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.

2 August 2019

2 August

Bologna railway station bombed


Biggest terrorist atrocity in Italy's history killed 85

Italy suffered the most devastating terrorist outrage in its history on this day in 1980 with the bombing of Bologna's main railway station.  A massive 23kg (51lbs) of explosives packed into a suitcase left in a crowded waiting room was detonated at 10.25am, creating a blast that destroyed much of the main building of the station and badly damaged a train on one of the platforms.  Many people, locals and tourists, Italians and foreign nationals, were caught up in the explosion. Some were killed instantly, others died as a result of the roof of the waiting room collapsing on to the victims. There were 85 deaths and more than 200 other people were wounded.  The bomb was clearly placed to cause mass casualties. It was the first Saturday in the traditional August holiday period, one of the busiest days of the year for rail travel, and the explosive-laden suitcase was left in a room with air conditioning, then still relatively rare in Italy. On a hot day, the room was naturally full of people.  The attack was the deadliest of several during a bleak period of 10-12 years in Italian history that became known as the Years of Lead, when the ideological struggle between the left and right in Italian politics was at its height.  Read more…

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Pietro Mascagni – composer


One opera was enough to build reputation of musician

Pietro Mascagni, the creator of the opera Cavalleria rusticana, died on this day in 1945 in Rome, at the age of 81.  Cavalleria rusticana was an outstanding success when it was first performed in Rome in 1890 and was said to have single-handedly brought the Verismo movement, in which the characters were ordinary people rather than gods, mythological figures or kings and queens, into Italian opera.  The beautiful intermezzo from the opera was used in the soundtrack of the 1980 film Raging Bull and a production of the opera was used as the setting for the climax of the 1990 film The Godfather Part III, with Michael Corleone’s son Anthony playing Turridu, the opera’s male protagonist. The film ends with the intermezzo playing.  In 2001 Andrea Bocelli recorded a song entitled Mascagni on his Cieli di Toscana album and had an excerpt from Cavalleria rusticana incorporated into the music.  The opera has been so successful that it has led to Mascagni sometimes being dismissed as a one-opera composer, but, in fact, the composer wrote 15 operas, as well as orchestral and piano music and songs.  Two of Mascagni’s other operas, L’amico Fritz and Iris, have remained in the European repertoire and have been regularly performed since their premières.  In 1881 he won first prize for a Cantata which was performed at a musical contest in Milan.  Read more…

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Francis Marion Crawford – author


Novelist found inspiration while living in Sorrento

The American writer Francis Marion Crawford was born on this day in 1854 in Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany.  A prolific novelist, Crawford became known for the vividness of his characterisations and the realism of his settings, many of which were places he had visited in Italy.  He chose to settle in later life in the coastal resort of Sorrento in Campania where he even had a street named after him, Corso Marion Crawford.  Crawford was the only son of the American sculptor, Thomas Crawford. He spent his childhood going backwards and forwards between Italy and America and studied at various American and European Universities.  He spent some time in India where he found the inspiration for his first successful novel, Mr Isaacs, which was published in 1882.  In 1883 he returned to Italy to settle there permanently. He lived at the Hotel Cocumella in the village of Sant’Agnello just outside Sorrento to begin with. He then bought a nearby farmhouse, from which he developed the Villa Crawford, an impressive clifftop residence easily identifiable from the sea by the tall buttresses Crawford added as a safeguard against erosion.   He was married to Elizabeth Christophers Berdan, daughter of the American Civil War General, Hiram Berdan. They had two sons and two daughters, one of whom became a nun and lived at the Villa Crawford when it became a convent after her father's death.  Read more…

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