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.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Giuseppe Bonomi - architect

Roman who became famous for English country houses


Joseph Bonomi the Elder: a painting by John
Francis Rigaud (Royal Academy of Arts, London) 
The architect Giuseppe Bonomi, who became better known by his Anglicised name Joseph Bonomi after spending much of his working life in England, was born on this day in 1739 in Rome.

Records nowadays refer to him as Joseph Bonomi the Elder, to distinguish him from his son of the same name, who became a sculptor, artist and Egyptologist of some standing and tends to be described as Joseph Bonomi the Younger.

Joseph Bonomi the Elder is known primarily for designing a number of English country houses in the last two decades of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th.

Among these are Lambton Castle in County Durham, Barrells Hall in Warwickshire, Longford Hall in Shropshire and Laverstoke House in Hampshire.

He also designed the saloon the in grand house of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Portman Square in London, sadly destroyed during the Blitz in the Second World War.

A painting of Lambton Castle in County Durham, one of  several country houses in England designed by Bonomi
A painting of Lambton Castle in County Durham, one of
several country houses in England designed by Bonomi
Bonomi’s father hailed from the Veneto and was an agent to members of the Roman aristocracy. Giuseppe was educated at the Collegio Romano, the Jesuit school in Rome that taught pupils from elementary school to university age.

Giuseppe was said by his son Ignatius to have been a pupil of the architect Antonio Asprucci, although other sources suggest his pupillage was with the nobleman and amateur architect, Girolamo Teodoli (or Theodoli), famed as the designer of the Teatro Argentina and the belltower of the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, both in Rome.

Bonomi worked in Rome initially and acquired a good enough reputation that a meeting in Rome in with Robert and James Adam, the Scottish architects and furniture designers who developed the Adam Style, led to an invitation to work for the brothers in London, who employed him as a draughtsman from 1768.

He continued in their London office until 1781 but became frustrated at not receiving any large commissions of his own.

Barrells House in Warwickshire featured the deep portico that became one of Bonomi's trademarks
Barrells House in Warwickshire featured the deep portico
that became one of Bonomi's trademarks
In the meantime, he had become a close friend of the Swiss painter Angelica Kauffman and married her cousin, Rosa Florini. In 1783 Kauffman persuaded Bonomi to move back to Rome, where he returned with his wife and children. He became a member of the Clementine Academy in Bologna and the Academy of St Luke in Rome, which pointed to the move being permanent.

However, the following year he returned to London, probably to work on the design of Dale Park, a country house at Madehurst in Sussex. He was to remain in London for the rest of his life.

An innovative designer whose style has been described as modernised Roman, he added touches that became associated with his designs, such as porticoes that were deep enough to provide a shelter for carriages.

He became a favourite of the English nobility, his clients including John Lamboton, Earl of Durham, for whom he built the now Grade II listed Lambton Castle, near Chester-le-Street, and Heneage Finch, the Earl of Aylesford for whom he built the gallery at Packington Hall in Warwickshire. Bonomi also built St James’s Church, within the estate.

His fame was such that he was mentioned in Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility.

In 1804, Bonomi was appointed architect of St. Peter's at Rome, although this was apparently an honorary position only. He died in London in March 1808, aged 69, and was buried in the Marylebone Cemetery.  Another of his sons, Ignatius, followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an important architect in England, where he was active in particular in the northeast.

The Teatro Argentina in Rome was built over the site of the curia of the Theatre of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was killed
The Teatro Argentina in Rome was built over the site of the
curia of the Theatre of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was killed
Travel tip:

The Teatro Argentina, now an opera house and theatre located in Largo di Torre Argentina, is one of the oldest theatres in Rome, constructed in 1731. Commissioned by the Sforza-Cesarini family and designed by the architect Gerolamo Theodoli, it is built over part of the curia section of the Theatre of Pompey, the location of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Duke Francesco Sforza-Cesarini, who ran the Teatro Argentina Theatre from 1807 to 1815, was a theatre fanatic who reportedly ran up huge debts in pursuit of his passion. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville was given its premiere there in February 1816, just after Duke Francesco's death.

Piazza del Collegio Romano in the Pigna district of Rome, with the college building on the left
Piazza del Collegio Romano in the Pigna district of Rome,
with the college building on the left
Travel tip:

The Collegio Romano was a school established by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1551, just 17 years after he founded the Society of Jesus. It has occupied several locations, regularly moving to accommodate an increasing number of students, the final one being in the historic Pigna district of the city, on what is today called Piazza del Collegio Romano. Renamed the Gregorian University in 1584 after its benefactor, Pope Gregory XIII, it remained at that location until 1870, when the fall of Rome completed Italian unification. The Gregorian University moved to another location after the building was taken over by the Italian government. Today, its eastern wing houses the headquarters of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.

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Friday, 18 January 2019

Katia Ricciarelli - operatic soprano

Star whose peak years were in ‘70s and ‘80s


Katia Ricciarelli was at her peak
for about two decades
The opera singer Katia Ricciarelli, who at her peak was seen as soprano who combined a voice of sweet timbre with engaging stage presence, was born on this day in 1946 at Rovigo in the Veneto.

She rose to fame quickly after making her professional debut as Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème in Mantua in 1969 and in the 1970s was in demand for the major soprano roles.

Between 1972 and 1975, Ricciarelli sang at all the major European and American opera houses, including Lyric Opera of Chicago (1972), Teatro alla Scala in Milan (1973), the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1974) and the Metropolitan Opera (1975).

In 1981, she began an association with the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro that she maintained throughout the ‘80s.

In addition to her opera performances, Ricciarelli also appeared in a number of films.

Ricciarelli performed at most of Europe and America's major opera houses
Ricciarelli performed at most of Europe and
America's major opera houses
She was Desdemona in Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Giuseppe Verdi's Otello in 1986, alongside Plácido Domingo. In 2005 she won the best actress prize Nastro d'Argento, awarded by the Italian film journalists, for her role in Pupi Avati's La seconda notte di nozze (2005).

During her peak years, Desdemona was one of her signature roles, while she was also lauded for her Giulietta in Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi and for her interpretations of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.

Ricciarelli’s most well received Rossini roles were Bianca in Bianca e Falliero, Elena in La donna del lago and and Amenaide in Tancredi.

As her career progressed, however, critics felt her voice became weaker and without some of its former lustre, which some have attributed to her being pushed into heavy, highly dramatic roles, such as Puccini’s Tosca or Verdi’s Aida, which were not suited to her voice.

Ricciarelli often performed alongside José
Carreras, with whom she enjoyed a romance
Some opera audiences are notoriously unforgiving. Her Aida at the Royal Opera House in 1983 was greeted with whistles, while in 1986 in Trieste her debut as Bellini’s Norma provoked a similar reaction.

Her career as a singer at the top level ended in the early 1990s. She made her last appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in 1990 alongside Domingo in Otello.

Born Catiuscia Mariastella Ricciarelli to a poor family in Rovigo, she was brought up by her mother after her father died while she was very young.

She loved singing as a child and, once she was old enough to work, began to save money so that she could enrol at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Venice, where she had the opportunity to study with the soprano Iris Adami Corradetti.

Essentially a lyric soprano, following her operatic debut in 1969 she won the Voci Verdiane competition, organised by Italy’s national broadcaster Rai, and established herself as a superb Verdi singer, hailed as the “new Tebaldi” after Renata Tebaldi, a soprano popular in the postwar years who, coincidentally, had made her stage debut in Rovigo in 1944, two years before Ricciarelli was born.

Katia Ricciarelli has appeared regularly on Italian TV since she ended her career in opera
Katia Ricciarelli has appeared regularly on Italian TV
since she ended her career in opera
Although her operatic prowess began to wane, Ricciarelli’s career did not. She took up the position of artistic director of the Teatro Politeama di Lecce in 1998 and in the first decade of the new century turned increasingly to acting and appeared in television dramas such as Don Matteo alongside Terence Hill.

In 2005, after being nominated artistic director of the Sferisterio Opera Festival in Macerata, she began her professional relationship with the director Pupi Avati, who would later cast her in his film The Friends of the Margherita Bar (2009).

The following years brought a brief flirtation with politics as a centre-left candidate for the municipal council elections in Rodi Garganico, a beach resort near Foggia where she spent many summer holidays, more television work, an autobiography published in 2008 and a performance at La Fenice in Venice to mark her 40 years in music, in which she performed duets with pop singers Massimo Ranieri and Michael Bolton, among others.

A regular guest on variety and talk shows on Italian television, in 2006 she participated in the reality show La fattoria (Italian version of The Farm) on Canale 5.

Ricciarelli was married for 18 years to the TV presenter Pippo Baudo, the couple divorcing in 2004. She had previously had a relationship with her fellow opera star José Carreras that spanned 13 years.


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is Rovigo's main square
Travel tip:

Rovigo is a town of around 52,000 people in the Veneto, which stands on the plain between the Po and the Adige rivers, about 80km (50 miles) southwest of Venice and 40km (25 miles) northeast of Ferrara, on the Adigetto Canal.  The architecture of the town has both Venetian and Ferrarese influences. The main sights include a Duomo dedicated to the  Martyr Pope Steven I, originally built before the 11th century, but rebuilt in 1461 and again in 1696, and the Madonna del Soccorso, a church best known as La Rotonda, built between 1594 and 1606 by Francesco Zamberlan of Bassano, a pupil of Palladio, to an octagonal plan, and with a  campanile, standing at 57m (187ft), that was built according to plans by Baldassarre Longhena (1655–1673). The walls of the interior of the church are covered by 17th centuries paintings by prominent provincial and Venetian artists, including Francesco Maffei, Domenico Stella, Pietro Liberi, Antonio Zanchi and Andrea Celesti. There are the ruins of a 10th century castle, of which two towers remain.

The beach at Roci Garganico is famed for  its soft sand and shallow waters
The beach at Roci Garganico is famed for
its soft sand and shallow waters
Travel tip:

Rodi Garganico is a seaside resort in the Apulia region, a 100km (62 miles) drive northeast from Foggia on a promontory east of the Lago di Varano lagoon. It part of the Gargano National Park.  It has for centuries been a major centre for the production of citrus fruits such us Arance del Gargano (Gargano Oranges) and the Limone Femminiello del Gargano (Gargano Lemons), both with DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status under European Union regulations.  As well as its many kilometres of sandy beaches, Rodi Garganico attracts visitors for the local cuisine, which features orange salad, salad with wild onions, many fish dishes and a good variety of local wines.

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Thursday, 17 January 2019

Antonio del Pollaiuolo – artist

Paintings of muscular men show knowledge of anatomy


The portrait of Antonio del Pollaiuolo that appeared in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
The portrait of Antonio del Pollaiuolo that
appeared in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
Renaissance painter, sculptor, engraver and goldsmith Antonio del Pollaiuolo was born on this day in 1433 in Florence.

He was also known as Antonio di Jacopo Pollaiuolo and sometimes as Antonio del Pollaiolo. The last name came from the trade of his father who sold poultry.

Antonio’s brother, Piero, was also an artist and they frequently worked together. Their work showed classical influences and an interest in human anatomy. It was reported that the brothers carried out dissections to improve their knowledge of the subject.

Antonio worked for a time in the Florence workshop of Bartoluccio di Michele where Lorenzo Ghiberti - creator of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery - also received his training.

Some of Antonio’s paintings show brutality, such as his depiction of Saint Sebastian, which he painted for the Church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence and presents muscular men in action. His paintings of women show more calmness and display his meticulous attention to fashion details.

Del Pollaiuolo's Hercules and the Hydra was an example of his painting of muscular men
Del Pollaiuolo's Hercules and the Hydra was
an example of his painting of muscular men
Antonio was also successful as a sculptor and a metal worker and although he produced only one engraving, The Battle of the Nude Men, it became one of the most famous prints of the Renaissance.

In 1484 he went to Rome where he was commissioned to build a tomb for Pope Sixtus IV. In 1494 he returned to Florence to put the finishing touches to a work he had already started in the sacristy of the Church of Santo Spirito.

When he died in Rome in 1498, he was a rich man, having just finished a mausoleum for Pope Innocent VIII.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo was buried in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli.

The 14th century Palazzo Vecchio towers over the Piazza della Signoria in Florence
The 14th century Palazzo Vecchio towers
over the Piazza della Signoria in Florence
Travel tip:

Piazza della Signoria in the centre of Antonio del Pollaiuolo’s native Florence is an L-shaped square, important as the location of the 14th century Palazzo Vecchio, the focal point for government in the city. Citizens gathered here for public meetings and the religious leader Girolamo Savonarola was burned at the stake in the square in 1498. The piazza is a unique outdoor sculpture gallery filled with statues, some of them copies, commemorating major events in the city’s history. The Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence has become famous as the home of Michelangelo’s statue of David. It is the second most visited museum in Italy, after the Uffizi, the main art gallery in Florence. The Galleria dell’Accademia was established in 1784 in Via Ricasoli in Florence.

Inside the beautiful church of San Pietro  in Vincoli in Rome
Inside the beautiful church of San Pietro
 in Vincoli in Rome
Travel tip:

The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli - St Peter in Chains - where Antonio del Pollaiuolo was buried, is near the Colosseum in Rome. The Church is a shrine for the chains that are believed to have bound St Peter during his imprisonment. It is also the home of Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses, which was completed in 1515.

More reading:

Lorenzo Ghiberti, the sculptor and goldsmith who created, in the words of Michelangelo, the 'gates of heaven' in Florence.

When Pope Sixtus IV commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Simonetta Vespucci - Renaissance beauty

Also on this day:

1377: Pope Gregory XI returns the papacy to Rome

1472: The birth of Guidobaldo I, Duke of Urbino

1834: The birth of Antonio Moscheni, painter of chapel frescoes in India


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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Renzo Mongiardino - interior and set designer

Favourite of wealthy clients known as the ‘architect of illusion’


Renzo Mongiardino in his studio, where he created designs for some of Italy's finest houses
Renzo Mongiardino in his studio, where he created
designs for some of Italy's finest houses
Lorenzo ‘Renzo’ Mongiardino, who became Italy’s leading classic interior designer and a creator of magnificent theatre and film sets, died in Milan on this day in 1998.

He was 81 years old and had never fully recovered from an operation the previous November to install a pacemaker.

Mongiardino, who was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction during his career, worked on interior design for an international clientele that included the industrialist and art collector Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the business tycoons Aristotle Onassis and Gianni Agnelli, the former Russian prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł and his socialite wife Lee Radziwill, the fashion designer Gianni Versace, the Lebanese banker Edmond Safra, the Rothschild family and the Hearst family.

Nonetheless, he habitually rejected his reputation as the eminence gris of interior design. ''I'm a creator of ambiance, a scenic designer, an architect but not a decorator,'' he once said.

The only son of Giuseppe Mongiardino, a theatre impresario who introduced colour television to Italy, Mongiardino grew up in an 18th-century palazzo in Genoa and attributes his fascination with houses to the memory of standing with his mother in the palace’s vast entrance hall and hearing her lament how difficult it would be to furnish.

A detail from Gianni Versace's Rome residence, in Via Appia Antica, which Mongiardino decorated
A detail from Gianni Versace's Rome residence, in
Via Appia Antica, which Mongiardino decorated
It sparked his imagination and a desire to study design and architecture, although his parents insisted he enrolled at university to study law. Only after he failed numerous exams did they relent and allow him to abandon law in favour of architecture, in which his marks were outstanding.

As an architecture student in 1930s Milan he was exposed to the new orthodoxies of the Modern Movement, but, fortified by his belief in the classicism of the family home, he resisted their pull.

A man whose appearance prompted the New York Times to describe him as a “scholarly bohemian whose noble profile and fastidiously combed fan-like beard gave him an uncanny resemblance to Giuseppe Verdi”, Mongiardino's distinguished career in theatre and film set design included the 1964 Covent Garden production of Tosca, starring Maria Callas and La Traviata at La Fenice in 1972, directed by Giancarlo Menotti.

Later, Mongiardino moved into the cinema, collaborating especially with Franco Zeffirelli on films such as The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Romeo & Juliet (1968) - for both of which he was nominated for an Academy Award - and Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1971). He also decorated Zeffirelli’s house in Positano.

Mongiardino in a sauna he designed for a house in Turin known as the Fetta di Polenta for its unusual shape
Mongiardino in a sauna he designed for a house in Turin
known as the Fetta di Polenta for its unusual shape 
His first design project outside theatre sets was a house for his sister. In early 1950s, he accepted a friend's offer to decorate an apartment and felt he had found his vocation.

Though he was not against the use of rare fabrics and expensive antiques, ingenious fakery was a consistent element of Mongiardino's decors, hence the description once given to him of “the architect of illusion”.

Although money was not an object for many of his clients, he was more interested in the effects he could create than the materials he was using and maintained a loyal stable of painters, carpenters, gilders and model makers assembled in his theatrical work, who brought the tricks of the stage trade to their work on houses.

Consequently, intricate mosaics were often nothing more than paint and supposedly marble walls were actually layered with marble-pattern paper. One of his trusted artisans was expert at recreating the look and feel of materials such as Cordoba leather with the help of pressed cardboard and felt-tip pens.

At the time of his death, Mongiardino was working on two big projects. One was an ideal city in the tradition of Urbino or Pienza, for which he had the backing of a group of Italian businessmen. The other was the faithful reconstruction of La Fenice opera house in Venice, which had been gutted by fire in 1996 and was being restored by the architect Gae Aulenti

The Doge's Palace is one of many grand buildings in the wealthy Ligurian city of Genoa
The Doge's Palace is one of many grand buildings
in the wealthy Ligurian city of Genoa
Travel tip:

The port city of Genoa, the capital of the Liguria region, boasts many fine buildings thanks to the wealth generated by its history as a powerful trading centre and later by the growth of its shipyards and steelworks. Many of those buildings have been restored to their original splendour, of which the Doge's Palace, the 16th century Royal Palace and the Romanesque-Renaissance style San Lorenzo Cathedral are just three examples.  The area around the restored harbour area offers a maze of fascinating alleys and squares, enhanced recently by the work of Genoa architect Renzo Piano, and a landmark aquarium, the largest in Italy.

The rectorate of the Politecnico di Milano in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci
The rectorate of the Politecnico di Milano in Piazza
Leonardo da Vinci
Travel tip:

The Politecnico di Milano - the Polytechnic University of Milan - from which Mongiardino graduated, is the largest technical university in Italy, with about 42,000 students. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest university in Milan. It has two main campuses in Milan city, plus other satellite campuses in Como, Lecco, Cremona, Mantua and Piacenza. The central offices and headquarters are located in the historical campus of Città Studi in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci in Milan. According to the World University Rankings, it is in the top 10 in the world for both design and architecture.

More reading:

Gio Ponti, the visionary of design who helped shape modern Milan

How Gae Aulenti blazed a trial for women in Italian design

Renzo Piano - the Genoese architect behind the Shard and the Pompidou Centre

Also on this day:

1728: The birth of opera composer Niccolò Piccinni 

1749: The birth of playwright and poet Count Vittorio Alfieri

1957: The death of conductor Arturo Toscanini


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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Paolo Vaccari - rugby player

Italy’s second all-time highest try scorer


Paolo Vaccari played 64 times for the Italian  national rugby team, scoring 22 tries
Paolo Vaccari played 64 times for the Italian
national rugby team, scoring 22 tries
The rugby player Paolo Vaccari, who scored 22 tries for the Italian national team in a 64-cap career, was born on this day in 1971 in Calvisano, a town in Lombardy about 30km (19 miles) southeast of Brescia.

A versatile back equally adept at wing, centre or full-back, Vaccari was regarded as a strong defender and an intelligent and technically-sound back who frequently created scoring opportunities for players around him.

Although he was good enough to be selected for the renowned Barbarians invitational XV against Leicester Tigers in 1998, he played all his domestic rugby in Italy, enjoying great success.

He won the double of Italian Championship and Cup with Milan Rugby in 1994-95 and was a title-winner for the second time with his home club Calvisano 10 years later, during a run in which Calvisano reached the Championship final six years in a row, from 2001-06.

Vaccari had won his second Italian Cup medal with Calvisano in 2003-04.

In international rugby, his proudest moment was undoubtedly scoring Italy’s fourth try in their historic 40-32 victory over reigning Five Nations champions France in the final of the FIRA Cup in Grenoble in 1997.

Vaccari's father was one of the founders of Calvisano's rugby club
Vaccari's father was one of the founders
of Calvisano's rugby club
It was the first time the azzurri had beaten France and was a significant result in their bid to be admitted to the top table of international rugby in the northern hemisphere, a campaign that bore fruit in 2000 when they were admitted to the expanded Six Nations Championships.

He had also participated in Italy’s first victory over a British team, in a warm-up match for the 1995 World Cup, when the azzurri defeated Ireland in Treviso.

Injury caused him to miss Italy’s first match in the Six Nations, against Scotland in Rome in 2000, but he was present to contribute to another historic victory against Wales - their first against the Dragons - in Rome in the 2003 tournament.  He retired from international rugby the same year. Only Marcello Cuttitta, another winger, has scored more tries for Italy.

As a native of Calvisano, Vaccari was destined to become a rugby player.  The agricultural town in the flat Po plain has become a stronghold of Italian rugby, their team winning the Italian Championship six times.

His father was Gianluigi Vaccari, who along with Alfredo Gavazzi and Tonino Montanari founded the Calvisano club in 1970.

Paolo began to play with the oval ball virtually as soon as he could walk, dreaming of wearing the yellow and black jersey of the Calvisano team.
Vaccari scored in Italy's historic victory over France in  the 1997 FIRA Cup in Grenoble
Vaccari scored in Italy's historic victory over France in
the 1997 FIRA Cup in Grenoble

He became adept so quickly that his coach pitched him into a competitive junior match a year before he reached 13 years old - the minimum legal age - by picking him under the name of another player who was the correct age.  Vaccari’s first-team debut came in February 1987 - two weeks after his 16th birthday.

He made his international debut in the summer of 1991 as Italy toured Namibia and was selected for the first of his three Rugby World Cups the same year, scoring a try in a 30-9 victory over the United States and playing at historic Twickenham for the first time as Italy lost 36-6 to a strong England team, before taking part in a creditable azzurri performance against the formidable New Zealand All Blacks, who came out 31-21 winners.

In 1993, after six years in Calvisano’s first XV, Vaccari joined Amatori Milano - then owned by media magnate, AC Milan owner and future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and playing as Milan Rugby.

The attraction was to play alongside the likes of Italy’s Argentina-born fly half Diego Dominguez, the twins Massimo and Marcello Cuttitta, Franco Properzi and Massimo Giovanelli in a star-studded line-up. It was a testament to Vaccari’s standing in the game by that time that he was hired as a replacement for the great Australian David Campese.

Vaccari helped Calvisano win the Italian  Championship for the first time in 2005
Vaccari helped Calvisano win the Italian
Championship for the first time in 2005
Milan were beaten by L’Aquila in the Championship final in Vaccari’s first season but the following year, further strengthened by the arrival of another great Australian in Michael Lynagh, won the Championship-Cup double.

Vaccari subsequently received offers to play club rugby in South Africa but declined, partially because by then he was studying at the Politecnico di Milano and did not want to abandon his studies.

Instead, he returned in 1995 to his home club, Calvisano, where he would play for the remainder of his career.

As a member of the team that won Calvisano’s first Italian Championship in 2004-05 on their fourth consecutive appearance in the final, defeating Benetton Treviso, he remains a club legend.

Nowadays, a qualified architect, Vaccari is a member of the council of the Italian Rugby Federation.

Married to Azzurra and the father of two children - Martina and Leonardo - Vaccari is a vintage car enthusiast. In fact, he took part in the 2011 edition of the Mille Miglia, once a major endurance event in motor racing but now a festival of classic and vintage cars.

One of the gates that remain from Calvisano's  historic military fortifications
One of the gates that remain from Calvisano's
historic military fortifications
Travel tip:

Calvisano, a town of around 8,500 residents which has roots in Roman times, was something of a military stronghold in the 14th century, when it figured in the struggle between the warring Guelphs and the Ghibellines, who took shelter from their enemies in the town’s castle. In the first half of the 15th century, it became drawn into another fight between rival families as the Visconti and Serenissima battled for the control of the territory corresponding to the current province of Brescia.  Parts of the original fortification remain, including two gates, one to the north and the other to the south. The latter, adjoining Piazza Caduti, is surmounted by the Torre Civica.

Find a hotel in Calvisano with tripadvisor

Treviso is a city of canals, although on a somewhat smaller scale than Venice
Treviso is a city of canals, although on a
somewhat smaller scale than Venice
Travel tip:

Treviso, another major centre for rugby in Italy, is known to many visitors to Italy as the ‘second’ airport of Venice, yet it is an attractive city worth visiting in its own right, rebuilt and faithfully restored after the damage suffered in two world wars. Canals are a feature of the urban landscape – not on the scale of Venice but significant nonetheless – and the Sile river blesses the city with another stretch of attractive waterway, lined with weeping willows. The arcaded streets have an air of refinement and prosperity and there are plenty of restaurants, as well as bars serving prosecco from a number of vineyards. The prime growing area for prosecco grapes in Valdobbiadene is only 40km (25 miles) away to the northeast.

Treviso hotels from Hotels.com

More reading:

Andrea lo Cicero - rugby star turned TV presenter

Flavio Briatore - the entrepreneur behind the Benetton brand

Brescia's finest sportsman? - the AC Milan and Italy great Franco Baresi

Also on this day:

1623: The death of Venetian historian and statesman Paolo Sarpi

1926: The death of classic Neapolitan songwriter Giambattista De Curtis

1935: The birth of football coach Gigi Radice


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Monday, 14 January 2019

Alberico Gentili – international lawyer

Academic gave the world its first system of jurisprudence


Alberico Gentili moved to London after becoming a Protestant
Alberico Gentili moved to London after
becoming a Protestant
Alberico Gentili, who is regarded as one of the founders of the science of international law, was born on this day in 1552 in San Ginesio in the province of Macerata in Marche.

He was the first European academic to separate secular law from Roman Catholic theology and canon law and the earliest to write about public international law.

He became Regius Professor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford in England and taught there for 21 years.

Gentili graduated as a doctor of civil law in 1572 from the University of Perugia but was exiled from Italy in 1579 and eventually went to live in England because he became a Protestant.

He taught at Oxford from 1581 until his death in 1608 and became well-known for his lectures on Roman law and his writing on legal topics.

In 1588 Gentili published De jure belli commentatio prima - First Commentary on the Law of War. This was revised in 1598 to become Three Books on the Law of War, which contained a comprehensive discussion on the laws of war and treaties.

Gentili advised Queen Elizabeth I of England
Gentili advised Queen
Elizabeth I of England
Gentili believed international law should comprise the actual practices of civilised nations, tempered by moral, but not specifically religious, considerations.

Although he rejected the authority of the church, he used the reasoning of the canon law as well as the civil law whenever it suited his purpose.

The Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who wrote On the Law of War and Peace in 1625, drew extensively on Gentili’s work.

Legal scholars say Gentili was the first to attempt to provide the world with anything like a regular system of natural jurisprudence.

In 1584 Queen Elizabeth I’s ministers called on Gentili and another expert in international law, Jean Hotman, to advise them on how to deal with the Spanish ambassador in London, Don Bernardino de Mendoza, who was implicated in a conspiracy against the Queen.

De Mendoza was suspected of being involved in the Throckmorton Plot, which was a conspiracy to replace Elizabeth on the throne with her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots and to restore Catholicism to England.

The Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London, where Gentili is buried
The Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of
London, where Gentili is buried
Elizabeth’s Privy Council wanted De Mendoza tried for treason but they weren’t sure of the legality of this move.

Gentili and Hotman’s legal advice was that ambassadors were protected by diplomatic immunity ‘infallibly within the sanctuarie of the lawe of nations.’ They said the Privy Council’s only recourse was to order the recall of De Mendoza. Their advice was followed and when Mendoza ignored the order, he was transported to Calais.

From about 1590 Gentili practiced in the High Court of Admiralty in London where continental civil law rather than common English Law was applied.

In 1600 he was called to the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London.

Gentili died in London in 1608 and was buried in the Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London.

The square in the centre of San Ginesio in the Marche region, where Gentili was born
The square in the centre of San Ginesio in the Marche
region, where Gentili was born
Travel tip:

San Ginesio, where Gentili was born, is a town of 3,500 inhabitants in the province of Macerata in the Marche region, about 60 km (37 miles), southwest of Ancona. It is surrounded by imposing 14th century castle walls with all the defensive structures of the period still visible.  Buildings of note in the town include the Ospedale dei Pellegrini - The Hospital of the Pilgrims of St. Paul - a 13th century building with a low-column portico and loggia,and the Collegiate Church of San Ginesio, which has a noteworthy  terracotta decoration attributed to Enrico Alemanno, the only Florentine gothic style work in the Marche region.

Hotels in San Ginesio from Hotels.com

The Piazza della Repubblica in Perugia
The Piazza della Repubblica in Perugia
Travel tip:

Gentili graduated from the 14th century University of Perugia, in the capital city of the region of Umbria. A stunning sight on a hilltop, Perugia, which was one of the main Etruscan cities of Italy, is also home to a second university for foreign students learning Italian.  Some 34,000 students bolster the population each year. Perugia is a notable centre for culture and the arts, hosting the world-renowned Umbria Jazz Festival each July. It also hosts a chocolate festival – Perugia being the home of the Perugina chocolate company, famous for Baci.  The artist Pietro Vannucci, commonly known as Perugino, lived in nearby Città della Pieve and was the teacher of Raphael.

Hotels in Perugia from Expedia.co.uk

More reading:

The medieval lawyer who wrote more than 3,000 opinions

Giuseppe 'Peppino' Prisco - lawyer and football administrator

The feast day of Ercolano, patron saint of Perugia

Also on this day:

1451: The birth of Franchino Gaffurio

1883: The birth of dress designer Nina Ricci

1919: The birth of political survivor Giulio Andreotti


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Sunday, 13 January 2019

Veronica De Laurentiis - actress and author

Turned personal torment into bestselling book


Veronica De Laurentiis has become a fervent campaigner against domestic violence because of her own experiences
Veronica De Laurentiis has become a fervent campaigner
against domestic violence because of her own experiences
The actress and author Veronica De Laurentiis, the daughter of legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis and actress Silvana Mangano, was born on this day in 1950 in Rome.

Although she still works in film and TV, she is best known as a campaigner against domestic violence and the author of the bestselling book Rivoglio la mia vita (I Want My Life Back), which revealed details of the attacks she was subjected to in her first marriage. Her then-husband was subsequently jailed for 14 years.

Veronica De Laurentiis was cast in the blockbuster movie Waterloo - produced by her father - when she was just 18, alongside the great actors Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer.

She married young, however, and after the birth of her first child, Giada - now well known as a TV cook in the United States - decided to suspend her acting career in order to focus on parenthood.

Her mother, the actress Silvana Mangano, was a star of postwar Italian cinema
Her mother, the actress Silvana Mangano,
was a star of postwar Italian cinema
With her husband, she lived in Italy until after the birth of her third child, at which point they moved to America, living first in Florida, then New York and finally in Los Angeles.

They divorced four years after the birth of their fourth child, after which Veronica sustained herself by setting up a fashion design studio in Los Angeles, where he spent 12 years designing and making clothes.

At the same time she was undergoing therapy, the culmination of which was a book, published in 2006, the shocking revelations in which saw it rocket to the top of the Italian bestseller lists.

Rivoglio la mia vita not only described the violence she suffered in her marriage and the torment that followed her daughter’s revelation that she had been abused, as well as the personal guilt she felt at being unaware that it was going on.

De Laurentiis also wrote about her mother’s depression and the suicide attempt that she helped her father avert at the age of 14, but also about her life in the family villa near the Via Appia Antica in Rome and the aggressive, controlling nature of her father, not only over her mother’s career but her own.

Dino De Laurentiis, who died in 2010, opposed the publication of the book, telling Veronica she should not “wash the family’s linen in public” but she believed she had to go ahead.

Veronica's father, the film producer Dino De Laurentiis, opposed her book
Veronica's father, the film producer Dino
De Laurentiis, opposed her book
Nowadays, married again, she has returned to acting and does some television work, but devotes much time to touring Italy speaking to women about rape, abuse, and the importance of speaking out.

She wrote a second book - Riprenditi La Tua Vita – Le otto chiavi di Veronica  (Take Back Your Life - Veronica’s Eight Keys), published in 2009.

She set up a group in Los Angeles in which she encourages women to come forward and tell their stories and began a foundation to fight domestic violence in Italy.  The first “Silvana Mangano Centre” for the victims of domestic abuse, named in honour of her mother, opened in 2011 in Formia in Lazio, midway between Rome and Naples.

Formia is now a modern port on the coast between Rome and Naples but has a rich history
Formia is now a modern port on the coast between Rome
and Naples but has a rich history
Travel tip:

Situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea coast between Rome and Naples, in Lazio but close to the border with Campania, Formia is a port town with that was a popular resort with the wealthy of Imperial Rome. One of its major attractions is the Tomba di Cicerone, a Roman mausoleum just outside the town which is said to have been built for the great Roman orator Cicero, who was reportedly assassinated on the Appian Way outside the town in 43 BC. Formia is also home to the Cisternone Romano, an underground reservoir built by the Romans. testament to Roman ingenuity.  Other remains include the towers of the forts of Mola and Castellone, once two neighbouring villages. The generally modern feel of much of the resort and harbour today is down to a bombardment suffered during the Second World War, when Formia was a point on the German army’s Gustav Line and suffered heavy damage during the Allied invasion.

Formia hotels from Expedia.co.uk

The Via Antica Appia passes through the ancient port of Terracina
The Via Antica Appia passes through
the ancient port of Terracina
Travel tip:

The Via Appia Antica - the Appian Way - is the ancient Roman road that linked Rome with the port of Brindisi some 550km (340 miles) away in the southeast corner of the peninsula. Beginning at Porto San Sebastiano, two miles south of the Colosseum, while some of the road is open to traffic other sections are preserved in their original form, passing through pleasant parkland, and there are numerous catacombs, tombs and other ruins along the way.  It offers a quieter experience to visitors to Rome, away from the inevitably thronged centre. From Rome, the road followed a straight route to Terracina, followed the coast through Formia and then diverted inland through Capua and Benevento before crossing the peninsula to Taranto and on to Brindisi.

Search for hotels in Rome with tripadvisor

More reading:

Dino De Laurentiis - how a pasta trader from Naples helped put Italian cinema on the map

How Silvana Mangano shook off her sex-symbol image

Vittorio Gassman - Italy's 'Olivier'

Also on this day:

1898: The birth of opera singer Carlo Tagliabue

1936: The birth of operatic baritone Renato Bruson

1970: The birth of tragic cycling star Marco Pantani


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