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.

21 May 2019

21 May

Pandolfo Petrucci – ruler of Siena


Ruthless tyrant who encouraged art

Pandolfo Petrucci, who during his time ruling Siena was one of the most powerful men in Italy, died on this day in 1512 in San Quirico d’Orcia in Tuscany.  Although he had been a tyrannical ruler, Petrucci had also done a great deal to increase the artistic splendour of his native city.  Petrucci was born into an aristocratic family in Siena in 1452. He had to go into exile in 1483 for being a member of the Noveschi political faction, which had fallen out of favour with the rulers of Siena.  After he returned to Siena in 1487, he began to take advantage of the struggles between the different political factions.  He married Aurelia Borghese, who was the daughter of Niccolò Borghese, an important figure in Siena at the time. His rapid rise to power alienated his father-in-law, who conspired with other influential citizens in Siena to assassinate him. However, Petrucci uncovered the plot and in 1500 had Borghese murdered. This act terrified his other enemies, which left Petrucci in complete control.Read more…

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Propaganda Due suspects named


Italy horrified as list reveals alleged members of ‘secret state’ 

Ordinary Italians were stunned and the country’s elite rocked to the core on this day in 1981 when a list was made public of alleged members of Propaganda Due, a secret Masonic lodge which sought to run the country as a ‘state within the state’.  A staggering 962 names were on the list, including 44 members of parliament, three of whom were cabinet ministers, 49 bankers, numerous industrialists, a number of newspaper editors and other high-profile journalists, the heads of all three of Italy’s secret services and more than 200 military and police officers, including 12 generals of the Carabinieri, five of the Guardia di Finanza, 22 of the army and four from the air force.  The list of alleged members included Roberto Calvi (pictured above), the former head of the Banco Ambrosiano who would be found dead in London the following year, Admiral Giovanni Torrisi, the Chief of the Defence Staff of Italy, and the future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had yet to enter politics but was already on his way to becoming Italy’s most powerful media tycoon.  Read more…

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Angelo Bruno - Mafia boss


Sicilian head of Philadelphia mob known as 'the Gentle Don'

Angelo Bruno, a mobster who ran the Philadelphia Mafia for two decades, was born Angelo Annaloro in Villalba, in the province of Caltanissetta, in Sicily, on this day in 1910.  Bruno was known as “the Gentle Don” because he preferred to solve problems and consolidate his power through non-violent means, such as bribery, and commissioned murders only as a last resort.  The son of a grocer, he emigrated to the United States in his teens and settled in Philadelphia. He became a close associate of New York crime family boss Carlo Gambino.  Bruno’s dislike of violence was not driven by any compassion for his fellow man.  During his early days, he did not shirk the tasks he had to perform in order to be rise through the Mafia ranks, which included carrying out killings himself.  However, in other cities, the tendency of Mafia families to embark on campaigns of violence to strengthen their powerbase inevitably resulted in the authorities cracking down on mob activity and Bruno preferred not to attract unnecessary attention.  Read more…

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Michelangelo’s Pietà damaged


Work of art deliberately vandalised

Michelangelo’s beautiful Pietà, a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the dead body of Jesus lying across her knees, was damaged by a man wielding a hammer on this day in 1972 in Rome.  A mentally disturbed man walked into St Peter’s Basilica and attacked the sculpture in an act of deliberate vandalism.  He struck it 15 times, removing Mary’s arm at the elbow, knocking off a chunk of her nose and chipping one of her eyelids.  Some of the pieces of marble that flew off were taken by some of the people who were in the church at the time and Mary’s nose had to be reconstructed from a block cut out of her back.  The man who carried out the attack was said to be suffering from a delusion that he was Jesus Christ risen from the dead. He was not charged with any crime but spent two years in a psychiatric hospital.  Read more…

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