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.

22 March 2019

22 March

'La Castiglione' – model and secret agent


Beautiful woman helped the cause of Italian unification

Virginia Oldoini, who became known as La Castiglione, was born on this day in 1837 in Florence. At the age of 17 she married the Count of Castiglione, who was 12 years older than her. Her cousin was Camillo, Count of Cavour, who was the prime minister to Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Sardinia, later to become the first King of a united Italy. When the Countess travelled with her husband to Paris in 1855, Cavour asked her to plead the cause of Italian unity with Napoleon III. In time, she became Napoleon III’s mistress and as his confidante was able to influence Franco-Italian political relations. After their relationship ended, she settled in France, where she modelled for photographers and formed liaisons with aristocrats, financiers and politicians while cultivating the image of a mysterious femme fatale, even persuading the German leader Otto Von Bismarck not to occupy Paris. Read more…

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Michele Sindona - fraudster and killer


Failed banker ordered murder of investigating lawyer

The shadowy banker Michele Sindona, who had links to underworld figures in Italy and America as well as prominent politicians, died in hospital in the Lombardy town of Voghera on this day in 1986. His death in his prison cell, attributed to cyanide poisoning, came four days after he had been sentenced to life imprisonment for ordering the killing of a lawyer investigating the collapse of his $450 million financial empire. His own lawyer claimed he had been murdered but the circumstances of his death pointed towards suicide. During his chequered career, which also saw him sentenced to 25 years' jail in America for fraud following the failure of the Franklin National Bank on Long Island, Sindona had links with Mafia bosses in Sicily and New York, with the illegal Propaganda Due masonic lodge, the controversial head of the Vatican Bank, Paul Marcinkus, and Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1980 following the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, of which he was president. Read more...

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Nino Manfredi - actor and director


Totò fan became maestro of commedia all’Italiana

The actor and director Saturnino ‘Nino’ Manfredi, who would become known as the last great actor of the commedia all’Italiana genre, was born on this day in 1921 in Castro dei Volsci in Lazio. Manfredi made more than 100 movies, often playing marginalised working-class figures in the bittersweet comedies that characterised the genre, which frequently tackled important social issues and poked irreverent fun at some of the more absurd aspects of Italian life, in particular the suffocating influence of the church. As a favourite of directors such as Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini, Ettore Scola and Franco Brusati, he realised his dream of following in the footsteps of his boyhood idol Totò, the Neapolitan comic actor whose eccentric characters took enormous liberties in mocking Italian institutions. Along with Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi he was seen as a true maestro of commedia all’Italiana. Read more...

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