2 November 2019

2 November

Luchino Visconti – director and writer


The aristocrat of Italian cinema

Luchino Visconti, who most aficionados of Italian cinema would place among the top five directors of all time, was born in Milan on this day in 1906.  Visconti’s movies include Ossessione, Rocco and His Brothers, The Leopard, Death in Venice and The Innocent.  One of the pioneers of neorealism – arguably the first to make a movie that could be so defined – Visconti was also known as the aristocrat of Italian cinema, figuratively but also literally.   He was born Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone, the seventh child of a family descendant from a branch of the House of Visconti, the family that ruled Milan from the late 13th century until the early Renaissance.  Paradoxically, although he maintained a lavish lifestyle, Visconti’s politics were of the left. During the First World War he joined the Italian Communist Party, and many of his films reflected his political leanings, featuring poor or working class people struggling for their rights.  He enraged Mussolini with his grim portrayal of Italy's poverty in Ossessione (1943), based on James M Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice.  Read more…

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NEW - San Giusto di Trieste - martyr


Patron saint of maritime city 

San Giusto di Trieste - also known as Saint Justus of Trieste - died on this day in 293 after being found guilty of being a Christian, which was illegal under Roman law at the time.  His death occurred during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, who was notable for his persecution of Christians.  After his trial, he was given the opportunity to renounce his faith and make a sacrifice to the Roman gods.  He refused to do so and was condemned to death by drowning. The story handed down over the centuries was that weights were attached to his ankles before he was thrown from a small boat into the Gulf of Trieste, off the shore of the area known today as Sant'Andrea.  The legend has it that on the night of San Giusto’s death, his friend Sebastian, said to have been a bishop or priest, was told in a dream that the body had broken free of the weights and been washed ashore.  When he woke from his sleep, Sebastian assembled a group of fellow Christians to search for the body, which they discovered near what is now the Riva Grumula, less than a kilometre from Piazza Unità d’Italia, Trieste’s elegant sea-facing main square.   Read more…

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Battista 'Pinin' Farina - car designer


Family's 'smallest brother' became giant of automobile history

Battista 'Pinin' Farina, arguably the greatest of Italy's long roll call of outstanding automobile designers, was born on this day in 1893 in the village of Cortanze in Piedmont.  His coachbuilding company Carrozzeria Pininfarina became synonymous with Italian sports cars and influenced the design of countless luxury and family cars thanks to the partnerships he forged with Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Nash, Peugeot, Rolls Royce and others - most notably Ferrari, with whom his company has had a continuous relationship since 1951.  Among the many iconic marques that Pinin and his designers created are the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, the Ferrari Dino 206 and the Cisitalia 202.  Battista was the 10th of 11 children raised by his parents in Cortanze, a small community in the province of Asti, situated about 30km (19 miles) east of Turin.  He was always known as 'Pinin', a word from Piemontese dialect meaning 'smallest brother'.  In 1961, he had his name legally changed to Pininfarina.  He acquired his love of cars at a young age and from 12 years old he spent every spare moment working at his brother Giovanni’s body shop, Stabilimenti Industriali Farina, learning about bodywork and design.  Read more…

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Gaspare Nadi - builder and diarist


Craftsmen kept chronicle for 50 years

Gaspare Nadi, a builder who became famous for the insight into life in 15th century Italy provided by a diary he maintained for half a century, was born on this day in 1418 in Bologna.  Nadi worked on several important buildings in Bologna, including the bell tower of the Palazzo d’Accursio and several churches. He built the library of the Basilica of San Domenico.  He attained the position of Master Mason in the local guild of bricklayers, whom he also served for many terms as guild manager and other official positions.  Yet it was the diary he began to compile in 1452 that became his legacy. Written in idiomatic Bolognese, it proved to be an extraordinary document, a source for historians seeking to understand how families and society functioned in the Italy of Nadi’s lifetime.  As well as detailing family issues, the diary explained much about the construction industry of the time, with entries about clients and remuneration, injuries suffered by workers, the times demanded to turn around projects and the workings of the guilds, even down to the taverns in which members met and the vineyards that supplied their wine.  Read more…

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Bartolomeo Colleoni - soldier


Death of an ‘honourable’ Italian military leader

Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for using his wealth to benefit people, died on this day in 1475.  Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.  But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.  Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments.   Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.  During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. On his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.  Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb.   Read more...


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