4 November 2023

4 November

- Alfonso II - King of Naples

Ruler forced to abdicate after one year

Alfonso II, who became King of Naples in 1494 but was forced to abdicate after just one year, was born on this day in 1448 in Naples.  Also known as Alfonso II of Aragon, as heir to Ferdinand I he had the title Duke of Calabia from the age of 10. Blessed with a natural flair for leadership and military strategy, he spent much of his life as a condottiero, leading the army of Naples in a number of conflicts.  He contributed to the Renaissance culture of his father’s court, building the splendid palaces of La Duchesca and Poggio Reale, although neither survived to be appreciated today.  Alfonso II also introduced improvements to the urban infrastructure of Naples, building new churches, tree-lined straight roads, and a sophisticated hydraulic system to supply the city’s fountains.  He became King of Naples with the death of his father in January 1494 but stepped down in favour of his son, Ferdinand II, in January the following year as the powerful army of Charles VIII of France, who had launched an invasion of the Italian peninsula in September, 1494, prepared to take the city.   Alfonso fled to Sicily, seeking refuge in a monastery at Mazara del Vallo.  Read more…


Florence's catastrophic floods

Tuscan capital devastated on same day six centuries apart

More than 3,000 people were believed to have been killed when the River Arno flooded the streets of Florence on this day in 1333.  More than six centuries later, 101 people died when the city was flooded on the same day in 1966. The 50th anniversary of the most recent catastrophe, which took a staggering toll of priceless books and works of art in the Cradle of the Renaissance, was commemorated in the city on November 4, 2016.  The 1333 disaster - the first recorded flood of the Arno - was chronicled for posterity by Giovanni Villani, a diplomat and banker living in the city.  A plaque in Via San Remigio records the level the water allegedly reached in 1333 and another plaque commemorates the level the water reached after the river flooded in 1966, exactly 633 years later.  Villani wrote in his Nuova Cronica (New Chronicle), ‘By noon on Thursday, 4 November, 1333, a flood along the Arno River spread across the entire plain of San Salvi.’  By nightfall, the flood waters had filled the city streets and Villani claimed the water rose above the altar in Florence’s Baptistery, reaching halfway up the porphyry columns.  Read more…


Sandrone Dazieri – crime writer

Best-selling novelist in Italy now published in English

Sandrone Dazieri, an Italian author and screenwriter whose first novel published in English received enthusiastic reviews, was born in Cremona on this day in 1964.  A former chef, Dazieri became a best-selling novelist in his mid-30s with Attenti al Gorilla (Beware of the Gorilla), which introduced a complex character, based on himself and even named Sandrone, who suffers from a personality disorder that makes his behaviour unpredictable yet who solves crimes and tackles injustices.  The book spawned a series featuring the same character that not only gained Dazieri enormous popularity among Italian readers but helped him get work as a screenwriter, especially in the area of TV crime dramas.  He is the main writer on the hugely popular Canale 5 series Squadra Antimafia, to which he contributed for seven seasons.  Now, for the first time, with the help of an American translator, Dazieri has moved into the English language market with Kill the Father, published by Simon & Schuster in London in January 2017.  Already a top-selling title in Italy, the dark crime thriller received good reviews in the literary sections of English newspapers and magazines.  Read more…


Guido Reni - painter

Bolognese artist who idealised Raphael

The leading Baroque painter, Guido Reni, was born on this day in 1575 in Bologna, then part of the Papal States.  He was to become a dominant figure in the Bolognese school of painting, which emerged under the influence of the Carracci, a family of painters in Bologna. He was held in high regard because of the classical idealism of his portrayals of mythological and religious subjects.  Although his father, Daniele, wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a musician, Guido Reni passionately wanted to become an artist and was apprenticed to the Flemish painter Denis Calvaert when he was 10 years old. He focused on studying the works of Raphael, who, for the rest of his life, remained his ideal.  Reni went on to enter the academy led by Ludovico Carracci, the Accademia degli Incamminati - The academy of the newly-embarked - in Bologna. He was received into the guild of painters in the city in 1599 when he was nearly 24. After this he divided his time between his studios in Bologna and Rome.  One of his most famous works, Crucifixion of St Peter, which is now in the Vatican Museum in Rome, was painted for Cardinal Aldobrandini in 1605.  Read more…


First night at Teatro San Carlo 

Oldest opera house in the world opens its doors in Naples

Teatro di San Carlo in Naples was officially opened on this day in 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.  Built in Via San Carlo, close to Piazza del Plebiscito, the main square in Naples, Teatro di San Carlo quickly became one of the most important opera houses in Europe and renowned for its excellent productions. The theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for the Bourbon King of Naples, Charles I, and took just eight months to build.  The official inauguration was on the King’s saint’s day, the festival of San Carlo, on the evening of 4 November. There was a performance of Achille in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio with music by Domenico Sarro, who also conducted the orchestra for the music for two ballets.  This was 41 years before La Scala and 55 years before La Fenice opened. San Carlo is now believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, remaining opera houses in the world.  Both Rossini and Donizetti served as artistic directors at San Carlo and the world premieres of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Mosè were performed there. In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.   Read more…


Book of the Day: In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Cultural History of Naples, by Jordan Lancaster

Naples is an Italian city like no other. Drama and darkness are often associated with Naples, which rests beneath active Mount Vesuvius and is the home of the Camorra - its version of the mafia. But beyond this, Naples reveals itself to be one of the most historically and culturally vibrant cities in Europe.  From its origins in Homer's Odyssey and its founding nearly 3,000 years ago, Naples has long attracted travellers, artists and foreign rulers - from the visitors of the Grand Tour to Goethe, Nelson, Dickens and Neruda.  The stunning beauty of its natural setting coupled with the charms of its colourful past and lively present - from the ruins of Pompeii to the glittering performances of the San Carlo opera house - continue to seduce all those who explore Naples today.  In the Shadow of Vesuvius is a sparkling portrait of the city - the definitive companion for anyone seeking to delve beneath its surface.

Jordan Lancaster studied at the universities of Cambridge and Bologna and holds a PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Toronto. She taught Italian language and literature at universities in Canada and the United States and lived for a time in Naples, where she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici, before moving to London to work as a translator and interpreter.

Buy from Amazon

EN - 728x90


No comments:

Post a Comment