21 April 2019

21 April

Cosimo I de' Medici

The grand designs of a powerful archduke

The second duke of Florence and first grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici,  died on this day in 1574 at the Villa di Castello near Florence.  Cosimo had proved to be both shrewd and unscrupulous, bringing Florence under his despotic control and increasing its territories.  He was the first to have the idea of uniting all public services in a single building. He commissioned the Uffizi, which meant Offices, a beautiful building that is now an art gallery in the centre of Florence.  Cosimo was the great-great-grandson of Lorenzo the Elder, whose brother was Cosimo the Elder but played no part in politics until he heard of the assassination of his distant cousin, Alessandro.  He immediately travelled to Florence and was elected head of the republic in 1537 with the approval of the city’s senate, assembly and council.  Read more...


The birth of Rome

City said to have been founded on April 21, 753BC

Three days of celebrations begin in Rome today to mark the annual Natale di Roma Festival, which commemorates the founding of the city 2,772 years ago.  The traditional celebrations take place largely in the large open public space of Circus Maximus, which hosts many historical re-enactments, and where the main event – a costumed parade around the city, featuring more than 2,000 gladiators, senators, vestal virgins and priestesses – begins and ends. City museums offer free entry today and many of the city’s restaurants have special Natale di Roma menus.  After dark, many public places will be lit up, torches will illuminate the Aventine Hill, and firework displays will take place by the Tiber river.  According to legend, Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, founded Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Read more...


Silvana Mangano - actress

Star who married the producer Dino De Laurentiis

The actress Silvana Mangano, who was decried as a mere sex symbol and later hailed as a fine character actress during a quite restricted career, was born on this day in 1930 in Rome.  She found fame through Giuseppe De Santis’s neorealist film Bitter Rice, in which she played a female worker in the rice fields in the Po Valley who becomes involved with a petty criminal Walter, played by Vittorio Gassman.  Mangano’s character was a sensual, lustful young woman and the actress, a former beauty queen, carried it off so well she was hailed by one critic as “Ingrid Bergmann with a Latin disposition” and likened also to the American glamour queen Rita Hayworth.  She went on to work with many of Italy's leading directors, including Alberto Lattuada, Vittorio De Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Luchino Visconti, but she made only 30 films. Read more...


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