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.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Antonio Ghirelli - journalist

Neapolitan writer specialised in football and politics


Antonio Ghirelli
Antonio Ghirelli, a patriarch of Italian journalism, was born on this day in 1922 in Naples.

As passionate about football as he was about politics, Ghirelli was equally at home writing about both. At different times he edited the three principal Italian sports daily newspapers, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport, but also wrote with distinction in the editorial and opinion pages of such respected titles as con L'Unità, Paese Sera, Avanti!, Corriere della Sera, Il Mondo and Il Globo.

Sandro Pertini, who was President of Italy from 1978 to 1985, so respected his wisdom that he invited him to be head of the Quirinale press office. His politics were in line with those of the Socialist Pertini, as they were with Bettino Craxi, Italy’s first Socialist prime minister, for whom he was principal press officer during Craxi’s two spells in office.

Ghirelli’s first taste of politics came at university in Naples, when he wrote for a young Fascist journal.  Any sympathies he might have had with the Fascists soon disappeared, however, as Mussolini’s early socialist ideals became corrupted by his fervent nationalism and intolerance of political opponents.

Instead, Ghirelli joined the Italian Communist Party and fought against the Fascists in the Second World War as a member of the Italian Resistance. With sponsorship from the Americans, he became a voice of Radio Free Bologna.

Ghirelli worked for the president, Sandro Pertini, at the Quirinale
Ghirelli worked for the president,
Sandro Pertini, at the Quirinale
In turn he was driven away from communism, mainly by the events in Hungary in 1956, when a people’s uprising against the rigidity and anti-democratic nature of Hungarian government was ruthlessly put down by Soviet troops.

He signed up instead with the Italian Socialist Party, his association with whom would later bring him into contact with Pertini.

Ghirelli cut his teeth in journalism with L'Unità, Milano Sera and Paese Sera, the afternoon edition of the left-wing Rome daily Il Paese, before his love of football and in particular his team, Napoli, drew him away from politics and into sport as the Rome editor of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

A period as editor of Tuttosport followed before Corriere dello Sport offered him the chance to apply his skills to editing the whole newspaper, which he did with success from 1965 to 1972.

In a departure from what seemed to be a secure position, he accepted the chance to work for Pertini, another left-winger in the political context who shared his enthusiasm for football. The arrangement seemed perfect for Ghirelli, only to fail after only two years over a press release concerning prime minister Francesco Cossiga, and pressure for him to resign over his supposed involvement in helping the left-wing terrorist, Marco Donat-Cattin – son of a Christian Democrat minister – to escape Italy.  Ghirelli resigned, it is said, to protect the young colleague who wrote the press release.

Ghirelli pictured during the 1980s
Ghirelli pictured during the 1980s
It was not long, however, before he returned to a position of influence in Rome’s political circles, appointed by Craxi to head the prime minister’s press office.

Once Craxi’s two periods in office were over, Ghirelli returned to mainstream journalism, first in television as the editor of TG2, the news section of Rai Due, and then as editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti!

A prolific author, Ghirelli wrote numerous books, several with a political theme but also many about the history of his beloved home city, Naples, and a number about Italian football.

He died in Rome in 2012, a month short of his 90th birthday, having remained politically active – he had joined the reconstituted Italian Socialist Party in 2008 – almost to the end.  Since his death, the Italian Football Federation has awarded an annual prize for football writing, the Premio Antonio Ghirelli.

Travel tip:

The Palazzo del Quirinale (more often known simply as Il Quirinale) takes its name from its location on Quirinal Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome. Built originally in 1583 as a summer residence for Pope Gregory XIII, it has been the official home of the president of Italy since the republic was established in 1946. The current president, Sergio Mattarella, is the 12th in that office to occupy the living quarters. He follows 30 popes and four Kings of Italy, it having been the official royal residence from 1871. Covering an area of 110,500 square metres, it is the ninth-largest palace in the world, with 1,200 rooms. By comparison, the White House in Washington is one 20th of the size.

The Villa Rosebery overlooks the Bay of Naples
The Villa Rosebery overlooks the Bay of Naples
Travel tip: 

In his affection for Naples, Ghirelli would have enjoyed the times in which Sandro Pertini chose to leave Rome for the official presidential residence in Naples, the Villa Rosebery, which occupies a 6.6-hectare (16.3 acres) site in the Marechiaro district, a well-to-do area of the city overlooking the north side of the Bay of Naples, with views of Vesuvius and, from some vantage points, the island of Capri. It is so named because it was once owned by a British prime minister, The 5th Earl of Rosebery. Formerly a Bourbon residence, it fell within the territory that became part of the united Italy after the overthrow of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860. Lord Rosebery bought it from a business associate, Gustavo Delahente, in 1897.  

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