Showing posts with label 1973. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1973. Show all posts

9 August 2018

Filippo Inzaghi - football manager

World Cup winning player turned successful coach

Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the verge of a place in Serie A
Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the
verge of a place in Serie A
The former Azzurri striker Filippo Inzaghi, who was a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad, was born on this day in 1973 in Piacenza.

A traditional goal poacher, known more for his knack of being in the right place at the right moment than for a high level of technical skill, Inzaghi scored 313 goals in his senior career before retiring as a player in 2012 and turning to coaching. He has recently been appointed manager of the Serie A team Bologna.

Inzaghi came off the substitutes’ bench to score the second goal as Italy beat the Czech Republic 2-0 to clinch their qualification for the knock-out stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany but found it impossible to win a starting place in competition with Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero in Marcello Lippi’s squad.

He also picked up a runners-up medal in Euro 2000, hosted jointly by Belgium and the Netherlands, where he scored against Turkey in the opening group game and against Romania in the quarter-final but was overlooked by coach Dino Zoff in his team for the final.

Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van Basten in his career with AC Milan
Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van
Basten in his career with AC Milan
His club career was one of success after success, principally during his time at Juventus and AC Milan.  A Serie A winner with the Turin club in 1998, he was twice a Scudetto winner with Milan, with whom he twice won the Champions League, beating his old club Juventus in the 2003 Final at Old Trafford, and overcoming Liverpool in the 2007 Final in Athens, when Inzaghi scored both Milan’s goals and was named Man of the Match.

Inzaghi’s goals tally, which includes 10 Serie A hat-tricks, is the seventh highest in Italian football history and he is the fourth highest goalscorer in European club competitions with 70 goals, behind only Raúl, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His 43 goals in international fixtures for Milan, for whom he scored twice against Boca Juniors of Argentina in the 2007 Club World Cup final, is a club record.

At international level, Inzaghi earned 57 caps for the Italy national team between 1997 and 2007, scoring 25 goals.

The sons of a textile salesman, Inzaghi and his younger brother Simone, who would also go on to be a striker in Serie A and the Italy national team, were brought up in the village of San Nicolò, just outside the city of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.

Filippo - also known as ‘Pippo’ - grew up wanting to emulate Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi and later Milan’s great Dutch striker Marco van Basten.

Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team
celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
He began his career with his local club, Piacenza, where he became a first-team regular after a couple of spells on loan to lower division clubs. His 15 goals in 37 matches in the 1994-95 Serie B season earned his club promotion to Serie A.

Despite their success, Piacenza accepted an offer from Parma for their star striker. However, though he became a favourite with the fans, Inzaghi’s career under coach Nevio Scala stalled after an injury and he was sold on again after one season.

The next move, to Atalanta of Bergamo, brought his big breakthrough. Even though Atalanta finished only 10th in Serie A, Inzaghi scored 24 goals, which made him the league’s Capocannoniere - top scorer. Incredibly, he scored either home or away against every other team and was named Serie A Young Footballer of the Year.

The success earned him a 23 billion lire move to Juventus, where he would stay for four years, in which time he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League twice, helped the bianconeri win the Scudetto in 1997-98 with 18 goals and scored six times in helping the team reach the Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Inzaghi turned to coaching when he  retired as a player in 2012
Inzaghi turned to coaching when he
retired as a player in 2012
Despite his 89 goals in 165 games for Juventus, he eventually fell out of favour and was sold again in 2001, this time for 70 billion lire to Milan, where he suffered a knee injury early in his first season but returned to form a potent partnership with Andriy Shevchenko and later Kaká in the 11 years that would be the most successful of his career, ultimately overtaking his hero Van Basten on the list of the club’s all-time top goalscorers.

A serious knee injury meant his involvement in the 2010-11 title-winning season was limited.  Less frequently used as a first-choice striker, he was told he would not be retained at the end of the following season, at which point he announced his retirement, a month short of his 39th birthday.

He began his coaching career immediately as head coach of AC Milan’s Primavera (Under-19) team and took over as head coach of the first team in July 2014 after the dismissal of his former playing colleague, Clarence Seedorf, under whose stewardship the club had failed to qualify for either of the European club competitions for the first time in 15 years.

Inzaghi could not bring about an improvement, but his dismissal after one season enabled him to find his first success as a club manager with Venezia, in the third tier of the Italian league system, known as Lega Pro.

Venezia won Lega Pro in Inzaghi’s first season in charge and reached the Serie B play-offs in his second year, although they missed out on a return to Serie A.

Nonetheless, with an impressive win ratio of more than 50 per cent from his 95 matches in charge, it was no surprise when Bologna, 15th in the 2017-18 Serie A season, offered him a return to the top flight.

The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
Travel tip:

Inzaghi’s home village of San Nicolò is a parish in the municipality of Rottafreno, which literally translates as ‘broken brake’ and often provokes laughter. It is thought the name may go back to the time of Hannibal and the Second Punic War (218-202 BC), when Hannibal was said to have been forced to spend the night in the village after his horse’s bit, which serves as a brake for the rider. Local people embraced the story so enthusiastically that the town’s municipal emblem includes the head of a horse with a broken bit.

Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Travel tip:

Piacenza is a city of 103,000 people in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments by Francesco Mochi featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma. The city is situated between the River Po and the Apennines, between Bologna and Milan. It has many fine churches and old palaces. Piacenza Cathedral was built in 1122 and is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.

More reading:

Marcello Lippi, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach

Nevio Scala and Parma's golden era

The World Cup heroics of Paolo Rossi

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on the bell tower that would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1939: The birth of politician Romano Prodi


7 April 2018

Marco Delvecchio - footballer

Striker who became TV dance show star

Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Italy national team
Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22
appearances for the Italy national team
The former Roma and Italy striker Marco Delvecchio, who launched a new career in television after finishing runner-up in the Italian equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing, was born on this day in 1973 in Milan.

Delvecchio scored 83 goals in exactly 300 appearances for Roma, where he was part of the side that won the Scudetto in 2000-01 and where he became a huge favourite with fans of the giallorossi because of his penchant for scoring against city rivals Lazio.

His record of nine goals in the Rome derby between 2002 and 2009 was the best by any player in the club’s history until that mark was overtaken by the Roma great Francesco Totti, whose career tally against Lazio was 11.

Delvecchio’s talents were somewhat underappreciated at international level. He made 22 appearances for the azzurri and the first of his four goals was in the final of Euro 2000 against France, although he finished on the losing side. Yet after being favoured by Dino Zoff, he was not so popular with Zoff’s successor as head coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who took him to the 2002 World Cup but did not give him a game, and omitted him from his squad for the 2004 Euros.

Delvecchio enjoyed his best days in a Roma shirt
Delvecchio enjoyed his best
days in a Roma shirt
Unusually, after 17 seasons, 395 appearances and 94 goals in professional football, Delvecchio ended his career with an amateur club in the Rome area, Pescatori Ostia, for whom he scored 34 goals in one season.

Three years after quitting football, Delvecchio accepted an invitation to appear in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) and finished second with professional partner Sara Di Vaira. 

Popular with viewers, Delvecchio then teamed up with former Internazionale and Italy striker Christian Vieri in their own show, called Bobo e Marco - i re del ballo (Bobo and Marco - the kings of dance) - on satellite channel Sky Uno, in which the two ex-players went on their travels to examine dance culture around the world.

Delvecchio’s TV career has continued to develop. A regular football pundit on Sky Sports, Teleradiostereo, Retesport and Radio 105, he has recently taken part in a third dance show, Dance Dance Dance, on FoxLife, paired with his 18-year-old daughter Federica.

Almost 6ft 2ins (1.86m) in height, Delvecchio was characteristically strong in the air as a player but with quick feet too.  Brought up through the youth system at Inter, he made his senior debut shortly before he turned 19 in a Coppa Italia match against Juventus and his first appearance in Serie A came against Fiorentina a few days later.

He established himself in the Inter team after gaining experience on loan at Venezia and Udinese but was then sold to Roma, where he became a key player in a team bursting with attacking talent, playing initially alongside Daniel Fonseca and Abel Balbo and later with Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella, as well as the emerging Francesco Totti.

Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira
in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Trophy success came his way under the coaching of Fabio Capello, who led Roma to the Serie A title in 2000-01 and the Supercoppa Italiana later in 2001.

In international football, Delvecchio was a member of the Italian team that won the UEFA European Under-21 championships in 1994 and 1996 and played for the Italy team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, before making his senior azzurri debut under Zoff in December 1998.

Established in the Zoff team that qualified for Euro 2000, hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, Delvecchio was close to scoring a winner under the now defunct Golden Goal rule in the semi-final against the Netherlands, which the azzurri ultimately won on penalties, before scoring his first senior international goal to put Italy ahead in the final against France in Rotterdam, which ended in heartache for the Italians after Sylvain Wiltord equalised in the last minute of stoppage time, forcing a period of extra time in which David Trezeguet hit a Golden Goal winner for France.

In domestic football, Delvecchio left Roma in 2005 and had spells with Brescia, Parma and Ascoli, where injury forced the termination of his contract and obliged him to have a year out of the game. He came out of retirement to help a former Roma teammate, Massimiliano Cappioli, launch his coaching career with Pescatori Ostia in Eccellenza Lazio, an amateur regional league.

Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular
destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Travel tip:

The seaside resort of Ostia, where Delvecchio finished his career, lies 30km (19 miles) to the southwest of Rome, situated just across the Tiber river from Fiumicino, home of Rome’s largest international airport, it adjoins the remains of the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica. Many Romans spend their summer holidays in the modern town, swelling a population of about 85,000.

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous major football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous
major football matches
Travel tip:

FC Roma’s home ground is the Stadio Olimpico, the largest sports facility in the city, located within the Foro Italico sports complex, north of the city. The athletics stadium for the 1960 Olympics, the structure belongs to the Italian National Olympic Committee but is primarily a football stadium. Roma are joint tenants with city rivals Lazio and the ground also hosts the Coppa Italia final. It was rebuilt for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and it hosted the tournament final. Originally called Stadio dei Cipressi as part of the Foro Mussolini complex, the 70,000-capacity stadium has been the venue for four European Cup/Champions League finals, two European championship and one World Cup final, in 1990, as well as numerous high-profile athletics events.


15 December 2017

John Paul Getty III released

Heir to world’s biggest fortune held by kidnappers for 158 days

John Paul Getty III was left severely disabled after a stroke in 1981
John Paul Getty III was left severely disabled
after a stroke in 1981
A story that dominated the Italian press and newspapers around the world ended on this day in 1973 when police responding to a tip-off found a shivering, malnourished and deeply traumatised American teenager inside a disused motorway service area in a remote part of southern Italy.

John Paul Getty III, grandson of the richest man in the world, the oil tycoon John Paul Getty, had been held in captivity for more than five months by a kidnap gang who had demanded $17 million for his safe return.

The boy’s 80-year-old grandfather, whose personal fortune would equate today to almost $9 billion but who was notoriously mean, at first refused to pay a penny and stuck to that position until late November, when a letter containing a lock of hair and a human ear arrived at the offices of a daily newspaper in Rome.

After a further letter arrived containing a photograph of John Paul Getty III minus one ear, the octogenarian’s representatives made contact with the kidnappers and negotiated his release for $3 million.

Even then, John Paul Getty Senior refused to pay more than $2.2 million, which his lawyers allegedly told him was the maximum he could claim as a tax-deductible expense. The other $800,000 was paid by the boy’s father, John Paul Getty II, then usually known as John Paul Getty Junior but later as Sir Paul Getty.

The 17-year-old John Paul Getty III speaks to members of the press following his release
The 17-year-old John Paul Getty III speaks to members
of the press following his release
The story not only shocked Italy but exposed many rather unsavoury secrets about the world’s richest family.

The early life of John Paul Getty III had been fairly unremarkable, as far as is possible for one born into wealth and privilege.  He was one of four children to emerge from John Paul Getty Jnr’s marriage to Gail Harris, a water polo champion.

Although born in Minneapolis, he spent much of his childhood in Rome, where his father was head of Getty Oil Italiana. Life began to unravel for him when his parents divorced and his father took up with a beautiful Dutch actress and model, Talitha Pol, and rejected his former life.

The couple, famously photographed in Marrakesh by the society snapper Patrick Lichfield, led a dissolute lifestyle, flitting from Rome to London to Morocco until Pol died of a heroin overdose in 1971 and her husband, an Anglophile, returned to London.

John Paul Getty Snr at first refused to  consider meeting the ransom demand
John Paul Getty Snr at first refused to
consider meeting the ransom demand
His son was left alone in Rome and his own lifestyle began to follow a similarly Bohemian path. With no senior male figure to guide him, he fell into a life of excess, partying hard and taking drugs. He was arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a left-wing demonstration and reportedly expelled from no fewer than seven schools. By 1971 he had given up on the prospect of an education and decided he would make a living as an artist. He began selling his paintings to local trattorie, and made extra cash by modelling nude for life classes.

It was when his was 16 and sharing an apartment with a couple of other artists that he was seized by a gang led by members of the notorious Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta. They had clearly noted his nocturnal lifestyle and were able to snatch him fairly easily in the Piazza Farnese in central Rome at three o’clock in the morning on July 10, 1973.

He was blindfolded and chained up in a mountain hideout while the gang issued their ransom demands. At first, even his mother and father had doubts about the authenticity of the kidnap, remembering that their son had joked about faking a kidnap to extract money from his miserly grandfather.

Eventually it became clear it was not a hoax, however. When Gail Harris, the gang’s first point of contact after they had made her son write her a desperate letter, told them she had no money, they demanded that she “get it from London”, implying that her ex-husband or his father should be made to pay.

John Paul Getty III died at his father's estate, Wormsley Park, in Buckinghamshire, which has its own cricket field
John Paul Getty III died at his father's estate, Wormsley Park,
in Buckinghamshire, which has its own cricket field
Although John Paul Getty Jnr would in time inherit a substantial share of the family’s wealth, at that moment he was still relatively poor and it fell to John Paul Getty Snr to decide his grandson’s fate.  Having first reasoned that to settle one ransom demand would simply turn his 13 other grandchildren into kidnap targets, he was finally persuaded to pay up, albeit at a much-reduced figure.  He gave John Paul Getty Jnr a loan to pay his share, charging him interest at four per cent.

Once the money was paid the teenager, who had turned 17 during his captivity, was dumped by his abductors at a motorway service area near Lauria, in the province of Potenza, more than 400km (250 miles) south of Rome.  He was in a poor state of health but while he recovered physically, with his missing ear rebuilt, he was left with deep psychological scars that never healed.

He married a German photographer, Gisela Zacher, and had a son – now an actor, Balthazar Getty - when he was only 18. They moved to New York, where he became part of Andy Warhol’s hedonistic set in Greenwich Village.

In 1981, addicted to Valium and methadone and drinking heavily, he suffered liver failure and a stroke, which left him quadriplegic, almost blind and unable to speak.  His father, who had by then become a philanthropist while battling his own drug addiction, at first refused to pay his son’s medical bills but eventually relented.

John Paul Getty III managed to survive for another 30 years, living in what were effectively his own private hospitals in California, Ireland and at Wormsley in Buckinghamshire, where his father had a building in the grounds of his mansion converted so that his son could live there.  It was at Wormsley in 2011 that he died at the age of 54, having survived his father by eight years.

The Palazzo Farnese houses the French embassy in Rome
The Palazzo Farnese houses the French embassy in Rome
Travel tip:

The Piazza Farnese is the square in front of the Palazzo Farnese, one of the most important High Renaissance palaces in Rome. Owned by the Italian Republic, it was given to the French government in 1936 for a period of 99 years, and currently houses the French embassy.  Built in the 16th century for the Farnese family by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, it was extensively redesigned by Michelangelo when Alessandro Farnese became Pope Pius III. In 1900, the composer Puccini chose the Palazzo Farnese as the setting for a major scene in his opera, Tosca.

The tumbledown ruins of the Saracen castle in Lauria
The tumbledown ruins of the Saracen castle in Lauria
Travel tip:

Lauria is a picturesque medieval walled town built on the side of a steep hill in Basilicata, about 110km (68 miles) southwest of the large city of Potenza. The main sights include the remains of a Saracen castle, once the home of a famous 13th century admiral, Roger of Lauria. The actor and film director, Rocco Papaleo, was born in Lauria in 1958.

Also on this day:

28 October 2017

Sergio Tòfano – actor and illustrator

The many talents of stage and screen star

Sergio Tofano as Professor Toti, in Luigi  Pirandello's comic play Pensaci, Giacomino!
Sergio Tòfano as Professor Toti, in Luigi
 Pirandello's comic play Pensaci, Giacomino!
Comic actor, director, writer and illustrator Sergio Tòfano died on this day in 1973 in Rome.

He is remembered as an intelligent and versatile theatre and film actor and also as the creator of the much-loved cartoon character Signor Bonaventura, who entertained Italians for more than 40 years.

Tòfano was born in Rome in 1886, the son of a magistrate, and studied at the University of Rome and the Academy of Santa Cecilia. He made his first appearance on stage in 1909.

He soon specialised as a comic actor and worked with a string of famous directors including Luigi Almirante and Vittorio de Sica.
He became famous after his performance as Professor Toti in Luigi Pirandello’s comic play, Pensaci, Giacomino! 

Also a talented artist and writer, Tòfano invented his cartoon character Signor Bonaventura for the children’s magazine, Il Corriere dei Piccoli, signing himself as Sto.

Signor Bonaventura made his first appearance in 1917. The character wore a red frock coat and a hat and his fans interpret him as showing how good people, despite making mistakes, can avoid the bad outcome they seem fated to experience, even in complicated situations, because there is always hope.

Tofano's invention, the cartoon character Signor Bonaventura
Tòfano's invention, the cartoon
character Signor Bonaventura
After the Second World War Tòfano continued to act, working with important directors such as Luchino Visconti and Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan performing in plays by Ibsen and Shakespeare. He also took parts in plays by Molière and Goldoni at the Teatro dei Satiri in Rome.

Tòfano has a string of film and television credits to his name, his most successful films including Goffredo Alessandrini’s 1934 comedy Seconda B, the Raffaello Matarazzo drama Giù il Sipario (1940) and Partner (1968), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and based on the on the novel The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

He continued to act until his death at the age of 87, having survived his wife, Rosetta, a costume designer he married in 1923, by 13 years.

Before 1935, Rome University's base was in the Palazzo della Sapienza, near Piazza Navona
Before 1935, Rome University's base was in
the Palazzo della Sapienza, near Piazza Navona
Travel tip:

Rome University, where Tòfano studied, is often known simply as La Sapienza, which means ‘the wisdom’.  It can trace its origins back to 1303, when it was opened by Pope Boniface VIII as the first pontifical university. In the 19th century the University broadened its outlook and started to offer more than just ecclesiastical studies. Today’s campus was built near the Termini railway station in 1935. Rome University now caters for more than 112,000 students.

Travel tip:

The Piccolo Teatro della Città di Milano, where Tòfano performed regularly after it was founded in 1947, was Italy’s first permanent repertory company. It now operates from three venues in Milan, the Teatro Grassi, the Teatro Studio and the Teatro Strehler.

25 April 2017

Ferruccio Ranza - World War One flying ace

Fighter pilot survived 57 aerial dogfights

Ferruccio Ranza in the cockpit of a Nieuport fighter plane
Ferruccio Ranza in the cockpit of a Nieuport fighter plane
Ferruccio Ranza, a World War One pilot who survived 465 combat sorties and scored 17 verified victories, died on this day in 1973 in Bologna, at the age of 80.

Ranza, who also saw service in the Second World War, when he rose to the rank of Brigadier General, was jointly the seventh most successful of Italy’s aviators in the 1914-18 conflict, and would be placed third if his eight unconfirmed victories had been proven.  In all, he engaged with enemy aeroplanes in 57 dogfights.

The most successful Italian flying ace from the First World War was Francesco Baracca, who chalked up 34 verified victories before he was killed in action in 1918.  Ranza served alongside Baracca in the 91st Fighter Squadron of the Italian air force, the so-called ‘squadron of aces’.

Ranza was born in Fiorenzuolo d’Arda, a medium-sized town in the province of Piacenza in what is now Emilia-Romagna, in 1892. Both his parents, Paolo and Maria, were teachers. 

Ferruccio Ranza, second left, with other member of the 91st Squadron, including Francesco Barraca (far right)
Ferruccio Ranza, second left, with other member of the 91st
Squadron, including Francesco Baracca (far right)
After attending the Istituto Tecnico ‘Romagnosi’ in Piacenza, he joined the Italian army in December 1913. He was a second lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Engineers when the First World War began in 1914.

Italy had been part of the Triple Alliance at that time, along with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but delayed entering the conflict and by the time it did, in April 1915, it was on the side of the Triple Entente, with Russia, France and Britain, having been promised territorial gains in the Adriatic Sea region.

Ranza attended the flying school at Venaria Reale, just outside Turin. His first assignment, in October 1915, was to fly reconnaissance missions with the 43rd Squadron. He won a Bronze award of the Medal for Military Valor for carrying out an artillery spotting mission under heavy fire.

His success in aerial warfare began when he mastered the French-built Nieuport fighters and joined 77th Squadron in June 1916, scoring his first success after only five days when he downed a Hansa-Brandenburg CI, an aircraft designed by Ernst Heinkel, who would provide much of the Luftwaffe’s air power during the Second World War.

A scale model of the Nieuport 11 in which Ranza scored many of his victories after joining the 91st Squadron
A scale model of the Nieuport 11 in which Ranza scored
many of his victories after joining the 91st Squadron
In November 2016, Fulco Ruffo di Calabria was removed from command of 77th Squadron because of combat fatigue and Ranza was appointed to succeed him in command.

He was transferred to the crack 91st Squadron under the command of Francesco Baracca in May 2017, achieving his first kill the following month when he downed a two-seater armed reconnaissance plane in the skies above Barco, a small town near Vicenza in what is now the Veneto.

Ranza remained with the 91st until the end of the war, by which time he had won three Silver awards of the Medal for Military Valor, the Serbian Order of the Star of Karađorđe, four war crosses (two Italian, one French, one Belgian), and the Military Order of Savoy.

Even after the war had finished, with Italy counting a heavy cost in lives lost and economic consequences, Ranza continued his military career, seeing service in Africa and Albania as Mussolini pursued an aggressive foreign policy. 

Ferruccio Ranzo in 1944
Ferruccio Ranza in 1944
When Italy entered World War Two, Ranza was in charge of Italy’s air force in Albania, providing support for Italy’s campaign in Greece.  He had an escape in 1941 when, flying a transport plane, he was attacked by an Italian fighter who mistook him for an enemy. Ranza’s plane was hit and badly damaged but he managed to crash land and avoided serious injury.

By 1943, as the Allied invasion of Italy began, he was the commander of Italy’s airforce in the south of the peninsula, based in Bari, and after Mussolini’s overthrow was able to persuade the Allied command to allow Italian planes to contribute to the nation’s liberation by flying missions against the Germans.

Ranza retired in 1945 and was living in Bologna at the time of his death.  His body was returned to Fiorenzuolo d’Arda for burial in the family chapel at the town’s cemetery.

Travel tip:

Fiorenzuola d’Arda is a town of about 15,000 inhabitants situated about halfway between Piacenza and Parma in the plain of the Po Valley, in the Emilia-Romagna province. The Arda river flows through the town before joining the Po. It is a pleasant town built, at the centre of which, on Piazza Molinari, is the Collegiate Church of San Fiorenzo, the construction of which began in the 13th century.

The Royal Palace, Reggia di Venaria Reale
The Royal Palace, Reggia di Venaria Reale
Travel tip:

Venaria Reale is a town, on the north-west edge of the Turin metropolitan area, of historical significance for the presence of the Reggia di Venaria Reale, a palace of the Royal House of Savoy, which was designed and built from 1675 by Amedeo di Castellamonte, having been commissioned by duke Charles Emmanuel II as a base for his hunting expeditions in the countryside north of Turin. The town’s historic centre was also designed by Di Castellamonte to provide an appropriate backdrop to the palace.

More reading:

How Armando Diaz led decision World War One victory at Vittorio Veneto

Enea Bossi and the pedal-powered aeroplane

The Calabrian veteran who survived two world wars

Also on this day:

26 September 2016

Anna Magnani - Oscar-winning film star

Roman one of only three Italians to land best actor award

Anna Magnani, the Rome-born actress who died in 1973
Anna Magnani, the Rome-born
actress who died in 1973
Anna Magnani, who found fame for her performance in Roberto Rossellini's neorealist classic movie Rome, Open City and went on to become one of only three Italian actors to win an Academy Award, died on this day in Rome in 1973.

Magnani had been quietly suffering from pancreatic cancer and her death at the age of just 65 shocked her fans and even close friends. Rossellini, with whom she had a tempestuous five-year relationship before he ditched her for the Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, was at her bedside along with her son, Luca.  Rossellini was considered to be Magnani’s one great love. The American playwright Tennessee Williams, who wrote two parts for her in his plays (Serafina in The Rose Tattoo and Lady in Orpheus Descending) specifically with Magnani in mind, was so devastated he could not bring himself to attend her funeral.

Instead he sent 20 dozen roses to signify the bond they developed while working together over 24 years.  When Williams was in Rome they would meet for cocktails on the roof-top terrace of her home, overlooking the city, always at eight o'clock - "alle venti" in Italy, where times are generally expressed according to the 24-hour clock.  They would sign off letters and telegrams to one another with the words "Ci vediamo alle venti" or "See you at eight."

The funeral procession attracted crowds in the tens of thousands. Countless businesses closed and many streets were shut to traffic as Magnani's coffin was taken to the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, near the Pantheon in central Rome, where the service took place.  The Piazza Minerva was thronged with people, who broke into spontaneous cheering when the coffin appeared.

The original movie poster for the film  of the Tennessee Williams play, The Rose Tattoo.
The original movie poster for the film
of the Tennessee Williams play
It was the movie version of The Rose Tattoo, for which Williams wrote the screenplay, that won Magnani her Oscar in 1955, playing opposite Burt Lancaster. She was the first of two Italian actresses to win the Academy Award, to be followed six years later by Sophia Loren for Vittorio De Sica's La Ciociara, which was renamed Two Women for the American market.

Loren’s role was originally designed for Magnani and Loren was supposed to play the role of her daughter. Magnani refused to play opposite Loren, who was already 26 years old and not right for a teenaged virgin, and actually gave De Sica the idea to cast Loren as the mother; a role for which she would win the Best Actress Oscar in 1962.

Roberto Benigni is the only Italian-born male actor to win an Oscar, for Life is Beautiful in 1998.

Magnani's acting was notable in that she was able to bring her own personality, her affinity with the ordinary people she grew up with, to her roles, in which she was often cast as una popolana - a coarse woman of working class background.  Raised largely by her grandparents in a poor, working-class part of Rome, Anna was a product of a short-lived marriage between her mother, Marina Magnani, and an itinerant Calabrian father (who worked in Egypt) whom she met only once.

Some erroneous biographical notes suggest she was born in Alessandria, Egypt but Magnani herself insisted that while her mother may have been in Egypt when she fell pregnant, she had moved back to Rome and was living in the Porta Pia area by the time she gave birth.  Magnani was given her maternal surname, the last name of both her mother and grandmother.

While Anna had a tough upbringing in Rome, her grandmother managed to send her to a convent school, learned French, played piano, and, at age 17, went on to study at the Eleonora Duse Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome for two years. She often said she felt more at home with the more down-to-earth people in her own neighborhood as it taught her to become streetwise at a young age. Magnani soon was supporting herself by singing in cabarets and nightclubs, where her performances drew comparisons with the French singer, Edith Piaf.

Magnani had her first film role in the 1920s, although it was 20 years before her breakthrough in Rossellini's 1945 movie Rome, Open City, which is generally regarded as the first film in the Italian neorealist genre to achieve commercial success. Magnani's performance as Pina, the pregnant widow of an Italian resistance fighter murdered by the occupying Germans forces as she tries to protect her fiance, was acclaimed for its brilliance. Although she was not regarded as a conventional beauty, she had an earthy sensuality that audiences found captivating.

Anna Magnani, centre, in a scene from Rome, Open City, the film that was the turning point in her career
Anna Magnani, centre, in a scene from Rome, Open City,
the film that was the turning point in her career
Her relationship with Rossellini, often punctuated with violent rows in which they were renowned for throwing crockery at one another, foundered after five years, when Rossellini began an affair with Bergman, reneging on a promise to make Magnani the star of his 1950 film, Stromboli, and giving the role instead to the Swedish actress.  Magnani retaliated  by making her own film with director William Dieterle entitled Vulcano.

Yet Magnani's career never faltered as it this very time, in 1949-50, that her friendship with American playwright Tennessee Williams would blossom. She went on to work with many of the great Italian directors, such as Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini, whose 1972 film, Roma, would be her last.

Magnani married Italian director, Goffredo Alessandrini, in the 1930s but they were together only briefly before the marriage was annulled.  Her son, Luca, was born in 1942, the product of an affair with an Italian actor, Massimo Serato. Luca was stricken with polio as a child (1944) but Anna dedicated her life to caring for him in his younger years and providing him with the best (Swiss) medical care. Luca Magnani - Anna fought in court for him to keep her maternal surname - would go on to be a noted architect and real estate developer.

Luca Magnani's daughter, Olivia Magnani, born in Bologna in 1975, has followed her grandmother in becoming a movie actress. She is the fifth generation to carry on the Magnani name.

The stage play, Roman Nights, by Italo-American playwright Franco D’Alessandro recounts the inspired, fruitful, and tumultuous friendship between Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams. 

The beautiful vaulted ceiling of the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome
The beautiful vaulted ceiling of the Basilica
di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome
Travel tip:

The Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva is the only existing example of an oroginal Gothic church in Rome, its Renaissance-style frontage concealing a Gothic interior featuring an arched vaulted ceiling painted blue with gilded stars.  It contains a marble sculpture, Cristo della Minerva, by Michelangelo, and the strikingly beautiful Carafa Chapel, with frescoes by Filippino Lippi.  Buried in the church are Saint Catherine of Siena, the Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, and at least four popes.

Travel tip:

Porta Pia, from which the neighbourhood in which Anna Magnani was born takes its name, is a gate in Rome's Aurelian Walls, designed by Michelangelo and named after Pope Pius IV.  It was close to Porta Pia that a breach of the walls made by Bersaglieri soldiers from the north of Italy enabled Rome to be captured and completed the unification of Italy in 1870.  It was also the scene of a failed assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini in 1926 by anti-Fascist activist Gino Lucetti.

Also on this day:

(Photo of interior of Basilica by Tango7174 GFDL)