Showing posts with label 1951. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1951. Show all posts

19 June 2019

Francesco Moser - Giro d’Italia winner

Only two riders have won more road races

Francesco Moser was one of the greatest  road racers of his or any era
Francesco Moser was one of the greatest
road racers of his or any era
The cycling champion Francesco Moser, winner of the 1984 Giro d’Italia and the 1977 World road racing championship among 273 road victories in his career, was born on this day in 1951 in Palù di Giovo, a village about 10km (6 miles) north of Trento in northern Italy.

Only the great Belgians Eddy Merckx (525) and Rik Van Looy (379) won more road races than Moser, who was at his peak during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  One of his proudest achievements was to break Merckx’s record for the greatest distance covered in one hour.

He became renowned as a specialist in the so-called Monuments, the five road races among what are generally termed the Classics considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in cycling.

Of those events, Moser won the Paris-Roubaix three times, the Giro di Lombardia twice and the Milan-San Remo once.

Moser attributed his cycling prowess to growing up on the family farm in Val di Cembra, working in steep-sided vineyards in an era when most of the work was carried out by hand, rather than machinery.  Family members used bicycles to move around the estate, where he worked for four years between leaving school at 14 and beginning to focus on his cycling career at 18.

Moser competed for Italy at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich
Moser competed for Italy at the 1972
Olympic Games in Munich
He continued to help out on the farm for a couple of years after that, and attributes his physical strength to hours of manual labour.  In an age when nutritional supplements were not the norm, he felt his Mediterranean diet also gave him an advantage.

Before turning professional, Moser competed in the individual road race and team time trial events at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.  He had won the Girobio - the amateur Giro d'Italia - in 1971.

He was the most gifted and driven of four cycling Moser brothers, the others being Aldo, Enzo and Diego. His achievements clearly encouraged others in the family: a nephew, Moreno Moser, is a professional racer, and Francesco's son Ignazio Moser enjoyed success at the junior and amateur levels before retiring at the age of 22

Despite his success in the Giro d’Italia, in which he and his great rival Giuseppe Saronni broke the hold of the Belgians and French on the event, Moser always put the Classics ahead of the Grand Tours, considering his qualities were better suited to one-day races rather than the endurance events.

Of those the Paris-Roubaix was his favourite.  After finishing second in 1974 behind Roger De Vlaeminck and in 1976 behind Marc Demeyer of Belgium, Moser finally won the event three consecutive times. Only De Vlaeminck, with nine, had more podium finishes than Moser’s seven podium finishes in Paris–Roubaix; only De Vlaeminck, with nine, has more.

Moser pictured at the Giro d'Italia in 2011, after his retirement
Moser pictured at the Giro d'Italia in
2011, after his retirement
The 1974 season had been his first as a professional.  After he won Paris-Tours, the Tours of Emilia, Tuscany and Piedmont, as well as being second in Paris-Roubaix and seventh in the Giro d'Italia and the World Championships, it was clearly he was going to be a force.

After his two second places, in 1978 he beat De Vlaeminck and Jan Raas of the Netherlands; in 1979, De Vlaeminck and Hennie Kuiper of the Netherlands; and in 1980, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle of France and the German, Dietrich Thurau.

Moser came in third in 1981 behind Bernard Hinault and Roger De Vlaeminck, and was also third in 1983 behind Hennie Kuiper and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. He rode Paris–Roubaix in his final season as a cyclist in 1987.

His other Monument victories came in 1975 and 1978 in the Giro di Lombardia, and in the 1984 Milan–San Remo.

Moser won the 1977 world road racing championship in San Cristobal, Venezuela. He was also the silver medallist in 1976, behind Freddy Maertens of Belgium, and second in 1978 to Gerrie Knetemann of the Netherlands.

Despite his preference, Moser had some success in the three-week grand tours.

He rode the Tour de France in 1975, and although he won two stages, led the race for seven days and won the young rider competition, he never rode the Tour again, claiming the mountains did not suit him. He was never seen as a good climber.

One of the aerodynamic bikes produced by Moser at his factory in Trento. He broke the hour record on one similar
One of the aerodynamic bikes produced by Moser at his
factory in Trento. He broke the hour record on one similar 
It was against the odds, therefore, that he won the 1984 Giro d'Italia, coming home ahead of Laurent Fignon of France and Moreno Argentin of Italy. On an unusually flat course, Moser used time-trialing ability to overcome the setbacks he suffered in the mountain stages. He also won the points classification in the Giro in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1982.

He said in an interview in 2015 he said that his team were always focused on the Giro ahead of the Tour de France and it was difficult to ride both in the same year.

Among Moser’s other Classic wins were the 1974 Paris–Tours, the 1977 Züri-Metzgete, the 1979 Gent–Wevelgem, and the 1977 Flèche Wallonne.

It was on January 19, 1984, in Mexico City, that Moser broke the 1972 hour record of Eddy Merckx, at the age of 32.

He rode 50.808km (31.57 miles) on an aerodynamic bike with full disc wheels more advanced than the conventional bike Merckx used in 1972. Later, in 1997, the Union Cycliste Internationale banned hour records set on bikes featuring technological advantages. Under these new rules, Merckx's record stood until 2000.

In retirement, Moser started a bike company, Moser Cicli, in a workshop in Trento, and was appointed the first chairman of the CPA (Cyclistes Professionels Associés), a union for professional riders. He held the position from 1999 until 2007.

Moser also continued his father's winery with his children Francesca, Carlo and Ignazio on the family estate, Maso Villa Warth, experimenting with new grape varieties. A passionate hunter, he hosted a television series A Caccia con Moser - Hunting with Moser.

The Piazza del Duomo in Trento, the city considered one of the most attractive places to live in Italy
The Piazza del Duomo in Trento, the city considered one
of the most attractive places to live in Italy
Travel tip:

The cosmopolitan city of Trento is considered to be one of the most desirable places to live in Italy on the basis of job opportunities and quality of life. With a population of 117,000, it is situated in an Alpine valley on the Adige river between the northern tip of Lake Garda and the border city of Bolzano, about 115km (71 miles) north of Verona. Settled by the Romans in the first century, it changed hands many times before becoming a major city in the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrians took charge in the 14th century and it remained under their control, with the exception of a spell of French domination in the Napoleonic era until the First World War.  It is notable in the 16th century for hosting the Council of Trent, the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that gave rise to the resurgence of the church following Protestant Reformation.

The Church of Santa Maria Assunta di Giovo, with its 50m (262yds) tall bell tower
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta di Giovo, with its
50m (262yds) tall bell tower
Travel tip:

The Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Verla di Giovo, site of the parish church of Giovo, was built in the years 1766 to 1774, designed by the Como architect Caminada, Built in late Baroque style, it has a solemn facade, punctuated by pilasters and stucco cornices . On the southern side rises the bell tower, also eighteenth century, 50m (262 yards) tall and dominated by a characteristic pear-shaped dome.  The high altar is the work of Domenico Sartori, as are the statues of San't Antonio Abate and San Sebastiano placed on the same altar.

Also on this day:

1918: The death of flying ace Francesco Baracca

1932: The birth of Hollywood actress Pier Angeli

1932: The birth of Pier Angeli's twin, Marisa Pavan


20 April 2017

Ivanoe Bonomi – statesman

Liberal socialist was a major figure in transition to peace in 1945

Ivanoe Bonomi was prime minister of Italy on two occasions
Ivanoe Bonomi was prime minister
of Italy on two occasions
The anti-Fascist politician Ivanoe Bonomi, who served as prime minister of Italy both before and after the dictator Benito Mussolini was in power, died on this day in 1951.

He was 77 but still involved with Italian political life as the first president of the Senate in the new republic, an office he had held since 1948.

Bonomi had briefly been head of a coalition government in 1921, during which time he was a member of one of Italy’s socialist parties, but his major influence as an Italian statesman came during Italy’s transition to peace after the Second World War.

Having stepped away from politics in 1922 following Mussolini’s March on Rome, he resurfaced almost two decades later when he became a leading figure in an anti-Fascist movement in 1942.  He founded a clandestine anti-Fascist newspaper and became a member of an elite committee who would meet in the Seminario Romano, which was owned by the Vatican and therefore considered neutral territory.

Bonomi was one of a number of political figures who urged the King, Victor Emmanuel III, to abandon Italy’s alliance with Germany and remove Mussolini from office.  After Mussolini was arrested in 1943, and by then a member of the Liberal Party, Bonomi became part of the new government led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, chairing the National Liberation Committee.

He was appointed prime minister for a second time, in succession to Badoglio, in 1944, because he was seen as a moderate and had the approval of the Allies.

King Victor Emmanuel III
King Victor Emmanuel III
His premiership lasted one year, ending when he tended his resignation in June 1945 after the liberation of northern Italy from the Germans, two months after Mussolini, who had been freed from house arrest in the Gran Sasso raid, was executed by Italian partisans.

Bonomi remained a key figure on the path to peace, however, as one of three Italian negotiators at the talks that led to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.  

Born in Mantua in 1873, Bonomi obtained degrees in natural sciences and law and after a short period in teaching he turned to journalism, writing for the socialist newspaper Avanti and other left-leaning publications.

He joined the Italian Socialist Party and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1909, representing Mantua, yet he was expelled from the party in 1912, partly because he was an advocate of reform and moderation, but mainly because of his support for the Italian invasion of Libya, which he hoped would create new economic opportunities for Italians and stem the migration to North America and other European nations.

Bonomi then joined the Italian Reformist Socialist Party, and supported Italy's participation in the First World War on the side of the Triple Entente.  He volunteered for the army.

He entered government as minister of public works from 1916 until 1917 under the Liberal prime minister Paolo Boselli and was minister of war in the government led by the Radical Party's Francesco Nitti and the Liberal Giovanni Giolitti from 1920 until 1921, helping to negotiate a treaty with Yugoslavia via the Treaty of Rapallo.

Bonomi's moderate views made him an acceptable post-War prime minister
Bonomi's moderate views made him an
acceptable post-War prime minister
After becoming treasury minister under Giolitti, he became prime minister of Italy for the first time – the first socialist to hold the post – in a coalition government, although the grouping collapsed after seven months and he was replaced Luigi Facta, another Liberal and the last prime minister before the Fascist insurgency seized power.

Unable to prevent the rise of Fascism and amid an atmosphere in which opponents of Mussolini were subjected to intimidation and sometimes violent attacks, Bonomi chose to withdraw from public life and concentrate on historical studies.

He attracted criticism for appearing to be a weak figure at the time but risked his own safety by joining forces with other opponents of Fascism during the war, narrowly escaping arrest when a Fascist military unit raided the Seminario Romano, in violation of Germany’s purported respect for the sovereignty of the Holy See.  Bonomi was among 110 anti-Fascists who were inside the seminary. Most escaped, although 18 were captured.

The Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza delle Erbe in Mantua
The Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza delle Erbe in Mantua
Travel tip:

Mantua has been made effectively safe ever from being spoilt by progress by the three artificial lakes created almost 1,000 years ago that form a giant defensive moat around the Lombardy city. It means that little has changed about Mantua in centuries, its dimensions and its population remaining almost constant. Italians refer to it as La Bella Addormentata – the Sleeping Beauty. It’s architecture is the legacy of the Gonzaga family, who ruled the city for 400 years and built the Palazzo Ducale – Ducal Palace – which is not so much a palace as a small town, comprising a castle, a basilica, several courtyards, galleries and gardens. At the centre of the town, life revolves around Piazza delle Erbe, an old marketplace with arched porticoes, fashion shops and lively bars, and Piazza Sordello, with grand palaces and a white marble Baroque cathedral.

The Seminario Romano provided shelter for anti-Fascists
The Seminario Romano provided shelter for anti-Fascists
Travel tip:

The creation of a seminary in Rome for the education of priests was promoted by Pope Pius IV and Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, his nephew. The Seminario Romano, in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, was housed in several buildings until 1607, when it was moved to a palace belonging to the Gabrielli family. In 1824 Pope Leo XII assigned the building to the reconstituted Jesuit Order and it is now a residence for Jesuit priests and brothers studying for advanced academic degrees.

More reading:

How Mussolini had his own son-in-law executed

The Fascist thugs who murdered socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti

Alcide de Gasperi - the prime minister who rebuilt Italy

Also on this day:

1949: The birth of politician Massimo d'Alema, Italy's first communist prime minister

4 April 2017

Francesco De Gregori - singer-songwriter

Performer inspired by songs of hero Bob Dylan

Francesco de Gregori on stage in 2008
Francesco de Gregori on stage in 2008
The singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori - popularly known as "Il Principe dei cantautori" (the prince of the singer-songwriters) – was born on this day in 1951.

Born in Rome, De Gregori has released around 40 albums in a career spanning 45 years, selling more than five million records.

Famous for the elegant and often poetic nature of his lyrics, De Gregori was once described by Bob Dylan as an “Italian folk hero”.

De Gregori acknowledges Dylan as one if his biggest inspirations and influences, along with Leonard Cohen and the Italian singer Fabrizio de André.  Covers of Dylan songs have regularly featured in his stage performances. He made an album in 2015 entitled Love and Theft: De Gregori Sings Bob Dylan.

Born into a middle class family – his father was a librarian, his mother a teacher - De Gregori spent his youth living in Rome or on the Adriatic coast at Pescara. He began to develop his musical career at the Folkstudio in Rome’s Trastevere district, where Dylan had performed in 1962.

De Gregori (left) and Lucio Dalla in Genoa in 2010
De Gregori (left) and Lucio Dalla in Genoa in 2010
He became friends with fellow singer-songwriters Antonello Venditti, Mimmo Locasciulli and Giorgio Lo Cascio. It was alongside Venditti that he made his professional debut and the two collaborated on an album, Theorius Campus, in 1972. Venditti had more songs and was considered to have a better voice and when their record label indicated that they were more interested in Venditti, the partnership broke up.

De Gregori's 1973 solo debut album, Alice Non Lo Sa, did not impress the critics, who were not enthused either by his 1974 follow-up. But with his 1975 album, Rimmel, he began to enjoy some success. Reviewers liked his reflective and intelligent lyrics – less obscure than some of his earlier songs – and the album benefitted from some input from Lucio Dalla, with whom he struck a lasting friendship.

In 1976 he had another success with Bufalo Bill but an incident in Milan during a tour the following year led to him abruptly quitting the music business.

Bob Dylan in 2010
Bob Dylan in 2010
De Gregori had been a member of the Italian Communist Party and his songs often had a political theme, as did those of many Italian performers at that time, but while he was on stage at the PalaLido arena in Milan he was targeted by a group of left-wing extremists who began a protest during the show, accusing him of using left-wing messages merely to sell his records.  Fearing physical attack, he left the stage and the concert was abandoned, after which he announced that his career was over.

For the next few months he worked as a clerk in a book and music shop but was persuaded to resume his career the following year. A new album, De Gregori, included a song, "Generale," that would become one of his signature tracks. Soon afterwards, he joined Dalla on a successful tour entitled Banana Republic.  The two would later host a music show on the Rai television network, entitled Due.

Ironically, the title track of his next album, Viva l’Italia, was adopted as an anthem by the Italian Socialist Party.  In 1982 he recorded Titanic, the album many critics consider his tour de force, and since then, after a period working as a journalist for the newspaper L’Unità, De Gregori has recorded albums at a rate of one every year. His latest, Sotto il Vulcano, was released in February this year.

Married to Alessandra, whom he met at high school, De Gregori has two sons, Marco and Federico.  His nickname – Il Principe – was given to him by a journalist and apparently related to his sometimes haughty manner when dealing with the press.

Via Garibaldi in Trastevere
Via Garibaldi in Trastevere
Travel tip:

The Folkstudio club opened in 1961 in a cellar in Via Garibaldi in the Trastevere area of Rome. Its founder was an American painter and musician, Harold Bradley Jr, who invited a then little known Bob Dylan to play there soon after it opened. The club, which at first promoted jazz and blues musicians, eventually hosted performers of many different styles and helped launch the careers of many Italian artists. Bradley moved back to the United States in 1967 but music lover Giancarlo Cesaroni took over. The club’s premises moved subsequently to the library L'Uscita, in Via dei Banchi Vecchi, then to Via Sacchi and later Via Frangipane, near the Colosseum.  A plaque on the wall in Via Garibaldi marks its original home.

Prati is an affluent Roman neighbourhood
Prati is an affluent Roman neighbourhood
Travel tip:

De Gregori was raised in the Prati district of Rome, close to the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica, which is now an affluent residential neighbourhood which is popular with tourists for offering a relatively quiet place to stay that still provides easy access to the city’s historical centre. It has many authentic Roman trattorie as well as a host of bars and pubs.

More reading:

The enduring talents of Antonello Venditti

How pop singer Lucio Dalla found inspiration in opera great Enrico Caruso

The story of Adelmo Fornaciari - otherwise known as Zucchero

Also on this day:

1752: The birth of composer Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli

(Picture credits: De Gregori and Dalla by Gianky; Bob Dylan by Alberto Cabello; Via Garibaldi by Mark Ahsmann; Prati street by Lalupa; all via Wikimedia Commons)


20 October 2016

Claudio Ranieri - football manager

Title-winning Leicester City boss is 65 today

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri
Football manager Claudio Ranieri was born on this day in 1951 in Rome.

Ranieri, who won the English Premier League last season with rank outsiders Leicester City, has managed 14 clubs in four countries in a 30-year career in coaching.  He also had a stint in charge of the Greece national team.

Among the teams he has coached are a host of big names - Internazionale, Juventus, Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina in Italy, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in Spain, Monaco in France and Chelsea in England.

He has won titles in lower divisions as well as Italy's Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey in Spain but until Leicester defied pre-season odds of 5,000-1 to win the Premier League, a major league championship had eluded him.  He had finished second three times, with Chelsea, Roma and Monaco.

Before turning to coaching, Ranieri was a player for 14 seasons. He began in Serie A with home-town club Roma, but enjoyed more success in the lower divisions, enjoying promotion twice with the Calabrian club Catanzaro, where he spent the biggest part of his career, and once each with the Sicilian teams Catania and Palermo.

Ranieri was born in the San Saba district of Rome, not far from the ancient Baths of Caracalla and Circus Maximus in an area teeming with Roman ruins.  His father, Mario, was a butcher in neighbouring Testaccio, one of Rome's traditional working class neighbourhoods. His mother, Renata, now 96, still lives in Rome and Claudio regularly flies home to see her.

Where Testaccio, now increasingly popular with Rome's young professionals, was designed and built with blue collar workers in mind, San Saba is more middle-class historically, an area of houses rather than apartment buildings, with more urban green spaces such as the Piazza Gian Lorenzo Bernini, where Claudio and his friends would play football.

Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's
prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Ranieri's early life was spent largely confined to these two neighbourhoods and nearby Aventine Hill, which affords panoramic views of the city.

A Roma fan for as long as he can remember, Ranieri dreamed of playing for the giallorossi and after being spotted by a scout he realised his ambition. He was taken on for a trial, given a contract and made his debut in November 1973 as a defender.  He was unfazed by playing in front of 80,000 fans and continuing to help out in the family business on his day off kept him grounded.

Sadly, the dream did not turn into a place in Roma folklore, as the young Ranieri might have hoped.  By the following summer, having made just six appearances, it was clear he was not going to be in the team on a regular basis and he moved to the deep south of Italy to Catanzaro, in the part of Calabria that sits in the arch of the boot on the map of Italy, to play in Serie B.

It was a world away from the frenzied pace of Roman life and Ranieri felt a little like an alien but the eight years he spent there shaped his life in many ways.

Catanzaro's team included many outsiders and they formed a bond of friendship that remains strong to this day. Indeed, until recently, the team's goalkeeper, Giorgio Pellizzaro, was Ranieri's specialist goalkeeping coach.

They became a good team on the field, too, winning promotion to Serie A twice in his time there, the second time staying for five years.

Off the field, it was while playing for Catanzaro that Ranieri met his wife, Rosanna, the daughter of a football journalist.  The couple had a daughter, Claudia and bought a villa at nearby Copanello, overlooking the Ionian Sea, where they still spend their summers. Ranieri also has a house at Formello, a town about 30km north of Rome in the Monti Sabatini area of Lazio.

Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor Alessandro Roja
Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor
Alessandro Roja
Claudia is now married to the Roman actor, Alessandro Roja, who starred in the drama series Romanzo Criminale, set in the Rome underworld in the 1970s.  Rosanna runs two antiques shops in Rome.

Ranieri's character, well-mannered, good humoured, calm under pressure, is said by some to be more typically Calabrian than Roman but, as the Italian writer Gabriele Marcotti explains in an excellent biography - Hail, Claudio! - to be published next month, there is a steel behind the charm.

An example came when he had left Catanzaro for Catania, where he was made captain.  When the manager, the former Catanzaro player Gianni di Marzio, was sacked after Catania, newly promoted, had made a poor start in Serie A, Ranieri was so furious he stormed into the office of the club president to make his feelings known, and repeated them in a television interview soon afterwards.

He was sure he would be sacked as well for speaking his mind and effectively humiliating the president, an autocratic millionaire not known for his patience. Instead, after recovering from the shock, the president decided that if Ranieri was man enough to stand up to him in that way he was too good an asset to lose.

UPDATE: Since leaving Leicester City in 2017, Ranieri has increased the number of coaching positions he has held to 21. As of his 72nd birthday on October 20, 2023, he was in charge of Serie A club Cagliari for the second time in his career.

The original structure of the Basilica of Santa Sabina dates back to the fifth century
The original structure of the Basilica of Santa
Sabina dates back to the fifth century
Travel tip:

The Aventine Hill, which Ranieri knew well as a boy, has many attractions, apart from the ruins of the Roman chariot racing stadium, Circus Maximus, and the Baths of Caracalla.  The historic Basilica of Santa Sabina, which dates back to the fifth century, is just one of several notable churches, while the area's elevated position offers outstanding views of the Rome, particularly from the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges), overlooking the Tiber. A more unusual view is to be had from the Villa del Priorato di Malta, on Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, where crowds gather to peer through the keyhole in the wooden doors at the main gate, which provides a perfectly framed view of the dome of St Peter's Basilica.

The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be  found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be 
found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
Travel tip:

Occupying a position 300mt (980ft) above the Gulf of Squillace, Catanzaro is known as the City of the Two Seas because, from some vantage points, it is possible to see the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north of the long peninsula occupied by Calabria as well as the Ionian Sea to the south.  The historic centre, which sits at the highest point of the city, includes a 16th century cathedral built on the site of a 12th century Norman cathedral which, despite being virtually destroyed by bombing in 1943, has been impressively restored.  The city is about 15km (9 miles) from Catanzaro Lido, which has a long white beach typical of the Gulf of Squillace.

More reading:


Hail, Claudio! The Man, The Manager, The Miracle, by Gabriele Marcotti (Yellow Jersey)

(Photo of Alessandro Roja by Laura Penna CC BY 2.0)
(Photo of the view from the Giardino degli Aranci by Marten253 CC BY-SA 3.0)