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.

12 June 2019

12 June

Charles Emmanuel II - Duke of Savoy


Ruler who was notorious for massacre of Protestant minority

Charles Emmanuel II, who was Duke of Savoy for almost his whole life, died on this day in 1675 in Turin.  His rule was notorious for his persecution of the Valdesi – a Christian Protestant movement widely known as the Waldenses that originate in 12th century France, whose base was on the Franco-Italian border.  In 1655, he launched an attack on the Valdesi that turned into a massacre so brutal that it sent shockwaves around Europe and prompted the English poet, John Milton, to write the sonnet On the Late Massacre in Piedmont.  The British political leader Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, proposed to send the British Navy if the massacre and subsequent attacks were not halted, and raised funds for helping the Waldensians.  More positively, Charles Emmanuel II was responsible for improving commerce and creating wealth in the Duchy. He was a driver in developing the port of Nice and building a road through the Alps towards France.  Read more…

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Nick Gentile - mafioso


Sicilian mobster defied code of silence by publishing memoirs

The mafioso Nicola Gentile, known in the United States as Nick, who became notorious for publishing a book of memoirs that revealed the inner workings of the American Mafia as well as secrets of the Sicilian underworld, was born on this day in 1885 in Siculiana, a small town on the south coast of the Sicily, in the province of Agrigento.  Gentile’s book, Vita di Capomafia, which he wrote in conjunction with a journalist, was published in 1963 and provided much assistance to the American authorities in their fight against organized crime.  As a result Gentile was sentenced to death by the mafia council in Sicily for having broken the code of omertà, a vow of silence to which all mafiosi are expected to adhere to protect their criminal activities.  Siculiana, in fact, was a mafia stronghold, where the code was usually enforced with particular rigour.  Yet the mobsters from the city of Catania who were tasked with carrying out the sentence declined to do so, for reasons that have not been explained. In the event, Gentile died in Siculiana in 1966 of natural causes. Read more…

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Margherita Hack – astrophysicist


TV personality made science more popular

Writer and astrophysicist Margherita Hack was born on this day in 1922 in Florence.  She studied stars by analysing the different kinds of radiation they emitted and frequently appeared on television to explain new findings in astronomy and physics.  Hack, whose father, Roberto Hack, was of Swiss origin, graduated in physics from the University of Florence in 1945. She worked at the Brera Astronomical Observatory just outside Milan and then became a professor at the University of Trieste.  She spent more than 20 years as director of the observatory in Trieste, the first woman in Italy to hold such a position. Under her leadership, the observatory became one of the foremost research centres in Italy.  Hack wrote many scientific papers and books, winning awards for her research. Her television appearances helped make science more popular with ordinary people.  Read more…


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