Showing posts with label 1975. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1975. Show all posts

22 February 2019

Renato Dulbecco - Nobel Prize-winning physiologist

Research led to major breakthrough in knowledge of cancer

Renato Dulbecco emigrated to the United States 1946 after studying at the University of Turin
Renato Dulbecco emigrated to the United States
1946 after studying at the University of Turin
Renato Dulbecco, a physiologist who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in drawing a link between genetic mutations and cancer, was born on this day in 1914 in Catanzaro in Calabria.

Through a series of experiments that began in the late 1950s after he had emigrated to the United States, Dulbecco and two colleagues showed that certain viruses could insert their own genes into infected cells and trigger uncontrolled cell growth, a hallmark of cancer.

Their findings transformed the course of cancer research, laying the groundwork for the linking of several viruses to human cancers, including the human papilloma virus, which is responsible for most cervical cancers.

The discovery also provided the first tangible evidence that cancer was caused by genetic mutations, a breakthrough that changed the way scientists thought about cancer and the effects of carcinogens such as tobacco smoke.

Dulbecco, who shared the Nobel Prize with California Institute of Technology (Caltech) colleagues Howard Temin and David Baltimore, then examined how viruses use DNA to store their genetic information and, in his studies of breast cancer, pioneered a technique for identifying cancer cells by the proteins present on their surface.

Dulbecco found that viruses such as the human papilloma virus could cause cell mutations
Dulbecco found that viruses such as the human
papilloma virus could cause cell mutations
His proposal in 1986 to catalogue all human genes can be seen as the beginnings of the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003.

The son of a civil engineer, Dulbecco grew up in Liguria after his family moved from Catanzaro to the coastal city of Imperia. He graduated from high school at 16 and went on to the University of Turin, receiving his medical degree in 1936. He became friends there with two other future Nobel prizewinners, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Salvador Luria, who were fellow students.

Immediately upon graduating, he was required to do two years’ military service. He was discharged in 1938 but soon afterwards called up again as Italy entered the Second World War, joining the Italian Army as a medical officer.

His role eventually took him to the Russian front, where he suffered an injury to his shoulder that meant he was sent back to Italy to recuperate. Disillusioned with Mussolini and horrified at learning of the fate of Jews under Hitler, he decided not to return to the Army, joining the resistance instead. He stationed himself in a remote village outside Turin, tending to injured partisans.

After the war, he was briefly involved with politics, firstly on the Committee for National Liberation in Turin and then on the city council, but soon returned to Turin University to study physics and conduct biological research.

Dulbecco's fellow Turin University graduate Salvador Duria also moved to America
Dulbecco's fellow Turin University graduate
Salvador Duria also moved to America
With the encouragement of Levi-Montalcini, who would win a Nobel Prize in 1986 for her work in neurobiology, in 1946, he moved to United States, rejoining Luria, who shared a Nobel in 1969 for discoveries about the genetics of bacteria, at Indiana University, where they studied viruses. In the summer of 1949 he moved to Caltech, where he began his work on animal oncoviruses.

Dulbecco worked with Dr. Marguerite Vogt on a method of determining the amount of polio virus present in cell culture, a step that was vital in the development of polio vaccine, before becoming intrigued by a thesis written by Howard Temin on the connection between viruses and cancer.

He left Caltech in 1962 to move to the Salk Institute, a polio research facility in San Diego, and then in 1972 to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in London.

There was a mixed reaction in Italy when it was learned that ‘their’ Nobel Prize winner had become an American citizen. In fact, his Italian citizenship was revoked, although when he moved back to Italy in 1993 to spend four years as president of the Institute of Biomedical Technologies at National Council of Research in Milan he was made an honorary citizen.

Married twice, with three children, Dulbecco died in La Jolla, California, in 2012, three days before what would have been his 98th birthday.

From its elevated position, Catanzaro has views towards the Ionian Sea and the resort of Catanzaro Lido
From its elevated position, Catanzaro has views towards
the Ionian Sea and the resort of Catanzaro Lido
Travel tip:

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

The waterfront of the Ligurian port city of Imperia, with the Basilica of San Maurizio on top of the hill
The waterfront of the Ligurian port city of Imperia, with
the Basilica of San Maurizio on top of the hill
Travel tip:

The beautiful city of Imperia, on Liguria's Riviera Poniente about 120km (75 miles) west of Genoa and 60km (37 miles) from the border with France, came into being in 1923 when the neighbouring ports of Porto Maurizio and Oneglia, either side of the Impero river, were merged along with several surrounding villages to form one conurbation.  Oneglia, once the property of the Doria family in the 13th century, has become well known for cultivating flowers and olives. Porto Maurizio, originally a Roman settlement called Portus Maurici, has a classical cathedral dedicated to San Maurizio, which was built by Gaetano Cantoni and completed in the early 19th century.

18 December 2018

Mara Carfagna - politician

Former glamour model now important voice in Italian parliament

Mara Carfagna has defied detractors to  become a powerful politician
Mara Carfagna has defied detractors to
become a powerful politician
The politician Mara Carfagna, a one-time glamour model and TV hostess who is now vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian parliament, was born on this day in 1975 in Salerno.

Originally named Maria Rosaria Carfagna, she left high school to study dance at the school of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, obtaining a diploma before going on to study acting and the piano.

In 1997 she won a beauty contest as Miss 1997 and participated in the finals of Miss Italia. She had her first experience in television as one of the co-presenters during the 1997-98 season of the Rai variety show, Domenica In, with Fabrizio Frizzi.

Carfagna found herself in demand as a model and posed for some magazine and calendar shoots, but at the same time was studying law at the University of Salerno, graduating with honours in 2001.

More television work came her ways as a glamourous co-presenter of the Mediaset show La domenica del villaggio alongside Davide Mengacci, moving on to present another entertainment show Piazza grande together with Giancarlo Magalli.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi made Mara Carfagna a minister
Former premier Silvio Berlusconi
made Mara Carfagna a minister
At the same time she was developing a career in politics. She began to take an interest in women’s rights issues and in 2004 joined Forza Italia, the party led by the then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In 2006 she was nominated as a candidate in Campania and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. She soon attracted the attention of Berlusconi, who was also owner of the Mediaset TV channels for which she worked, who made a tongue-in-cheek but demeaning suggestion that his party should practise the ancient law of primae noctis, which allowed feudal lords to select any female subject of his choice for his sexual gratification.

Carfagna ignored the comment and gained a reputation as a hard-working parliamentarian.  Berlusconi lost his position as prime minister at the 2006 election but won it back two years later.

When the controversial leader named Carfagna in his new cabinet as Minister for Equal Opportunity, she attracted a new wave of publicity.

The magazine Maxim, for whom she had appeared as a cover model, ran some of her pictures again, ranking her at No 1 in a feature entitled “World’s hottest politicians.”

Carfagna (right) greets former president Giorgio Napolitano
on the occasion of International Women's Day in 2009
It was also recalled that a year before winning back power, Berlusconi had said of Carfagna: "If I was not already married I would have married her immediately".  The comment led Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, to demand an apology, although Carfagna dismissed it as "gallant and harmless."

As a minister, she has been an outspoken campaigner in a number of areas, from the level of crime in her home city of Salerno to the management of waste disposal in Campania, as well as prostitution, homophobia and violence against women.

In 2008, a few months after taking office, she attracted some ironic comments from political writers and opposition politicians when she proposed a law making street prostitution a crime, with fines for both clients and prostitutes, over and above existing laws forbidding the exploitation of prostitutes by pimps. The bill was her first major initiative as a minister.

Carfagna has clashed with Italy's controversial deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini
Carfagna has clashed with Italy's controversial
deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini
Her remarks condemning “women who sell their bodies for money” was seized upon in particular by the Italian Committee for the Rights of Prostitutes, who claimed to represent an estimated 70,000 prostitutes working in the country.  But Catholic charities praised her.

In 2009 she became the first political promoter of the law against stalking, later included in the penal code thanks to the Maroni decree.

Also in 2009 she launched the first campaign against homophobia and against violence based on sexual orientation to be carried out by an Italian government.

Carfagna has continued to build her reputation as a politician determined to bring about change and in March this year was elected vice president of the Chamber of Deputies as a reflection of the respect she has gained.  Recently, she has been an outspoken critic of Italy's controversial current deputy prime minister, the Lega politician Matteo Salvini.

Via Botteghelle, typical of the narrow streets to be found in Salerno's historic old town
Via Botteghelle, typical of the narrow streets
to be found in Salerno's historic old town
Travel tip:

Salerno, situated some 55km (34 miles) south of Naples with a population of about 133,000, is a city with a reputation as an industrial port and is often overlooked by visitors to Campania, who tend to flock to Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi coast and the Cilento. Yet it has an attractive waterfront and a quaint old town, at the heart of which is the Duomo, originally built in the 11th century, which houses in its crypt is the tomb of one of the twelve apostles of Christ, Saint Matthew the Evangelist. It is also a good base for excursions both to the Amalfi coast, just a few kilometres to the north, and the Cilento, which can be found at the southern end of the Gulf of Salerno. Hotels are also cheaper than at the more fashionable resorts.

Hotels in Salerno by TripAdvisor

Amalfi occupies a spectacularly beautiful setting on the  Campania coast between Naples and Salerno
Amalfi occupies a spectacularly beautiful setting on the
Campania coast between Naples and Salerno
Travel tip:

Amalfi, just 25km (16 miles) along the coast from Salerno, occupies a dramatic natural setting at the foot of steep cliffs along the stretch of spectacular Campania coastline that takes its name from the town and is one of Italy’s best-known tourist attractions. The town itself attracts huge numbers of visitors each year.  Its ninth-century Duomo dominates the town's central piazza, sitting at the top of a wide flight of steps. The cloister (Chiostro del Paradiso) and museum close by house sculptures, mosaics and other relics.  Radiating away from the cathedral, narrow streets offer many souvenir shops and cafes for visitors.  Amalfi is accessible by bus from Sorrento and Salerno and there are boat services that run along the coast.

More reading:

Silvio Berlusconi - the entrepreneur who became Italy's most controversial prime minister

How Irene Pavetti swapped political office for television

The political campaigner Emma Bonino

Also on this day:

1737: The death of violin maker Antonio Stradivari

1957: The death of entrepreneur Camillo Castiglioni

1966: The birth of record-breaking goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca


6 December 2018

Andrea Agnelli - Juventus chairman

Fourth member of famous dynasty to run Turin club

Andrea Agnelli has been chairman of Juventus since succeeding John Elkann in 2010
Andrea Agnelli has been chairman of Juventus
since succeeding John Elkann in 2010
The businessman Andrea Agnelli, who since 2010 has been chairman of Italy’s leading football club, Juventus, was born on this day in 1975 in Turin.

He is the fourth Agnelli to take the helm of the famous club since 1923, when his grandfather, Edoardo, took over as president and presided over the club’s run of five consecutive Serie A titles in the 1930s.

Andrea’s father, Umberto, and his uncle, the flamboyant entrepreneur Gianni Agnelli, also had spells running the club, which has been controlled by the Agnelli family for 88 years, with the exception of a four-year period between 1943 and 1947. The family still owns 64% of the club.

As well as being chief operating officer of Fiat, which was founded by Andrea’s great-grandfather, Giovanni, Umberto was a Senator of the Italian Republic.  On his mother’s side, Andrea has noble blood.

Donna Allegra Caracciolo di Castagneto is the first cousin of Marella Agnelli - Gianni’s widow - who was born Donna Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto and is the daughter of Filippo Caracciolo, 8th Prince di Castagneto, 3rd Duke di Melito, and a hereditary Patrician of Naples.

A young Andrea Agnelli pictured at the 1996 Champions League final - the last Juventus won - with his uncle, Gianni
A young Andrea Agnelli pictured at the 1996 Champions
League final - the last Juventus won - with his uncle, Gianni
Andrea had a private education St Clare's, an independent college in Oxford, England, and at Bocconi University in Milan.  After university, Agnelli entered the business world, working for companies in England and France that included Iveco and Auchan Hypermarché. He also spent several years in Switzerland.

He was appointed chairman of the board of directors of Juventus by his first cousin, John Elkann, in 2010, after Elkann had come under criticism from Juventus fans for the club's poor results during the 2009–10 season.

Many Juventus fans welcomed Andrea’s arrival because of the family's historic association with the club. He is credited with turning round the club’s fortunes at a time when the financial recession and the aftermath of the infamous Calciopoli scandal were making progress difficult.

Emma Winter, the English artist Agnelli married in 2005
Emma Winter, the English artist
Agnelli married in 2005
He stabilised the club’s finances and, after initially appointing Sampdoria duo Giuseppe Marotta as director of sport and Luigi Delneri as coach, pulled off a masterstroke in May 20100 by hiring former captain and fan favourite Antonio Conte as new manager.

Conte, who had coached Bari to the Serie B title in 2008-09, steered Juve in his first season to their first scudetto since they were stripped of two titles in the mid-2000s as a result of the Calciopoli rulings.

Since then, with Agnelli appointing the former AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri to replace Chelsea-bound Conte in 2014 in a seamless change at the top, Juventus have won a record seven Serie A titles in a row, as well as four Coppa Italia titles in a row since 2014–15.

Juventus are well on course for an eighth consecutive title, having already built a lead of eight points over Napoli in the Serie A table, but Agnelli and the club more than anything crave success in the Champions League, which they have not won since 1996, when they defeated Ajax on penalties in the final in Rome.

In the 22 seasons subsequent to that one, they have been runners-up five times, twice since Andrea became chairman, in 2015 and 2017, when they were beaten respectively by the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Andrea Agnelli would like to see the Champions League established as the main competition for Europe's biggest clubs
Andrea Agnelli would like to see the Champions League
established as the main competition for Europe's biggest clubs
Despite falling revenues - the club recorded an operating loss of €19 million (£17 million) in 2017-18 - Andrea authorised the signing of Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo in July this year for a fee of €100 million (£88.5 million), beating the previous record fee paid by an Italian club that was set by Juventus in 2016 when they signed Gonzalo Higuaín from Napoli for €90 million (£75.3 million).

The Ronaldo signing will eventually cost Juventus €340 million (£301 million) with the player’s salary taken into account, yet Agnelli insisted that the outlay “made sense on and off the pitch”, in a reference to the commercial revenue the Portugal star was likely to generate for the club through merchandising, and to his potential for helping Juventus achieve Agnelli’s target of winning the Champions League.

As chairman of the powerful European Club Association, a position he has held since 2017, Andrea is keen to see the Champions League overtake domestic competition as the principal focus for Europe’s top clubs, proposing an increase in the size of the Champions League and a corresponding reduction in the number of domestic fixtures.

Edoardo Agnelli, grandfather of Andrea, ran Juventus in the 1930s
Edoardo Agnelli, grandfather of
Andrea, ran Juventus in the 1930s
This has been driven in part by the inequality that now exists between the domestic leagues in European countries, mainly because of the huge variations in television revenue, particular compared with the Premier League in England. Juventus, despite their dominant position in Italian football, are only the 10th wealthiest club in Europe in terms of revenue.

Andrea Agnelli is married to Emma Winter, a English-born artist, designer and art director, whose clients have included United Visual Artists, Universal, Sony, Polydor, Ted Baker, Adidas, Dove, Peugeot and Panasonic.

They were married in 2005 at the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Villar Perosa in Piedmont, with the reception taking place at the nearby Villa Agnelli, the family estate which is now the home of Marella Agnelli. The couple have two children, 13-year-old Baya Agnelli and six-year-old Giacomo Dai Agnelli.

UPDATE: Agnelli resigned as chairman and president of Juventus in November 2022 following investigations into financial irregularities at the club. He received a two-year ban from football over alleged false accounting and was suspended for a further 16 months from July 2023 when he was found guilty of fraud relating to player salary cuts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Villa Agnelli, country home of the Agnelli family at Villar Perosa in Piedmont in 1811
The Villa Agnelli, country home of the Agnelli family
at Villar Perosa in Piedmont in 1811
Travel tip:

Villar Perosa, where Giovanni Agnelli was born, is a small town about 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Turin.  The Villa Agnelli, the family's country house and estate there, consisting of a 45-room stuccoed rococo villa with grounds and a commanding views of the Alps, has been in the the Agnelli family since 1811. As well as Russell Page, the English landscape gardener, the Agnellis hired renowned architect Gae Aulenti to create the timbered pool house. The estate also contains a family chapel, where members of the Agnelli clan are buried.

Search TripAdvisor for Villar Perosa hotels

Juventus play their home matches at the Juventus Stadium, which holds 41,000 people, in the Vallette district of Turin
Juventus play their home matches at the Juventus Stadium,
which holds 41,000 people, in the Vallette district of Turin
Travel tip:

Juventus is one of the two major football clubs in Turin, the other being Torino.  Although Juventus now play at a stadium on the northern perimeter of the city in the Vallette district, the club's roots are in the city centre.  Their original ground was in what is now known as the Parco Cavalieri di Vittorio Veneto, a large green space between Corso IV Novembre and Corso Galileo Ferraris just south of the city centre, which in the late 19th century was Piazza d'Armi, an army parade ground.  Nearby is the Stadio Olimpico, now the home of Torino, which was formerly called Stadio Comunale, where the two clubs cohabited until 1990. Juventus now play at the Juventus Stadium, an ultra-modern ground with a 41,000 capacity that has been their home since 2011, and which also houses the Juventus museum.

More reading:

How Gianni Agnelli became more powerful than politicians

Marella Agnelli, the noblewoman who married into a business dynasty

Massimiliano Allegri, the coach who keeps the trophies coming at Juventus

Also on this day:

1478: The birth of Baldassare Castiglione, the author of the Italian classic, The Book of the Courtier

1586: The birth of astronomer Niccolò Zucchi

1794: The birth of 19th century opera star Luigi Lablache


17 July 2018

Michele Casadei Massari - chef and restaurateur

American dream from small beginnings

Michele Casadei Massari began his New York business with a coffee kiosk in Union Square
Michele Casadei Massari began his New York
business with a coffee kiosk in Union Square
The chef and businessman Michele Casadei Massari, who is the owner and founder of the Piccolo Cafe and the Lucciola restaurant in New York City, was born on this day in 1975 in Riccione, on the Adriatic coast of Emilia-Romagna.

Massari had planned to become a doctor but abandoned his studies in order to pursue his dream of cooking in his own restaurant.

After working as general manager and executive chef of a restaurant at a holiday resort in Sardinia, Massari and an old school friend decided to go it alone and chose to start a business in New York.

They began by selling coffee from a kiosk on Union Square in Manhattan before graduating to a cafe selling traditional Italian food as well as salads, panini and egg dishes.

Massari and his partner opened their first Piccolo Cafe in Third Avenue, a couple of blocks from Union Square in 2010. Now they have four branches of Piccolo Cafe and a restaurant, Lucciola, that specialises in the cuisine of Bologna and Emilia-Romagna.

The Piccolo Cafe in West 40th Street is one of four opened by Massari and his partners
The Piccolo Cafe in West 40th Street is one of four
opened by Massari and his partners
Only six years old when he saw the inside of a restaurant kitchen for the first time, Massari acquired his love of cooking from his grandfather, ‘Nonno Gigi’, a chef who had acquired an inventive flair during the Second World War, when ingredients were often scarce.

His education included foraging in the countryside around the family home and learning how even the simplest ingredients, properly prepared, could be turned into tasty and nutritious dishes.

He says he inherited his salesmanship skills from his mother, who had been a door-to-door saleswoman in the 1970s, persuading would-be clients to buy machines for heating hair curlers.

While studying at college, Massari worked in restaurants in Bologna but soon realised he was much more interested in food that becoming a doctor. He and school friend Alberto Ghezzi decided to move to Sardinia, where Alberto managed the restaurant while he worked in the kitchen. Soon they were joined by another friend from Bologna, chef Gianluca Capozzi.

The three still work together today, having teamed up again when Massari, craving a chance to ‘do something different’, came up with his idea of going to New York, even though he had only a few thousand euros to start a business.

Michele also has a dedicated  Bolognese restaurant in New York
Michele also has a dedicated
Bolognese restaurant in New York
To obtain a special visa for businesses and investors, he had to present a business plan. His coffee kiosk idea was rejected initially because he had no water supply but once he had solved that problem he was accepted.

The kiosk took off quickly, selling 70,000 cups of coffee alone in the first 30 days. They had been there little more than four weeks when a customer told them about an empty business premises on Third Street that would be ideal for opening a cafe.

Six months later, with the Piccolo Cafe booming, another client urged them to look at an empty premises opposite the New York Times building on West 40th Street. That became the second branch. Two more Piccolos have opened since, one on Madison Avenue, another not far from Central Park in the Upper West Side, which is where Lucciola is located.

Michele also runs the BiograFilm Food Academy and manages food and beverage operations for the film festival of the same name that takes place in Bologna each year

Trendy Via Ceccarini in Riccione
Trendy tree-lined Via Ceccarini in Riccione
Travel tip:

Riccione, where Massari was born, is sometimes called the ‘green pearl of the Adriatic’ on account of the elegant, tree-lined boulevards that carry echoes of the town’s tradition as a resort that was a cut above its brasher neighbours. These days, it is no less thronged in the high summer months than its big brother Rimini but the Via Ceccarini, with its elegant boutiques, attractive cafés and trendy night spots, is still one of the most famous streets on the whole Adriatic Riviera. Other attractions are the Museo del Territorio, with exhibits reflecting thousands of years of evolutionary history in the area, and the Castello degli Agolanti, once owned by the most powerful local family, now an exhibition and conference venue.

One corner of Bologna's central Piazza Maggiore
One corner of Bologna's central Piazza Maggiore
Travel tip:

Bologna, which Massari considers to be his home town, boasts what is probably the best maintained and preserved medieval centre in the whole of Italy, a testament in many ways to one of the country’s least corrupt local administrations. The city was for a long time the stronghold of the Italian Communist Party and street names such as Via Stalingrado and Via Lenin say much about the political heroes of some of its former municipal leaders. Yet despite being the cradle of progressive socialism, the city retains one of the best standards of living in Italy and a policy of ‘active preservation’ established in the 1970s, whereby old houses in the city centre were renovated for public housing rather than being demolished, has helped the city maintain its character.

More reading:

How daytime TV made chef Simone Rugiati famous

Much-loved celebrity chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio

Gennaro Contaldo's passion for the cooking of Amalfi

Also on this day:

1824: The British aristocrat and travel writer Lady Blessington arrives in Naples

1976: The birth of celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo


11 January 2016

Matteo Renzi – politician

Italy's youngest Prime Minister was inspired by the scout movement

Matteo Renzi, the current Prime Minister of Italy, was born on this day in 1975 in Florence.

Renzi became Italy's youngest Prime Minister when he was elected in 2014
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
When he became Prime Minister in February 2014, he was the youngest person to hold the office since Italian unification in 1861.

Celebrating his 41st birthday today, Renzi is still the youngest leader in the G7, the group of seven countries with the most advanced economies.

His father, Tiziano Renzi was a Christian Democrat local councillor in Rignano sull’Arno, where Renzi was brought up as part of an observant Catholic family.

He went to school in Florence and was a scout in the association of Catholic Guides and Scouts of Italy.

On Renzi’s personal website he carries a quote from Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement: “Lasciare il mondo un po’ migliore di come lo abbiamo trovato - Leave the world a bit better than how you found it.”

Since forming a Government nearly two years ago, Renzi has reformed labour and employment laws to boost economic growth and has abolished some small taxes.

Renzi became interested in politics while still at school. He graduated from the University of Florence with a degree in Law and at the age of 21 joined the Italian People’s Party. In 2001 he joined The Daisy Party, formed by members of the disbanded People’s party. Three years later he was elected as President of Florence Province.

He then joined the Democratic Party and was elected as Mayor of Florence in 2009. 

He was elected Secretary of the Democratic Party in 2013 and under his leadership the party joined the Party of European Socialists.

Renzi had stated publicly that Italy badly needed a new government with a radical programme of reforms and, after the Prime Minister tendered his resignation in 2014, he was tasked with forming a new government by President Giorgio Napolitano.

After taking up residence in Palazzo Chigi, Renzi appointed his Cabinet, Italy’s youngest ever, with an equal number of male and female ministers.

The author of several books on politics, Renzi is married with three children.

The Palazzo Chigi in Rome, official residence
of the Prime Minister of Italy
Photo: Geobia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel Tip:

Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Italy, is a 16th century palace in Piazza Colonna in Rome. It is just off Via del Corso and is close to the Pantheon.

Travel Tip:

The University of Florence can trace its origins back to the 14th century, but the modern University, where Matteo Renzi studied Law, dates back to 1859, when a number of higher studies institutions were grouped together. The resulting Institute was officially recognised as a University by the Italian parliament in 1923. The Law faculty is in the Novoli district in the north west of Florence, near the courts.

4 January 2016

Carlo Levi – writer and painter

Author and doctor who highlighted poverty in southern Italy

The anti-fascist writer, painter and doctor, Carlo Levi, died on this day in Rome in 1975.

Carlo Levi wrote Christ Stopped at Eboli based on his experiences in exile in Basilicata
Carlo Levi, anti-fascist writer and
author of Christ Stopped at Eboli
He is best remembered for his book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’ (Cristo si è fermato a Eboli), an account of the time he spent in political exile in a remote, impoverished part of Italy.

Levi was born in Turin in 1902. His father was a wealthy Jewish physician and Levi went to the University of Turin to study medicine after finishing school.

While at University he became active in politics and after graduating he turned his attention to painting.

But he never completely abandoned medicine and moved to Paris to continue his medical research while painting.

After returning to Italy, Levi founded an anti-fascist movement in 1929. As a result he was arrested and sent into exile to a remote area of Italy called Lucania (now renamed Basilicata).

He encountered extreme poverty, which had been unknown in the north where he grew up. As well as writing and painting while he was in exile, he served as a doctor to help the poor villagers he lived among.

When he was released from his political exile he moved back to France but on his return to Italy he was arrested again and imprisoned in Florence.

After the fall of Mussolini he was released from prison and he wrote ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’ about his experiences living in Lucania.

At the end of the war he moved to Rome where he continued to paint, work as a political journalist and write books.

He died of pneumonia at the age of 72 on 4 January, 1975.

In 1979, ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’ was made into a film directed by Francesco Rosi.

Aliano is the town near Matera in Basilicata upon which Carlo Levi based his fictional town of Gagliano
The hill town of Aliano in Basilicata was the
inspiration for Levi's fictional town of Gagliano
Photo: Michele Pinassi (CC BY 2.5 IT)
Travel tip:

Aliano, a town about 90 kilometres from Matera in the region of Basilicata, was the inspiration for the fictional town of Gagliano in Levi’s book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’. Located on top of rocky hills, it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1980. Many residents still speak alianese dialect and keep up ancient traditions to bring themselves good luck and ward off ‘the evil eye.’ For more information visit

Travel tip:

Turin University in Via Giuseppe Verdi dates back to 1404 but officially became a university after reforms were made to it by Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia in the 18th century. The Faculty of Medicine attended by Carlo Levi is proud of its 600-year history, which it counts back to 1412 when it was founded by a local doctor, Antonio Cusano.


16 November 2015

San Giuseppe Moscati - doctor

Remembering the kindness of a brilliant young doctor

Doctor and scientist Giuseppe Moscati was beatified by Pope Paul VI on this day in 1975.

Doctor and scientist beatified by Pope Paul VI
Giuseppe was renowned for his kindness and generosity to his patients and even before his death people talked of ‘miracle’ cures being achieved by him. 

He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1987 and his feast day is 16 November.

The saint was born into a big family in Benevento in 1880. His father, a lawyer and magistrate, was active in the church and Giuseppe inherited his piety.

The family later moved to Naples and Giuseppe enrolled in the medical school of the University of Naples in 1897.

On graduating he went to work in a hospital but continued with his brilliant scientific research and attended Mass frequently.

When Vesuvius erupted in 1906 he helped evacuate all the elderly and paralysed patients before the roof collapsed on the hospital under the weight of the ash.

He worked tirelessly to research ways to eradicate cholera in Naples and personally cared for many of the soldiers wounded in the First World War.

He was compassionate to the poor and often gave them money as well as free medical treatment and a prescription.

Giuseppe died suddenly in 1927 at the age of 46 having been on duty at the hospital only that morning.

After his death, a young man dying from leukaemia was suddenly and inexplicably cured, after his mother dreamed of a doctor in a white coat. She was able to identify the doctor as Blessed Giuseppe after her priest showed her a photograph of him. The young man who was cured was able to attend the canonisation ceremony of Giuseppe Moscati by the Pope.

The Santuario del Carmine overlooks Sorrento's Piazza Tasso
The Santuario del Carmine
overlooks Piazza Tasso

Travel Tip:

In ancient times, Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy and there are many Roman remains there, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an ampitheatre. In the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta there is a marble statue of Saint Giuseppe Moscati in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

Travel Tip:

Overlooking Sorrento’s main square, Piazza Tasso, the yellow-painted, 16th century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine has a shrine to Giuseppe Moscati in a little side chapel where people can pray to the sainted doctor for comfort and relief.