28 June 2022

28 June

NEWAugusto De Angelis - crime writer

One of the first Italians to write detective novels

Regarded by many as the father of Italian crime fiction, the novelist Augusto De Angelis was born on this day in 1888 in Rome.  His first detective novel, The Murdered Banker - Il banchiere assassinato - was published in 1935, six years after Italian publishers Mondadori launched their crime series in yellow covers that would later result in the word gialli being used to refer to mystery novels and films.  However, there were no Italian authors on the Mondadori list to begin with, as the publishers did not see Italy as the right setting for the crime genre at that time. De Angelis did not agree with this, as he thought crime fiction was a natural product resulting from the fraught and violent times he was living in and writing about as a journalist.  De Angelis gave up studying jurisprudence to embark on a career in journalism and worked for some of the most important daily newspapers during the first half of the 20th century, such as La Stampa and La Gazzetta del Popolo in Turin, Il Resto di Carlino in Bologna and L’Ambrosiano in Milan.  He began his literary career by writing plays and non-fiction and then wrote a spy novel in 1930. But his most successful novels were his detective stories.  Read more…


Pietro Mennea – Olympic sprint champion

200m specialist won gold at Moscow in 1980

Pietro Mennea, one of only two Italian sprinters to win an Olympic gold, was born on this day in 1952 in the coastal city of Barletta in Apulia.  Mennea won the 200m final at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, depriving Britain's Allan Wells of a sprint double. In doing so, Mennea emulated his compatriot, Livio Berruti, 20 years earlier in Rome.  He held the world record at 200m for almost 17 years, from 1979 until 1996.  His time of 19.72 seconds remains the European record.  It would stand as the world record for 16 years, nine months and 11 days, until Michael Johnson ran 19.66 at the US Olympic trials in 1996.  As well as winning his gold medal, outrunning Britain’s Allan Wells in the last 50m, Mennea’s other great Olympic feat was to reach the 200m final at four consecutive Games, the first track athlete to do so at any distance. He also won the bronze medal in Munich in 1972, was fourth in 1976 at Montreal and seventh place in Los Angeles in 1984.  At his last Olympics, in 1988, he carried the Italian flag at the opening ceremony.  Famous for his rather frantic running style, Mennea set the 200m record on September 12 1979 at the World University Games.  Read more…


Giovanni della Casa - advocate of good manners

Bishop and poet remembered for his manual on etiquette

Giovanni della Casa, the Tuscan bishop whose witty book on behaviour in polite society became a handbook for generations long after he had passed away, was born on this day in 1503 in Borgo San Lorenzo, 30 kilometres north-east of Florence.  Born into a wealthy family, Della Casa was educated in Bologna and followed his friend, the scholar and poet Pietro Bembo, into the church.  He became Archbishop of Benevento in 1544 and was nominated by Pope Paul III as Papal nuncio to Venice. Disappointed at not having been elevated to Cardinal, however, he retired to a life of writing and reading.  At some point between 1551 and 1555, living at an abbey near Treviso, he wrote Galateo: The Rules of Polite Behaviour, a witty treatise on good manners intended for the amusement of a favourite nephew.  He thought it would be regarded as frivolous compared with other books he had written. Little did he know it would become one of the most celebrated books on etiquette in European history.  Published in Venice in 1558, it is considered one of the three great books on Italian conduct, alongside Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano and Niccolò Machiavelli's Il Principe (The Prince)Read more…


Walter Audisio - partisan and politician

Claimed to be the man who killed Mussolini

The partisan and later politician Walter Audisio, whose claim to be the man who executed Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in April 1945 is generally accepted as likely to be true, was born on this day in 1909 in Alessandria in Piedmont.  Mussolini was captured in the town of Dongo on the shore of Lake Como as he tried to flee from Italy to Switzerland, having accepted that the Axis powers were facing near-certain defeat to the Allies as the Second World War moved into its final phase.  He was taken along with his entourage to the village of Giulino di Mezzegra, 20km (12 miles) south of Dongo along the lakeside road, and after spending the night under guard in a remote farmhouse was taken back into the village, where he and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were ordered to stand against a wall.  There they were shot dead by a partisan who went under the nom de guerre of "Colonnello Valerio", before their bodies were taken to Milan and hung by their feet from the roof of a petrol station in Piazzale Loreto, which had been the scene of the massacre of 15 partisans a year earlier.  Two years later, the Communist Party revealed that Colonnello Valerio was, in fact, Walter Audisio, and that it was he who had pulled the trigger.  Read more…


Lorenzo Amoruso - footballer

Defender was most successful Italian in British football

Lorenzo Amoruso, a defender who played for teams in Italy, San Marino, England and Scotland during a career spanning almost two decades, was born on this day in 1971 in Bari.  Formerly the captain of Fiorentina, Amoruso signed for Glasgow Rangers for £4 million in 1997 and remained at the Scottish club for six seasons, during which time he won nine major trophies, which makes him the most successful Italian player in British football.  The first Catholic player to captain Rangers - traditionally the club supported by Glasgow’s Protestant community - Amoruso won the Scottish Premier League title three times, the Scottish Cup three times and the Scottish League Cup three times.  His total of winners’ medals dwarfs those of much higher profile Italian stars in England.  The illustrious Chelsea trio of Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli and Roberto di Matteo each won two FA Cup and League Cup winners’ medals, but did not feature in a Premier League title-winning team.  Amoruso began his career with his local team in Bari before moving to Florence in 1995, captaining the team that won the Coppa Italia in 1996.  Read more…


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