Showing posts with label 1894. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1894. Show all posts

17 December 2019

Leopoldo Eleuteri - flying ace

World War I pilot claimed eight aerial victories

Leopoldo Eleuteri in  his pilot's uniform
Leopoldo Eleuteri in
his pilot's uniform
First World War pilot Leopoldo Eleuteri, who was credited with seven of the eight combat victories he claimed, was born in Castel Ritaldi, a small town in Umbria about 60km (37 miles) by road southeast of Perugia, on this day in 1894.

Eleuteri did not begin flying active combat sorties as a fighter pilot until February 1918 but progressed rapidly with the 70th Squadron of the Corpo Aeronautico Militare, the airborne arm of the Royal Italian Army.

He went on to fly more than 150 sorties and between April 1918 and October 1918 claimed eight enemy planes shot down, being eventually credited with seven successes in his own right.

Passionate about all forms of mechanised flight since he was a boy, Eleuteri volunteered for aeronautical service as soon as he was old enough.

He was a student in a technical school until he was conscripted in 1915. At first, he was assigned to duty in ordnance factories before being sent to join the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Royal Italian Army.

An Ansaldo A1 Balilla similar to those flown by Leopoldo  Eleuteri towards the end of the First World War
An Ansaldo A1 Balilla similar to those flown by Leopoldo
 Eleuteri towards the end of the First World War
There, he was allowed to begin aviation training. In October 1916, he qualified as a pilot at Gabardini's flying school at Cameri in Piedmont.

In April 1917, Eleuteri mastered the two-seater Lombardy-built SAML aircraft and was posted first to the 73rd Squadron, stationed in Verona, which was later renamed the 121st Squadron.  His first assignment while based in Verona was to defend the city from possible Austrian air strikes.

After flying a few sorties, he made an abortive attack on an observation balloon.  Later that year, still flying SAMLs, following the army’s defeat at the Battle of Caporetto, he was lucky to survive after his plane was attacked by three enemy fighters above Asiago, about 21km (13 miles) northwest of Bassano del Grappa. The plane was hit several times and his co-pilot wounded, but they managed to limp back to base and land successfully.

At the beginning of 1918 he underwent training at Malpensa airfield near Milan to fly as a fighter pilot.  Re-assigned to the 73rd squadron, based at San Pietro in Gu, 16km (10 miles) northeast of Vicenza, he teamed with fellow fighter pilots Aldo Bocchese, Alessandro Resch and Flaminio Avet, who often flew combat missions together.

In April, he staked claims to have shot down an Austro-Hungarian two-seater and two fighters in an aerial battle above the countryside of Valdobbiadene, a wine-growing area in the Veneto, about 40km (25 miles) northwest of Treviso. In the end, Eleuteri was credited with two victories.

Eleuteri learned to fly combat missions largely in two-seater SAML aircraft similar to the one pictured
Eleuteri learned to fly combat missions largely in two-seater
SAML aircraft similar to the one pictured 
Over the next six months, usually flying alongside Bocchese and Avet, he would engage enemy aircraft in combat 26 times.  As well as the SAML planes, Eleuteri also flew the Ansaldo A1 Balilla, a single-engine hunter plane.  He was the only pilot to be credited with a kill in the Ansaldo.

His final success came in October 1918, when he forced an Austro-Hungarian pilot to land on a Corpo Aeronautico Militare airfield at Arcade, just north of Treviso.

His prowess in airborne combat was rewarded three times with the Silver Medal for Military Valor, as well as the War Merit Cross.

After being discharged, Eleuteri returned to his engineering studies, enrolling at the Milan Polytechnic. He graduated in 1922.

In 1923, he joined the newly formed Royal Aeronautics as an officer in the engineering department,and was promoted to the rank of captain in October of that year.  He was stationed at Furbara, about 50km (31 miles) northwest of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Tragically, in January, 1926, Eleuteri was flying a simulated combat mission when his aircraft collided with the “enemy” plane.  Both planes lost a wing and fell to the ground from about 1,000m (3,281ft), causing the death of both pilots.

The Castiglione del Lago fighter school was renamed in his honour, as was the flying club at Perugia airfield. There are statues of him in his home town, Castel Ritaldi, which has also named a street after him, and further monuments at the civil airport of Via Salaria in Rome and in Furbara.

The fortification of Castel San Giovanni is just outside the Umbrian town of Castel Ritaldi
The fortification of Castel San Giovanni is just outside
the Umbrian town of Castel Ritaldi
Travel tip:

Castel Ritaldi, where Eleuteri was born, is a pretty hill town in the green countryside of Umbria, overlooking fields of wheat and barley, sunflowers, vines and olive groves. It is known for its woodland mushrooms and truffles and lies in the area that grows the sagrantino grape, from which is made the Montefalco Sagrantino and Montefalco Rosso wines. The well preserved Castel San Giovanni, which encloses a small village within its walls, can be found just outside the town.  Castel Ritaldi is also known for the Palio del Fantasma, a lively Renaissance-costumed festival involving games of skill and chance that celebrates the visit to the town by Lucrezia Borgia.

Vines growing in the Valdobbiadene region, which produces Italy's world-famous prosecco sparkling wine
Vines growing in the Valdobbiadene region, which produces
Italy's world-famous prosecco sparkling wine
Travel tip:

The picturesque hills around Valdobbiadene, scene of Eleuteri’s maiden combat victories, are famous for the production of what is generally regarded as the best prosecco in Italy. It is largely made from Glera grapes and though the name comes from that of the village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape and wine originated, the only prosecco granted DOCG status - the classification granted to superior Italian wines - is produced from grapes grown on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, or from a smaller area around the town of Asolo, north and west of Treviso.

Also on this day:

546: Rome is sacked by the Ostrogoths

1538: Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII

1749: The birth of opera composer Domenico Cimarosa

1981: Red Brigades seize NATO boss in Verona


2 April 2019

Achille Vianelli - painter and printmaker

A painting by Achille Vianelli of the coastline at Posillipo. Vianelli was a member of the Posillipo School.
A painting by Achille Vianelli of the coastline at Posillipo.
Vianelli was a member of the Posillipo School.

Artist from Liguria who captured scenes of Naples

The painter and printmaker Achille Vianelli, whose specialities were landscapes and genre pictures, notably in his adopted city of Naples, died on this day in 1894 in Benevento in Campania.

For a while he worked at the French court, giving painting lessons to King Louis Philippe. Some of his works have sold for thousands of euros.

Vianelli was born in 1803 in Porto Maurizio in Liguria. When he was a child, his family moved more than 1,200km (750 miles) to the other end of the Italian peninsula to the coastal town of Otranto in the province of Lecce, where his father, Giovan Battista Vianelli, Venetian-born but a French national, had been posted as a Napoleonic consular agent.

Achille spent his youth in Otranto before, in 1819, he moved to Naples. His father and sister moved to France, although they would return to Naples in 1826. Achille took a job in the Royal Topographic Office.

Vianelli was a friend of the painter Giacinto Gigante
Vianelli was a friend of the
painter Giacinto Gigante
In Naples, he became close friends with Giacinto Gigante, with whom he shared an interest in painting. Together, they studied landscape painting, attending the school of the German painter Wolfgang Hüber, after which Vianelli became a pupil of Anton Sminck van Pitloo, a professor at the Accademia di Belli Arti in Naples who had a studio in the Chiaia neighborhood of Naples.

Pitloo is regarded as the father of the Posillipo School, a group of landscape painters, based in the Posillipo area of Naples, a stretch of coastline extending from Mergellina to the headland at Parco Virgiliano, overlooking the volcanic islet of Nisida, on the northern side of the Bay of Naples.

Both Vianelli and Gigante were members of the Posillipo School, along with Teodoro Duclere, Vincenzo Franceschini, Consalvo Carelli and others.

In the 1830s, Vianelli gradually moved away from oil landscape painting, increasingly devoting himself to perspective views of squares and church interiors, in watercolor. He experimented with sepia monochromes, of which he developed a valuable technique.

 Vianelli's view of the Piazza di San
 Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples
Many of his views were etched or lithographed and published in books dedicated to the city of Naples.

In 1848 he moved to Benevento, where he founded a drawing school in the Cloister of Santa Sofia. Among his students was Gaetano de Martini.

Vianelli enjoyed success with his work and his fame spread beyond Italy. King Louis Philippe invited him to give him painting lessons and Vianelli lived in France temporarily. He died in Benevento, at the age of 91 years.

His son Alberto, born in 1847, was also a landscape painter. A sister, Flora, had married Teodoro Witting, a German landscape painter and engraver active in Naples in 1826, while another sister, Eloisa, married Giacinto Gigante in 1831.

Villa Donn'Anna is near Mergellina, at the bottom of the main road through Posillipo, known as Posillipo Hill
Villa Donn'Anna is near Mergellina, at the bottom of the
main road through Posillipo, known as Posillipo Hill
Travel tip:

Posillipo is a residential quarter of Naples that has been associated with wealth in the city since Roman times. Built on a hillside that descends gradually towards the sea, it offers panoramic views across the Bay of Naples towards Vesuvius and has been a popular place to build summer villas. Some houses were built right on the sea’s edge, such as the historic Villa Donn’Anna, which can be found at the start of the Posillipo coast near the harbour at Mergellina.

The magnificent Arch of Trajan is one of several Roman relics in Benevento
The magnificent Arch of Trajan is one of
several Roman relics in Benevento
Travel tip:

In ancient times, Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy, along the Via Appia trade route between Rome and Brindisi. The town is in an attractive location surrounded by the Apennine hills, and it suffered considerable damage during the Second World War, there are many Roman remains, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an amphitheatre, built by Hadrian, that held 10,000 spectators and is still in good condition. The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, originally built in the 13th century, has undergone major reconstruction work, while the original bronze doors for the cathedral are now kept inside the building.

More reading:

The Neapolitan legacy of sculptor and architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro

How Neapolitan painter Francesco Solimena became one of the most influential artists in Europe

Why Luca Giordano was the most celebrated Naples artist of the late 17th century

Also on this day:

1696: The birth of operatic soprano Francesca Cuzzoni

1725: The birth of amorous adventurer Giacomo Casanova

1959: The birth of Olympic marathon champion Gelindo Bordin


4 May 2017

Anthony Martin Sinatra - father of Frank

Sicilian who became a professional boxer in New York

Anthony Sinatra had 30 fights as a professional boxer
Anthony Sinatra had 30 fights as a professional boxer
Saverio Antonino Martino Sinatra, who at various times was a fireman, a professional boxer and the owner of a bar, was born on this day in 1894 in Lercara Friddi, a mining town in Sicily, about 70km (44 miles) south-east of the island’s capital, Palermo.

Usually known as Antonino, after emigrating to the United States he married Natalie Garaventa, a girl from near Genoa who lived in his neighbourhood in New York City.  They set up home in New Jersey and had a son, whom they christened Francis Albert, who would grow up to be better known as Frank Sinatra, one of the most popular entertainers of all time.

Lercara Friddi today is a town of between 7,000 and 8,000 inhabitants, which at the time of Antonino’s birth was an important centre for the mining of sulphur.  His father, Francesco, worked there as a shoemaker and married Rosa Saglimini. They had seven children, although two of them were believed to have died during an outbreak of cholera.

Early in Antonino’s life, Francesco decided to join the growing number of Sicilians who believed their prospects of escaping a life of poverty in their homeland were slim and after sailing to Naples boarded a ship bound for New York.

Hoboken, New Jersey, where Frank Sinatra was born
Hoboken, New Jersey, where Frank Sinatra was born
New York already had many shoemakers but Francesco found work in a pencil factory, sending money home so that his family could eventually join him.  After first sending her eldest children, Isidore and Salvatore, to make the journey unaccompanied, Rosa followed just before Christmas in 1903 with a then nine-year-old Antonino and his sisters, Angelina and Dorotea, on board the SS Città di Milano.

It was a tough life for the family at first but Lercara Freddi was at the heart of Sicily’s Mafia country. Not far away were the towns of Corleone and Prizzi, notorious Cosa Nostra strongholds. Francesco was happy he had left that world behind and life improved when they saved enough money for Rosa to open a small grocery store in Little Italy.

Antonino adopted the Americanised name of Anthony Martin Sinatra.  After reaching working age, he initially followed his father’s trade as a shoemaker.  Powerfully built, he was handy in a fight and developed a second income as a prize fighter. He might have fought under the name of 'Tony the Shoemaker',which was the nickname he had among friends, but he chose to fight as Marty O’Brien, passing himself off as Irish because Italians at the time were considered inferior athletes.

Frank Sinatra (right) began his career with The Hoboken Four
Frank Sinatra (right) began his career with The Hoboken Four
His earnings in the ring enabled him to give up his day job but his boxing career was abruptly curtailed when he broke his wrist after 30 professional fights. By then he had met Natalie, also known as ‘Dolly’, with whom he eloped to New Jersey after her family, proudly Ligurian, refused to countenance their daughter’s marriage to a semi-literate Sicilian boxer and disowned her.

They lived in Monroe Street, Hoboken, in a largely Italian neighbourhood, where Frank was born in 1915.  Anthony’s hopes of finding work as a merchant seaman were dashed because he suffered from asthma but, encouraged by Natalie, he applied to become a fireman and was taken on by the Hoboken Fire Department in 1927, eventually attaining the rank of captain.  

In time, Natalie followed the example of Anthony’s mother by opening a shop, supplementing the family’s income so that they could afford a bigger apartment. Eventually, her husband was able to retire from the fire service and open a bar, which he called ‘Marty O’Brien’s.’  

The church of Santa Maria della Neve in Lercara Friddi
The church of Santa Maria della Neve in Lercara Friddi
Travel tip:

The name Lercara Friddi is thought to be derived in part from the Arabia ‘al kara’ meaning quarter, and the Sicilian dialect word ‘friddi’ meaning cold. The 18th century church of San Giuseppe, the nearby church of Santa Maria della Neve and the church of San Alfonso are attractive buildings. Apart from the Sinatra family, the town was home to the anti-Fascist politician Andrea Aprile, a leading figure in the Sicilian independence movement in the 1940s, and of the Mafia gangster Lucky Luciano, who was controversially freed from prison in the United States in order to help the Allied invasion in 1943.

Lumarzo sits on a hillside in Liguria
Lumarzo sits on a hillside in Liguria
Travel tip:

Frank Sinatra’s mother, Natalie, came from Rossi, a frazione of the village of Lumarzo in Liguria, about 15km (9 miles) inland, to the east of Genoa. Since 2008, the village has organised an event, entitled "Hello, Frank!", as a musical tribute from Ligurian artists and guests to the actor and singer, who in the course of his career sold more than 150 million records.

More reading:

Salvatore 'Lucky' Luciano - crime boss recruited by Allies in Second World War

Joe Petrosino - policeman from Campania who fought for the good name of Italians in New York

Vito Antuofermo - farmer's son who conquered world in the boxing ring

Also on this day:

1655: The birth of Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano

22 January 2017

Carlo Orelli – soldier

The last trench infantryman

Carlo Orelli with President Ciampi, at the  awards ceremony on his 109th birthday
Carlo Orelli with President Ciampi, at the
 awards ceremony on his 109th birthday
Carlo Orelli, the last surviving Italian soldier to have served at the start of Italy's involvement in the First World War, died on this day in 2005 at the age of 110.

Orelli had signed up for active duty at the age of 21 and joined the Austro-Hungarian front after Italy joined in the war on the side of Britain, France and Russia in May 1915.

He took part in combat operations near Trieste, experiencing the brutality of trench warfare and seeing many of his friends die violent deaths, but after receiving injuries to his leg and ear he spent the rest of the war in hospital.

Orelli was born in Perugia in 1894, but his family moved to Rome, where he was to spend most of the rest of his life living in the Garbatella district.

He came from a military background and had a grandfather who had helped to defend Perugia against Austrian mercenaries in 1849. His father had served in the Italian Abyssinian campaign in the 1880s and his elder brother had fought in Libya during the war between Italy and Turkey in 1911.

Orelli pictured in his Italian military  uniform in the First World War
Orelli pictured in his Italian military
uniform in the First World War
The wounds Orelli suffered during a confrontation with Austrian soldiers ended his military career and he spent the rest of the war recovering from an infection in hospital.

When the war was over he resumed his occupation as a mechanic and got married and had six children.

Despite his opposition to Fascism, he was sent to Gaeta to direct artillery during World War II, but he returned to his job as a mechanic afterwards and continued to live in Garbatella.

In later life he often talked about his experiences in the First World War and implored people not to forget the sacrifice his fellow soldiers had made.

In 2003, on the occasion of his 109th birthday, he was made a Grand Officer in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Carlo Orelli in a TV documentary about his  life and wartime experiences
Carlo Orelli in a TV documentary about his
life and wartime experiences
He became known as ‘The Last Infantrymen’, which was chosen as the title for his wartime memoirs when they were published.

After his death in 2005, he was talked about as ‘the last Italian World War I veteran,’ which was incorrect.

He was, in fact, Italy’s oldest survivor of the First World War, the last trench infantryman and the last survivor from the time Italy entered the war in 1915.

Travel tip:

Perugia, where Orelli was born, and which was defended by his grandfather against the Austrians, is the capital city of the region of Umbria. It has a history that goes back to Etruscan times, when it was one of the most powerful cities in the area. A stunning sight on a hilltop, Perugia is also home to two universities, the 14th century University of Perugia and another University for foreign students learning Italian.

The Centrale Montemartini museum is in the Garbatella district of Rome, where Orelli spent most of his life
The Centrale Montemartini museum is in the Garbatella
district of Rome, where Orelli spent most of his life
Travel tip:

The Garbatella district, where Orelli lived for most of his life, is to the south of the centre of Rome. It is now a lively area with an unusual museum, the Centrale Montemartini in Via Ostiense, a former electricity power plant that now houses hundreds of pieces of Roman sculpture. Nearby, in Piazzale San Paolo, is the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, one of Rome’s four ancient churches, which was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St Paul. The site had been marked with a memorial by some of the apostle’s followers after his execution.

More reading:

Francesco Chiarello - combatant in both world wars who lived until 2008

How General Armando Diaz masterminded Italy's victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto

The Villa Giusti armistice and the end of the First World War in Italy

Also on this day:

1506: The founding of the Papal Swiss Guard

(Picture credit: Centrale Montemartini by Lalupa via Wikimedia Commons)


13 November 2016

Agostina Livia Pietrantoni - Saint

Tragic sister’s simple virtue stopped the traffic in the capital

Sister Agostina Livia Pietrantoni was murdered by a patient
Sister Agostina Livia Pietrantoni
was murdered by a patient
Nun Agostina Livia Pietrantoni died on this day in 1894 in Rome after being attacked by a patient at the hospital where she was working.

Her story touched Romans so deeply that her funeral brought the city to a standstill as thousands of residents lined the streets and knelt before her casket when it passed them.

The November 16 edition of the daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported that a more impressive spectacle had never before been seen in Rome.

‘From one o’clock in the afternoon, the streets close to Santo Spirito, and all the roads it was believed that the funeral procession would pass, were crowded with people to the point of making the flow of traffic difficult.’

Sister Agostina was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1972 and canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1999. Her feast day is celebrated each year on November 12.

Sant’Agostina was born Livia Pietrantoni in 1864 in Pozzaglia Sabina to the north east of Rome. She was the second of 11 children born to a poor farmer and his wife.

She started work at the age of seven doing manual labour, carrying heavy sacks of stones and sand for road construction.

The former Santo Spirito Hospital, now a convention centre,  is situated on the banks of the Tiber close to the Vatican
The former Santo Spirito Hospital, now a convention centre,
 is situated on the banks of the Tiber close to the Vatican
When she was 12, she went to Tivoli with other poor children to work during the olive harvesting.

Livia refused offers of marriage when she was older as she had her heart set on entering a religious order and, after an initial rejection, was accepted into the Thouret order, becoming a nun and taking the name of Agostina in 1887.

Sister Agostina was sent to work as a nurse at Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. While working in the tuberculosis ward she contracted the disease herself, but miraculously recovered from it and continued to work there.

On one occasion while working on the tuberculosis ward she was attacked and beaten after seizing a knife from a male patient.

The patient, Giuseppe Romanelli, began to harass her and send her taunting death threats. Her fellow Sisters asked her to take time off work for her own safety but she refused.

On the morning of November 13, 1894, Romanelli stabbed Sister Agostina to death in a dark corridor at the hospital.

After suffering stab wounds to her shoulder, left arm, jugular and chest, she died, moments after forgiving her killer.

Following her canonisation, Sant’Agostina Pietrantoni was named as the Patron Saint of Nurses in 2003.

The village of Pozzaglia Sabina in Lazio, where Agostina was born and where her remains are buried
The village of Pozzaglia Sabina in Lazio, where Agostina
was born and where her remains are buried
Travel tip:

Pozzaglia Sabina, where Sant’Agostina was born, is a small comune in the province of Rieti in Lazio. In 2004 Sant’Agos- tina’s remains were returned to her home town and buried in her former parish church, the Church of San Nicola di Bari, in the first chapel on the left side of the church, which is now dedicated to her.

Travel tip:

Tivoli, where Sant’Agostina worked as a child harvesting olives, is to the north east of Rome. It is famous for its 16th century Villa d’Este, which has a terraced hillside garden with spectacular fountains. The Villa d’Este is now a state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

More reading:

Saint Giustina of Padua - murdered by Romans for preaching Christianity

The election of Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope

Saint Peter's Basilica - the largest church in the world

Also on this day:

1868: The death of composer Gioachino Rossini

(Photo of Pozzaglia Sabina by altotemi via Wikimedia Commons)