22 November 2021

22 November

- Joe Adonis - Mafia boss

Boy from mountainous Campania who became powerful New York mobster

The Mafia criminal Joe Adonis, who at one time was effectively America’s senior gangster as chairman of the so-called ‘Commission’, was born Giuseppe Antonio Doto on this day in 1902 at Montemarano, a small town in mountainous Campania.  Doto became a friend and associate of the powerful Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, who would head one of the New York Mafia’s powerful Five Families.  As Adonis, Doto would emerge as a powerful figure in his own right in Brooklyn and Manhattan and later New Jersey.  Accounts of his arrival in the United States as a child vary. Many suppose that he travelled with his family among thousands of migrants from Italy who left for a new life in America in the 1900s, their names recorded at the immigrant inspection station on Ellis Island in 1909.  Others suggest that he arrived in 1915, having travelled as a stowaway on a liner from Naples. Either way, he appears to have settled in Brooklyn, where he quickly turned to crime, making money through stealing and picking pockets.  It was in partnership with Luciano and two up-and-coming figures in the Jewish-American underworld, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, that he became involved in bootlegging. Read more…


Nevio Scala - footballer and coach

Led Parma to success in golden era of 1990s

Nevio Scala, a European Cup winner with AC Milan as a player and the most successful coach of Parma's golden era in the 1990s, was born on this day in 1947 in Lozzo Atestino, a small town in the Euganean Hills, just south of Padua.  A midfielder who also played for Roma, Vicenza and Internazionale at the top level of Italian football, Scala was never picked for his country but won a Serie A title and a European Cup-Winners' Cup in addition to the European Cup with AC Milan.  But his achievements with Parma as coach arguably exceeded even that, given that they were a small provincial club that had never played in Serie A when Scala was appointed.  He had given notice of his ability by almost taking the tiny Calabrian club Reggina to Serie A in 1989 only a year after winning promotion from Serie C, and needed only one season to take Parma to the top flight for the first time.  With the massive financial backing of Calisto Tanzi, the founder and chairman of the local dairy giants Parmalat, Scala then led Parma into a period of sustained success no one could have predicted.  Between 1991 and 1995, Parma won the Coppa Italia, the European Cup-Winners' Cup, the European Super Cup and the UEFA Cup.  Read more…


Rocco Commisso - entrepreneur

US businessman with roots in Calabria

Rocco Commisso, the founder of the American cable TV provider Mediacom and owner of football clubs in the United States and Italy, was born on this day in 1949 in Marina di Gioiosa Ionica, a small seaside town in Calabria.  With annual revenues of more than $2,000 million, Mediacom is the fifth largest cable company in the US, having been launched from Commisso’s basement in 1995, when he began to buy up small community cable systems, mainly in the Midwest and Southeast. It now has its headquarters in Blooming Grove, New York.  Commisso, a football fan from his childhood, bought a majority stake in the New York Cosmos club in 2017 and completed the purchase of ACF Fiorentina in Italy two years later, with plans to return each club to its glory days of the past.  With a southwest aspect on the Ionian coast, Marina di Gioiosa Ionica is something of an idyllic spot today, blessed with wide beaches and clear inviting water. As Commisso was growing up, however, it was a relative deprived area as Italy struggled to rebuild after World War Two and it was not uncommon for families to leave the area in search of prosperity elsewhere.  Read more…


Bernardo Pasquini - composer

Talented musician wrote music for a queen

Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini died on this day in Rome in 1710.  He is remembered as an important composer for the harpsichord and for his musical scores for operas. Along with his fellow composers Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, Pasquini was a member of the Arcadian Academy (Accademia degli Arcadi) which was set up in Rome by one of his patrons, Queen Christina of Sweden.  Pasquini enjoyed Queen Christina’s protection while he was living in Rome and produced several operas in her honour. These were staged in Rome initially and then replayed in theatres all over Italy.  Queen Christina had abdicated from the throne of Sweden in 1654, converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to live in Rome.  While living in the Palazzo Farnese, she opened up her home for members of the Arcadian Academy to enjoy music, theatre, literature and languages with her.  She became a cultural leader and protector of many Baroque artists, composers and musicians.  The Baroque period, which influenced sculpture, painting and architecture, as well as literature, dance, theatre and music, began in Rome around 1600.  Read more…


Tasso’s patron raised Ferrara to the height of its glory

Alfonso II d’Este, who was to be the last Duke of Ferrara, was born on this day in 1533 in Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna.  Famous as the protector of the poet Torquato Tasso, Alfonso II also took a keen interest in music.  He was also the sponsor of the philosopher Cesare Cremonini, who was a friend of both Tasso and the scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei.  Although he was married three times, he failed to provide an heir for the Duchy.  Alfonso was the eldest son of Ercole II d’Este and RenĂ©e de France, the daughter of Louis XII of France.  As a young man, Alfonso fought in the service of Henry II of France against the Habsburgs but soon after he became Duke in 1559 he was forced by Pope Pius IV to send his mother back to France because she was a Calvinist.  In 1583 he joined forces with the Emperor Rudolf II in his war against the Turks in Hungary.  Alfonso II was proficient in Latin and French as well as Italian and like his ancestors before him encouraged writers and artists. He welcomed the poet Tasso to his court in Ferrara and he wrote some of his most important poetry while living there, including his epic poem, Gerusalemme Liberata.  Read more…


Paolo Gentiloni – politician 

Italy’s 57th premier both noble and a Democrat

Italy’s Prime Minister from 2016 to 2018, Paolo Gentiloni, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.  A member of the Democratic Party, Gentiloni was asked to form a Government in December 2016 by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.  A professional journalist before he entered politics, Gentiloni is a descendant of Count Gentiloni Silveri and holds the titles of Nobile of Filottranno, Nobile of Cingoli and Nobile of Macerata.  The word nobile, derived from the Latin nobilis, meaning honourable, indicates a level of Italian nobility ranking somewhere between the English title of knight and baron.  Gentiloni is related to the politician Vincenzo Ottorino Gentiloni, who was a leader of the Conservative Catholic Electoral Union and a key ally of Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, who held the office five times between 1892 and 1921.  Gentiloni attended the Classical Lyceum Torquato Tasso in Rome and went on to study at La Sapienza University in the city where he became a member of the Student Movement, a left wing youth organisation. He moved on to become a member of the Workers’ Movement for Socialism and graduated in Political Sciences.  Read more…


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