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.

20 October 2019

20 October

Mara Venier - television presenter

Former actress became famous as face of Sunday afternoon

Mara Venier, a familiar face on Italian television for more than 35 years, was born on this day in 1950 in Venice.  The former actress, who made her big-screen debut in 1973, is best known for presenting the long-running Sunday afternoon variety show Domenica In, which has been a fixture on the public TV channel Rai Uno since 1976.  Venier, born Mara Povoleri, hosted the show for nine seasons in four stints between 1993 and 2014. Only Pippo Baudo, something of a legendary figure in Italian television, has presented more editions.  Fronting Domenica In, which was on air for an incredible six hours, was not only a test of stamina for the presenter but came with a huge sense of responsibility. In fact, holding the attention of the viewers was a patriotic duty, the show’s format having been conceived by the Italian government, faced with the global oil crisis in the 1970s, as something to tempt citizens to stay at home rather than use precious fuel for their cars.  Venier had been a movie actress, known largely to audiences in Italy, for two decades before she was invited to host Domenica In.  Read more…


Claudio Ranieri - football manager

Title-winning Leicester City boss is 68 today

Football manager Claudio Ranieri was born on this day in 1951 in Rome.  Ranieri, who won the English Premier League in 2016 with rank outsiders Leicester City, has managed 14 clubs in four countries in a 30-year career in coaching.  He also had a stint in charge of the Greece national team.  Among the teams he has coached are a host of big names - Internazionale, Juventus, Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina in Italy, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in Spain, Monaco in France and Chelsea in England.  He has won titles in lower divisions as well as Italy's Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey in Spain but until Leicester defied pre-season odds of 5,000-1 to win the Premier League, a major league championship had eluded him.  He had finished second three times, with Chelsea, Roma and Monaco.  Before turning to coaching, Ranieri was a player for 14 seasons. He began in Serie A with home-town club Roma, but enjoyed more success in the lower divisions, enjoying promotion twice with the Calabrian club Catanzaro, where he spent the biggest part of his career, and once each with the Sicilian teams Catania and Palermo.  Read more…


Dado Moroni - jazz musician

Self-taught pianist recorded first album at 17

The renowned jazz musician Edgardo ‘Dado’ Moroni was born on this day in 1962 in Genoa.  Moroni, who learned at the feet of some of the greats of American jazz music in Italian clubs in the 1980s and 90s, has recorded more than 25 albums, having released his first when he was only 17.  He has appeared as a guest on many more albums and built such a reputation as a pianist and composer that he was able to become part of the American jazz scene himself in the 1990s, when he lived in New York.  Moroni attributes his love of jazz music to his father’s passion for the genre, which meant that he grew up listening to the likes of Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Count Basie.  Using a piano his parents had bought for his sister, Monica, he taught himself to play many of the songs he heard on the record player, receiving his first informal tuition from his mother, who played the accordion.  Formal piano lessons were arranged for him with the Genoa jazz pianist Flavio Crivelli, who introduced him to the music of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie and contemporary pianists like Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson.  Read more…


19 October 2019

19 October

Umberto Boccioni - painter

Artist who died tragically young was key figure in Futurism

The painter Umberto Boccioni, who became arguably the leading artist of Italian Futurism before the First World War, was born on this day in 1882 in Reggio Calabria.  Futurism was an avant-garde artistic, social and political movement that was launched by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909.  Its ethos was to embrace modernity and free Italy from what was perceived as a stifling obsession with the past. The Futurists admired the speed and technological advancement of cars and aeroplanes and the new industrial cities, all of which they saw as demonstrating the triumph of humanity over nature through invention. Their work attempted to capture the dynamism of life in a modern city, creating images that convey a sense of the power and energy of industrial machinery and the passion and violence of social change.  Boccioni became part of the movement after meeting Marinetti in Milan early in 1910, after which he joined Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà and Luigi Russolo in signing Il manifesto dei pittori futuristi - the Manifesto of Futurist Painters.  In the same year, Boccioni completed one of his finest works, entitled La città che sale, which is translated as The City Rises and which many consider to be the first truly Futurist painting.  Read more…


Carlo Urbani – microbiologist

Infectious disease expert who identified SARS

The doctor and microbiologist Carlo Urbani, whose decisive action after discovering the deadly SARS virus saved millions of lives, was born on this day in 1956 in Castelplanio, near Ancona.  Dr Urbani himself died after contracting the condition, which had been given the name severe acute respiratory syndrome.  He identified it in an American businessman who had been taken ill in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, with suspected influenza.  Recognising quickly that what he was dealing with was not a straightforward case of ‘flu, Urbani, who was working in Vietnam as an infectious diseases specialist for the World Health Organisation, immediately alerted WHO headquarters in Geneva.  He convinced them that what he had discovered posed a grave threat to life and thus sparked the most effective response to a major epidemic in the history of medicine.  At a local level, be persuaded the Vietnamese health authorities to introduce a raft of preventative measures, including large-scale screening and prompt, secure isolation of suspected victims, that slowed the spread of the disease.  It was as a result of Urbani’s actions that the epidemic was largely contained.  Read more…


Fiorenzo Magni - cycling champion

Rider from Tuscany won Giro d'Italia three times

Italy lost one of its finest professional riders and its last link with the so-called golden age of Italian cycle racing when Fiorenzo Magni died on this day in 2012.  Tuscan-born Magni was a multiple champion, winning the Giro d'Italia three times, as well as three Italian Road Race Championships.  He had seven stage wins in the Tour de France, in which he wore the yellow jersey as race leader for a total of nine days.  His other major victories were in the demanding Tour of Flanders, in which he became only the second non-Belgian winner in 1949 and went on to win three times in a row, a feat yet to be matched.  Magni might have been even more successful had his career not coincided with those of two greats of Italian cycling, the five-times Giro champion Fausto Coppi, who was twice winner of the Tour de France, and Gino Bartali, who won three Giros and one Tour de France.  His reputation for toughness, however, was unrivalled.  He relished racing in harsh, wintry weather, as often prevailed in the Tour de Flanders, and refused to give in to injuries if he happened to have a fall.  The classic example of this came in the 1956 Giro d'Italia, his final ride in Italy's foremost event, when an accident left with a broken left collarbone only halfway through the race. Read more...


18 October 2019

18 October

Cristoforo Benigno Crespi - entrepreneur

Textile boss created industrial village of Crespi d’Adda

The entrepreneur Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, who became famous for creating a company-owned village around his textile factory in Lombardy, was born on this day in 1833 in Busto Arsizio, about 34km (21 miles) northwest of Milan.  A textile manufacturer, in 1869 Crespi bought an area of land close to where the Brembo and Adda rivers converge, about 40km (25 miles) northeast of Milan, with the intention of building a cotton mill on the banks of the Adda.  The factory he built was substantial, with room for 10,000 spindles, but as well the capacity to produce textiles on a large scale, Crespi recognised that it was essential to his plans to have a contented workforce. Consequently, following the lead of other manufacturers in the textile industry outside Italy, he set about providing on site everything to meet the daily needs of his employees.  In addition to the factory premises, he built homes for his workers, a school, a wash-house, a hospital, a church and a grocery store.  Houses were built in English-style parallel rows, with gardens and vegetable plots, and the streets were the first in Italy to have modern electric lighting. Read more…


NEWLudovico Scarfiotti - racing driver

Last Italian to win ‘home’ Grand Prix

The racing driver Ludovico Scarfiotti, whose victory in the 1966 Italian Grand Prix at Monza is the last by an Italian, was born on this day in 1933 in Turin.  His success at Monza, where he came home first in a Ferrari one-two with the British driver Mike Parkes, was the first by a home driver for 14 years since Alberto Ascari won the last of his three Italian Grand Prix in 1952.  It was Scarfiotti’s sole victory - indeed, his only top-three finish - in 10 Formula One starts. His competitive career spanned 15 years, ending in tragic circumstances with a fatal crash in 1968, little more than a month after he had come home fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix in a Cooper-BRM.  Scarfiotti in some respects was born to race. His father, Luigi, a deputy in the Italian parliament who made his fortune from cement, had raced for Ferrari as an amateur.  His uncle was Gianni Agnelli, the powerful president of Fiat.  He first raced in 1953 and he won his class in the 1956 Mille Miglia. He joined Ferrari in 1960 and finished fourth on the Targa Florio. Although he subsequently drove for OSCA and Scuderia Serenissima, he returned to Ferrari in 1962 and won the European Hillclimb championship for the marque.  Read more…


Luca Giordano – artist

Talented Neapolitan was renowned for being a fast worker

Luca Giordano, the most celebrated and prolific Neapolitan painter of the late 17th century, was born on this day in 1634 in Naples.  His nicknames were Luca Fa Presto - "Luca work faster" - said to derive from the way his father, the copyist Antonio Giordano, used to admonish him, Fulmine (the Thunderbolt) because of his speed, and Proteus, because he was reputed to be able to imitate the style of almost any other artist.  Giordano’s output both in oils and in frescoes was enormous and he is said to have once painted a large altarpiece in just one day.  He was influenced at the start of his career by Jose de Ribera, who he was apprenticed to, and he also assimilated Caravaggio’s style of dramatic intensity.  But after Giordano had travelled to Rome, Florence and Venice, his style underwent a profound change. The influence of Pietro da Cortona’s frescoes in the Pitti Palace in Florence can be detected in Giordano’s huge ceiling fresco in the ballroom of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, which he completed in 1683, and he became noted for his showy use of colour.  He went to Spain in 1692 as court painter to Charles II and stayed there till 1702. Read more…


Luke the Evangelist

Scientists believe Saint is buried in Padua

The feast day of St Luke the Evangelist - la festa di San Luca - is celebrated in Padua and throughout Italy on this day every year.  Luke the Evangelist is believed to be one of the four authors of the Gospels in the New Testament. Both the Gospel according to St Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles have been ascribed to him.  Luke is believed to have been a doctor who was also a disciple of St Paul. It has been claimed he was martyred by being hung from an olive tree, although other sources say he worked as a doctor until his death at the age of 84.  He is regarded as the patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students and butchers and it is strongly believed that his body lies in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Prato della Valle in Padua.  It is thought that Luke was a Greek physician who lived and worked in the city of Antioch in ancient Syria.  He is mentioned in some of St Paul’s Epistles and he is believed to have been with Paul in Rome near the end of his life.  After Luke’s death it is believed he was buried in Thebes but his remains were later transferred to Constantinople.  They are thought to have been bought by a Serb who later sold them on to the Venetian Republic.  Read more...


Ludovico Scarfiotti - racing driver

Last Italian to win ‘home’ Grand Prix

Ludovico Scarfiotti grew up in a background of cars and racing
Ludovico Scarfiotti grew up in a background
of cars and racing
The racing driver Ludovico Scarfiotti, whose victory in the 1966 Italian Grand Prix at Monza is the last by an Italian, was born on this day in 1933 in Turin.

His success at Monza, where he came home first in a Ferrari one-two with the British driver Mike Parkes, was the first by a home driver for 14 years since Alberto Ascari won the last of his three Italian Grand Prix in 1952.

It was Scarfiotti’s sole victory - indeed, his only top-three finish - in 10 Formula One starts. His competitive career spanned 15 years, ending in tragic circumstances with a fatal crash in 1968, little more than a month after he had come home fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix in a Cooper-BRM.

Scarfiotti in some respects was born to race. His father, Luigi, a deputy in the Italian parliament who made his fortune from cement, had raced for Ferrari as an amateur.  His uncle was Gianni Agnelli, the powerful president of Fiat.

He first raced in 1953 and he won his class in the 1956 Mille Miglia. He joined Ferrari in 1960 and finished fourth on the Targa Florio. Although he subsequently drove for OSCA and Scuderia Serenissima, he returned to Ferrari in 1962 and won the European Hillclimb championship for the marque.

Ludovico Scarfiotti in the Ferrari 312 with which he won the 1966 Italian GP
Ludovico Scarfiotti in the Ferrari 312
with which he won the 1966 Italian GP
By the following year, he had become a key member of Ferrari’s sports car team. That year, he won at both Sebring and Le Mans and finished second on the Targa Florio. He also made his F1 championship debut that year in the Dutch Grand Prix. His sixth place finish made him only the 31st driver to score points on his GP debut.

After suffering leg injuries preparing for the French GP a week later, he announced he would not race again. Nonetheless, he was persuaded to return in 1964 and was again successful in sports cars – winning at the Nürburgring.

In 1965 he was European Hillclimb champion and winner of the Nürburgring 1000km for a second time.  Scarfiotti returned to Ferrari’s F1 team when John Surtees suddenly quit in the middle of 1966.

The victory at Monza, in which he set a track record speed of 136.7mph (220.0 km/h), came in only his fourth world championship start.

Scarfiotti gained more successes racing sports cars in 1967, finishing runner-up at Daytona, Monza and Le Mans. He dead-heated for first place with team-mate Parkes in a non-championship F1 race at Syracuse in Sicily.

He and Ferrari parted company in 1968. Scarfiotti was in demand, however, and he soon secured drives with Porsche in hillclimbs and sports cars and, and became Cooper’s team leader, in F1.

Scarfiotti was only 34 years old when he  was killed in a crash in 1968
Scarfiotti was only 34 years old when he
was killed in a crash in 1968
His death occurred in June of that year at a hillclimbing event at Rossfeld in the German Alps. During trials, he lost control of his Porsche 910, veered off the track and down a tree-covered slope. As the car stopped abruptly, snared by branches, Scarfiotti was thrown out of the cockpit and struck a tree.

He was discovered, badly injured, some 50 yards from his car. He died in an ambulance of numerous fractures. Traces of burned runner along 60 yards (55m) of road close to the crash site indicated that Scarfiotti had slammed on his brakes at the final moment.

He left a wife, Ida Benignetti, and two children from a previous relationship.  He is buried at the Cimitero Monumentale di Torino.

The futuristic Fiat plant in the Lingotto district in Turin,  with its famous rooftop testing track
The futuristic Fiat plant in the Lingotto district in Turin,
with its famous rooftop testing track
Travel tip:

The former Fiat plant in the Lingotto district of Turin was once the largest car factory in the world, built to a linear design by the Futurist architect Giacomo Matte Trucco and featuring a rooftop test track made famous in the Michael Caine movie, The Italian Job. Redesigned by the award-winning contemporary architect Renzo Piano, it now houses concert halls, a theatre, a convention centre, shopping arcades and a hotel, as well as the Automotive Engineering faculty of the Polytechnic University of Turin. The former Mirafiori plant, situated about 3km (2 miles) from the Lingotto facility, is now the Mirafiori Motor Village, where new models from the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Jeep ranges can be test driven on the plant's former test track.

Monza's Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, which contains the jewel-bedecked Corona Ferrea
Monza's Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, which
contains the jewel-bedecked Corona Ferrea
Travel tip:

Apart from the motor racing circuit, Monza is notable for its 13th century Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, often known as Monza Cathedral, which contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones.  According to tradition, the crown was found on Jesus's Cross.  Note also the Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, which has a sumptuous interior and a court theatre.  Monza is a city of just under 125,000 inhabitants about 20km (12 miles) northeast of Milan.

Also on this day:

1634: The birth of composer Luca Giordano

1833: The birth of industrialist Cristoforo Benigno Crespi

2012: The death of cycling great Fiorenzo Magni


17 October 2019

17 October

Bartolommeo Bandinelli - Renaissance sculptor

Career scarred by petty jealousies

The sculptor Bartolommeo Bandinelli, a contemporary and rival of Michelangelo and Benvenuto Cellini in Renaissance Italy, was born on this day in 1473 in Florence.  He left his mark on Florence in the shape of the monumental statue of Hercules and Cacus in the Piazza della Signoria and his statues of Adam and Eve, originally created for the Duomo but today housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello.  Also known as Baccio Bandinelli and Bartolommeo Brandini, he was skilled in small sculptures but became known and disliked for his antagonistic manner with other artists and his particular hatred of Michelangelo, of whom he was bitterly jealous.  Giorgio Vasari, the artist and sculptor who was the first to compile a written history of art and artists, and who was a student in Bandinelli’s workshop, recalled an occasion when Bandinelli was so enraged by the excitement that ensued when a Michelangelo drawing was uncovered in the Palazzo Vecchio that, as soon as an opportunity arose, he tore it up.  Where Michelangelo was revered for everything he did, Bandinelli’s critics said he lacked the skills required to tackle large sculptures.  Read more…


The end of the Venetian Republic

Peace treaty saw Venice given away to Austria

A peace settlement signed in a small town in northeast Italy on this day in 1797 heralded a dark day for Venice as the Most Serene Republic officially lost its independence after 1,100 years.  The Treaty of Campo Formio, drawn up after the Austrians had sought an armistice when faced with Napoleon Bonaparte's advance on Vienna, included an exchange of territory that saw Napoleon hand Venice to Austria.  It marked the end of the First Coalition of countries allied against the French, although it was a short-lived peace.  A Second Coalition was formed the following year.  The Venetian Republic, still a playground for the rich but in decline for several centuries in terms of real power, had proclaimed itself neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, wary that it could not afford to sustain any kind of conflict.  But Napoleon wanted to acquire the city nonetheless, seeing it as a potential bargaining chip in his empire-building plans and had his eye on its vast art treasures.  In May 1797 he provoked the Venetians into attacking a French ship and used this as an excuse to declare war.  Read more…


Giovanni Matteo Mario - operatic tenor

Disgraced nobleman became the toast of London and Paris

The operatic tenor Giovanni Matteo Mario, a Sardinian nobleman who deserted from the army and began singing only to earn a living after fleeing to Paris, was born on this day in 1810 in Cagliari.  He was baptised Giovanni Matteo de Candia, born into an aristocratic family belonging to Savoyard-Sardinian nobility. Some of his relatives were members of the Royal Court of Turin. His father, Don Stefano de Candia of Alghero, held the rank of general in the Royal Sardinian Army and was aide-de-camp to the Savoy king Charles Felix of Sardinia.  He became Giovanni Mario or Mario de Candia only after he had begun his stage career at the age of 28. He was entitled to call himself Cavaliere (Knight), Nobile (Nobleman) and Don (Sir) in accordance with his inherited titles, yet on his first professional contract, he signed himself simply ‘Mario’ out of respect for his father, who considered singing a lowly career.  Although he was one of the most celebrated tenors of the 18th century, Italy never heard Mario sing. Instead, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London and the Théâtre Italien in Paris witnessed most of his triumphs.   Read more…


16 October 2019

16 October

Dorando Pietri - marathon runner

Athlete who made his fortune from famous disqualification

The athlete Dorando Pietri, who found fame and fortune after being disqualified in the 1908 Olympic marathon, was born on this day in 1885 in Mandrio, a hamlet near Carpi, in Emilia-Romagna.  In an extraordinary finish to the 1908 race in London, staged on an exceptionally warm July day, Pietri entered the White City Stadium in first place, urged on by a crowd of more than 75,000 who were there to witness the finish, only for his legs to buckle beneath him.  He was helped to his feet by two officials only to fall down four more times before he crossed the finish line.  Each time, officials hauled him to his feet and walked alongside him, urging him on and ready to catch him if he fell.  The final 350 yards (320m) of the event accounted for 10 minutes of the two hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds recorded as his official time.  Eventually, a second athlete entered the stadium, the American Johnny Hayes, but Pietri had staggered over the line before he could complete the final lap.  The American team was already unpopular with the British crowd, partly because of a row about a flag at the opening ceremony. They lost even more support after they lodged an objection to the result.   Read more…


Election of Pope John Paul II

How Karol Wojtyla became first non-Italian pope for 455 years

Pope John Paul II, who was to have a political and social influence unmatched by any pontiff since the Middle Ages, was elected to be the new leader of the Catholic Church on this day in 1978.  The result of the second Papal conclave in what became known as the Year of the Three Popes was announced after eight ballots. The new pontiff succeeded Pope John Paul I, who had died on September 28 after only 33 days in office, who had himself followed Pope Paul VI, who had passed away in August after reigning for 15 years.  The new man chosen was 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Kraków, the first non-Italian to hold office for 455 years since the Dutch Pope Adam VI, who served from 1522-23.  Wojtyla's stand against Poland's Communist regime had brought him respect but he was not seen as a Vatican favourite and his elevation to the highest office stunned the Catholic world.  Yet he would go on to become one of the most familiar faces in the world, remaining in post for almost 27 years, which made him the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX. Read more…


Dino Buzzati - author

Novelist likened to Camus whose short stories remain popular

The multi-talented author Dino Buzzati, whose output included five novels, several theatre and radio plays, a children’s novel, five opera libretti, some poetry, a comic book in which he also drew the illustrations, and several books of short stories, was born on this day in 1906 in Belluno.  Buzzati’s most famous novel, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940), titled The Tartar Steppe in the English translation, saw Buzzati compared to Albert Camus and Franz Kafka as a work of existentialist style, but it is for his short stories that he still wins acclaim.  A new collection entitled Catastrophe and Other Stories, which showcases Buzzati’s talent for weaving nightmarish fantasy into ordinary situations, was published earlier this year.  Buzzati, who worked as a journalist for the whole of his adult life and also painted prolifically, was the second of four children born to Giulio Cesare Buzzati, a distinguished professor of international law, and Alba Mantovani, a veterinarian born in Venice.  The family’s main home was in Milan but they had a summer villa in San Pellegrino, a village just outside Belluno in the foothills of the Dolomites, which was where Dino was born.  Read more…


15 October 2019

15 October

Gibbon's moment of inspiration

Walk around the Forum sparked idea for epic work 

The English writer and historian Edward Gibbon claimed that the inspiration to write the book that - unbeknown to him - would grant him literary immortality came to him while exploring the ruins of the Forum in Rome on this day in 1764.   Gibbon, who had enjoyed modest success with his first book, entitled Essay on the Study of Literature, was in Rome after deciding to embark on the Grand Tour, taking in the Italian cities of Florence, Naples and Venice as well as the capital.  Later, in his memoirs, Gibbon wrote that:  "It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind."  In the event, the book expanded to cover rather more than the city of Rome.  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ran to six volumes and as many as 5,000 pages in the original version and saw Gibbon, whose second work - Mémoires Littéraires de la Grande Bretagne - had been dismissed as having little merit by fellow writers and historians, eventually recognised as in the forefront of historians in Europe.  Read more…


NEW Giovanni Migliara – painter  

19th century artist captured many beautiful views for posterity

Giovanni Migliara, who rose from working as a theatre set designer to becoming court painter to King Charles Albert of Sardinia, was born on this day in 1785 in Alessandria in Piedmont.  He was first apprenticed to the sculptor Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, but then went on to study at the Brera Academy in Milan with Giocondo Albertolli.  He began working as a set designer with Teatro Carcano in Milan in 1804 and then moved to La Scala in 1805, where he served under the direction of Alessandro Sanquirico until 1809. His theatre work enabled him to acquire skills as a landscape artist and a creator of perspective.  Migliara had to stop working while he was suffering from a serious lung problem but from about 1810 he started painting miniatures and moved on to watercolours and then oils on canvas, silk and ivory, drawing inspiration from Venetian painters.  In 1812 he exhibited four views of Milan at the Brera Academy, officially signalling his return to the world of art.  Migliara specialised in painting views and romantic, historical subjects. Because of the high quality of his work he became a favourite of the aristocracy living in Milan at the time.  Read more…


Angelo Schiavio - footballer

Scored goal that won Italy's first World Cup

Angelo Schiavio, the hero of the Italian football team’s first World Cup victory in 1934, was born on this day in 1905 in Bologna.  The centre forward, a prolific goalscorer for his home-town club in Serie A, scored the winning goal in the final against Czechoslovakia to hand victory to the Azzurri in the 16-team tournament, of which the Italians were hosts.  In the final at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome, the Azzurri had gone behind to a goal by the Czech winger Antonin Puc with 19 minutes remaining, but equalised 10 minutes later through Raimundo Orsi, the Argentina-born forward from Juventus, taking the match into extra time.  Schiavio struck the decisive goal, driven home with his right foot from a pass by Enrique Guaita, another Argentine – one of 12 to represent Italy and Argentina in the days before playing for more than one nation was outlawed.  It was his fourth goal of the tournament, sparking massive celebrations in Rome and across Italy, albeit in a mood of triumph hijacked by Benito Mussolini and his Fascist regime.  Rumours circulated, almost inevitably, that match officials had been bribed to make decisions favouring the Italians, much to the frustration of coach Vittorio Pozzo.  Read more…


Roberto Vittori – astronaut

High-flying Colonel contributed to space research

Roberto Vittori, the last non-American to fly on board the US Space Shuttle, was born on this day in 1964 in Viterbo.  An Italian air force officer, Vittori was selected by the European Space Agency to be part of their Astronaut Corps and has participated in three space flights.  In 2011 Vittori was on board the Space Shuttle that travelled to the International Space Station to install the AMS-02 cosmic ray detector to examine dark matter and the origin of the Universe.  Vittori had to grapple the six-tonne AMS-02 with the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm and move it to the station for installation. This was to be the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.  He is one of five Italians to have visited the International Space Station. The others are Umberto Guidoni, who was the first European to set foot on board when he flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2001, Paolo Nespoli, who visited as recently as 2017 and at 61 is the European Space Agency’s oldest active astronaut, Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space.  Nespoli, who has participated in three International Space Station missions, was coming to the end of a 159-day stay when Vittori visited.  Read more…