12 December 2022

12 December

Piazza Fontana bombing

Blast at Milan bank killed 17 and wounded 88

Italy found itself the victim of an horrific terrorist attack on this day in 1969 when a bomb blast at a Milan bank left 17 people dead and a further 88 injured.  The bomb exploded at 4.37pm in the headquarters of the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in Piazza Fontana, just 200m away from the Duomo.  It was caused by a bomb containing about 18lbs of explosives left on the third floor, killing customers and members of staff.  At around the same time, two bombs exploded in Rome, injuring 14 people. Another device, placed in the courtyard of a bank near Teatro alla Scala in Milan, was deactivated by police.  The explosions followed one month after a policeman was killed during a riot of left-wing extremists in Milan and are generally seen as the start of a period of violent social and political unrest in Italy dubbed the Years of Lead.  Over a period of almost 20 years, the Years of Lead resulted in more than 200 deaths, many committed by the left-wing terrorist group Brigate Rosse (the Red Brigades), others by far-right organisations such as Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Groups) and Ordine Nuovo (the New Order).  Read more…


Robert Browning - English poet

Writer who called Italy his ‘university’

Victorian poet and playwright Robert Browning died on this day in 1889 at his son’s home, Ca’ Rezzonico, a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice.  Browning was considered one of the most important Victorian poets, who had made contributions to social and political debate through his work, and he was given the honour of being buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.  The poet’s early career had begun promisingly with his work being well received by the critics, but his long poem, Sordello, produced in 1840, was judged to be wilfully obscure and it was to take many years for his reputation to recover.  In 1846 Browning secretly married the poet, Elizabeth Barrett, who was six years older than him and had been living the life of an invalid in her father’s house in London. A few days later they went to live in Italy, leaving their families behind in England forever.  Elizabeth’s poetry became increasingly popular and after the death of Wordsworth in 1850 she was considered as a serious contender to become the next Poet Laureate. However, the position eventually went to Alfred Tennyson.  The Brownings lived in Pisa at first but then moved to Florence. Read more…


Guglielmo Marconi – inventor and electrical engineer

Message received meant a scientific breakthrough

Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal using equipment he had invented himself on this day in 1901 in Newfoundland.  Marconi was credited with the invention of radio as a result and shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909 with another scientist, Karl Ferdinand Braun.  The message Marconi received, which was regarded as a great scientific advance, was the letter ‘S’ in Morse Code. It had been sent from a transmission station Marconi had set up in Cornwall, 2,200 miles away.  The inventor was born in Bologna in 1874. His father, Giuseppe Marconi, was a nobleman and landowner from Porretta Terme and his mother was of Scottish and Irish descent.  Marconi was brought up in Bedford in England as a young child but after moving back to Italy he was educated privately and then went to study at the University of Bologna.  While living in the Villa Griffone at Pontecchio near Bologna he began to conduct experiments to create wireless telegraphy.  He went to England to continue his work and by 1897 had transmitted a Morse code signal over a distance of six kilometres. He then sent the world’s first wireless communication over open sea.  Read more…


Loredana Marcello – Dogaressa of Venice

Doge’s wife developed treatments for plague sufferers

Loredana Marcello, who became a Dogaressa of Venice as she was the wife of Doge Alvise I Mocenigo, died on this day in 1572.  A scholar and writer, Loredana developed treatments to help people suffering from the horrific symptoms of the plague. These were put to good use during the deadly outbreak that brought Venice to a standstill in 1575, three years after her death.  Loredana was the daughter of Giovanni Alvise Marcello. She received a good education, along with her sisters, Bianca, Daria and Maria. They were all considered by the nobility in Venice to represent the ideal of the educated Renaissance woman.  Loredana wrote letters and poetry and also studied botany, under Melchiorre Giulandino, a custodian of the Botanical Garden of the University of Padua and the first to occupy the chair in botany at the university.  As part of her research into plants, Loredana developed formulas and recipes to help plague sufferers, but unfortunately all her written work has been lost.  She married Alvise I Mocenigo in 1533. He was elected Doge of Venice in 1570 but Loredana’s time living in the Doge’s Palace didn’t last very long as she died on 12 December 1572.  Read more…


Susanna Tamaro - bestselling author

Writer’s third published novel was international hit

The writer Susanna Tamaro, whose novel Va' dove ti porta il cuore - published in English as Follow your Heart - was one of the biggest selling Italian novels of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1957 in Trieste.  Va' dove ti porta il cuore - in which the main character, an elderly woman, reflects on her life while writing a long letter to her estranged granddaughter - has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide since it was published in 1994.  Only Umberto Eco’s historical novel Il Nome della Rosa  - The Name of the Rose - has enjoyed bigger sales among books by Italian authors written in the 20th century.  Tamaro has gone on to write more than 25 novels, winning several awards, as well as contributing a column for a number of years in the weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana and even co-writing a song that reached the final of the Sanremo Music Festival.  Born into a middle-class family in Trieste, Tamaro is a distant relative of the writer Italo Svevo on her mother’s side. Her great-grandfather was the historian Attilio Tamaro.  In 1976, after obtaining a teaching diploma, Tamaro received a scholarship to study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Italian school of cinema in Rome.  Read more…


Lodovico Giustini – composer

Church organist who wrote the first music for piano

Lodovico Giustini, composer and keyboard player, was born on this day in 1685 in Pistoia in Tuscany.  Giustini is the first composer known to write music for the piano and his compositions are considered to be late Baroque and early Classical in style.  Giustini was born in the same year as Bach, Scarlatti and Handel. His father, Francesco Giustini, was a church organist, his uncle, Domenico Giustini, was a composer of sacred music and his great uncle, Francesco Giustini, sang in the Cathedral choir for 50 years.  After the death of his father in 1725, Giustini took his place as organist at the Congregazione dello Spirito Santo in Pistoia, where he began to compose sacred music, mostly cantatas and oratorios.  In 1728 he collaborated with Giovanni Carlo Maria Clari on a set of Lamentations, which were performed later that year.  He was to hold this position for the rest of his life. In addition to playing the organ he also gave performances on the harpsichord, often playing his own music.  Giustini is mainly remembered for his collection of 12 Sonate da cimbalo di piano e forte detto volgarmente di martelletti, 12 sonatas written for the piano.  Read more…


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