13 May 2020

13 May

Giuliano Amato – politician

‘Doctor Subtle’ is still working at the age of 82

Giuliano Amato, who has twice served as prime minister of Italy and today sits in Italy’s Constitutional Court, was born on this day in 1938 in Turin.  During his first period as prime minister, for 10 months between 1992 and 1993, a series of corruption scandals rocked Italy, sweeping away the careers of many leading politicians. Amato was never implicated, despite being close to Bettino Craxi, the leader of the Italian Socialist party, who was investigated by Milan judges in the probe into corruption that became known as Mani pulite, which literally means ‘clean hands’. Craxi was eventually convicted of corruption and the illicit financing of his party.  Amato has earned the nickname ‘dottor sottile’ the sobriquet of the medieval Scottish philosopher John Duns Scotus, which is a reference to his perceived political subtlety.  Born into a Sicilian family living in Turin at the time, Amato spent his early years growing up in Tuscany.  He attended the Collegio Medico Giuridico, which is today the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, part of Pisa University, and obtained a degree in law. He also received a Masters degree in comparative law from Columbia Law School.  Read more…


The first Giro d'Italia

Tour of Italy cycle race ran from Milan to Naples and back

A field of 127 riders left Milan on this day in 1909 as Italy's famous cycle race, the Giro d'Italia, was staged for the first time.  Those who lasted the course returned to Milan 13 days later having covered a distance of 2,447.9 kilometres (1,521 miles) along a route around Italy that took them through Bologna, Chieti, Naples, Rome, Florence, Genoa and Turin.  The winner was Luigi Ganna, an Italian cyclist from Lombardy who had finished fifth in the Tour de France in 1908 and won the Milan-San Remo race earlier in 1909.  Only 49 riders finished.  Second and third places were also filled by Italian riders, with Carlo Galetti finishing ahead of Giovanni Rossignoli.  The race was run in eight stages with two to three rest days between each stage. It was a challenge to the riders' stamina. The stages were almost twice as long as those that make up the Giro today, with an average distance of more than 300 km (190 miles). The modern Giro covers a greater distance in total at 3,481.8 km (2,163.5 miles).  Thankfully, the route was primarily flat, although it did contain a few major ascents, particularly on the third leg between Chieti in Abruzzo and Naples, which took the race across the Apennines.  Read more…


Daniele Manin - Venetian leader

Lawyer who led fight to drive out Austrians

The Venetian patriot Daniele Manin, a revolutionary who fought to free Venice from Austrian rule and thereby made a significant contribution to the unification of Italy, was born on this day in 1804 in the San Polo sestiere.  Manin had Jewish roots. His grandfather, Samuele Medina,  from Verona, had converted to Christianity in 1759 and took the name Manin because Lodovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice, had sponsored his conversion.  He studied law at the University of Padua and then took up practice in Venice. As his practice developed, he gained a reputation as a brilliant and profound jurist.  He harboured a deep hatred and resentment towards the Austrians, to whom control of the city passed after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The city became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.  Manin's first physical act to advance the cause of liberation was the presentation of a petition in 1847 to a body called the Venetian Congregation, an advisory assembly that had no actual powers. The petition listed the grievances of the Venetian people but Manin’s frankness was not to the liking of the Austrians, who arrested him in January 1848 on charges of treason.  Read more…


Francesco Pistocchi – singer and composer

Child prodigy who wrote many operas and also taught

Francesco Pistocchi, a singer who became known to audiences as Pistocchino, died on this day in 1726 in Bologna.  Pistocchi left the world many operas, oratorios and cantatas he had composed, which are now highly regarded for their melodic elegance and colourful harmony.  Born Francesco Antonio Mamiliano Pistocchi in Palermo in 1659, Pistocchi became a child prodigy because of his beautiful soprano voice. He began performing as a singer in public at the age of three and the first music he composed, Capricci puerili, was published when he was just eight years old.  Believed to have become a castrato, Pistocchi made regular appearances as a singer in Bologna’s cappella musicale at the Basilica of San Petronio, where his father was a violinist, from 1670 onwards.  He later had a brilliant opera career as a contralto, touring in Italy and Germany and serving at the court in Parma in the 1680s.  His opera, Il leandro, was premiered at Teatro alle Zattere in Venice in 1679.  In 1696 Pistocchi became Court Kapellmeister for the Duke of Ansbach in Germany. His operas, Il Narciso and Le pazzie d’amore e dell’interesse, were presented in Ansbach in the late 1690s.  Read more…


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