30 November 2020

30 November

NEW
- Ippolito Nievo - writer and patriot

Risorgimento novel now seen as an overlooked classic

The writer Ippolito Nievo, whose posthumously published Confessions of an Italian is now considered the most important novel about the Risorgimento in Italian literature, was born on this day in 1831 in Padua.  Nievo, who was a passionate supporter of the move to unify Italy in the 19th century, drew inspiration from his participation in Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Spedizione dei Mille - the Expedition of the Thousand - which sought to achieve that goal.  He died for the cause at the age of just 29, perishing in a shipwreck while transporting important documents from Palermo to Naples.  His legacy was preserved in his most famous novel, in which the central character and narrator shares Nievo’s passions. Nievo completed the work in 1858 but it was not until 1867, six years after his death, that it found a publisher.  Nievo was born into comfortable circumstances.  His father was a prominent lawyer and magistrate in Padua and his mother the daughter of a Friulian countess.  Their home in Padua was the Palazzo Mocenigo Querini, a 16th century house overlooking Via Sant’Eufemia, close to the city centre.   Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Andrea Doria – Admiral

Military commander with outstanding tactical talent

Andrea Doria, the most important naval leader of his time, was born on this day in 1466 in Oneglia in Liguria.  Because of his successes on both land and sea he was able to free Genoa from domination by foreign powers and reorganise its government to be more stable and effective.  Doria was part of an ancient aristocratic family but he was orphaned while still young and grew up to become a condottiero, or soldier of fortune.  He served Pope Innocent VIII, King Ferdinand I and his son Alfonso II of Naples, and other Italian princes.  Between 1503 and 1506 he helped his uncle, Domenico, crush the Corsican revolt against the rule of Genoa.  Attracted to the sea, Doria fitted out eight galleys and patrolled the Mediterranean, fighting the Ottoman Turks and Barbary pirates, adding to his wealth and reputation along the way.  He then entered the service of Francis I of France who was fighting the Emperor Charles V in Italy and helped him capture Genoa.  But after becoming disillusioned with French policies in Genoa, Doria transferred his support to Charles V and helped him drive the French out of Genoa.  Charles made him grand admiral of the imperial fleet and gave him the title of Prince of Melfi.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________

Beniamino Gigli - opera singer

Tenor’s beautiful voice can still be appreciated today

One of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, Beniamino Gigli, died on this day in Rome in 1957.  Gigli is remembered for the beauty of his voice, which was powerful as well as mellow and smooth. He made many recordings, which have since been converted to CD and can still be enjoyed by opera lovers today. He also made some film appearances.  Gigli was born in Recanati near Ancona in the Marche in 1890. He sang in the choir at Recanati Cathedral as a boy and then went on to study music in Rome.  He won his first singing competition in Parma in 1914 and made his operatic debut in Rovigo in the same year, playing the role of Enzo in Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera, La Gioconda.  Gigli made his debut on the stage of La Scala in Milan in 1918 singing Faust in Boito’s Mefistofele. The orchestra was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. His first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York came two years later.  He became particularly associated with the roles of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème and the title role in Giordano’s Andrea Chenier. His first appearance in London at Covent Garden was in Andrea Chenier in 1930.  Read more…

________________________________________________________

Veronica Gambara – writer and stateswoman

Politically astute poet wrote an ode to Emperor Charles V

Veronica Gambara, a lyric poet who ruled the state of Correggio for 32 years, was born on this day in 1485 in Pralboino in the province of Brescia.  Under her rule, the court of Correggio became an important literary salon visited by many writers and artists.  Gambara signed a treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, which guaranteed Correggio would not be besieged and in her political poems she expressed Italy as an entity centuries before unification.  Gambara came from an accomplished family, one of the seven children of Count Gianfrancesco da Gambara and Alda Pio da Carpi.  The humanist poets Ginevre and Isotta Noarola were her great aunts and Emilia Pia, the principal female interlocutor of Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano, was her aunt.  Gambara studied Latin, Greek, philosophy and theology and by the age of 17 had begun corresponding with the poet, Pietro Bembo, who later became her mentor when she sent him her poetry to read.  When Gambara was 24 she married her cousin, Giberto, Count of Correggio, a widower aged 50, and they had two sons, Ippolito and Girolamo.   Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Simonetta Stefanelli – actress

Godfather star now designs bags and shoes

Simonetta Stefanelli, the actress and fashion designer, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.  Stefanelli is perhaps best-known for her performance as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  She also made several films with her former husband, the actor and director Michele Placido.  The couple had three children together, Michelangelo, Brenno and Violante Placido, who is also an actress.  They divorced in 1994 and Stefanelli and her three children went to live in London for a short time.  Before appearing in The Godfather, Stefanelli had small roles in films guided by some of the top Italian directors, such as Gian Luigi Polidoro, Giulio Petroni, Marco Vicario and Dino Risi.  In 1972 she appeared in a German film for television. Then came her role in The Godfather alongside Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan and Diane Keaton.  Her character is the first wife of Pacino's character, Michael Corleone, a local girl Michael marries while in hiding in Sicily, but is then murdered in a bomb attack of which her husband was the intended victim.  Stefanelli now lives in Rome, where she opened a fashion store, Simo Bloom.  Read more…


Home


Ippolito Nievo - writer and patriot

Risorgimento novel now seen as an overlooked classic

ppolito Nievo (above) fought with  Garibaldi in the cause of unification
Ippolito Nievo (above) fought with 
Garibaldi in the cause of unification
The writer Ippolito Nievo, whose posthumously published Confessions of an Italian is now considered the most important novel about the Risorgimento in Italian literature, was born on this day in 1831 in Padua.

Nievo, who was a passionate supporter of the move to unify Italy in the 19th century, drew inspiration from his participation in Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Spedizione dei Mille - the Expedition of the Thousand - which sought to achieve that goal.

He died for the cause at the age of just 29, perishing in a shipwreck while transporting important documents from Palermo to Naples.

His legacy was preserved in his most famous novel, in which the central character and narrator shares Nievo’s passions. Nievo completed the work in 1858 but it was not until 1867, six years after his death, that it found a publisher.

Nievo was born into comfortable circumstances.  His father was a prominent lawyer and magistrate in Padua and his mother the daughter of a Friulian countess.  Their home in Padua was the Palazzo Mocenigo Querini, a 16th century house overlooking Via Sant’Eufemia, close to the city centre. 

They also had use of his mother’s ancestral home, a castle in Colloredo di Montalbano, a hamlet just outside the city of Udine in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and of the Palazzo Nievo in Mantua. 

Nievo was inspired by the political goals of revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini
Nievo was inspired by the political goals
of revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini
From 1832 to 1837, when Ippolito was a small child, they lived in a house adjoining the Palazzo della Giustizia in Soave, about 60km (37 miles) from Padua, where his father was posted as a judge.  By the late 1840s, Ippolito was becoming increasingly fascinated by the writings of Carlo Cattaneo and Giuseppe Mazzini, two of the central philosophical drivers of the Risorgimento.

He is thought to have taken part in a failed uprising in Mantua in 1848, a year marked by a series of insurrections inspired by Italian nationalists seeking to overthrow the Austian grip on the north of the country.  He had been inspired by conversations with his maternal grandfather, Carlo Marin, who had been a prominent official of the Venetian Republic when it fell to the Austrians in 1797.

Ippolito refused to follow his father into the law as he felt it would imply submission to the Austrian government and instead pursued a career in journalism.

His political activity intensified in the late 1850s, when he joined Garibaldi’s Cacciatori delle Alpi, a brigade of volunteers fighting to liberate Lombardy, and then participated in the Expedition of the Thousand, given the number 690 in the list of 1,000 patriots.

Nievo embarked in Genoa on 5 May, 1860 setting sail for Sicily. After distinguishing himself in the battle of Calatafimi and in Palermo, he was promoted to colonel and took on administrative assignments, at the same time keeping diaries that served as a chronicle of events. 

It was in this role that he was tasked with bringing back from Sicily all the administrative documents and receipts from the expedition’s expenses. He boarded the steamship Ercole ship along with other members of the military administration to travel from Palermo to Naples, but during the night between March 4 and 5, 1861, the steamship ran into difficulties off the coast of Sorrento, almost within view of the Bay of Naples, and sank.  There were no survivors.

An English edition of Nievo's most famous book
An English edition of Nievo's
most famous book
It was during the years between these periods of active support for the revolutionary cause that Ippolito did the bulk of his writing.

Much of this time he spent in retreat in Colloredo di Montalbano, writing a number of novels set in the Friulian countryside, as well as volumes of short stories and poetry.

He began writing his major work at some point in the mid-1850s. The central character is an 83-year-old man, Carlo Altoviti - thought to be based at least loosely on Carlo Marin - who has decided to write down the history of his long life, from an unhappy childhood to romantic entanglements during the siege of Genoa, and fighting in the cause of revolution in Naples. 

Carlo’s twin passions are the dream of a unified, free Italy and his undying love for Pisana, the woman with whom he is obsessed. With characters ranging from drunken smugglers to saintly nuns and scheming priests, as well as real figures such as Napoleon and Lord Byron, it is an epic novel that tells the story of one man's life and the history of Italy's unification.

When Nievo’s supporters found a publisher years after Ippolito’s unexpected death, the book was titled Confessioni di un ottuagenario (Confessions of an octogenarian), because Nievo’s intended title was still deemed politically sensitive.  It was changed later to reflect the author’s wishes.

Nievo’s life is commemorated in a number of locations, including Colloredo di Montalbano and Fossalta di Portogruaro, in the Veneto, where the Castello di Fratta, the scene of Carlo Altoviti’s unhappy childhood, was thought to be located.  There is a statue of him in Cordovado, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where there is a literary park dedicated to his name.

Nievo wrote his masterpiece while in retreat at the castle in Colloredo di Montalbano
Nievo wrote his masterpiece while in retreat
at the castle in Colloredo di Montalbano
Travel tip:

Colloredo di Monte Albano - known locally as Colloredo di Montalbano - is a small village in Friuli-Venezia Giulia situated about 14km (9 miles) northwest of Udine.  In the 11th century, it was a fief of the Viscounts of Mels, who had received it from the Counts of Tyrol. In 1420, together with all of Friuli, the hamlet was acquired by the Republic of Venice.  The village was severely damaged by the Friuli earthquake in 1976, yet the family castle remains intact.

The Caffè Pedrocchi was at the centre of life for students and intellectuals in Padua
The Caffè Pedrocchi was at the centre of life for
students and intellectuals in Padua
Travel tip:

Padua’s revolutionary movement had strong links to the city’s Caffè Pedrocchi, a meeting place for business people, students, intellectuals and writers for nearly 200 years. Founded by coffee maker Antonio Pedrocchi in 1831, the café was designed in neoclassical style and each side is edged with Corinthian columns. It quickly became a centre for the Risorgimento movement and was popular with students and artists because of its location close to Palazzo del Bò, the main university building. It briefly became a battleground when the students rose up against the armed Austrians in 1848.  You can still see a hole in the wall of the White Room inside Caffè Pedrocchi made by a bullet fired by an Austro-Hungarian soldier at the students.

Also on this day:

1466: The birth of military commander Andrea Doria

1485: The birth of poet and stateswoman Veronica Gambara

1954: The birth of actress Simonetta Stefanelli

1957: The death of opera singer Beniamino Gigli


Home




29 November 2020

29 November

Cardinal Andrea della Valle – antiquities collector

Restoration and conservation techniques set example to others

Andrea della Valle, remembered for amassing one of the earliest known collections of Roman antiquities, was born into a noble family on this day in 1463 in Rome.  He was the son of Filippo della Valle and Girolama Margani, and was the second of their four children.  After entering the Church, he was elected Bishop of Crotone in 1496. He was chosen to direct the Apostolic Chancery between 1503 and 1505 and served as Apostolic secretary during the reign of Pope Julius II.  Della Valle was transferred to the titular diocese of Miletus in 1508, but resigned from it to give way to his nephew, Quinzio Rustici, in 1523.  He was created cardinal priest in 1517 and participated in the papal conclaves of 1521 and 1523.  As archpriest of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Della Valle ceremonially opened and closed the holy door in the Jubilee year of 1525. The door is sealed by mortar and cement from the inside so it cannot normally be opened, but is ceremoniously opened during holy year to allow pilgrims to enter and gain plenary indulgences.  Della Valle had inherited some antiquities collected by his ancestors but was always eager to acquire more.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________


Agostino Chigi - banker and arts patron

Nobleman from Siena became one of Europe’s richest men

The banker Agostino Chigi, who was a major sponsor of artists during the Renaissance, was born on this day in 1466 in Siena.  At its height, Chigi’s banking house in Rome was the biggest financial institution in Europe, employing up to 20,000 people, with branches throughout Italy and abroad, as far apart as London and Cairo.  Chigi invested a good deal of his wealth in supporting the arts, notably providing financial backing to almost all the main figures of the early 16th century, including Perugino, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giulio Romano, Il Sodoma (Giovanni Bazzi) and Raphael.  Perugino painted The Chigi Altarpiece, dated at around 1506-1507, which hangs in the Chigi family chapel in the church of Sant'Agostino in Siena.  Chigi’s significant legacy to Rome was to have built a chapel in the church of Santa Maria della Pace, another - his mortuary chapel, the Chigi Chapel - in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, and the superb suburban villa in Trastevere, on the banks of the Tiber, which since 1579 has been known as the Villa Farnesina.  Agostino Chigi was the son of the prominent Sienese banker Mariano Chigi, from an ancient and illustrious Tuscan family.   Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Gaetano Donizetti - opera composer

Birthplace of musical genius has been declared a national monument

Gaetano Donizetti, a prolific composer of operas in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1797 in Bergamo in northern Italy.  Donizetti came into the world in the basement of a house in Borgo Canale just outside the walls of the Città Alta, Bergamo’s upper town. He was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife.  He once wrote about his birthplace: “…I was born underground in Borgo Canale. One descended the stairs to the basement, where no ray of sunlight had ever been seen. And like an owl I flew forth…”  Donizetti developed a love for music and, despite the poverty of his family, benefited from early tuition in Bergamo. He went on to become a brilliant composer of operas in the early part of the 19th century and is considered to have been a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and many other composers who came after him.  Experts consider some of his work, for example Lucia di Lammermoor and L’elisir d’amore, to be among the greatest lyrical operas of all time.  After a magnificent international career, Donizetti returned to Bergamo, where he died in 1843 in the Palazzo Scotti.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Agostino Richelmy – Cardinal

Former soldier sent priests to say mass for troops

Cardinal Agostino Richelmy, who fought for Garibaldi as a teenager, was born on this day in 1850 in Turin.  He joined the Garibaldi Volunteers during the war of 1866 and is said to have worn his red shirt under his cassock for years afterwards.  When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, Richelmy organised priests to serve as army chaplains in the mountains of Trentino, where they had to carve altars out of snow and say mass in temperatures below zero.  Richelmy was born into an ancient, noble family and his father, Prospero was a hydraulic engineer.  He was educated at the Liceo Classico Cavour and the Archiepiscopal Seminary in Turin and gained a doctorate in theology in 1876. He became a professor of moral and dogmatic theology and then a professor in the faculty of canon law.  Richelmy was elected Bishop of Ivrea in 1886 and named as the Archbishop of Turin in 1897.  He was created cardinal priest of Sant’Eusebio in Rome in 1899 and was then transferred to Santa Maria in Via in Rome in 1911.  Richelmy supported all the social directives of Pope Leo XIII, who worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world during his papacy.  Read more…


Home


28 November 2020

28 November

Alberto Moravia - journalist and writer

Italian novelist recognised as major 20th century literary figure

The novelist Alberto Moravia was born Alberto Pincherle on this day in 1907 in Rome.  He adopted Moravia, the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, as a pen name and became a prolific writer of short stories and novels. Much of his work has been made into films.  Before the Second World War, he had difficulties with the Fascist regime, which banned the publication of one of his novels. But his anti-Fascist novel Il conformista later became the basis for the film The Conformist directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.  In 1941 he married the novelist Elsa Morante and they went to live first on Capri, and then in the Ciociaria area of Lazio before returning to Rome after it was liberated in 1944.  Moravia was once quoted as comparing a childhood illness, which confined him to bed for a long period, with Fascism. He said they had both made him suffer and do things he otherwise would not have done.  He died in Rome in 1990 and is remembered today as an important literary figure of the 20th century.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________

Laura Antonelli - actress

Pin-up star of 1970s sex-comedies

The actress Laura Antonelli, whose career was at its peak while Italian cinema audiences were indulging a taste for sex-comedies during the 1970s, was born on this day in 1941 in Pula, a port city now part of Croatia but then known as Pola, capital of the Italian territory of Istria.  A curvaceous brunette who posed for both the Italian and French editions of Playboy magazine in the early 1980s, Antonelli was mostly remembered for appearing scantily clad opposite male stars such as Marcello Mastroianni and Michele Placido, yet she was a talented actress, winning a Nastro d’Argento - awarded by Italian film journalists - as best actress in Salvatore Samperi’s 1974 comedy-drama Malizia (Malice).  She also worked on several occasions for Luchino Visconti, one of Italy’s greatest directors. Indeed, she starred in 1976 as the wife of a 19th century Roman aristocrat in Visconti’s last film, L’Innocente (The Innocent), based on the novel The Intruder by Gabriele d'Annunzio.  However, the success of her career was largely built on roles in films such as Devil in the Flesh (1969), The Divine Nymph (1975) and Tigers in Lipstick (1979), the content of which outraged Italy’s fledgling feminist movement and shocked the Catholic Church.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Mario Nascimbene - film music composer

First Italian to score for Hollywood

The composer Mario Nascimbene, most famous for creating the music for more than 150 films, was born on this day in 1913 in Milan.  Nascimbene’s legacy in the history of Italian cinema is inevitably overshadowed by the work of Ennio Morricone and the late Nino Rota, two composers universally acknowledged as giants of Italian film music.  Yet the trailblazer for the great Italian composers of movie soundtracks was arguably Nascimbene, whose engagement to score Joseph L Mankiewicz’s 1954 drama The Barefoot Contessa won him the distinction of becoming the first Italian to write the music for a Hollywood production.  It was such an unexpected commission that Nascimbene confessed in an interview in 1986 that when he was first contacted about the film by Mankiewicz’s secretary he shouted down the phone and hung up, suspecting a hoax perpetrated by a friend who only a few months earlier had caught him out in a similar wind-up over the score for the William Wyler movie Roman Holiday.  Only after a third call from the secretary did he reluctantly agree to meet the director and when his doorbell rang he was convinced his friend would be on the other side.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Fabio Grosso - World Cup hero

Unspectacular career illuminated by unforgettable goal

Fabio Grosso, the unlikely hero of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was born on this day in 1977 in Rome.  Selected for Marcello Lippi's squad for the Finals as cover for first-choice left-back Gianluca Zambrotta, Grosso eventually secured a place in Lippi's team and went on to score one of the most important goals in Italy's World Cup history as they beat the hosts, Germany, to reach the final.  He then secured his place in Azzurri folklore by scoring the winning penalty in the final against France as Italy lifted the trophy for the fourth time, equalling Brazil's record.  Yet Grosso arrived at the finals as a player who, if not an unknown, seldom attracted attention and had enjoyed a career that was respectable but certainly not eye-catching.  Five years before 2006,  he was playing in Serie C for Chieti, in the town in Abruzzo where he grew up, and only two and a half years before the tournament he left Serie A side Perugia to play for Palermo in Serie B.  Nonetheless, Palermo did win promotion to Serie A soon after Grosso arrived and at the same time he quietly established himself as Lippi's first choice at left back in the 2006 World Cup qualifying competition.  Read more…

________________________________________________________

Caterina Scarpellini – astronomer and meteorologist

Female ‘assistant’ remembered for her important discoveries

The astronomer Caterina Scarpellini, who discovered a comet in 1854 and was later awarded a medal by the Italian government for her contribution to the understanding of astronomy and other areas of science, died on this day in 1873 in Rome.  Caterina had moved from her native Foligno in Umbria to Rome at the age of 18 to work as an assistant to her uncle, Abbe Feliciano Scarpellini, who was the director of the Roman Campidoglio Observatory. He had been appointed in 1816 by Pope Pius VI to a new chair of sacred physics in the Roman College of the Campidoglio, marking a turning point in the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to science.  From 1847 onwards, Caterina edited Corrispondenza Scientifica in Rome, a bulletin publishing scientific discoveries. She carried out her observations six times a day and reported on her findings.  She married Erasmo Fabri, who was also an assistant at the observatory, and together they established a meteorological station in Rome in 1856.  Caterina published reports of her astronomical observations and meteorological measurements in Italian, French and Belgian journals and also wrote about electrical, magnetic and geological phenomena.  Read more…


Home


27 November 2020

27 November

NEW
- Gianni Vernetti – politician and writer

Ecologist who now provides support for emerging economies

Former centre-left politician Gianni Vernetti was born on this day in 1960 in Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region of Italy.  While serving in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian parliament he promoted initiatives on renewable energies and, after he was elected to the Senate, he served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Romano Prodi’s government between 2006 and 2008.  Vernetti is married to the television journalist Laura De Donato and they have four children.  In 1985, Vernetti graduated in architecture from the University of Turin and in 1989 obtained a PhD in urban ecology at the University of Milan. For 10 years, between 1985 and 1995, he worked as an architect and urban planner.  As the child of politically active parents - his father, a philosophy professor and ex-partisan and his mother, an architect, were both former members of the Italian Communist Party - it was always likely he would enter politics himself.   Vernetti was a student protester in the late 1970s and founder-member of the anti-nuclear committee of the town of Trino Vercellese in Piedmont, later becoming a founder-member of the Federation of Italian Greens.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Horace - Roman poet

Writer who ‘seized the day’ and left his vivid account of it

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, better known as Horace, died on this day in 8 BC in Rome.  He had become a leading poet during the reign of the Emperor Augustus and acquired a farm near Rome which he made famous through his poetry.  His Odes and his more informal Satires and verse Epistles vividly portrayed contemporary Roman society, with the background themes of love, friendship and philosophy.  Horace’s career coincided with Rome’s momentous change from a republic to an empire and he became a spokesman for the new regime.  He is said to have revealed far more about himself and his way of life in his writings than any other poet in antiquity. His most famous two words are ‘carpe diem’ – taken from his first book of Odes – which are usually translated as ‘seize the day’.  Horace was born in 65 BC in Venusia in southern Italy, a town that lay on a trade route between Apulia and Basilicata. Horace’s father had been a slave but had managed to gain his freedom and improve his social position.  He spent money on his son’s education and eventually took him to Rome to find him the best school.  At the age of 19 Horace went to Athens to enrol in the Academy founded by Plato.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________

Jacopo Sansovino – architect

Death of the designer praised by Palladio

Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino, the sculptor and architect renowned for his works around Piazza San Marco, died on this day in 1570 in Venice.  He designed the Libreria Sansoviniana - also known as the Biblioteca Marciana - in the Piazzetta, which was later praised by the architect Andrea Palladio as ‘the finest building erected since antiquity’.  Sansovino had been born Jacopo Tatti in 1486 in Florence and was apprenticed to the sculptor Andrea Sansovino, whose surname he subsequently adopted.  He was commissioned to make a marble sculpture of St James for the Duomo and a Bacchus, which is now in the Bargello in Florence.  However, his designs for sculptures to adorn the façade of the Church of San Lorenzo were rejected by Michelangelo, who was in charge of the scheme.  In 1529 Sansovino became chief architect to the Procurators of San Marco, making him one of the most influential artists in Venice.  His first Venetian building was the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, a huge classical palace for one of the richest families in Venice.  Sansovino designed the Loggetta and its sculptures adjoining the Campanile and statues for the Basilica of San Marco. He also helped rebuild many of the churches and palaces in Venice.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Roberto Mancini - footballer and manager

Skilful player now highly successful coach

Roberto Mancini, a former Italy player and the current manager of the Italian national team, was born on this day in Iesi in Marche in 1964.  Roberto Mancini enjoyed huge success with Internazionale in Italy and Manchester City in England.  Mancini, an elegant and creative forward, was capped 36 times by Italy between 1984 and 1994.  After a highly successful playing career, in which he was part of title-winning teams at Sampdoria and Lazio, he enjoyed immediate success as a manager, winning the Coppa Italia in his first season as Fiorentina boss in 2000. He repeated the feat in his second season at his next club, Lazio.  Mancini then made his mark emphatically at Internazionale, guiding the Milan club to a club record three consecutive Serie A titles, as well as winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (a pre-season match between the Serie A champions and the Coppa Italia winners) twice. This made him the club's most successful manager for 30 years.  While at Inter, he also set a Serie A record by winning 17 consecutive matches.  He was out of football for a year after being dismissed by Inter in 2008, despite his domestic success.  Read more…

________________________________________________________

Senesino - operatic castrato

Sienese singer who worked with composer Handel

The acclaimed contralto castrato singer Senesino, who enjoyed a long professional relationship with the composer George Frederick Handel, died on this day in 1758 in Siena.  During the 18th century, when opera’s popularity was at its height, the castrati singers - male singers castrated as boys to preserve their prepubescent vocal range - were the highest paid members of the cast and the likes of Carlo Broschi, who sang under the stage name Farinelli, Giovanni Carestini (“Cusanino”), Gaetano Majorano ("Caffarelli") and Gaspare Pacchierotti were the genre’s first superstars.  Senesino could be added to that list.  When he made his first appearance for Handel in his three-act opera Radamisto in 1720 his salary was reported as between 2000 and 3000 guineas, which today would be worth around £250,000 to £365,000 (€280,000-€400,000).  Born Francesco Bernardi in 1686, Senesino took his name from his home town, Siena. His father was a barber in the Tuscan city.  He joined the choir of Siena’s Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta - in 1695 and was castrated at the comparatively late age of 13.  Read more…


Home


Gianni Vernetti – politician and writer

Ecologist who now provides support for emerging economies

Gianni Vernetti's political roots were in the Italian Greens
Gianni Vernetti's political roots
were in the Italian Greens
Former centre-left politician Gianni Vernetti was born on this day in 1960 in Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region of Italy.

While serving in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian parliament he promoted initiatives on renewable energies and, after he was elected to the Senate, he served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Romano Prodi’s government between 2006 and 2008.

Vernetti is married to the television journalist Laura De Donato and they have four children.

In 1985, Vernetti graduated in architecture from the University of Turin and in 1989 obtained a PhD in urban ecology at the University of Milan. For 10 years, between 1985 and 1995, he worked as an architect and urban planner.

As the child of politically active parents - his father, a philosophy professor and ex-partisan and his mother, an architect, were both former members of the Italian Communist Party - it was always likely he would enter politics himself. 

Vernetti was a student protester in the late 1970s and founder-member of the anti-nuclear committee of the town of Trino Vercellese, in Piedmont, later becoming a founder-member of the Federation of Italian Greens.

Vernetti was a prominent member of the Daisy party
Vernetti was a prominent
member of the Daisy party
He was elected to Turin city council as a Green in 1990, serving as Deputy Mayor between 1993 and 1999 in charge of public works, environment and sustainable development and urban renovation.

He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 2001 and was a member of the national steering committee of his party, Democracy is Freedom, better known as La Margherita - The Daisy.

After he was elected to the Senate and the centre-left coalition won the general election, he served in the second Prodi government from 2006 to 2008. He coordinated all the Italian initiatives in Afghanistan when Italy was taking part in the NATO military mission. He implemented aid projects in Central Asia and coordinated Italian aid to the countries affected by the 2004 tsunami.

He promoted Italy’s entrance into the Pacific Islands Forum and represented Italy on the UN Human Rights Council.

In 2008, Vernetti was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for a third term, this time on the Democratic Party list and served as a member of the foreign affairs committee and the Italian delegation to the NATO parliamentarian assembly.

Laura De Donato is a presenter of TG3's Leonardo programme
Laura De Donato is a presenter
of TG3's Leonardo programme
He decided not to stand for parliament in 2013, but instead founded Geo Solar, a company supporting countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

Since 2018, Vernetti has been a columnist on foreign affairs for the Turin newspaper, La Stampa, and in May this year began writing for the Huffington Post.

Laura De Donato has been a journalist with Rai’s TG3 news programmes since 1999. She is a presenter of Leonardo, a show dedicated to investigating topics related to science, technology, health, environment and society.

She met Vernetti when he was 18 and she 15 and they were friends for many years before deciding to get married. They became parents for the first time in 1996.

Turin is renowned for its elegant squares and a thriving coffee house culture
Turin is renowned for its elegant squares and
a thriving coffee house culture
Travel tip:

The city of Turin, once the capital of Italy and traditionally the seat of the Savoy dynasty, is best known for its royal palaces and as a travel destination benefits from being somewhat overlooked by visitors to Italy, especially new ones, who flock first to Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. Yet as an elegant, stylish and sophisticated city, Turin has much to commend it, from its many historic cafés to 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in Piedmont. Turin’s café culture is concentrated in the area around Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade linking Piazza Vittorio Veneto with Piazza Castello, and nearby Piazza San Carlo, one of the city’s main squares. In the 19th century, these cafès were popular with writers, artists, philosophers, musicians and politicians among others, who would meet to discuss the affairs of the day.

La Stampa is one of Italy's oldest newspapers
La Stampa is one of
Italy's oldest newspapers
Travel tip:

The Turin newspaper La Stampa, established in 1867 and one of the oldest newspapers in Italy, has since 2012 been produced from one of the most technologically advanced newspaper offices in the world, in Via Lugaro in the San Salvario area of the city, having been previously based for 40 years in Via Marenco . The newsroom has an open space layout in concentric rings, designed so that all the workers can see the entire news production process, from paper to digital.  Its former headquarters is now part of the University of Turin. The ground floor of the newspaper’s new headquarters is now a museum dedicated to the history of the city seen through the pages of its newspaper.

Also on this day:

8BC: The death of the Roman poet Horace

1570: The death of architect Jacopo Sansovino

1758: The death of the castrato singer Senesino

1964: The birth of football manager Roberto Mancini


Home


26 November 2020

26 November

Amelita Galli-Curci - soprano

Singer’s beautiful voice lives on thanks to early recordings

Amelita Galli-Curci, one of the most popular Italian opera singers and recording artists of the early 20th century, died on this day in 1963.  Galli-Curci was a ‘coloratura’ soprano and her voice has been described as ‘florid, vibrant, agile and able to perform trills.’  Although she was largely self-taught her voice was much admired and it has been claimed she was encouraged to become an opera singer by composer Pietro Mascagni, who was a family friend.  She was born Amelita Galli in Milan in 1881 and studied the piano at the Milan Conservatory, which is in the centre of the city close to the Duomo. She made her stage debut as a soprano at Trani in 1906, singing Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. She was widely acclaimed and her career took off from there.  In 1908 she married an Italian nobleman, the Marquese Luigi Curci and she subsequently attached his surname to hers. She remained known as Amelita Galli-Curci even after they divorced.  She sang in just two performances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lamermoor with Enrico Caruso in Buenos Aires in 1915 but they went on to make wonderful recordings together.  Read more…

__________________________________________________________

Charles Forte - businessman and hotelier

Multi-billion pound empire started with a single café

Businessman Charles Forte - later Sir Charles and then Baron Forte of Ripley - was born Carmine Forte in the hamlet of Mortale in the Frosinone province of southern Lazio on this day in 1908.  Forte was most famous for his hotels empire, which once numbered more than 800 properties ranging from Travelodge motels to the high-end luxury of the Grosvenor House in London and the George V in Paris.  Starting with a single milk bar in London, opened in 1935, he grew a business that became so vast that, when it changed hands 61 years later, it was valued at £3.9 billion.  Charles Forte was brought up largely in Scotland, where his family emigrated in 1911 after his father, Rocco, decided to follow the lead of his brother by abandoning farming in his impoverished homeland to try his luck in the catering business abroad.   Rocco ran a café and ice cream parlour in Alloa, a town in central Scotland about an hour's drive north-east of Glasgow and a similar distance to the north-west of Edinburgh.  Charles went to school in Alloa and nearby Dumfries before completing his education at the Mamiani High School in Rome.  Read more…

______________________________________________________

Enrico Bombieri – Mathematician

Brilliant professor who won top award in his field at just 34

The mathematician Enrico Bombieri, one of the world’s leading authorities on number theory and analysis, which has practical application in the world of encryption and data transmission, was born on this day in 1940 in Milan.  Bombieri, who is also an accomplished painter, won the Fields Medal, an international award for outstanding discoveries in mathematics regarded in the field of mathematical sciences as equivalent to a Nobel Prize, when he was a 34-year-old professor at the University of Pisa in 1974.  As well as analytic number theory, he has become renowned for his expertise in other areas of highly advanced mathematics including algebraic geometry, univalent functions, theory of several complex variables, partial differential equations of minimal surfaces, and the theory of finite groups.  Mathematics textbooks now refer to several discoveries named after him in his own right or with fellow researchers, including the Bombieri-Lang conjecture, the Bombieri norm and the Bombieri–Vinogradov theorem.  He has been described as a "problem-oriented" scholar - one who tries to solve deep problems rather than to build theories.  Read more…

_______________________________________________________

Letizia Moratti – politician and businesswoman

First woman to be Mayor of Milan and head of RAI

Letizia Moratti, one of Europe’s best-known businesswomen and a successful politician, was born on this day in 1949 in Milan.  Married to the oil magnate Gianmarco Moratti, she was chair of the state television network RAI between 1994 and 1996, a minister in former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s second and third administrations, and Mayor of Milan between 2006 and 2011.  Born Letizia Maria Brichetto Arnaboldi, her antecedents are the Brichetto family from Genoa, who founded the first insurance brokerage company in Italy, and the noble Arnaboldi family from Milan.  Her grandmother, Mimona Brichetto Arnaboldi, was a society hostess in the 1930s and an outspoken opponent of Fascism.  Letizia attended a private school in Milan and had classical dance classes at the Carla Strauss Academy in the Brera district.  She attended the University of Milan and graduated in political science.  At around the same time, she met Gianmarco Moratti, an oil contractor whose brother, Massimo, a petrochemicals tycoon, is the former chairman of Internazionale.  With funding from the Moratti family, Letizia launched her first business at the age of 25.  Read more…


Home


25 November 2020

25 November

Giorgio Faletti – writer and entertainer

Comedian who became best-selling novelist

Giorgio Faletti, who became a best-selling thriller writer, was born on this day in 1950 in Asti in Piedmont.  He was a successful actor, comedian, and singer-songwriter before he turned his hand to writing fiction. His first thriller, I Kill (Io uccido), sold more than four million copies.  Faletti’s books have now been published in 25 languages throughout Europe, South America, China, Japan, Russia and the US.  Faletti graduated from law school but then began a career as a comedian at the Milanese Club ‘Derby’.  In 1983 he made his debut on local television before appearing alongside the popular hostess and former actress, Raffaella Carrà, on RAI’s daytime game show, Pronto, Raffaella? He was cast as a comedian in the popular variety show, Drive In, which was followed by other television successes.  He wrote the soundtrack for a TV series in which he was one of the main actors and then released an album of his songs.  In 1992 he took part in the San Remo Music Festival with Orietta Berti with the song Rumba di tango.  In 1994, performing his own song, Signor tenente, he came second at San Remo.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Rosanna Schiaffino – actress

Dramatic life of Italian sex goddess

Film star Rosanna Schiaffino, who for more than 20 years, between the 1950s and the 1970s, starred opposite the most famous actors of the period, was born on this day in 1939 in Genoa in Liguria.  Schiaffino worked for some of Italian cinema’s greatest directors, but in the 1980s turned her back on the cinema world to marry the playboy and steel industry heir, Giorgio Falck, entering a relationship that descended into acrimony after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Born into a wealthy family, Schiaffino was encouraged in her acting ambitions by her mother, who paid for her to go to a drama school.  She entered beauty contests and won the title of Miss Liguria when she was just 14.  She also took some modelling jobs and her photograph appeared in many magazines. She was spotted by the film producer Franco Cristaldi, who paired her with Marcello Mastroianni in Un ettaro di cielo (Piece of the Sky) in 1959.  Schiaffino made her name in her second film for Cristaldi, La Sfida (The Challenge), directed by Francesco Rosi, in which she gave a powerful, but sensitive performance as a Neapolitan girl, inspired by the real life character of Pupetta Maresca, a former beauty queen who became a famous Camorra figure.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Bruno Tonioli - dance show judge

Dancer and choreographer is star of Strictly Come Dancing

Dancer, choreographer and television dance show judge Bruno Tonioli was born on this day in 1955 in Ferrara in north-east Italy.  Tonioli is one of the judging panel of Strictly Come Dancing on British TV and on its US equivalent Dancing With the Stars, which requires him to divide his time between London and New York when seasons overlap.  He began his showbusiness career in the 1980s as a member of the Paris-based dance company La Grande Eugène before moving into the music industry as a choreographer.  Among the artists he has worked with are Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Freddie Mercury, Sinitta, Boy George, Dead or Alive, and Duran Duran.  Tonioli has also worked on numerous films and television shows including Little Voice, The Gathering Storm, Dancin' thru the Dark and Enigma.  He also has a number of acting credits, including the role of Peppino, manservant to Michael Gambon's Oscar Wilde in the BBC production Oscar.  Tonioli appeared as himself in the movie version of the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous.  Renowned for his flamboyantly wild gestures and amusingly extravagant comments, Tonioli has been a member of the Strictly Come Dancing team since the show's launch in 2004.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Amalfi destroyed by tsunami

Quake beneath Tyrrhenian Sea sparked killer wave

The former maritime republic of Amalfi, which once had a population of 70,000 people, was effectively wiped out when a massive earthquake that occurred under the Tyrrhenian Sea on this day in 1343 sparked a devastating tsunami along the coast of southern Italy.  The tremor itself caused deaths but not on the scale of the tsunami that followed, as a stretch of coastline from north of Naples to south of the Cilento National Park bore the brunt of a huge killer wave.  The towns of Bussanto and Blanda, near the present-day resorts of Sapri and Maratea, were among communities that disappeared completely, while Amalfi and Minori on what we know now as the Amalfi Coast were decimated.  Amalfi’s harbour and all the boats in it were destroyed, while the lower town fell into the sea. Where there had once been a thriving city, only a village remained, the population of which has never grown much beyond about 6,000 people. Its days as a significant maritime power were over.  Salerno and Naples suffered considerable damage, although the death toll was never recorded, it can be assumed it ran into tens of thousands.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Pope John XXIII

Farmer’s son went on to become ‘the Good Pope’

Pope John XXIII was born on this day in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.  He was originally named Angelo Roncalli and was part of a large farming family but he went on to become a much loved Pope and respected world leader.  Angelo was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary in Bergamo at the age of 12. He went on to study theology in Rome and rose to become Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before being elected Pope in 1958.  His religious studies had been interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.  After the war he worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.  In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became a Cardinal in 1953 and expected to spend his last years serving the church in Venice.  But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.  Read more…


Home


24 November 2020

24 November

Carlo Collodi - journalist and writer

Satirical journalist created Pinocchio to express his own views 

Carlo Collodi, in real life Carlo Lorenzini, was born on this day in 1826 in Florence.  Although he was a satirical journalist who supported the cause of the Risorgimento, Collodi is best remembered for his stories for children about the character, Pinocchio.  The writer was brought up in the small town of Collodi where his mother had been born and he adopted the name of her birthplace as a pen name.  After becoming interested in politics he started the satirical newspaper, Il Lampione, in 1848. This was censored by order of the Grand Duke of Tuscany so in 1854 he started Lo Scaramuccia, which was also controversial.  In 1856 he wrote his first play for the theatre and, after Italian unification in 1861, he turned his attention to writing for children.  Collodi’s stories about his first main character, Giannettino, were a way of expressing his own political ideas through allegory.  He began writing Storia di un Burattino (The Story of a Marionette), in 1880. He went on to contribute regular stories about his character, who he later called Pinocchio, to a newspaper for children.  Pinocchio was created out of wood by a woodcarver, Geppetto, but he became a mischievous boy whose nose grew when he told a lie.   Read more…

__________________________________________________________

Pietro Torrigiano – sculptor

Achievements overshadowed by assault on Michelangelo

Pietro Torrigiano, the sculptor credited with introducing Renaissance art to England in the early years of the 16th century but who is best remembered for breaking the nose of Michelangelo in a fight, was born on this day in 1472 in Florence.  The incident with the man who would become the greatest artist of their generation came when both were teenagers, studying in Florence under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici.  Torrigiano was older than Michelangelo by two and a half years and confessed some years later that he found his young rival to be somewhat irritating, especially since it was his habit to peer over the shoulders of his fellow students and make disparaging comments about the quality of their work. On the occasion they clashed, when Michelangelo was said to be about 15, he was with Torrigiano and some others in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, studying frescoes by Masaccio.  Looking at a sketch Torrigiano was making, the younger boy made some slighting remark and Torrigiano lashed out.  He caught him such a blow that Michelangelo, who was knocked out cold at the time, suffered a broken nose and a disfigurement he would carry for life.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Lucky Luciano - Mafia boss

Sicilian who brought order among warring clans

Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, the mobster best known for shaping the structure of Italian-dominated organized crime in the United States, was born Salvatore Lucania on this day in 1897 in Lercara Friddi, a town about 70km (44 miles) south-east of the Sicilian capital, Palermo.  Raised in New York's Lower East Side after his family emigrated in 1906, it was Luciano who famously put the New York underworld into the control of the so-called Five Families and also set up The Commission, which served as a governing body for organized crime nationwide.  After he was jailed in 1936 on extortion and prostitution charges, Luciano is said to have struck a deal with the American authorities to use his criminal connections to help the Allies in their invasion of Sicily, a vital first step in driving the German forces and their supporters out of the Italian peninsula.  In return he was given parole and allowed to return to Sicily at the end of the Second World War.  Luciano, whose father, Antonio, had worked in a sulphur mine in Lercara Friddi, began his life in crime as a teenager, when he set up his own gang and became friends with Jewish gang members Meyer Lansky and his associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Vittorio Miele - artist

Painter scarred by Battle of Monte Cassino

The 20th century artist Vittorio Miele, who found a way to express himself in art after losing his family in the Battle of Monte Cassino, was born in Cassino on this day in 1926.  Miele was a teenager when his home town and the mountain top Benedictine monastery witnessed one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War as Allied armies attempted to break the Gustav Line of the Axis forces.  Over a three-month period, the Allies made four assaults, each backed up by heavy bombing, and though the objective was eventually achieved it was at a very high price. There were at least 80,000 soldiers killed or  wounded, as well as countless civilians caught in the crossfire.  Miele lost his father, mother and sister. He survived but left the area as soon as he was able, settling 400km (249 miles) north in Urbino in the Marche. It was there, from the age of 19, that he took courses in painting and became part of the city’s artistic life, developing a talent that in his mature years saw him once described as “the poet of silence”.  In the following decades his work began to reach further afield.  Read more…


Home