7 March 2024

7 March

- Luciano Spalletti - football manager

National coach has long record of success

The football manager Luciano Spalletti, who led Napoli to their first Serie A title since the Diego Maradona era before being appointed head coach to Italy’s national team, was born on this day in 1959 in the Tuscan town of Certaldo, just under 50km (31 miles) southwest of Florence.  A late starter as a professional player, at 64 Spalletti became the oldest winning coach in the history of the Italian championship when Napoli won the 2022-23 scudetto.  The achievement turned him into a hero in Naples, where fans celebrated in scenes not witnessed in the southern Italian city since Napoli won two titles in four years with the late Maradona as captain and talisman, the second of which was 33 years earlier in the 1989-90 campaign.  Having hinted before the season finished that he was thinking about taking time out of football, Spalletti confirmed ahead of the final fixture that he would be leaving the club to take a year’s sabbatical.  In the event, his break from the game lasted only three months. Following Roberto Mancini’s resignation, Spalletti was appointed head coach of the Italian national team, officially taking charge on September 1, 2023.  Read more…


Baldassare Peruzzi - architect and painter

Pupil of Bramante who left mark on Rome

The architect and painter Baldassare Peruzzi, who trained under Donato Bramante and was a contemporary of Raphael, was born on this day in 1481 in a small town near Siena.   Peruzzi worked in his home city and in Rome, where he spent many years as one of the architects of the St Peter’s Basilica project but where he was also responsible for two outstanding buildings in his own right - the Villa Farnesina and the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne.  The Villa Farnesina, a summer house commissioned by the Sienese banker Agostino Chigi in the Trastevere district, is unusual for its U-shaped floor plan, with a five-bay loggia between the arms.  Raphael and Sebastiano del Piombo were among those who helped decorate the villa with frescoes, but Peruzzi is acknowledged as the chief designer, possibly aided by Giuliano da Sangallo. Some of the frescoed paintings on the walls of the interior rooms are also by Peruzzi. One example is the Sala delle Prospettive, in which the walls are painted to create the illusion of standing in an open-air terrace, lined by pillars, looking out over a continuous landscape.  Read more…


Filippo Juvarra – architect

Baroque designer influenced the look of ‘royal Turin’

Architect and stage set designer Filippo Juvarra was born on this day in 1678 in Messina in Sicily.  Some of his best work can be seen in Turin today as he worked for Victor Amadeus II of Savoy from 1714 onwards. The buildings Juvarra designed for Turin made him famous and he was subsequently invited to work in Portugal, Spain, London and Paris.  Juvarra was born into a family of goldsmiths and engravers but moved to Rome in 1704 to study architecture with Carlo and Francesco Fontana.  He was commissioned to design stage sets to begin with, but in 1706 he won a contest to design the new sacristy at St Peter’s Basilica.  He then designed the small Antamoro Chapel for the church of San Girolamo della Carità with his friend, the French sculptor, Pierre Le Gros. He was later to design the main altar for the Duomo in Bergamo in Lombardy.   One of his masterpieces was the Basilica of Superga, built in 1731 on a mountain overlooking the city of Turin, which later became a mausoleum for the Savoy family.  It was said to have taken 14 years to flatten the mountain top.  Read more…


Alessandro Manzoni – novelist

Writer who produced the greatest novel in Italian literature

Italy’s most famous novelist, Alessandro Manzoni, was born on this day in 1785 in Milan.  Manzoni was the author of I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), the first novel to be written in modern Italian, a language that could be understood by everyone.  The novel caused a sensation when it was first published in 1825. It looked at Italian history through the eyes of the ordinary citizen and sparked pro-unification feelings in many Italians who read it, becoming a symbol of the Risorgimento movement.  I promessi sposi is now considered to be the most important novel in Italian literature and is still required reading for many Italian schoolchildren.  Manzoni spent a lot of his childhood in Lecco, on Lago di Lecco, where his father’s family originated, and he chose to set his great work there.  Lago di Lecco is an arm of Lago di Como and is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery that is so stunning it is said to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci for settings for his paintings.   More than two centuries later, fans of Manzoni’s novel continue to visit Lecco to see the places he described and the buildings featured in the book that remain.  Read more…


Saint Thomas Aquinas - philosopher

Theologian who synthesised Aristotle’s ideas with principles of Christianity

Saint Thomas Aquinas, known in Italian as Tommaso d’Aquino, died on this day in 1274 at Fossanova near Terracina in Lazio.  A Dominican friar who became a respected theologian and philosopher, D’Aquino was canonised in 1323, less than 50 years after his death.  He was responsible for two masterpieces of theology, Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles. The first sought to explain the Christian faith to students setting out to study theology, the second to explain the Christian faith and defend it in the face of hostile attacks.  As a poet, D'Aquino wrote some of the most beautiful hymns in the church’s liturgy, which are still sung today.  D’Aquino is recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as its foremost philosopher and theologian and he had a considerable influence on the development of Western thought and ideas. His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle are an important part of his legacy and he is still regarded as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood.  D’Aquino was born in Roccasecca in the province of Frosinone in about 1225 in the castle owned by his father, who was Count of Aquino.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Golazzo: The Football Italia Years, by Jonathan Grade

It was the deal of the century. British superstar Paul Gascoigne had joined Lazio and Channel 4 swooped to pick up live rights to Italian football for just £1.5 million. Serie A just happened to be the best league in the world and over the next decade millions would tune in to watch the biggest names on the planet.  Saturday mornings were also about to be transformed with the launch of Gazzetta Football Italia. With the sharp wit of James Richardson allied to the dulcet tones of broadcasting legend Kenneth Wolstenholme, the show was an institution at the weekend.  Having worked on the show since its inception Jonathan Grade gives a first-hand account of this iconic production. Golazzo: The Football Italia Years takes a nostalgic look back with some stories from behind the scenes in the days when Italian football ruled the world.

Jonathan Grade is a television producer, who spent the best part of a decade working on the much-loved Gazzetta Football Italia and live Football Italia programmes from 1993 until 2002- the last two of which as Series Editor. 

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