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.

29 August 2019

29 August

Libero Grassi - anti-Mafia hero


Businessman brutally murdered after refusing to pay

Libero Grassi, a Palermo clothing manufacturer, died on this day in 1991, shot three times in the head as he walked from his home to his car in Via Vittorio Alfieri, a street of apartment buildings not far from the historic centre, at 7.30am.  It was a classic Mafia hit to which there were no witnesses, at least none prepared to come forward. Such killings were not uncommon in the Sicilian capital as rival clans fought for control of different neighbourhoods.  Yet this one was different in that 67-year-old Grassi had no connection with the criminal underworld apart from his brave decision to stand up to their demands for protection money and refuse to pay.  Grassi owned a factory making underwear, which he sold in his own shop.  In a struggling economy, he was doing very well.  Of course, the Mafia wanted their cut.  Grassi began receiving demands, first by telephone, then in person, that he fall in line with other Palermo businesses and pay a pizzo, the term used for the monthly payment the mob collects from businesses.  The penalties imposed for not paying range from vandalism or arson directed at business premises to physical harm and even death.  But Grassi decided he would not pay.  Read more…  


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Tiziana ‘Tosca’ Donati - singer


Versatile performer whose range spans musicals to sacred songs

The singer Tiziana Donati, who performs under the stage name Tosca, was born on this day in 1967 in Rome.  Winner of the Sanremo Festival in 1996, Tosca has recorded 10 studio albums, released the same number of singles and has recorded duets with many other artists.  She has enjoyed a successful stage career, appearing in numerous 20 theatrical productions, and has been invited to perform songs for several movies, including the title track for Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Jane Eyre in 1996. She also sang and spoke the part of Anastasia in the Italian dubbed version of the Disney cartoon of the same name.  At Christmas in 1999, she participated in concerts in churches in Italy where she performed Latin songs set to music by Vincenzo Zitello and Stefano Melone.  Following this she began a collaboration with the Vatican, taking part in several televised events to commemorate the Jubilee of 2000, and was chosen to sing the Mater Iubilaei, the Marian anthem of the Jubilee, in a ceremony led by Pope John Paul II.  Throughout 2000, she toured with Musica Caeli, a concert made up of never-before performed sacred chants, staged in some of the biggest churches and cathedrals around the world.  Read more…


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Leonardo De Lorenzo – flautist


Flair for the flute led to international career

Leonardo De Lorenzo, a brilliant flute player who passed on his knowledge of the instrument to others through his books, was born on this day in 1875 in Viggiano in the province of Potenza.  De Lorenzo started playing the flute at the age of eight and then moved to Naples to attend the music conservatory of San Pietro a Majella.  He became an itinerant flautist until he was 16, when he moved to America, where he worked in a hotel. He returned to Italy in 1896 to do his military service in Alessandria and became a member of a military band directed by Giovanni Moranzoni, whose son was to become a famous conductor of the orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  De Lorenzo then began a career as a flautist and toured Italy, Germany, England and South Africa, joining an orchestra in Cape Town for a while. Eventually he returned to Naples to continue his studies.  When he travelled to America again, he became first flautist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Gustav Mahler. He was warned never to answer back to Mahler, who had a reputation for being unpleasant. Read more…

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