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, 4 August 2017

Giovanni Spadolini - politician

The first non-Christian Democrat to lead Italian Republic


Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini, who was the Italian Republic’s first prime minister not to be drawn from the Christian Democrats and was one of Italy's most respected politicians, died on this day in 1994.

In a country where leading politicians and businessman rarely survive a whole career without becoming embroiled in one corruption scandal or another, he went to the grave with his reputation for honesty intact.

Although he was an expert on Italian unification and became a professor of contemporary history at the University of Florence when he was only 25, a background that gave him a deep knowledge of Italian politics, he first built a career as a journalist.

He became a political columnist for several magazines and newspapers, including Il Borghese, Il Mondo and Il Messaggero, and was appointed editor of the Bologna daily II Resto del Carlino in 1955, at the age of 30.

In 1968, having doubled Il Resto’s circulation, he left Bologna to become the editor at Corriere della Sera, in Milan, where he remained until 1972.  It was while editing the Corriere that he became known for his anti-extremist stance, condemning violent student activists on the left and terrorists on the right in equal measure.

Under his stewardship, the Corriere took a strong anti-Communist stance, provoking attacks on its offices by angry demonstrators. Once, a stone thrown by a demonstrator smashed through Spadolini’s office window. He picked it up and placed it on his desk, where it remained throughout his time as editor, as a reminder of the turmoil brought about by political extremism.

Prime Minister Spadolini with the Italian president, Sandro Pertini
Prime Minister Spadolini (right) with the
Italian president, Sandro Pertini
During his time in Milan, Spadolini was persuaded to enter politics. In 1972, after leaving the Corriere, he was elected senator as an independent with the Republican Party. He was appointed Minister of Cultural Affairs in Aldo Moro’s cabinet in 1974.

He became leader of the Italian Republican Party in 1979, a position he held until 1987, and in 1981 he was chosen to be Italy's first non-Christian-Democrat prime minister by the Socialist President, Sandro Pertini.

In partnership, these two men did much to restore the credibility of Italy's political institutions after years of terrorist violence and the scandal of the secret P2 Masonic lodge, a secret society that included politicians, businessmen, some high-ranking military officers and policemen, that attempted to create a ‘state within a state.’  Spadolini introduced laws suppressing secret organisations.

It was during Spadolini’s time in office that the anti-terrorist unit of the Italian police freed the United States general James Lee Dozier, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades.  He also achieved a drop in inflation from 22 per cent to 16 per cent during his 18 months in office.

Spadolini, born into a bourgeois Florentine family, was known as a connoisseur of good food and drink and his wide girth became the target of Italy's political cartoonists.

Yet, in the 1983 national election, the Republican Party capitalised on Spadolini's popularity, realising 5.1 per cent of the vote, the highest they had achieved.

The Spadolini villa outside Florence is now the home of a cultural foundation
The Spadolini villa outside Florence is
now the home of a cultural foundation
He became dismayed at a new class of politician emerging at that time, whom he felt were preoccupied with grabbing the spoils of power rather than healing the ills of the country. As the speaker of the Senate from 1987, Spadolini regularly underlined his concern for Italy's institutions.

From 1987 to April 1994, he was president of the Italian Senate and, for a month in 1992, acting president of Italy, following the resignation of Francesco Cossiga. 

After the electoral success of Silvio Berlusconi's House of Freedoms party, he lost the presidency of the Senate to Carlo Scognamiglio Pasini by a single vote. He died four months later in Rome.

In his villa at Pian dei Giulliari, in the countryside near Florence, Spadolini left a library containing some 70,000 volumes on contemporary history and the 19th century. The villa became home to a cultural foundation dedicated to the study of Italian unity.

Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Travel tip:

Spadolini’s home until 1978 was at 28 Via Cavour, one of the principal streets in the northern part of the historic centre of Florence, a four-storey palazzo that had been acquired by his grandfather.  Spadolini kept the house as his main residence even while he was editing in Bologna and Milan and serving the country in Rome. He left for the family villa in Pian dei Giullari after the death of his mother.

Travel tip:

Pian dei Giullari is a picturesque village in the hills some 5km (3 miles) south of Florence.  Many villas line the Via Pian dei Giullari that runs through the village. The Spadolini Foundation is at number 139. On the same street can be found Il Gioiello, where the physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei spent his last years.


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