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 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…


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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…


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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…


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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…


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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


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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…


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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…


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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…


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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…


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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…

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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…


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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…

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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…


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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…

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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…


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Giovanni Migliara – painter

19th century artist captured many beautiful views for posterity


Giuseppe Molteni's 1829 portrait of  Giovanni Migliara
Giuseppe Molteni's 1829 portrait of
Giovanni Migliara
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 then 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's Veduta di Piazza del Duomo in Milan is part
of the Fondazione Cariplo collection
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.

As his fame spread, he received commissions from the King Charles Albert, from Maria Cristina of Savoy, from Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, from Maria Louise, Duchess of Parma, from Archduke Rainer, Viceroy of Lombardy-Veneto and from the Prince of Metternich.

In 1822 he was named professor at the Brera Academy. Among his pupils were Giovanni Renica of Brescia, Luigi Bisi and Federico Moja.

Migliara took long trips to Tuscany, Piedmont, Lazio and Campania between 1825 and 1835, which gave him new subjects for his landscapes and interiors. 

After being presented with the Civil Order of Savoy, a type of knighthood, by Charles Albert, he was named painter to the crown in 1833.

Migliara died in Milan in 1837, having suffered a recurrence of his lung problems.  The funeral took place in the church of San Babila before his coffin was escorted to the cemetery by a military band and followed by more than 300 friends and colleagues.

Some of his paintings, including his 1928 Veduta di Piazza del Duomo in Milano, and his earlier Veduta del chiostro di Sant’Antonio a Padova, are among the Fondazione Cariplo collection at the Gallerie di Piazza Scala, located in the Palazzo Brentani and the Palazzo Anguissola, in Piazza della Scala in Milan.

Piazza del Duomo in Alessandria, the city in Piedmont where Giovanni Migliara was born in 1785
Piazza del Duomo in Alessandria, the city in Piedmont
where Giovanni Migliara was born in 1785
Travel tip:

Alessandria, where Migliara was born, is a city in Piedmont, about 90km (56 miles) southeast of Turin. The Battle of Marengo was fought in 1800, when Migliara would have been 15, between French and Austrian forces on a battle field to the east of Alessandria. The French victory helped to consolidate Napoleon’s grip on power back in Paris. Alessandria has a Museum of the Battle of Marengo in Via della Barbotta in the district of Spinetta Marengo. Alessandria is also a rail hub for northern Italy. The railway station opened in 1850 to form part of the Turin to Genoa railway and now also has lines to Piacenza, Novara, Pavia, Cavallermaggiore, Ovada and San Giuseppe di Cairo.

The Palazzo di Brera in Milan, where Migliara was a student and later a professor
The Palazzo di Brera in Milan, where Migliara was a
student and later a professor
Travel tip:

One of Migliara’s most famous paintings is a view of the Palazzo di Brera in Milan, which he executed in 1829 after he was named as a Professor at the Art Academy there. Palazzo di Brera was a Jesuit college from the 1570s to the 1770s. After that it became home to various cultural, scientific, and artistic institutions. Maria Theresa of Austria founded the Reale Accademia di Belle Arti there in 1776. The picture gallery, now the Pinacoteca di Brera, was opened in 1806. The Brera district is often recommended to visitors to Milan as an area where there are plenty of good restaurants.

Also on this day:

1704: The moment that inspired Edward Gibbon to write his epic history of Rome

1905: The birth of footballer Angelo Schiavio

1964: The birth of astronaut Roberto Vittori



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14 October 2019

14 October

Alesso Baldovinetti - painter


One of first to paint realistic landscapes

The early Renaissance painter Alesso Baldovinetti, whose great fresco of the Annunciation in the cloister of the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence is still intact, was born on this day in 1425 in Florence.  Baldovinetti was among a group described as scientific realists and naturalists in art which included Andrea del Castagno, Paolo Uccello and Domenico Veneziano. Influenced by Uccello’s use of visual perspective, he had a particular eye for detail and his views of the Arno river in his Nativity and Madonna are regarded as among Europe’s earliest paintings of accurately reproduced landscapes.  Veneziano’s influence is reflected in the pervasive light of his earliest surviving works, and he was also greatly influenced by Fra Angelico. Historians believe that in the 1460s Baldovinetti was the finest painter in Florence, although some argue that he did not fulfil all his initial promise.  Born into the family of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Baldovinetti rejected the chance to follow his father’s trade in favour of art.  In 1448, he became a member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. It is thought that he assisted with decorations in the church of Sant’ Egidio in Trastevere, with Veneziano and del Castagno. Read more…


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Alessandro Safina – singer


Tenor who has blended opera and rock

Alessandro Safina, a singer trained in opera who has expanded the so-called ‘crossover’ pop-opera genre to include rock influences, was born on this day in 1963 in Siena.  A household name in Italy, the tenor is less well known outside his own country but has recorded duets with international stars such as Sarah Brightman, South Korean soprano Sumi Jo, Rod Stewart, former Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, Scottish actor and singer Ewan McGregor and the superstar Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.  Safina’s biggest album to date is Insieme a Te, which has sold more than 700,000 copies.  It was written in collaboration with the Italian pianist and composer Romano Musumarra, who helped realise Safina’s ambition of creating soulful rock-inspired music for the tenor voice.  He first performed songs from the album at the Olympia theatre in Paris in 1999.  Safina was born into an opera-loving family and earned money to pay for singing lessons by working in his father’s stationery business.  Set on becoming a professional singer from the age of nine, he began attending a music academy at 12 and was accepted for a place at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence at 17.  Read more…


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Palma Giovane - painter


Mannerist took the mantle of Tintoretto 

The Venetian artist Jacopo Negretti, best known as Jacopo Palma il Giovane - Palma the Younger - or simply Palma Giovane, died in Venice on this day in 1628.  Essentially a painter of the Italian Mannerist school, Palma Giovane's style evolved over time and after the death of Tintoretto in 1594 he became the most revered artist in Venice.  He became in demand beyond Venice, too, particularly in Bergamo, the city in Lombardy that was a dominion of Venice, and in central Europe.  He received many commissions in Bergamo and was often employed in Prague by the Habsburg Emperor, Rudolph II, who was a noted art connoisseur.  Palma had been born into a family of painters. His great uncle, also called Jacopo, was the painter Palma Vecchio - Palma the Elder - while his father, Antonio Negretti, was a pupil of the elder Palma’s workshop manager, Bonifacio Veronese, whose shop and clientele he inherited after the latter’s death.  The younger Palma is said to have developed his skills making copies in the style of Titian, although the claim in some biographies that he worked in Titian's workshop in Venice is now thought to be incorrect.  Read more…

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