3 July 2020

Flavio Insinna - actor and presenter

Star of TV dramas turned game show host


Flavio Insinna presents the daily quiz show L'eridità
Flavio Insinna presents the daily
quiz show L'eridità
The actor and presenter Flavio Insinna, who is the host of Italy’s popular television game show L’eridità and was formerly the face of Affari tuoi - the Italian version of Deal or No Deal - was born on this day in 1965 in Rome.

In a broad-ranging career, Insinna has run up an impressive list of credits in cinema, theatre and television as well as publishing an autobiography and a novel. He is also known for his philanthropy after donating his 49-foot boat Roxana to humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières to help rescue Syrian refugees.

In a substantial catalogue of television drama and comedy appearances, Insinna’s portrayal of the Carabinieri captain Flavio Anceschi in the popular Rai Uno series Don Matteo, with Terence Hill and Nino Frassica.

Ironically, Insinna’s ambition after obtaining his Liceo Classico diploma from Rome’s Augusto high school in 1984, had been to become a Carabinieri officer but after failing to gain admission to the elite police force’s training college he opted for acting. He enrolled at the drama school run by the Polish-Italian dramatist Alessandro Fersen and later joined the drama laboratory run by the Rome-born singer and actor Gigi Proietti, who had been one of his heroes growing up.

He made his acting debut on stage in 1986 and honed his acting skills in theatre for more than a decade before landing his first film role as Orfeo in the comedy-drama Figli di Annibale (Hannibal’s Children) in 1998.

Insinna (left) with Terence Hill in a scene from the hit drama series Don Matteo
Insinna (left) with Terence Hill in a scene
from the hit TV drama series Don Matteo
By then Insinna had also made his first steps in TV. In 1999, his role in a TV drama about the life of Padre Pio, the priest with a reputation for miracle-working who was later made a Saint, gave his talent wider attention and it was only a year later that he landed the part of Capitano Anceschi in Don Matteo, the long-running drama that starred Terence Hill in the title role as a sleuthing parish priest in the Umbrian town of Gubbio.

He gained more plaudits for his portrayal of the priest Don Bosco, who was famous for his work with the poor and disadvantaged  in Turin in the late 19th century.

The opportunity to front Affari tuoi came in 2006, after the producers had seen Insinna as the ideal person to rescue the show’s then-flagging ratings in competition with the rival Striscia la Notizia on Canale 5.  In the same year, Insinna was awarded an important prize for his role in the TV drama La Buona Battaglia, in which he played Don Pietro Pappagallo, an anti-Fascist priest who was one of the 335 victims massacred by Nazi soldiers just outside Rome in caves known as the Fosse Ardeatine in March 1944.

Still drawn towards acting rather than presenting, he quit Affari tuoi after just two seasons and returned to the portrayal of a policeman in Ho sposato uno sbirro (I married a cop).

Insinna became popular for his
dramatic presentation style on Affari tuoi
By 2013, he was back at the helm of Affari tuoi, this time for a four-year stay. He again proved a popular presenter, his high profile bringing him invitations to guest on other shows, including the prime time Ballando con le stelle - Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars.  Three times he has hosted Italy’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2018, Insinna became the presenter of L'eredità (The Legacy), Italy’s longest-running game show, which broadcasts every night on Rai Uno, succeeding the late Fabrizio Frizzi.

Although born in Rome, Insinna is proud of his Sicilian roots, his father having moved to the mainland from Vallelunga Pratameno, a rugged town in central Sicily in the province of Caltanissetta, about 98km (61 miles) southeast of Palermo and 74km (46 miles) northeast of Agrigento.

In 2015, in an act of compassion inspired by the plight of Syrian refugees trying to reach Italy via perilous Mediterranean sea crossings, Insinna donated his own yacht, the Roxana, to Médecins Sans Frontières to assist their work in the war-torn country. When the vessel could no longer he given a practical use, he sold it and gave the proceeds to a refugee charity. 

The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is one of southern Rome's major landmarks
The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is
one of southern Rome's major landmarks
Travel tip:

Insinna’s high school, the Liceo Ginnasio Augusto, is in the Appio/San Giovanni neighbourhood of Rome, southeast of the city centre. It is well known primarily for the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the oldest and most important of Rome’s four major basilicas and officially Rome’s cathedral.  The church’s history can be traced to the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who converted the Lateran Palace to a church in 324AD after he had converted to Christianity.  The famous Baroque eastern facade, topped with enormous statues of saints, was added in 1736, completed by Alessandro Galilei. 

Caltanissetta's beautiful Piazza Garibaldi is the Sicilian city's main square
Caltanissetta's beautiful Piazza Garibaldi is
the Sicilian city's main square
Travel tip:

Sicily’s largest completely inland city, with a population of just over 61,000, Caltanissetta was founded by the Greeks and became prosperous in the first half of the 20th century as the capital of the island’s sulphur-mining industry. Today it is an important agricultural centre and rarely gets a mention in tourist guides but it does have a beautiful central square, the Piazza Garibaldi, dominated by the city’s duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria la Nova, which was completed in 1622. The cathedral’s Baroque facade, with its twin bell towers, was damaged by Allied bombing in 1943 but faithfully restored in 1946. 

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