Showing posts with label 1976. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1976. Show all posts

25 March 2019

Tina Anselmi - ground-breaking politician

Former partisan became Italy’s first female cabinet minister

Tina Anselmi was the first Italian woman to hold a position inside an Italian cabinet
Tina Anselmi was the first Italian woman to
hold a position inside an Italian cabinet
The politician Tina Anselmi, who made history in 1976 as the first woman to hold a ministerial position in an Italian government and later broke new ground again when she was appointed to chair the public inquiry into the infamous Propaganda Due masonic lodge, was born on this day in 1927 in Castelfranco Veneto.

Anselmi was chosen as Minister for Labour and Social Security and then Minister for Health in the government led by Giulio Andreotti from 1976 to 1979.

In 1981, she became the first woman to lead a public inquiry in Italy when she was asked to head the commission looking into the clandestine and illegal P2 masonic lodge, which had among its members prominent journalists, members of parliament, industrialists, and military leaders and was suspected of involvement in many scandals in pursuit of an ultra-right agenda.

Anselmi’s political views were heavily influenced by her upbringing in the Veneto during the years of Mussolini and war. She was from a comfortable background - her father was a pharmacist in Castelfranco Veneto, while her mother ran an osteria with her grandmother - but became aware of the threat to freedom posed by the Fascist system when he father was persecuted by Mussolini’s supporters for expressing socialist views.

The Via dei Martiri in Bassano del Grappa celebrates the memory of the massacred partisans
The Via dei Martiri in Bassano del Grappa
celebrates the memory of the massacred partisans
The defining moment came in 1944, by which time she had finished high school in Castelfranco and was attending a Teaching Institute in nearby Bassano del Grappa. On September 26 of that year, aged 17, she and her fellow pupils were summoned to the town’s main square to witness the hanging of 31 young partisans, many of them not much older than her, by soldiers of the occupying German army.

The executions were intended to strike fear into anyone thinking of joining the growing resistance movement. On Anselmi, it had the opposite effect.

Under the nom de guerre Gabriella, she became a courier for the partisans, making journeys by bicycle of up to 70 miles (113km) a day on behalf of the Cesare Battisti brigade - named after the Italian patriot hanged by the Austrians in 1916 - smuggling weapons and ammunition and delivering messages.

It was extremely dangerous work. Her commander had told her that if she were caught, the best she could hope for was that she would be killed at once.

The experience made her understand what democracy meant and she resolved to spend her life defending the values it enshrined and the rights of the individual, especially those of women.

When the Second World War had ended, she studied literature at the Catholic University of Milan and became a primary school teacher. She held positions in Christian trade unions, including the primary teachers' union from 1948-55.

Anselmi chaired the inquiry into the illegal P2 masonic lodge
Anselmi chaired the inquiry into
the illegal P2 masonic lodge
Her career in politics began in earnest in 1959. Unlike other partisans drawn towards communism, Anselmi had joined the Christian Democracy Party at the end of the war and in 1959 she became a member of the party’s national council as head of youth programmes.

Re-elected five times as a deputy for the Venice-Treviso district, Anselmi served three times as under-secretary to the Department of Work and Social Services, and in 1976 she became the first woman to be a member of an Italian cabinet.

She is best known for having been the main proposer of Italian laws on equal opportunities. She passed a bill which recognised fathers as primary caregivers for their children and supported legislation on gender parity in employment conditions. She played a significant role in the introduction of Italy's National Health Service.

Throughout her career, Anselmi earned respect as a straight-talking campaigner, but also as a politician whose first thought was for her responsibility to the public, rather than the direction of her career.

When she was appointed to lead the P2 enquiry, it soon became clear that she had every intention of disturbing the established order and with so many high-profile and well-connected individuals under suspicion she found herself variously followed, threatened - dynamite was found at her house in Rome - and spied on as part of several attempts to warn her off.

Yet after four years and almost 500 sessions, the inquiry reported in 1984 and concluded that P2’s network of power represented a clear threat to democracy. It was a triumph for Anselmi, although much to her frustration and disappointment, her proposed reforms were left to gather dust.

In the broader picture, however, the work of Anselmi’s commission was an important part of the process of exposing corruption in the Italian political system, which would reach a conclusion a decade later with the dismantling of both the Christian Democrats and the Italian Socialist Party, along with the Social Democrats and the Liberals, with new groups emerging in their place.

After her retirement, Anselmi was mooted as a potential candidate for the presidency of Italy, although ill health counted against her. She died in Castelfranco in 2016 at the age of 89.

Travel tip:

Bassano del Grappa is an historic town at the foot of Monte Grappa in the Vicenza province of the Veneto, famous for inventing grappa, a spirit made from the grape skins and stalks left over from wine production, which is popular with Italians as an after dinner drink to aid digestion. The town’s main attraction is the Ponte degli Alpini, also known as the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge across the Brenta river designed in 1569 by Andrea Palladio. It has been rebuilt several times after being damaged or destroyed by wars but always to the original design. The painter Jacopo Bassano was born in Bassano del Grappa and took his name from the town.

Hotels in Bassano del Grappa by

The walls of Castelfranco Veneto have been providing protection for the old city since 1211
The walls of Castelfranco Veneto have been providing
protection for the old city since 1211
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 altarpiece 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.

11 August 2017

Massimiliano Allegri - football coach

Former AC Milan boss has topped Conte's record

Massimiliano Allegri led Juventus to three consecutive league and cup doubles
Massimiliano Allegri led Juventus to three
consecutive league and cup doubles
Massimiliano Allegri, the man who looked to have taken on one of the toughest acts to follow in football when he succeeded Antonio Conte as head coach of Juventus, was born on this day in 1967 in Livorno.

Conte won the Serie A title three times and the domestic double of Serie A and Coppa Italia twice in his three years as boss of the Turin club.

Allegri took over only in 2014 but has already exceeded Conte’s record, leading the so-called Old Lady of Italian football to the double in each of his three seasons in charge.

The 2016-17 title was the club’s sixth in a row, setting a Serie A record for the most consecutive Scudetto triumphs.

Allegri was well regarded as a creative midfielder but although there were high spots, such as scoring 12 Serie A goals from midfield in a relegated Pescara side in 1992-923, he enjoyed a fairly modest playing career which was marred by his suspension for a year as one of six players alleged to have conspired in fixing the result of a Coppa Italia tie while with the Serie B club Pistoiese.

In coaching, he followed the customary Italian route of learning his craft in the lower divisions, tasting success for the first time in 2007-08 with the Emilia-Romagna club Sassuolo, guiding the club to promotion to Serie B for the first time in their history as Serie C/A champions.

Andrea Pirlo praised Allegri's calm approach
Andrea Pirlo praised Allegri's calm approach
This earned him a move to Serie A with Cagliari, where he steered the Sardinian team to ninth place, their best top-flight finish in 15 years and enough to win him the league’s Panchino d’Oro award for coach of the year for 2008-09, ahead of title-winning Internazionale boss Josè Mourinho.

Despite the award, Cagliari’s unpredictable owner Massimo Cellini relieved him of his managerial duties in April of the following year, with the team again sitting in a respectable mid-table position.

But Cagliari’s loss was AC Milan’s gain.  Appointed in June 2010, he led the rossoneri to the Serie A title in his first season, winning a place in the affections of supporters by defeating city rivals Inter in both matches.

He was not able to maintain Milan’s high level, in part due to the club’s failings in the transfer market.  They won the Supercoppa Italia at the start of the following season with another victory over Inter but lost out to Conte’s Juventus in their title defence.

In the 2012-13 season Milan recovered from a poor start and climbed from 16th place to finish third but in January 2014 he was dismissed.

Ironically, his early success with Juventus was built around the experience and vision of the veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo, whom Allegri had controversially deemed surplus to requirements in Milan on the grounds of age.  However, Pirlo bore no grudges and praised Allegri for the “sense of calm” he brought to the team compared with the frenetic style of Conte.

Allegri succeeded Antonio Conte at Juventus
Allegri succeeded Antonio
Conte at Juventus
What has set Allegri apart from some coaches is his flexible tactical approach, with his players adept at switching systems for different opponents, sometimes changing formation several times during a match.  The constant has been a formidable defence built around Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, often referred to as BBC.

For all his domestic success, Champions League glory so far eludes Allegri, as it has Conte.

He reached the final with Juventus in 2015, losing 3-1 to Barcelona in Berlin, and again in 2017, when a 4-1 reverse against Real Madrid was a particular disappointment after the team had conceded only three goals all told in reaching the final.  Allegri has admitted he considered resigning after the match.

Away from football, Allegri has a daughter, Valentina, by his marriage to Gloria, from whom he is divorced, and a son, George, by long-term girlfriend Claudia, with whom he is now separated after an eight-year relationship.

The Piazza della Repubblica in Livorno
The Piazza della Repubblica in Livorno
Travel tip:

Livorno is Tuscany's third-largest city after Florence and Pisa and tends to be somewhat overlooked as a tourist destination. Yet it has an historic 17th century port, which once served merchants from all over the world, reputedly some of the best seafood restaurants on the Tyrrhenian coast and an historic centre given a unique character by a network of Venetian-style canals and some elegant belle époque buildings.

Sassuolo's Ducal Palace
Sassuolo's Ducal Palace
Travel tip: 

Overshadowed by nearby Modena, which is just 17km (11 miles) to the north-east, Sassuolo is a town of 40,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Secchia river that was once in the possession of the Este family and until the 19th century was part of the Duchy of Modena. The title Lord of Sassuolo currently belongs to Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este. Hence the town has Ducal Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Avanzini.  The town has since the 1950s been the centre of a thriving ceramic tile industry, supplying 80 per cent of the Italian market.

17 July 2017

Gino D'Acampo - celebrity chef

Neapolitan inherited talent from grandfather

Gino D'Acampo's grandfather had a  restaurant in Naples
Gino D'Acampo's grandfather had a
restaurant in Naples
The celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo was born on this day in 1976 in Torre del Greco, a conurbation of around 90,000 inhabitants within the Metropolitan City of Naples.

Based in England since 1995, D’Acampo is scarcely known in his native country yet his social media pages have more than two and a half million followers.

The author of 11 books on cooking, his numerous television appearances include four series of his own show, Gino’s Italian Escapes.

He owns three restaurants and five pasta bars and has plans to open more.  The latest, in fact, launches in Liverpool later this week.  D’Acampo is also the co-owner of a company selling Italian ingredients.

His success is all the more remarkable given that he had to rebuild his life after being convicted in 1998 of burglary, an episode that took place while he was working as a waiter. He described the incident as a mistake he vowed never to repeat and has since spent time helping disadvantaged young people to learn from their mistakes.

D'Acampo's appearance on a reality TV show helped launch his career
D'Acampo's appearance on a reality TV
show helped launch his career
Born Gennaro d’Acampo, he grew up around food. His grandfather, Giovanni, who had been head chef for a cruise company, owned a restaurant and although he had early aspirations to become a doctor or a dentist, he eventually enrolled at the Luigi de Medici catering school in Naples.

He arrived in England via Spain, where he met the girl who would become his wife, Jessica, who is English with Italian heritage, while they were both working at a restaurant in Marbella owned by the American movie actor, Sylvester Stallone.

In England he worked at restaurants in Hampstead and Guildford before he becoming involved in sourcing Italian ingredients, which in turn led to work designing ready meals for a supermarket chain.

His first television appearances came on the UKTV Good Food channel and the ITV magazine show This Morning, but it was his decision to take part in a reality TV show that became the launch pad for his career.  Signed up for ITV’s popular I’m a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here! in 2009, he emerged from the show, in which contestants live in a jungle conditions in Australia and undertake a series of often unpleasant challenges, as the winner.

D’Acampo became a regular on This Morning and was given his first cookery TV series in 2011, when he co-hosted Let’s do Lunch with Gino and Mel alongside the presenter and model Melanie Sykes.

Gino D'Acampo with the singer Peter Andre on one of his shows on UK television
Gino D'Acampo with the singer Peter Andre on
one of his shows on UK television
One of the features of the programme involved D’Acampo making record attempts, often but not always involving food and drink.  He has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most ravioli made on two minutes, the most truffles made in two minutes, the most bottles of champagne – seven – opened in one minute, the most jumpers – 11 – put on in one minute, the most Christmas crackers pulled on one minute and – most bizarrely – for the most steps taken across a giant bowl of custard before sinking.

D’Acampo most successful TV venture, Gino’s Italian Escape, launched in 2013 and has spawned a live stage version, with which he has toured the UK.

His first book Fantastico! was published in 2007 and his latest, Gino’s Healthy Italian for Less, in 2017.

A member of the Federazione Italiana Cuochi and the Associazione Professionale Cuochi Italiani, he has homes in Hertfordshire and Sardinia. He and Jessica, who were married in 2002, have two sons, Luciano and Rocco.

Torre del Greco illuminated by the setting sun with Vesuvius in the background
Torre del Greco illuminated by the setting sun with
Vesuvius in the background
Travel tip:

Once colonised by Greek settlers and later a prosperous Roman suburb of Herculaneum before it was buried by the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius, Torre del Greco is thought to take its name from being the site of a watchtower in the eighth century that was occupied by a Greek hermit.  In more modern times, it became a popular holiday resort with wealthy Italians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It was renowned for its cafés and eateries, particularly the Gran Caffè Palumbo, a large Art Nouveau café with an extensive outdoor pavilion.  It owed its popularity to a combination of fine beaches and the proximity of farmlands and vineyards, as well being the town closest to Vesuvius. A funicular railway (the Vesuvius Funicular) was built to take tourists to the crater from the town.

The Piazza Municipio in the historic centre of Alghero
The Piazza Municipio in the historic centre of Alghero
Travel tip:

The Italian island of Sardinia boasts beautiful beaches and coves and a mountainous interior with fascinating towns and villages. It has a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous but in Alghero, a town of 44,000 people on the north-west side of the island, it boasts a destination with a delightful historic centre and a sandy beach that is entirely accessible to travellers with more modest spending power. It has excellent seafood restaurants and plenty of bars from which to watch spectacular sunsets. The town’s economy is not reliant on tourism, although it is busy in July and August.

9 July 2017

Adriano Panatta – tennis player

French Open champion was most at home on the clay

Adriano Panata was at the peak of his career in 1976
Adriano Panata was at the peak of his career in 1976
The only tennis player ever to defeat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros in Paris, Adriano Panatta was born on this day in 1950 in Rome.

A successful singles player, Panatta reached the peak of his career in 1976 when he won the French Open, gaining his only Grand Slam title, defeating the American player, Harold Solomon, in the final 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.

Panatta learnt to play tennis as a youngster on the clay courts of the Tennis Club Parioli in Rome, where his father was the caretaker.

He won top-level titles at Bournemouth in 1973, Florence in 1974 and at Kitzbuhel in Austria and Stockholm in 1975.

In the same year that he won the French Open, Panatta won the Italian Open in Rome, beating Guillermo Vilas in the final 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6. In the first round of the competition he had saved 11 match points in his match against the Australian Kim Warwick.

Panatta ended 1976 by helping Italy capture its only Davis Cup title, winning two singles and a doubles rubber in the final against Chile. He also reached his career-high singles ranking of World number four that year.

Adriano Panatta aged 20 in 1970 - the  year he beat Nicola Pietrangeli
Adriano Panatta aged 20 in 1970 - the
 year he beat Nicola Pietrangeli

The only player to have defeated Bjorn Borg in the French Open, Panatta had the distinction of achieving this feat twice, in the fourth round in 1973 and in the quarter finals in 1976.  

Panatta’s most notable performance at Wimbledon was in 1979 when he reached the quarter finals. 

In all, he won 10 tournaments in singles and 17 in doubles. He is one of only four Italian players to have won a Grand Slam tournament, the others being Nicola Pietrangeli, who won the French open in 1959 and successfully defended his title in 1960, Francesca Schiavone, who won the French in 2010, and Flavia Pennetta, who was US Open champion in 2015.

It was by defeating Pietrangeli in five sets at the Italian International championships in Bologna in 1970 that Panatta first gave notice of his potential to reach the top.

As wells as helping Italy win the Davis Cup in 1976, Panatta assisted his country to reach the final in 1977, 1979 and 1980.

Since retiring as a player in 1983, Panatta has served as captain of Italy’s Davis Cup team and as Tournament Director of the Rome Masters.  For a while, he pursued an interest in speedboat racing and also served on Rome City Council as councillor in charge of sports and major events. For a number of years he worked as a television commentator.

The Parioli district is a pleasant Rome suburb with bars and pavement cafes
The Parioli district is a pleasant Rome suburb with
bars and pavement cafes
Travel tip:

The Tennis Club Parioli, where Panatta learnt to play, is in Largo Uberto De Morpergo in the Parioli district, a northern suburb of Rome. The name comes from Monti Parioli, which are a series of hills. During the Fascist regime, many high-ranking party officials had residences in the Parioli district. Nowadays it is one of Rome’s most elegant residential areas and a number of foreign embassies are located there.

The Italian Open attracts large crowds to the Foro Italico
The Italian Open attracts large crowds to the Foro Italico
Travel tip:

The Italian Open, which Panatta won in 1976, is one of the most prestigious clay court tournaments in the world. It takes place each year at the Foro Italico, formerly known as Foro Mussolini, which was built between 1928 and 1938. Foro Italico is considered a prime example of Italian Fascist architecture, which was encouraged by Mussolini. The purpose was to bring the Olympic Games to Rome in 1944, however London won the bid. In the event, the 1944 Olympic Games had to be cancelled because of the Second World War.

7 May 2016

Andrea Lo Cicero - rugby star turned TV presenter

Prop nicknamed "il Barone" now bona fide Knight

Photo of Andrea lo Cicero
Andrea lo Cicero
Former Italian international rugby star Andrea Lo Cicero today celebrates his 40th birthday, having been born on this day in 1976 in Catania, Sicily.

The 113 kilo (249lb) prop forward played rugby for the Azzurri between 2000 and 2013, retiring with 103 caps.  At the time it was the highest number won by any player and Lo Cicero was only the second player in the history of the national team to win more than 100 caps.

He made his debut against England at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome in March 2000, as the Five Nations Championship became the Six Nations with the inclusion of Italy for the first time, and ended his international career in the capital, although this time at the Stadio Olimpico, in a 22-15 victory over Ireland in the 2013 Championship, in front of a crowd of 80,054.

Highlights along the way included an outstanding performance in the 2004 Championship, when Italy beat Scotland in Rome and Lo Cicero was named in the BBC's Dream XV.  Later that year he was the only European player selected for the Barbarians team that took on New Zealand, in which he scored a rare try.

He also played in three rugby World Cups, in Australia in 2003, France in 2007 and New Zealand in 2011.

In his club career, Lo Cicero represented Amatori Catania before moving to Rovigo and then Rome, where he was part of an Italian Championship-winning team in 1999-2000.

He played in France for the first time when he joined Toulouse in 2001 and, after three seasons back in Italy with L'Aquila, finished his career with his longest spell at any one club, playing for Racing Metro for six years, winning promotion to the top flight of the French Championship in 2009 and twice being named best prop in the Championship.

Lo Cicero acquired the nickname "il Barone" because his ancestry could be traced back to Sicilian nobility.  He became interested in rugby through an uncle, Michele, who also played for Amatori Catania, but showed early promise also in canoeing, giving up only because he developed such large leg muscles he could not fit comfortably into the canoe.

Having grown up by the sea, however, he maintained an interest in water sports and has become an accomplished sailor, competing in the 2013 America's Cup as a crew member for the Luna Rossa team.

Since retiring from competitive sport, Lo Cicero has established a second career as a TV presenter, drawing on his passion for gardening, restoring antique furniture and renovating houses.

He hosts a Sky Italia show called Giardini di Incubo which can be roughly translated as Garden Nightmares, and appears in another, L'Uomo in Casa, which offers tips on DIY and renovation projects. He also guests in sports and cookery shows, runs a business that harvests saffron and helps disabled children through pet therapy.

An ambassador for the international children's charity UNICEF, and a former volunteer for the Italian Red Cross, he was made a Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic in January 2015.

Photo of the Duomo in Catania
Catania's impressive Baroque style Duomo
Travel tip:

Catania, where Andrea Lo Cicero grew up in the shadow of the still-active volcano Mount Etna, overlooking the Ionian Sea, is the second largest city in Sicily, with a population of 315,000.  It is notable for its Baroque city centre, which is a UNESCO heritage site, but also has some outstanding classical buildings, ancient remains buried over the centuries.  Greek and Roman cities built on the site of the present city disappeared under layers of lava from Etna's eruptions but parts of them have been unearthed, including an impressive Greek-Roman theatre.

Travel tip:

The Stadio Olimpico, which hosts home matches for both the Lazio and Roma football clubs as well as rugby and football internationals, is located by the banks of the River Tiber, a short distance to the north of central Rome. It was built in the 1930s as part of the Foro Mussolini (later Foro Italico), a large sports facility which Italy's dictatorial leader built to glorify the country's sporting past and celebrate its future. It became the Stadio Olimpico as the host venue for athletics events at the 1960 Olympic games.  A roof was added for the 1990 World Cup. Outside can be found Roman-style mosaics, statues of athletes and an obelisk dedicated to Mussolini.

More reading:

Sara Errani's claim to be Italy's best

Alessandro Costacurta, the champion of football longevity

Also on this day: 

1917: The birth of Sistine Chapel Choir director Domenico Bartolucci

1983: The birth of Olympic archery champion Marco Galiazzo

(Photo of Andrea Lo Cicero by Roberto Vicario CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Catania's Duomo by Urban CC BY-SA 3.0)


26 January 2016

Gabriele Allegra – friar and scholar

Sicilian who learnt Chinese to carry out his life’s work

Allegra translated the whole Catholic bible into Chinese
Gabriele Allegra
The Blessed Gabriele Allegra, a Franciscan friar who translated the entire Catholic Bible into Chinese, is remembered on this day every year.

He was born Giovanni Stefano Allegra in San Giovanni la Punta in the province of Catania in Sicily in 1907 and he entered the Franciscan seminary in Acireale in 1918.

Gabriele Allegra was inspired to carry out his life’s work after attending a celebration for another Franciscan who had attempted a translation of the bible into Chinese in the 14th century. For the next 40 years of his life the friar devoted himself to his own translation.

Gabriele Allegra was ordained a priest in 1930 and set sail for China. On his arrival he started to learn Chinese.

With the help of his Chinese teacher he prepared a first draft of his translation of the bible in 1947 but it was not until 1968 that his one volume Chinese Bible was published for the first time.

Gabriele Allegra died on 26 January 1976 in Hong Kong. Although he was primarily a scholar, he had also helped the poor, the sick and lepers along the way.

He was declared Venerable in 1994 and was Beatified in 2012 at the Cathedral of Acireale. He is remembered each year on the anniversary of his death.

The Sicilian port city of Catania with the volcanic Mount Etna in the background
The Sicilian port city of Catania with the
volcanic Mount Etna in the background
Photo: Stefan (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Travel tip:

Catania is on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea between Messina and Syracuse and is at the foot of an active volcano, Mount Etna. There are many Greek and Roman buildings to see as well as Baroque churches.

Travel tip:

Acireale is a coastal city in the province of Catania at the foot of Mount Etna. The 17th century Cathedral where Gabriele Allegra was beatified contains many interesting art treasures but his relics are kept in the Church of San Biagio.