20 February 2020

20 February

Ferruccio Lamborghini - car maker


Tractor manufacturer inspired by Enzo Ferrari's 'insult'

Fans on one side of a great rivalry in Italy's performance car market were in mourning on this day in 1993 following the death at the age of 76 of Ferruccio Lamborghini.  Lamborghini, who made his fortune from building tractors to service Italy's post-war agricultural recovery, set up as a car maker in 1963 in direct competition with Enzo Ferrari, who had been selling sports cars with increasing success since 1947.  It is said there was no love lost between the two, not least because they first met when Lamborghini turned up at Ferrari's factory in Maranello, a few kilometres from Modena, to complain to Enzo in person that Ferrari were using inferior parts.  Lamborghini had become a collector of fast cars and owned a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a Jaguar E-Type and two Maserati 3500 GTs among others.  He acquired his first Ferrari, a two-seater 250GT with bodywork designed by Pinin Farina, in 1958, and went on to own several more.  He was generally unimpressed, complaining that they were noisy and rough and essentially re-purposed track cars, with too little luxury refinement.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________________

The Barber of Seville premieres in Rome


Rival fans wreck debut of Rossini’s most famous opera

The Barber of Seville, the work that would come to be seen as Gioachino Rossini’s masterpiece of comic opera, was performed for the first time on this day in 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.  Commissioned by the theatre’s owner, Duke Francesco Sforza-Cesarini, it had a libretto by Cesare Sterbini based on the French comedy play Le Barbier de Séville and was originally entitled Almaviva or The Useless Precaution, out of deference to Giovanni Paisiello, the most popular composer in Italy in the 18th century, whose own version of Il barbiere di Siviglia had been very successful.  The second part of the same text, by Pierre Beaumarchais, was behind Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, which premiered four years after Paisiello’s.  Nonetheless, Paisiello’s loyal fans saw Rossini’s opera as an attempt to steal their favourite’s thunder, whatever name he gave it, and organised what was nothing short of an act of sabotage, packing the theatre on opening night and proceeding to jeer, shout and catcall throughout the whole performance, unsettling the cast and leading to a number of mishaps on stage.   Read more…

________________________________________________________________

Laura Bassi – scientist


Ground-breaking academic paved the way for women

Brilliant physicist Laura Bassi died on this day in 1778 in Bologna.  She had enjoyed a remarkable career, becoming the first woman to earn a Chair in Science at a university anywhere in the world.  When she was just 13 her family’s physician had recognised her potential and took charge of her education.  When she was 20 he invited philosophers from the University of Bologna along with the Archbishop of Bologna, who later became Pope Benedict XIV, to examine her progress.  They were all impressed and Bassi was admitted to the Bologna Academy of Sciences as an honorary member, the first female ever to be allowed to join.  Her theses at the university showed influences of Isaac Newton’s work on optics and light. She was a key figure in introducing his ideas about physics to Italy.  When she received her degree from the university there was a public celebration in Bologna.  Another of her theses about the property of water led to her being awarded the post of Professor of Physics at the university.  As a woman, she was not allowed to teach at the university so she gave lessons and did experiments in her own home.  Read more…

_______________________________________________________________

Francesco Maria II della Rovere - the last Duke of Urbino


Last male in famous family line

Francesco Maria II della Rovere, the last holder of the title Duke of Urbino and the last surviving male from a famous noble family, was born on this day in 1549 in Pesaro in Le Marche.  Descended from the 15th century Pope Sixtus IV, Francesco Maria II’s only male heir, Federico Ubaldo della Rovere, died without fathering a son, which meant the Duchy reverted to Francesco Maria II, who in turn was convinced he should give it to Pope Urban VIII, of the Barberini family.  Federico’s daughter, Vittoria della Rovere, had been convinced she would be made Duchess of Urbino but had to be content with the Duchies of Rovere and Montefeltro, as well as an art collection that became the property of Florence after she had married Ferdinando II de’ Medici.  Pope Sixtus IV, best known for building the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official papal residence in Vatican City, had come from a poor family in Savona in Liguria, but once elected pope became wealthy and powerful and set about ensuring that his personal prosperity was used to the betterment of his family.  He soon made his nephews Giuliano della Rovere (the future Pope Julius II) and Pietro Riario both cardinals and bishops.  Read more…


Home

19 February 2020

19 February

NEW - Domenico Grimani - cardinal and art collector


Owned works by Da Vinci, Titian and Raphael among others

The Venetian cardinal Domenico Grimani, whose vast art collection now forms part of the Museo d'Antichità in the Doge's Palace in Venice, was born on this day in 1461.  Grimani acquired works among others by Italian Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Titian and Raphael, as well as by Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch, two of the great Early Netherlandish painters of the 15th century.  He also owned the illustrated manuscript that became known as the Grimani Breviary, produced in Ghent and Bruges between 1510 and 1520, which is considered one of the most important  works of Flemish art from the Renaissance period.  Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and other illustrators contributed to the work, which was acquired by Grimani for 500 gold ducats, and subsequently bequeathed to the Venetian Republic.  It is now housed in the Biblioteca Marciana, opposite the Doge’s Palace.  Domenico also began the collection of Greek and Roman antiquities that was subsequently expanded by his nephew, Giovanni, and now kept in the Palazzo Grimani museum, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa.  Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Vittorio Grigolo - opera singer


Tenor courted public popularity as way to land 'serious' roles

The operatic tenor Vittorio Grigolo was born on this day in 1977 in Arezzo in Tuscany.  Grigolo has performed at many of the world's leading opera houses and is currently starring in Werther by Jules Massenet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Yet he has achieved fame as a serious performer after first releasing an album of popular songs and using reality TV shows to put himself in the public eye.  Brought up in Rome, Grigolo was a child prodigy who began to sing at the age of four, his love for music inspired by his father, who liked the family house to be filled with the sound of opera arias.  He won a place at the prestigious Sistine Chapel Choir School by the time he was nine and at 13 appeared on the same stage as the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti as the shepherd boy in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca at the Rome Opera House.  It earned him the nickname Il Pavarottino - the little Pavarotti.  Grigolo's progress continued to be rapid.  At 18 he joined the Vienna Opera Company and became the youngest tenor to perform at Teatro alla Scala in Milan at the age of 23.  But in the years that followed, he felt his career reached a plateau. Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Massimo Troisi – actor, writer and director


Tragic star died hours after completing finest work

Massimo Troisi, the comic actor, writer and director who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1994 only 12 hours after shooting finished on his greatest movie, was born on this day in 1953 in a suburb of Naples.  Troisi co-directed and starred in Il Postino, which won an Oscar for best soundtrack after being nominated in five categories, the most nominations in Academy Award history for an Italian film.  He also wrote much of the screenplay for the movie, based on a novel, Burning Patience, by the Chilean author Antonio Skármeta, which tells the story of a Chilean poet exiled on an Italian island and his friendship with a postman whose round consists only of the poet’s isolated house.  Plagued by heart problems for much of his life, the result of several bouts of rheumatic fever when he was a child, Troisi was told just before shooting was due to begin that he needed an urgent transplant operation.  However, he was so committed to the project, a joint enterprise with his friend, the British director Michael Radford, he decided to postpone his surgery.  He was so ill that he collapsed on set on the third day but recovered to continue.  Read more…


________________________________________________________________


Luigi Boccherini – musician


Composer gave the cello prominence in his charming quintets

Cellist and composer Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini was born on this day in 1743 in Lucca in Tuscany.  Boccherini is particularly known for a minuet from his String Quintet in E, which became popular after its use by characters posing as musicians in the 1955 film, The Ladykillers, which starred Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.  Though his works became neglected after his death in 1805 they enjoyed a revival after the Boccherini Quintet was formed in Rome, who started performing them in the 1950s.  Boccherini’s father was himself a cellist and double bass player and sent the young Luigi to study in Rome.  In 1757 they went to Vienna together where the court employed them both as musicians in the Imperial Theatre orchestra.  In 1764 Luigi obtained a permanent position back in Lucca, playing in both the church and theatre orchestras.  But after the death of his father he moved to Paris where some of his early compositions were published.  Boccherini later moved to Spain, where for a time he enjoyed the patronage of the Royal family. But one day King Charles III of Spain ordered him to change a passage of his music.   Read more…


Home

Domenico Grimani - cardinal and art collector

Owned works by Da Vinci, Titian and Raphael among others


Lorenzo Lotto's portrait of Cardinal Domenico Grimani, painted in the 16th century
Lorenzo Lotto's portrait of Cardinal Domenico
Grimani, painted in the 16th century
The Venetian cardinal Domenico Grimani, whose vast art collection now forms part of the Museo d'Antichità in the Doge's Palace in Venice, was born on this day in 1461.

Grimani acquired works among others by Italian Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Titian and Raphael, as well as by Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch, two of the great Early Netherlandish painters of the 15th century.

He also owned the illustrated manuscript that became known as the Grimani Breviary, produced in Ghent and Bruges between 1510 and 1520, which is considered one of the most important  works of Flemish art from the Renaissance period. 

Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and other illustrators contributed to the work, which was acquired by Grimani for 500 gold ducats, and subsequently bequeathed to the Venetian Republic.  It is now housed in the Biblioteca Marciana, opposite the Doge’s Palace.

Domenico also began the collection of Greek and Roman antiquities that was subsequently expanded by his nephew, Giovanni, and now kept in the Palazzo Grimani museum, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa in the Castello District.

Grimani's father, Antonio, a wealthy merchant who was elected Doge of Venice
Grimani's father, Antonio, a wealthy
merchant who became Doge of Venice
Grimani was the eldest of five sons of Antonio Grimani, a merchant who had grown wealthy through the spice trade and would be elected as the oldest Doge of Venice in 1521 at the age of 87. His mother was Catarina Loredan, who came from another noble Venetian family.

After showing an early interest in humanist studies, Domenico moved to the Medicean academy in Florence, where he became part of the circle of Lorenzo de' Medici and associated with scholars such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Angelo Poliziano. He obtained a doctorate in canon law at the University of Padua in 1487 and was elected a Senator of Venice that same year.

He became a cardinal in 1493, an appointment paid for by his father. He was not ordained a priest until 1498, becoming cardinal priest of San Marco after the election of Pope Julius II in 1503.

Other titles he held during his life included apostolic administrator in Nicosia, Patriarch of Aquileia, cardinal bishop of Albano, administrator of the diocese of Urbino and Bishop of Ceneda.

He died in 1523. Initially buried in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Rome, his remains were later moved to San Francesco della Vigna in Venice.

In addition to his fascination with art and antiquities, which began when he stumbled upon buried Roman remains while building a villa and a vineyard in Rome, Domenico also wrote several theological treatises.

The entrance to the Palazzo Grimani in Venice, which now houses a museum
The entrance to the Palazzo Grimani in
Venice, which now houses a museum
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Grimani was built at the confluence of the canals of San Severo and Santa Maria Formosa. Purchased by Antonio Grimani, it was  passed on as a legacy to his grandsons Vettore Grimani, Procurator de Supra for the Venetian Republic, and Giovanni Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia, who refurbished the old structure inspired by architectural models taken from classicism. In 1558, at the death of Vettore, Giovanni became the sole owner of the building, in which he set up his collection of antiques, including sculptures, marbles, vases, bronzes and gems.  Until 1865, the palace was the property of the Santa Maria Formosa branch of the Grimani family but it later deteriorated and passed through several owners until it was bought by the city in 1981. After a long period of restoration, it was opened to the public in December 2008.

The Piazzetta San Marco, with the Doge's Palace on the  left and the Biblioteca Marciana opposite
The Piazzetta San Marco, with the Doge's Palace on the
left and the Biblioteca Marciana opposite
Travel tip:

The Doge’s Palace - Palazzo Ducale in Italian - is the former seat of the Government of Venice and the home of the Doge from the early days of the republic. For centuries this was the only building in Venice entitled to the name palazzo. The others were merely called Cà, short for Casa. The current palazzo was built in the 12th century in Venetian Gothic style, one side looking out over the lagoon, the other side looking out over the piazzetta that links St Mark’s Square with the waterfront. It opened as a museum in 1923 and is now run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.  The Biblioteca Marciana sits opposite, across the Piazzetta.

Also on this day:

1743: The birth of composer Luigi Boccherini

1953: The birth of actor and director Massimo Troisi

1977: The birth of opera singer Vittorio Grigolo


Home


18 February 2020

18 February

Roberto Baggio - football icon


Azzurri star regarded as Italy's greatest player

The footballer Roberto Baggio, regarded by fans in Italy and around the world as one of the game's greatest players, was born on this day in 1967 in Caldogno, a small town situated about 10km (6 miles) north of Vicenza in the Veneto.  Baggio's career spanned 22 years, most of them spent at the highest level, with Fiorentina, Juventus, Bologna, both Milan clubs and, finally, Brescia, winning the Serie A title twice, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup.  He played in three World Cups - in 1990, 1994 and 1998 - and achieved the unique distinction among Italian players of scoring at all three.  He scored 318 goals all told, the first Italian for 50 years to top 300 in his career.  Yet he spent almost the whole of his active playing days battling against injury.  Over the course of his career, he had six knee operations, four on his right knee and two on the left, and often could play only with the help of painkillers.  His fans believe that without his injuries, Baggio would have been placed in the same bracket as Pele, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi as the best players in history.  Italy's most famous football journalist, the late Gianni Brera, said Baggio was the greatest Italian player he ever saw, better than both Giuseppe Meazza and Gianni Rivera.  Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Michelangelo – Renaissance painter and sculptor


‘Greatest artist of all time’ left amazing legacy of work

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni - generally known simply as Michelangelo - died on this day in 1564 in Rome.   His death came three weeks before his 89th birthday while he was still working on his last sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà, a version of the Virgin Mary with the body of the dead Christ.  Michelangelo had been a sculptor, painter, architect and poet who had exerted an enormous influence on the development of art. During his lifetime he was considered to be the greatest living artist and he is now considered to be one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- artists of all time.  Michelangelo was born in 1475 in the small town of Caprese near Arezzo in Tuscany, which is now known as Caprese Michelangelo.  He was sent to Florence to be educated but preferred to spend his time with painters, trying to copy the pictures in the churches, rather than be at school.  At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to the artist Ghirlandaio and was asked to produce sculptures for Lorenzo dè Medici.  Eventually he moved to Rome where he was commissioned to carve his first Pietà, a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary grieving over the dead body of Jesus.  Read more…

_______________________________________________________________

Blessed Fra Angelico – painter


Talented Friar became patron of Catholic artists

The early Renaissance painter who became known as Fra Angelico died on this day in 1455 in Rome.  Fra Angelico is regarded as one of the greatest painters of the 15th century, whose works reflected his serene religious attitude.   He painted many altarpieces and frescoes for the Church and Priory of San Marco in Florence where he lived for about nine years.   In 1982, more than 500 years after his death, Fra Angelico was beatified by Pope John Paul II in recognition of the holiness of his life. In 1984, Pope John Paul II declared him ‘patron of Catholic artists’.  The artist was born Guido di Pietro at Rupecanina near Fiesole, just outside Florence, towards the end of the 14th century.  The earliest recorded document concerning him dates from 1417 when he joined a religious confraternity at the Carmine Church and it reveals that he was already a painter.  The first record of him as a Friar is dated 1423 and shows him to have been a member of the Dominican order.  It is believed his first paintings were an altarpiece and a painted screen for the Carthusian Monastery in Florence, but these no longer exist.  Read more…


________________________________________________________________

Roberta Vinci - tennis champion


Won five Grand Slam doubles titles with partner Sara Errani

The tennis player Roberta Vinci, one half of the most successful Italian women’s doubles partnerships of all time and one of only four Italian women to rank in the world’s top 10 at singles, was born on this day in 1983 in the major port city of Taranto in Puglia.  Vinci and partner Sara Errani reached the women’s doubles final at eight Grand Slam tournaments between 2012 and 2014, winning five of them.  They were the champions at the French Open and United States Open in 2012 and the Australian Open in 2013 and again in 2014. When they won the Wimbledon title in 2014 they became one of only five women’s doubles partnerships to complete a career Grand Slam of all the four majors.  The pair, who reached No 1 in the world rankings in 2012, unexpectedly ended their five-year partnership in 2015, after which Vinci focussed on singles.  Vinci’s finest achievement in singles came at the US Open in 2015, when she defeated world No 1 Serena Williams in the semi-finals before facing her compatriot and childhood friend Flavia Pennetta in the final, the first in a Grand Slam in the open era to pit one Italian against another.  Read more…


Home

17 February 2020

17 February

Raffaele ‘Raf’ Vallone – actor


Movie star who had four careers

Raffaele Vallone, the stage and screen actor who was born on this day in 1916 in Tropea, Calabria, was remarkable for having embarked on three starkly different career paths even before he made his acting debut.  Usually known as Raf, he grew up from the age of two in Turin, where his father, an ambitious young lawyer, had relocated to set up a legal practice.  A natural athlete, he was a fine footballer – so good, in fact, that at the age of 14 he was snapped up by Torino FC, who made him an apprentice professional.  Compared with the average working man, he was handsomely paid as a footballer, and he won a medal as part of the Torino team crowned Coppa Italia winners in 1936.  Yet he quickly became bored with football and enrolled at Turin University, where he studied Law and Philosophy with a view to joining his father’s firm.  Ultimately, he baulked at the idea of becoming a lawyer, too, and instead joined the staff of the left-wing daily newspaper L’Unità, where he rose quickly to be head of the culture pages, at the same time establishing himself as a drama and film critic for the Turin daily La Stampa.  Read more…

________________________________________________________________

Giordano Bruno - 'martyr of science'


Dominican friar condemned as a heretic

Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar, philosopher and cosmological theorist who challenged orthodox Christian beliefs in the 16th century, died on this day in 1600 when he was burned at the stake after being found guilty of heresy.  The principal crimes for which he was tried by the Roman Inquisition were the denial of several core Catholic doctrines.  Bruno challenged the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and the transubstantiation - the idea that Eucharistic offering of bread and wine in Mass becomes the body and blood of Christ.  He also questioned the idea of God as a holy trinity of divine persons - the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.  His own belief was closer to pantheism, which contends that a God is an all-encompassing divine presence rather than existing in some personal form with human traits.  This idea formed part of his cosmological theory, in which he supported the idea that everything in the universe is made of tiny particles (atoms) and that God exists in all of these particles.  Yet this was in contradiction of the established Catholic wisdom, as was his support for the idea advanced by the Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus that Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way round.  Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Arcangelo Corelli – musician


Baroque composer had a major influence on the development of music

Violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli was born on this day in 1653 at Fusignano, a small town near Ravenna.   He is remembered for his influence on the development of violin style and for his use of the genres of sonata and concerto. Corelli’s 12 Concerti Grossi established the concerto grosso as a popular medium of composition.  Named Arcangelo after his father, who died a few weeks before his birth, he studied music with the curate of a neighbouring village before going to the nearby towns of Faenza and Lugo to learn musical theory.  Corelli later studied with Giovanni Benvenuti, who was a violinist at San Petronio in Bologna and in 1670 he started at the Philharmonic Academy in Bologna.  He moved on to Rome where to begin with he played the violin at a theatre. It is known that by 1677 he had written his first composition, a Sonata for Violin and Lute.  By 1675 Corelli was third violinist in the orchestra of the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi and by the following year he had become second violinist.In 1681 his 12 Trio Sonatas for two violins and a cello were published and the following year he became first violinist in the San Luigi dei Francesi orchestra.  Read more…


________________________________________________________________

Giovanni Pacini – opera composer


Works of overshadowed musician have enjoyed recent revival

Composer Giovanni Pacini, who wrote operas in the early part of the 19th century to suit the voices of the great singers of the period, was born on this day in 1796 in Catania in Sicily.  Pacini began his formal music studies at the age of 12, when he was sent by his father, the opera singer Luigi Pacini, to study voice in Bologna with castrato singer and composer, Luigi Marchesi.  He soon switched his focus to composing and wrote an opera, La sposa fedele - The Faithful Bride. It premiered in Venice in 1818 and, for its revival the following year, Pacini provided a new aria, to be sung specifically by the soprano Giuditta Pasta.  By the mid 1820s he had become a leading opera composer, having produced many successful serious and comic works.  Pacini’s 1824 work Alessandro nelle Indie - Alexander in the Indies - was a successful serious opera based on Andrea Leone Tottola’s updating of a text by librettist Pietro Metastasio.  But by the mid 1830s, Pacini had withdrawn from operatic activity after he found his operas eclipsed by those of Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini.  He settled in Tuscany, where his father had been born.  Read more…


Home

16 February 2020

16 February

NEWAngelo Peruzzi - footballer


Italy international who was twice world's costliest goalkeeper

The footballer Angelo Peruzzi, who made 31 appearances for Italy’s national team and was a member of Marcello Lippi’s victorious squad at the 2006 World Cup as well as winning the Champions League with Juventus, was born on this day in 1970 in Blera, a hilltop town in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome.  Peruzzi defied his relatively short and stocky physique to become one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, renowned not only for his physical strength but also for his positional sense, anticipation and explosive reactions.  These qualities enabled him to compensate for his lack of height and earned him a reputation for efficiency rather than spectacular stops yet he was much coveted by clubs in Italy’s Serie A.  Twice he moved clubs for what was at the time a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.  In 1999 he joined Internazionale of Milan (Inter Milan) from Juventus for €14.461 million but stayed at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for only a year before switching to Lazio in a deal worth €20.658 million.  That record stood for 11 years until Manchester United bought David de Gea from Atletico Madrid for €22 million in 2011.  Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Valentino Rossi - motorcycle world champion


Rider from Urbino among his sport's all-time greats

Valentino Rossi, the motorcycle racer whose seven 500cc or MotoGP world titles have established him as one of the sport's all-time greats, was born on this day in 1979 in Urbino.  Only his fellow Italian, Giacomo Agostini, the eight-times world champion, has more 500cc or MotoGP titles than Rossi, whose total of 88 race victories in the premier classification is the most by any rider.  Across all engine sizes, he has been a world champion nine times, behind only Agostini (15) and Spain's Ángel Nieto, who specialised in 50cc and 125cc classes.  Britain's Mike Hailwood and Italy's 1950s star Carlo Ubbiali also won nine world titles each.  Still competing at the highest level, Rossi has not won the world title since 2009 but continues to defy his age.  Rossi came from a motorcycling family, his father Graziano having competed on the grand prix circuit himself between 1977 and 1982. He won three races in the 250cc category in 1979, when he finished third in the overall classification.  When Valentino was still a child, the family moved to Tavullia, a small town between Urbino and Pesaro, on the Adriatic coast.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________________

Edda Dell’Orso – vocalist


Soprano was wordless voice of Morricone soundtracks

The singer Edda Dell’Orso, best known for the extraordinary range of wordless vocals that have featured in many of composer Ennio Morricone’s brilliant film soundtracks from the 1960s onwards, was born on this day in 1935 in Genoa.  Her collaboration with Morricone began when he was contracted in 1964 to provide the musical score for A Fistful of Dollars, the first of Sergio Leone’s so-called Spaghetti Western trilogy that was to make Clint Eastwood an international star.  Leone’s producers could only offer Morricone a small budget, which meant his access to a full orchestra was limited, forcing him to improvise and create sound effects in different ways. One idea he had was to replace instruments with human voices, which is where Dell’Orso, a distinctive soprano, came into her own.  Born Edda Sabatini, she had pursued her musical interests with the support of her father who, while not musical himself, could see that she had potential as a pianist.  The quality of her voice became clear when she enrolled at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, the renowned music school in Rome, where she graduated in 1956 in singing and piano.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________________

Giambattista Bodoni - type designer


Celebrity printer whose name lives on in type

Typographer, printer and publisher Giambattista Bodoni was born on this day in 1740 in Saluzzo in the region of Piedmont.  At the height of his career he became internationally famous and was complimented by the Pope and paid a pension by Napoleon.  Bodoni designed a modern typeface that was named after him and is still in use today.  His father and grandfather were both printers and as a child he played with their leftover equipment. He learnt the printing trade at his father’s side and at the age of 17 travelled to Rome to further his career.  Bodoni served an apprenticeship at the press of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the missionary arm of the Catholic Church.  In 1768 he was asked to assume management of the Duke of Parma’s Royal Press, where he produced Italian, Greek and Latin books.  He started using modern typefaces of his own design and came up with the typeface that retained the Bodoni name in 1790.  He became well known and important travellers visited his press to see him at work. Bodoni produced fine editions of the writings of Horace and Virgil in 1791 and 1793 respectively and Homer’s Iliad in 1808.  Read more…


__________________________________________________________________

Achille Castiglioni - designer


Leading figure in post-war Italian style

The designer Achille Castiglioni, whose innovative ideas for lighting, furniture and items for the home put him at the forefront of Italy’s post-war design boom, was born on this day in 1918 in Milan.  Many of his designs, including the Arco floor lamp for which he is most famous, are still in production today, even 17 years after his death.  The Arco lamp, which he designed in 1962 in conjunction with his brother, Pier Giacomo, combined a heavy base in Carrara marble, a curved telescopic stainless steel arm and a polished aluminium reflector.  Designed so that the reflector could be suspended above a table or a chair, the Arco was conceived as an overhead lighting solution for apartments that removed the need for holes in the ceiling and wiring, yet as an object of simple chic beauty it came to be seen as a symbol of sophistication and good taste.  The Arco was commissioned by the Italian lighting company Flos, which still produces numerous other lamps designed by Castiglioni.  Achille’s father was the sculptor Giannino Castiglioni. His brothers Livio and Pier Giacomo, both older, were architects.  Read more… 


Home

Angelo Peruzzi - footballer

Italy international who was twice world's costliest goalkeeper


Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club football during his years with Juventus
Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club
football during his years with Juventus
The footballer Angelo Peruzzi, who made 31 appearances for Italy’s national team and was a member of Marcello Lippi’s victorious squad at the 2006 World Cup, was born on this day in 1970 in Blera, a hilltop town in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome.

Peruzzi defied his relatively short and stocky physique to become one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, renowned not only for his physical strength but also for his positional sense, anticipation and explosive reactions.

These qualities enabled him to compensate for his lack of height and earned him a reputation for efficiency rather than spectacular stops yet he was much coveted by clubs in Italy’s Serie A. 

Twice he moved clubs for what was at the time a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.  In 1999 he joined Internazionale of Milan (Inter Milan) from Juventus for €14.461 million but stayed at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for only a year before switching to Lazio in a deal worth €20.658 million.

That record stood for 11 years until Manchester United bought David de Gea from Atletico Madrid for €22 million in 2011.

His value was based on his outstanding record over eight seasons with Juventus, with whom he won every major medal on offer to a club footballer in Italy, including three Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (twice), as well as the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Peruzzi was twice the most expensive  goalkeeper in football history
Peruzzi was twice the most expensive
goalkeeper in football history
Yet before he joined Juventus in 1991 his career had been in danger of suffering a premature and ignominious end.

Even as a young player in the Roma youth system, Peruzzi struggled with his weight.  Former teammates recalled him keeping salami, sandwiches and sweets hidden in his locker to satisfy an enormous appetite.

Nonetheless, his qualities as a goalkeeper stood out. He made his Serie A debut in 1987 at the age of 17 and when Roma sent him on loan to Hellas Verona for the 1989-90 he returned with glowing reports.

However, his weight remained an issue and his decision to take an appetite suppressant in the hope of shedding some pounds quickly backfired on him spectacularly when a doping test produced a positive result for the banned substance Phentermine.

He was banned for a year and Roma were happy to let him go when Juventus offered him a contract. It proved to be the Turin club’s gain as Peruzzi soon replaced Stefano Tacconi as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper and became one of their most reliable performers, never more so than in the Champions League final of 1996 against Ajax, when his two saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured that the trophy went to Juventus.

Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi
as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Peruzzi never lost his stocky build, but where he was criticised for it as a young player, as an established player associated with success it became part of his persona, earning him a number of affectionate nicknames, including Tyson, after the heavyweight world boxing champion, il chingialone (“the boar”) and il orsone (“the big bear”).

Although his two big-money transfers were lucrative for Peruzzi personally in signing-on fees and contracts, he did not enjoy the success with Inter or Lazio that he had tasted with Juventus.  He made more than 200 appearances for Lazio over seven seasons but a Supercoppa Italiano medal in his first season and a Coppa Italia in 2004 were his only tangible honours.

Peruzzi earned his first call-up to the Italy national team under coach Arrigo Sacchi in 1995, having been a member of the Italy squad at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He was the first-choice stopper at Euro ‘96 in England, where Italy did not progress beyond the group stages, and would have gone to the World Cup in France in 1998 as number one goalkeeper had he not suffered an injury before the tournament.

By the time the next World Cup came around, Peruzzi had fallen behind Gianluigi Buffon and Francesco Toldo in the pecking order and was not considered for the 2002 finals.

It was only when Marcello Lippi, one of his former coaches at Juventus, took charge of the national team in 2004 that he came back into favour. He kept goal for two of the qualifying matches ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and went to the finals as number two behind Buffon.  He never made it off the bench but nonetheless received a medal as a member of the winning squad after the azzurri defeated France on penalties in the final.

Three times awarded the Goalkeeper of the Year title in Serie A, Peruzzi retired as a player in 2008 and embarked on a career in coaching.  He immediately found a position among the technical staff at Italy’s national coaching centre at Coverciano before becoming assistant to Under-21 head coaches Ciro Ferrara and Pierluigi Casiraghi.

Ferrara gave him his first club job as assistant head coach at Sampdoria and he is now back in Rome as team co-ordinator with Lazio.

The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern
Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
Travel tip:

Angelo Peruzzi’s hometown of Blera, situated some 24km (15 miles) southwest of the city of Viterbo in northern Lazio and around 78km (48 miles) northwest of Rome, sits on a narrow tongue of rock between two deep gorges.  Its origins go back to Etruscan times, although its history suggests it was of little importance except for a stopping-off point on the Via Clodia, which linked the more important towns of Pitigliano and Sorano.  Some of the Etruscan settlement’s walls still remain intact.

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and Roma and hosts many important football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and
Roma and hosts many important football matches
Travel tip:

Although the Stadio Olimpico, where both Lazio and Roma play their home games, was opened in 1937, it did not become the Olympic Stadium until Italy had won the right to stage the Games in 1960.  Originally, as part of Mussolini’s ambitious Foro Mussolini (later Foro Italico) complex, it was called the Stadio dei Cipressi.  When its capacity was increased to 100,000 in the 1950s, it became the Stadio dei Centomila.  Nowadays it has seats for 70,634 spectators and is owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee but is used primarily as a venue for football matches, having been refurbished for the 1990 World Cup finals.  It has been the venue for the European Cup and Champions League finals on four occasions.

Also on this day:

1740: The birth of type designer Giambattista Bodoni

1918: The birth of designer Achille Castigleoni

1935: The birth of vocalist Edda Dell'Orso

1979: The birth of motorcycling world champion Valentino Rossi


Home




15 February 2020

15 February

Totò – comic actor


50 years on, remembered still as Italy’s funniest performer

The comic actor Antonio De Curtis, universally known as Totò and still winning polls as the most popular Italian comedian of all time a half-century after his death, was born on this day in 1898 in Naples.  Totò had a distinguished career in theatre, wrote poetry and sang, but is best remembered for the 97 films in which he appeared between 1937 and his death in 1967, many of which were made simply as a platform for his inimitable talent.  Although he worked in dramatic roles for some of Italy’s most respected directors, it was for his comedy that he was most appreciated.  His characters were typically eccentric, his acting style sometimes almost extravagantly expressive both physically and vocally.  In his humour, he drew on his body and his face to maximum effect but also possessed an inherent sense of timing in the way he delivered his lines. Often, at the peak of his screen career with his characters so well defined, he would dispense with much of his script and simply ad lib, giving free rein to the cynicism and irreverence that came naturally.  Such was his popularity that after his death from a heart attack at the age of 69 he was given funerals both in Rome, where he lived, and in his native Naples.  Read more…

________________________________________________________________

Galileo Galilei – astronomer and physicist


Scholar has been judged to be the founder of modern science 

Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei was born on this day in 1564 in Pisa.  His astronomical observations confirmed the phases of Venus, discovered the four largest satellites of Jupiter and analysed sunspots. Also among his inventions was a military compass.  Galileo was educated at a monastery near Florence and considered entering the priesthood but he enrolled instead at the University of Pisa to study medicine.  In 1581 he noticed a swinging chandelier being moved to swing in larger and smaller arcs by air currents. He experimented with two swinging pendulums and found they kept time together although he started one with a large sweep and the other with a smaller sweep. It was almost 100 years before a swinging pendulum was used to create an accurate timepiece.  He talked his father into letting him study mathematics and natural philosophy instead of medicine and by 1589 had been appointed to the chair of Mathematics at Pisa.  He moved to the University of Padua where he taught geometry, mechanics and astronomy until 1610.  Galileo met with opposition from other astronomers and was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615.  Read more…


________________________________________________________________

Charlie Cairoli - circus clown


Milan-born performer who became a Blackpool legend

The circus clown Charlie Cairoli, who would at his peak set a world record by appearing at the Blackpool Tower Circus in England for 40 consecutive seasons, was born in Affori, now a suburb of Milan but then a town in its own right, on this day in 1910.  Cairoli performed at the Tower for the first time in 1939 and returned every year until 1979, quitting only when his health began to fail him.  The run was not broken even by the outbreak of the Second World War, which Britain entered soon after he arrived, or his own arrest as a suspected ‘enemy alien’. He was the Tower’s most popular attraction for almost all of those years.  Cairoli, though born in Italy, was actually from a French family, albeit one of Italian descent, who christened him Hubert Jean Charles Cairoli.  His father, Jean-Marie, was also a clown; his mother, Eugenie, came from another French circus family with Italian heritage, the Rocono. Charles - known as Carletto - and his brother Louis-Philippe became part of the show as young children. Carletto made his debut at the age of seven.   At that age, he was doing little more than fetching and carrying for his parents, who were the stars.  Read more…


________________________________________________________________

Destruction of Monte Cassino Abbey


Historic monastery flattened in Allied bombing raid

The Abbey of Monte Cassino, established in 529 and the oldest Benedictine monastery in the world, was destroyed by Allied bombers on this day in 1944 in what is now acknowledged as one of the biggest strategic errors of the Second World War on the Allied side.  The Abbey was attacked despite an agreement signed by both sides with the Vatican that the historic building would be respected as occupying neutral territory.  But Allied commanders, who had seen their infantrymen suffer heavy casualties in trying to advance along the Liri valley, the route of the main highway between Naples and Rome, were convinced that the Germans were using the Abbey, which commands sweeping views of the valley, at least as a point from which to direct operations.  This perception was reinforced by a radio intercept, subsequently alleged to have been wrongly translated, which suggested a German battalion had been stationed in the Abbey, ignoring a 300-metre area around it that was supposed to be out of bounds to soldiers on both sides.   Knowing the outrage their action would prompt, military sources in Britain and the United States leaked details of their suspicions to the newspapers, who obligingly printed stories that seemed to justify the plan.   Read more…


Home

14 February 2020

14 February

Valentina Vezzali – fencer


Police officer is Italy’s most successful female athlete

The fencer Valentina Vezzali, whose three Olympic and six World Championship individual gold medals make her Italy’s most decorated female athlete of all time, was born on this day in 1974 in the town of Iesi in Marche.  A police officer who sat in the Italian Chamber of Deputies as a representative for Marche until 2018, Vezzali retired from competition after the 2016 World Championships.  Her haul of six Olympics golds in total – three individual and three from the team event – has not been bettered by any Italian athlete, male or female.  Two other Italian fencers from different eras – Edoardo Mangiarotti and Nedo Nadi – also finished their careers with six golds. Fencing has far and away been Italy’s most successful Olympic discipline, accruing 49 gold medals and 125 medals in total, more than twice the number for any other sport.  Alongside the German shooter Ralf Schumann, the Slovak slalom canoeist Michal Martikán and the Japanese judo player Ryoko Tani, Vezzali is one of only four athletes in the history of the Summer Olympics to have won five medals in the same individual event.  Read more…

________________________________________________________________

The Feast of the Lovers


A day for flowers, chocolates and padlocks

Today is called La festa degli innamorati (The Feast of the Lovers) in Italy when couples celebrate their love for each other.  Italian lovers give each other flowers and chocolates and celebrate with romantic dinners just like the rest of the world.  Chocolatiers Perugina make a special version of their Baci chocolate for the occasion in a shiny, red wrapper with a red cherry in the centre rather than the traditional hazelnut.  Florence and Venice are traditionally considered to be the most romantic places in Italy, but Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, puts on several days of celebration for the festival each year, featuring a programme of poetry, music and events, including a Romeo and Juliet half-marathon.  The streets around Piazza Bra and Juliet’s house and balcony are illuminated along with the tallest building in the city, the Lamberti tower.  The recent fashion for locking padlocks - lucchetti dell’amore - to bridges, railings and lamp posts to demonstrate never-ending love was started in Italy after the publication of the novel Ho voglio di te (I want you) by Federico Moccia in 2006.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________________

Otto e mezzo - Fellini's masterpiece


Creative crisis spawned director's tour de force

The film Otto e mezzo (8½), regarded by some critics as the director Federico Fellini's greatest work, was released in Italy on this day in 1963.  It was categorised as an avant-garde comedy drama but the description hardly does it justice given its extraordinary individuality, evolving from conception to completion as an interweaving of fantasy and reality in which life not so much imitates art as becomes one and the same thing.  By the early 60s, Fellini was already a three-times Oscar winner following the success of La Strada, Nights in Cabiria and La Dolce Vita, the last-named having also won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.  La Dolce Vita had signalled Fellini's move away from the neo-realism that characterised cinema in Italy in the immediate post-war years towards the surreal interpretations of life and human nature that became popular with later directors and came to define Fellini's art.  While that movie was generating millions of dollars at the box office and turning Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg into international stars, Fellini was under pressure from his producers to come up with a sequel.   Read more…

________________________________________________________________

San Valentino and Sant’Antonino


Celebrations for two different Italian saints

Saint Valentine, a third century Roman martyr, is commemorated with a feast day on this day every year.  His name has become associated with the tradition of courtly love but all that is really known about him is that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia in Rome on 14 February.  His feast day was first established in 496 by a Pope who revered him. It is thought he was imprisoned and tortured and then hastily buried, but that his disciples later retrieved his body.  During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired in mid-February and this is probably why Saint Valentine’s Day became associated with romance.  But while lovers all over the world raise a glass to Saint Valentine on this day, residents and visitors in Sorrento celebrate the festival of Sant’Antonino, the city’s patron saint.  Sant’Antonino Abate died on 14 February, 626. He is credited with saving the life of a child swallowed by a whale and also protecting Sorrento against plague and invasion.  Each year on the anniversary of his death, a silver statue of Sant’Antonino is carried in a procession through the streets of Sorrento.  Read more…


Home

13 February 2020

13 February

Benvenuto Cellini – sculptor and goldsmith


Creator of the famous Perseus bronze had a dark history

The colourful life of the Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini ended on this day in 1571 with his death in Florence at the age of 70.  A contemporary of Michelangelo, the Mannerist Cellini was most famous for his bronze sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa, which still stands where it was erected in 1554 in the Loggia dei Lanzi of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, and for the table sculpture in gold he created as a salieri - salt cellar - for Francis I of France.  The Cellini Salt Cellar, as it is generally known, measuring 26cm (10ins) by 33.5cm (13.2ins), is now kept at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, with an insurance value of $60 million.  His works apart, Cellini was also known for an eventful personal life, in which his violent behaviour frequently landed him in trouble. He killed at least two people while working in Rome as a young man and claimed also to have shot dead Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, during the 1527 Siege of Rome by mutinous soldiers of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.  Cellini was also imprisoned for alleged embezzlement of the gems from the tiara of Pope Clement VII.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________________

Pierluigi Collina - football referee


Italian arbiter seen as the best in game's history

Pierluigi Collina, arguably the best and certainly the most recognisable football referee in the history of the game, was born on this day in 1960 in Bologna.  Collina, who was in charge of the 1999 Champions League final and the 2002 World Cup final, was named FIFA's referee of the year for six consecutive seasons.  He was renowned for his athleticism, his knowledge of the laws of the game and for applying them with even-handedness and respect for the players, while using his distinctive appearance to reinforce his authority on the field.  Standing 1.88m (6ft 2ins) tall and with piercing blue eyes, Collina is also completely hairless as a result of suffering a severe form of alopecia in his early 20s, giving him an intimidating presence on the field.  Growing up in Bologna, the son of a civil servant and a schoolteacher, Collina shared the dream of many Italian boys in that he wanted to become a professional footballer.  In reality, he was not quite good enough, although he was a decent central defender who played amateur football to a good standard.   When he was 17 and at college, he was persuaded to take a referee's course and displayed a natural aptitude.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________________

Fire at Teatro di San Carlo


Royal theatre reopens quickly after blaze 

Fire broke out during a dress rehearsal for a ballet at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on this day in 1816.  The flames spread quickly, destroying a large part of the building in less than an hour.  The external walls were the only things left standing, but on the orders of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, the prestigious theatre was rebuilt at once.  It was reconstructed following designs drawn up by architect Antonio Niccolini for a horseshoe-shaped auditorium with 1,444 seats. A stunning fresco was painted in the centre of the ceiling above the auditorium depicting a classical subject, Apollo presenting to Minerva the greatest poets of the world.  The rebuilding work took just ten months to complete and the theatre reopened to the public in January 1817.  Teatro di San Carlo had opened for the first time in 1737, way ahead of Teatro alla Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.  Built in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, the main square in Naples, Teatro di San Carlo had quickly become one of the most important opera houses in Europe, known for its excellent productions.  The original theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for the Bourbon King of Naples, Charles I, and took only eight months to build.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________________

Isabella d’Este – Marchioness of Mantua


‘The First Lady of the world’

Isabella d’Este, who was a leading cultural and political figure during the Renaissance, died on this day in 1539 in Mantua.  She had been a patron of the arts, a leader of fashion, a politically astute ruler and a diplomat. Such was her influence that she was once described as ‘the First Lady of the world’.  Her life is documented by her correspondence, which is still archived in Mantua. She received about 28,000 letters and wrote about 12,000. More than 2000 of her letters have survived.  Isabella grew up in a cultured family in the city of Ferrara. Her father was Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and her mother was Eleanor of Naples.  She received a classical education and had opportunities to meet famous scholars and artists. She was reputed to have frequently discussed the classics and affairs of state with ambassadors who came to the court.  When Isabella was just six years old she was betrothed to Francesco, the heir to the Marquess of Mantua.  At the age of 15 she married him by proxy. He had succeeded his father and become Francesco II and she became his Marchioness.   In 1493 Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Eleonora, the first of her eight children.  Read more…


Home

12 February 2020

12 February

Franco Zeffirelli – film director


Shakespeare adaptations made director a household name

The film, opera and television director Franco Zeffirelli was born on this day in Florence in 1923.  He was best known for his adaptations of Shakespeare plays for the big screen, notably The Taming of the Shrew (1967), with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Hamlet (1990) with Mel Gibson.   Boldly, he cast two teenagers in the title roles of Romeo and Juliet and filmed the tragedy against the backdrop of 15th century buildings in Serravalle in the Veneto region. His film became the standard adaptation of the play and has been shown to thousands of students over the years.  His later films included Jane Eyre (1996) and Tea with Mussolini (1999), while he directed several adaptations of operas for the cinema, including I Pagliacci (1981), Cavalleria rusticana (1982), Otello (1986), and La bohème (2008).  Because he was the product of an affair between two people already married, Zeffirelli's name was an invention, and a misspelled one. His mother intended him to be registered as Zeffiretti - the Italian for 'little breezes' - in a reference to a line in Mozart's opera, Isomeneo. However, it was misspelled in the register.  Read more…


__________________________________________________________________

Michelangelo Cerquozzi – painter


Battle scenes brought fame and riches to Baroque artist

Michelangelo Cerquozzi, the Baroque painter, was born on this day in 1602 in Rome.  He was to become famous for his paintings of battles, earning himself the nickname of Michelangelo delle Battaglie - Michelangelo of the Battles.  Cerquozzi was born into a well-off family as his father was a successful leather merchant. He started his artistic training at the age of 12 in the studio of Giuseppe Cesari, a history painter, with whom the young Caravaggio trained when he first arrived in Rome.  Not much is known about Cerquozzi’s early work, although he is thought to have been influenced by the Flemish and Dutch artists active in Rome at the time. As well as battles, Cerquozzi painted small, religious and mythological works and some still life scenes.  Cerquozzi joined the Accademia di San Luca in 1634 and, although he did not follow their strict rules, he started gradually gaining recognition for his work.  He secured commissions from prominent Roman patrons, including representatives of the Barberini and Colonna families.  His only public commission in Rome was for a lunette depicting the Miracle of Saint Francis of Paolo in the cloister of the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, which has sadly been lost.  Read more…


_________________________________________________________________

Claudia Mori - actress and singer


Film star who married pop icon Adriano Celentano

The actress, singer and later television producer Claudia Mori, married for more than half a century to Italy’s all-time biggest-selling recording artist, Adriano Celentano, was born on this day in 1944 in Rome.  She and Celentano met in 1963 on the set of Uno strano tipo (A Strange Type) a comedy film in which they were both starring. The two were married the following year at the Church of San Francesco in Grosseto in Tuscany, having kept their intentions secret to avoid publicity.  Mori was only 20 when she and Celentano - six years her senior - were married but she had already made several films.  Born Claudia Moroni, she made her film debut in Raffaello Matarazzo’s romantic comedy Cerasella at the age of just 15 in 1959, featuring as the title character opposite Mario Girotti, the actor who would later change his name to Terence Hill and become famous as the parish priest Don Matteo in the long-running television series of the same name.  The following year she had a supporting part a laundry worker colleague of Alain Delon in Luchino Visconti’s Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers)Read more…

_________________________________________________________________

Lazzaro Spallanzani – priest and scientist


18th century biologist who pioneered artificial insemination 

Lazzaro Spallanzani, the first scientist to interpret the process of digestion and the first to carry out a successful artificial insemination, died on this day in 1799 in Pavia.  Spallanzani made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions and animal reproduction. His investigations into the development of microscopic life in nutrient culture solutions paved the way for the later research of Louis Pasteur.  Born in Scandiano in the province of Reggio Emilia, the son of a wealthy lawyer, Spallanzani attended a Jesuit college and was ordained as a priest but then went to Bologna to study law.  Influenced by the eminent Laura Bassi, a professor of physics at the University, Spallanzani became interested in science.  In 1754 Spallanzani was appointed professor of logic, metaphysics and Greek at a college in Reggio and he later became a professor of physics at the University of Modena.  Spallanzani experimented in transplantation, successfully transplanting the head of one snail on to the body of another.  After a series of experiments on digestion, he obtained evidence that digestive juices contain special chemicals that are suited to particular foods.  Read more…


Home