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.

14 June 2019

14 June

Giacomo Leopardi – poet and philosopher


The tragic life of a brilliant Italian writer

One of Italy’s greatest 19th century writers, Giacomo Leopardi, died on this day in 1837 in Naples.  A brilliant scholar and philosopher, Leopardi led an unhappy life in Recanati in the Papal States, blighted by poor health, but he left as a legacy his superb lyric poetry.  By the age of 16, Leopardi had independently mastered Greek, Latin and several modern languages and had translated many classical works. Plagued  by ill health, he was forced to suspend his studies and, saddened by an apparent lack of concern from his parents, he poured out his feelings in poems such as the visionary work, Appressamento della morte - Approach of Death - written in 1816 in terza rima, in imitation of Petrarch and Dante.  The death from consumption of the young daughter of his father’s coachman inspired perhaps his greatest lyric poem, A Silvia.  His frustrated love for a Florentine beauty, Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti, led him to write some of his saddest poetry.  After many years’ travelling, Leopardi finally settled in Naples in 1833, where he wrote the long poem, Ginestra.  He died there in 1837 during a cholera epidemic.  Read more…

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Battle of Marengo


Napoleon works up an appetite driving out the Austrians

Napoleon was victorious in battle against the Austrians on this day in 1800 in an area near the village of Marengo, about five kilometres south of Alessandria in Piedmont.  A chicken dish named after the battle, Pollo alla Marengo, keeps the event alive by continuing to appear on restaurant menus and in cookery books.  It was an important victory for Napoleon, who effectively drove the Austrians out of Italy by forcing them to retreat.  Initially French forces had been overpowered by the Austrians and had been pushed back a few miles. The Austrians thought they had won and retired to Alessandria.  But the French received reinforcements and launched a surprise counter-attack, forcing the Austrians to retreat and to have to subsequently sign an armistice.  This sealed a political victory for Napoleon and helped him secure his grip on power.  There are various stories about the origin of the chicken dish named after the battle. Some say Napoleon ate it after his victory, while others say a restaurant chef in Paris invented it and named it after the battle in Napoleon’s honour.  Read more…

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Salvatore Quasimodo - Nobel Prize winner


Civil engineer wrote poetry in his spare time

Salvatore Quasimodo, one of six Italians to have won a Nobel Prize in Literature, died on this day in 1968 in Naples.  The former civil engineer, who was working for the Italian government in Reggio Calabria when he published his first collection of poems and won the coveted and historic Nobel Prize in 1959, suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in Amalfi, in Campania, where he had gone to preside over a poetry prize.  He was taken by car to Naples but died in hospital a few hours later, at the age of 66.  The committee of the Swedish Academy, who meet to decide each year’s Nobel laureates, cited Quasimodo’s “lyrical poetics, which with ardent classicism expresses the tragic experiences of the life of our times".  The formative experiences that shaped his literary life began after the family moved from Modica, the small city in the province of Ragusa in Sicily, where Salvatore was born in 1901, to Messina, at the tip of the island closest to the mainland, which had been almost destroyed in the devastating earthquake of December 1908.  Read more…

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