Showing posts with label 1947. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1947. Show all posts

3 December 2017

Mario Borghezio – controversial politician

Lega Nord MEP renowned for extremist views

Mario Borghezio is a controversial figure in Italian politics
Mario Borghezio is a controversial
figure in Italian politics
Mario Borghezio, one of Italy’s most controversial political figures whose extreme right-wing views have repeatedly landed him in trouble, was born on this day in 1947 in Turin.

Borghezio is a member of Lega Nord, the party led by Umberto Bossi that was set up originally to campaign for Italy to be broken up so that the wealthy north of the country would sever its political and economic ties with the poorer south.

He has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1999 and has served on several committees, including Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Petitions.

He was even undersecretary to the Ministry of Justice from 1994-95.

Yet he had regularly espoused extremist and racist views, to the extent that even the right-wing British party UKIP, with whom he developed strong links, moved to distance themselves from him over one racist outburst.

It was at their behest that he was expelled from the European Parliament’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy group after making racist remarks about Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black cabinet minister, whom he said was more suited to being a housekeeper and claimed would impose “African tribal conditions” in Italy.

Borghezio's outspoken views have landed him in trouble during his career
Borghezio's outspoken views have landed him
in trouble during his career
The comments eventually saw Borghezio appear before a tribunal in Milan earlier this year, which fined him 1,000 euros and ordered him to pay Ms Kyenge, an eye surgeon originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo but resident in Italy for 30 years, a further €50,000 in damages.

It was not the first time Borghezio’s outspoken views had landed him in trouble.  In fact, he has a charge sheet stretching back to 1993, when he was ordered to pay a 750,000 lire fine for violence against a minor when he apprehended an 12-year-old unlicensed Moroccan street seller and forcibly restrained him while waiting for the police.

Subsquently, he was sentenced to two months and 20 days in prison in 2005 for setting fire to the pallets on which some migrants were sleeping in Turin, although this was commuted to a €3,040 fine.

In 2007 he was arrested by Belgian police for participating in protest against what he claimed was the "Islamisation of Europe", while in 2011 he was accused of promoting racial hatred when he criticised those who brought the Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladic to justice for denying him the opportunity “to halt the advance of Islam into Europe” through his genocide of Muslim men.

Later in the same year, he was suspended, albeit only temporarily, by his party, Lega Nord, for praising some of the ideas in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian anti-Islam extremist who a week earlier had killed eight people in a car bomb attack in Oslo before slaying 69 members of the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth division in a gun rampage at a summer camp two hours later.

Borghezio remains a member of Lega Nord and an MEP.

Turin is famous for its arcaded streets
Turin is famous for its arcaded streets
Travel tip:

Turin, the one-time capital of Italy, is best known for its royal palaces but tends to be overshadowed by other cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice when it comes to attracting tourists.  Yet there is much to like about a stay in Turin, from its many historic cafés to 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in Piedmont, yet because visitors do not flock to Turin in such large numbers prices tend to be a little lower than in Rome and Florence and Venice.

Turin's Piazza San Carlo
Turin's Piazza San Carlo
Travel tip:

To enjoy Turin’s historic cafés, head for Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade linking Piazza Vittorio Veneto with Piazza Castello, where it is impossible to walk more than a few metres without coming to a café, or a pasticceria, or nearby Piazza San Carlo, one of the city’s main squares. Inside, it is still possible to imagine the revolutionary atmosphere that swept through the haunts of writers and artists in the 19th century. Philosophers and writers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Alexandre Dumas, the composers Puccini and Rossini, the politician Cavour and the poet Cesare Pavese all discussed the affairs of the day in these famous coffee houses.

1 May 2017

The Portella della Ginestra Massacre

Conspiracy theories behind murder of peasants

The bandit Salvatore Giuliano was blamed for the atrocity
The bandit Salvatore Giuliano was
blamed for the atrocity
Sicily and the whole of Italy was horrified on this day in 1947 when gunmen opened fire on defenceless peasants gathered for a Labour Day celebration in the hills above Palermo, killing 11 and wounding more than 30 in what became known as the Portella della Ginestra Massacre.

The victims included four children between the ages of seven and 15, who were cut down indiscriminately by a gang of men, some on horseback, who appeared suddenly and began firing machine guns as the peasants, numbering several hundred, congregated on a plain along a remote mountain pass between the towns of Piana degli Albanesi and San Giuseppe Jato, where a Labour Day rally had taken place every year since 1893.

Salvatore Giuliano, an outlaw wanted in connection with the killing of a police officer in 1943, was held responsible although many people believed that Giuliano and his gang of bandits were set up as scapegoats in a conspiracy involving the Mafia, wealthy landowners and politicians.

The outrage came only 10 days after a surprise victory by the so-called People’s Block - a coalition of the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party - in the elections for the Constituent Assembly of the autonomous region of Sicily, defeating the Christian Democrats, the Monarchists and the right-wing Uomo Qualunque party. 

The conspiracy theory arose for a number of reasons, one being that the Communist leader in Sicily, Girolamo Li Causi, had pledged to redistribute large land holdings, restricting any one landowner to no more than 100 hectares (247 acres), which had provoked fury among Sicily’s legitimate large landowners and, naturally, within the Mafia.

Girolamo Li Causi addresses a rally on the site of the Portella della Ginestra killings
Girolamo Li Causi addresses a rally on the
site of the Portella della Ginestra killings
The other was that politicians in mainland Italy feared that the Communist victory in Sicily would be a tipping point for the whole nation. The Communists were gaining ground elsewhere and with an election due in October the Christian Democrats, under pressure from American interests in particular, were desperate to keep Italy from moving to the extreme left.

A third reason to suspect a political motive, a much more straightforward one, was that Giuliano, previously regarded as something of a Robin Hood figure, stealing from the rich to help the poor, was also the self-styled leader of a loosely organised Sicilian separatist movement, to which Li Causi was opposed.

Tensions escalated when Mario Scelba, the Christian Democrat Minister of the Interior, told parliament only the day after the massacre that the police in Sicily had already determined that the killings had no political element.  This provoked a debate so heated that it descended into a brawl involving up to 200 deputies from the left and the right.

Giuliano remained in hiding but sent messages protesting his innocence, claiming he had been hired simply to fire shots in the air as a scare tactic designed to intimidate rather than to wound people, but that under cover of this ‘attack’, others had carried out the massacre.

This prompted Li Causi, addressing a rally at Portella della Ginestra on the second anniversary of the massacre, to challenge Giuliano to name names.

Gaspare Pisciotta gave evidence from  behind bars at the trial in Viterbo
Gaspare Pisciotta gave evidence from
behind bars at the trial in Viterbo
In a written reply, Giuliano refused. Li Causi responded by urging Giuliano not to trust the politicians or landowners to protect him, suggesting that “Scelba will have you killed", to which Giuliano responded by saying: "I know that Scelba wants to have me killed; he wants to have me killed because I keep a nightmare hanging over him. I can make sure he is brought to account for actions that, if revealed, would destroy his political career and end his life."

In the event, Giuliano was indeed killed, supposedly by Carabinieri in a gun battle in Castelvetrano, a town in the south-west of Sicily, where he had taken refuge in a Mafia stronghold, just as the trial of the accused in the Portella della Ginestra massacre was beginning in Viterbo in Lazio.

After an adjournment, the trial began in earnest in 1951. When it concluded it was ruled that no higher authority had ordered the massacre, and that the Giuliano band had acted autonomously.  This was despite the testimony of Giuliano's lieutenant, Gaspare Pisciotta, who named several politicians, including Scelba, and senior policemen as being behind the massacre.

Under oath, Pisciotta claimed that shortly before the massacre, Giuliano had read out the contents of a letter, which he immediately destroyed, informing the gang that all charges against them over the 1943 murder and other crimes would be dropped in return for carrying out the killings. 

The poster for Rosi's film
The poster for Rosi's film
He also claimed to have killed Giuliano himself, on behalf of Scelba, and that the gun battle was a fabrication.  Much of this testimony, however, came in the course of incoherent outbursts and when the prosecution made reference to internal conflicts within the Giuliano gang, Pisciotta was dismissed as an unreliable witness.

He and 11 others were sentenced to life imprisonment. Four bandits received shorter sentences and 20 were acquitted, although many of those freed subsequently disappeared or were killed. Pisciotta was poisoned in his prison cell in 1954. 

The story of the massacre was the subject of an award-winning 1962 film, Salvatore Giuliano, directed by Francesco Rosi, and a 1986 opera by Lorenzo Ferrero.

The site of the memorial to the massacre victims
The bleak site of the memorial to the victims
Travel tip:

The site of the Portella della Ginestra massacre, which can be found on Strada Provinciale 34 about four kilometres (2.5 miles) south-west of Piana degli Albanesi and about 30km (19 miles) from Palermo, is commemorated with 11 jagged upright stones, one for each of the victims, on the spot where they fell. A memorial plaque states: “On May 1, 1947, while celebrating the working class festival and the victory of April 20, men, women and children of Piana, S. Cipirello and S. Giuseppe fell under the bullets of the Mafia and the landed barons to crush the struggle of the peasants against feudalism.”

The lake of Piana degli Albanesi with the town in the distance
The lake of Piana degli Albanesi with the town in the distance
Travel tip:

Piana degli Albanesi, as the name suggests, is an important centre for the Albanian population of Sicily, having been founded in the 15th century by Albanian refugees driven out of the Balkans during its conquest by the Ottoman Empire. The 6,000-strong community has maintained many elements of Albanian culture, including language, religious ritual, traditional costumes, music and folklore.  There are a number of Albanian churches, including the Cathedral of St Demetrius Megalomartyr and the church of St George, both built in the late 15th century. The town overlooks a lake of the same name.

See the most popular Piana degli Albanesi hotels with TripAdvisor

More reading:

Francesco Cossiga and the battle to keep the Communists out of power

Novelist Leonardo Sciascia exposed the links between Mafia and Sicilian politics

How Francesco Rosi tackled politically sensitive stories with documentary style realism

Also on this day:

1908: The birth of Don Camillo's creator, the novelist Giovanni Guareschi

24 January 2017

Giorgio Chinaglia - footballer

Centre-forward from Carrara became a star on two continents

Giorgio Chinaglia, wearing the blue shirt of Lazio. embroidered with the Scudetto
Giorgio Chinaglia, wearing the blue shirt
of Lazio. embroidered with the Scudetto
The footballer Giorgio Chinaglia, who would start his career in Wales before enjoying stardom in his native Italy and then the United States, was born on this day in 1947 in Carrara in Tuscany.

A powerful centre forward and a prolific goalscorer, Chinaglia scored more than 100 goals for Lazio. His 193 for New York Cosmos made him the all-time leading goalscorer in the North American Soccer League.

Chinaglia left Italy at the age of nine after his father, Mario, decided that his family would enjoy a more prosperous future abroad given the state of Italy's economy in the immediate wake of the Second World War.  Jobs at a Cardiff steelworks were advertised in the employment office in Carrara and Mario successfully applied.  He would eventually leave the steelworks to train as a chef, building on his experience as a cook in the army, and ultimately opened his own restaurant.

The catholic schools Chinaglia attended tended to favour rugby as their principal winter game and his teachers saw in him a potential second-row forward.  But rugby was an alien game to him and he much preferred football.  Ultimately he was picked for Cardiff Schools, for whom he scored a hat-trick in an English Schools Shield match, in doing so earning a trial at Swansea Town.

The Second Division club - now playing in the Premier League as Swansea City - signed him as an apprentice in 1962 but he was criticised for poor timekeeping, for having a casual attitude to training and being more interested in drinking, gambling and women.  He had to wait until 1965 to make his league debut and after just six appearances - and one goal - in a 15-month period, he was released.

Giorgio Chinaglia celebrates a goal for New York Cosmos
Giorgio Chinaglia celebrates a goal for New York Cosmos
National service then compelled Chinaglia to return to Italy.  The experience was perfect for him, enabling him to train hard and develop discipline.

On returning to civilian life, he was barred from playing for a Serie A club for three years because he had been a professional in another country.  But he was able to play for Massese, a Serie C club in the neighbouring town to Carrara, before moving to Naples to play for another Serie C team, Internapoli, for whom he scored 26 goals in 66 games.

Lazio gave him his chance in Serie A and although he was not an elegant player - more a big, bustling centre forward in the classic English style - he was a deadly finisher, scoring 122 goals in 246 appearances for the Rome club.

Nicknamed 'Long John' for his resemblance to John Charles, the Wales striker who had starred for Juventus a generation before, he helped Lazio win the first Scudetto in their history in 1974, when his 24 goals included the title-winning penalty against Foggia.

Giorgio Chinaglia made 14 appearances for  the Azzurri - Italy's national team
Giorgio Chinaglia made 14 appearances for
the Azzurri - Italy's national team
He made 14 appearances in the Italy national team but his international career ended abruptly in 1974 when was substituted in a game against Haiti in the World Cup finals in West Germany and reacted by arguing with head coach Ferruccio Valcareggi and kicking down a dressing-room door.

Subjected to abuse back home, he took the bold decision to quit Italy for America. Married to an American girl he had met in Italy, he had already bought a house in Englewood, New Jersey and in 1976 joined New York Cosmos.

The wealthy NASL franchise had signed up the Brazilian great Pelé the year before and Chinaglia would soon be joined in by former West Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer and other big-name stars such as Carlos Alberto of Brazil and Johan Neeskens of The Netherlands.

But whereas these players were nearing the end of their careers, Chinaglia was a player in his prime.  Coaches and team officials found him difficult, but the Cosmos were NASL champions four times during his seven seasons and he was the league's top scorer on four occasions, including three of the title-winning years. In all competitions, including the indoor league, he scored 262 goals.

Aware of his star quality, Chinaglia would hold court for the media after games in the locker room wearing a brocaded dressing gown.

He became an American citizen in 1979, but was tempted back to Italy in 1983 to become president of Lazio. His temperament was not suited to being a club official, however. and he was banned from football for eight months for threatening a referee.

He died in 2012 in Naples, Florida, having suffered a heart attack.

The mountains above Carrara are famous for the blue-grey marble used for many buildings in Italy and worldwide
The mountains above Carrara are famous for the blue-grey
marble used for many buildings in Italy and worldwide
Travel tip:

Carrara, a small city in Tuscany just inland from the Ligurian Sea coastline, is famous for its blue-grey marble, which is quarried in the mountains nearby and has been used since the time of ancient Rome.  The Pantheon and Trajan's Column were both constructed using Carrara marble, which was also the material used for many Renaissance sculptures.  Carrara is home to many academies of sculpture and fine arts and a museum of statuary and antiquities.  The exterior of the city's own 12th century duomo is almost entirely marble.

Travel tip:

Società Podistica Lazio - Lazio Athletics Club - was founded in January 1900 in the Prati district of Rome, making it the oldest Roman football team currently active. Keen to attract players and supporters from outside the city of Rome, the club took the name of the region, Lazio.  It might have gone out of existence in 1927, when the Fascist government proposed merging all the city's teams into one under the umbrella of AS Roma. However, Giorgio Vaccaro, a general in the Fascist regime and a Lazio fan, defended the club's right to keep its own identity, thereby creating one of Italian football's fiercest rivalries as the two battle each year to be the city's number one club.

More reading:

How Luigi Riva became the darling of Cagliari and Italy's greatest goalscorer

Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci - the golden boy of Italia '90

Gigi Radice - the coach who brought joy back to Torino

Also on this day:

1916: Birth of actor Arnaldo Foà


20 December 2016

Gigliola Cinquetti - singer and TV presenter

Eurovision win at 16 launched successful career

Gigliola Cinquetti was only 16 when she won Eurovision in 1964
Gigliola Cinquetti was only 16
when she won Eurovision in 1964
Gigliola Cinquetti, who was the first Italian to win the Eurovision Song Contest, was born on this day in 1947 in Verona.

She took the prize in Copenhagen in 1964 with Non ho l'età (I'm Not Old Enough), with music composed by Nicola Salerno and lyrics by Mario Panzeri.

Just 16 years old at the time, she scored an overwhelming victory, gaining 49 points from the judges. The next best song among 16 contenders, which was the United Kingdom entry I Love the Little Things, sung by Matt Monro, polled just 17 points.

Non ho l'età became a big hit, selling more than four million copies and even spending 17 weeks in the UK singles chart, where songs in foreign languages did not traditionally do well. It had already won Italy's prestigious Sanremo Music Festival, which served as the qualifying competition for Eurovision at that time.

Italy had finished third on two occasions previously at Eurovision, which had been launched in 1956. Domenico Modugno, singing Nel blu, dipinto di blu (later renamed Volare) was third in 1958, as was Emilio Pericoli in 1963, singing Uno per tutte.

Watch Gigliola Cinquetti's performance at Eurovision 1964

None of the country's entries went so close until Cinquetti herself finished runner-up 10 years later with Sì, which was a creditable effort given that it was the 1974 contest, staged in Brighton, that introduced the world to ABBA, whose song Waterloo went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Abba, the Swedish pop phenomenon whose emergence at  Eurovision in 1974 denied Cinquetti a second win
Abba, the Swedish pop phenomenon whose emergence at
Eurovision in 1974 denied Cinquetti a second win
Encouraged by her success in the UK with No ho l'età, Cinquetti released an English version of Sì, entitled Go (Before You Break My Heart).  The move paid off when the single climbed to No 8 in the UK singles chart.

Sales suffered at home in Italy, however, because of the decision by state broadcaster RAI to ban the song from being played on TV and radio for a month out of fears that it would influence the upcoming referendum on the divorce law.  The electorate were being asked to vote 'sì' or 'no' on whether to repeal legislation passed three years earlier that lifted the ban on divorce and RAI were worried that the repetition of the word 'sì' in the song would subliminally influence the vote.

Cinquetti had been born into a wealthy family in Verona.  After attending art school, she began to study architecture and philosophy at university but her success in 1964 led her to concentrate more and more on her music career, in which she enjoyed considerable success.

She won Sanremo again in 1966, accompanied by Domenico Modugno in a duet, Dio come ti Amo - God how I love you - and had a series of hits in Italy before reinforced her fame outside Italy.

In the 1990s, Cinquetti's career took a different direction.  She co-hosted the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Rome, alongside Toto Cutugno, who had become Italy's second winner in Zagreb the year before, and performed so impressively she was encouraged to pursue an interest she had already expressed in becoming a television presenter.

Gigliola Cinquetti pictured with her husband, the journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori
Gigliola Cinquetti pictured with her husband, the
journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori
She subsequently revealed a talent for TV journalism and presented a number of current affairs programmes for RAI.  She was awarded the Premio Giulietta alla Donna alla Carriera in 2008 in recognition of her diverse career.

More recently, Cinquetti has revived her singing career, embarking on a number of concert tours and recording new material.  One year ago today she released 20:12, her first studio album for 20 years, which included a hit single, Teardrops in an ocean, and a cover of the Rolling Stones 1966 single, Lady Jane.

She has been married since 1979 to the journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori.  They have two children, Costantino and Giovanni.

Travel tip:

Verona's famous Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, stages an annual Opera Festival, which came into being in 1913 when a local tenor, Giovanni Zenatello, suggested to Ottone Rovato, a theatre manager in the city, that the 100th anniversary of the birth of the composer Giuseppe Verdi be commemorated with an open-air performance of Aida within the setting of the Arena.  It was such a popular and successful production that the venue soon became an established fixture on the opera calendar with stars queuing up to appear there.

Terracina's Duomo in Piazza del Municipio
Terracina's Duomo in Piazza del Municipio
Travel tip:

Gigliola Cinquetta says she met the man who would become her husband, Luciano Teodori, on the beach at Terracina, on the Tyrrhenian coast between Rome and Naples.  A pleasant resort town notable for a long sweep of sandy beach, it also has an interesting historic centre notable for an 11th Doumo in Piazza del Municipio, built on the site of a Roman temple to Augustus. The cathedral has a broad 18-step staircase leading to an entrance sheltered by a vestibule supported by columns resting on recumbent lions, and a Gothic-Romanesque campanile featuring small columns that echo the design of the vestibule.

More reading:

How Sanremo helped launch the career of Italian superstar Eros Ramazotti

Sixties star Rita Pavone conquered America

How a girl from an intellectual background in Venice became pop sensation Patty Pravo

Also on this day:

1856: Death of Sicilian patriot Francesco Bentivegna

(Photo of Terracina Duomo by MM via Wikimedia Commons)


22 November 2016

Nevio Scala - footballer and coach

Led Parma to success in golden era of 1990s

Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented
success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala, a European Cup winner with AC Milan as a player and the most successful coach of Parma's golden era in the 1990s, was born on this day in 1947 in Lozzo Atestino, a small town in the Euganean Hills, just south of Padua.

A midfielder who also played for Roma, Vicenza and Internazionale at the top level of Italian football, Scala was never picked for his country but won a Serie A title and a European Cup-Winners' Cup in addition to the European Cup with AC Milan.

But his achievements with Parma as coach arguably exceeded even that, given that they were a small provincial club that had never played in Serie A when Scala was appointed.

He had given notice of his ability by almost taking the tiny Calabrian club Reggina to Serie A in 1989 only a year after winning promotion from Serie C, and needed only one season to take Parma to the top flight for the first time.

With the massive financial backing of Calisto Tanzi, the founder and chairman of the local dairy giants Parmalat, Scala then led Parma into a period of sustained success no one could have predicted.

With a galaxy of top international players at his disposal, including Tomas Brolin, Antonio Benarrivo, Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla, Scala coached his side to play a swashbuckling brand of football that took the established big hitters by surprise.

Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the  Parma team of the 1990s
Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the
Parma team of the 1990s
Between 1991 and 1995, Parma won the Coppa Italia, the European Cup-Winners' Cup, the European Super Cup and the UEFA Cup and the team Scala handed over when he was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in 1996 went on to finish runners-up in Serie A in 1997.

He went on to enjoy more success as a coach, but outside Italy, winning trophies in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, in the Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk and in Russia with Spartak Moscow.

Scala returned to live in his home town of Lozzo Atestino, where he served on the local council and ran unsuccessfully as mayor in 2007.

He moved into football punditry on radio and TV with state broadcaster Rai, making regular appearances on the Sunday evening TV review of the Serie A programme, Domenica Sportiva. 

He was linked with a return to coaching, first at the Scottish club Motherwell and later with AS. Roma.  When he did return to football in 2015 it was as president of Parma, although a very different Parma from the one he coached.

Since he left the Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma has twice been made bankrupt, first in 2004 in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of Calisto Tanzi's Parmalat empire, which saw the business tycoon jailed for fraud and criminal association, and again in 2015, when the relaunched club folded with debts of €218 million.

In July 2015, with the support of pasta makers Barilla, the club made another fresh start as SSD Parma Calcio 1913, taking its name from the year of foundation of the original club and was granted entry to Serie D.

Scala was appointed president and former player Luigi Apolloni as head coach.  The new club sold more than 9,000 season tickets, more than doubling the Serie D record and won promotion at the first attempt into professional football league Lega Pro.

The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
Travel tip:

The Colli Euganei, to give the Euganean Hills their Italian name, was the first regional park to be established in the Veneto when it was mapped out in 1989, enclosing 15 towns, including Lozzo Atestino, and the 81 hills - rising to between 300 and 600m - that make up the area, a volcanic outcrop in an otherwise flat terrain. Lozzo Atestino is situated at the foot of Monte Lozzo.  Of particular interest to visitors is the 13th century Valbona Castle, an imposing fort that now houses a restaurant.

Travel tip:

Despite the damage done to its economy by the Parmalat collapse, one of the biggest financial scandals in Italian history, Parma remains an elegant city with the air of prosperity common to much of Emilia-Romagna, famous for Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and boasting some outstanding architecture, including the 11th century Romanesque cathedral and the octagonal 12th century baptistery that adjoins it.

More reading:

Antonio Conte - former Juventus coach now in charge at Chelsea

The birth of Italy's first football club

The story of Italy's World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi

Also on this day:

1710: The death of composer Bernardo Pasquini

(Picture of Nevio Scala by Anastasiya Fedorenko; Gianfranco Zola by Hilton1949; Valbona Castle by Milazzi; all via Wikimedia Commons)


28 December 2015

Death of Victor Emmanuel III

King loses his life after just 18 months in exile 

Victor Emmanuel III, Italy’s longest reigning King, died on this day in 1947.
Victor Emanuel III was also known as the soldier king
Victor Emmanuel III in full military
regalia, pictured in the 1920s

The previous year he had abdicated his throne in favour of his son, King Umberto II.

Victor Emmanuel III had been hoping this would strengthen support for the monarchy in advance of the referendum asking the country if they wanted to abolish it.

Earlier in his reign he had been popular with the people and respected for his military success, but opinion changed after the Second World War.

Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia was born in Naples in 1869. The only child of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy, he was given the title of Prince of Naples.

He became King of Italy in 1900 after his father was assassinated in Monza.

At the height of his popularity he was nicknamed by the Italians Re soldato (soldier King) and Re vittorioso (victorious King) because of Italy’s success in battle during the First World War. He was also called sciaboletta (little sabre) as he was only five feet (1.53m) tall.

Italy had remained neutral at the start of the First World War but signed treaties to go into the war on the side of France, Britain and Russia in 1915. Victor Emanuel III enjoyed support after he visited areas in the north affected by the fighting and his wife, Queen Elena, was seen helping  the nurses care for the wounded.

But the instability after the First World War led to Mussolini’s rise to power. Victor Emmanuel III was later to claim that it was fear of a civil war that stopped him moving against Mussolini right at the start. But his apparent weakness had dire consequences for the country.

He dismissed Mussolini and had him arrested in 1943. To try to save the monarchy, Victor Emmanuel III transferred powers to his son, Umberto, and formally abdicated in 1946.

Victor Emmanuel III went into exile in Alexandria in Egypt, where he died one and a half years later.

Travel tip:
The National Library in Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Piazza Plebiscito, is one of the most important libraries in Italy with more than two million books, manuscripts and parchments. It is open daily from 8.30 to 7.30 pm, but closed on Sundays.
The Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III is in Piazza Plebiscito
Piazza Plebiscito in Naples, home of the
Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III
Travel tip:
When in Naples, try an authentic Pizza Margherita, named after the mother of Victor Emmanuel III, Queen Margherita. It is claimed that the pizza, with its tomato, basil and mozzarella topping, was created to represent the Italian flag and named after Queen Margherita in 1889 by a Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito.