Showing posts with label 1949. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1949. Show all posts

29 October 2019

Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli – Duke of Morignano

Noble architect is now a prolific writer

Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli became Duke of Morignano in 2003
Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli became
Duke of Morignano in 2003
Carlo Emanuele Maria Ruspoli was born on this day in 1949 in Rome.

He became the third Duke of Morignano in 2003, succeeding his father, Prince Galeazzo Ruspoli.

Carlo had previously graduated as a Doctor of Architecture from the Sapienza University of Rome and he now works as a researcher and writer.

He is a prolific author of works on history and anthropology as well as historical novels, drawing on his own family heritage and his fascination with the East.

The House of Ruspoli is one of the great aristocratic families of Rome and all members hold the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

The family’s origins can be traced back to their ancestor, Marius Scotus, in the eighth century, the Ruspoli family of Florence in the 13th century, and the Marescotti family of Bologna.

A branch of the Ruspoli family moved to Rome in the 17th century. Their last descendant, Vittoria Ruspoli, Marchioness of Cerveteri, married Sforza Marescotti, Count of Vignanello, a descendant of the Farnese family, but to make sure the House of Ruspoli continued, one of Vittoria’s sons, Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, took on the name and coat of arms of the House of Ruspoli.

In 1721 Pope Benedict XIII conferred on Francesco Maria the title of Principe Romano for himself and his descendants ad infinitum.

Emanuele Ruspoli, the great grandfather of Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli
Emanuele Ruspoli, the great grandfather
of Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli
One of Francesco’s descendants, Francesco, the third Prince of Cerveteri, was created Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Francis II in 1792, a title for himself and all his male descendants.

His son, Bartolomeo Ruspoli, was a colonel in the Piedmontese army and fought in the battles leading up to Italian unification. He was paralysed from the waist down after a blast from a hand grenade, but continued to participate in the fighting in a wheelchair pushed by his assistant.

His son, Emanuele Ruspoli, also fought for Italian unification and became a Senator and twice served as Mayor of Rome.

Emanuele’s eldest son by his third marriage was Francesco Alvaro Ruspoli, who was educated at Eton College in England for five years. He became the first Duke of Morignano in 1907. His son, Galeazzo Ruspoli, the second Duke of Morignano, was Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli’s father.

In 1975, Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli married Dona Maria de Gracia de Solis-Beaumont y Tellez-Giron. They had a daughter, Donna Maria de Gracia Giacinta Ruspoli, who married Don Javier Isidro Gonzalez de Gregorio y Molina in 2009. Carlo now has a granddaughter, Donna Maria de Gracia Gonzalez de Gregorio y Ruspoli.

Carlo Emanuele Maria Ruspoli, the third Duke of Morignano, celebrates his 70th birthday today.

An 18th century engraving of the Palazzo Ruspoli by the Italian engraver Giuseppe Vasi
An 18th century engraving of the Palazzo Ruspoli by
the Italian engraver Giuseppe Vasi
Travel tip:

Palazzo Ruspoli in Via del Corso in Rome is still owned by the Ruspoli family today. It is a large Renaissance-style palace, situated where the Corso intersects with Largo Carlo Goldoni and Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina in the Campo Marzio area. It was renovated by the architect Bartolomeo Ammanatti in the 16th century and then by the architect Martino Longhi the Younger in the 17th century. The palace was acquired by the Ruspoli family in 1776 and in the 19th century it sheltered the exiled Napoleon III. The palace’s main feature is its great staircase, which has four flights, each made up of 30 marble steps, and is considered one of the four marvels of Rome.

The modern campus of the Sapienza University of Rome was designed in the 1930s by Marcello Piacentini
The modern campus of the Sapienza University of Rome
was designed in the 1930s by Marcello Piacentini
Travel tip:

The Sapienza University of Rome, where Carlo Emanuele Ruspoli studied architecture, was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII and is now one of the largest universities in Europe. The main campus is in what is now called Piazzale Aldo Moro near Rome’s Termini Railway station. The buildings were designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini in the 1930s. Aldo Moro, who was twice Prime Minister of Italy and was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades in 1978, was professor of the Institutions of Law and Criminal Procedure at the University in the 1960s.

Also on this day:

1922: Mussolini is appointed Prime Minister

1960: The birth of particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti

2003: The death of the 'Prince of Tenors' Franco Corelli


26 January 2018

Valentino Mazzola – footballer

Tragic star may have been Italy’s greatest player

Valentino Mazzola scored more  than 100 goals in Serie A
Valentino Mazzola scored more
than 100 goals in Serie A
The footballer Valentino Mazzola, captain of the mighty Torino team of the 1940s, was born on this day in 1919 in Cassano d’Adda, a town in Lombardy about 30km (19 miles) northeast of Milan.

Mazzola, a multi-talented player who was primarily an attacking midfielder but who was comfortable in any position on the field, led the team known as Il Grande Torino to five Serie A titles in seven seasons between 1942 and 1949.

He scored 109 goals in 231 Serie A appearances for Venezia and Torino and had become the fulcrum of the Italy national team, coached by the legendary double World Cup-winner Vittorio Pozzo.

In just over a decade at the top level of the Italian game he achieved considerable success and some who saw him play believe he was the country’s greatest footballer of all time.

His life was cut short, however, when he and most of the Grande Torino team – and at the same time the Italian national team – were killed when a plane carrying them home from a friendly in Portugal crashed in thick fog on its approach to Turin airport on May 4, 1949.

The Superga Disaster – so-called because the aircraft collided with the rear wall of the Basilica of Superga, which stands on a hill overlooking the city – claimed the lives of 18 players, including all bar one of the Torino first team, as well as the team’s English coach, Leslie Lievesley, and four other officials, plus three journalists and all of the crew. Of the 31 on board, no one survived.

Mazzola in action for the Italian  national team in 1947
Mazzola in action for the Italian
national team in 1947
It was a tragedy of which there were eerie echoes in the Munich Disaster of nine years later, when many members of a talented Manchester United team were killed, including Duncan Edwards, who though much younger had similar qualities to Mazzola and many thought had the potential to become the English game’s greatest player.

Mazzola was il Grande Torino’s leader and inspiration, known for literally rolling up his sleeves when his team were not playing up to the standard he demanded, a habit that came to symbolise his determination and to lift those around him. If a game was not going well, the crowds in Torino’s old Filadelfia stadium would watch for the moment Mazzola gave the cue and would respond with a roar of encouragement for the team.

His character on the football field was a reflection of his life, which had seen him show bravery in the face of adversity in many ways.

Born in a poor neighbourhood, he had to leave school early after his father, a labourer, was laid off as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 began to reverberate across the world, taking a job as a baker’s boy and, at the age of 14, in a linen mill on the Adda river.

He had demonstrated his selfless courage at the age of 10 when he dived into the fast-flowing waters of the Adda to save the life of a six-year-old boy.  By an extraordinary coincidence, the boy who would likely have drowned had Mazzola not come to the rescue was Andrea Bonomi, a future footballer who would go on to captain a title-winning AC Milan team.

Mazzola played for two local teams, Tresoldi and Fara d’Adda, where his talent was noted by an employee of Alfa Romeo, the car manufacturer which had a plant in Arese, on the outskirts of Milan.

Valentino with his son Sandro, who would grow up to be a star like his father
Valentino with his son Sandro, who would
grow up to be a star like his father
Factories at the time in Italy regarded a successful football team as good for prestige and Alfa Romeo were particularly proud of theirs, which played at a semi-professional level in Serie C, the third tier of the Italian league system.  Companies were keen to find good players and the reports they heard about this boy from Cassano d’Adda prompted Alfa Romeo to offer him training as a mechanic if he would play for their team.

For the Mazzola family, the timing could not have been better. His father, sadly, had been killed when he was hit by a truck and this offer of a job enabled Valentino to become a breadwinner. 

His career evolved despite the outbreak of war in 1939.  Conscripted to the Royal Italian Navy, he was based in Venice and was soon invited to play for Venezia, making his Serie A debut in 1940 at the age of 21.

He moved to Torino after Venezia won the Coppa Italia in 1941 and finished third in Serie A in 1942, just a point behind the Turin team, who paid 200,000 lire for his services.  In Turin he worked for FIAT at their Lingotto plant. 

Mazzola won his first scudetto in 1943, his second in 1945 and then three in a row from 1947 to 1949, by margins of 13 points, 10 points and a record 16 points. The names of Eusebio Castigliano, Mario Rigamonti, Rubens Fadini, Romeo Menti, Ezio Loik, Gugliemo Gabetto and Franco Ossola as well as Mazzola became the talk of Italy, giving hope to the national team too.

The wreckage of the plane in which Mazzola and  his Grande Torino teammates perished
The wreckage of the plane in which Mazzola and
his Grande Torino teammates perished
In the desperate poverty of the immediate post-war years, life in Italy was grim but when the Italian national team beat Hungary 3-2 in a friendly in 1947, with 10 of the 11 Azzurri players coming from Torino, it gave the country a considerable fillip. Mazzola won 12 caps, although it would have been more but for the Second World War, which also denied him the chance to participate in a World Cup.

Away from football, Mazzola was a quiet person who valued his privacy.  In Turin in 1942, he married Emilia Rinaldi, moved into an apartment on Via Torricelli and they had two sons, Ferruccio and Sandro. The latter would grow up to play for Internazionale of Milan and become even more decorated than his father, winning the scudetto four times and the European Cup twice, as well as winning a European championship winners’ medal with Italy in 1968 and playing in the World Cup final in 1970.

He and Rinaldi separated in 1946 and he married for a second time in April 1949 to 19-year-old Giuseppina Cutrone, only to be killed just 10 days later.  He is buried in the Monumental Cemetery in Milan.

The Borromeo Castle by the Adda at Cassano d'Adda
The Borromeo Castle by the Adda at Cassano d'Adda
Travel tip:

Cassano d’Adda sits on the eastern bank of the Adda, the river that has shaped its history in may ways. The town developed as a result of the crossing there, which gave it a strategic importance that led it to be the site of several battles over the centuries, from Roman times to the French Revolutionary Wars of the 18th century. It is notable for the Borromeo Castle, built in around 1000 and significantly expanded by Francesco I Sforza in the 15th century. At different times it has been owned by the Venetians, the Spanish and the Austrians as well as by different Italian families.  Connected by canals with Milan and Lodi, Cassano d’Adda grew prosperous in the 19th century through linen manufacture using watermills.

The Basilica di Superga, near Turin
The Basilica di Superga, near Turin
Travel tip:

The Superga tragedy is commemorated with a simple memorial at the site of the crash, at the back of the magnificent 18th century Basilica di Superga.  Mounted on a wall, the damaged parts of which were never restored, is a large picture of the Grande Torino team, with a memorial stone that lists all the names of the 31 victims of the disaster, under the heading I Campioni d’Italia.  The basilica, which sits at an altitude of some 425m (1,395ft) above sea level and often sits serenely in sunlight while mist shrouds the city below, can be reached by a steep railway line, the journey taking about 20 minutes.

26 November 2017

Letizia Moratti – politician and businesswoman

First woman to be Mayor of Milan and head of RAI

Letizia Moratti was a government minister and the first female Mayor of Milan
Letizia Moratti was a government minister
and the first female Mayor of Milan
Letizia Moratti, one of Europe’s best-known businesswomen and a successful politician, was born on this day in 1949 in Milan.

Married to the oil magnate Gianmarco Moratti, she was chair of the state television network RAI between 1994 and 1996, a minister in former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s second and third administrations and Mayor of Milan between 2006 and 2011.

Born Letizia Maria Brichetto Arnaboldi, her antecedents are the Brichetto family from Genoa, who founded the first insurance brokerage company in Italy, and the noble Arnaboldi family from Milan.  Her grandmother, Mimona Brichetto Arnaboldi, was a society hostess in the 1930s and an outspoken opponent of Fascism.

Letizia attended a private school in Milan and had classical dance classes at the Carla Strauss Academy in the Brera district.  She attended the University of Milan and graduated in political science.

At around the same time, she met Gianmarco Moratti, an oil contractor whose brother, Massimo, a petrochemicals tycoon, is the former chairman of Internazionale.

With funding from the Moratti family, Letizia launched her first business at the age of 25 when she founded GPA, an insurance brokerage which eventually became a subsidiary of the Moratti Group.  In 1990 she joined the board of the Italian Commercial Bank.

Moratti with the president Giorgio Napolitano on the occasion she was honoured by the state
Moratti with the president Giorgio Napolitano on
the occasion she was honoured by the state
It was during Silvio Berlusconi’s first administration, in 1994, that she became the first woman to be chair of RAI. During her two years in the role, she supervised radical internal reorganization turned losses into a significant profit.

Moratti joined Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and served as Minister for Education, Universities and Scientific Research from 2001 to 2006, during which time she introduced reforms in the Italian schools system and in university teaching.

After leaving national government she stood for mayor of her home city in 2006 and won with a 52 per cent share of the vote, which opened the way for her follow her own ideals, particularly in terms of the environment.

The first woman to be elected mayor of the city, she introduced measures to encourage Milanese citizens to ride bicycles, increasing the number of secure places to leave bicycles and making available 5,000 bicycles to rent, and to discourage the use of cars by introducing a congestion charge based on emissions.

During her period in office, she also made a successful bid to have Milan host Expo 2015.

Moratti has been a fervent campaigner against drug abuse
Moratti has been a fervent campaigner
against drug abuse
Moratti failed to win a second term, losing to a left-wing candidate who, ironically, was supported by her brother-in-law, Massimo, who could never quite reconcile his support for his sister-in-law with his opposition to Berlusconi, owner of Inter’s city rivals, AC Milan.

Away from politics, Moratti has been a fervent anti-drugs campaigner. Since 1996 she has been a member of the steering committee of Rainbow - the International Association Against Drugs – and in March 2000 she was appointed Civic Ambassador of the United Nations against Drugs and Crime.

She is the founder of the San Patrignano Foundation, which aims to help drug users find a different path.

Since February 2012, Moratti has been developing microcredit projects aimed at helping disadvantaged people who do not qualify for traditional bank loans.

In January 2014 she was awarded the honour of Grande Ufficiale al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.

She has two children, Gabriele and Gilda, and is currently chair of the management board of UBI Banca.

A typical narrow street in the trendy Brera district of Milan
A typical narrow street in the trendy Brera
district of Milan
Travel tip:

The Brera district of Milan is so named because in around the ninth century, for military purposes, it was turned into a ‘brayda’ – a Lombardic word meaning ‘an area cleared of trees’.  Today, it is one of Milan’s most fashionable neighbourhoods, its narrow streets lined with trendy bars and restaurants, and has been home to artists and writers traditionally, giving it a Bohemian feel that has brought comparisons with Montmartre in Paris.  The Brera is home to the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and the Brera Art Gallery.

Bicycles to rent are a feature of Milan today
Bicycles to rent are a feature of Milan today
Travel tip:

Visitors to Milan by car should note that access to the centre of the city is subject, like London and other major cities, to a congestion charge, introduced during Letizia Moratti’s time as mayor.  The area covers about 8.2 square kilometres and is controlled by entry gates with cameras.  Charges vary for residents and non-residents and the vehicle’s pollution rating. Whereas hybrid and electric cars have benefitted from exemptions, some diesel vehicles are banned.  There are a number of out-of-town car parks with transport access to the centre, where many visitors take advantage of the bicycle rental scheme, also introduced by Letizia Moratti.

10 May 2016

Miuccia Prada – fashion designer

Talented businesswoman studied politics and mime

Photo of Muccia Prada
Miuccia Prada Bianchi
Miuccia Prada, the businesswoman behind the fashion label Prada, was born Maria Bianchi on this day in 1949 in Milan.

The youngest granddaughter of the fashion firm’s founder, Mario Prada, she took over the family business in 1978 having previously been a mime student and a member of the Italian Communist Party.

Since then the company, which is famous for its luxury goods, has gone from strength to strength and taken over other labels. Prada has been listed as the 75th most powerful woman in the world, worth an estimated $11 billion.

After graduating with a PhD in political science from the University of Milan, Maria Bianchi trained at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano in mime and was a performer for five years.

As a member of the Italian Communist party she became involved in the women’s rights movement.

She took the name Miuccia Prada in the 1980s, making her first impact on the fashion world with an unusual handbag design in 1985, which was followed by her first women’s ready-to-wear collection.

The Miu Miu line was introduced in 1992 as a less expensive womenswear line and was inspired by Prada’s own personal wardrobe and given her own nickname, Miu Miu.

She is now joint Chief Executive Officer of Prada with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, who is responsible for the commercial side.

Photo of Prada Store in Milan
Prada's Milan store in the
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Travel tip:

The main Prada store in Milan is in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II just off Piazza del Duomo. The elegant, glass-roofed Galleria, which is lined with smart cafes and shops, was built in 1865 to connect Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala and was opened in 1867 by the King, Vittorio Emanuele II.

Travel tip:

The Piccolo Teatro in Milan , where Miuccia Prada trained in mime, was founded in 1947 in Via Rivoli in north west Milan by theatre impresario Paolo Grassi and director Giorgio Strehler. The first public theatre in Italy, it aimed to be an arts theatre for everyone and continues to stage quality productions for the broadest possible audience to this day.

More reading on fashion:


20 April 2016

Massimo D’Alema – former prime minister

Journalist and politician first Communist to lead Italy

Massimo D'Alema was the first Communist Party member to be Prime Minister of Italy
Massimo D'Alema

Massimo D’Alema, who was prime minister of Italy from 1998 to 2000, was born on this day in 1949 in Rome.

He was the first prime minister in the history of Italy, and the first leader of any of the NATO countries, to have been a Communist Party member.

After studying Philosophy at the University of Pisa, D’Alema became a journalist by profession. He joined the Italian Young Communists’ Federation in 1963, becoming its general secretary in 1975.
D’Alema became a member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), part of which, in 1991, gave origin to the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), and, in 1998, to the Democrats of the Left (DS).

D’Alema has also served as the chief editor of the daily newspaper, L’Unità, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.

In October 1998, D’Alema became prime minister of Italy, as the leader of the Olive Tree centre left coalition.

While his party was making the transition to becoming the Democratic Party of the Left, D’Alema stressed the importance of the party’s roots in Marxism with the aim of creating a modern, European, social-democratic party.

He was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs by Prime Minister Romano Prodi in 2006 and subsequently became president of a political foundation for Italian Europeans and president of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.

Travel tip:

Palazzo Chigi, the official residence in Rome of the Prime Minister of Italy, was occupied by D’Alema between 1998 and 2000. It is a 16th century palace in Piazza Colonna, just off Via del Corso and close to the Pantheon.

The Duomo and Leaning Tower in Pisa's Piazza dei Miracoli
Travel tip:

Massimo D’Alema is one of several Italian prime ministers to have attended the University of Pisa. Situated in Lungarno Pacinotti in the centre of Pisa, close to the Duomo and the famous Leaning Tower, the university was founded in 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI and is the tenth oldest in Italy.

More reading:

Alcide de Gasperi - Prime Minister who rebuilt war-torn Italy

The tragedy of Aldo Moro


(Massimo D'Alema photo by WeEnterWinter CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Pisa photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro CC BY-SA 3.0)

21 January 2016

Gennaro Contaldo – Chef

TV cook is passionate about Amalfi’s speciality dishes

Celebrity chef Gennaro Contaldo was born on this day in 1949 in Minori in Campania.

Gennaro Contaldo inspired Jamie Oliver's interest in Italian food
Gennaro Contaldo
Contaldo has made many appearances on British television alongside chefs such as Antonio Carluccio, Jamie Oliver and James Martin and he has also brought out several cook books.

It is well documented that he is the man responsible for inspiring Jamie Oliver’s interest in Italian food.

Contaldo grew up in the small seaside town of Minori near Amalfi and is a passionate advocate of the style of cooking in the area, cucina amalfitana.

From an early age he was interested in dishes cooked with local produce, going out to collect wild herbs for his mother, and he began helping out in local restaurants at the age of eight.

Contaldo moved to Britain in the late 1960s and travelled around the country working in village restaurants and studying the food growing wild in each area, such as herbs and mushrooms.

He eventually went to London and worked in several restaurants, including Antonio Carluccio’s establishment in Neal Street .

Contaldo opened his own restaurant in London, Passione, which won a Best Restaurant award, but he closed it after a few years when business began to decline.

His first cook book, Passione, dedicated to cucina amalfitana, won an award in 2003.

He mentored Jamie Oliver when they first met and has appeared on many of Oliver’s television shows, also helping him develop the menus for his chain of Italian restaurants in the UK .

Contaldo toured the regions of Italy with Antonio Carluccio for the BBC series, Two Greedy Italians. They then made a second series Two Greedy Italians: Still Hungry.

Contaldo now lives in London with his partner and their twin daughters.

Travel tip:

Minori is a pretty seaside resort on the Amalfi coast in the province of Salerno, with a good beach and plenty of hotels and restaurants. The ruins of a first century Roman villa were discovered there during the 1950s, showing that Minori had been considered a good holiday location more than 2000 years ago.

The Cathedral of St Andrew is Amalfi's architectural pride
The Cathedral of St Andrew
is Amalfi's architectural pride

Travel tip:

The quaint town of Amalfi was once a maritime power but now the boats just bring visitors to look round the narrow streets and enjoy the restaurants and shops. The town’s great architectural treasure, the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, which dates back to the ninth century, is up a flight of steps from the main square. Amalfi used to be a centre for the production of paper. Most of the paper mills have now closed but you can still buy beautiful stationery produced by one local business.