce and the local community
He was dissuaded from such drastic action but spent much of his life campaigning, mainly through newspaper columns, on the side of the working man.  When the Fascists rose to power, he became an outspoken critic of Mussolini’s regime, taking part in a protest in Ivrea in 1924 following the murder of the socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti.

He scaled down his activities only when he began to fear Fascist reprisals against his factory in Ivrea. At one stage, after Mussolini introduced his race laws, Camillo had his family flee the country for their own safety.

Although he was a businessman foremost, he recognised the need for good relationships between employers and workers and supported the establishment of trade unions.

Olivetti would become a famous name worldwide, well-known for its technical excellence and modern designs as Camillo and later Adriano employed many famous designers and architects to work on their products and publicity campaigns, including Ignazio Gardella and Marco Zanuso.

But the company would also be admired for consistent social welfare policies. When Adriano became chairman of the company in 1938, he increases production to around 15,000 machines per year but at the same time, as the town’s biggest employer, instigated projects that would change the face of Ivrea, building schools, houses, roads and recreational facilities.

Camillo died at the age of 75 in 1943, having moved to Biella, not far from the border with Switzerland, in the 1930s because of the anti-Jewish political climate further south.

Ivrea's cathedral, with its neoclassical facade
Ivrea's cathedral, with its neoclassical facade
Travel tip:

Ivrea, where Camillo Olivetti was born and established his business, is a town in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, about 50km (31 miles) north of Turin. It has a 14th century castle and the ruins of a 1st century Roman theatre that would have been able to hold 10,000 spectators. The town’s cathedral, which originated from a church built on the same site in 4th century, itself at the site of a pagan temple, was reconstructed in around 1000 AD in Romanesque style and, in 1785, rebuilt again in a Baroque style. The current neoclassical façade was added in the 19th century. Ivrea hosts an annual carnival before Easter, which includes the Battle of the Oranges, where teams of locals on foot throw oranges at teams riding in carts.

The Palazzo Cisterna in Biella
The Palazzo Cisterna in Biella
Travel tip:

Biella, which sits in the foothill of the Alps, is about 85km (53 miles) northeast of Turin and slightly more than 100km (62 miles) west of Milan. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and divided into two districts - Biella-Piano and Biella-Piazzo, which are connected to each other by steep streets and a funicular railway. Biella-Piazzo, the Medieval district, is dominated by the magnificent Palazzo Cisterna. Biella-Piano is the home of the Duomo, the pre-Romanesque Baptistery and a museum of Biellese history.

More reading:

Ignazio Gardella - the modern designer with an eye for the classical

Marco Zanuso, architect and designer who put Italy at the forefront of contemporary design

How Karl Zuegg turned the family farm into an international company

Also on this day:

1819: The birth of Risorgimento activist Aurelio Saffi

1912: The birth of award-winning microbiologist Salvador Luria

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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Vittorio Sella - mountain photographer

Images still considered among the most beautiful ever made


A 1909 photograph by Sella of K2, on the China-Pakistan border
A 1909 photograph by Sella of K2, on
the China-Pakistan border 
The photographer Vittorio Sella, who combined mountaineering with taking pictures of some of the world’s most famous and challenging peaks, died on this day in 1943 in his home town of Biella in Piedmont.

Even though Sella took the bulk of his photographs between the late 1870s and the First World War, his images are still regarded as among the most beautiful and dramatic ever taken.

His achievements are all the more remarkable given that his first camera and tripod alone weighed more than 18kg (40lbs) and he exposed his pictures on glass plates weighing almost a kilo (2lbs).  He had to set up makeshift darkrooms on the mountain at first because each shot had to be developed within 10 to 15 minutes.

Sella had exploring and photography in his blood. He was born in 1859 in Biella, in the foothills of the Italian Alps. It was an important area for wool and textiles and his family ran a successful wool factory.

Sella’s father, Giuseppe, was fascinated with the new science of photography A few years before Vittorio’s birth, he published the first major treatise on photography in Italian.

Meanwhile, Sella’s uncle, Quintino Sella, led the first expedition to the top of Monte Viso (or Monviso), the highest mountain in the French-Italian Alps, and in 1863 founded the Club Alpino Italiano, which remains Italy’s principal mountaineering club.

Le Siniolchu (6895 m) and the glacier Zemu, in the
Himalayas, often seen as one of Sella's greatest pictures
Sella’s father died when he was 16 and he was placed in the care of his uncle, which only encouraged Vittorio’s interest in mountaineering. His uncle was a famous man in his day, one of Italy's foremost mountaineering experts, who also helped establish a royal museum of mineralogy in Turin. 

Quintino Sella was also well known as a politician, serving as Italy’s minister of finance in 1862, after Italy was unified.

Vittorio decided he wanted a career that combine his father's passion with his uncle's and he was a pioneer in mountaineering as well as photography. In 1882, he led the first group to successfully climb the Matterhorn - Monte Cervino to Italians - the largest mountain on the Italian–Swiss border, during the winter.

He also made the first winter ascent of Monte Rosa and the first winter traverse of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco).

Further afield, he undertook three expeditions to the Caucasus (where a peak now bears his name) and also climbed Mount Saint Elias in Alaska and the Rwenzori in Africa. He was part of the 1909 expedition to K2 and the Karakoram. 

Vittorio Sella attempted to climb the Matterhorn at the age of 76
Vittorio Sella attempted to climb
the Matterhorn at the age of 76
The remarkable fact of Sella’s climbing career is that, where most mountaineers consider reaching distant summits and returning safely home as the limit of their ambitions, Sella often repeatedly climbed to the same summits in order to create still more stunning photographic images.

Age did not lessen Sella’s appetite for climbing. He attempted to scale the Matterhorn at 76 years old, the attempt failing not because of any weaknesses on his part but because one of his guides was injured.

The American photographer Ansel Adams, who saw Sella make a presentation in the United States, said his photographic work inspired "a definitely religious awe".

Sella died in Biella a few days before what would have been his 84th birthday.  He was buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Oropa, a little over 15km (9 miles) northwest of Biella in the Sacro Monte di Oropa nature reserve.

The Vittorio Sella Refuge, once a hunting lodge belonging to King Victor Emmanuel II, located at 2,588m (8,490ft) in the Gran Paradiso National Park on the Piedmont-Aosta border, is dedicated to him.  The refuge has beds for 150 people and a restaurant.

His collections of photographs is now managed by the Sella Foundation (Fondazione Sella) in Biella.

Biella's Roman baptistery, which dates back almost 1,000 years, is next to the town hall
Biella's Roman baptistery, which dates back almost 1,000
years, is next to the town hall
Travel tip:

Biella is a well-established town of almost 45,000 inhabitants in the foothill of the Alps, about 85km (53 miles) northeast of Turin and slightly more than 100m (62 miles) west of Milan. Its attractions include a Roman baptistery from early 1000s and the church and convent of San Sebastian. Wool and textiles have been associated with the town since the 13th century and although the best years of the industry have now passed, with many mills and factories closed, brands such as Cerruti 1881, Ermenegildo Zegna, Vitale Barberis Canonico and Fila still have a presence.

A classic view of the Matterhorn, showing the east and north faces
A classic view of the Matterhorn, showing
the east and north faces
Travel tip:

The Matterhorn, also known as Monte Cervino, which straddles the Swiss-Italian border about 60km (37 miles) northeast of Aosta, is an almost symmetrical natural pyramid, with four steep faces, whose peak is 4,478 metres (14,692ft) high, making it one of the highest summits in the Alps. The north face was not climbed until 1931 and the west face, which is the highest of the Matterhorn's four faces, was completely climbed only in 1962. More then 500 alpinists have died on the Matterhorn, including four on the first attempted ascent in 1865, making it one of the deadliest peaks in the world.

More reading:

How bitter rivalry marred the career of climber Walter Bonatti

War hero who was first to complete more than 100 climbs

Felice Beato - the world's first war photographer

Also on this day:

1612: The death of Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli

1990: The birth of controversial football star Mario Balotelli


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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Alfredo Binda - cyclist

Five times Giro winner who was paid not to take part


Alfredo Binda is presented with a  bouquet after the 1933 Giro
Alfredo Binda is presented with a
bouquet after the 1933 Giro.
The five-times Giro d’Italia cycle race winner Alfredo Binda, who once  famously accepted a substantial cash payment from the race organisers not to take part, was born on this day in 1902 in the village of Cittiglio, just outside Varese in Lombardy.

The payment was offered because Binda was such a good rider - some say the greatest of all time - that the Gazzetta dello Sport, the daily sports newspaper that invented the race, feared for the future of the event - and their own sales - because of Binda’s dominance.

He had been the overall winner of the coveted pink jersey in 1925, 1927, 1928 and 1929, on one occasion winning 12 of the 15 stages, on another racking up nine stage victories in a row.

Binda, who was perceived as a rather cold and detached competitor, was never particularly popular outside his own circle of fans and his habit of ruthlessly seeing off one hyped-up new challenger after another did nothing to win him new fans.

By 1929 it became clear to the Gazzetta’s bosses that interest in the race was waning, sales of the famous pink paper were falling and advertisers were less willing to part with their cash.

Although in today’s market, football is the driver of the Gazzetta’s popularity, at that time the Giro was its lifeblood. There were fears that another Binda procession in 1930 could mean that the race would have to be discontinued, even that the paper might be forced to close.

Binda struggled to win over Italian fans. who did not care for his cold and ruthless nature
Binda struggled to win over Italian fans. who
did not care for his cold and ruthless nature
As a result, the Gazzetta approached Binda and made him an unprecedented offer, rumoured to be in the region of 22,000 lira, in cash, NOT to take part in the 1930 Giro.  The story is that Binda did not need long to think about the offer, calculating that it was enough to buy a property in Milan, possibly two, that he could keep as investments and guarantee him a future income.

Instead, he took part in that year's Tour de France, winning two stages.  He returned to the Giro in later years, however, winning for the fifth time in 1933.

Binda’s early career was in France, where he had moved as a teenager, working for an uncle as an apprentice plasterer. He and his brother Primo spent all their free time cycling.

A gifted time trialist and climber, he began racing in September 1921, aged 19. He rode from his home in Nice to Milan in order to compete in the 1924 Tour of Lombardy, where he believed he might win the 500 lire prize on offer for the King of the Mountains. He did win it, in fact, finishing fourth in the race, and was offered a contract with the Legnano professional team.

Yet he could not endear himself to the cycling public, in which respect he was not helped by what happened in the 1925 Giro d'Italia, his first.

Binda's popularity increased after he won the World Championships in Rome
Binda's popularity increased after he
won the World Championships in Rome
The race was to be the last of the legendary champion Costante Girardengo and virtually the whole of Italy was willing him to come out on top. So when Binda, the 23-year-old debutant in the 22-day 3,520km (2,188 miles) event, turned up and won, it dashed a nation’s dreams.

In the event Girardengo continued racing, and he and Binda developed an abrasive rivalry.

In 1929, Girardengo introduced his protégé, Learco Guerra, as the latest "anti-Binda". Not only was Guerra, an expansive and open personality, popular with the public and the press, he also was favoured by the Italian Fascist Party. Binda was not cowed, however, and every defeat of Guerra only increased the antipathy towards him.

Not until 1932, when Binda won a third World Championship in front of a patriotic crowd in Rome, did the public start to warm to him.  World Champion in 1927, 1930 and 1932, he was the first to achieve three victories.

Afterwards, he could not be accused of giving nothing back to the sport.  Under his guidance as manager of the Italian national team, Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali and Gastone Nencini all became Tour de France champions.

Binda died in his home village of Cittiglio in July 1996, aged 83.

Visitors to Cittiglio want to visit the village's three waterfalls
Visitors to Cittiglio want to visit the
village's three waterfalls
Travel tip:

Alfredo Binda’s home village of Cittiglio is in the province of Varese and forms part of the mountain community Valli del Verbano, about 60km (37 miles) northwest of Milan and 15km (9 miles) from Varese.  Formerly the seat of the noble Luini or Luvini family, it has a well-preserved centre and the parish church of San Giulio has some interesting architectural features but most visitors to the area are drawn to the Cascate di Cittiglio, a series of three waterfalls set in woodland behind the town formed by the San Giulio stream, at heights between 474m and 324m above sea level.

The fifth of the Sacro Monte di Varese's chapels
The fifth of the Sacro Monte di Varese's chapels
Travel tip:

The city of Varese is in an area in the foothills of the Alps that owes its terrain to the activities of ancient glaciers that created 10 lakes in the immediate vicinity, including Lago di Varese, which this elegant provincial capital overlooks.  Most visitors to the city arrive there because of the Sacro Monte di Varese (the Sacred Hill of Varese), which features a picturesque walk passing 14 monuments and chapels, eventually reaching the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte.  But the town itself and the handsome villas and palaces in the centre and the surrounding countryside are interesting in their own right, reflecting the prosperity of the area. The grand Palazzo Estense is one, now the city's Municipio - the town hall.

More reading:

The forgotten champion Gastone Nencini

The cycling star who was a secret war hero

The tragedy of Marco Pantani

Also on this day:

1492: The controversial Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope Alexander VI

1967: The birth of football coach Massimiliano Allegri


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Friday, 10 August 2018

Marina Berlusconi - businesswoman

Tycoon’s daughter who heads two of his companies


Marina Berlusconi has been president of her father's Fininvest company since 2005
Marina Berlusconi has been president of her
father's Fininvest company since 2005
Marina Berlusconi, the oldest of business tycoon and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s five children, was born on this day in 1966 in Milan.

Since 2003 she has been chair of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Italy’s largest publishing company, and since 2005 president of Fininvest, the Berlusconi holding company that is also Mondadori’s parent company.

She is or at times has been a director of several other Berlusconi companies, including Mediaset, Medusa Film, Mediolanum and Mediobanca.  Forbes magazine once described her as the most powerful woman in Italy and one of the 50 most powerful women in the world.

Born Maria Elvira Berlusconi, her mother is Carla Elvira Lucia Dall’Oglio, a woman the businessman met for the first time at a tram stop outside Milan Centrale railway station in 1964 and married the following year, at a time when he was an enterprising but relatively obscure real estate broker.

They were divorced in 1985, much to the disappointment of Marina and her brother, Piersilvio, after their father had begun a relationship with the actress Veronica Lario, who would become his second wife and the mother of his third, fourth and fifth children.

Marina Berlusconi has acquired the reputation of a hard-nosed businesswoman
Marina Berlusconi has acquired the reputation
of a hard-nosed businesswoman
After Silvio Berlusconi had made his fortune from Milano Due, a vast residential area built on cheaply-acquired redundant farmland near the city’s Linate airport, Marina was brought up in the family’s palatial 18th century home, the Villa San Martino, in the town of Arcore, about 25km (16 miles) northeast of Milan.

Educated at Leo Dehon high school in Monza, where she obtained her baccalaureate, Marina began studying law and then political science at university but left without completing her degree and instead began to work in her father’s companies.

She was appointed a vice-president of Fininvest at the age of 29 and was said to be closely involved in the development of financial and economic strategies and in the management of the group. At a time when female figures in Italian boardrooms were rare, she began to gain a reputation as a hard-nosed businesswoman not afraid to back her own instincts.

In 1998, working with her brother Piersilvio, she resisted an attempt by Rupert Murdoch to buy a controlling interest in her father’s TV company Mediaset, the Australian-born media tycoon dropping out after failing to negotiate a reduction in the price she felt the company was worth, when it was thought her father might soften.

In October 2005, she was appointed Fininvest president and chair, having already been given control of Arnoldo Mondadori publishing house following the death of Leonardo Mondadori, the grandson of the company’s founder.

Berlusconi addressing a shareholders' meeting at Mondadori
Berlusconi addressing a shareholders'
meeting at Mondadori
According to Forbes, in 2008 she was the ninth richest heiress in the world, in line to inherit a fortune of 9.4 billion dollars.

In the same year, she married her long-time partner, the former first dancer at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Maurizio Vanadia. They already had two children, Gabriele and Silvio, born respectively in 2002 and 2004.

Marina had been taken with Maurizio after watching him perform in Swan Lake and they met again when he was being treated for an injury by the physiotherapist at her father’s football club, AC Milan.

They were married in a small ceremony in a private chapel within the grounds of the family home at Villa San Martino.

Since 2013, when her father, who has been prime minister of four Italian governments, was barred from public office, there have been several periods of speculation that Marina would move into politics, taking control of her father’s Forza Italia party.

However, she has always denied that she has any political ambitions, despite describing her father as the victim of a witchhunt. In 2017 she said: "I think that the leadership in politics can not be transmitted by investiture or by dynastic succession".

In 2009 the Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti - a former Berlusconi minister -  awarded her the Gold Medal of the Municipality of Milan as "an example of Milanese excellence in the world and the ability to reconcile professional commitment and family life"

An 18th century painting of the Villa Borromeo-d'Adda
An 18th century painting of the Villa Borromeo-d'Adda
Travel tip:

The town of Arcore in the province of Monza and Brianza probably has Roman origins and two monasteries were established in the area in the Middle Ages. It was not until the 16th century that the town began to develop, when several noble Lombard families, such as the Casati, Durini, Giulini, Vismara, D'Adda, Barbò families, began building villas in the area’s attractive countryside, including the Villa Borromeo-d'Adda, the Villa la Cazzola and the Villa San Martino, which became the Berlusconi family residence. The town’s industrial base developed after Italian unification in 1861 when two railway companies opened stations.

Silvio Berlusconi's palatial home at Arcore, the Villa San Martino, which he bought in 1974
Silvio Berlusconi's palatial home at Arcore, the Villa San
Martino, which he bought in 1974
Travel tip:

The Villa San Martino, on the site of a former Benedictine monastery, was restored as a manor house by the Counts Giulini and substantially rebuilt by the wealthy Casati Stampa family in the 18th century, one of a group of grand farm houses or hunting lodges known as the ville delizie.  It was acquired by Silvio Berlusconi in 1974 when the last Casati owner, having fallen on hard times, decided to sell up and emigrate to Brazil. The 3,500m² villa, complete with art gallery, a library of ten thousand volumes, furniture and a park with stables, was valued at 1.7 billion lire but was reportedly bought by Berlusconi for only 500m lire.

More reading:

The rise of Silvio Berlusconi in business and politics

How Letizia Moratti became the first woman to be head of Rai

The day Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left office for the last time

Also on this day:

1535: The death of Ippolito de' Medici

2012: The death of Carlo Rambaldi, creator of E.T.

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Filippo Inzaghi - football manager

World Cup winning player turned successful coach



Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the verge of a place in Serie A
Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the
verge of a place in Serie A
The former Azzurri striker Filippo Inzaghi, who was a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad, was born on this day in 1973 in Piacenza.

A traditional goal poacher, known more for his knack of being in the right place at the right moment than for a high level of technical skill, Inzaghi scored 313 goals in his senior career before retiring as a player in 2012 and turning to coaching. He has recently been appointed manager of the Serie A team Bologna.

Inzaghi came off the substitutes’ bench to score the second goal as Italy beat the Czech Republic 2-0 to clinch their qualification for the knock-out stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany but found it impossible to win a starting place in competition with Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Francesco Totti and Alessandro del Piero in Marcello Lippi’s squad.

He also picked up a runners-up medal in Euro 2000, hosted jointly by Belgium and the Netherlands, where he scored against Turkey in the opening group game and against Romania in the quarter-final but was overlooked by coach Dino Zoff in his team for the final.

Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van Basten in his career with AC Milan
Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van
Basten in his career with AC Milan
His club career was one of success after success, principally during his time at Juventus and AC Milan.  A Serie A winner with the Turin club in 1998, he was twice a Scudetto winner with Milan, with whom he twice won the Champions League, beating his old club Juventus in the 2003 Final at Old Trafford, and overcoming Liverpool in the 2007 Final in Athens, when Inzaghi scored both Milan’s goals and was named Man of the Match.

Inzaghi’s goals tally, which includes 10 Serie A hat-tricks, is the seventh highest in Italian football history and he is the fourth highest goalscorer in European club competitions with 70 goals, behind only Raúl, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His 43 goals in international fixtures for Milan, for whom he scored twice against Boca Juniors of Argentina in the 2007 Club World Cup final, is a club record.

At international level, Inzaghi earned 57 caps for the Italy national team between 1997 and 2007, scoring 25 goals.

The sons of a textile salesman, Inzaghi and his younger brother Simone, who would also go on to be a striker in Serie A and the Italy national team, were brought up in the village of San Nicolò, just outside the city of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.

Filippo - also known as ‘Pippo’ - grew up wanting to emulate Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi and later Milan’s great Dutch striker Marco van Basten.

Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team
celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
He began his career with his local club, Piacenza, where he became a first-team regular after a couple of spells on loan to lower division clubs. His 15 goals in 37 matches in the 1994-95 Serie B season earned his club promotion to Serie A.

Despite their success, Piacenza accepted an offer from Parma for their star striker. However, though he became a favourite with the fans, Inzaghi’s career under coach Nevio Scala stalled after an injury and he was sold on again after one season.

The next move, to Atalanta of Bergamo, brought his big breakthrough. Even though Atalanta finished only 10th in Serie A, Inzaghi scored 24 goals, which made him the league’s Capocannoniere - top scorer. Incredibly, he scored either home or away against every other team and was named Serie A Young Footballer of the Year.

The success earned him a 23 billion lire move to Juventus, where he would stay for four years, in which time he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League twice, helped the bianconeri win the Scudetto in 1997-98 with 18 goals and scored six times in helping the team reach the Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Inzaghi turned to coaching when he  retired as a player in 2012
Inzaghi turned to coaching when he
retired as a player in 2012
Despite his 89 goals in 165 games for Juventus, he eventually fell out of favour and was sold again in 2001, this time for 70 billion lire to Milan, where he suffered a knee injury early in his first season but returned to form a potent partnership with Andriy Shevchenko and later Kaká in the 11 years that would be the most successful of his career, ultimately overtaking his hero Van Basten on the list of the club’s all-time top goalscorers.

A serious knee injury meant his involvement in the 2010-11 title-winning season was limited.  Less frequently used as a first-choice striker, he was told he would not be retained at the end of the following season, at which point he announced his retirement, a month short of his 39th birthday.

He began his coaching career immediately as head coach of AC Milan’s Primavera (Under-19) team and took over as head coach of the first team in July 2014 after the dismissal of his former playing colleague, Clarence Seedorf, under whose stewardship the club had failed to qualify for either of the European club competitions for the first time in 15 years.

Inzaghi could not bring about an improvement, but his dismissal after one season enabled him to find his first success as a club manager with Venezia, in the third tier of the Italian league system, known as Lega Pro.

Venezia won Lega Pro in Inzaghi’s first season in charge and reached the Serie B play-offs in his second year, although they missed out on a return to Serie A.

Nonetheless, with an impressive win ratio of more than 50 per cent from his 95 matches in charge, it was no surprise when Bologna, 15th in the 2017-18 Serie A season, offered him a return to the top flight.

The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
Travel tip:

Inzaghi’s home village of San Nicolò is a parish in the municipality of Rottafreno, which literally translates as ‘broken brake’ and often provokes laughter. It is thought the name may go back to the time of Hannibal and the Second Punic War (218-202 BC), when Hannibal was said to have been forced to spend the night in the village after his horse’s bit, which serves as a brake for the rider. Local people embraced the story so enthusiastically that the town’s municipal emblem includes the head of a horse with a broken bit.

Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Travel tip:

Piacenza is a city of 103,000 people in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments by Francesco Mochi featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma. The city is situated between the River Po and the Apennines, between Bologna and Milan. It has many fine churches and old palaces. Piacenza Cathedral was built in 1122 and is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.

More reading:

Marcello Lippi, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach

Nevio Scala and Parma's golden era

The World Cup heroics of Paolo Rossi

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on the bell tower that would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1939: The birth of politician Romano Prodi



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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Leo Chiosso – songwriter

Writer of lyrics and scripts was inspired by crime fiction

Leo Chiosso's hit Love in Portofino was the inspiration for an album by Andrea Bocelli
Leo Chiosso's hit Love in Portofino was the
inspiration for an album by Andrea Bocelli
Prolific songwriter Leo Chiosso was born on this day in 1920 in Chieri, a town to the south of Turin in Piedmont.

He became well known for the songs he wrote in partnership with Fred Buscaglione, a singer and musician, but Chiosso also wrote many scripts for television and cinema.

Chiosso met Buscaglione in 1938 in the nightclubs of Turin, where Buscaglione was working as a jazz singer. The formed a songwriting duo that went on to produce more than 40 songs.

However, their friendship was interrupted by the Second World War.  Chiosso was taken prisoner and deported to Poland, where he became friends with the writer Giovanni Guareschi, while Buscaglione was sent to a US internment camp in Sardinia.

It was only when Chiosso heard Buscaglione playing in a musical broadcast by the allied radio station in Cagliari that he knew his friend was still alive.

They were reunited in Turin after the war and continued to write songs together. Chiosso was an avid reader of American crime fiction, which inspired his lyrics and also suited Buscaglione’s amiable gangster image.

Chiosso's songwriting partner Fred Buscaglione used to favour an 'American gangster' look
Chiosso's songwriting partner Fred Buscaglione
used to favour an 'American gangster' look
Their first hit was Che bambola in 1956, which turned humorous tough guy Buscaglione into a celebrity.

A subsequent hit was Love in Portofino, recently recorded by Andrea Bocelli and also the inspiration for one of his albums.

The last time the pair worked together was on the 1960 film Noi duri, which featured Buscaglione and the famous Italian comic actor, Totò. Chiosso wrote both the story and the script for the film as well as the lyrics for the songs. But while they were making the film, Buscaglione was killed in a car crash.

Chiosso’s career continued to be successful without his friend and he wrote the lyrics for many famous songs. He was involved with the making of the popular television music show, Canzonissima and he wrote stories and scripts for cinema. He wrote his last song in 2003, Quando piove sulla spiaggia - When it rains on the beach.

After having lived for more than 30 years in Rome, Chiosso returned to his home town in the province of Turin.

Chiosso died in Chieri in 2006 at the age of 86. After his death, Mondadori published a book he had been working on towards the end of his life, which was entitled simply, Fred Buscaglione.

In 2008 the Leo Chiosso Festival della Canzone was initiated.

Chieri's Duomo, the church of Santa Maria della Scala
Chieri's Duomo, the church of Santa Maria della Scala
Travel tip:

Chieri, where Leo Chiosso was born and died, is a small town about 11km (7 miles) southeast of Turin. One of the main sights is the Gothic-style Duomo built in 1037 and reconstructed in 1405, which is the largest in Piedmont and has a 13th century octagonal Baptistery. In 2002 Chieri experienced Italy’s worst civilian gun massacre when an unemployed gun enthusiast with a history of mental illness killed seven people and then shot himself in Via Parini in the town.


Piazza Castello is at the heart of 'royal' Turin
Piazza Castello is at the heart of 'royal' Turin
Travel tip:

Turin, the capital city of the region of Piedmont, has some fine architecture that illustrates its rich history as the home of the Savoy kings of Italy. The beautiful square Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin.

More reading:

How Andrea Bocelli conquered the worlds of opera and pop

The enduring talent of Adriano Celentano

Domenico Modugno - writer of the iconic hit Volare

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on what would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1988: The birth of NBA basketball player Danilo Gallinari


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