Showing posts with label 1967. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1967. Show all posts

20 May 2020

Gabriele Muccino - film director

Enjoyed box office success after partnering with Will Smith

Gabriele Muccino won awards in Italy before achieving success in the United States
Gabriele Muccino won awards in Italy before
achieving success in the United States
The film director Gabriele Muccino, whose best-known work so far has been the Oscar-nominated 2006 Will Smith movie The Pursuit of Happyness, was born on this day in 1967 in Rome.  He is the older brother of the actor, Silvio Muccino.

Muccino, who also directed Smith in Seven Pounds (2008), spent several years in Hollywood following his success in Italy with L’ultimo bacio (The Last Kiss), which won him a David Di Donatello award as Best Director and for Best Screenplay.

His most recent work has been in Italy, with his latest film, Gli anni più belli (The Most Beautiful Years) released in February 2020.

The son of Luigi Muccino, an executive at the state television company RAI, and painter and costume designer Antonella Cappuccio, Gabriele enrolled at Rome’s Sapienza University to study literature, but was already fascinated with the cinema.

Indeed, he abandoned his studies soon after he began them, choosing instead to attend Rome’s renowned Centro sperimentale di cinematografia, where he worked unpaid as a director’s assistant, working with the highly-regarded Pupi Avati and Marco Risi.

With Avati’s encouragement, he acted before he directed, taking a role in a TV mini-series that ran for nine months, but disliked the experience and decided he felt more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of it. His earliest efforts as a director included a short film, Nani, in which both his younger sibling, Silvio, and his grandmother appeared.

Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Stefano Accorsi in a scene from Muccino's breakthrough movie, L'ultimo bacio
Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Stefano Accorsi in a scene from
Muccino's breakthrough movie, L'ultimo bacio
His first full-length movie, Ecco fatto (Done) was well received at the Torino Film Festival following its release in 1998 and Muccino’s reputation for stylish cinematography earned him a consistent stream of work in advertising, where he directed commercials for Aperol, Vodafone, Nescafé, Pepsi, TIM, Intimissimi and Lancia among others.

After modest success with Come te niente mai (Like You Nobody Ever) in 1999, Muccino’s major breakthrough came in 2001 with L'ultimo bacio, which starred Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Stefano Accorsi as a couple expecting their first child whose happiness is wrecked when Accorsi’s character embarks on an affair with an 18-year-old girl.

As well as winning him critical acclaim, the film grossed 13 million euros and enjoyed a run of six months in Italian cinemas. Early in 2002, the film was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where it was well received.

More success followed for Muccino with Ricordati di me, which was shown to English-speaking audiences as Remember Me, My Love, which was released in 2003 and starred the Italian superstar actress, Monica Bellucci, alongside Fabrizio Bentivoglio and Laura Morante, with a role also for Muccino’s brother, Silvio.

Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith, in a scene from The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccino
Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith, in a scene from The
Pursuit of Happyness,
directed by Gabriele Muccino
Among his admirers by now was the American star Will Smith, who sought out Muccino to direct his own production, The Pursuit of Happyness, in which he was to star.  The relationship had its difficulties - Muccino could speak very little English when he arrived in Hollywood - but the two developed a rapport nonetheless. Smith had in his mind a particular interpretation of the film’s lead character and after Muccino had insisted that Smith watch with him two Italian cinema classics, Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D (1952), the actor knew Muccino would direct sympathetically.

The two collaborated again on Seven Pounds. Both movies were box-office successes, together grossing almost 500 million dollars.  Muccino continued to work with A-list actors in America with the comedy Playing for Keeps (2012), which starred Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta Jones, Uma Thurman and Dennis Quaid among others, and Fathers and Daughters (2015), featuring Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried.

In Italy, he directed Baciami ancora (Kiss Me Again) in 2010 as a sequel to L’ultimo bacio, with Accorsi reprising his role, this time opposite Vittoria Puccini, as well as L’estate addosso (2016), which was titled Summertime for English-speaking audiences.

Gli anni più belli, which features a title song written and performed by the enduringly popular singer-songwriter Claudio Baglioni, tells the story of four friends spanning 40 years, from their adolescence in the 1980s of Muccino’s youth to the present day, charting their own successes and failures but also how Italy has changed in that period.  Much of the film was shot on location in Rome, Naples and Ronciglione, a rugged town in the Cimini mountains near Viterbo in Lazio.

Muccino is married to the costume designer Angelica Russo, who has worked on several of his films.

The Centro sperimentale di cinematografia in Rome is western Europe's oldest film school
The Centro sperimentale di cinematografia in
Rome is western Europe's oldest film school
Travel tip:

Located near Cinecittà in Rome, the Centro sperimentale di cinematografia (Experimental film centre) is the oldest film school in western Europe, founded in 1935 during the Benito Mussolini era by his head of cinema Luigi Freddi. Still financed by the Italian government, it focuses on education, research, publication and theory. With only six places per class, the selection process is highly competitive.  Situated six miles south of the city centre, Cinecittà is the largest film studio in Europe, spreading over an area of 100 acres with 22 stages and 300 dressing rooms, and is the hub of the Italian film industry.

The quaint medieval area of Ronciglione, used for location shooting in Gli anni più belli
The quaint medieval area of Ronciglione, used
for location shooting in Gli anni più belli
Travel tip:

Ronciglione, known locally as Ronció, is a town about 20km (12 miles) from Viterbo, on the southeast slope of the former volcano crater now housing Lake Vico.  The main sights include a well-preserved medieval centre, a castle originally built in the middle ages, with characteristic angle rounded towers, and a Baroque cathedral designed by Pietro da Cortona, rebuilt by Carlo Rainaldi between 1671 and 1695. Ronciglione is known for its carnival and the Palio of the Manna, which features riderless horses competing for each of nine contrades (parishes).  It is the birthplace of the singer-songwriter Marco Mengoni.

Also on this day:

1470: The birth of poet and scholar Pietro Bembo

1537: The birth of anatomist and surgeon Hieronymus Fabricius

1943: The birth of singer Albano Carrisi, who performs as Al Bano


22 October 2019

Salvatore Di Vittorio – composer and conductor

Musician has promoted his native Palermo throughout the world

Salvatore Di Vittorio is the musical director and  conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of New York
Salvatore Di Vittorio is the musical director and
 conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of New York
Salvatore Di Vittorio, founding music director and conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of New York, was born on this day in 1967 in Palermo in Sicily.

Also a composer, Di Vittorio has written music in the style of the early 20th century Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi, who, in turn, based his compositions on the music he admired from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Di Vittorio has been recognised by music critics as respectful of the ancient Italian musical tradition and also as an emerging, leading interpreter of the music of Ottorino Respighi.

He began studying music when he was a child with his father, Giuseppe, who introduced him to the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. He went on to study composition at the Manhattan School of Music and Philosophy at Columbia University.

He has since worked with orchestras all over the world and composed music for them to perform and has also taught music in New York.

In 2007, Di Vittorio was invited by Elsa and Gloria Pizzoli, Respighi’s great nieces, to edit and complete several of the composer’s early works, including his first Violin Concerto, composed in 1903.

Di Vittorio has been honoured by his home city of Palermo
Di Vittorio has been honoured by his
home city of Palermo
Di Vittorio premiered and then recorded his completed versions of Respighi’s music, along with his own Overtura Respighiana. The recordings were released in 2011.

He has also edited Respighi’s 1908 orchestration of Claudio Monteverdi’s Lamento di Arianna, from the 1608 opera, Arianna.

In November 2012, the critics acclaimed his neo-classical compositions after the world premiere of Di Vittorio’s Sinfoni No 3 Templi di Siciliana with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana at the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi in Palermo.

He completed Respighi’s orchestration of the 1913 Tre Linche - Three Art Songs - in time for the 100th anniversary of the compositions in 2013.

In 2019, Di Vittorio completed the first printed edition of Respighi’s second violin concerto, ‘all’Antica.

Di Vittorio has been awarded the Medal of Palermo from Mayor Leoluca Orlando, in recognition of his contribution to promoting the city of Palermo around the world.

Ottorino Respighi was the inspiration for Di Vittorio's music
Ottorino Respighi was the inspiration
for Di Vittorio's music
In 2016, Di Vittorio became the first Italian-born composer to be invited to donate an autograph manuscript of his work to the Morgan Library and Museum’s world-renowned music archive. He composed La Villa d’Este a Tivoli in 2015 for the Morgan on the occasion of its exhibition, City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics.

In June 2019, Di Vittorio recorded a second album of his music, which included several world premiere recordings and his new, fourth symphony.

He has said he is fascinated by storytelling in music and is known for his lyrical, symphonic poems, which are often inspired by classical antiquity and show connections to the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Di Vittorio lives with his family in both Palermo and New York.

Mount Etna, still an active volcano, is a dominant
presence in the east of the island of Sicily
Travel tip:

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the toe of Italy’s boot. The ancient ruins, diverse architecture and wonderful cuisine enjoyed by visitors are all testament to the island’s colourful history. Watching over the island is Mount Etna, a volcano that is still active. The capital city, Palermo, where Salvatore di Vittorio was born, has a wealth of beautiful architecture, plenty of shops and markets and is home to the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo.

The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi in Palermo staged the world premiere of Di Vittorio's Sinfoni No 3 Templi di Siciliana
The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi in Palermo staged the world
premiere of Di Vittorio's Sinfoni No 3 Templi di Siciliana
Travel Tip:

The Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, where Salvatore Di Vittorio conducted the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana playing his Sinfoni No 3 Templi di Siciliana on the occasion of its world premiere, is in Piazza Ruggero Settimo in the historic centre of Palermo. It is the second most important theatre in the city, after the Teatro Massimo. The theatre was inaugurated as the Teatro Municipale Politeama in 1874, but after the death of Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1882, it was decided to name the theatre after him. The theatre was finally completed in 1891 and opened by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, who were treated to a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, featuring the tenor Francesco Tamagno., who had sung Otello in the first performance of the opera in 1887.

Also on this day:

1885: The birth of tenor Giovanni Martinelli

1965: The birth of actress Valeria Golino

1968: Soave is awarded DOC status


23 December 2018

Carla Bruni - former First Lady of France

Ex-model and singer who married Nicolas Sarkozy

Carla Bruni had been one of the world's leading models
Carla Bruni had been one of the
world's leading models
Carla Bruni, the model and singer who became the wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was born on this day in 1967 in Turin.

She and Sarkozy were married in February 2008, just three months after they met at a dinner party. Sarkozy, who was in office from May 2007 until May 2012, had recently divorced his second wife.

Previously, Bruni had spent 10 years as a model, treading the catwalk for some of the biggest designers and fashion houses in Europe and establishing herself as one of the top 20 earners in the modelling world.

After retiring from the modelling world, she enjoyed considerable success as a songwriter and then a singer. Music remains a passion, her most recent album released only last year. To date, her record sales stand at more than five million.

Born Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi, she is legally the daughter of Italian concert pianist Marisa Borini and industrialist and classical composer Alberto Bruni Tedeschi. 

Carla Bruni met Nicolas Sarkozy just three months before they were married
Carla Bruni met Nicolas Sarkozy just
three months before they were married
However, she revealed in a magazine interview soon after she and Sarkozy were married at the presidential residence the Élysée Palace in Paris, that her her biological father is the Italian-born Brazilian businessman Maurizio Remmert, who was a classical guitarist when he met Marisa Borini at a concert in Turin. They embarked on an affair that lasted six years.

Even without her two successful careers, Bruni would have been a wealthy woman. Through her legal father, she is heiress to the fortune created by the Italian cable manufacturing company CEAT, founded in the 1920s by his father, Virginio Bruni Tedeschi, which subsequently moved into tyre production and is now based in India.

Carla Bruni has lived in France from the age of seven, the family having left Italy in 1975 over fears they would be a target for kidnap by the Red Brigades, the left-wing terrorist group who kidnapped many wealthy or politically important individuals in the 1970s and 80s.

She was educated initially at a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, before returning to Paris to study art and architecture at the Sorbonne, although in the event she left school at the age of 19 to become a model.

Bruni signed with a prestigious agency in 1987, and after being selected for an advertising campaign for jeans manufactured by the American company Guess?, soon began to attract attention.

Sarkozy had been married twice before he met Carla Bruni
Sarkozy had been married twice
before he met Carla Bruni
Over the next few years she worked for designers and fashion houses including Christian Dior, Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, Yves Saint-Laurent, Chanel and Versace.

At her peak, with her image appearing on billboards and magazine covers constantly, she was earning up to $7.5 million (€5.44 million) a year, which put her among the 20 highest-paid fashion models in the world.

Bruni enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle and dated some of the world's most famous men, including veteran rockers Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

The love of music instilled in her as a child never left her, however, and in 1997, at the age of 30, she retired from modelling to focus on her music. She had always played the guitar and started singing lessons. She sent her lyrics to the French singer Julien Clerc in 1999, which he used as the basis for six tracks on his 2000 album Si j'étais elle.

Her own first album, Quelqu'un m'a dit (Someone Told Me) was released in 2003 and was a surprise hit, selling more than a million copies.  It spent 34 weeks in the top 10 of the French albums chart.  Several songs featured in movies or television commercials.

The cover of Carla Bruni's latest album
She has since released four more albums and written songs for other artists, including the rock guitarist Louis Bertignac.  In her second album, No Promises, she set to music poems by William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, W. H. Auden and Dorothy Parker among others.

Although Sarkozy represents the centre-right Republican party, Bruni’s own political leanings were to the left before they were married, although her status as First Lady gave her no powers and generally she has was careful to avoid being drawn into political debate.

She has used her profile to support a number of charities, particularly those concerned with protecting mothers and children and fighting HIV. In 2009, launched the Fondation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, to promote access to culture and knowledge.

Bruni has been more outspoken on matters related to her charitable work. She has been critical of the Catholic Church for continuing to oppose the use of condoms - a proven way of limiting the spread of AIDS - even though the church spends millions of dollars on caring for HIV/AIDS patients.

She and Sarkozy are the parents of a girl, Giulia, who was born in 2011. Bruni has a son, Aurélien, from a previous relationship with philosophy professor Raphaël Enthoven.

The castle at Moncalieri used to be the home of Italy's King Victor Emmanuel II in the late 19th century
The castle at Moncalieri used to be the home of Italy's
King Victor Emmanuel II in the late 19th century
Travel tip:

Bruni’s father, Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, came from Moncalieri, a town of almost 58,000 inhabitants about 8km (5 miles) south of the centre of Turin and part of the greater metropolitan area. It is notable for a 12th century castle, enlarged in the 15th century, which was for a time a favoured residence of Maria Clotilde and King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and now is listed among the World Heritage Site Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.  Since 1919 it has housed a school for training carabinieri officers.

Turin's colossal Mole Antonelliana is a familiar landmark on the city's skyline
Turin's colossal Mole Antonelliana is a
familiar landmark on the city's skyline
Travel tip:

The city of Turin, the traditional seat of the Savoy dynasty, is an elegant city with several royal palaces, a 15th-century cathedral that houses the Shroud of Turin and a city centre with 12 miles of arcaded streets, dotted with historic cafés an fine restaurants, many to be found around the Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade linking Piazza Vittorio Veneto with Piazza Castello, or nearby Piazza San Carlo, one of the city’s main squares. In the 19th century, the city’s cafès were popular with writers, artists, philosophers, musicians and politicians. One of the city’s major landmarks is the Mole Antonelliana, at 167.5 m (550 ft) the tallest unreinforced brick building in the world.  Originally built as a synagogue, the building is now home to a film industry museum, the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Mole is an Italian word for a building of monumental proportions.

More reading:

The meteoric rise of Gianni Versace

Santo Versace - the business brain behind the empire

The Red Brigades and the kidnapping of Aldo Moro

Also on this day:

1896: The birth of writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

1916: The birth of film director Dino Risi

1956: The birth of racing driver Michele Alboreto


27 October 2018

Simone Moro - mountaineer

Bergamo climber with unique record

Simone Moro has been climbing since he was 13 years old
Simone Moro has been climbing
since he was 13 years old
The mountaineer Simone Moro, who is the only climber whose list of achievements includes the first winter ascent of four of the so-called eight-thousanders, was born on this day in 1967 in the city of Bergamo in Lombardy.

The eight-thousanders are the 14 peaks on Earth that rise to more than 8,000m (26,247ft) above sea level. All are located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia.

A veteran of 15 winter expeditions, he completed the winter ascent of Shisha Pangma (8,027m) in 2005, Makalu (8,485m) in 2009, Gasherbrum II (8,035m) in 2011 and Nanga Parbat (8,126m) in 2016.

He has scaled Everest (8,848m) four times, including the first solo south-north traverse in 2006. In total he has completed more than 50 expeditions, conquering peaks in Tien Shan, Pamir, Andes, Patagonia and Antarctica as well as the Himalayas and Karakoram.

Moro is also renowned for his courage and bravery. During his 2001 attempt on the Everest-Lhotse traverse, he abandoned his ascent at 8,000m and battled through the most dangerous conditions in darkness to save the life of British climber Tom Moores.

In recognition of his bravery, Moro was awarded a Civilian Gold Medal by the Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.   He was also awarded the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy by UNESCO and the David A. Sowles Memorial Award from the American Alpine Club.

Makalu in the Himalayas - the highest of the four eight-thousanders Moro climbed in winter
Makalu in the Himalayas - the highest of the four
eight-thousanders Moro climbed in winter
An experienced helicopter pilot - the first European qualified to fly in Nepal - in 2013, Moro and two other rescue experts carried out the world's highest long-line rescue operation on a helicopter, on Lhotse, at 7800m.

In 2015, he set a new flight altitude world record in an ES 101 Raven, turboshaft powered helicopter reaching 6,705m.

Born into a middle-class family, Moro grew up in the borough of Valtesse, a suburb of Bergamo in a valley to the northeast of the Città Alta, between the elevated medieval part of the city and the Maresana Hill.

He had the enthusiastic support of his father, who was also a climber and a high-altitude biker, in his passion for the mountains and tackled the 2,521m (8,271ft) Presolana and other massifs of the Alpi Bergamasche when he was only 13.  There is a strong climbing tradition in the Bergamo area, which produced another famous mountaineer, Walter Bonatti.

Once had had graduated from university, he took on climbs in the Grigna - a massif in the province of Lecco, northwest of Bergamo, before attempting more ambitious climbs in the Dolomites.

Moro often makes public appearances to share his expertise and experiences
Moro often makes public appearances
to share his expertise and experiences
He did his military service at the Alpine Military School of Aosta, finishing his 15-month stint as a sub-lieutenant of the Alpini, the mountain troops of the Italian Army.

He participated in his first Himalayan expedition to Mount Everest in 1992 and the following year achieved the first winter ascent of Aconcagua in Argentina, at 6,960.8m (22,837 ft) the highest mountain in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres.

Moro has also used his own money to help various charitable projects, including the financing of a school for 396 Sherpa children in the isolated Nepalese village of Syadul.  Near the Nanga Parbat base camp, he built a small masonry building for the shepherds and a small hospital in the village of Ser.

He performs free rescue missions in the Nepalese area using a helicopter he bought with his own money in 2009.

Moro raises the funds for his missions by making frequent public appearances and providing motivational speeches. He has also written a number of books, including an autobiography entitled Devo perché posso - I Must Because I Can.

He is married to Barbara Zwerger and has two children, 19-year-old Martina and eight-year-old Jonas.  He still has a home in Bergamo.

The walled Città Alta is one of the two centres of Bergamo
The walled Città Alta is one of the two centres of Bergamo
Travel tip:

Bergamo, where Moro was born and grew up, is a fascinating, historic city with two distinct centres. The Città Alta, upper town, is a beautiful, walled city with buildings that date back to medieval times. The elegant Città Bassa, lower town, still has some buildings that date back to the 15th century, but more imposing and elaborate architecture was added in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Grigna massif in the province of Lecco
The Grigna massif in the province of Lecco
Travel tip:

The Grigna is a mountain massif in the province of Lecco, with an elevation of 2,410m (7,907ft). It is part of the Bergamo Alps, and it has two peaks, Grignone or Grigna settentrionale, the higher, and the lower Grignetta or Grigna meridionale (2,177m).  To the southwest, the Grigna massif descends precipitously towards an arm of Lake Como known as Ramo di Lecco (The Branch of Lecco). To the east, the mountain rises gently through fields and forested land into Valsassina. The northern side of the mountain, which is known for its many caves and crevices, leads to Passo del Cainallo and the town of Esino Lario.

More reading:

The Bergamo climber whose career was marred by a 50-year row

The climber from the Dolomites who conquered Everest

Riccardo Cassin - mountaineer and resistance fighter

Also on this day:

1952: The birth of Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni

1962: The death of controversial industrialist Enrico Mattei


29 August 2018

Tiziana ‘Tosca’ Donati - singer

Versatile performer whose range spans musicals to sacred songs

The singer Tiziana Donati, known as Tosca, during one of her stage performances
The singer Tiziana Donati, known as Tosca, during
one of her stage performances
The singer Tiziana Donati, who performs under the stage name Tosca, was born on this day in 1967 in Rome.

Winner of the Sanremo Festival in 1996, Tosca has recorded 10 studio albums, released the same number of singles and has recorded duets with many other artists.

She has enjoyed a successful stage career, appearing in numerous theatrical productions, and has been invited to perform songs for several movies, including the title track for Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Jane Eyre in 1996. She also sang and spoke the part of Anastasia in the Italian dubbed version of the Disney cartoon of the same name.

At Christmas in 1999, she participated in concerts in churches in Italy where she performed Latin songs set to music by Vincenzo Zitello and Stefano Melone.

Following this she began a collaboration with the Vatican, taking part in several televised events to commemorate the Jubilee of 2000, and was chosen to sing the Mater Iubilaei, the Marian anthem of the Jubilee, in a ceremony led by Pope John Paul II.

Throughout 2000, she toured with Musica Caeli, a concert made up of never-before performed sacred chants, staged in some of the biggest churches and cathedrals around the world.

Tosca was spotted singing in a piano bar in Rome in the 1990s before winning the Sanremo Festival in 1996
Tosca was spotted singing in a piano bar in Rome in the
1990s before winning the Sanremo Festival in 1996
Tiziana said her love of singing began as a child when she suffered from acute articular rheumatism, a debilitating health condition affecting the joints that prevented her taking part in normal activities.  She did, however, accompany her grandmother to church almost every day and soon set her heart on becoming a member of the choir.

She went along to choir practice and was accepted and drew a sense of pride and self-worth from being asked to stand on a chair and sing at family occasions. Singing and later acting gave her a sense of purpose.

In her teens, Donati joined a theatre company in Rome and began singing in a piano bar in the city, where she was spotted by Renzo Arbore, a musician and television presenter, who invited to sing on the show Il caso Sanremo, a unique programme in which winning songs from different years of the Sanremo Festival were placed on “trial” in a set made to resemble a courtroom.

The exposure propelled her into the public eye. She adopted Tosca as a stage name and released her first album in 1992.

Tiziana Donati pictured during a studio recording session with fellow musician Chico Buarque
Tiziana Donati pictured during a studio recording
session with fellow musician Chico Buarque
Her big break, though, was winning Sanremo itself in 1996 with Vorrei incontrarti fra cent'anni - I Want To Meet You In One Hundred Years - a song written by Rosalino Cellamare, who performed under the stage name Ron, and who also provided backing vocals and guitar.

After another appearance at Sanremo the following year, she released an album, entitled Incontri e passaggi of songs written for her by artists such as Lucio Dalla, Chico Buarque de Holanda, Grazia Di Michele, Ennio Morricone and Mariella Nava, which won her the Targa Tenco prize as the year’s outstanding performer.

Since 2000, Donati has mixed concerts with stage shows and musicals and has recently worked as a section director at the Pasolini Workshop in Rome, a venture - named in honour of the film director Pier Paolo Pasolini - run in collaboration with the University of Rome and the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia to unearth and nurture new talent.

Still in demand today for high-profile roles, recently starring at the Teatro Argentina in Rome in the touring show Donne come noi - Women Like Us - based on a book of the same name about 100 Italian women who have changed their lives and those of others.

Last year, Tosca celebrated her life in music with a sell-out concert at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome in which she was joined on stage by artists including Nicola Piovani, Danilo Rea and Joe Barbieri, all of whom had become friends at different points of her career.

The saxophonist Bobby Watson has performed at Gregory's in Rome
The saxophonist Bobby Watson has
performed at Gregory's in Rome
Travel tip:

One of Rome’s traditional music venues is the jazz club Gregory’s, which can be found in Via Gregoriana, a short walk from Piazza di Spagna and the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti. The club has a ‘hall of fame’ that includes the likes of Bobby Durham, Victor Lewis, Steve Grossman, Gregory Hutchinson, Bobby Watson and Scott Hamilton, all of whom have performed at the venue.  The club hosts live sets almost every night, starting at around 9.30pm. A sister venue, Gregory’s By The River, stages live music during the summer months on the edge of the Tiber at Castel Sant’Angelo.

The Teatro Argentina in Rome is one of the city's  oldest opera houses, inaugurated in 1732
The Teatro Argentina in Rome is one of the city's
oldest opera houses, inaugurated in 1732
Travel tip:

The Teatro Argentina, where Tosca recently performed in the show Donne come noi, is a traditional opera venue in the square Largo di Torre Argentina. Built over the Curia of Pompey - the meeting hall in which Julius Caesar was murdered in 44BC - it is one of the oldest theatres in the city, commissioned by the Sforza-Cesarini family and inaugurated in 1732. Rossini's The Barber of Seville was given its premiere there in February 1816. It has staged drama productions as well as opera and music. In the mid-20th centuries, works by Luigi Pirandello, Henrik Ibsen and Maxim Gorky were performed there for the first time.

More reading:

How Enrico Caruso inspired Lucio Dalla

Why Sanremo winner Adriano Celentano is Italy's biggest-selling recording artist of all time

The Barber of Seville premieres at Teatro Argentina

Also on this day:

1875: The birth of flautist Lorenzo De Lorenzo

1991: Anti-Mafia hero Libero Grassi is murdered in Palermo


20 June 2018

Luigi de Magistris - politician

Popular and progressive Mayor of Naples

Luigi de Magistris has been Mayor  of Naples since 2011
Luigi de Magistris has been Mayor
of Naples since 2011
Luigi de Magistris, who was Mayor of Naples for 10 years following a shock win in the 2011 local elections, was born on this day in 1967.

A former public prosecutor with a reputation for standing up against corruption and organised crime, De Magistris was the Member of the European Parliament for Southern Italy between 2009 and 2011, when he ran for Italy of Values, the centre-left party founded by another former magistrate, Antonio di Pietro.

He stood in the 2011 mayoral elections in Naples with the support of minor parties on the left and the right and won in the second round of voting with 65 per cent of the vote, defeating Gianni Lettieri, the candidate for a centre right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

In office, De Magistris faced difficult times because of the city’s precarious financial situation, which at times saw local transport suspended because fuel bills were not paid and rubbish piling up in the streets because of continuing problems with the disposal of domestic refuse that had reached a peak in 2008.

A strong advocate of public ownership of essential services and the managing of natural and cultural resources for collective benefit rather than profit, De Magistris claims year-on-year improvements in refuse collection as one of his success stories.

Others include the taking into public ownership of the previously privately-owned Naples Water Company, the purchase of new vehicles for the city transport network, including 10 new Metro trains, the pedestrianisation of the waterfront and the reopening of suspended restoration projects on a number of monuments and historic buildings.

De Magistris is an advocate of bringing essential services and resources into public ownership
De Magistris is an advocate of bringing essential
services and resources into public ownership
By cracking down on tax evasion, De Magistris was able to introduce a minimum monthly income of approximately €600 for residents of Naples of working age with an income below the poverty threshold, provided that they agree to work or take part in socially useful activities.

He has also campaigned for powers to be granted to city mayors to direct the police force, following the model adopted by many cities in the United States, believing it to be the best way to reduce crime. Naples, of course, is the home of the Mafia-style Camorra organisation.

One commentator wrote about De Magistris, who won a second mayoral election in 2016, as a figure seen by many citizens as a last chance “to save whatever is left of the glorious capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies”, adding that “Neapolitan disenchantment with politics and total distrust of politicians started with the unification of Italy and has basically persisted to this day.”

Born in Naples, De Magistris attended the Adolfo Pansini High School in the Vomero district of Naples before going on to study law at the University of Naples. In 1993 he began a career as a magistrate, following in the footsteps of his father, his grandfather and great-grandfather.

From 1998 to 2002 he worked at the Public Prosecutor's Office of Naples and then moved to be Deputy Public Prosecutor to the Court of Catanzaro.

He presided over a number of high-profile corruption investigations involving business and politics, although he was controversially removed from a couple of cases over “procedural irregularities” after the names of top politicians began to emerge.

De Magistris has clashed with the Rome government over immigration and refugees
De Magistris has clashed with the Rome
government over immigration and refugees
De Magistris had a period of suspension imposed on him during his office as mayor, although he resisted calls for him to resign and the suspension was subsequently annulled and he was acquitted. He has since written about “obstacles placed in my way and attacks on me and my profession” by his political opponents.

A fiercely outspoken advocate of Italy giving refuge to immigrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing war and persecution, he clashed with Matteo Salvini, the anti-immigration politician who was Italy’s Minister of the Interior, over his refusal to allow the Aquarius, carrying 600 refugees, to dock at an Italian port.

In 2017, De Magistris was given the Valarioti-Impastato Award for "having fought crime and corruption for more than 20 years as magistrate and politician, for breaking the relationship between the mafia and politics in the political-administrative management of the city of Naples and for having contributed to the moral redemption of Naples and removed the Camorra breaking the system of waste and eco-mafia".

A fervent fan of SSC Napoli, the city's Serie A football club, De Magistris is also the author of several books, the most recent of which is La città ribelle: il caso di Napoli (Naples: Rebel City).

(This article was updated in June 2022)

Vomero's lofty position offers spectacular views over Naples
Vomero's lofty position offers spectacular views over Naples
Travel tip:

Close to centre of Naples, Vomero is a hilly residential area popular with the wealthy middle class. It has grown rapidly since the beginning of the 20th century with numerous houses and apartment built around Villa Floridiana, Castel Sant'Elmo and San Martino, including villas in the late Art Nouveau style and large apartment houses. The oldest and most popular neighbourhood in Vomero is Antignano, in which can be found some historic buildings as well as plush apartments and gated villas, such as the Villa del Pontano and an old building of the Bourbon customs office.

The City Hall of Naples overlooks Piazza Municipio
The City Hall of Naples overlooks Piazza Municipio
Travel tip:

Naples City Hall, where Luigi de Magistris has his office, is located on Piazza Municipio, not far from the medieval Castel Nuovo, a 13th-century castle known to locals as the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep). The castle is home to fragments of frescoes by Giotto and Roman ruins under the glass-floored Sala dell'Armeria (Armoury Hall). The castle's upper floors house a collection of mostly 17th- to early-20th-century Neapolitan paintings.

More reading:

Antonio di Pietro - former policeman who led mani pulite corruption probe

How the fiery Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi laid foundations to move right-wing politics into Italy's mainstream

Why Veneto politician Luca Zaia is tipped as a future prime minister

Also on this day:

1891: The birth of Neapolitan opera soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi


18 February 2017

Roberto Baggio - football icon

Azzurri star regarded as Italy's greatest player

Roberto Baggio pictured after his world record transfer to Juventus
Roberto Baggio pictured after his world
record transfer to Juventus
The footballer Roberto Baggio, regarded by fans in Italy and around the world as one of the game's greatest players, was born on this day in 1967 in Caldogno, a small town situated about 10km (6 miles) north of Vicenza in the Veneto.

Baggio's career spanned 22 years, most of them spent at the highest level, with Fiorentina, Juventus, Bologna, both Milan clubs and, finally, Brescia, winning the Serie A title twice, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup.  He played in three World Cups - in 1990, 1994 and 1998 - and achieved the unique distinction among Italian players of scoring at all three.

He scored 318 goals all told, the first Italian for 50 years to top 300 in his career.  Yet he spent almost the whole of his active playing days battling against injury.  Over the course of his career, he had six knee operations, four on his right knee and two on the left, and often could play only with the help of painkillers.

His fans believe that without his injuries, Baggio would have been placed in the same bracket as Pele, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi as the best players in history.  Italy's most famous football journalist, the late Gianni Brera, said Baggio was the greatest Italian player he ever saw, better than both Giuseppe Meazza and Gianni Rivera.

Baggio prepares to take his fateful penalty at the 1994 World Cup
Baggio prepares to take his fateful
penalty at the 1994 World Cup
Those supporters held him in such reverence they gave him the nickname il Divin' Codino - the Divine Ponytail - on account of the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, of his conversion to Buddhism, and because to them he was a football god.

Baggio's career was almost finished before it had really begun when he suffered his first serious knee injury at the age of 18, playing for his first club, Lanerossi Vicenza, in Serie B.

He barely played for the next two years and required extensive surgery.  The injury came two days before he was due to finalise his transfer to Serie A club Fiorentina and several doctors predicted he would not play again, thanks to the damage done to the anterior cruciate ligaments and the meniscus of his right knee.

Yet Fiorentina stuck by him, funded the cost of two operations and were ultimately rewarded with performances of the exquisite brilliance that defined his career and identified him as the complete player, a creative midfielder who could set up a goal for a teammate with the perfect pass, but also a dribbler with the guile and trickery of the greatest wingers and a finisher as deadly as the finest strikers.

In Italy he was categorised as a fantasista, the kind of player every coach dreams of if he has any romance in his veins, the kind of player capable, to use a description Italians would understand, of "inventing the game" with a moment of sublime and unpredictable skill.

When he moved to Juventus in 1990, the £8 million fee made him at the time the most expensive footballer in the world.

Baggio at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy, where he announced himself as a star
Baggio at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy,
where he announced himself as a star
It is hardly any wonder that his supporters despair of the fact that he is remembered all too often for the moment in his career when it all went wrong, when he missed his penalty in the shoot-out at the end of the 1994 World Cup final in the United States, handing the trophy to Brazil.  It was one of only eight penalties Baggio failed to convert from a total of 79 in his career.

Yet the picture of Baggio, head bowed, suddenly lost and alone among the 95,000 people present at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, became the image of the tournament, symbolic of an heroic failure.  Baggio had dragged his nation to the final almost singlehandedly by scoring five of their six goals in the knock-out stages. He was, as usual, defying injury - playing in the final with painkilling injections and a heavily strapped thigh after suffering a hamstring tear - yet at the critical moment fate turned against him and his kick went over the bar.

For all the strength of his faith - and he credits Buddhism with helping him through his darkest moments - Baggio confessed that the penalty miss haunted him for many years afterwards, because he had not been able to deliver the dream for his teammates but also because it felt wrong that he would be remembered for something negative.  In fact, by its very longevity, his career had been a triumph against the odds, given the bleak prognosis he was given at only 18 years old.

His fans prefer to remember a seemingly endless list of brilliant goals and spend many hours debating which might be called the best, given that he scored so many of all types, from superbly placed free kicks and perfectly executed volleys to delicate lobs and wonderful mazy dribbles.

Robert Baggio during a recent television documentary reflecting on his career
Robert Baggio during a recent television
documentary reflecting on his career
The most famous goals, inevitably, are those he scored for Italy, such as the one with which he announced himself on the world stage against Czechoslovakia in Rome in the 1990 World Cup finals in his home country, a run from the half-way line full of feints, dips and swerves, capped with a clinical finish.

Others prefer the two he scored against Bulgaria in a one-man show in the semi-final in 1994 at the Giants Stadium in New York.

His own favourites include a perfect lob from the edge of the penalty area towards the end of his career, playing for Brescia against Atalanta in Serie A.

Although born into a large Catholic family, Baggio became a Buddhist on New Year's Day 1988, his conversion a response to the despair and pain he endured during his long period of injury while with Fiorentina.  He prays and meditates daily and claims the religion, to which he was introduced by a friend, made him see life as a challenge to his inner strength.

In 1989, he married Andreina, the daughter of a neighbour in Caldogno he had known since he was 15. They have three children, a daughter, Valentina, and two sons, Mattia and Leonardo, the latter named after one of his heroes, Leonardo da Vinci.

He has a home in Argentina, where he is a supporter of the Boca Juniors club from the Italian neighbourhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires, and often visits Japan through his Buddhist links.

Since finishing his playing career he has spent some time coaching with the Italian Federation and a lot of time involved with charity work, raising money for research into motor neurone disease (also known as ALS) and on behalf of the United Nations, for whom he was active in raising money to fund hospitals, generate help for the victims of the Haiti earthquake, and to tackle bird flu.  His support for the Burmese pro-democracy movement and its imprisoned leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, contributed to Baggio being named 2010 Man of Peace by the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

The Basilica Palladiana in the centre of Vicenza
The Basilica Palladiana in the centre of Vicenza
Travel tip:

Vicenza is always associated with Andrea Palladio, the city's most famous resident, and no visit should miss out the Teatro Olimpico, which he wanted to create as a Roman theatre inside a medieval building and which was completed, after his death, by Vincenzo Scamozzi, the designer responsible for stage sets giving the illusion of three dimensions.  The city is notable too, of course, for its rich collection of Palladian villas, as well as churches containing paintings by Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veronese among others.  Away from art and architecture, Vicenza is a city with a wealth of fine restaurants and chic bars and comes to life from about 6pm, with bars serving the traditional aperitivi - vast, free buffets from which customers buying a drink can help themselves at the start of an evening on the town, or simply on the way home from work.

Hotels in Vicenza from Expedia

Travel tip:

Although Brescia, where Roberto Baggio ended his career, is a wealthy city thanks in the most part to its industrial past, there are sights worth seeing for travellers not put off by the somewhat scruffy streets and downmarket shops around the railway station.  The ruins of a Roman forum can be found at Tempio Capitolino, there are two cathedrals, one 150 years old, the other dating back to pre-Renaissance times, and the castle, which holds a museum of the Risorgimento, has its origins in pre-Roman times and has been fortified a number of times, most notably by the Venetians in the 16th century.

Hotels in Brescia from

More reading:

Arrigo Sacchi - coach who steered Italy to the 1994 World Cup final

How Azeglio Vicini's bid to win the World Cup for Italy on home soil ended in heartbreak

When Marco Tardelli's scream became the symbol of Italy's 1982 World Cup triumph

Also on this day:

1455: The death of early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico

1564: The genius Michelangelo dies in Rome

1983: The birth of tennis star Roberta Vinci