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.

15 September 2019

15 September

The first free public school in Europe


Frascati sees groundbreaking development in education

The first free public school in Europe opened its doors to children on this day in 1616 in Frascati, a town in Lazio just a few kilometres from Rome.  The school was founded by a Spanish Catholic priest, José de Calasanz, who was originally from Aragon but who moved to Rome in 1592 at the age of 35.  Calasanz had a passion for education and in particular made it his life’s work to set up schools for children who did not have the benefit of coming from wealthy families.  Previously, schools existed only for the children of noble families or for those studying for the priesthood. Calasanz established Pious Schools and a religious order responsible for running them, who became known as the Piarists.  Calasanz had been a priest for 10 years when he decided to go to Rome in the hope of furthering his ecclesiastical career.  He soon became involved with helping neglected and homeless children via the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.  He would gather up poor children on the streets and take them to schools, only to find that the teachers, who were not well paid, would not accept them unless Calasanz provided them with extra money.  Read more…


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Fausto Coppi - cycling great


Multiple title-winner who died tragically young

The cycling champion Fausto Coppi, who won the Giro d’Italia five times and the Tour de France twice as well as numerous other races, was born on this day in 1919 in Castellania, a village in Piedmont about 37km (23 miles) southeast of Alessandria.  Although hugely successful and lauded for his talent and mental strength, Coppi was a controversial character. His rivalry with his fellow Italian rider Gino Bartali divided the nation, while he offended many in what was still a socially conservative country by abandoning his wife to live with another woman who was also married.  Fausto, who openly admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs, which were then legal, died in 1960 at the age of just 40 following a trip to Burkina Faso in West Africa. The cause of death officially was malaria but a story has circulated in more recent years that he was poisoned in an act of revenge.  The fourth in a family of five children, Coppi had poor health as he grew up and would skip school in order to amuse himself riding a rusty bicycle he found in a cellar. He left at the age of 13 to work in a butcher’s shop in Novi Ligure, a town about 20km (12 miles) from his home village in Piedmont.  Read more…


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Ettore Bugatti - car designer


Name that became a trademark for luxury and high performance

The car designer and manufacturer Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan on this day in 1881.  The company Bugatti launched in 1909 became associated with luxury and exclusivity while also enjoying considerable success in motor racing.  When the glamorous Principality of Monaco launched its famous Grand Prix in 1929, the inaugural race was won by a Bugatti.  Although Bugatti cars were manufactured for the most part in a factory in Alsace, on the border of France and Germany, their stylish designs reflected the company’s Italian heritage and Bugatti cars are seen as part of Italy’s traditional success in producing desirable high-performance cars.  The story of Bugatti as a purely family business ended in 1956, and the company closed altogether in 1963.  The name did not die, however, and Bugatti cars are currently produced by Volkswagen.  Ettore came from an artistic family in Milan. His father, Carlo Bugatti, was a successful designer of Italian Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry, while his paternal grandfather, Giovanni Luigi Bugatti, had been an architect and sculptor.  His younger brother, Rembrandt Bugatti, became well known for his animal sculpture.  Read more…

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Umberto II - last King of Italy


Brief reign was followed by long exile

The last King of Italy, Umberto II, was born on this day in 1904 in Racconigi in Piedmont.  Umberto reigned over Italy from 9 May 1946 to 12 June 1946 and was therefore nicknamed the May King - Re di Maggio.  When Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria di Savoia was born at the Castle of Racconigi he became heir apparent to the Italian throne as the only son and third child of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Queen Elena of Montenegro.   He was given the title of Prince of Piedmont.  Umberto married Marie Jose of Belgium in Rome in 1930 and they had four children.  He became de facto head of state in 1944 when his father, Victor Emmanuel III, transferred his powers to him in an attempt to repair the monarchy’s image after the fall of Benito Mussolini’s regime.  Victor Emmanuel III abdicated his throne in favour of Umberto in 1946 ahead of a referendum on the abolition of the monarchy in the hope that his exit and a new King might give a boost to the popularity of the monarchy.  However, after the referendum, Italy was declared a republic and Umberto had to live out the rest of his life in exile in Portugal.  Read more…


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