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, 20 October 2017

Mara Venier - television presenter

Former actress became famous as face of Sunday afternoon


Mara Venier found fame as host of the
Sunday afternoon TV show Domenica In
Mara Venier, a familiar face on Italian television for more than 35 years, was born on this day in 1950 in Venice.

The former actress, who made her big-screen debut in 1973, is best known for presenting the long-running Sunday afternoon variety show Domenica In, which has been a fixture on the public TV channel Rai Uno since 1976.

Venier, born Mara Povoleri, hosted the show for nine seasons in four stints between 1993 and 2014. Only Pippo Baudo, something of a legendary figure in Italian television, has presented more editions.

Fronting Domenica In, which was on air for an incredible six hours, was not only a test of stamina for the presenter but came with a huge sense of responsibility. In fact, holding the attention of the viewers was a patriotic duty, the show’s format having been conceived by the Italian government, faced with the global oil crisis in the 1970s, as something to tempt citizens to stay at home rather than use precious fuel for their cars.

Venier had been a movie actress, known largely to audiences in Italy, for two decades before she was invited to host Domenica In.  She enjoyed some success, having made her debut with a nude scene in Sergio Capogna’s Diario di un Italiano in 1973, and gained good reviews for Abbasso tutti, viva noi (1974), directed by Gino Mangini, and for Nanni Loy’s comedy Testa o croce (1982).

It was Loy, in fact, who introduced her to television audiences as the host of an Italian version of Candid Camera on the Mediaset commercial channel Italia 1 in 1987.

Venier hosted Domenica In for nine seasons and has fronted many other hit shows
Venier hosted Domenica In for nine seasons
and has fronted many other hit shows 
She became the lead presenter for Domenica In after spending one season working alongside Luca Giurato and proving a hit with the viewers.  Venier quickly became a host in-demand, held in such high regard that she was chosen as one of the five hosts – one for each day of the week – for the hit nightly game show Luna Park, alongside Baudo, Fabrizio Frizzi, Milly Carlucci and Rosanna Lambertucci, all of whom were high-profile names.

The two shows, and a good deal of other TV work, kept Venier very busy, although her career stalled in 1998 when she, Baudo and Lambertucci became embroiled in a scandal over payments made to promote particular products while on air.

After two years away from Rai, during which she made a number of programmes for Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset channels, she returned to the public broadcaster in 2000.

She had two more spells fronting Domenica In between 2001 and 2006, although the programme was less successful than it had been in its early years and Venier left the role in 2006 after failing to control an argument between two guests that descended into such foul-mouthed language that the programme was temporarily dropped from the schedule.

Venier’s presence on the small screen was almost constant, however, as the host of many concerts, special broadcasts, talk shows and prime-time regulars such as La vita in diretta – “Life live” and Telethon. 

Mara Venier in her movie acting days
Mara Venier in her movie acting days
She hosted Domenica In for the last time in the 2013-14 series, at the end of which she announced she was leaving Rai and rejoining Mediaset on a contract that included the hit Canale 5 shows L’Isola dei famosi – similar to the UK hit I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! – and Striscia la notizie, as well as a co-host role in the New Year’s Eve show Capodanno con Gigi D’Alessio.

Nowadays, she is often affectionately referred to as Zia Mara or “la zia d’Italia” – Italy’s aunt.

Born in Venice, the daughter of a railway worker, Venier moved to Mestre with her family and became a mother at the age of just 17 when her daughter, Elisabetta was born.  She married Francesco Ferracini, Elisabetta’s father, and moved to Rome, where he wanted to pursue an acting career.

The marriage did not last, however.  Venier had a son, Paolo, from a relationship with another actor, Pier Paolo Capponi, before making Jerry Calà, also an actor, her second husband in 1984.

They divorced in 1987 but since 2006 Venier has been happily married to the veteran film maker and publisher Nicola Carrara.

The Piazza Erminio Ferretto in Mestre, looking  towards the Torre Civica
The Piazza Erminio Ferretto in Mestre, looking
towards the Torre Civica
Travel tip:

Mestre’s reputation as a grimly modern industrial centre is not undeserved and many travellers know little of it beyond the railway station, which offers trains not only across the lagoon into nearby Venice but to all places on the mainland.  As such, tourists arriving at Marco Polo airport – or Treviso, for that matter – pass through in large numbers. Some holidaymakers do use it, however, as a cheap alternative to staying in Venice and many workers in Venice commute daily from Mestre.  Its most appealing area for visitors is around the main square, the Piazza Erminio Ferretto, a large, rectangular open space lined with porticoes and pleasant cafes. Nearby is the 18th-century church of San Lorenzo and the restored Torre Civica.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is housed in the  Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is housed in the
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal
Travel tip:

Mara Povoleri is believed to have taken Venier as a stage name after the noble Venetian family of the 14th to 16th centuries, three of whom were Doges – Antonio (1382-1400), Francesco (1554-56) and Sebastiano (1577-78) – and several of whom were appointed podestà – city ruler – of Padua. The Fondamenta Sebastiano Venier forms part of the waterfront along the Canareggio Canal in Venice, while the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the city’s famous modern art gallery, is housed in the family’s former palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.









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