20 June 2024

20 June

Armando Picchi - footballer

Star defender captained ‘La Grande Inter’

The footballer Armando Picchi, who was captain of the Inter-Milan team of the 1960s known as La Grande Inter and one of Italian football’s most accomplished players in the libero position, was born on this day in 1935 in the Tuscan port of Livorno.  Under his captaincy, the Inter side managed by the Argentina-born coach Helenio Herrera won the European Cup twice as well as three Serie A titles and two Intercontinental Cups between 1963 and 1966.  After retiring as a player at 34, Picchi embarked on a coaching career of his own, but after his progress with Varese and hometown club AS Calcio Livorno earned him the chance to take the helm at Juventus his life was cut tragically short in 1971, when he developed an aggressive form of cancer and died just three months after being diagnosed.  Picchi grew up 30km (19 miles) south of Livorno in the coastal resort of Vada.  He had the good fortune to have a brother, Leo, who was already a professional footballer when he was growing up. Leo, 14 years’ his senior, nurtured Armando’s early development and recommended him to Livorno, then playing in Serie C.  Read more…

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Gian Galeazzo Sforza - Duke of Milan

Ruler who never truly held power

Gian Galeazzo Sforza, the third member of the Sforza family to have the title Duke of Milan, was born on this day in 1469 in Abbiategrasso, a town in the Po Valley about 22km (14 miles) north of Milan.  He was the sixth Duke of Milan in all, the title having previously been the property of the Visconti family.  However, Gian Galeazzo had only a short life and never truly held any power, having inherited the Duchy at the age of seven when his father, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, was assassinated in the porch of Basilica di Santo Stefano Maggiore in Milan, on December 26, 1476, where he was attending a celebration for the Festa di San Stefano.  Gian Galeazzo could not legally inherit the Duchy until he reached the age of majority, which in Renaissance times was 14. Until then, Milan would be ruled by his mother, Galeazzo Maria’s widow, Bona of Savoy.  But Gian Galeazzo’s uncle, Ludovico Sforza, had designs on the Duchy as Galeazzo Maria’s brother and the next five years encompassed a bitter struggle for the regency.  With the help of her powerful counsellor, the ducal secretary Cicco Simonetta, Bona managed to repel Ludovico’s first bid to seize power, but not for long.  Read more…

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Luigi de Magistris - politician

Popular and progressive Mayor of Naples

Luigi de Magistris, who was Mayor of Naples for 10 years following a shock win in the 2011 local elections, was born on this day in 1967.  A former public prosecutor with a reputation for standing up against corruption and organised crime, De Magistris was the Member of the European Parliament for Southern Italy between 2009 and 2011, when he ran for Italy of Values, the centre-left party founded by another former magistrate, Antonio di Pietro.  He stood in the 2011 mayoral elections in Naples with the support of minor parties on the left and the right and won in the second round of voting with 65 per cent of the vote, defeating Gianni Lettieri, the candidate for a centre right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.  In office, De Magistris faced difficult times because of the city’s precarious financial situation, which at times saw local transport suspended because fuel bills were not paid and rubbish piling up in the streets because of continuing problems with the disposal of domestic refuse that had reached a peak in 2008.  De Magistris claimed year-on-year improvements in refuse collection as one of his success stories.  Read more…

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Giannina Arangi-Lombardi – opera singer

Soprano’s superb voice was captured in early recordings

Soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi was born on this day in 1891 in Marigliano near Naples in Campania.  She studied singing at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples and made her debut on the stage in Rome in 1920. Arangi-Lombardi sang mezzo-soprano roles for the next three years at theatres in Rome, Sicily, Parma, Florence and Naples.  She then underwent further study and returned to the stage as what is known as a spinto soprano, a singer who can reach the high notes of the lyric soprano but can also achieve dramatic climaxes with her voice.  Arangi-Lombardi’s second debut, this time as a soprano, was in 1923. The first time she sang the role of Aida in Verdi's opera of the same name the audience was stunned by her voice and her fame quickly spread.  She appeared on stage at Teatro alla Scala in Milan for the first time in 1924 singing Elena in Boito’s Mefistofele. The orchestra for her debut performance was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.  She sang regularly at La Scala until 1930 and appeared at many other opera houses in Europe as well as in South America.  Read more…

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Valerio Evangelisti - novelist

Writer's stories of the Inquisition are bestsellers

The bestselling novelist Valerio Evangelisti, best known for his science fiction, fantasy, historical novels and horror stories, was born in Bologna on this day in 1952.  He is famous in Italy for his series of novels featuring the inquisitor Nicolas Eymerich and for the Magus trilogy, all of which have been translated into many languages.  Eymerich is a real historical character, a member of the order of the Dominicans and of the Spanish Inquisition who was born in 1320 in Girona, Catalonia.  Evangelisti portrays him as a cruel and ruthless man who acts without mercy to protect the Catholic Church against threats of both natural and supernatural origin.  Evangelisti uses the Eymerich novels to investigate the mysterious phenomena in mediaeval Europe that strategically influenced the great historical events of the time, creating a dark and nightmarish picture of the epoch.  The Magus trilogy is a romanticised biography of the famous Middle Ages writer of prophecies, Nostradamus. The three novels, Il presagio (The Omen), L’inganno (The Deceit) and L'abisso (The Abyss) were also bestsellers in Italy.  Read more…

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Book of the Day: Calcio: A History of Italian Football, by John Foot

The first history of Italian football to be written in English, Calcio is a mix of serious analysis and comic storytelling, with vivid descriptions of games, goals, dives, missed penalties, riots and scandals in the richest and toughest league in the world.  Calcio tells the story of Italian football from its origins in the 1890’s to the present day. It takes us through a history of great players and teams, of style, passion and success, but also of violence, cynicism, catenaccio tactics and corruption.

John Foot, whose father, Paul, was a noted investigative journalist, is an English academic and historian specialising in Italy. His other books include Blood and Power: The Rise and Fall of Italian Fascism, The Archipelago: Italy Since 1945, and Pedalare! Pedalare!: A History of Italian Cycling.

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19 June 2024

19 June

Marisa Pavan - actress

Twin sister of tragic star Pier Angeli

The actress Marisa Pavan, whose twin sister Pier Angeli was a Hollywood star in the 1950s and 1960s, was born on this day in 1932 as Maria Luisa Pierangeli in Cagliari, Sardinia.  Pavan’s career ran parallel with that of her sister, who was born 20 minutes before her, but she rejected the re-invention as an ultra-glamorous starlet that Pier Angeli underwent within the Hollywood studio system.  She turned roles down when she felt they did not have enough substance and did not hesitate to sack agents if she felt they were putting her forward for unsuitable parts.  She refused to sign up to any one studio.  Her biggest success was The Rose Tattoo, the 1955 film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play in which she played the daughter of the central character, played by Anna Magnani - with whom she is pictured - one of postwar Italian cinema’s most respected actresses.  Magnani won an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of a Sicilian widow, with Pavan receiving a nomination for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards and although that award went to someone else she did have the substantial compensation of winning a Golden Globe for the role.  Read more…

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Francesco Moser - Giro d’Italia winner

Only two riders have won more road races

The cycling champion Francesco Moser, winner of the 1984 Giro d’Italia and the 1977 World road racing championship among 273 road victories in his career, was born on this day in 1951 in Palù di Giovo, a village about 10km (6 miles) north of Trento in northern Italy.  Only the great Belgians Eddy Merckx (525) and Rik Van Looy (379) won more road races than Moser, who was at his peak during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  One of his proudest achievements was to break Merckx’s record for the greatest distance covered in one hour.  He became renowned as a specialist in the so-called Monuments, the five road races among what are generally termed the Classics considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in cycling.  Of those events, Moser won the Paris-Roubaix three times, the Giro di Lombardia twice and the Milan-San Remo once.  Moser attributed his cycling prowess to growing up on the family farm in Val di Cembra, working in steep-sided vineyards in an era when most of the work was carried out by hand, rather than machinery.  Family members used bicycles to move around the estate.  Read more…

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Pier Angeli - Hollywood star

Actress hailed for talent and beauty died tragically young

The actress Pier Angeli, a Hollywood star in the 1950s and 60s, was born on this day in 1932 in Cagliari, Sardinia.  She won awards in Italy and in America at the start of her career, when she was likened by some critics to the Swedish-born star Greta Garbo.  Described by the actor Paul Newman as "the most beautiful Italian actress of the century", Angeli was also a fixture in the gossip columns.  Linked romantically with a number of Hollywood's leading male actors, she dated Kirk Douglas and became close to the celebrated 'rebel' James Dean before marrying another star, the Italian-American actor and singer, Vic Damone.  It would be the first of two marriages.  She had a son, Perry, with Damone but they divorced after four years.  A second marriage, to the Italian composer, Armando Trovaioli, produced another son, Andrew, but they also divorced.  Born Anna Maria Pierangeli, the daughter of an architect, she had a twin sister, Maria Luisa, who would also become an actress.  Her mother, Enrica, used to dress the girls to resemble the American child star, Shirley Temple. The family moved to Rome when she was three.  Read more…

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Francesco Baracca – flying ace

Italy’s most successful First World War fighter pilot

Italy’s top fighter pilot of the First World War, Francesco Baracca, died in action on this day in 1918.  He had been flying a strafing mission against Austro-Hungarian ground troops in support of an Italian attack on the Montello Hill, about 17km (11 miles) north of Treviso in the Veneto, on which he was accompanied by a rookie pilot, Tenente Franco Osnago.  They split from one another after being hit by ground fire but a few minutes later, Osnago saw a burning plane falling from the sky.  Witnesses on the ground saw it too. Osnago flew back to his base but Baracca never returned.  Only when the Austro-Hungarian troops were driven back was the wreckage of Baracca’s Spad VII aircraft found in a valley.  His body was discovered a few metres away.  A monument in his memory was later built on the site. Osnago, fellow pilot Ferruccio Ranza and a journalist recovered his body. It was taken back to his home town of Lugo in the province of Ravenna, where a large funeral was held.  It is thought that Barocca was seeking to provide Osnago with cover from above as he swooped on enemy trenches when he was attacked by an Austrian plane.  Read more…

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Book of the Day: Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life, by Jane Allen

"In Pier Angeli, a 19-year-old Italian girl, Hollywood has found an actress who eludes the town's traditional classifications and whose unvarnished beauty and instinctive talent have already caused her to be called 'Little Garbo'" - Theodore Strauss in Collier's, April 1952.  This work is the first full-length biography of actress Anna Maria Pierangeli, from her early life in Italy to her death at the age of 39. She was discovered by Vittorio De Sica and soon after starred in her first film, Domani e troppo tardi (Tomorrow Is Too Late), which began her meteoric rise to fame in Italy. She arrived in Hollywood in 1950 at the age of 18, and the first thing MGM did was change her name to Pier Angeli and predict great things for its newest actress.  Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life covers her seven year career with MGM, her two unhappy marriages to Vic Damone and Armando Trovajoli, her love for her children Perry and Andrew, her brief and stormy relationship with James Dean, her dependent relationships with her mother and such stars as Kirk Douglas, Richard Attenborough and Debbie Reynolds, and the mystery surrounding her death.

Writer and psychologist Jane Allen lives in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia.  She had a varied career in the arts, studying at the Chelsea Polytechnic in London and working in galleries in Sydney for many years. She holds a BA and and MPhil (Psychology) from Sydney University.

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18 June 2024

18 June

NEW
- Franco Modigliani – economist

Writer and professor developed theories about spending and saving

Nobel prize winner Franco Modigliani, who was an originator of the economic life-cycle hypothesis that attempts to explain the level of spending in the economy, was born on this day in 1918 in Rome.  He wrote several books outlining his economic theories, became a professor at three American universities, and received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1985.   Modigliani also formulated the Modigliani-Miller theorem for corporate finances, which is based on the idea that the value of a private firm is not affected by whether it is financed by equity or by debt.  Born and brought up in a Jewish family, Modigliani enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the Sapienza University of Rome at the age of 17. In his second year at Sapienza, his entry in a national economics contest won first prize and he was presented with it by the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.  Modigliani went on to write essays for the Fascist magazine Lo Stato, displaying an inclination for the fascist ideals that were critical of liberalism at the time.  He argued the case for socialism in an article for the magazine about the organisation and management of production in a socialist economy.  Read more…

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Raffaella Carrà - entertainer and TV presenter

Much-loved star with long and varied career

Raffaella Carrà, the singer, dancer, television presenter and actress often simply known as la Carrà or Raffaella, was born in Bologna on this day in 1943.  Carrà has become a familiar face on Italian TV screens as the host of many variety shows and, more recently, as a judge on the talent show The Voice of Italy.  She has also enjoyed a recording career spanning 45 years and was a film actress for the best part of 25 years, having made her debut at the age of nine.  Her best-known screen role outside Italy was alongside Frank Sinatra in the hit American wartime drama, Von Ryan’s Express.  Carrà was born Raffaella Maria Roberta Pelloni. Shew grew up in the Adriatic resort of Bellaria-Igea Marina, just north of Rimini, where her father ran a bar and her maternal grandfather an ice cream parlour.  At the age of eight, she won a place at the National Dance Academy in Rome and from there moved to the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Italy’s oldest film school.  Her film career was never more than modestly successful. Although she has a long list of credits, she was cast mainly in small parts.   Read more…

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Bartolomeo Ammannati – sculptor and architect

Florentine artist created masterpieces for his home city

Bartolomeo Ammannati, whose buildings in Italy marked the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque style, was born on this day in 1511 at Settignano near Florence.  Ammannati began his career as a sculptor, carving statues in a number of Italian cities during the 1530s.  He trained first under Baccio Bandinelli and then under Jacopo Sansovino in Venice, working with him on the Library of St Mark - the Biblioteca Marciana -  in the Piazzetta.  Pope Julius III called Ammannati to Rome in 1550 on the advice of architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari. Ammannati then worked with Vasari and Giacomo da Vignola on the Villa Giulia, which belonged to the Pope.  In the same year, Ammannati married the poet Laura Battiferri and they spent the early years of their marriage in Rome.  Cosimo I de' Medici brought Ammannati back to Florence in 1555, and it was where he was to spend the rest of his career.  His first job was to finish the Laurentian Library begun by Michelangelo. He interpreted a clay model sent to him by Michelangelo to produce the impressive staircase leading from the vestibule into the library.   Read more…

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Ottaviano dei Petrucci – music printer

Pioneer in printing who worked for a Doge and a Pope

Ottaviano dei Petrucci, who was the first person to print a book of polyphonic music from movable type, was born on this day in 1466 in Fossombrone near Ancona.  It is thought that Petrucci was educated at Urbino, possibly at the humanist court of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, who was Duke of Urbino apart from a brief period from 1482 until his death in 1508.  To learn the art of printing, in 1490 Petrucci went to Venice, then the most advanced centre for printing in Italy.  In 1498, Petrucci petitioned the Doge, Agostino Barbarigo, for the exclusive right to print music for the next 20 years, which was granted. There are no examples of printed music produced by other Venetian printers until 1520.  Over the years, he continued to refine his technique and he held music printing monopolies in Venice until 1511. He produced books of printed music at the rate of a new book every few months.  His collection of 96 chansons, secular songs under the title of Harmonice Musices Odhecaton - One Hundred Songs of Harmonic Music - published in Venice in 1501, was the first book of polyphonic music to be printed from movable type.  Read more…

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Isabella Rossellini - actress and model

Daughter of ‘cinema royalty’ who became star in her own right 

The actress and model Isabella Rossellini, famed for her roles in the David Lynch-directed mystery Blue Velvet and the Oscar-winning black comedy Death Becomes Her and for 14 years the face of luxury perfume brand Lancôme, was born on this day in 1952 in Rome. Her parents were the Swedish triple Academy Award-winning actress Ingrid Bergman and the Italian director Roberto Rossellini, one of the pioneers of the neorealism movement that spawned some of Italy’s finest films. She is the eldest by 34 minutes of twin girls. Resident in the United States since 1979, when she married the American director Martin Scorsese, she has a home on Long Island, New York, where she keeps a number of animals. An active campaigner for various wildlife conservation causes, Rossellini has a MA in Animal Behaviour & Conservation after studying the subject at Hunter College, New York. Although her acting career continues, she moved in a less conventional direction by writing, directing and appearing in a series of short documentary films about sexual and reproductive behaviour in animals entitled Green Porno. Read more…

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Fabio Capello - football manager

Veteran Champions League winner with five Serie A titles 

Fabio Capello, one of European club football's most successful managers, was born in San Canzian d'Isonzo, close to the border of Italy and Slovenia, on this day in 1946.  Capello is the winner of five Serie A titles as a coach and four as a player, plus two La Liga titles as manager of Real Madrid, and the Champions League with AC Milan.  At the time he was born, San Canzian d'Isonzo was in an area occupied by Allied forces after the end of the Second World War.  Capello’s uncle, Mario Tortul, who was from the same village near Trieste, had been a professional footballer, playing in Serie A with Sampdoria, Triestina and Padova and making one appearance for the Italian national team.  Capello began his playing career at the Ferrara-based SPAL club and went on to represent Roma, Juventus and AC Milan.  A midfielder with an eye for goal, he was a Serie A champion three times with Juventus and once with Milan, also winning the Coppa Italia with Roma and Milan.  He represented Italy 32 times, playing at the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.  He regards scoring the only goal against England in 1973 as Italy won at Wembley for the first time in their history as the highlight of his international career.  Read more…

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Book of the Day: Adventures Of An Economist, by Franco Modigliani

Adventures of an Economist is both an autobiography and an uncommon opportunity to share the thinking of one of the world's most brilliant and influential economists. Franco Modigliani takes the reader on a journey from his childhood in Rome through Fascism, his flight from Nazism, and his arrival in the United States.

Franco Modigliani earned his PhD from the New School University in New York and became a long-standing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1985.

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Franco Modigliani – economist

Writer and professor developed theories about spending and saving

Franco Modigliani studied in Rome before emigrating to America
Franco Modigliani studied in Rome
before emigrating to America
Nobel prize winner Franco Modigliani, who was an originator of the economic life-cycle hypothesis that attempts to explain the level of spending in the economy, was born on this day in 1918 in Rome.

He wrote several books outlining his economic theories, became a professor at three American universities, and received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1985. 

Modigliani also formulated the Modigliani-Miller theorem for corporate finances, which is based on the idea that the value of a private firm is not affected by whether it is financed by equity or by debt.

Born and brought up in a Jewish family, Modigliani enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the Sapienza University of Rome at the age of 17. In his second year at Sapienza, his entry in a national economics contest won first prize and he was presented with it by the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.

Modigliani went on to write essays for the Fascist magazine Lo Stato, displaying an inclination for the fascist ideals that were critical of liberalism at the time.

He argued the case for socialism in an article for the magazine about the organisation and management of production in a socialist economy.

But after racial laws were passed in Italy in 1938, he left Rome, with his girlfriend, Serena Calabi, whose father was a prominent opponent of Mussolini, to join her parents in Paris.

The neoclassical main building of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology - Modigliani's base for many years
He returned to Rome to discuss his thesis and obtain his diploma in 1939, but afterwards went back to Paris.

Later that year, Modigliani emigrated with his girlfriend’s family to the United States, where he enrolled  at the New School for Social Research in New York. The PhD dissertation he submitted there was judged to be ‘ground breaking’.

Modigliani taught at Columbia University and Bard College in New York between 1942 and 1944 and became a naturalised citizen of the US in 1946. He later taught at the University of Illinois and Carnegie Mellon University before becoming an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He developed the hypothesis that consumers aim for a stable level of consumption during their lifetime by saving during their working years and spending during their retirement. Economists believe this was an original theory when he introduced it in a paper written in 1954. 

Modigliani also introduced the concept of the NIRU, the non-inflationary rate of unemployment, which referred to the level of unemployment, below which inflation rises, which he believed should influence policy decisions.

Modigliani in 2000: he continued to teach well into his 80s
Modigliani in 2000: he continued
to teach well into his 80s
Modigliani married Serena Calabi in 1939 in Paris and they had two children, Andre and Sergio. 

With Leah Modigliani, his granddaughter, who followed him in becoming an economist, he developed the Modigliani Risk-Adjusted Performance, a measure of the risk-adjusted returns of an investment portfolio.

His Nobel prize was awarded to him for his pioneering analyses of saving and financial markets and in the same year he received MIT’s James R Killian Faculty Achievement award. 

In 1997, he received an honoris causa degree in Management Engineering from the University of Naples Federico II.

Modigliani became a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security organisation and was an influential adviser to the Federal Reserve, designing a tool to guide monetary policy in Washington.

A collection of Modigliani’s economic papers is now housed in the Duke University’s Rubenstein Library in Durham, North Carolina.

Modigliani died in 2003 at the age of 85 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he taught until the last six months of his life.  Two years before his death he had written about his life as an economist in his autobiography, Adventures of an Economist.

Marcello Piacentini's modern campus at the Sapienza University of Rome
Marcello Piacentini's modern campus at the
Sapienza University of Rome
Travel tip:

The university Franco Modigliani attended in Rome is often known simply as La Sapienza, which means ‘the wisdom.’  It can trace its origins back to 1303, when it was opened by Pope Boniface VIII as the first pontifical university. In the 19th century the University broadened its outlook and a new campus, designed by Urban theorist and architect, Marcello Piacentini, was built near the Termini railway station in 1935. Rome University now caters for more than 112,000 students.

The Via della Conciliazione, also designed by Marcello Piacentini, frames St Peter's Basilica
The Via della Conciliazione, also designed by
Marcello Piacentini, frames St Peter's Basilica
Travel tip:

Architect Marcello Piacentini studied arts and engineering in Rome and afterwards worked for the Fascist Government. He developed a simplified neoclassicism which became the mainstay of Fascist architecture and as well as designing the new campus for  La Sapienza, he was responsible for the redesign of the road approaching St Peter’s in Rome, Via della Conciliazione. Roughly 500m long, Via della Conciliazione connects St Peter's Square to the Castel Sant'Angelo on the western bank of the Tevere (Tiber) river. A great many buildings, many of them residential, had to be requisitioned and demolished to create space for the road, which was constructed between 1936 and 1950 as the primary access route to St Peter's Square.

Also on this day:

1466: The birth of music printer Ottaviano dei Petrucci

1511: The birth of sculptor and architect Bartolomeo Ammannati

1943: The birth of actress, singer and TV presenter Raffaella Carrà

1946: The birth of football manager Fabio Capello

1952: The birth of actress Isabella Rossellini


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