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.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Luca Zingaretti - actor

Found fame as TV detective Inspector Montalbano


Luca Zingaretti: famous for his portrayal of the Sicily detective Inspector Montalbano
Luca Zingaretti: famous for his portrayal
of the Sicily detective Inspector Montalbano
The actor Luca Zingaretti, best known for his portrayal of Inspector Montalbano in the TV series based on Andrea Camilleri's crime novels, was born on this day in 1961 in Rome.

The Montalbano mysteries, now into a 10th series, began broadcasting on Italy's RAI network in 1999 and has become a hit in several countries outside Italy, including France, Spain, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Zingaretti has played the famously maverick Sicilian detective in all 28 feature-length episodes to date, each one based on a novel or short story collection by the Sicilian-born author Camilleri, now in his 92nd year but still writing.

Although he had established himself as a stage actor and had appeared in a number of films, it was the part of Montalbano that established Zingaretti's fame.

Yet he had hoped to become a star on another kind of stage as a professional footballer.  Growing up in the Magliana neighbourhood in the south-west of Rome, he spent as much time as he could out in the streets kicking a ball and played for a number of junior teams.

Zingarette in a scene from Inspector Montalbano




He was good enough, at 17, to earn a semi-professional contract with Rimini, then in Serie B, but a scholarship to the Silvio d'Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts persuaded him to return to Rome, abandoning his football career.

Before training to be an actor, Zingaretti had played football at a semi-professional level in Rimini
Before training to be an actor, Zingaretti had played
football at a semi-professional level in Rimini
On graduating, he began to work in the theatre, appearing in Chekhov's Three Sisters, Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.  He did his first film work in 1987 and attracted critical acclaim for the first time in the director Marco Risi's movie The Wolfpack in 1994.

His profile was raised a little more when he played a Mafia boss in the popular TV series La Piovra in 1997 and it was soon afterwards that he learned of the plan to adapt Camilleri's Montalbano books for the small screen.

Zingaretti was intrigued because Camilleri had been one of his tutors at the Academy and he was familiar with the novels and their main character.  He auditioned and landed the part.

The exposure sent Zingaretti's career to another level, making him the most famous face on Italian TV and Italy's best paid actor.  Although he considers himself Roman in character, he immersed himself in the Montalbano role and earned Camilleri's respect for his authentic portrayal of a Sicilian, while the tough but caring detective, always rooting for the disadvantaged and exploited, won him a place in the affections of millions of viewers.

The city of Ragusa in southern Sicily, where much of the  location filming of Inspector Montalbano took place
The city of Ragusa in southern Sicily, where much of the
location filming of Inspector Montalbano took place
In Zingaretti's opinion, the show, which is filmed on location in Sicily, is popular because Camilleri captures the lost charm of the island he knew as a child and because he created in Montalbano an old-fashioned character, dealing with the worst the crime world can throw at him, rejecting corruption and retaining a strict moral code.

Zingaretti's film career has continued in tandem, bringing him recognition among his peers.  He won two awards for Best Actor - a David di Donatello from the Academy of Italian Cinema and a Karlovy Vary Award from the film festival of the same name - for Alla luce del sole, a real-life drama directed by Roberto Faenza in which Zingaretti played Pino Puglisi, a Roman Catholic priest killed by the Mafia.

Married to the Naples-born actress Luisa Ranieri, whom he met on the set of the TV series Cefalonia, he became a father for the second time in 2015.  Their wedding took place in Sicily at the Castello di Donnafugata, near Ragusa.

His brother, Nicola, is a politician, a former MEP and a member of the Democratic Party of Italy.  He is currently president of the region of Lazio.

A beautiful, atmospheric picture that captures  the dome of the Duomo di San Giorgio.
A beautiful, atmospheric picture that captures
 the dome of the Duomo di San Giorgio.
Travel tip:

Most of the Commissario Montalbano series is shot on location, mainly around the picturesque city of Ragusa, the historic centre of which perches on top of a hill called Monte Iblei. Rebuilt in Baroque style after the earthquake of 1693, it has charming narrow streets, pretty squares and some elegant buildings, including the 18th century Duomo di San Giorgio.

Travel tip:

The fictional town of Vigàta, where Montalbano is based in the Camilleri novels, is modelled on Porto Empedocle, a industrial port near Agrigento on the south coast of Sicily and Camilleri's home town.  Because of the association, the town changed its name to Porto Empedocle Vigàta, hoping to attract more visitors, although much of the exterior filming of buildings portrayed as being in Vigàta actually took place in Ragusa.  The police station where Montalbano works is the town hall in Scicli, another inland town a few kilometres south of Ragusa.


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(Photo of Duomo di San Giorgio by Gdiquattro via Wikimedia Commons)


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