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, 31 August 2018

Altiero Spinelli - political visionary

Drafted plan for European Union while in Fascist jail


Altiero Spinelli devoted his life to the creation of a  European Union as a force for peace
Altiero Spinelli devoted his life to the creation of a
European Union as a force for peace
Altiero Spinelli, a politician who is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the European Union, was born on this day in 1907 in Rome.

A lifelong Communist who was jailed for his opposition to the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, he spent much of the Second World War in confinement on the island of Ventotene in the Tyrrhenian Sea, one of an archipelago known as the Pontine Islands.

It was there that he and two prisoners, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni, agreed that if the forces of Fascism in Italy and Germany were defeated, the only way to avoid future European wars was for the sovereign nations of the continent to join together in a federation of states.

The document they drew up, which became known as the Ventotene Manifesto, was the first document to argue for a European constitution and formed the basis for the Movimento Federalista Europeo, which Spinelli, Rossi and some 20 others launched at a secret meeting in Milan as soon as they were able to leave their internment camp.

An official mugshot of Spinelli taken during his confinement on Ventotene
An official mugshot of Spinelli taken
during his confinement on Ventotene
In a nutshell, the Ventotene Manifesto put forward proposals for creating a European federation of states so closely joined together they would no longer be able to go to war with one another. It argued that if all of the European countries retained their complete national sovereignty in the post-war landscape then the possibility of a Third World War would still exist even if the Nazi attempt to establish the domination of the German race in Europe was defeated.

Throughout the 40s and 50s, Spinelli’s MFE was in the vanguard of the drive for European integration and Spinelli himself, who was elected as a Communist MEP in 1979, its most powerful voice.

By stages, he persuaded the Italian government and then the European Parliament of the wisdom of his proposals and his draft document, known as the Spinelli Plan, became the basis for the Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which formally agreed the establishment of a European Union.

Spinelli himself lived to see none of these developments. His health declined in his late 70s and he died in a Rome clinic in May at the age of 78.

However, his legacy was recognised when the main building of the European Parliament in Brussels was named after him in 1999.

Spinelli was buried on the island of  Ventotene, where his memory is preserved
Spinelli was buried on the island of
Ventotene, where his memory is preserved
Although born in Rome, Spinelli spent his early years in Brazil, where his father was the Italian Vice-Consul. On returning home he joined the Italian Communist Party at the age of 17 in 1924, the year of the murder of Giacomo Matteotti, with Fascism now in power and Communists forced underground.

He was arrested in Milan in June 1927, when the Fascists introduced legislation outlawing political opponents. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison.

After a decade, he was transferred to Rome and was led to believe he would be released, only to be told he was instead being transferred to confinement status, first on the island of Ponza, later on Ventotene, a smaller island midway between Ponza and Ischia, off the coast of Naples.

His release eventually came in 1943, after Mussolini had been expelled by the Fascist Grand Council and arrested on the orders of the king, Victor Emmanuel III. 

Ponza has some beautiful coastline and was once a haunt for movie stars and other celebrities
Ponza has some beautiful coastline and was once a haunt
for movie stars and other celebrities
Travel tip:

The island of Ponza has had a chequered history. Inhabited from neolithic to Roman times, it was abandoned during the middle ages due to frequent attacks by Saracens and pirates and not recolonised until the 18th century. Due to its remoteness, it was used as penal colony by several regimes in addition to the Fascists. Mussolini himself was confined there for a brief period after his arrest in 1943. In more recent years, it was developed for tourism and became a fashionable resort for celebrities, including Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. It has become less attractive since the death of several tourists due to falling rocks led to the permanent closure of the main beach, Chiaia di Luna, although there are many other smaller beaches and several picturesque bays.

The picturesque harbour on the island of Ventotene
The picturesque harbour on the island of Ventotene
Travel tip:

Closer to the mainland than Ponza and therefore more easy to reach, Ventotene attracts many tourists during the summer months but remains in some ways a permanent monument to Spinelli, who was returned to the island following his death and interred in the churchyard of the Parrocchia Santa Candida Vergine e Martire. The former prison has been converted into colorful summer homes and visitors can even sleep in Spinelli’s old apartment.  In 2016, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi met with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on the island, where they laid a wreath at the Spinelli’s tomb and staged a mini-summit meeting to discuss the future of the EU following the referendum staged in Britain.

More reading:

Victor Emmanuel III appoints Mussolini as prime minister

The murder of Giacomo Matteotti

How Alcide de Gasperi rebuilt Italy


Also on this day:

1834: The birth of opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli

1900: The birth of Gino Lucetti, anarchist famous for botched attempt to kill Mussolini


Home

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Emanuele Filiberto – Duke of Savoy

Ruler who made Turin the capital of Savoy


A  portrait of Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of  Savoy, by an unknown artist
A  portrait of Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of
Savoy, by an unknown artist
Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, who was nicknamed testa di ferro (iron head) because of his military prowess, died on this day in 1580 in Turin.

After becoming Duke of Savoy he recovered most of the lands his father Charles III had lost to France and Spain and he restored economic stability to Savoy.

Emanuele Filiberto was born in 1528 in Chambery, now part of France. He grew up to become a skilled soldier and served in the army of the emperor Charles V, who was the brother-in-law of his mother, Beatrice of Portugal, during his war against Francis I of France. He distinguished himself by capturing Hesdin in northern France in July 1553.

When he succeeded his father a month later he began the reacquisition of his lands.

His brilliant victory over the French at Saint Quentin in northern France in 1557 on the side of the Spanish helped to consolidate his power in Savoy.

Emanuele Filiberto, as portrayed by the Italian painter Giorgio Soleri
Emanuele Filiberto, as portrayed by the
Italian painter Giorgio Soleri
The peace of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 ended the wars between Charles V and the French Kings and restored part of the Duchy of Savoy back to Emanuele Filiberto on the understanding that he would marry Margaret of France, the sister of King Henry II. They had one child, Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy, who succeeded him as duke.

Emanuele Filiberto took advantage of the political struggles between the European powers to slowly increase his domain.

The city of Turin was part of the territory he recovered from the French and he moved Savoy’s capital from Chambery to Turin in 1562, fortifying and enlarging the city. He also substituted Italian for Latin as the official language of Savoy.

Just before his death in the city at the age of 52 he was arranging for Savoy to acquire the Marquisate of Saluzzo.

Emanuele Filiberto was buried in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud in Turin Cathedral.

Turin's duomo - the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista
Turin's duomo - the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista
Travel tip:

Turin Cathedral, or the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista as the Duomo is known in Italian, was built between 1491 and 1498 on the site of an old Roman theatre. Emanuele Filiberto is one of the members of the House of Savoy buried there, while others are buried in the Basilica di Superga on the outskirts of the city.

Emanuele Filiberto brought the Shroud of Turin (above) to Turin from Chambery in France
Emanuele Filiberto brought the Shroud of Turin (above)
to Turin from Chambery in France
Travel tip:

It is fitting that Emanuele Filiberto is buried in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud as he was responsible for having the Shroud brought from Chambery in France to the Duomo in Turin in 1578 and it has remained there ever since.  A project for the enlargement of the Duomo in order to create a more luxurious home for the Shroud was begun in 1649 by Bernardino Quadri and completed by Guarino Guarini.  In 2002 the Shroud was restored so that the reverse side of the cloth could be photographed for the first time. In 2013 high definition images of the Shroud were put out on the internet and on television. These could be magnified on computers to show details not visible to the naked eye.  Pope Francis urged people to contemplate the Shroud with awe but he stopped short of asserting its authenticity.

More reading:

The Duke of Savoy responsible for a notorious massacre

Why Savoy duke Victor Amadeus I may have been poisoned

Iolanda of Savoy - the banished princess

Also on this day:

1585: The death of composer Andrea Gabrieli

1860: The birth of New York crime fighter Joe Petrosino


Home


Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Tiziana ‘Tosca’ Donati - singer

Versatile performer whose range spans musicals to sacred songs


The singer Tiziana Donati, known as Tosca, during one of her stage performances
The singer Tiziana Donati, known as Tosca, during
one of her stage performances
The singer Tiziana Donati, who performs under the stage name Tosca, was born on this day in 1967 in Rome.

Winner of the Sanremo Festival in 1996, Tosca has recorded 10 studio albums, released the same number of singles and has recorded duets with many other artists.

She has enjoyed a successful stage career, appearing in numerous 20 theatrical productions, and has been invited to perform songs for several movies, including the title track for Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Jane Eyre in 1996. She also sang and spoke the part of Anastasia in the Italian dubbed version of the Disney cartoon of the same name.

At Christmas in 1999, she participated in concerts in churches in Italy where she performed Latin songs set to music by Vincenzo Zitello and Stefano Melone.

Following this she began a collaboration with the Vatican, taking part in several televised events to commemorate the Jubilee of 2000, and was chosen to sing the Mater Iubilaei, the Marian anthem of the Jubilee, in a ceremony led by Pope John Paul II.

Throughout 2000, she toured with Musica Caeli, a concert made up of never-before performed sacred chants, staged in some of the biggest churches and cathedrals around the world.

Tosca was spotted singing in a piano bar in Rome in the 1990s before winning the Sanremo Festival in 1996
Tosca was spotted singing in a piano bar in Rome in the
1990s before winning the Sanremo Festival in 1996
Tiziana said her love of singing began as a child when she suffered from acute articular rheumatism, a debilitating health condition affecting the joints that prevented her taking part in normal activities.  She did, however, accompany her grandmother to church almost every day and soon set her heart on becoming a member of the choir.

She went along to choir practice and was accepted and drew a sense of pride and self-worth from being asked to stand on a chair and sing at family occasions. Singing and later acting gave her a sense of purpose.

In her teens, Donati joined a theatre company in Rome and began singing in a piano bar in the city, where she was spotted by Renzo Arbore, a musician and television presenter, who invited to sing on the show Il caso Sanremo, a unique programme in which winning songs from different years of the Sanremo Festival were placed on “trial” in a set made to resemble a courtroom.

The exposure propelled her into the public eye. She adopted Tosca as a stage name and released her first album in 1992.

Tiziana Donati pictured during a studio recording session with fellow musician Chico Buarque
Tiziana Donati pictured during a studio recording
session with fellow musician Chico Buarque
Her big break, though, was winning Sanremo itself in 1996 with Vorrei incontrarti fra cent'anni - I Want To Meet You In One Hundred Years - a song written by Rosalino Cellamare, who performed under the stage name Ron, and who also provided backing vocals and guitar.

After another appearance at Sanremo the following year, she released an album, entitled Incontri e passaggi of songs written for her by artists such as Lucio Dalla, Chico Buarque de Holanda, Grazia Di Michele, Ennio Morricone and Mariella Nava, which won her the Targa Tenco prize as the year’s outstanding performer.

Since 2000, Donati has mixed concerts with stage shows and musicals and has recently worked as a section director at the Pasolini Workshop in Rome, a venture - named in honour of the film director Pier Paolo Pasolini - run in collaboration with the University of Rome and the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia to unearth and nurture new talent.

Still in demand today for high-profile roles, recently starring at the Teatro Argentina in Rome in the touring show Donne come noi - Women Like Us - based on a book of the same name about 100 Italian women who have changed their lives and those of others.

Last year, Tosca celebrated her life in music with a sell-out concert at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome in which she was joined on stage by artists including Nicola Piovani, Danilo Rea and Joe Barbieri, all of whom had become friends at different points of her career.

The saxophonist Bobby Watson has performed at Gregory's in Rome
The saxophonist Bobby Watson has
performed at Gregory's in Rome
Travel tip:

One of Rome’s traditional music venues is the jazz club Gregory’s, which can be found in Via Gregoriana, a short walk from Piazza di Spagna and the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti. The club has a ‘hall of fame’ that includes the likes of Bobby Durham, Victor Lewis, Steve Grossman, Gregory Hutchinson, Bobby Watson and Scott Hamilton, all of whom have performed at the venue.  The club hosts live sets almost every night, starting at around 9.30pm. A sister venue, Gregory’s By The River, stages live music during the summer months on the edge of the Tiber at Castel Sant’Angelo.


The Teatro Argentina in Rome is one of the city's  oldest opera houses, inaugurated in 1732
The Teatro Argentina in Rome is one of the city's
oldest opera houses, inaugurated in 1732
Travel tip:

The Teatro Argentina, where Tosca recently performed in the show Donne come noi, is a traditional opera venue in the square Largo di Torre Argentina. Built over the Curia of Pompey - the meeting hall in which Julius Caesar was murdered in 44BC - it is one of the oldest theatres in the city, commissioned by the Sforza-Cesarini family and inaugurated in 1732. Rossini's The Barber of Seville was given its premiere there in February 1816. It has staged drama productions as well as opera and music. In the mid-20th centuries, works by Luigi Pirandello, Henrik Ibsen and Maxim Gorky were performed there for the first time.

More reading:

How Enrico Caruso inspired Lucio Dalla

Why Sanremo winner Adriano Celentano is Italy's biggest-selling recording artist of all time

The Barber of Seville premieres at Teatro Argentina

Also on this day:

1875: The birth of flautist Lorenzo De Lorenzo

1991: Anti-Mafia hero Libero Grassi is murdered in Palermo

Home



Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Elisabetta Sirani – artist

Sudden death of talented young woman shocked Bologna


A self-portrait by Elisabetta Sirani
A self-portrait by Elisabetta Sirani
The brilliant Baroque painter and printmaker Elisabetta Sirani died in unexplained circumstances at the age of 27 on this day in 1665 in Bologna.

The body of the artist was carried to the Chapel of the Rosary in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna to be mourned, not just by her family, but by an entire community as she was loved and respected as an important female painter.

Elisabetta has been described as beautiful, focused and selfless and she became a symbol of the progressive city of Bologna, where the creativity of women was encouraged and they were able to express themselves through art and music.

Elisabetta’s father, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, was himself an artist and she was trained in his studio, although contemporary writers have recorded that he was reluctant to teach her to paint in the Bolognese style, as established by artists in the city in the 16th and 17th centuries as a way to distinguish themselves from the artists of Florence and Rome.

But Elisabetta acquired the technique anyway and became one of the most renowned painters in Bologna , overshadowing her father. He had been a pupil of the highly regarded Bolognese painter Guido Reni, who had died in 1642, and many local people considered Elisabetta to be a female reincarnation of him.

Sirani's beautiful painting Sant'Antonio da Padova in adorazione del bambino
Sirani's beautiful painting Sant'Antonio da
Padova in adorazione del bambino
When she was just 16 her father became incapacitated by gout and so Elisabetta began running his workshop and became the breadwinner for the whole family.

She never married, despite being described as attractive, lively and warm-hearted. Some people believed that her father prevented her from marrying.

When Elisabetta died suddenly on 28 August 1665 in Bologna her death was treated as suspicious and a servant, Lucia Tolomelli, was charged with poisoning the artist. She was put on trial but Elisabetta’s father later withdrew the charges.

Modern thinking, based on the descriptions recorded of her symptoms, is that she probably died of peritonitis after suffering a ruptured peptic ulcer.

Elisabetta was given an elaborate funeral that included an enormous catafalque - a kind of moving platform - containing a life-sized sculpture of her and she was buried in the same tomb as Guido Reni.

During her brief career she had produced more than 200 paintings, 15 etchings and hundreds of drawings. She painted many religious subjects but was also an accomplished portrait painter and was much mourned by the women of Bologna who had sat for her.

She established an academy for women painters in Bologna and trained many artists at what was the first school in Europe for women painters that was outside a convent.

Her 1663 painting Virgin and Child is now in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington . In 1994 it was selected by the United States Postal Service for their Christmas holiday stamp series.

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna houses a number  of paintings by Elisabetta Sirani
The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna houses a number
of paintings by Elisabetta Sirani
Travel tip:

You can see paintings by Elisabetta Sirani in The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna in Complesso di Sant’Ignazio in Via Belle Arti, a gallery close to Due Torri, the two towers that have become symbols of Bologna . One of the most beautiful paintings on show is Sant’Antonio da Padova in adorazione del bambino, which shows the saint kneeling at the baby’s feet. Also on display is her striking painting of Santa Maria Maddalena, which shows the saint bare-breasted and holding a crucifix.

Guido Reni's ceiling The Glory of San Domenico is a feature of the basilica
Guido Reni's ceiling The Glory of San
Domenico
is a feature of the basilica
Travel tip:

Elisabetta Sirani is buried with the artist Guido Reni in the Rosary Chapel of the 13th century Basilica of San Domenico in Piazza San Domenico. The church is close to the Archiginnasio, once the main building of the University of Bologna . Behind the red-brick façade of the church, which was added as recently as 1910, lies a treasure house of art including works by Pisano, Michelangelo, Iacopo da Bologna and Guido Reni. In the Rosary Chapel, the most important work is the Mystery of the Rosary, a group of paintings worked on by Lodovico Carracci, Bartolomeo Cesi, Denis Calvaert, Lavinia Fontana, Guido Reni and Domenichino.

More reading:

The Bolognese master Guercino

How the Bolognese painter Annibale Carracci influenced art in Rome

Why Domenichino is seen as the Raphael of the Bolognese School

Also on this day:

1909: The birth of Bicycle Thieves actor Lamberto Maggiorani

1938: The birth of journalist and TV talk show host Maurizio Costanzo


Home

Monday, 27 August 2018

The 410 Sack of Rome

Invasion that signalled terminal decline of Western Roman Empire


Alaric and the Visigoths entering Rome, as depicted by the 19th century German artist Wilhelm Lindenschmit the Younger
Alaric and the Visigoths entering Rome, as depicted by the
19th century German artist Wilhelm Lindenschmit the Younger
The ancient city of Rome was left in a state of shock and devastation after three days of looting and pillaging by Visigoths under the command of King Alaric came to an end on this day in 410.

An unknown number of citizens had been killed and scores of others had fled into the countryside. Countless women had been raped. Many buildings were damaged and set on fire and Alaric and his hordes made off with vast amounts of Roman treasure.

It was the first time in 800 years that an invading army had successfully breached the walls of the Eternal City and many historians regard the event as the beginning of the end for the Western Roman Empire.

It could have been more devastating still had Alaric, a Christian, been a more cruel leader.  Although he struggled to control his men - historians believe they were an ill-disciplined rabble rather than an organised fighting force - he stopped short of ordering large-scale slaughter of the Roman population, while silver and gold objects they were told had belonged to St Peter were left behind.

A book illustration showing Alaric in Athens after conquering the city in 395
A book illustration showing Alaric in Athens
after conquering the city in 395
It was brought to a swift conclusion because Alaric had other targets he wished to attack in the far south of Italy and in northern Africa. In the event, he died not long afterwards of a fever, somewhere near what is now the city of Cosenza in Calabria.

Alaric had risen to become King of the Visigoths in 395, the same year that saw the death of the Emperor Theodosius I, who had signed a peace treaty with the Goths in 382. Leadership of the Eastern and Western Empires was inherited by Theodosius’s two sons, Arcadius in the east and 10-year-old Honorius in the west. The western capital was moved from Rome to Ravenna, which was more easily defended.

Wanting to create a new settlement for his tribes, Alaric staged regular attacks in northern Italy in the early part of the fifth century but these were always repelled by Honorius’s regent, the brilliant military strategist and general Flavius Stilicho.

Stilicho, who was half-German, had many soldiers of German origin under his command and wanted to enlist the help of the Visigoths to fight against the Eastern Empire. Alaric himself had even served in battle under the command of Stilicho, whom he greatly admired and even considered a friend.

But his position changed when Honorius dismissed his demand to be given land and political power and he set his sights on Rome, which was still the symbolic heart of the Empire, even if the seat of government was now in Ravenna.

Alaric is buried in the bed of a river near where he died, along
with personal treasures, as imagined by Heinrich Leutemann
He was unconcerned about Honorius but knew he faced a formidable adversary in Stilicho and it was out of fear and respect for Stilicho that he stopped short of invading Rome after advancing to its gates in 408.

But after Stilicho, suspected of planning an insurrection, was executed on the orders of Honorius later the same year, the obstacle he presented was removed.

As a consequence, after long months laying siege to the city, during which time Roman citizens became hungrier and more desperate, Alaric first set a series of demands in front of Honorius, promising to call off the siege if they were met.  When they were refused, he ordered his tribes to enter the city on August 24, 410.  They did so without much of a fight, ushered in either by corrupt officials or rebellious slaves who opened the Salarian Gate.

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire did not happen as a direct result of Alaric’s invasion. In fact a more severe sacking of the city was still to come, carried out by the Vandals in 455, but the 410 invasion was a symbolic moment in an end game that was to reach its conclusion in 476, when another Germanic leader, Flavius Odoacer, removed the Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, and declared himself King of Italy, which is the moment at which many historians consider the Western Empire to have been no more.

The facade of the cathedral in Cosenza
The facade of the cathedral in Cosenza
Travel tip:

Cosenza, a city with an urban area in which more than 260,000 people live, combines a no-nonsense modern city with a small and atmospheric old city, a medieval town with a network of steep, narrow streets, at the heart of which is a cathedral originally built in the 11th century.  The old town also boasts the 13th century Castello Svevo, built on the site of a Saracen fortification, which hosted the wedding of Louis III of Naples and Margaret of Savoy but which the Bourbons used as a prison.  The pedestrianized centre of the new city has sculptures by the likes of Dalí, De Chirico and Pietro Consagra.

Dante's tomb in Ravenna
Dante's tomb in Ravenna
Travel tip:

As well as being the former capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna was also the city where the 13th century poet Dante Alighieri lived in exile until his death in 1321. Dante's tomb is in the church of San Pier Maggiore. The city is renowned for its wealth of well-preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture is the Basilica of San Vitale, which is famous for its fine Byzantine mosaics.

More reading:

How Rome was sacked by the Ostrogoths in 546

Mutinous troops sack Rome in 1527

The death of Dante Alighieri

Also on this day

1576: The death of the great Renaissance artist Titian

1707: The birth of actress Zanetta Farussi, mother of Casanova

Home

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio - soldier

Italian aristocrat who survived Battle of the Little Bighorn


Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years
in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio, a military officer who became known as Charles Camillus DeRudio and gave 32 years’ service to the United States Army in the late 19th century, was born in Belluno in northern Italy on this day in 1832.

Having arrived in New York City as an immigrant from England in 1860, he served as a volunteer in the American Civil War (1861-65) before joining the Regular Army in 1867 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry, an appointment which was cancelled when he failed a medical. Undeterred, he was readmitted and joined the 7th Cavalry in 1869, eventually attaining the rank of Major.

He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the US Army suffered a defeat to the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribesmen. The battle was part of the Great Sioux Wars of 1876, fought for possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where gold had been found.

DeRudio was thrown from his horse as the American forces under Major Marcus Reno were driven back across the Little Bighorn River to regroup on the eastern side. He was left stranded on the western side and hid for 36 hours with a private, Thomas O’Neill. They were twice almost captured but eventually managed to cross the river to safety.

DeRudio had led an eventful life even before his experiences in the US military, during which he also took part in the Nez Perce War on 1877, another conflict with Native Americans.

A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted by the artist Charles Marion Russell
A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted
by the artist Charles Marion Russell
Born the son of Count and Countess Aquila di Rudio, he attended an Austrian military academy in Milan before leaving at the age of 15 to join the Italian patriots during 1848 uprising known as the Five Days of Milan. Later, he fought in Rome and Venice against the Austrians.

Soon afterwards, he tried to sail to America but was shipwrecked off Spain. By 1855, he was living in east London and had married Eliza, the 15-year-old daughter of a confectioner from Nottingham, with whom he eventually had six children.

In 1858 he took part in a failed attempt to assassinate the Emperor of France, Napoleon III, at the Paris Opera.  The attempt, led by another Italian revolutionary, the Carbonari leader Felice Orsini, involved three bombs and killed eight people, wounding another 150, but missed its intended target.

Orsini and his co-conspirator, Giuseppe Pieri, were executed but DeRudio’s sentence was commuted to a life sentence to be served on Île Royale, a neighbour of Devil’s Island in the western Atlantic off French Guiana.  But he and 12 others escaped from the island and landed in what was then British Guiana, more than 800km (500 miles) along the northern coast of South America.

From there he returned to England but his taste for action would not be contained and he emigrated to the United States, specifically to fight on the Union side in the Civil War.  Once commissioned to serve in the Regular Army, he was never entirely trusted by his superiors, including the then Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who tended to disbelieve his accounts of his own military service career.

He retired on his 64th birthday and spent his final years in California, where he died in 1910 at the age of 78, while living in Pasadena.

Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Travel tip:

Belluno, where DeRudio was born, is a beautiful town in the Dolomites, situated just over 100km (62 miles) north of Venice. The town sits in an elevated position above the Piave river surrounded by rocky slopes and dense woods that make for an outstanding scenic background. The architecture of the historic centre has echoes of the town's Roman and medieval past. Around the picturesque Piazza Duomo can be found several fine buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Cathedral of Belluno and Palazzo dei Giuristi, which contains the Civic Museum.

The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
Travel tip:

The military academy in Milan attended by DeRudio is known today as the Scuola Militare "Teulié", a highly selective institution attached to the Italian Army and, having been founded in 1802, one of the oldest military academies in the world. It was closed by the Austrians in 1848 after the cadets, of which DeRudio was one, took part in the Five Days of Milan, the uprising against the Austrians. It became a military hospital. During the early part of the 20th century it was a military barracks, becoming the headquarters of the III Corps of the Italian Army, before reverting to its former status as a military academy in 1996.

More reading:

How the citizens of Milan rose up to throw out the Austrians

The story of fighter pilot Silvio Scaroni

The pope from Belluno who was in office just 33 days

Also on this day:

303: The martyrdom of Sant'Alessandro of Bergamo

1498: Michelangelo accepts the commission to sculpt his masterpiece, La Pietà


Home







Saturday, 25 August 2018

Galileo demonstrates potential of telescope

Scientist unveiled new instrument to Doge of Venice


How the Milanese artist Giuseppe Bertini imagined the scene as Galileo demonstrated his telescope to the Doge
How the Milanese artist Giuseppe Bertini imagined the
scene as Galileo demonstrated his telescope to the Doge
The scientist and inventor Galileo Galilei demonstrated the wonders of the telescope to an audience of Venetian lawmakers on this day in 1609.

The 90th Doge, Leonardo Donato, and other members of the Venetian senate accompanied Galileo to the top of the campanile of St Mark’s Basilica, where each took it in turn to look through the instrument.

The meeting had been arranged by Galileo’s friend, Paolo Sarpi, who was a scientist, lawyer and statesman employed by the Venetian government. The two were both professors at the University of Padua.

Galileo, whose knowledge of the universe led him to be called the ‘father of observational astronomy’, was for many years wrongly credited with the invention of the telescope when in fact the first to apply for a patent for the device was a Dutch eyeglass maker named Hans Lippershey.

However, Galileo’s work using uncertain details of Lippershey’s design certainly took the idea to a different level.

Like Galileo, Paolo Sarpi was a professor at the University of Padua
Like Galileo, Paolo Sarpi was a professor
at the University of Padua
Whereas Lippershey’s device magnified objects by about three times, Galileo eventually produced a telescope with a magnification factor of 30.

The one he demonstrated on August 25, 1609, is thought to have had a factor of about eight or nine.

Galileo was the first to realise the potential of the telescope for astronomical study.

He was able to make out mountains and craters on the moon, as well as a ribbon of diffuse light arching across the sky — the Milky Way.  Galileo also discovered the rings of Saturn, sunspots and four of Jupiter's moons.

It was his findings on Jupiter’s moons in January 1610 that would lead him indirectly into trouble with the Roman Inquisition over his belief in heliocentrism, the concept that the sun and not the Earth was the centre of the solar system, as had been theorised by the Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus in the previous century.

In observing the three objects in proximity to the planet Jupiter that he had originally thought to be distant stars, he noticed that their position relative to the planet changed in a way that would have been inexplicable if they had really been fixed stars.

One day he noticed that one of them had disappeared altogether only to reappear later and within a few days had concluded that they were orbiting Jupiter. When, later in the year, he discovered that the planet Venus had ‘phases’ similar to the earth’s Moon, when differences in appearance suggested different positions in the sky, he began to subscribe firmly to the Copernican theory.

This flew in the face of a major part of Roman Catholic belief, based on the Aristotelian principle that all heavenly bodies orbited the Earth.

In time, Galileo was found guilty of heresy and forced to recant his views under threat of torture. He would have spend the last years of his life in prison had the court not shown some clemency and commuted his sentence to house arrest.

The campanile of St Mark's is a famous landmark in Venice, towering over the basilica
The campanile of St Mark's is a famous landmark
in Venice, towering over the basilica
Travel tip:

The Campanile of St Mark’s has become one of the symbols of Venice, instantly recognisable as part of the landscape of St Mark’s Square - Piazza San Marco - standing away from the basilica itself. Constructed in the ninth century, one of its first uses was a watchtower or lighthouse. Over the centuries it has been restored and added to several times, often following regular lightning strikes.  It assumed its definitive shape in the 16th century with restorations made to repair damage caused by the earthquake of March 1511, when the belfry, attic and spire were added. The whole structure collapsed in 1902, a few days after a large crack appeared in the north wall, it is thought because of erosion of the foundations after almost 1,000 years, but was rebuilt over the following 10 years.

Travel tip:

Galileo lived under house arrest was Villa Gioella, a house he rented a couple of miles from the from the centre of Florence in the Arcetri hills.  In Galileo’s time it was a farmhouse, surrounded by many acres of land. The area is also home to the Arcetri Observatory, which was opened in 1872 after astronomers at La Specola Observatory, not far from the Pitti Palace, decided that pollution from artificial light was making clear images impossible.

More reading:

The father of modern science

Galileo Galilei convicted of heresy

How Niccolò Zucchi discovered the 'belts' around Jupiter

Also on this day:

The Feast Day of Saint Patricia of Naples

79AD: Vesuvius erupts


Home

Friday, 24 August 2018

Peppino De Filippo - comedian, actor and playwright

Talented Neapolitan who lived in shadow of his brother


Peppino de Filippo enjoyed a successful career on stage and screen
Peppino de Filippo enjoyed a successful
career on stage and screen
The playwright and comic actor Peppino De Filippo was born Giuseppe De Filippo on this day in 1903 in Naples.

A highly accomplished performer on stage in serious as well as comedy roles, De Filippo also had a list of film credits numbering almost 100, of which he is best remembered for his screen partnership with the brilliant comic actor Totò.

To an extent, however, he spent his career in the shadow of his older brother, Eduardo De Filippo, who after Luigi Pirandello was regarded as the second great Italian playwright of the 20th century.

The two fell out in the 1940s for reasons that were never made clear, although it later emerged that they had many artistic differences.

They were never reconciled, and though Peppino went on to enjoy a successful career and was widely acclaimed it annoyed him that he was always seen as a minor playwright compared with his brother.

When Peppino published an autobiography in 1977, three years before he died, he called it Una famiglia difficile - A Difficult Family. In the book he described his relationship with his sister, Titina, as one of warmth and affection, but portrays Eduardo as something of a tyrant.

Peppini, second from the right, with his father, mother, brother and sister in about 1910
Peppini, second from the right, with his father,
mother, brother and sister in about 1910
The son of Eduardo Scarpetta, one of the most prominent Neapolitan playwrights of the early 20th century, and Luisa De Filippo, he was born in a house on the corner of Via Giovanni Bausan and Via Vittoria Colonna in the Chiaia district of central Naples, about a 20-minute walk from Piazza del Plebiscito and the Royal Palace.

Yet he spent the first five years of his life being cared for by a nanny in Caivano, a small town about 14km (9 miles) northeast of Naples, and returned to his family somewhat reluctantly.

He made his stage debut at the age of six in a play written by his father, learned to play the piano and worked in various theatre companies as he grew up, meeting Totò for the first time in 1920 at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples, in the Spanish Quarter.

Married in 1929 to Adela Carloni, he became a father the following year and soon afterwards joined his brother, Eduardo, and Titina in forming the Compagnia Teatro Umoristico: i De Filippo - the De Filippos’ Humorous Theatre Company.

They were very successful, touring Italy, presenting new comedies to full theatres and enthusiastic reviews.

However, in 1944, after a number of clashes with Eduardo - one story was that Eduardo disapproved of his brother’s relationship with another woman, Lidia Maresca, who later became his second wife  - Peppino left the company.

Peppino de Filippo, right, with Totò, centre, in a scene from their 1956 movie, La Banda degli Onesti
Peppino de Filippo, right, with Totò, centre, in a scene
from their 1956 movie, La Banda degli Onesti
His own plays were lighter in tone than Eduardo’s and, some critics argued, superior work, yet he never achieved the same recognition for his writing.

On the other hand, he became a highly respected actor known for his versatility. His performances in Harold Pinter’s play The Caretaker and in Molière’s The Miser attracted glowing reviews.

Nonetheless, Peppino’s career tends to be defined by the high profile he achieved in film and on television.

His films with Totò, of which there were 16, though snubbed by the critics, were hugely successful, so much so that the popularity of De Filippo in his own right meant that several movies in which the pair collaborated, such as Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina and Totò, Peppino e le fanatiche, had his name in the title as well as that of his more famous co-star.

He worked with Federico Fellini - in Boccaccio '70, for example - and with Alberto Lattuada and also invented Pappagone, a character for a TV show, who represented a servant employed by himself, a typical character in Neapolitan theatre, whose phrases and jargon became popular sayings.

He married three times in total but had only child, his son Luigi, who maintained the family tradition by becoming an actor, director and playwright, producing and performing in many works by his father and uncle.

De Filippo died in Rome in 1980 and was buried at the Campo Verano cemetery.

The Naples waterfront to the west of the city centre - Chiaia is the area behind the trees of Villa Comunale
The Naples waterfront to the west of the city centre - Chiaia
is the area behind the trees of Villa Comunale 
Travel tip:

Chiaia, where Peppino De Filippo was born, is a neighbourhood bordering the seafront in Naples, roughly between Piazza Vittoria and Mergellina. It has become one of the most affluent districts in the city, with many of the top fashion designers having stores on the main streets. It is the home of a large public park known as the Villa Comunale, flanked by the large palazzi along the Riviera di Chiaia on one side, and the sweeping promenade of the Via Francesco Caracciolo on the other.

An artist's sketch of the Teatro Nuovo in around 1900
An artist's sketch of the Teatro Nuovo in around 1900
Travel tip:

The Teatro Nuovo, where Peppino first met Toto, is located on Via Montecalvario in the Quartieri Spagnoli - Spanish quarter - of Naples, off the Via Toledo, a few steps from Piazza del Plebiscito. The original theatre was an opera house designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro completed in 1724. It specialised in the opera buffa genre and saw the world premieres of hundreds of operas in its heyday, including 15 by Cimarosa and seven by Donizetti. The theatre has twice been destroyed by fire, in 1861 and again in 1935.

More reading:

How Eduardo De Filippo captured the spirit of Naples

The brilliance of Luigi Pirandello

The versatility of Alberto Lattuada

Also on this day:

1540: The death of the artist Parmigianino

1902: The birth of Mafia boss Carlo Gambino


Home

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Pino Presti – bass player and composer

Talented musician could sing, play guitar, compose and conduct


Pino Presti has been one of the Italian music scene's most important figures since the 1960s
Pino Presti has been one of the Italian music scene's
most important figures since the 1960s
Pino Presti, one of the most important personalities in the Italian music business, was born Giuseppe Prestipino Giarritta on this day in 1943 in Milan.

He is a bass guitar player, arranger, composer, conductor and record producer and his work ranges between the different music genres of pop, jazz, funk, latin and dance.

His father, Arturo Prestipino Giarritta, was a well-known violinist and Presti began studying piano and music theory at the age of six.

He taught himself to play the bass guitar and began playing professionally at the age of 17, having developed his own special technique using either the pick or thumb.

Presti was a pioneer of electric bass and was probably the first to play a Fender Jazz Bass in Italy.

His talent for playing the instrument led him to collaborate with the major Italian pop artists of the 1960s, including the famous singer, Mina, who is Italy's all-time top-selling female recording artist. Presti arranged and conducted 86 tracks and composed four songs for her, also sometimes backing her as a singer.

Presti enjoyed a long working relationship with the major Italian star, Mina
Presti enjoyed a long working relationship
with the major Italian star, Mina
Among the many other artists he worked with were Bobby Solo, Gigliola Cinquetti and Adriano Celentano

In 1976 he created and produced for Atlantic Records, the album, Ist Round, which was considered the first funk dance production and one of the most innovative albums of the 1970s in Italy.

In 1977 he signed a contract with RAI2 to be arranger, conductor and composer of original music for the famous TV show, Auditorio A, and he was responsible for conducting a big band of 56 notable musicians.

Presti also collaborated with some of the biggest names on the international music scene such as Shirley Bassey, Wilson Pickett, Stephane Grappelli and Maynard Ferguson.

In 2013 he produced the tribute album Shirley Bunnie-Foy, consisting of 17 tracks performed by jazz vocalist Shirley Bunnie-Foy during her 60-year career.

In 2014 he composed, co-produced and released under the pseudonym Mad of Jazz, the album Deep Colours and in 2016 he composed the music for the advertising campaign of Scavolini, an Italian kitchen and bathroom manufacturer.

Between 1967 and 1985 Presti trained in Shotokan karate under Japanese masters and obtained his 5th degree black belt in Rome in 1987.

Since 2004, he has lived in Nice in the South of France.

The Piccolo Teatro in Milan
The Piccolo Teatro in Milan
Travel tip:

Milan, where Presti was born and lived for many years, has a wealth of theatres with a long tradition of staging different entertainment. Teatro Litta next to Palazzo Litta in Corso Magenta is believed to be the oldest theatre in the city. Teatro Dal Verme in San Giovanni sul Muro opened in 1872 and the Piccolo Teatro in Via Rivoli opened in 1947. Milan’s most famous theatre, Teatro alla Scala, in Piazza della Scala, across the road from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II,  was first inaugurated in 1778. The theatre has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from its long history. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30pm.

One side of the Sforza Castle in Milan
One side of the Sforza Castle in Milan
Travel tip

One of the other main sights in Milan is the impressive Sforza castle, Castello Sforzesco, built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. After Ludovico Sforza became Duke of Milan in 1494 he commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to fresco several rooms. The castle now houses some of the city’s museums and art galleries. For more information visit www.milanocastello.it

More reading:

How Mina changed the rules for women in 1960s Italy

Adriano Celentano spans the ages of Italian pop music

Gigliola Cinquetti - Italy's first queen of Eurovision

Also on this day:

1945: The birth of 60s singing star Rita Pavone

1974: The death of pioneering psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli


Home


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Luca Marenzio – composer

Madrigal writer influenced Monteverdi


Luca Marenzio is believed to have been a  singer employed by the Gonzaga family
Luca Marenzio is believed to have been a
singer employed by the Gonzaga family
Luca Marenzio, a prolific composer of madrigals during the late Renaissance period, died on this day in 1599 in the garden of the Villa Medici on Monte Pincio in Rome.

Marenzio wrote at least 500 madrigals, some of which are considered to be the most famous examples of the form, and he was an important influence on the composer Claudio Monteverdi.

Born at Coccaglio, a small town near Brescia in 1553, Marenzio was one of seven children belonging to a poor family, but he received some early musical training at Brescia Cathedral where he was a choirboy.

It is believed he went to Mantua with the maestro di cappella from Brescia to serve the Gonzaga family as a singer.

Marenzio was then employed as a singer in Rome by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo and, after the Cardinal’s death, he served at the court of Cardinal Luigi d’Este.

He travelled to Ferrara with Luigi d’Este and took part in the wedding festivities for Vincenzo Gonzaga and Margherita Farnese.

While he was there he wrote two books of madrigals and dedicated them to Alfonso II and Lucrezia d’Este.

Marenzio's first book of madrigals was published in 1580
Marenzio's first book of madrigals was published in 1580
Marenzio went on to establish an international reputation as a talented composer of madrigals and he was also an expert lutenist. He was much admired in England and his madrigals were printed in N Yonge’s Musica Transalpina, published in 1588, a collection of music that stimulated the composition of English madrigals.

After the death of Luigi d’Este, Marenzio entered the service of Ferdinando I de’ Medici in Florence, where he formed friendships with composers Piero Strozzi and Antonio de Bicci.

On his return to Rome he entered the service of Virginio Orsini, nephew of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and he lived in the Orsini palace. Another important patron was Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini, nephew of the reigning pope, Clement VIII, who assigned him an apartment in the Vatican.

Marenzio then travelled to Poland to be maestro di cappella at the court of Sigismund III Vasa in Warsaw. He wrote and directed sacred music there, which unfortunately has since been lost.

The visit to Poland affected his health and he did not live long after his return to Rome. While his brother was looking after him, he died in the garden at the Villa Medici on August 22, 1599.

Marenzio was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome.

Vineyards near Coccaglio, which is on the edge of the  Franciacorta wine-making area, near Brescia
Vineyards near Coccaglio, which is on the edge of the
Franciacorta wine-making area, near Brescia
Travel tip:

Coccaglio, Marenzio’s birthplace, is a town in Lombardy, about 32km (20 miles) west of Brescia and 35km (22 miles) southeast of Bergamo.  The municipality is located in the southern edge of Franciacorta, the area famous for its sparkling wine of the same name, which is known as the Italian answer to Champagne, being produced using the same method as the classic French bubbly, as opposed to the faster fermentation process used in the popular Prosecco.

The Villa Medici has been the home of the French Academy in Rome since 1803
The Villa Medici has been the home of the
French Academy in Rome since 1803
Travel tip:

The Villa Medici, where Marenzio died, is on the Pincian Hill next to the church of Trinità dei Monti in Rome, at the head of the Spanish Steps. The villa, built in 1554 in the Mannerist style to a design by Bartolomeo Ammanati, has housed the French Academy in Rome since 1803. In ancient times the site of the Villa Medici was part of the gardens of Lucullus. Behind the Villa Medici stretches out the vast park and gardens of the Villa Borghese.

More reading:

The genius of Claudio Monteverdi

Federico II Gonzaga, the ruler of Mantua who spent his childhood as a political hostage

How Eleonora Gonzaga became Holy Roman Empress

Also on this day:

1849: History's first air raid hits Venice

1914: The death of the progressive Bishop Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi

Home