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.

11 March 2019

11 March

Franco Basaglia - psychiatrist


Work led to closure of mental hospitals by law

The psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, whose work ultimately led to changes in the law that resulted in the closure and dismantling of Italy’s notorious psychiatric hospitals, was born on this day in 1924 in Venice. As the founder of the Democratic Psychiatry movement and the main proponent of Law 180 - Italy's Mental Health Act of 1978 - which abolished mental hospitals, he is considered to be the most influential Italian psychiatrist of the 20th century. His Law 180 - also known as Basaglia’s Law - was passed in the Italian parliament after Basaglia had convinced law makers that many psychiatric patients could be treated in the community rather than be detained in barbaric institutions. It had a worldwide impact as other countries took up the Italian model and reformed their own way of dealing with the mentally ill. Read more...

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Torquato Tasso – poet


Troubled Renaissance writer came back to Sorrento

Torquato Tasso, who has come to be regarded as the greatest Italian poet of the Renaissance, was born on this day in 1544 in Sorrento. Tasso’s most famous work was his epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) in which he gives an imaginative account of the battles between Christians and Muslims at the end of the first crusade during the siege of Jerusalem. He was one of the most widely read poets in Europe and his work was later to prove inspirational for other writers who followed him, in particular the English poets Spencer and Byron. The house where Tasso was born is in Sorrento’s historic centre and now forms part of the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, where the words for the beautiful song, Torna a Surriento, were written by Giambattista De Curtis in 1902. Read more…

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Rigoletto debuts at La Fenice


Verdi opera staged after battle with censors

Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto was performed for the first time on this day in 1851 in Venice. It enjoyed a triumphant first night at La Fenice opera house, where the reaction of the audience was particularly gratifying for the composer and his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, after a long-running battle to satisfy the censors. Northern Italy was controlled by the Austrian Empire at the time and a strict censorship process applied to all public performances. Verdi had to make substantial changes to his narrative, based on a play by Victor Hugo's play, Le roi s'amuse, which depicted King Francis I of France as a licentious womaniser and was banned after just one night when it had premiered in Paris, in order to be granted the Austrians’ approval. Read more…

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Sidney Sonnino – politician


Minister who pushed Italy to switch sides in World War One

Sidney Sonnino, the politician who was Italy’s influential Minister of Foreign Affairs during the First World War, was born on this day in 1847 in Pisa. Sonnino led two short-lived governments in the early 1900s but it was as Foreign Affairs Minister in 1914 that he made his mark on Italian history, advising prime minister Antonio Salandra to side with the Entente powers – France, Great Britain and Russia – in the First World War, abandoning its Triple Alliance partnership with Germany and Austria-Hungary. His motives were entirely driven by self-interest. A committed irredentist who saw the war as an opportunity to expand Italy's borders by reclaiming former territory, he reasoned that Austria-Hungary was unlikely to give back parts of Italy it had seized previously. Read more…

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