31 August 2021

31 August

- Luca Cordero di Montezemolo – aristocrat and businessman

Former driver who led Ferrari to Formula One success

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, a former racing driver, chairman of Ferrari and Fiat and president of employers’ federation Confindustria, was born on this day in 1947 in Bologna.  He is one of the founders of NTV, an Italian company that is Europe’s first private, open access operator of 300km/h (186 mph) high-speed trains.  Montezemolo is a descendant of an aristocratic family from Piedmont, who served the Royal House of Savoy for generations. He is the youngest son of Massimo Cordero dei Marchesi di Montezemolo and Clotilde Neri, niece of the surgeon, Vincenzo Neri. His uncle was a commander in the Italian Navy in World War II and his grandfather and great grandfather were both Generals in the Italian Army.  After graduating with a degree in Law from Rome Sapienza University in 1971, Montezemolo studied for a master’s degree in international commercial law at Columbia University.  His sporting career began at the wheel of a Giannini Fiat 500. He then drove briefly for the Lancia rally team, before joining the auto manufacturing conglomerate Fiat. In 1973 he moved to Ferrari, where he became Enzo Ferrari’s assistant. Read more… 


Altiero Spinelli - political visionary

Drafted plan for European Union while in Fascist jail

Altiero Spinelli, a politician who is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the European Union, was born on this day in 1907 in Rome.  A lifelong Communist who was jailed for his opposition to the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, he spent much of the Second World War in confinement on the island of Ventotene in the Tyrrhenian Sea, one of an archipelago known as the Pontine Islands.  It was there that he and two prisoners, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni, agreed that if the forces of Fascism in Italy and Germany were defeated, the only way to avoid future European wars was for the sovereign nations of the continent to join together in a federation of states.  The document they drew up, which became known as the Ventotene Manifesto, was the first document to argue for a European constitution and formed the basis for the Movimento Federalista Europeo, which Spinelli, Rossi and some 20 others launched at a secret meeting in Milan as soon as they were able to leave their internment camp.  In a nutshell, the Ventotene Manifesto put forward proposals for creating a European federation of states so closely joined together they would no longer be able to go to war with one another.  Read more…


Amilcare Ponchielli - opera composer

Success of La Gioconda put musician on map

The opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli was born on this day in 1834 in Paderno Fasolaro, near Cremona, about 100km south-east of Milan in what is now Lombardia.  Ponchielli's works in general enjoyed only modest success, despite the rich musical invention for which he was later applauded.  One that did win acclaim in his lifetime, however, was La Gioconda, which was first produced in 1876 and underwent several revisions but remained unaltered after 1880.  Well known for the tenor aria, Cielo e mar, and the ballet piece, Dance of the Hours, La Gioconda is the only opera by Ponchielli still performed today and many recordings have been made, featuring some of the biggest stars of recent times.  Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Montserrat Caballe are among those to have played the role of Gioconda, written for soprano, while the lead tenor part of Enzo, whose affections are sought both by Gioconda and another major character, Laura, has been taken by Giuseppe Di Stefano, Carlo Bergonzi, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo among others.  Ponchielli had such a talent for music that he won a scholarship to Milan Conservatory at nine years old.  Read more…


Gino Lucetti – failed assassin

Anarchist tried to kill Mussolini with grenade

Gino Lucetti, who acquired notoriety for attempting to assassinate Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome in 1926, was born on this day in 1900. A lifelong anarchist, part of a collective of like-minded young men and women from Carrara in Tuscany, he planned to kill Mussolini on the basis that doing so would save the lives of thousands of potential future victims of the Fascist regime.  Lucetti hatched his plot while in exile in France, where he had fled after taking a Fascist bullet in the neck following an argument in a bar in Milan, clandestinely returning several times to Carrara to finalise the details.  After enlisting the help of other anarchists, notably Steffano Vatteroni, who worked as a tinsmith in Rome, and Leandro Sorio, a waiter originally from Brescia, he returned to Rome to carry out the attack.  Vatteroni was able to obtain information about Mussolini’s movements from a clerical worker in the dictator’s Rome offices, including details of his regular motorcades through the city. These were carefully choreographed affairs in which cheering citizens lined the streets, enabling Mussolini to present an image to the world of a popular leader.  Read more…


Isabella de’ Medici – noblewoman

Tuscan beauty killed by her husband

Isabella Romola de’ Medici, the daughter of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, was born on this day in 1542 in Florence.  She was said to have been beautiful, charming, educated and talented and was the favourite child of her father, Cosimo I de’ Medici.  But she died at the age of 33, believed to have been murdered by the husband her family had chosen for her to marry.  While Isabella was growing up she lived first in Palazzo Vecchio and later in Palazzo Pitti in Florence with her brothers and sisters. Her brother, Francesco, who was a year older than her, eventually succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Tuscany.  The Medici children were educated by tutors in classics, languages and the arts and Isabella particularly loved music.  When Isabella was 11 she was betrothed to 12-year-old Paolo Giordano Orsini, heir to the Duchy of Bracciano in Tuscany, because her father wanted to secure the southern border of Tuscany and his relationship with the Orsini family.  Five years later, when Isabella was 16, they were married at the Medici country estate, Villa di Castello.  Read more…


Luca Cordero di Montezemolo – aristocrat and businessman

Luca di Montezemolo led Ferrari to F1 success
Luca di Montezemolo led
Ferrari to F1 success
Former driver who led Ferrari to Formula One success

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, a former racing driver, chairman of Ferrari and Fiat and president of employers’ federation Confindustria, was born on this day in 1947 in Bologna.

He is one of the founders of NTV, an Italian company that is Europe’s first private, open access operator of 300km/h (186 mph) high-speed trains.

Montezemolo is a descendant of an aristocratic family from Piedmont, who served the Royal House of Savoy for generations. He is the youngest son of Massimo Cordero dei Marchesi di Montezemolo and Clotilde Neri, niece of the surgeon, Vincenzo Neri. His uncle was a commander in the Italian Navy in World War II and his grandfather and great grandfather were both Generals in the Italian Army.

After graduating with a degree in Law from Rome Sapienza University in 1971, Montezemolo studied for a master’s degree in international commercial law at Columbia University.

His sporting career began at the wheel of a Giannini Fiat 500. He then drove briefly for the Lancia rally team, before joining the auto manufacturing conglomerate Fiat. In 1973 he moved to Ferrari, where he became Enzo Ferrari’s assistant, and he became manager of the Scuderia - the racing division of the company - in 1974.

Montezemolo pictured in 1985 with Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, who made him a trusted lieutenant
Montezemolo pictured in 1985 with Fiat chairman
Gianni Agnelli, who made him a trusted lieutenant 
While Montezemolo was involved with the team, Ferrari won the Formula One world championship with Nikki Lauda in 1975 and 1977. He became head of all Fiat racing activities in 1976 and became a senior manager of Fiat in 1977.

During the 1980s he held a number of positions in the Fiat empire, including managing director of the drinks company, Cinzano. He also managed Team Azzurra, the first Italian yacht club to enter the America’s Cup and in 1985 he became manager of the organising committee for the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli appointed Montezemolo president of the then struggling Ferrari company in 1991, after the death of Enzo Ferrari. Montezemolo was awarded the Lorenzo Bandini trophy for his achievements in Formula One motor racing in 1997 and, under his leadership, the Ferrari team won the world drivers’ championship in 2000.

Montezemolo became president of Confindustria in 2004 and on the death of Agnelli was elected chairman of Fiat. He stepped down from Fiat in 2010 and resigned as president and chairman of Ferrari in 2014.

He launched NTV - Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori - in 2006 along with three other businessmen with the aim of competing for business on the Italian high speed rail network following the liberalisation of the railway sector in the European Union.  Trading under the brand name Italo, today it operates more than 90 daily services across 11 routes, serving serving 54 cities.

He is also non-executive chairman of the board of the airline Alitalia and was committee president of the Rome bid for the Summer 2024 Olympics.

He has been awarded five honorary degrees in Mechanical Engineering by Italian universities. Married twice, Montezemolo has five children. He celebrates his 74th birthday today.

The Villa Ada is surrounded by one of the biggest urban parks in Rome
The Villa Ada is surrounded by one of the
biggest urban parks in Rome
Travel tip:

While working on the Rome bid for the 2024 summer Olympics, Montezemolo has had an office at the Foro Italico, the site for the 1960 Olympics, and an apartment in the exclusive Parioli district in the north of Rome. This became an upper class area early in the 20th century after the construction of Viale Parioli. Now considered to be Rome’s most elegant residential area, notable for its tree-lined streets and some of Rome's finest restaurants, it is also home to some foreign embassies.  The Villa Ada, once the Rome residence of the Italian royal family and surrounded by the second largest park in the city, can also be found within the Parioli district.

The elegant Piazza Galimberti is the central square in Cuneo
The elegant Piazza Galimberti is
the central square in Cuneo
Travel tip:

The Montezemolo family name comes from a small village in the province of Cuneo in the Piedmont region, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Turin. Cordero Montezemolo Barolo wine is made in the wine producing area of La Morra by a branch of the Montezemolo family. The city of Cuneo is characterised by its 19th-century Savoy layout and architecture, with eight kilometres of arcaded streets, at the heart of which in the elegant Piazza Galimberti.

Also on this day:

1542: The birth of noblewoman Isabella de’ Medici

1834: The birth of opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli

1900: The birth of Gino Lucetti, Mussolini’s would-be assassin

1907: The birth of Altiero Spinelli, political visionary


30 August 2021

30 August

Joe Petrosino - New York crime fighter

Campanian immigrant a key figure in war against Mafia

Joe Petrosino, a New York police officer who dedicated his life to fighting organised crime, was born Giuseppe Petrosino in Padula, a southern Italian town on the border of Campania and Basilicata, on this day in 1860.  The son of a tailor, Prospero Petrosino, he emigrated to the United States at the age of 12.  The family lived in subsidised accommodation in Mulberry Street, part of the area now known as Little Italy on the Lower East Side towards Brooklyn Bridge, where around half a million Italian immigrants lived in the second half of the 19th century.  Giuseppe took any job he could to help the family, at first as a newspaper boy and then shining shoes outside the police headquarters on Mulberry Street, where he would dream of becoming a police officer himself.  In 1878, by then fluent in English and known to everyone as Joe, Petrosino became an American citizen but it took him five years and repeated applications to realise his dream of joining the police. At 5ft 3ins he was technically too short to meet the criteria for an officer but after the police began to use him as an informant it was decided he could be of use in the fight against Italian organised crime.  Read more…


Andrea Gabrieli - composer

Father of the Venetian School

The Venetian composer and organist Andrea Gabrieli, sometimes known as Andrea di Cannaregio, notable for his madrigals and large-scale choral works written for public ceremonies, died on this day in 1585.  His nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli, is more widely remembered yet Andrea, who was organist of the Basilica di San Marco – St Mark’s – for the last 19 years of his life, was a significant figure in his lifetime, the first member of the Venetian School of composers to achieve international renown. He was influential in spreading the Venetian style of music in Germany as well as in Italy.  Little is known about Andrea’s early life aside from the probability that he was born in the parish of San Geremia in Cannaregio and that he may have been a pupil of the Franco-Flemish composer Adrian Willaert, who was maestro di cappella at St Mark’s from 1527 until 1562.  In 1562 – the year of Willaert’s death – Andrea is on record as having travelled to Munich in Germany, where he met and became friends with Orlando di Lasso, who wrote secular songs in French, Italian, and German, as well as Latin.  There was evidence in the later work of Di Lasso of a Venetian influence. Read more…


Emanuele Filiberto – Duke of Savoy

Ruler who made Turin the capital of Savoy

Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, who was nicknamed testa di ferro (iron head) because of his military prowess, died on this day in 1580 in Turin.  After becoming Duke of Savoy he recovered most of the lands his father Charles III had lost to France and Spain and he restored economic stability to Savoy.  Emanuele Filiberto was born in 1528 in Chambery, now part of France. He grew up to become a skilled soldier and served in the army of the emperor Charles V, who was the brother-in-law of his mother, Beatrice of Portugal, during his war against Francis I of France. He distinguished himself by capturing Hesdin in northern France in July 1553.  When he succeeded his father a month later he began the reacquisition of his lands.  His brilliant victory over the French at Saint Quentin in northern France in 1557 on the side of the Spanish helped to consolidate his power in Savoy. The peace of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 ended the wars between Charles V and the French Kings and restored part of the Duchy of Savoy back to Emanuele Filiberto on the understanding that he would marry Margaret of France, the sister of King Henry II.   Read more…


29 August 2021

29 August

Libero Grassi - anti-Mafia hero

Businessman brutally murdered after refusing to pay

Libero Grassi, a Palermo clothing manufacturer, died on this day in 1991, shot three times in the head as he walked from his home to his car in Via Vittorio Alfieri, a street of apartment buildings not far from the historic centre, at 7.30am.  It was a classic Mafia hit to which there were no witnesses, at least none prepared to come forward. Such killings were not uncommon in the Sicilian capital as rival clans fought for control of different neighbourhoods.  Yet this one was different in that 67-year-old Grassi had no connection with the criminal underworld apart from his brave decision to stand up to their demands for protection money and refuse to pay.  Grassi owned a factory making underwear, which he sold in his own shop.  He employed 100 workers and his business had a healthy turnover. In a struggling economy, he was doing very well.  Of course, the Mafia wanted their cut.  Grassi began receiving demands, first by telephone, then in person, that he fall in line with other Palermo businesses and pay a pizzo, the term used for the monthly payment the mob collects from businesses in the city in a racket worth today in the region of €160 million a year.  Read more…


Tiziana ‘Tosca’ Donati - singer

Versatile performer whose range spans musicals to sacred songs

The singer Tiziana Donati, who performs under the stage name Tosca, was born on this day in 1967 in Rome.  Winner of the Sanremo Festival in 1996, Tosca has recorded 10 studio albums, released the same number of singles and has recorded duets with many other artists.  She has enjoyed a successful stage career, appearing in numerous 20 theatrical productions, and has been invited to perform songs for several movies, including the title track for Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Jane Eyre in 1996. She also sang and spoke the part of Anastasia in the Italian dubbed version of the Disney cartoon of the same name.  At Christmas in 1999, she participated in concerts in churches in Italy where she performed Latin songs set to music by Vincenzo Zitello and Stefano Melone.  Following this she began a collaboration with the Vatican, taking part in several televised events to commemorate the Jubilee of 2000, and was chosen to sing the Mater Iubilaei, the Marian anthem of the Jubilee, in a ceremony led by Pope John Paul II.  Throughout 2000, she toured with Musica Caeli, a concert made up of never-before performed sacred chants.  Read more…


Ugo Nespolo - artist and designer

Painter and sculptor worked in theatre, advertising and literature

The contemporary artist Ugo Nespolo, whose broad range of work includes paintings and sculpture, theatre sets and costumes, advertising posters, book layouts, commercial designs and experimental films, was born on this day in 1941 in the village of Mosso Santa Maria in the Biellese Prealps, about 70km (43 miles) northeast of Turin. As well as an enormous output of artworks influenced by Pop Art, conceptual art and Arte Povera among others and numerous sculptures in glass and ceramic, Nespolo created unique set and costume designs for a number of major opera and theatre productions and was associated with several prestigious advertising campaigns, including for the drinks manufacturer Campari and the chocolatier Caffarel.  Nespolo is described as having an insatiable artistic and intellectual appetite and a belief that no artist should confine himself to a single medium. He is said to have inherited those characteristics from his father, whose restless nature compelled him frequently to change jobs and where he - and his family - lived.  His interest in art was probably nurtured by his father’s brother, himself a painter.  Read more…


Leonardo De Lorenzo – flautist

Flair for the flute led to international career

Leonardo De Lorenzo, a brilliant flute player who passed on his knowledge of the instrument to others through his books, was born on this day in 1875 in Viggiano in the province of Potenza.  De Lorenzo started playing the flute at the age of eight and then moved to Naples to attend the music conservatory of San Pietro a Majella.  He became an itinerant flautist until he was 16, when he moved to America, where he worked in a hotel. He returned to Italy in 1896 to do his military service in Alessandria and became a member of a military band directed by Giovanni Moranzoni, whose son was to become a famous conductor of the orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  De Lorenzo then began a career as a flautist and toured Italy, Germany, England and South Africa, joining an orchestra in Cape Town for a while. Eventually he returned to Naples to continue his studies.  When he travelled to America again, he became the first flautist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Gustav Mahler. He was warned never to answer back to Mahler, who had a reputation for being unpleasant.  Read more…

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28 August 2021

28 August

Lamberto Maggiorani - unlikely movie star

Factory worker who shot to fame in Bicycle Thieves

Lamberto Maggiorani, who found overnight fame after starring in the neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves (1948), was born on this day in 1909 in Rome.  Maggiorani was cast in the role of Antonio Ricci, a father desperate for work to support his family in post-War Rome, who is offered a job pasting posters to advertising hoardings but can take it only on condition that he has a bicycle – essential for moving around the city carrying his ladder and bucket.  He has one, but it has been pawned.  To retrieve it, his wife, Marie, strips the bed of her dowry sheets, which the pawn shop takes in exchange for the bicycle. They are happy, because Antonio has a job which will support her, their son Bruno and their new baby.  However, on his first day in the job the bicycle is stolen, snatched by a thief who waits for Antonio to climb to the top of his ladder before seizing his moment.  The remainder of the film follows Antonio and Bruno as they try to find the bicycle.  As a portrait of life among the disadvantaged working class in Rome in the late 1940s, the film is hailed as a masterpiece, director Vittorio de Sica and his screenwriter Cesare Zavattini fêted by the critics for turning a little-known novel by Luigi Bartolini into a piece of cinema genius.  Read more…


Maurizio Costanzo - talk show host

Journalist whose show is the longest running on Italian TV

Veteran talk show host and writer Maurizio Costanzo was born on this day in 1938 in Rome, Costanzo has spent more than 40 years in television.  His eponymous programme, the Maurizio Costanzo Show, has broken all records for longevity in Italian television.  Launched on September 18, 1982, the current affairs programme continued for 27 years, alternating between Rete 4 and Canale 5, two of Italy's commercial television networks, part of the Mediaset group owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.  Its run came to an end in 2009 but was relaunched on the satellite channel Mediaset Extra in 2014 and returned to terrestrial television in 2015, again on Rete 4.  Costanzo began his media career in print journalism with the Rome newspaper Paese Sera at just 18 years old and by the time he was 22 he was in charge of the Rome office of the mass circulation magazine Grazia.  After branching into radio, he switched to television in 1976, hosting the RAI programme Bontà loro, which is considered to be Italy's first TV talk show.  Others followed before the launch of the Maurizio Costanzo Show, which involved prominent politicians and others in the public eye, discussing major issues of the day.  Read more...


Elisabetta Sirani – artist

Sudden death of talented young woman shocked Bologna

The brilliant Baroque painter and printmaker Elisabetta Sirani died in unexplained circumstances at the age of 27 on this day in 1665 in Bologna. The body of the artist was carried to the Chapel of the Rosary in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna to be mourned, not just by her family, but by an entire community as she was loved and respected as an important female painter.  Elisabetta has been described as beautiful, focused and selfless and she became a symbol of the progressive city of Bologna, where the creativity of women was encouraged and they were able to express themselves through art and music.  Elisabetta’s father, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, was himself an artist and she was trained in his studio, although contemporary writers have recorded that he was reluctant to teach her to paint in the Bolognese style, as established by artists in the city in the 16th and 17th centuries as a way to distinguish themselves from the artists of Florence and Rome.  But Elisabetta acquired the technique anyway and became one of the most renowned painters in Bologna , overshadowing her father.  Read more…


27 August 2021

27 August

Zanetta Farussi – actress

Venetian performer who gave birth to a legendary womaniser

Zanetta Farussi, the comedy actress who was the mother of the notorious adventurer, Casanova, was born on this day in 1707 in Venice.  At the age of 17, Zanetta had married the actor Gaetano Casanova, who was 10 years older than her.  He had just returned to Venice after several years with a touring theatrical troupe, to take a job at the Teatro San Samuele.  Farussi’s parents opposed the marriage because they considered acting to be a disreputable profession.  But Farussi soon began working at Teatro San Samuele herself and the following year she gave birth to a son, Giacomo, who was to grow up to make the name Casanova synonymous with womanising and philandering.  Giacomo Casanova would later claim that his real father was Michele Grimani, who owned the Teatro San Samuele.  Zanetta and Gaetano accepted a theatrical engagement in London where Farussi gave birth to their second son, Francesco, who became a well-known painter.  They returned to Venice in 1728 and went on to have four more children. The youngest child was born two months after the death of his father.  Read more…


Alessandro Farnese – Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Castro

Duke was a brilliant strategist and diplomat

The outstanding military leader, Alessandro Farnese, was born on this day in 1545 in Rome.  As regent of the Netherlands on behalf of Philip II of Spain between 1578 and 1592, Alessandro restored Spanish rule and ensured the continuation of Roman Catholicism there, a great achievement and testimony to his skill as a strategist and diplomat.  However, his brilliant military career gave him no time to rule Parma, Piacenza and Castro when he succeeded to the Dukedom.  Alessandro was the son of Duke Ottavio Farnese of Parma and Margaret, the illegitimate daughter of the King of Spain and Habsburg Emperor, Charles V.  Ottavio, and was the grandson of Pope Paul III, a Farnese who had set up the papal states of Parma, Piacenza and Castro as a duchy in order to award them to his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi. Ottavio became Duke in 1551 after his father, Pier Luigi, was murdered.  Alessandro had a twin brother, Charles, who died after one month. He was sent to live in the court of Philip II as a young child as a guarantee of Ottavio’s loyalty to the Habsburgs. He lived with Philip II first in the Netherlands and then in Madrid.  Read more…


Titian - giant of Renaissance art

Old master of Venice who set new standards

Tiziano Vecellio, the artist better known as Titian, died in Venice on August 27, 1576.  Possibly in his 90s by then - his date of birth has never been established beyond doubt - he is thought to have succumbed to the plague that was sweeping through the city at that time.  Titian is regarded as the greatest painter of 16th century Venice, a giant of the Renaissance held in awe by his contemporaries and seen today as having had a profound influence on the development of painting in Italy and Europe.  The artists of Renaissance Italy clearly owe much to the new standards set by Titian in the use of colour and his penetration of human character.  Beyond Italy, the work of Rubens, Rembrandt and Manet have echoes of Titian.  Titian was enormously versatile, famous for landscapes, portraits, erotic nudes and monumental religious works.  Although it was his fullness of form, the depth of colour and his ability to bring his figures almost to life which he earned his reputation, he was not afraid to experiment with his painting.  Towards the end of his life, some of his works were impressionist in nature, almost abstract.  Read more…


The 410 Sack of Rome

Invasion that signalled terminal decline of Western Roman Empire

The ancient city of Rome was left in a state of shock and devastation after three days of looting and pillaging by Visigoths under the command of King Alaric came to an end on this day in 410.  An unknown number of citizens had been killed and scores of others had fled into the countryside. Countless women had been raped. Many buildings were damaged and set on fire and Alaric and his hordes made off with vast amounts of Roman treasure.  It was the first time in 800 years that an invading army had successfully breached the walls of the Eternal City and many historians regard the event as the beginning of the end for the Western Roman Empire.  It could have been more devastating still had Alaric, a Christian, been a more cruel leader.  Although he struggled to control his men - historians believe they were an ill-disciplined rabble rather than an organised fighting force - he stopped short of ordering large-scale slaughter of the Roman population, while silver and gold objects they were told had belonged to St Peter were left behind.  It was brought to a swift conclusion because Alaric had other targets he wished to attack.  Read more…


26 August 2021

26 August

La Pietà - Michelangelo's masterpiece

Brilliant sculpture commissioned by French Cardinal

Michelangelo Buonarotti agreed the contract to create the sculpture that would come to be regarded as his masterpiece on this day in 1498.  It was made between the artist and Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, the French ambassador to the Holy See, who wanted a sculpture of the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus, which was a common theme in religious art in northern Europe at the time.  Michelangelo, who would live until he was almost 89, was just 23 at the time and had been in Rome only a couple of years, but was about to produce a piece of work that astounded his contemporaries and is still seen as one of the finest pieces of sculpture ever crafted.  La Pietà – in English, 'the pity' – was carved from a block of blue and white Carrara marble selected by Michelangelo a good six feet (183cm) tall by six feet across.  The Cardinal intended it to be his funeral monument. It was eventually placed in a chapel in St Peter’s Basilica.  The work shows the body of Christ, shortly after being taken down from the cross following his crucifixion by the Romans, cradled in the lap of Mary.  It is necessarily out of proportion – Michelangelo makes Mary quite a broad figure to accommodate the body of a man lying across her -  but the detail is exquisite.  Read more…


Carlo Camillo Di Rudio - soldier

Italian aristocrat who survived Battle of the Little Bighorn

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio, a military officer who became known as Charles Camillus DeRudio and gave 32 years’ service to the United States Army in the late 19th century, was born in Belluno in northern Italy on this day in 1832.  Having arrived in New York City as an immigrant from England in 1860, he served as a volunteer in the American Civil War (1861-65) before joining the Regular Army in 1867 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry, an appointment which was cancelled when he failed a medical. Undeterred, he was readmitted and joined the 7th Cavalry in 1869, eventually attaining the rank of Major.  He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the US Army suffered a defeat to the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribesmen. The battle was part of the Great Sioux Wars of 1876, fought for possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where gold had been found.  DeRudio was thrown from his horse as the American forces under Major Marcus Reno were driven back across the Little Bighorn River to regroup on the eastern side. He was left stranded on the western side and hid for 36 hours with a private, Thomas O’Neill.  Read more…


Sant’Alessandro of Bergamo

Annual festival keeps alive the memory of city’s saint

The patron saint of Bergamo, Sant’Alessandro, was martyred on this day in 303 by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.  It is believed Alessandro was a devout citizen who had continued to preach in Bergamo, despite having several narrow escapes from would-be Roman executioners, but he was eventually caught and suffered public decapitation.  In Christian legend, Alessandro was a centurion of the Theban Legion, a legion of the Roman army that converted en masse to Christianity, whose existence prompted a crusade against Christianity launched by the Romans in around AD 298.  Alessandro was reputedly held in prison in Milan on two occasions but escaped to Bergamo, where he defiantly refused to go into hiding and instead openly preached, converting many Bergamaschi to his faith.  Of course, he was ultimately taken into custody again by the Romans and beheaded on August 26, 303, on the spot now occupied by the church of Sant' Alessandro in Colonna in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town).  Today is the Festa di Sant'Alessandro.  Read more…


25 August 2021

25 August

- Alessandro Galilei - architect

After frustrations in England Florentine made mark in Rome

The architect Alessandro Galilei, best known for the colossal Classical façade of the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, was born on this day in 1691 in Florence.  From the same patrician family as Renaissance polymath Galileo Galilei but not a direct descendant, Galilei’s father was a notary, Giuseppe Maria Galilei. Though his father considered the family to be noble still, their standing had fallen somewhat under Medici rule.  Alessandro studied mathematics and engineering at the prestigious Accademia dei Nobili in Florence, where he was instructed in building techniques and perspective among other things.  As he sought to develop a career, Galilei met John Molesworth, son of the Irish Viscount, Robert Molesworth, who spent three years in Florence as an envoy to the Medici court. Molesworth used his time there to indulge his interests in architecture, art, music, literature and poetry and developed a close friendship with Galilei, whose designs he admired.  He sponsored Galilei to spend time studying in Rome and when his posting in Italy was at an end, invited him to return to London with him.  Read more…


Vesuvius erupts

Terrible toll of Europe's worst volcanic catastrophe 

Mount Vesuvius erupted on this day in AD 79, burying the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae and causing the deaths of thousands of people.  An eyewitness account of the eruption, in which tons of stones, ash and fumes were ejected from the volcano, has been left behind for posterity by a Roman administrator and poet, Pliny the Younger, who described the event in his letters to the historian Tacitus.  Although there were at least three large eruptions of Vesuvius before AD 79 and there have been many since, the disaster in August AD 79 is considered the most catastrophic volcanic eruption in European history.  Mount Vesuvius had thrown out ash the day before and many people had left the area. But in the early hours of the morning of August 25, pyroclastic flows of hot gas and rock began to sweep down the mountain.  The flows were fast moving and knocked down all the structures in their path, incinerating or suffocating the people who had remained. Pliny noted there were also earth tremors and a tsunami in the Bay of Naples.  The remains of about 1500 people have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum (Ercolano) but it is not known what percentage this represents of the overall death toll.  Read more…


Ippolito II d’Este – Cardinal

Borgia prince enjoyed the good things in life

Ippolito II d’Este, who became infamous for plundering Hadrian’s Villa to decorate his own home, was born on this day in 1509 in Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna.  He was the second son of Lucrezia Borgia and her husband, Duke Alfonso I d’Este and therefore also a grandson of Pope Alexander VI. He was named after his uncle, Ippolito d’Este.  At the age of ten, Ippolito II inherited the archbishopric of Milan from his uncle, the first of a long list of ecclesiastical appointments he was to be given, which provided him with a good income. He was later given benefices in many parts of France from which he was also able to draw revenue and he was created a Cardinal by Pope Paul III before he had reached the age of 30. A lover of luxuries and the finer things in life, Ippolito II had Palazzo San Francesco in Ferrara refurbished for himself. He also had a palace renovated to provide him with a sumptuous residence in Rome.  He became Governor of Tivoli in 1550 and had the Villa d’Este built there to a design by Mannerist architect Pirro Ligorio.  He became interested in the ruins of the Roman villas in Tivoli and carried out archaeological excavations.  Read more…


Galileo demonstrates potential of telescope

Scientist unveiled new instrument to Doge of Venice

The scientist and inventor Galileo Galilei demonstrated the wonders of the telescope to an audience of Venetian lawmakers on this day in 1609.  The 90th Doge, Leonardo Donato, and other members of the Venetian senate accompanied Galileo to the top of the campanile of St Mark’s Basilica, where each took it in turn to look through the instrument.  The meeting had been arranged by Galileo’s friend, Paolo Sarpi, who was a scientist, lawyer and statesman employed by the Venetian government. The two were both professors at the University of Padua.  Galileo, whose knowledge of the universe led him to be called the ‘father of observational astronomy’, was for many years wrongly credited with the invention of the telescope when in fact the first to apply for a patent for the device was a Dutch eyeglass maker named Hans Lippershey.  However, Galileo’s work using uncertain details of Lippershey’s design certainly took the idea to a different level.  Whereas Lippershey’s device magnified objects by about three times, Galileo eventually produced a telescope with a magnification factor of 30.  The one he demonstrated on August 25, 1609, is thought to have had a factor of about eight or nine.  Read more…


Saint Patricia of Naples

Patron saint performs a miracle every week

The feast day of Saint Patricia is celebrated every year in Naples on this day.  The saint, who is also sometimes referred to as Patricia of Constantinople, is one of a long list of patron saints of Naples.  She is less well known than San Gennaro, also a patron saint of the city, who attracts crowds to Naples Cathedral three times a year to witness the miracle of a small sample of his blood turning to liquid.  But Saint Patricia’s blood, which is kept in the Church of San Gregorio Armeno, is said to undergo the same miraculous transformation every Tuesday morning as well as on August 25 each year - her feast day - which was believed to be the day she died in 665 AD.  Saint Patricia was a noble woman, who may have been descended from St Constantine the Great.  She was a devout virgin and travelled to Rome to become a nun in order to escape an arranged marriage.  She received the veil – symbolising her acceptance into the monastic community – from Pope Liberius.  When her wealthy father died, she returned to Constantinople and, renouncing any claim to the imperial crown, distributed her wealth among the poor.  Read more…

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Alessandro Galilei - architect

After frustrations in England Florentine made mark in Rome

Giuseppe Berti's portrait of Alessandro Galilei
Giuseppe Berti's portrait of
Alessandro Galilei
The architect Alessandro Galilei, best known for the colossal Classical façade of the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, was born on this day in 1691 in Florence.

From the same patrician family as Renaissance polymath Galileo Galilei but not a direct descendant, Galilei’s father was a notary, Giuseppe Maria Galilei. Though his father considered the family to be noble still, their standing had fallen somewhat under Medici rule.

Alessandro studied mathematics and engineering at the prestigious Accademia dei Nobili in Florence, where he was instructed in building techniques and perspective among other things. 

As he sought to develop a career, Galilei met John Molesworth, son of Viscount Robert Molesworth, who spent three years in Florence as an envoy to the Medici court. Molesworth used his time there to indulge his interests in architecture, art, music, literature and poetry and developed a close friendship with Galilei, whose designs he admired.  He sponsored Galilei to spend time studying in Rome and when his posting in Italy was at an end, invited him to return to England with him.

Galilei’s designs had a Classical bent that put him at odds with the fashion for Baroque that was still dominant in Italy but appealed to Molesworth and to his father, who was keen to launch a new architectural movement, to which the subscribers included Sir Thomas Hewitt and Edward Lovett Pearce, who Galilei had met in Florence while Pearce was in Italy to study the architecture of Andrea Palladio.

The facade of Castletown House, home of Irish politician William Conolly, was designed by Galilei
The facade of Castletown House, home of Irish
politician William Conolly, was designed by Galilei
Although Galilei’s time in London yielded few commissions as Molesworth’s movement failed to take off, he had more success in Ireland, where Robert Molesworth introduced him to William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and the wealthy owner of Castletown House, a palatial house near Dublin. He invited Galilei to design a new façade, and though the Italian did not remain in England to execute his plans, they were carried through by Pearce.

Before he returned to Florence, Galilei also designed the Doric portico on the east front of Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdonshire for Charles, Duke of Manchester.

In 1719, Galilei was appointed engineer of court buildings and fortresses to the courts of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Cosimo III and Gian Gastone de' Medici. Again, however, his severe, heavily Classical designs failed to win him the grand projects he hoped to secure.

His fortunes changed in 1730 when a Florentine Cardinal, Lorenzo Cortini, was elected as pope, taking the name of Pope Clement XII. He called Galilei to Rome in 1731 to build his family's chapel, the Cappella Corsini, in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.

Pope Clement XII gave Galilei his most prestigious project
Pope Clement XII gave Galilei
his most prestigious project
At around the same time, Clement XII announced ambitious plans to renovate the basilica, which was the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal basilicas in the city but had suffered neglect after twice being damaged by fire in the 14th century, before being rebuilt in the 16th century.

He announced a competition for a new façade. Designs were submitted by 26 architects and the award of the commission to Galilei attracted raised eyebrows, especially since the consensus was that Luigi Vanvitelli’s entry was far superior.

Galilei completed the project in 1735, after which the sheer scale of his design, topped with enormous statues of saints, attracted more controversy, with critics complaining that it was far more suited to a palace than a church. It was not until Neoclassicism became popular in subsequent years that his work earned the appreciation that was missing in his lifetime.

Also responsible for the Baroque façade of the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome, Galilei died in Rome in 1737, at the age of just 46. A portrait of him by his contemporary, Giuseppe Berti, today hangs in the entrance hall of Castletown House.

Galilei's façade of the Basilica di San
Giovanni in Laterano was controversial
Travel tip:

Although the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is in the Appio/San Giovanni neighbourhood of Rome, southeast of the city centre, some 4km (2.5 miles) southwest of the Vatican, because it is a property of the Holy See, the basilica and its adjoining buildings enjoy an extraterritorial status from Italy, in accordance with the terms of the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The oldest and most important of Rome’s four major basilicas, it is 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 324 after he had converted to Christianity.  

The church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini overlooks the Tiber
The church of San Giovanni dei
Fiorentini overlooks the Tiber
Travel tip:

The church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini can be found in the Ponte district of central Rome, overlooking the Tiber, just across the river from Castel Sant’ Angelo and about 10 minutes’ walk from Piazza Navona. It was conceived after Pope Leo X organised a competition in 1518 for a new church on the site of the old church of San Pantaleo. The architects who submitted designs included Baldassare Peruzzi, Jacopo Sansovino, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Raphael. Although Sansovino won the competition, the building was constructed by Sangallo and Giacomo della Porta, with Carlo Maderno taking over in 1602. Galilei’s façade was not added until 1734.

Also on this day:

79: The eruption of Vesuvius destroys Pompeii

655: The death of Saint Patricia of Naples

1509: The birth of Ippolito II d’Este

1609: Galileo Galilei demonstrates his telescope


24 August 2021

24 August

Parmigianino - Mannerist painter

Artist from Parma left outstanding legacy

The artist Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola – better known as Parmigianino – died on this day in 1540 in Casalmaggiore, a town on the Po river south-east of Cremona in Lombardy.  Sometimes known as Francesco Mazzola, he was only 37 years old when he passed away but had nonetheless made sufficient impact with his work to be regarded as an important influence on the period that followed the High Renaissance era of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.  Known for the refined sensuality of his paintings, Parmigianino – literally ‘the little one from Parma’ – was one of the first generation of Mannerist painters, whose figures exuded elegance and sophistication by the subtle exaggeration of qualities associated with ideal beauty.  Parmigiano is also thought to have been one of the first to develop printmaking using the technique known as etching and through this medium his work was copied, and circulated to many artistic schools in Italy and other countries in northern Europe, where it could be studied and admired.  Parmigianino’s figures would often have noticeably long and slender limbs and strike elegant poses.  Read more…


Carlo Gambino - Mafia Don

Sicilian thought to be model for Mario Puzo's Godfather

Carlo Gambino, who would become one of the most powerful Mafia Dons in the history of organised crime, was born on this day in 1902 in Palermo, Sicily.  For almost two decades up to his death in 1976, he was head of the Gambino Crime Family, one of the so-called Five Families that have sought to control organised crime in New York under one banner or another for more than a century.  He is thought to have been the real-life Don that author Mario Puzo identified as the model for Vito Corleone, the fictional Don created for the best-selling novel, The Godfather.  During Gambino's peak years, the family's criminal activities realised revenues of an estimated $500 million per year.  Yet Gambino, who kept a modest house in Brooklyn and a holiday home on Long Island, claimed to make a living as a partner in a company that advised on labour relations.  Despite coming under intensive surveillance by the FBI, he managed to avoid prison during a life spent almost exclusively in crime.  Everything he did was planned meticulously to avoid detection, even down to communicating with associates through coded messages.  Read more…


Peppino De Filippo - comedian, actor and playwright

Talented Neapolitan who lived in shadow of his brother

The playwright and comic actor Peppino De Filippo was born Giuseppe De Filippo on this day in 1903 in Naples.  A highly accomplished performer on stage in serious as well as comedy roles, De Filippo also had a list of film credits numbering almost 100, of which he is best remembered for his screen partnership with the brilliant comic actor Totò.  To an extent, however, he spent his career in the shadow of his older brother, Eduardo De Filippo, who after Luigi Pirandello was regarded as the second great Italian playwright of the 20th century.  The two fell out in the 1940s for reasons that were never made clear, although it later emerged that they had many artistic differences.  They were never reconciled, and though Peppino went on to enjoy a successful career and was widely acclaimed it annoyed him that he was always seen as a minor playwright compared with his brother.  When Peppino published an autobiography in 1977, three years before he died, he called it Una famiglia difficile - A Difficult Family. In the book he described his relationship with his sister, Titina, as one of warmth and affection, but portrays Eduardo as something of a tyrant.  Read more…


23 August 2021

23 August

Pino Presti – bass player and composer

Talented musician could sing, play guitar, compose and conduct

Pino Presti, one of the most important personalities in the Italian music business, was born Giuseppe Prestipino Giarritta on this day in 1943 in Milan.  He is a bass guitar player, arranger, composer, conductor and record producer and his work ranges between the different music genres of pop, jazz, funk, latin and dance.  His father, Arturo Prestipino Giarritta, was a well-known violinist and Presti began studying piano and music theory at the age of six.  He taught himself to play the bass guitar and began playing professionally at the age of 17, having developed his own special technique using either the pick or thumb.  Presti was a pioneer of electric bass and was probably the first to play a Fender Jazz Bass in Italy.  His talent for playing the instrument led him to collaborate with the major Italian pop artists of the 1960s, including the famous singer, Mina, who is Italy's all-time top-selling female recording artist. Presti arranged and conducted 86 tracks and composed four songs for her, also sometimes backing her as a singer.  Among the many other artists he worked with were Bobby Solo, Gigliola Cinquetti and Adriano Celentano.  Read more…


Roberto Assagioli – psychiatrist

Harsh imprisonment sparked new psychiatric theories

Roberto Assagioli, the pioneering psychiatrist who founded the science of psychosynthesis, died on this day in 1974 in Capolona in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany.  His innovative psychological movement, which emphasised the possibility of progressive integration, or synthesis, of the personality, aimed at finding inner peace and harmony. It is still admired and is being developed by therapists and psychologists today.  Assagioli explained his ideas in four books - two published posthumously - and the many different pamphlets he wrote during his lifetime. In 1940 the psychiatrist had to spend 27 days in solitary confinement in prison, having been arrested by Mussolini’s Fascist government for praying for peace and encouraging others to join him. He later claimed this experience helped him make his psychological discovery.  Assagioli was born under the name of Roberto Marco Grego in 1888 into a middle-class, Jewish background in Venice.  His father died when he was two years old and his mother remarried quickly to Alessandro Emanuele Assagioli. As a young child Roberto was exposed to art and music and learnt many different languages.  Read more…


Rita Pavone - teenage singing star

Precocious talent who conquered America

Rita Pavone, who was one of Europe's biggest teenage singing stars in the 1960s and was still performing live concerts as recently as 2014, was born on this day in 1945 in Turin. The singer had her first hit single when she was just 17 years old and enjoyed success at home and in America during a career that spanned more than five decades, going on to become an accomplished actress on television and in the theatre.  She announced she was quitting show business in 2006 but came out of retirement in 2013 to record two studio albums as a tribute to the stars who had influenced her in throughout her career, then embarking on a series of live concerts in Italy in 2014 and performing in Toronto, Canada exactly 50 years after her first appearance there.  In 2016, she appeared in Ballando Con le Stelle - the Italian equivalent of the US show Dancing With the Stars and Britain's Strictly Come Dancing - and finished third with partner Simone Di Pasquale, reaching the final despite being the oldest competitor.  Pavone spent her early years living in a two-room apartment in Turin.  She was the third of four children yet it was not until 1959 that the family was able to move somewhere bigger.  Read more…


22 August 2021

22 August

Bruno Pontecorvo - nuclear physicist

Defection to Soviet Union sparked unsolved mystery 

Bruno Pontecorvo, a nuclear physicist whose defection to the Soviet Union in 1950 led to suspicions of espionage after he had worked on research programmes in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, was born on this day in 1913 in Marina di Pisa.  One of eight children born to Massimo Pontecorvo - a Jewish textile manufacturer who owned three factories - Bruno was from a family rich in intellectual talent. One of his brothers was the film director Gillo Pontecorvo, another the geneticist Guido Pontecorvo.  After high school, he enrolled at the University of Pisa to study engineering, but after two years switched to physics in 1931. He received a doctorate to study at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where Enrico Fermi had gathered together a group of promising young scientists, whom he dubbed “the Via Panisperna boys” after the name of the street where the Institute of Physics  was then situated.  Fermi described the 18-year-old Pontecorvo as one of the brightest young men he had met and invited Pontecorvo to work with him on his experiments bombarding atomic nuclei with slow neutrons.  Read more…


Giada De Laurentiis - TV chef

Food Network star who was born in Rome

The TV presenter, chef, author and restaurateur Giada Pamela De Laurentiis was born in Rome on this day in 1970.  A classically-trained chef who learned her craft in Paris, she worked in the kitchens of a number of restaurants in Los Angeles before breaking into television. Since 2003 she has been a regular on the Food Network, the American cable channel.  Born into a theatre and movie background, De Laurentiis takes her name from her mother, the actress Veronica De Laurentiis, whose parents were the producer Dino De Laurentiis and the actress Silvana Mangano.  Her father is the actor-producer Alex De Benedetti.  Giada spent her first seven years in Rome, where her mother still has a home near the Spanish Steps, but after her parents divorced she and her sisters moved to Los Angeles.  Her grandfather had a home in Hollywood and had by then become a restaurateur and Giada has memories of spending time in the kitchen of his DDL Foodshow delicatessen and restaurant in Los Angeles, where she acquired her interest in cooking.  Her own entry into the catering business came via a roundabout route.   Read more…


History’s first air raid

Balloon bombs dropped on Venice

Venice suffered the first successful air raid in the history of warfare on this day in 1849.  It came six months after Austria had defeated the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the First Italian War of Independence as the Austrians sought to regain control of Venice, where the revolutionary leader Daniele Manin had established the Republic of San Marco.  The city, over which Manin’s supporters had seized control in March 1848, was under siege by the Austrians, whose victory over the Piedmontese army in March 1849 had enabled them to concentrate more resources on defeating the Venetians.  They had regained much of the mainland territory of Manin’s republic towards the end of 1848 and were now closing in on the city itself, having decided that cutting off resources while periodically bombarding the city from the sea would bring Venice’s capitulation.  However, because of the shallow lagoons and the strength of Venice’s coastal defences, there were still parts of the city that were out of the range of the Austrian artillery.  It was at this point that one of Austrian commander Josef von Radetzky’s artillery officers, Lieutenant Franz von Uchatius, came up with the unlikely idea of attaching bombs to unmanned balloons.  Read more…


Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi – bishop

Progressive priest who shaped the destiny of a future Pope

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, Bishop of Bergamo, who was a mentor for the future Pope John XXIII, died on this day in 1914 in Bergamo.  He was Bishop of the Diocese of Bergamo from 1905 until his death and is remembered with respect because of his strong involvement in social issues at the beginning of the 20th century when he sought to understand the problems of working class Italians.  Radini-Tedeschi was born in 1857 into a wealthy, noble family living in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.  He was ordained as a priest in 1879 and then became professor of Church Law in the seminary of Piacenza.  In 1890 he joined the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and was sent on a number of diplomatic missions.  In 1905 he was named Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bergamo by Pope Pius X and was consecrated by him in the Sistine Chapel.  Radini-Tedeschi was a strong supporter of Catholic trade unions and backed the workers at a textile plant in Ranica, a district of Bergamo Province, during a labour dispute.  Working for him as his secretary at the time was a young priest named Angelo Roncalli who had been born at Sotto il Monte just outside Bergamo into a large farming family.  Read more…


Luca Marenzio – composer

Madrigal writer influenced Monteverdi

Luca Marenzio, a prolific composer of madrigals during the late Renaissance period, died on this day in 1599 in the garden of the Villa Medici on Monte Pincio in Rome.  Marenzio wrote at least 500 madrigals, some of which are considered to be the most famous examples of the form, and he was an important influence on the composer Claudio Monteverdi.  Born at Coccaglio, a small town near Brescia in 1553, Marenzio was one of seven children belonging to a poor family, but he received some early musical training at Brescia Cathedral where he was a choirboy.  It is believed he went to Mantua with the maestro di cappella from Brescia to serve the Gonzaga family as a singer.  Marenzio was then employed as a singer in Rome by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo and, after the Cardinal’s death, he served at the court of Cardinal Luigi d’Este.  He travelled to Ferrara with Luigi d’Este and took part in the wedding festivities for Vincenzo Gonzaga and Margherita Farnese.  While he was there he wrote two books of madrigals and dedicated them to Alfonso II and Lucrezia d’Este.  Read more…