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.

18 August 2019

18 August

Antonio Salieri - composer


Maestro of Vienna haunted by Mozart rumours

Antonio Salieri, the Italian composer who in his later years was dogged by rumours that he had murdered Mozart, was born on this day in 1750 in Legnago, in the Veneto.  Salieri was director of Italian opera for the Habsburg court in Vienna from 1774 to 1792 and German-born Mozart believed for many years that “cabals of Italians” were deliberately putting obstacles in the way of his progress, preventing him from staging his operas and blocking his path to prestigious appointments.  In letters to his father, Mozart said that “the only one who counts in (the emperor’s eyes) is Salieri” and voiced his suspicions that Salieri and Lorenzo Da Ponte, the poet and librettist, were in league against him.  Some years after Mozart died in 1791 at the age of just 35, with the cause of death never definitively established, it emerged that the young composer - responsible for some of music’s greatest symphonies, concertos and operas - had told friends in the final weeks of his life that he feared he had been poisoned and suspected again that his Italian rivals were behind it. Salieri was immediately the prime suspect.  Read more…


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Jacopo Peri – composer and singer


Court musician produced the first work to be called an opera

The singer and composer Jacopo Peri, also known as Il Zazzerino, was born on this day in 1561 in Rome.  He is often referred to as the ‘inventor of opera’ as he wrote the first work to be called an opera, Dafne, in around 1597.  He followed this with Euridice in 1600, which has survived to the present day although it is rarely performed. It is sometimes staged as an historical curiosity because it is the first opera for which the complete music still exists.  Peri was born in Rome to a noble family but went to Florence to study and then worked in churches in the city as an organist and a singer.  He started to work for the Medici court as a tenor singer and keyboard player and then later as a composer, producing incidental music for plays.  Peri’s work is regarded as bridging the gap between the Renaissance period and the Baroque period and he is remembered for his contribution to the development of dramatic vocal style in early Baroque opera.  Peri began working with Jacopo Corsi, a leading patron of music in Florence, and they decided to try to recreate Greek tragedy in musical form. They brought in a poet, Ottavio Rinuccini, to write a text and produced Dafne as a result.  Read more…

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Umberto Guidoni - astronaut


First European to step on to the International Space Station

The astronaut Umberto Guidoni, who spent almost 28 days in space on two NASA space shuttle missions, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.  In April 2001, on the second of those missions, he became the first European astronaut to go on board the International Space Station (SSI).  After retiring as an active astronaut in 2004, Guidoni began a career in politics and was elected to the European Parliament as a member for Central Italy.  Although born in Rome, Guidoni’s family roots are in Acuto, a small hilltown about 80km (50 miles) southeast of the capital, in the area near Frosinone in Lazio known as Ciociaria.  Interested in science and space from a young age, Guidoni attended the Gaio Lucilio lyceum in the San Lorenzo district before graduating with honours in physics specializing in astrophysics at the Sapienza University of Rome in 1978, obtaining a scholarship from the National Committee for Nuclear Energy, based outside Rome in Frascati.  He worked in the Italian Space Agency as well as in the European Space Agency. One of his research projects was the Tethered Satellite System, which was part of the payload of the STS-46 space shuttle mission.  Read more…

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17 August 2019

17 August

Cesare Borgia – condottiero


Renaissance prince turned his back on the Church

Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, became the first person in history to resign as a Cardinal on this day in 1498 in Rome.  Cesare was originally intended for the Church and had been made a Cardinal at the age of 18 after his father’s election to the Papacy. After the assassination of his brother, Giovanni, who was captain general of the Pope’s military forces, Cesare made an abrupt career change and was put in charge of the Papal States.  His fight to gain power was later the inspiration for Machiavelli’s book The Prince.  Cesare was made Duke of Valentinois by King Louis XII of France and after Louis invaded Italy in 1499, Cesare accompanied him when he entered Milan.  He reinforced his alliance with France by marrying Charlotte d’Albret, the sister of John III of Navarre.  Pope Alexander encouraged Cesare to carve out a state of his own in northern Italy and deposed all his vicars in the Romagna and Marche regions.  Cesare was made condottiero - military leader - in command of the papal army and sent to capture Imola and Forlì.  He returned to Rome in triumph and received the title Papal Gonfalonier from his father.  Read more…


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Pope Benedict XIV


Erudite, gentle, honest man was chosen as a compromise

Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini began his reign as Pope Benedict XIV on this day in 1740 in Rome.  Considered one of the greatest ever Christian scholars, he promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts and the study of the human form.  Benedict XIV also revived interest in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, reduced taxation in the Papal States, encouraged agriculture and supported free trade.  As a scholar interested in ancient literature, and who published many ecclesiastical books and documents himself, he laid the groundwork for the present-day Vatican Museum.  Lambertini was born into a noble family in Bologna in 1675. At the age of 13 he started attending the Collegium Clementianum in Rome, where he studied rhetoric, Latin, philosophy and theology. Thomas Aquinas became his favourite author and saint. At the age of 19 he received a doctorate in both ecclesiastical and civil law.  Lambertini was consecrated a bishop in Rome in 1724, was made Bishop of Ancona in 1727 and Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in 1728.  Following the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini was elected pope on the evening of August 17, 1740. Read more…


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Franco Sensi - businessman


Oil tycoon who rescued AS Roma football club

The businessman Francesco ‘Franco’ Sensi, best known as the man who transformed a near-bankrupt AS Roma into a successful football club, died on this day in 2008 in the Gemelli General Hospital in Rome.   He was 88 and had been in ill health for a number of years. He had been the longest-serving president of the Roma club, remaining at the helm for 15 years, and it is generally accepted that the success the team enjoyed during his tenure - a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia triumphs and two in the Supercoppa Italiana - would not have happened but for his astute management.  His death was mourned by tens of thousands of Roma fans who filed past his coffin in the days before the funeral at the Basilica of San Lorenzo al Verano, where a crowd put at around 30,000 turned out to witness the funeral procession.  The then-Roma coach Luciano Spalletti and captain Francesco Totti were among the pallbearers.  Sensi, whose father, Silvio, had helped bring about the formation of AS Roma in 1927 in a merger of three other city teams, grew up supporting the club and followed his father into a business career.  Read more…

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16 August 2019

16 August

Vincenzo Coronelli – globe maker


Friar whose globes of the world were in big demand

Vincenzo Coronelli, a Franciscan friar who was also a celebrated cartographer and globe maker, was born on this day in 1650 in Venice.  He became famous for making finely-crafted globes of the world for the Duke of Parma and Louis XIV of France.  This started a demand for globes from other aristocratic clients to adorn their libraries and some of Coronelli’s creations are still in existence today in private collections.  Coronelli was the fifth child of a Venetian tailor and was accepted as a novice by the Franciscans when he was 15. He was later sent to a college in Rome where he studied theology and astronomy.  He began working as a geographer and was commissioned to produce a set of globes for Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of Parma. Each finely crafted globe was five feet in diameter.  After one of Louis XIV’s advisers saw the globes, Coronelli was invited to Paris to make a pair of globes for the French King.  The large globes displayed the latest information obtained by French explorers in North America. They are now in the François-Mitterand national library in Paris.  Read more…

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Tonino Delli Colli – cinematographer


Craftsman who shot Life is Beautiful and Italy's first colour film

Antonio (Tonino) Delli Colli, the cinematographer who shot the first Italian film in colour, died on this day in 2005 in Rome.  The last film he made was Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, shot on location in Arezzo in Tuscany, for which he won his fourth David di Donatello Award for Best Cinematography.  Delli Colli was born in Rome and started work at the city’s Cinecittà studio in 1938, shortly after it opened, when he was just 16.  By the mid 1940s he was working as a cinematographer, or director of photography, who is the person in charge of the camera and light crews working on a film. He was responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image and selected the camera, film stock, lenses and filters. Directors often conveyed to him what was wanted from a scene visually and then allowed him complete latitude to achieve that effect.  Delli Colli was credited as director of photography for the first time in 1943 on Finalmente Si (Finally Yes), directed by László Kish.  In 1952 Delli Colli shot the first Italian film to be made in colour, Totò a colori. He had been reluctant to do it but was given no choice by his bosses.  Read more…

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Umberto Baldini – art restorer


Saved hundreds of artworks damaged by Arno floods

Umberto Baldini, the art historian who helped save hundreds of paintings, sculptures and manuscripts feared to have been damaged beyond repair in the catastrophic flooding in Florence in 1966, died on this day in 2006.  Baldini was working as director of the Gabinetto di Restauro, an office of the municipal authority in Florence charged with supervising restoration projects, when the River Arno broke its banks in the early hours of November 4, 1966.  With the ground already saturated, the combination of two days of torrential rain and storm force winds was too much and dams built to create reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Arno valley were threatened with collapse.  Consequently thousands of cubic metres of water had to be released, gathered pace as it raced downstream and eventually swept into the city at speeds of up to 40mph.  More than 100 people were killed and up to 20,000 in the valley left homeless. At its peak the depth of water in the Santa Croce area of Florence rose to 6.7 metres (22 feet).  Baldini was director of the conservation studios at the Uffizi, the principle art museum in Florence.  Read more…

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15 August 2019

15 August

Francesco Zuccarelli - landscape painter


Tuscan-born artist appealed to English tastes

Francesco Zuccarelli, who was considered to be the most important landscape painter to emerge from Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1702.  Zuccarelli’s picturesque Arcadian landscapes were especially appealing to English buyers, and he was more famous in England even than his contemporary, Canaletto.  His fame in England prompted Zuccarelli to spend two periods of his life there. He settled in London for the first time at the end of 1752 and remained for 10 years, enjoying great success.  After returning to Italy after being elected to the Venetian Academy, he went back to England from 1765 to 1771, during which time he was a founding member of the Royal Academy and became one of George III’s favourite painters.  Born in Pitigliano, a medieval town perched on top of a tufa ridge in southern Tuscany, Zuccarelli received his early training in Florence, where he engraved the frescoes by Andrea del Sarto in SS Annunziata.  Zuccarelli’s father Bartolomeo owned several local vineyards. With considerable income at his disposal, he sent Francesco to Rome at the age of 11 or 12.  Read more…

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Carlo Cipolla - economic historian


Professor famous for treatise on ‘stupidity’

Carlo Maria Cipolla, an economic historian who for many years was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and taught at several Italian universities, was born on this day in 1922 in Pavia.  He was one of the leading economic historians of the 20th century and wrote more than 20 academic books on economic and social history but also on such diverse subjects as clocks, guns and faith, reason and the plague in 17th century Italy.  Yet it was for his humorous treatise, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, that he became famous. The book, written very much tongue in cheek, became a bestseller in Italy after it was published in 1976.  In it, Cipolla produced a graph that divided the human species into four types, each sharing one characteristic of another type.  He proposed that there are (a) bandits, whose actions bring benefits for themselves but losses for others; (b) intelligent people, whose actions bring benefits for themselves and for others; (c) naive or helpless people, whose actions bring benefits for others but who tend to be exploited and therefore incur losses for themselves; and (d) stupid people, whose actions result not only in losses for themselves but for others too.   Read more…

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Gianfranco Ferré - fashion designer


Sought to create clothes for real women 

Gianfranco Ferré, who became one of the biggest names in Italian fashion during the 1980s and 1990s, was born on this day in 1944 in Legnano, a town in Lombardy north-west of Milan, between the city and Lake Maggiore, where in adult life he made his home.  Ferré was regarded as groundbreaking in fashion design in the same way as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent in that his clothes that were created with real people rather than catwalk models in mind, yet without compromise in terms of aesthetic appeal.  At the peak of his popularity, his clients included Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, the Queen of Jordan, Paloma Picasso, Sophia Loren and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.   Ferré first trained to be an architect, placing emphasis on the structure of his garments in which strong seams were often a prominent feature. He was once dubbed the Frank Lloyd Wright of fashion, which was taken to be a reference to the powerful horizontals in his designs.  His staff addressed him as "the architect".  He was also well known for inevitably including variations of white dress shirts in his collections, adorned with theatrical cuffs or multiple collars. Read more…

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14 August 2019

14 August

The Martyrs of Otranto


Victims of massacre made saints

More than 800 male inhabitants of the southern Italian city of Otranto were beheaded on this day in 1480 by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.  Legend has it that these men - 813 in total from the age of 15 upwards - were the only male survivors after Otranto, a port city some 35km (22 miles) southeast of Lecce, was captured by the Ottomans at the end of a 15-day siege.  According to some accounts, a total of 12,000 people were killed and 5,000 mainly women and children were enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.  The 813 were supposedly offered clemency in return for their conversion to Islam but all refused, taking their lead from a tailor called Antonio Primaldi, who is said to have proclaimed: "Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him."  As a consequence of their defiance, the 813 were led to the Hill of Minerva just south of the city and beheaded one by one, Primaldi being the first to be slain.  Otranto was recaptured the following year by Alfonso of Aragon, a condottiero who would later be crowned King of Naples. Read more…


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Pope Pius VII


Compromise candidate elected by conclave-in-exile in Venice

Pope Pius VII was born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti on this day in 1742 in Cesena in Emilia-Romagna.  He was elected Pope in a conclave that was forced to meet on the island of San Giorgio in Venice in 1799 because Rome was occupied by the French.  He was crowned with a papier mâché version of the Papal tiara in 1800 because the French had seized the original.  It was the last conclave to be held outside Rome.  Chiaramonti was a monk of the order of Saint Benedict as well as being a distinguished theologian. He was granted the title, Servant of God, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.  Chiaramonti had joined the order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14. He was later ordained as a priest and went on to teach at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome.  After one of his relatives was elected Pope Pius VI, Chiaramonti had a series of promotions that resulted in him becoming a Cardinal.  When the French revolutionary army invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti advised people to submit to the newly-created Cisalpine Republic, set up to rule in northern Italy by the French.  Following the death of Pope Pius VI while he was in French captivity, Chiaramonti became the compromise candidate for the papacy after others in the running were unacceptable to the Austrian cardinals.  Read more…


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Giorgio Chiellini - footballer


Juventus star renowned for defensive excellence

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 eight consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2019, 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.  Read more…


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Enzo Ferrari – car maker


Entrepreneur turned Ferrari into world’s most famous marque

Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the Scuderia Ferrari motor racing team and later the Ferrari sports car factory, died on this day in 1988 at the age of 90.  Known widely as Il Commendatore, he passed away in Maranello, a town in Emilia-Romagna a few kilometres from Modena, where he had a house, the Villa Rosa, literally opposite Ferrari’s headquarters, where he continued to supervise operations almost to his death. He had reportedly been suffering from kidney disease.  Since the first Ferrari racing car was built in 1947 and the Scuderia Ferrari team’s famous prancing stallion symbol has been carried to victory in 228 Formula One Grand Prix races and brought home 15 drivers’ championships and 16 manufacturers’ championship.  Always an exclusive marque, the number of Ferraris produced for road use since the company began to build cars for sale rather than simply to race is in excess of 150,000.  Born Enzo Anselmo Ferrari in 1898 in Modena, he attended his first motor race in Bologna at the age of 10 and developed a passion for fast cars rivalled only by his love of opera.  He endured tragedy in 1916 when both his brother and his father died in a flu epidemic.  Read more…

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The Martyrs of Otranto

Victims of massacre made saints


Details from a painting in Naples Cathedral that depicts the mass beheading of the 813 so-called Martyrs of Otranto by Ottoman invaders in 1480
Details from a painting in Naples Cathedral that depicts the mass beheading
of the 813 so-called Martyrs of Otranto by Ottoman invaders in 1480
More than 800 male inhabitants of the southern Italian city of Otranto were beheaded on this day in 1480 by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.

Legend has it that these men - 813 in total from the age of 15 upwards - were the only male survivors after Otranto, a port city some 35km (22 miles) southeast of Lecce, was captured by the Ottomans at the end of a 15-day siege.

According to some accounts, a total of 12,000 people were killed and 5,000 mainly women and children were enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.

The 813 were supposedly offered clemency in return for their conversion to Islam but all refused, taking their lead from a tailor called Antonio Primaldi, who is said to have proclaimed: "Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him."

The church of Santa Maria dei Martiri now stands on the hill where the executions are said to have taken place
The church of Santa Maria dei Martiri now stands on
the hill where the executions are said to have taken place
As a consequence of their defiance, the 813 were led to the Hill of Minerva just south of the city and beheaded one by one, Primaldi being the first to be slain.

Otranto was recaptured the following year by Alfonso of Aragon, a condottiero who would later be crowned King of Naples, supported by soldiers from the army of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.

The remains of the beheaded men were then collected and their skulls placed in a reliquary in the city's cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria Annunziata.

From 1485, some of the martyrs' remains were transferred to Naples and placed under the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello, the altar that commemorated the final Christian victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571.

Other relics can be found in Bovino, near the border of Apulia and Campania, at several locations in the Salento peninsula, and also in Naples, Venice and Spain.

The chapel in the Basilica di Santa Maria Annunziata in Otranto, which contained the skulls of the victims
The chapel in the Basilica di Santa Maria Annunziata in
Otranto, which contained the skulls of the victims
A canonical process for the 813 began in began in 1539, which led to their beatification in 1771 by Pope Clement XIV,  the process being confirmed in July 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, who issued a decree recognising that Primaldo and his fellow townsfolk were killed "out of hatred for their faith".

The martyrs were canonised on May 12, 2013 by Pope Francis, shortly after Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.

The story has become controversial recently with a number of modern historians casting doubt on the circumstances surrounding the massacre, raising questions about whether their canonisation was justified.

Among the most convincing evidence has been put forward by Daniele Palma, a scientist from Calimera, a town on the Salento peninsula, with a fascination for the history of his homeland.

Palma questioned whether a massacre on religious grounds was likely, given that the Ottoman Empire encompassed many countries with different religions with no particular history of persecution.

Daniele Palma's book "The Authentic Story of Otranto in the War against the Turks"
Daniele Palma's book "The Authentic Story
of Otranto in the War against the Turks"
He could find nothing to suggest ceremonial killings of the kind described in the story of the Martyrs were common, the evidence being that the Ottomans were much keener to sell their victims into slavery for lucrative returns.

Based on a trove of coded diplomatic letters held in the state archive of Modena, in Emilia-Romagna, dated during the 1480s, when the Duke of Ferrara was married to the daughter of the King of Naples, Palma believes that the massacre was probably the conclusion of a failed attempt to extract ransom payments from the families of the victims.

Palma found that the Turks had a practice of taking captives from the Salento coast and agreeing to return them to their families in exchange for 300 ducati.

The diplomatic letters that Palma decoded described bank transfers and payment negotiations for freeing various captives in the months following the siege of Otranto.

The men who were killed were likely to have been the ones whose families were too poor to secure their release, in which case the massacre was not an act of religious martyrdom and should not have been hailed as such by the Church.

The ruins of the Castello Aragonese  in Otranto
The ruins of the Castello Aragonese
in Otranto
Travel tip:

Otranto, a town of whitewashed houses nestling around a natural harbour, has become a main tourist destination in Apulia, not least for its nightlife during the summer months. Built around its castle, it was a larger town of considerable prestige before the Ottomans arrived. It never really recovered from the destruction wreaked upon it.  Nowadays, it offers a leisurely pace of life and translucent seas in a picturesque location.  A variety of musical and theatrical events are held in Otranto throughout the summer, usually centred around the castle, including a jazz festival in late July and the annual commemoration of the 800 Martyrs, which takes place on August 13–15. The scene of the massacre is now occupied by the church of Santa Maria dei Martiri on Colle della Minerva.  The town's Castello Aragonese, the ruins of which include a walkway with panoramic views, was built some years after the massacre.

The Chiesa Madre di Calimera, the town in the Grecia Salentina area of Salento. home to Daniele Palma
The Chiesa Madre di Calimera, the town in the Grecia
Salentina area of Salento. home to Daniele Palma
Travel tip:

Calimera, where the scientist and historian Daniele Palma lived, is a small town of 7,296 inhabitants in the Grecìa Salentina area of the Salento peninsula, between Gallipoli and Otranto.  Unusually, the inhabitants of Calimera speak Griko, a Greek dialect, in addition to Italian.  Among things to see is the Chiesa Madre di Calimera, dedicated to the patron Saint Brizio, which dates back to 1689. It is located in Piazza del Sole in the centre of the town.

More reading:

The birth in 1480 of Lucrezia Borgia, the scheming beauty who married for political advantage and was widowed twice

Venice's war against the Ottoman Empire

The Arab conquest of Sicily

Also on this day:

1742: The birth of the future Pope Pius VII

1984: The birth of footballer Giorgio Chiellini

1988: The death of car marker Enzo Ferrari


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13 August 2019

13 August

Aurelio Saffi – republican activist


Politician prominent in Risorgimento movement

The politician Aurelio Saffi, who was a close ally of the republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini during Italy’s move towards unification in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1819 in Forlì.  He was a member of the short-lived Roman Republic of 1849, which was crushed by French troops supporting the temporarily deposed Pope Pius IX, and was involved in the planning of an uprising in Milan in 1853.  Saffi was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in the Milan plot but by then had fled to England.  He returned to Italy in 1860 and when the Risorgimento realised its aim with unification Saffi was appointed a deputy in the first parliament of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.  At the time of Saffi’s birth, Forlì, now part of Emilia-Romagna, was part of the Papal States. He was educated in law in Ferrara, but became politically active in his native city, protesting against the administration of the Papal legates.  He soon became a fervent supporter of Mazzini, whose wish was to see Italy established as an independent republic and saw popular uprisings as part of the route to achieving his goal.  Read more…

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Camillo Olivetti - electrical engineer


Founder of Italy’s first typewriter factory

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.  Read more…

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Salvador Luria – microbiologist


Award winning scientist who advanced medical research

Nobel prize winner Salvador Luria was born on this day as Salvatore Edoardo Luria in 1912 in Turin.  The microbiologist became famous for showing that bacterial resistance to viruses is genetically inherited and he was awarded a Nobel prize in 1969.  He studied in the medical school of the University of Turin and from 1936 to 1937 Luria served in the Italian army as a medical officer. He took classes in radiology at the University of Rome and began to formulate methods of testing genetic theory.  When Mussolini’s regime banned Jews from academic research fellowships, Luria moved to Paris but was forced to move again when the Nazis invaded France in 1940. Fearing for his life, he fled the capital on a bicycle, eventually reaching Marseille, where he received an immigration visa to the United States.  In America he met other scientists with whom he collaborated on experiments.  In 1943 Luria carried out an experiment with the scientist Max Delbruck that demonstrated that mutant bacteria can still bestow viral resistance without the virus being present.  He became chair of Microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Read more…

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