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, 5 November 2016

Francesco Chiarello - survivor of two World Wars

Calabrian veteran lived to be 109 years old



Francesco Chiarello fought in the  First World War at 20 years old
Francesco Chiarello fought in the
First World War at 20 years old
Francesco Domenico Chiarello, who would live to be one of the world's longest surviving veterans to serve in both World Wars, was born on this day in 1898.

Chiarello was 109 years old when he died in June 2008.  Of soldiers anywhere on the planet who were active in the 1914-18 conflict and were called up again after 1939, only the Frenchman Fernand Goux outlived him.

Goux, from the Loiret department of central northern France, died just five months later, aged 108.

Chiarello also died as one of the last two surviving Italian soldiers from the First World War, outlived only by Delfino Borroni, from just outside Pavia in Lombardy, who was a tram driver during the Second World War.

Italian troops in Trento on November 3, 1918, in the final hours of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Italian troops in Trento on November 3, 1918, in the final
hours of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Borroni recovered from serious injuries sustained in an Allied bombing raid to be 110 years old when he died four months after Chiarello.

Chiarello, a farmer from Umbriatico in the province of Crotone in Calabria,  joined the Italian army in 1918 as a member of the 19th infantry regiment from Cosenza.

He was sent to the northern front at Trento where he took part in the final Battle of Vittorio Veneto, a seminal moment in the history of the conflict and of Italy.

The Italian victory brought the end of the war on the Italian Front and sealed the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Some Italians see Vittorio Veneto as the completion of the Risorgimento nationalist movement, in which Italy was unified.

In 1968, the Italian government created a medal to commemorate the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which was awarded to all veterans who fought for at least six months in the First World War.

After peace was declared, Chiarello continued his service in Albania, where he contracted malaria, and spent a period in Montenegro before returning to civilian life in Umbriatico in 1920.  He was called up for a second time in 1940 and was attached to a unit in Reggio Calabria, but was discharged after six months.

Examples of the Vittorio Veneto medal
Examples of the Vittorio Veneto medal
He remained in Umbriatico, a hill town accessible only by a viaduct over a steep valley, until he was in his 80s, at which point he moved with his son, Louis, to the coastal resort of Cirò Marina, about 30km away.

Chiarello attributed his long life to the clean air of Umbriatico and a simple Crotonese diet, of which the staples are fresh milk - a half-litre at breakfast and another at dinner - lunches combining pasta and fresh vegetables, fruit and occasionally ice cream, plus a daily tumbler (or two) of local red wine.

In Cirò Marina, where he bemoaned the air quality compared with Umbriatico, he would maintain his good health by taking long daily walks along the sea front.

A deputation of senior Italian army officers visited him shortly after his 109th birthday. They were concerned about how frail he might be but found him dressed and sitting in his armchair. His daughter-in-law, Maria, told them that Signor Chiarello suffered no rheumatic pains at all and refused to stay in bed in the mornings, even when offered the chance to do so.

Umbriatico is surrounded by steep ravines
Umbriatico is surrounded by steep ravines
Travel tip:

Umbriatico was the site, in 215 BC, of a battle between forces from the Carthagian and Roman empires in which Hannibal himself is said to have fought before escaping back to Carthage, leaving the Romans to overrun the city.  Nowadays, home to less than 1,000 inhabitants, it sits on a hill surrounded by ravines and connected to the outside world by just one road.  The medieval Cathedral of San Donato stands above a crypt that was originally a Greek pagan temple.

Travel tip:

The modern resort of Cirò Marina on the Ionian Sea is renowned for the quality of its bathing facilities and the cleanliness of its beaches and seawater. In 2015, Cirò Marina‘s beaches were awarded a blue flag certificate for the 15th time. The area is also known for its fine wine, Ciro DOC, and was named as Italy’s City of Wine in 2000.

Hotels in Cirò Marina from Hotels.com

More reading:


The armistice that followed Italy's victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto

Giuseppe Moscati - wartime doctor who became a saint

Also on this day



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