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.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Beniamino Gigli opera singer


Tenor’s beautiful voice can still be appreciated today


One of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, Beniamino Gigli, died on this day in Rome in 1957.

The tenor Gigli died in Rome in 1957
The tenor Beniamino Gigli


Gigli is remembered for the beauty of his voice, which was powerful as well as mellow and smooth. He made many recordings, which have since been converted to CD and can still be enjoyed by opera lovers today. He also made some film appearances.

Gigli was born in Recanati near Ancona in the Marche in 1890. He sang in the choir at Recanati Cathedral as a boy and then went on to study music in Rome.

He won his first singing competition in Parma in 1914 and made his operatic debut in Rovigo in the same year, playing the role of Enzo in Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera, La Gioconda.

Gigli made his debut on the stage of La Scala in Milan in 1918 singing Faust in Boito’s Mefistofele. The orchestra was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. His first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York came two years later.

He became particularly associated with the roles of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme and the tile role in Giordano’s Andrea Chenier. His first appearance in London at Covent Garden was in Andrea Chenier in 1930.

Gigli rose to full international prominence after the death of Enrico Caruso in 1921 although experts have judged their voices to be very different.

The tenor also occasionally appeared on stage with his daughter, the soprano Rina Gigli, who was born in 1916.

Towards the end of his life he made appearances only at fundraising concerts. His last public appearance was at a concert in Washington two years before his death in Rome at the age of 67.
Travel tip:

Recanati is a town in the province of Macerati in the Marche region of Italy. The poet and writer Giacomo Leopardi was born there and it is also believed to be the place of origin of some of the Italian paternal ancestors of the Argentine footballer Lionel Messi.

La Scala houses a fascinatng costume museum
Teatro alla Scala in Milan
Travel tip:

La Scala in Milan has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days when it is closed in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30pm.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Gaetano Donizetti - opera composer

Birthplace of musical genius has been declared a national monument


Gaetano Donizetti, a prolific composer of operas in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1797 in Bergamo in northern Italy.

Donizetti came into the world in the basement of a house in Borgo Canale just outside the walls of the Città Alta, Bergamo’s upper town. He was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife. 

Casa Natale, Donizett's birthplace, has been declared a national monument
Casa Natale is now a national monument
He once wrote about his birthplace: “…I was born underground in Borgo Canale. One descended the stairs to the basement, where no ray of sunlight had ever been seen. And like an owl I flew forth…”

Donizetti developed a love for music and, despite the poverty of his family, benefited from early tuition in Bergamo. He went on to become a brilliant composer of operas in the early part of the 19th century and is considered to have been a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and many other composers who came after him.

Experts consider some of his work, for example Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore, to be among the greatest lyrical operas of all time.

After a magnificent international career, Donizetti returned to Bergamo, where he died in 1843 in the Palazzo Scotti, which is in a street in the Città Alta since renamed Via Donizetti.
  
Travel tip:

Donizetti’s Casa Natale (birthplace), which has been declared a national monument, is open free to visitors every weekend. You can still see the well from which the family drew their water and the fireplace where meals were cooked, which would have been their only source of heating.

To reach Donizetti’s birthplace, leave the Città Alta through Porta Sant’Alessandro and go past the station for the San Vigilio funicolare. Borgo Canale is the next street on the right and Casa Natale, at number 14, is in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses and is marked by a plaque.

A monument to Gaetano Donizetti in Bergamo's lower town
Monument to Donizetti in Bergamo's lower town
Travel tip:

A museum dedicated to Donizetti’s life and career is housed in the Palazzo Misericordia Maggiore, which is still a musical institute, in Via Arena in the Città Alta. Donizetti’s tomb is in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta. A monument dedicated to him was erected in the Città Bassa in Bergamo in 1897, 100 years after his birth, near the theatre that was renamed Teatro Donizetti in Via Sentierone.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Alberto Moravia - journalist and writer

Italian novelist recognised as major 20th century literary figure


The novelist Alberto Moravia was born Alberto Pincherle on this day in 1907 in Rome.

The island of Capri in the Bay of Naples

He adopted Moravia, the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, as a pen name and became a prolific writer of short stories and novels. Much of his work has been made into films.


Before the Second World War, he had difficulties with the Fascist regime, which banned the publication of one of his novels. But his anti-Fascist novel Il Conformista later became the basis for the film The Conformist directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

In 1941 he married the novelist Elsa Morante and they went to live first on Capri, and then in the Ciociaria area of Lazio before returning to Rome after it was liberated in 1944.

Moravia was once quoted as comparing a childhood illness, which confined him to bed for a long period, with Fascism. He said they had both made him suffer and do things he otherwise would not have done.

The rugged terrain of the Ciociaria

He died in Rome in 1990 and is remembered today as an important literary figure of the 20th century.

Travel tip

The beautiful island of Capri is a sophisticated holiday resort that has attracted many writers, artists and celebrities over the centuries. It lies in the Bay of Naples and can be reached by boat from Sorrento and Naples. 

Travel tip

The Ciociaria is a remote, hilly part of Lazio, lying south of Rome and north of Naples, dotted with small towns and villages. It is believed the area is named after the ciocie (sandals), traditionally worn by the people living and working in the area.

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Roberto Mancini footballer and manager

Skilful player now highly successful coach


Roberto Mancini, a former Italy player and the current manager of Inter Milan, was born on this day in Iesi in Marche in 1964.


Roberto Mancini enjoyed huge success with Internazionale in Italy and Manchester City in England
Roberto Mancini during his
Manchester City days.
Photo by Roger Goraczniak
Mancini, an elegant and creative forward, was capped 36 times by Italy between 1984 and 1994.

After a highly successful playing career, in which he was part of title-winning teams at Sampdoria and Lazio, he enjoyed immediate success as a manager, winning the Coppa Italia in his first season as Fiorentina boss in 2000. He repeated the feat in his second season at his next club, Lazio.

Mancini then made his mark emphatically at Internazionale, guiding the Milan club to a club record three consecutive Serie A titles, as well as winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (a pre-season match between the Serie A champions and the Coppa Italia winners) twice. This made him the club's most successful manager for 30 years.
While at Inter, he also set a Serie A record by winning 17 consecutive matches.

He was out of football for a year after being dismissed by Inter in 2008, despite his domestic success, having failed to meet expectations in the Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals in his first two seasons but being knocked out in the first round in the next two seasons.

He was hired by the wealthy new owners of Manchester City in December 2009 to replace Mark Hughes and again made a quick impact, winning the FA Cup in his first full season in charge, the club's first major trophy for 35 years. The following year, he led City to the Premier League title, making them English champions for the first time since 1968, after a 44-year wait.

Success in Europe again eluded him, however, and he was sacked in May 2013, following a shock defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup final.

After one season with Galatasaray in Turkey, he took charge at Inter for a second time in November 2014 and his customary winning ways quickly made an impact. Inter are the current leaders of Serie A.

Roberto Mancini guided Inter to three consecutive Serie A titles
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in San Siro, Milan, home
of Mancini's current club, Internazionale.
Photo by Dan Heap
Travel tip:

FC Inter-
nazionale Milano, often referred to simply as Inter, play their home games at the San Siro stadium in Milan, which they share with their rivals A C Milan. The stadium in Via Piccolomini is a short tram ride out of the centre of Milan.

Travel tip:

Iesi, the town of Roberto Mancini’s birth, is in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. Le Marche (the Marches) run along the Adriatic Sea in the central part of the peninsula and are considered a good holiday destination for travellers who like to get off the beaten track in Italy.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Amelita Galli-Curci soprano

Singer’s beautiful voice lives on thanks to early recordings


Amelita Galli-Curci, one of the most popular Italian opera singers and recording artists of the early 20th century, died on this day in 1963.

Galli-Curci was a ‘coloratura’ soprano and her voice has been described as ‘florid, vibrant, agile and able to perform trills.’

Although she was largely self-taught her voice was much admired and it has been claimed she was encouraged to become an opera singer by composer Pietro Mascagni, who was a family friend.

The Duomo is at the heart of Milan's music district, close to La Scala opera house.
Milan's Duomo, in the heart of the 'music' district
She was born Amelita Galli in Milan in 1881 and studied the piano at the Milan Conser-
vatory, which is in the centre of the city close to the Duomo. She made her stage debut as a soprano at Trani in 1906, singing Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. She was widely acclaimed and her career took off from there.

In 1908 she married an Italian nobleman, the Marquese Luigi Curci and she subsequently attached his surname to hers. She remained known as Amelita Galli-Curci even after they divorced.

She sang in just two performances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lamermoor with Enrico Caruso in Buenos Aires in 1915 but they went on to make wonderful recordings together.

Galli-Curci enjoyed immediate success in America after appearing as Gilda in Rigoletto in Chicago. It was while performing there in 1916 that she signed a contract with a recording company. Her voice can still be heard on surviving 78 rpm recordings and some of these have been copied on to vinyl and subsequently on to CD. Galli-Curci’s ‘Caro nome’ from Rigoletto is considered one of the greatest operatic recordings ever made.

She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1921 as Violetta in La Traviata and remained with the Met until ill health prompted her to retire from the stage in 1930.

She lived in California, where she taught singing, until her death at the age of 81.

Travel tip:

Milan’s Conservatory of Music (Conservatorio di Musica ‘Giuseppe Verdi’) is in Via Conservatorio, just off Via Pietro Mascagni, behind the Duomo. It is just a short walk from there to Teatro alla Scala in Piazza della Scala, with its fascinating museum focusing on the history of opera.

Travel tip

Trani, where Amelita Galli-Curci made her stage debut as a soprano, is a charming old port on the Adriatic in the region of Puglia. A major landmark is the 12th century Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino, an imposing building overlooking the sea. Close by is the Castello Svevo, which was built to defend Trani in the 13th century.



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Pope John XXIII


Farmer’s son went on to become ‘the Good Pope’


Pope John XXIII was born on this day in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.

He was originally named Angelo Roncalli and was part of a large farming family but he went on to become a much loved Pope and respected world leader.

Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII links Bergamo's railway station with Porta Nuova
Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII is one
of Bergamo's main streets

Angelo was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary in Bergamo at the age of 12. He went on to study theology in Rome and rose to become Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before being elected Pope in 1958.

His religious studies had been interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.

After the war he worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.

In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became a Cardinal in 1953 and expected to spend his last years serving the church in Venice.

But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.

Although he was Pope for less than five years, John XXIII enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace.

He is known to the Italians as ‘il Papa Buono’, ‘the Good Pope’, and, since his death on 3 June 1963, his birthplace, and the museum set up to commemorate his life, have become popular destinations for pilgrims.



Travel Tip:
The Biblioteca Civica houses works by Pope Giovanni XIII
The Biblioteca Civica in Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia

There is a permanent reminder of Pope John in Bergamo’s lower town where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. In the upper town there are works by Pope John XXIII in the Biblioteca Civica, the white marble Civic Library, in Piazza Vecchia and you can see the Seminary he attended at the end of Via Arena.


Travel Tip:

Now renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Pope John’s birthplace is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo . You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco and the summer residence at Camaitino that he used when he was a cardinal is now a history museum dedicated to him.
Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Carlo Collodi journalist and writer


Satirical journalist created Pinocchio to express his own views 


Carlo Collodi, in real life Carlo Lorenzini, was born on this day in 1826 in Florence.

A giant model of Pinocchio
in Collodi

Although he was a satirical journalist who supported the cause of the Risorgimento, Collodi is best remembered for his stories for children about the character, Pinocchio.

The writer was brought up in the small town of Collodi where his mother had been born and he adopted the name of her birthplace as a pen name.

After becoming interested in politics he started the satirical newpaper, Il Lampione, in 1848. This was censored by order of the Grand Duke of Tuscany so in 1854 he started Lo Scaramuccia, which was also controversial.

But in 1856 he wrote his first play for the theatre and, after Italian unification in 1861, he turned his attention to writing for children.

Collodi’s stories about his first main character, Giannettino, were a way of expressing his own political ideas through allegory.

He began writing Storia di un Burattino, The Story of a Marionette, in 1880. He went on to contribute regular stories about his character, who he later called Pinocchio, to a newspaper for children.

Pinocchio was created out of wood by a woodcarver, Geppetto, but he became a mischievous boy whose nose grew when he told a lie. His adventures were allegories of the political times in Italy.

After Collodi died in Florence in 1890, his stories, which became known as Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio) went on to become popular with children all over the world.

Travel tip:

You can visit Parco di Pinocchio ( Pinocchio Park ) in Collodi near the town of Pescia in Tuscany and walk through woodland, meeting the characters and seeing the places in the stories, which are represented through art and architecture. Visit www.pinocchio.it for more details.


Pescia's cathedral
Pescia's cathedral
Travel tip:

Pescia is in the northern part of Tuscany , close to the beautiful towns of Lucca , Pistoia and Montecatini Terme. It is known as the ‘city of flowers’, because of its large, wholesale flower market. In the church of San Francesco there are 13th century frescoes depicting the life of St Francis, which are believed to be an accurate representation of the Saint because the artist, Bonaventura Berlinghieri, actually knew him.

(Picture credits: Pinocchio by Sailko; Pescia cathedral by Miomiomio; via Wikimedia Commons)

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Prospero Alpini botanist


How coffee was first introduced to Europe


Physician and botanist, Prospero Alpini, was born on this day in 1553 in Marostica near Vicenza.
He is credited with being the first person in Europe to observe and write about the coffee plant.
Alpini went to study medicine in Padua in 1574 and after taking his degree settled down to work as a doctor in nearby Campo San Pietro.
Caffe Pedrocchi was opened in Padova in 1831.
Caffè Pedrocchi in the centre of Padua

He was very interested in botany and so to extend his knowledge of exotic plants he travelled to Egypt in 1580 as physician to George Emo, the Venetian consul in Cairo.
While in Egypt he studied date trees which helped him to work out that there were gender differences between plants. He wrote that: “the female date trees or palms do not bear fruit unless the branches of the male and female plants are mixed together, or, as is generally done, unless the dust found in the male sheath or male flowers is sprinkled over the female flowers.”
In 1593 he was appointed professor of botany at Padua University and, after he died in 1617, he was succeeded in the role by his son, Alpino Alpini.
His botanical work De Medicina Egyptiorum is believed to contain the first report on the coffee plant ever published in Europe or the western world.
The habit of drinking coffee, firstly for medicinal purposes and later for pleasure, was to spread quickly in Venice and several coffee houses were set up. The famous Caffè Florian was established in Piazza San Marco in 1720. In Padua, Caffè Pedrocchi opened in the centre of the town in 1831.

Travel tip:
The main building of Padua University, Palazzo del Bò in Via 8 Febbraio in the centre of Padua, used to house the medical faculty where Alpini would have studied. You can take a guided tour of the building and see the pulpit used by Galileo when he taught there between 1592 and 1610.

Travel tip:
Alpini was born near Vicenza, which has become famous as the city of Andrea Palladio, the most influential architect of his time. Many of the palaces and buildings designed by Palladio in the centre of Vicenza would have been built during the time Alpini was growing up there, before he went to Padua University.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Bernardo Pasquini composer

 

Talented musician wrote music for a queen


Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini died on this day in Rome in 1710.
He is remembered as an important composer for the harpsichord and for his musical scores for operas.
Rome's Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the city
Rome's Trevi Fountain is an example
of Baroque architecture
Along with his fellow composers Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, Pasquini was a member of the Arcadian Academy (Accademia degli Arcadi) which was set up in Rome by one of his patrons, Queen Christina of Sweden.
Pasquini enjoyed Queen Christina’s protection while he was living in Rome and produced several operas in her honour. These were staged in Rome initially and then replayed in theatres all over Italy .
Queen Christina had abdicated from the throne of Sweden in 1654, converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to live in Rome.
While living in the Palazzo Farnese, she opened up her home for members of the Arcadian Academy to enjoy music, theatre, literature and languages with her.
She became a cultural leader and protector of many Baroque artists, composers and musicians.
The Baroque period, which influenced sculpture, painting and architecture, as well as literature, dance, theatre and music, began in Rome around 1600. Rome's wealth of Baroque architecture includes the Trevi Fountain, built in 1762. It is the largest fountain in the style in the city.
Pasquini was born at Massa in Val di Nievole in Tuscany in 1637. He was a pupil of Marcantonio Cesti and Loreto Vittori before he went to live in Ferrara, where he was a church organist, and then moved on to Rome while he was still a young man.
He entered the service of Prince Borghese and, as a renowned virtuoso keyboard player, soon became the organist at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Pasquini was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, which is in Piazza San Lorenzo, just off Via del Corso in Rome .


Travel tip:
You can see Pasquini’s tomb in San Lorenzo in Lucina which bears a carved portrait of him.
Three years after Pasquini’s death, his nephew Felice Bernardo Ricordati and one of his pupils, Bernardo Gaffi, commissioned Pietro Francesco Papaleo to sculpt a portrait of the composer in Carrara marble.

Travel tip:
Palazzo Farnese in Piazza Farnese in the Campo De’ Fiori area of Rome is now being used as the French Embassy. Queen Christina was allowed to lodge in this important renaissance building by Pope Alexander VII while it was standing empty following the death of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese.




Saturday, 21 November 2015

Pope Benedict XV

           

Birth of ‘humanitarian’ pope who tried to stop the war 

Pope Benedict XV, who was pontiff for the whole of the First World War, was born on this day in 1854 in Genoa.

Pope Benedict XV was Archbishop of Bologna in 1907
Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, where Pope
Benedict was Archbishop
He tried to stop the war, which he described as ‘the suicide of a civilised Europe’, but when his attempts failed, he devoted himself to trying to alleviate the suffering.
Christened Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, the future Pope Benedict XV was encouraged to study law by his family and attended the University of Genoa. Afterwards his father reluctantly agreed to let him study for the priesthood and he was allowed to move to Rome.
Pope Pius X made him Archbishop of Bologna in 1907 and a Cardinal in 1914.
He became Pope Benedict (Benedetto) XV in September 1914 after World War I was already under way.
The new Pope immediately tried to mediate to achieve a peaceful settlement but his attempts were rejected by all the parties involved.
He then concentrated on humanitarian works, such as the exchange of wounded prisoners of war and the distribution of food among starving people.
Although Benedict had been chosen at the age of 59 because the church was looking for a long-lasting Pope, he died in Rome in 1922 after becoming ill with pneumonia and was buried under St Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict XV is possibly the least-remembered  pope of the 20th century as he was to be overshadowed by his successors, Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II.

Travel tip:
The birthplace of Pope Benedict XV was Genoa, ‘la Superba’, the capital of the region of Liguria and the sixth largest city in Italy. It has a rich maritime history, but still has a busy port and there is plenty to see and do. Genoa has been called a ‘city of contrasts’, with splendid palaces standing next to humble alleyways.

Travel tip:
Pope Benedict XV was Archbishop of Bologna from 1907 to 1914.   Bologna, with its iconic two towers (due torri), is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region and is home to the oldest university in the world. The famous meat sauce known as ragù  bolognese, which is served with tagliatelle, or more often outside Italy with spaghetti, was invented there.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Queen Margherita of Italy


Fashion icon had a mountain hut and a pizza named after her


 

Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna was born on this day in 1851 in Turin.

The little girl, who was to later become the Queen of Italy, was herself a member of the House of Savoy, as the daughter of Prince Ferdinand Duke of Genoa and Princess Elisabeth of Saxony.

She married her first cousin Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, in April 1868 when she was just 16. The following year she gave birth to Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, who later became King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. He was to be their only child.

The beautiful city of Naples
 warmly welcomed Queen Margherita
Margherita was crowned Queen of Italy in Naples when Umberto succeeded his father to the throne in January 1878 and she was warmly welcomed by the Neapolitan people.

Always stylishly dressed, in outfits designed and made in Italy and often covered in pretty brooches and pearls, she quickly became a fashion icon and was said to be much more popular than her husband, who was assassinated in 1900.

When her son succeeded his father and became King of Italy, Margherita devoted herself to charitable works and to encouraging cultural organisations.

Queen Margherita died in 1926 at her home in Bordighera in Liguria.

Travel tip:

A mountain hut is named after Queen Margherita on a peak of Monte Rosa, which is in the Piedmont region on the Swiss-Italian border. The Queen made the climb to Punta Gnifetti for the hut’s inauguration in 1893. It still remains the highest mountain hut in Europe .

Travel tip:

Pizzeria Brandi in Naples still proudly claims to be the ‘queen’s pizzeria’. Despite the debate about who first invented Pizza Margherita, with its tomato, mozzarella and basil topping, which replicates the colours of the Italian flag, it is worth visiting Pizzeria Brandi in Salita Sant’Anna di Palazzo in Naples to taste their version.

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Count Giuseppe Volpi


Birth of man who founded Venice film festival


Businessman and politician Count Giuseppe Volpi of Misurata was born on this day in 1877 in Venice.
Volpi was responsible for bringing electricity to Venice and the north east of Italy in 1903 and had an influence on the development of Porto Marghera, the industrial complex across the lagoon from Venice.
Venice Lido has staged the annual Venice Film Festival since 1932
The Lido is a vaporetto ride across
the lagoon from Venice
But, in 1932, as president of the Venice Biennale, Volpi arranged the first Venice Film Festival. It took place between 6 and 21 August on the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior at the Venice Lido.
The first film to be shown at the festival was Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The festival was considered a success and was held again in 1934 from 1 to 20 August, when it involved a competition for the first time.
In 1935 the Film Festival became a yearly event in Venice and the Coppa Volpi (Volpi Cup), an award for actors, was introduced for the first time.
Count Volpi received a personal letter from Walt Disney in 1939 thanking him, as president of the Biennale, for the prize awarded to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the film festival. This letter is now in the historical archives of the Biennale.
From 1921 to 1925 Volpi was governor of the Italian colony of Tripolitania, a former province of Libya, and as a result was created Count of Misurata in 1925. From 1925 to 1928 he served as Italy’s Finance minister.
Count Giuseppe Volpi of Misurata died in Rome in 1947.

Travel Tip:
The Venice Lido is an eight-mile long sand bank that forms a natural barrier between Venice and the open sea and has become a seaside resort for the city. It is the only island in the lagoon with roads and can be reached from the mainland by car ferry. The Lido is served by regular vaporetti from Venice and has plenty of hotels. It became a fashionable holiday destination at the beginning of the 20th century for royalty, writers and film stars. The atmosphere at the time was brilliantly captured by Thomas Mann’s book Death in Venice, published in 1912, which was made into a film in 1971 directed by Luchino Visconti.

Travel Tip:
The 73rd Venice International Film Festival, organised by La Biennale di Venezia, will be held on the Venice Lido from 31 August to 10 September 2016 . The aim of the festival will be to raise awareness of, and promote, international cinema as art, entertainment and also an industry. For more information about the 2016 festival, visit www.labiennale.org.




Wednesday, 18 November 2015

St Peter’s Basilica Rome

Artists helped design magnificent church


The stunning Renaissance Basilica of St Peter in Rome was completed and consecrated on this day in 1626.

The Basilica of St Peter was consecrated on 18 November 1626
The Basilica of St Peter in Rome
Photo by Jean-Paul Grandmont/CC-BY SA
Believed to be the largest church in the world, Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano was built to replace the original fourth century Basilica that had been constructed on what was believed to be the burial site of St Peter.

Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini were among the many artistic geniuses who contributed to the design of the church, which is considered to be a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.

Located within Vatican City, the Basilica is approached along Via della Conciliazione and through the vast space of St Peter’s Square.

The magnificent central dome of the Basilica dominates the skyline of Rome and the balcony above the entrance, where the Pope makes appearances, is instantly recognisable because of the many times it has been shown on television.

It is believed that St Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, was executed in Rome on 13 October, 64 AD during the reign of the Emperor Nero. He was buried close to the place of his martyrdom.

The old St Peter’s Basilica was constructed over the burial site 300 years later.
Archaeological research under the present day Basilica was carried out during the last century and Pope Pius XII announced the discovery of St Peter’s tomb in 1950.

Travel tip:

St Peter’s Square, Piazza San Pietro, was designed by Bernini to provide a large space where the faithful, from all over the world, could gather together. It is filled to capacity by pilgrims and visitors on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and other important religious occasions when the Pope appears to address the crowd. These events are televised and watched by viewers all over the world.
La Pietà is a highlight of any visit to St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Michelangelo's sculpture La Pietà
Photo by Stanislav Traykov/CC BY 2.5

Travel tip:

Inside the Basilica, look out for Michelangelo’s beautiful Pietà, a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the dead body of Jesus lying across her knees.  It is now kept behind bulletproof glass following its restoration after an attack badly damaged it. Michelangelo carved this sculpture from a single piece of Carrara marble in 1499 when he was only 24 and it is the only work he ever signed.




Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Umberto I assassination bid


First attempt to kill the king is foiled


An unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of King Umberto I of Italy on this day in 1878 in Naples.

Umberto was making a tour of the kingdom accompanied by his wife, Queen Margherita, and the Prime Minister, Benedetto Cairoli.

An attempt was made on the life of King Umberto I of Italy on a Naples street in 1878.
A street in the centre of Naples
While saluting the crowds in Naples from his carriage, Umberto was attacked by a young man, Giovanni Passannante, who was employed as a cook at the time, but was later described as an anarchist. Passanante jumped on the carriage and attempted to stab the King. Umberto warded off the blow with his sabre but the Prime Minister, who came to his aid, was wounded in the thigh.

This was the first of three attempts on the life of Umberto I, who despite being nicknamed il Buono (the good), lost popularity with his subjects as his reign progressed.

He had won the respect of people because of the way he conducted himself during his military career and as a result of his marriage to Margherita of Savoy and the subsequent birth of their son, who was to become King Victor Emanuel III.

But Umberto became increasingly unpopular because of his imperialist policies and his harsh ways of dealing with civil unrest.

Queen Margherita was loved in Naples, where she visited schools and hospitals and organised collections of toys and clothes for the children of poor families. She was seen to hold the hands of cholera victims without wearing gloves and to join the ordinary women in their processions to the Duomo.

The Duomo is the cathedral of Naples, off Via Tribunali.
The Duomo in Naples
As a result, Pizza Margherita, with its tomato, basil and mozzarella topping representing the colours of the Italian flag, was created in Naples and named after her.

However, her popularity didn’t help Umberto, who in 1897 was attacked again, this time by an unemployed ironworker who tried, but failed, to stab him in Rome.

But in July 1900 the anarchists were finally successful. Umberto was shot and killed in Monza by Gaetano Bresci, who later claimed he wanted to avenge those killed in a recent massacre in Milan, when military force had been used against ordinary people protesting about rising bread prices.

Travel tip:

Visit the Duomo in Naples, in Via Duomo, off Via Tribunali in the heart of the city. The cathedral was built over the ruins of two earlier Christian churches for Charles I of Anjou at the end of the 13th century. It is open 8.30 to 1.30 and 2.30 to 8 pm Monday to Saturday and 8.30 to 1.30 and 4.30 to 7.30 pm on Sundays.

Travel Tip:

Monza, the third largest city in Lombardia, is a few miles north of Milan . You can see the spot where King Umberto I was assassinated in Via Matteo da Campione. It is now marked by an Expiatory Chapel, built on the orders of Umberto’s son and successor, King Victor Emanuel III. The monument was designed by architect Giuseppe Sacconi.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

San Giuseppe Moscati



Remembering the kindness of a brilliant young doctor


Doctor and scientist Giuseppe Moscati was beatified by Pope Paul VI on this day in 1975.

Doctor and scientist beatified by Pope Paul VI

Giuseppe was renowned for his kindness and generosity to his patients and even before his death people talked of ‘miracle’ cures being achieved by him. 

He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1987 and his feast day is 16 November.

The saint was born into a big family in Benevento in 1880. His father, a lawyer and magistrate, was active in the church and Giuseppe inherited his piety.

The family later moved to Naples and Giuseppe enrolled in the medical school of the University of Naples in 1897.

On graduating he went to work in a hospital but continued with his brilliant scientific research and attended Mass frequently.

When Vesuvius erupted in 1906 he helped evacuate all the elderly and paralysed patients before the roof collapsed on the hospital under the weight of the ash.

He worked tirelessly to research ways to eradicate cholera in Naples and personally cared for many of the soldiers wounded in the First World War.

He was compassionate to the poor and often gave them money as well as free medical treatment and a prescription.

Giuseppe died suddenly in 1927 at the age of 46 having been on duty at the hospital only that morning.

After his death, a young man dying from leukaemia was suddenly and inexplicably cured, after his mother dreamed of a doctor in a white coat. She was able to identify the doctor as Blessed Giuseppe after her priest showed her a photograph of him. The young man who was cured was able to attend the canonisation ceremony of Giuseppe Moscati by the Pope.

The Santuario del Carmine overlooks Sorrento's Piazza Tasso
The Santuario del Carmine
overlooks Piazza Tasso

Travel Tip:

In ancient times, Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy and there are many Roman remains there, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an ampitheatre. In the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta there is a marble statue of Saint Giuseppe Moscati in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

Travel Tip:

Overlooking Sorrento’s main square, Piazza Tasso, the yellow-painted, 16th century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine has a shrine to Giuseppe Moscati in a little side chapel where people can pray to the sainted doctor for comfort and relief.

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