Showing posts with label 1970. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970. Show all posts

16 February 2020

Angelo Peruzzi - footballer

Italy international who was twice world's costliest goalkeeper


Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club football during his years with Juventus
Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club
football during his years with Juventus
The footballer Angelo Peruzzi, who made 31 appearances for Italy’s national team and was a member of Marcello Lippi’s victorious squad at the 2006 World Cup, was born on this day in 1970 in Blera, a hilltop town in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome.

Peruzzi defied his relatively short and stocky physique to become one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, renowned not only for his physical strength but also for his positional sense, anticipation and explosive reactions.

These qualities enabled him to compensate for his lack of height and earned him a reputation for efficiency rather than spectacular stops yet he was much coveted by clubs in Italy’s Serie A. 

Twice he moved clubs for what was at the time a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.  In 1999 he joined Internazionale of Milan (Inter Milan) from Juventus for €14.461 million but stayed at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for only a year before switching to Lazio in a deal worth €20.658 million.

That record stood for 11 years until Manchester United bought David de Gea from Atletico Madrid for €22 million in 2011.

His value was based on his outstanding record over eight seasons with Juventus, with whom he won every major medal on offer to a club footballer in Italy, including three Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (twice), as well as the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Peruzzi was twice the most expensive  goalkeeper in football history
Peruzzi was twice the most expensive
goalkeeper in football history
Yet before he joined Juventus in 1991 his career had been in danger of suffering a premature and ignominious end.

Even as a young player in the Roma youth system, Peruzzi struggled with his weight.  Former teammates recalled him keeping salami, sandwiches and sweets hidden in his locker to satisfy an enormous appetite.

Nonetheless, his qualities as a goalkeeper stood out. He made his Serie A debut in 1987 at the age of 17 and when Roma sent him on loan to Hellas Verona for the 1989-90 he returned with glowing reports.

However, his weight remained an issue and his decision to take an appetite suppressant in the hope of shedding some pounds quickly backfired on him spectacularly when a doping test produced a positive result for the banned substance Phentermine.

He was banned for a year and Roma were happy to let him go when Juventus offered him a contract. It proved to be the Turin club’s gain as Peruzzi soon replaced Stefano Tacconi as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper and became one of their most reliable performers, never more so than in the Champions League final of 1996 against Ajax, when his two saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured that the trophy went to Juventus.

Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi
as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Peruzzi never lost his stocky build, but where he was criticised for it as a young player, as an established player associated with success it became part of his persona, earning him a number of affectionate nicknames, including Tyson, after the heavyweight world boxing champion, il chingialone (“the boar”) and il orsone (“the big bear”).

Although his two big-money transfers were lucrative for Peruzzi personally in signing-on fees and contracts, he did not enjoy the success with Inter or Lazio that he had tasted with Juventus.  He made more than 200 appearances for Lazio over seven seasons but a Supercoppa Italiano medal in his first season and a Coppa Italia in 2004 were his only tangible honours.

Peruzzi earned his first call-up to the Italy national team under coach Arrigo Sacchi in 1995, having been a member of the Italy squad at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He was the first-choice stopper at Euro ‘96 in England, where Italy did not progress beyond the group stages, and would have gone to the World Cup in France in 1998 as number one goalkeeper had he not suffered an injury before the tournament.

By the time the next World Cup came around, Peruzzi had fallen behind Gianluigi Buffon and Francesco Toldo in the pecking order and was not considered for the 2002 finals.

It was only when Marcello Lippi, one of his former coaches at Juventus, took charge of the national team in 2004 that he came back into favour. He kept goal for two of the qualifying matches ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and went to the finals as number two behind Buffon.  He never made it off the bench but nonetheless received a medal as a member of the winning squad after the azzurri defeated France on penalties in the final.

Three times awarded the Goalkeeper of the Year title in Serie A, Peruzzi retired as a player in 2008 and embarked on a career in coaching.  He immediately found a position among the technical staff at Italy’s national coaching centre at Coverciano before becoming assistant to Under-21 head coaches Ciro Ferrara and Pierluigi Casiraghi.

Ferrara gave him his first club job as assistant head coach at Sampdoria and he is now back in Rome as team co-ordinator with Lazio.

The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern
Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
Travel tip:

Angelo Peruzzi’s hometown of Blera, situated some 24km (15 miles) southwest of the city of Viterbo in northern Lazio and around 78km (48 miles) northwest of Rome, sits on a narrow tongue of rock between two deep gorges.  Its origins go back to Etruscan times, although its history suggests it was of little importance except for a stopping-off point on the Via Clodia, which linked the more important towns of Pitigliano and Sorano.  Some of the Etruscan settlement’s walls still remain intact.

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The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and Roma and hosts many important football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and
Roma and hosts many important football matches
Travel tip:

Although the Stadio Olimpico, where both Lazio and Roma play their home games, was opened in 1937, it did not become the Olympic Stadium until Italy had won the right to stage the Games in 1960.  Originally, as part of Mussolini’s ambitious Foro Mussolini (later Foro Italico) complex, it was called the Stadio dei Cipressi.  When its capacity was increased to 100,000 in the 1950s, it became the Stadio dei Centomila.  Nowadays it has seats for 70,634 spectators and is owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee but is used primarily as a venue for football matches, having been refurbished for the 1990 World Cup finals.  It has been the venue for the European Cup and Champions League finals on four occasions.


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(Picture credits: Blera by Robin Iversen Rönnlund; Stadio Olimpico by Andrew; via Wikimedia Commons)

5 September 2017

Francesca Porcellato - Paralympian

Life of sporting excellence born of horrific accident


Francesca Porcellato has competed at seven summer and three winter Paralympic Games
Francesca Porcellato has competed at seven
summer and three winter Paralympic Games 
Francesca Porcellato, one of Italy’s most enduring Paralympians, was born on this day in 1970 in Castelfranco Veneto.

She has competed in seven summer Paralympics as an athlete and cyclist and three winter Paralympics in cross-country skiing, winning a total of 14 medals, including three golds.

At the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada, she was flag-bearer for the Italian team.

She is also a prolific wheelchair marathon competitor, sharing with America’s Tatyana McFadden the distinction of having won the London Marathon wheelchair event four times.

Even as she reaches the age of 47, Francesca is still at the top of her sport. Only last weekend in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, she won gold in the H3 event at the Paracycling road world championships.

The H3 category – for paraplegic, tetraplegic or amputees unable to ride a standard bicycle – involves competitors riding in a lying position, using their arms to turn the wheels.

Francesca in her racing wheelchair
Francesca in her racing wheelchair
Francesca was the defending champion in the H3 after winning gold at the 2015 championships in Nottwil in Switzerland, where she also took gold in the time trial.

Francesca has been disabled since the age of just 18 months, having been run over by a truck in the driveway of her house.

She suffered multiple broken bones – in her words ‘everything except my head and arms’ – but miraculously no internal injuries. Yet the damage to her spinal cord meant she would never walk again.

Rehabilitation was a long process. It took many years for her to walk with a frame and she was six years old before she was given a wheelchair.  Once she was able to propel herself with her arms, however, she soon became keen to go faster and dreamed of becoming an athlete.

Although competition for disabled athletes was not nearly as well established as it is today when Francesca developed her ambition to race, there had been organised events since 1948 and the Paralympics, which had been originally conceived for war veterans, was officially launched in Rome in 1960.

They have been staged every four years since 1960, and since 1988 in Seoul, South Korea have been held in conjunction with the Olympic Games themselves, using the same facilities and following on immediately afterwards.

Francesca has excelled on skis too
Francesca has excelled on skis too
It was in Seoul that Francesca, just turned 18, made her Paralympic debut as a wheelchair athlete.

Her success was immediate, with gold medals in both the individual 100m and 4 x 100m relay.  Noting her red hair, The Italian media nicknamed her La Rossa Volantethe Flying Redhead.

Winning three silver medals for good measure, in the 200m, 4 x 200m and 4 x 400m, she was among the medals again in Barcelona again four years later, taking bronze in the 400m on her 22nd birthday.

She competed in the summer Paralympics until 2008, also picking up medals in 2000 in Sydney and 2004 in Athens.

At the same time, she was developing as a marathon wheelchair runner, in which she also enjoyed spectacular success, winning in London four times in a row from 2003 to 2006 and also taking the top prize in New York, Boston and Paris.

She competed in the winter Games for the first time in 2006, when it was hosted in Turin, as a cross-country skier.

Her big moment in the winter games came in 2010 in Vancouver, when she won the 1km sprint, a victory made even more special for falling on March 21 – the anniversary of her accident – which she regards as her second ‘birthday’.

Francesca says that she looks upon the date as a special day now because “it was the moment I became stronger – strong enough to achieve a beautiful life and realise my dreams.”

She is married to her coach, Dino Farinazzo, and lives now in Valeggio sul Mincio, a town in the province of Verona not far from Lake Garda.

The western gate of Castelfranco Veneto
The western gate of Castelfranco Veneto
Travel tip:

Castelfranco Veneto, a small town midway between Treviso and Vicenza in the Veneto region, is notable for its fortified old city, which lies at the centre of the town surrounded by high walls and a moat. Inside are a number of streets and the old city’s Duomo, which contains an altar piece by the town’s most famous son, the High Renaissance artist Giorgione, thought to have been painted between 1503 and 1504. Next to the Duomo is the Casa Giorgione, thought to have been the artist’s home, which is now a museum.

Valeggio's trademark dish tortellini in brodo
Valeggio's trademark dish tortellini in brodo
Travel tip:

Valeggio sul Mincio, situated on the Mincio river about 10km (6 miles) from Lake Garda, is an attractive town in the western part of the Veneto towards the border with Lombardy. Interesting sights included the 650-metre long Visconti Bridge, which is actually a fortified dam built in 1393, the Castello Scagliero and the Villa Sigurtà, which is surrounded by a vast area of parklands.  Veleggio is also renowned as the town in which the navel-shaped stuffed pasta tortellini was invented, although Castelfranco Veneto makes a similar claim.



4 June 2017

Deborah Compagnoni - Olympic skiing champion

Alpine ace won gold medals in 1992, 1994 and 1998


Deboragh Compagnoni on the podium after winning gold at Lillehammer in 1994
Deborah Compagnoni on the podium after
winning gold at Lillehammer in 1994
The three-times Olympic skiing champion Deborah Compagnoni was born on this day in 1970 in Bormio, northern Lombardy.

Regarded as the greatest Italian female skier of all-time, she won gold medals at the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

Despite suffering two serious cruciate ligament injuries, she also won multiple events at the Alpine Skiing World Cup between 1992 and 1998.

Born in Bormio but raised in Santa Caterina di Valfurva, in Valtellina, Compagnoni’s talent became obvious at a young age but she began suffering injuries also at an early age.

At just 16 years old she won the bronze medal in the downhill at the World junior championships in 1987, and the following year won the junior title in giant slalom and achieved her first podium in the World Cup.

However, shortly afterwards she broke her right knee at Val d'Isére downhill, the first of a number of major injuries, but for which she could have attained even greater success.

Compagnoni in downhill action
Compagnoni in downhill action
Compagnoni won her first race in the World Cup in 1992, in the super-G. She also won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics of the same year, again in the super-G, at Albertville in France. A day later, while racing the giant slalom, she shattered her left knee.

Nonetheless, she still achieved 16 race victories in World Cup events in addition to the giant slalom at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, a feat she repeated four years later in Nagano. In 1998 she won also a silver medal in the slalom, finishing second by only 0.06 seconds.

Her record is so impressive that she is considered the equal of Italy’s most decorated male skiers, such as Gustav Thöni and Alberto Tomba. The World Cup skiing track in her native Santa Caterina Valfurva has been named after her.

She is married to Alessandro Benetton, the son of Benetton co-founder Luciano Benetton.

Benetton is a winter sports coach and former chairman of the Benetton Group and of Benetton Formula One as well as one of the pioneers of private equity in Italy.

He and Compagnoni have three children - Agnese, Tobias and Luce. They live in Ponzano Veneto, about six kilometres ( 3.7 miles) north-west of Treviso and about 30km (19 miles) north of Venice.

The Villa Minelli in Ponzano Veneto
The Villa Minelli in Ponzano Veneto
Travel tip:

Ponzano Veneto is a community of some 12,500 residents that essentially brings together three villages. The area is known for its elegant villas, including the Villa Minelli, which has been the main headquarters of the Benetton Group since the 1980s, having been in the family since 1969. There are a number of churches containing works of art by Sebastiano Santi and Antonio Zanchi, while the Villa Corner has frescoes by Giovan Battista Tiepolo.

The mountain backdrop to Santa Caterina
The mountain backdrop to Santa Caterina
Travel tip:

Santa Caterina, where Compagnoni was brought up, is a ski resort in Valtellina, about 13km (8 milles) from Bornio in the northern part of Lombardy, less than 30km from the border with Switzerland. It is also the home town of Achille Compagnoni, a cousin of Deborah Compagnoni, the mountaineer who was the first to conquer K2, the mountain on the Pakistan-China border that is the second highest in the world.

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13 January 2017

Marco Pantani - tragic cycling champion

Rider from Cesenatico won historic 'double'


Marco Pantani - instantly recognisable in his trademark bandana
Marco Pantani - instantly recognisable in his
trademark bandana
Marco Pantani, the last rider to have won cycling's Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same year, was born on this day in 1970. 

Recognised as one of the sport's greatest hill climbers, Pantani completed the historic 'double' in 1998 and remains one of only seven riders to achieve the feat.

A single-mindedly fierce competitor, Pantani had won the amateur version of the Giro - the Girobio - in 1992, after which he turned professional.  Winner of the Young Rider classification at the Tour de France in 1994 and 1995, he might have enjoyed still greater success.

But Pantani's career was blighted by physical injuries and later by scandal after he was disqualified from the 1999 Giro d'Italia just two days from the finish - and with a clear lead - after a blood test revealed irregular results. He died tragically young in 2004.

Growing up, Pantani's home town was the port of Cesenatico, on the Adriatic Coast, about 30 minutes' drive away from Cesena, in Emilia-Romagna.  His mother worked as a chamber maid in hotels in Cesenatico and in neighbouring Bellaria, while his father, Paolo, was an engineer.

His grandfather bought him his first bike, which he would ride alongside the canal near the family home, worrying his mother constantly that he would fall in, but it was after the family moved to a bigger apartment a couple of streets away that his interest in competitive cycling took off.

Pantani in action in the Tour de France in 1997
Pantani, regarded as one of the sport's greatest hill climbers,
 in action in the Tour de France in 1997
Among his new neighbours was Nicola Amaducci, sporting director of the Fausto Coppi Cycling Club.  The club's training rides used to start in a nearby square and one day Marco, then aged just 11, could not resist the urge to tag along, which required him to pedal so hard he almost passed out through exhaustion. Given his lack of experience and fitness, he did surprisingly well and it was not long before he was accepted as a member.

His father wanted him to obtain the educational qualifications to equip him for a career and he was sent to a technical institute in Cesena to study radio technology. But after winning his first race - a 75km hill climb from nearby Forlì to Montecoronaro, a town on the border with Tuscany - Marco convinced him that his ambition to become a professional cyclist was worth pursuing.

His aggressive, attacking style in the saddle made him a favourite with cycling fans.  Instantly recognisable by his shaven head, his earrings and a trademark bandana, he was nicknamed 'Il Pirata' - the Pirate.

After finishing third on his Girobio debut in 1990 and second in 1991 before winning in 1992, injury delayed Pantani's professional debut in the Giro d'Italia until 1994, when he was runner-up. He finished third in his first Tour de France the same summer.

He missed part of the 1995 and 1996 seasons after another serious injury and suffered a setback when the Carrera Jeans sponsorship of his team ended in 1996.  However, he was soon installed as leader of a new team, Mercatone Uno, in whose colours he achieved his famous 'double' in 1998.

The Pantani monument in his home town of Cesenatico
The Pantani monument in his home town of Cesenatico
Coming only a year after the Festina team scandal had raised fears of widespread drug use in cycling, Pantani's 1999 test failure sent shockwaves through the sport and rumours began to spread about the Italian.

The test he failed was not sophisticated enough to detect drugs but the high level of hematocrit in his blood - 52 per cent compared with the maximum permitted 50 per cent - was consistent with values found in athletes using the substance erythropoietin - the hormone better known as EPO.

Pantani never tested positive for any banned substance and was inclined to believe stories that he had been the victim of a doctored test result linked to illegal gambling activities.  However, he was affected by the negative publicity and his performances in subsequent seasons suffered.

He was found dead in a hotel room in Rimini in 2004.  The coroner's verdict was that he died from a cocaine overdose, which has been supported by evidence that he was also taking prescription drugs to combat depression, creating a lethal combination.  An investigation into his possible murder, launched after a long campaign by his parents and others, was closed in 2016.

Travel tip:

Cesenatico is one of many resorts along the Adriatic coast that benefit from wide sandy beaches and is very busy during the summer months.  Originally it served as the port of Cesena, built around the mouth of a canal reputedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  It enjoyed a boom period in the early part of the 20th century, when there was an expansion in hotels, including the impressive neoclassical Grand Hotel Cesenatico, built in 1929, which resembles a Liberty-style palace.

The canal in Cesenatico, along side which Pantani used to ride his bike as a boy growing up
The canal in Cesenatico, along side which Pantani
used to ride his bike as a boy growing up
Travel tip:

The life and achievements of Marco Pantani are remembered in a museum and exhibition centre, called Spazio Pantani, which is situated next to Cesenatico's railway station in Viale Cecchini, which contains photographs, memorabilia and video footage dedicated to preserving the memory of the rider.  There is also a monument to Pantani in a park off Viale Carducci.


More reading:



Fiorenzo Magni - three times Giro winner in golden age of Italian cycling

How Attilio Pavesi won Italy's first road cycling Olympic gold

Also on this day:


1898: The birth of the brilliant operatic baritone Carlo Tagliabue

(Picture credits: Pantani portrait by Aldo Bolzan; Tour de France pic by Hein Ciere; Pantani monument by Brianza2008; Cesenatico canal by SimonePascuzzi all via Wikimedia Commons)

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15 December 2016

Frankie Dettori - champion jockey

Milan-born horseman among all-time greats


Frankie Dettori goes to post in the 2015 Derby on Golden  Horn, which he considers the best horse he has ridden
Frankie Dettori goes to post in the 2015 Derby on Golden
Horn, which he considers the best horse he has ridden
Lanfranco "Frankie" Dettori, the three-times British champion jockey, was born on this day in 1970 in Milan.

As well as winning the UK jockeys' title in 1994 and 1995 and again in 2004, Dettori has won more than 500 Group Races around the world, including 16 British Classics.

He won his first Classic in 1994 on Balanchine in the Oaks, the St Leger in 1995 on Classic Cliche, the 2,000 Guineas in 1996 on Mark of Esteem and the 1,000 Guineas in 1998 on Cape Verdi, finally completing the set at the 15th attempt when Authorized won the Derby at Epsom in 2007.

Dettori won the Derby for a second time in 2015 on Golden Horn, whom he rates the best horse he has ever ridden.

English-bred and owned by the diamond dealer Anthony Oppenheimer, Golden Horn won the Derby, the Eclipse Stakes, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for Wiltshire trainer John Gosden during the 2015 season, each time with Dettori in the saddle.

Apart from his big-race successes, which also include 24 Group Race wins in Italy and all of the Irish Classics, Dettori is best known for his unprecedented and so-far unequalled achievement of riding the winners of all seven races on a single day at Ascot in 1996.

Frankie Dettori moved to England  when he was 15 years old
Frankie Dettori moved to England
when he was 15 years old
Dettori's so-called Magnificent Seven including the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which he won on his 2,000 Guineas hero Mark of Esteem.  Most of his winners started as favourite or second favourite but his Diadem Stakes winner Diffident was a 12-1 shot, which inflated the cumulative odds for the seven-timer to 25,051-1, enabling one punter who had predicated that Dettori would go through the card to collect more than £500,000 in winnings.

Dettori celebrated his final win on Fujiyama Crest by dismounting with the flying leap that was to become his hallmark, standing up in the stirrups before jumping sideways off the horse to land on his feet.

Dettori was born into horse racing.  His Sardinian father, Gianfranco, was 13 times champion jockey in Italy, as well as riding successfully in Britain, where he won the 2,000 Guineas in 1975 and 1976.  Frankie's dream was to follow his father into the profession and he left school at 13 to become a stable boy and apprentice jockey.

He rode his first winner at Turin in November 1986 but by that time had become apprenticed to the Italian trainer Luca Cumani at Newmarket and rode his first winner on British soil when Lizzie Hare triumphed at Goodwood in 1987.

Three years later he became the first teenager since Lester Piggott to ride 100 winners in one season.

Luca Cumani, the Italian trainer who gave Dettori his first job in England
Luca Cumani, the Italian trainer who gave
Dettori his first job in England
In recent years, Dettori's career has suffered a number of setbacks.  In September 2012 he lost his position as retained jockey for the powerful Arab-owned Godolphin Stable, for whom he had enjoyed considerable success over 18 years, and soon afterwards tested positive for a recreational drug, which led to him being banned for six months.

It was not the first time he had attracted headlines for drug use, having admitted in a television interview that he had regularly taken diuretics and laxatives that were subsequently banned in order to keep his weight off.

Yet Dettori, who had bounced back once before after being injured in a light aircraft crash in 2000, rebuilt his career and reputation, securing an agreement to ride for the powerful Qatar-based Al Shaqab Racing.

In 2016, at 45 years old, became only the sixth jockey to ride 3,000 winners in Britain, which put him in the company of Sir Gordon Richards, Doug Smith, Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery and Willie Carson.

After Predilection - like Golden Horn, trained by John Gosden - took him to the milestone at Newmarket in August, he again celebrated with his flying dismount.

Away from racing, Dettori, who lives in the village of Stetchworth, near Newmarket, with his wife, Catherine, and their four children, owns a number of restaurants in London and Dubai.  He supports Arsenal football club and has taken part in the reality TV show, Celebrity Big Brother.

The magnificent Palazzina di Caccia of Stupingi is close  to the race track in Turin where Dettori rode his first winner
The magnificent Palazzina di Caccia of Stupingi is close
 to the race track in Turin where Dettori rode his first winner
Travel tip:

Turin's horse racing track, the Ippodromo Stupinigi or Ippodromo di Vinovo, is close to the historic Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi, which was built in 1729 as a hunting lodge for Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia, as one of the Royal Residences of the House of Savoy.  The house, overlooking a large expanse of park land and surrounded by ornate gardens, is built around a tall central dome and has 137 rooms and 17 balconies.  In 1773, it was the venue for the wedding of Maria Teresa, Princess of Savoy, and Charles Philippe, Count of Artois and the future Charles X of France.

Hotels in Turin by Expedia

Travel tip:

Italy's most valuable and prestigious horse race, the Derby Italiano, takes place at the Ippodromo Capannelle, a racecourse in the southern suburbs of Rome, between the Cinecittà district and Ciampino, which is home to the city's second international airport.  There is a train service to Capannelle direct from Roma Termini station, with a journey time of eight minutes.

Hotels in Rome by Hotels.com

More reading:


The Palio di Siena - Italy's most famous horse race

Luigi Beccali - winner of Italy's first Olympic track gold

Bruno Ruffo - Italy's first champion on two wheels


Also on this day:




(Picture credits: Golden Horn by monkeywing; Dettori on horse by Paul Friel; Palazzini di Caccia by Paolobon; all via Wikimedia commons)


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