Showing posts with label 1977. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1977. Show all posts

8 January 2019

Manuela Arcuri - actress and model

TV drama star who portrayed woman who killed Mafia boss

The glamorous Manuela Arcuri has evolved from model to popular TV actress
The glamorous Manuela Arcuri has evolved
from model to popular TV actress
The actress and former model Manuela Arcuri, who received accolades for playing the lead role in a truth-inspired drama about a grieving widow who shot dead a gang boss, was born on this day in 1977 in Anagni, an ancient town in southern Lazio.

Arcuri portrayed a character based on Assunta ‘Pupetta’ Maresca, who made headlines in 1955 when she walked into a bar in Naples and shot dead the Camorra boss who had ordered the killing of her husband, just three months after they were married.

The four-episode drama, aired in 2013 on the Italian commercial TV channel Canale 5, was called Pupetta: Il coraggio e la passione (Pupetta: Courage and Passion). Directed by Luciano Odorisio and also starring Tony Musante, Eva Grimaldi and Barbara De Rossi, the series confirmed Arcuri’s standing as a television actress of note, winning her the award of best actress at the 2013 Rome Fiction Fest.

She had appeared by then in leading roles in a number of TV dramas and mini-series, including Io non dimentico (I Don’t Forget), Il peccato e la vergogna (The Sin and the Shame) and Sangue caldo (Hot Blood).

Manuela Arcuri met the real 'Pupetta' during the making of the 2013 series
Manuela Arcuri met the real 'Pupetta'
during the making of the 2013 series
Arcuri’s ambition from an early age was to forge a career in show business. She attended art school in Latina, where she grew up, before moving to Rome to enrol at the Pietro Scharoff Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she graduated in 1997.

A girl of classic Italian beauty, she took her first modelling assignments at the age of 15 and her career as a glamour model evolved more quickly than her acting career, although she was steadily building up film credits for minor roles.  Her magazine shoots led rapidly to her being projected as a sex symbol, which quickly opened doors into television, where glamorous female presenters remain a ratings winner.

In 2002, still a relative newcomer, she was given huge exposure when she was chosen to co-host the Sanremo Music Festival alongside the veteran male presenter, Pippo Baudo.

Now, bigger and better TV parts began to be offered. She participated in the popular TV drama series Carabinieri and in 2005 played the title role in Imperia, la grande cortigiana, a TV film about the 16th century Roman courtesan and celebrity, Imperia Cognati.

In 2008, she met the challenge of appearing at the Teatro Parioli in Rome in a six-week run of the comedy Il primo che mi capita, then landed her biggest TV role to that point as the female lead in Io non dimentico, a drama set in Naples in the 1930s.

The statue in Porto Cesareo that caused such controversy
The statue in Porto Cesareo
that caused such controversy
Arcuri has a large following of fans, some of whom have expressed their admiration for her in unusual ways, such as the statue that was erected in 2002 by the local tourist board to celebrate the beauty and prosperity of the fishing port and resort of Porto Cesareo in Puglia, about 30km (19 miles) from the city of Lecce.

Carved by the sculptor Salvatino De Matteis, it depicts a female figure carrying a hollow shell brimming over with fish but with the hair, facial features - and cleavage - of Ms Arcuri, beneath which is an inscription that hailed the actress as a symbol of beauty and prosperity, a perfect match for Porto Cesareo itself.

Not surprisingly, the choice of an actress and glamour model over a more traditional symbol, such as a goddess or saint, or even a mermaid, divided opinion, with outspoken protests in particular by the wives of local fishermen, who had begun a daily ritual of touching the statue’s buttocks to bring them luck before they set out to sea.

For a while the statue was removed, only to later be reinstated after an equally voluble outcry from those who approved of it.  Ms Arcuri, who attended the original unveiling, returned to see it reborn.

Romantically linked with a series of high-profile men, including the footballer Francesco Coco, Arcuri has had a long-term relationship with the entrepreneur Giovanni Di Gianfrancesco, with whom she had a four-year-old son, Mattia.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata
in Anagni dates back to the 11th century
Travel tip:

Anagni, where Manuela Arcuri was born, is an ancient town in the province of Frosinone in Lazio, 70km (43 miles) southeast of Rome in an area known as Ciociaria, named after the primitive footwear, ciocie, a type of sandal, worn by people living in the area. The town produced four popes, the last one being Boniface VIII, who was hiding out there in 1303 when he received the famous Anagni slap, delivered by an angry member of the fiercely antipapal Colonna family after he refused to abdicate. After his death the power of the town declined and the papal court was transferred to Avignon. The medieval Palace of Boniface VIII, is near the Cathedral in the centre of the town.

Search for a hotel in Anagni with tripadvisor

The Cathedral of San Marco, in the 'ideal' Fascist town of Latina in Lazio, was built in 1932
The Cathedral of San Marco, in the 'ideal' Fascist town of
Latina in Lazio, was built in 1932
Travel tip:

Latina, a town built in the middle of what used to be the Pontine Marshes, south of Rome, has been described as a living monument to Fascism - not in the sense of celebrating the horrors of the darker side of Mussolini’s grip on power, but as an example of the dictator’s utopian dreams of efficient modern cities for the Italian people.  Mussolini drained the malaria-ridden Pontine swamps and gave the reclaimed land to peasants and settlers, building them houses in exchange for their labour and sweat. The centre of Latina - inaugurated in 1932 as Littoria - has been preserved almost as it was. The Fascist buildings remain in place, their rationalist architecture decorated with pagan statues as well as military and rural bas-reliefs. The Cattedrale di San Marco, designed by Oriolo Frezzotti and built in 1932, is a good example of the fusion of classical and modern, linear styles that was typical of Fascist architecture.

More reading:

The true story of Assunta Maresca - the 'little doll' who shot dead a Mafia boss 

Pippo Baudo - the record-breaking host of Sanremo

Mara Carfagna - from glamour model to politician

Also on this day:

1337: The death of the brilliant painter Giotto

1921: The birth of Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia

2016: The death of Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first woman to drive in Formula One


26 May 2018

Luca Toni - World Cup winner

Striker one of stars of 2006 triumph in Germany

Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture
is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
The footballer Luca Toni, who played an important role in Italy’s achievement in winning the soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006, was born on this day in 1977 in the small town of Pavullo nel Frignano in Emilia-Romagna.

Toni scored twice in Italy’s 3-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarter-finals before starting as the Azzurri’s main striker in both the semi-final triumph over the hosts and the final against France, in which they eventually prevailed on penalties. Toni hit the bar with one header and saw another disallowed for offside in the final.

The goals were among 16 he scored in 47 appearances for the national team but it was his remarkable club career that makes him stand out in the history of Italian football.

A muscular 6ft 4ins in height and hardly the most mobile of forwards, he was never seen as a great player, more an old-fashioned centre forward of the kind rarely seen in today’s game.

Yet between his debut for his local club, Modena, in 1994 and his retirement in 2016 following his final season with Hellas Verona, Toni found the net 322 times in club football, which makes him the fourth most prolific goalscorer among all Italian players. Most times, he celebrated by shaking his hand near his right ear, which he once explained began as meaning 'listen up - I just scored a goal!'

Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season
Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom
he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season 
He scored more career goals indeed than Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Gianluca Vialli, all of whom would probably figure in most fans’ idea of an Italian ‘hall of fame’. More too than the prolific Juventus and AC Milan star Filippo Inzaghi.

Of his contemporaries, only Alessandro del Piero (346) scored more, while historically he doffs his cap only to Silvio Piola (364) and the Internazionale legend Giuseppe Meazza (338).

In a nomadic career that saw him wear the colours of 13 different Italian clubs - plus one in Germany and one in Dubai - Toni was twice the capocannoniere - top scorer - in Serie A, hitting 31 goals for Fiorentina in 2005-06, which was the biggest individual tally in Italy’s top division for 47 years, and then sharing the honour with Inter’s Mauro Icardi some nine years later, in the 2014-15 season, when he scored 22 for Hellas Verona.

Toni did not make his Serie A debut until he was 23, by which time he had already played for five clubs in six seasons in the lower divisions.  He made his first start in the top flight for Vicenza and subsequently played alongside Baggio and Pep Guardiola at Brescia.

It was with Palermo in Serie B that Toni made his first real impact as a goalscorer. He scored 30 times as the Sicilian club won promotion in 2004 to end an absence of more than 30 years from Serie A and a further 20 the following season as the Rosanero qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.

Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri in the 2006 World Cup final
Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri
in the 2006 World Cup final
Those goals brought his first call-up for the Azzurri and a big-money move to Fiorentina, where his goals in 2005-06 propelled Fiorentina to fourth place and qualification for the Champions League, although the place was rescinded after Fiorentina were caught up in the calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Toni showed great loyalty to the fallen club, offering to stay with them even after they were ordered to start the following season in Serie B, a sentence commuted on appeal to a 15-points deduction in Serie A.  When he left at the end of the 2007 season it was only because an approach from Bayern Munich in Germany allowed him to keep his pledge of not joining a rival Italian club.

His first season in the Bundesliga was a huge success, his 24 goals helping Bayern win the title. He also scored both goals as Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to add the German Cup and complete the double. Despite an ankle injury keeping him out for a long spell, he still managed 14 goals in his second season.

After falling out with manager Louis Van Gaal midway through the 2009-10 season, Toni was on the move again, spending brief spells with Roma, Genoa, Juventus, Al Nasr in Dubai and Fiorentina again. It looked like his career was drawing to a close but then newly-promoted Verona took a gamble by offering him a one-year contract to play on beyond his 37th birthday.

It paid off handsomely as Toni enjoyed a renaissance, rediscovering his old deadliness in the penalty area to score 20 goals in the 2013-14 season and 22 in the 2014-15 campaign, by the end of which he was 38, when his 22 goals made him the oldest capocannoniere in the history of Serie A.

Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose  in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose
in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
His retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season came with a fairytale ending in a 2-1 home win over already-crowned Serie A champions Juventus, in which he scored Verona’s first goal with a penalty taken in the so-called Panenka style, chipped delicately into the centre of the goal after the goalkeeper commits himself to diving left or right.

After retirement, Toni took courses with a view to remaining at Verona as director of football but left in 2017 and has more recently worked as a pundit.

Married to the model Maria Cecchetto, with whom he has two children, he was back on a football pitch earlier this month in a star-studded testimonial for the great Azzurri midfielder Andrea Pirlo, getting on the scoresheet as usual as the match ended 7-7.

The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
Travel tip:

Pavullo nel Frignano, where Luca Toni was born, is a town of around 17,000 inhabitants in the Modenese Apennines. It is home to the medieval Castle of Montecuccolo, birthplace of the 17th century condottiero - mercenary - Raimondo Montecuccoli. Pavullo sadly suffered extensive damage during the Second World War because of its proximity to the German defences on Gothic Line.

The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early
days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
Travel tip:

Toni’s final team, Hellas Verona, acquired its name after it was founded in 1903 by a group of students from the prestigious local lyceum, where a classics professor put forward the name Hellas, which is the Greek equivalent of the Latin word patria, meaning homeland. The city was largely indifferent towards football at first but the Veronese began to take more of an interest after the club staged a game against their local rivals Bentegodi in the city's Roman amphitheatre, now famous as the Arena di Verona, attracting national media attention.

Also on this day:

1805: Napoleon Bonaparte crowned King of Italy

1955: Formula One motor racing champion Alberto Ascari tragically dies in a crash at Monza


26 April 2017

Samantha Cristoforetti - astronaut

Record-breaker spent almost 200 days in space

Samantha Cristoforetti in full spacesuit for her official ESA portrait
Samantha Cristoforetti in full spacesuit for
her official ESA portrait
Italy’s first female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, was born on this day in 1977 in Milan.

A captain in the Italian Air Force, in which she is a pilot and engineer, Cristoforetti holds the world record for the longest space flight by a woman, which she set as a crew member on the European Space Agency’s Futura mission to the International Space Station in 2014.

Cristoforetti and her two fellow astronauts, the Russian Anton Shkaplerov and the American Terry Virts, left Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft on November 23, 2014 and returned on June 11, 2015, having spent 199 days and 16 hours in space – four days longer than the previous record for a female astronaut, held by the American NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

The mission was supposed to have ended a month earlier but had to be extended after a Russian supply freighter failed to reach the ISS. The extra time also allowed Cristoforetti to set a record for the longest time in space by a European astronaut of either gender.

While Williams was hailed as the first person to complete a marathon in space when she ran 26 miles and 385 yards on the ISS’s on-board treadmill at the same time as the 2007 Boston Marathon was taking place on earth, Cristoforetti can proudly claim to be the first person to have brewed an espresso coffee in space using a machine sent to the crew as a gift.

Cristoforetti celebrated her 28th birthday in space with crewmates Anton Shkaplerov (left) and Terry Virts
Cristoforetti celebrated her 38th birthday in space with
crewmates Anton Shkaplerov (left) and Terry Virts
Although born in Milan, Cristoforetti spent her childhood in Malè, a small town in an Alpine valley - Val di Sole – in Trentino.

Her interest in space began in childhood and was cemented at the age of 18, when she participated in a United States foreign exchange programme and attended Space Camp.

After going to college in Bolzano and Trento, she graduated from the Technical University of Munich with a degree in mechanical engineering.  She attended a French space institute – the École nationale supérieure de l'aéronautique et de l'espace in Toulouse – and the Mendeleev Russian University of Chemistry and Technology in Moscow.

Returning to Italy and pursuing her career with the Italian Air Force, she graduated in aeronautics sciences at the Accademia Aeronautica in Pozzuoli, near Naples, and became one of the first Italian women to be a lieutenant and fighter pilot, since when she has also completed NATO flight training.

Cristoferotti's photographs included this amazing view of the Italian peninsula at night
Cristoforetti's photographs included this amazing
view of the Italian peninsula at night
Cristoforetti, who described her time in space as “a magical experience”, was selected from among 7,000 applicants to the European Space Agency astronaut programme in 2009 and had been training for three years when it was announced she had been chosen for the 2014 mission.

The mission involved maintenance work on the Space Station as well as almost continuous programme of scientific experiments.  Cristoforetti did not take part in any space walks but was responsible for the safety of her two colleagues while they were outside the ship.  Communications were never a problem as she speaks five languages – Italian, German, English, Russian and French.

Cristoforetti, in the 'cupola' of the Space Station,  savours the first espresso brewed in space
Cristoforetti, in the 'cupola' of the Space Station,
savours the first espresso brewed in space
In addition to the work, Cristoforetti tweeted many photographs to her 900,000 Twitter followers, both of her and her crewmates inside the Space Station and of views of the earth.  She took part in a series of videos to illustrate life in space in zero gravity, including hair-cutting, ‘showering’ and cooking - and brewing espresso, which was made possible by the specially designed ISSpresso machine, created by the coffee maker Lavazza and the engineering firm Argotec and sent to the crew as a gift on the April 2015 supply freighter.

A month after returning to earth, Cristoforetti was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president. The Order of Merit is the senior order of knighthood, the highest ranking honour of the republic.

A beautiful wintry scene of the Noce river near Malè
A beautiful wintry scene of the Noce river near Malè 
Travel tip:

The town of Malè can be found on a plateau in the Val di Sole valley, sitting alongside the valley’s main river, the Noce.  The administrative and cultural centre of the valley, Malè has a civic museum, and a parish church dating back to the 16th century and an ancient sawmill and smithy, Marinelli del Pondasio, a rare preserved example of a hydraulic smithy. Nearby is the Stelvio National Park the Adamello Brenta Nature Park. Malè is a centre for alpine sports, including hiking, climbing and rafting during the summer, and is a short distance from the ski areas of Marilleva-Folgarida and Madonna di Campiglio.

Nisida, former home of the Accademia Aeronautica
Nisida, former home of the Accademia Aeronautica
Travel tip:

The Accademia Aeronautica, the academy of the Italian Air Force, can be found at a purpose-built facility on a hill overlooking the port town of Pozzuoli, on the northern shore of the Bay of Naples, having previously been housed in the grand surroundings of the Royal Palace in Caserta, just to the north of Naples, and then on the island of Nisida, near the Marechiaro district of Naples, which is linked to the mainland by a causeway.

More reading:

Aviation pioneer Enea Bossi and the first human-powered flight

How Camillo Castiglioni recognised the potential of aeroplanes

The ground-breaking academic who paved way for women in science

Also on this day:

1925: The birth of the man who invented Nutella spread

(Picture credit: Wintry scene by Giogio Galeotti via Wikimedia Commons)


19 February 2017

Vittorio Grigolo - opera singer

Tenor courted public popularity as way to land 'serious' roles

Vittorio Grigolo in a picture for his album The Italian Tenor
Vittorio Grigolo in a picture for
his album The Italian Tenor
The operatic tenor Vittorio Grigolo was born on this day in 1977 in Arezzo in Tuscany.

Grigolo has performed at many of the world's leading opera houses and is currently starring in Werther by Jules Massenet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Yet he has achieved fame as a serious performer after first releasing an album of popular songs and using reality TV shows to put himself in the public eye.

Brought up in Rome, Grigolo was a child prodigy who began to sing at the age of four, his love for music inspired by his father, who liked the family house to be filled with the sound of opera arias.

He won a place at the prestigious Sistine Chapel Choir School by the time he was nine and at 13 appeared on the same stage as the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti as the shepherd boy in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca at the Rome Opera House.  It earned him the nickname Il Pavarottino - the little Pavarotti.

Grigolo's progress continued to be rapid.  At 18 he joined the Vienna Opera Company and became the youngest tenor to perform at Teatro alla Scala in Milan at the age of 23.

Grigolo performs in the role of Nemorino in  Gaetano Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore
Grigolo performs in the role of Nemorino in
Gaetano Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore
But in the years that followed, he felt his career reached a plateau. It was this lull that persuaded him to switch his attention to the pop world, cashing in on the vogue for classically trained voices singing contemporary songs by releasing in 2006 the album, In the Hands of Love, a collection of pop ballads and songs from the musicals.

As part of his promotion campaign, he appeared with Pavarotti and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at the Classical Brit Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London, sang numbers from the album at a Miss Universe 2006 evening gown competition in Los Angeles, performed alongside Lionel Richie at the 'Proms in the Park' in Hyde Park, London and sang at a charity event sponsored by Macy's department store in New York.

While in America, he appeared in the third series of the hit show Dancing with the Stars - based on the British show Strictly Come Dancing and mimicked in Italy with Ballando con le Stelle - although not as a competitor but a guest artist.  He also accepted an invitation to appear on the dating game show The Bachelor.

Watch Grigolo perform E lucevan le stelle from Tosca in Verona in 2012

The effect was as he had hoped.  His profile raised, as well as his talent he now had box-office appeal. Better roles at more prestigious venues began to come his way. By 2010 Grigolo had made his debut at both the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (as Le Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet's Manon) and at the Met (as Rodolfo in Puccini's La bohème).

Grigolo cashed in on the popularity of pop songs performed by operatic voices
Grigolo cashed in on the popularity of pop
songs performed by operatic voices
Known for his exuberant, impassioned performances, it was feared that he would burn out quickly but critics agree that he has managed his voice well despite a hectic schedule.  Not a fan of the faddy diets some opera performers follow, he allows himself a glass of wine with his lunch even when he is singing in the evening, keeping his vocal chords supple by sucking peppermint bonbons.

He has recorded five more albums since In the Hands of Love.  Most consist of opera arias, although one of them, entitled Ave Maria, is of songs he remembers from his time with the Sistine Chapel Choir.

A music lover with eclectic tastes, he has not ruled out future dalliances in the pop world but for the moment his focus is on serious opera.  Not one to bother with false modesty, in one recent interview he claimed he had succeeded Pavarotti as "the Italian tenor, the voice of Italy" and was "proud to carry the flag for Italy" - even though he actually lives in Lugano, across the border from Italy in tax-friendly Switzerland.

Although it may seem Grigolo's destiny was to sing, the world of opera almost lost him to his other great passion, cars.

At the same time as supporting him in his development as a singer, Grigolo's father, a successful designer, also agreed to sponsor his ambitions as a racing driver, helping him progress through karting right up to Formula 3000, a now defunct feeder class for Formula One.

He even tested for Benetton in Formula One after signing up with F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella's manager, but after an accident left him with two broken ribs and a cancelled concert appearance he had to make a choice.  He plumped for singing.

The distinctive, sloping Piazza Grande is a feature of Arezzo
The distinctive, sloping Piazza Grande is a feature of Arezzo
Travel tip:

Grigolo's home city of Arezzo in Tuscany, situated about 80km (50 miles) south-west of Florence, is a medieval city that has grown into a modern conurbation of around 100,000 people, although the historic centre remains an attractive spot on the Tuscan tourist trail.  The main sights include the sloping Piazza Grande, which sits just behind the 13th century Romanesque apse of Santa Maria della Pieve and was once the main marketplace of the city.  A few streets away, the city's Duomo - the Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Donati - contains among other artistic treasures a wooden choir designed by Giorgio Vasari and a painting of Mary Magdalene attributed to Piero della Francesca.

Travel tip:

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel was renamed after Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480.  As well as being a place of religious activity, the chapel is the meeting place for the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The Sistine Chapel is notable too for the frescos that decorate the interior, most particularly the ceiling and The Last Judgment, painted by Michelangelo.

More reading:

Why Luciano Pavarotti is among Italy's greatest opera stars

Andrea Bocelli - the perfect voice for pop and opera

The musical genius of Giacomo Puccini

Also on this day:

1743: The birth of cellist Luigi Boccherini

1953: The birth of comic actor and director Massimo Troisi

(Picture credit: Arezzo piazza by Enlightenmentreloaded via Wikimedia Commons)


28 November 2016

Fabio Grosso - World Cup hero

Unspectacular career illuminated by unforgettable goal

Fabio Grosso at the 2006 World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso at the 2006
World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso, the unlikely hero of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was born on this day in 1977 in Rome.

Selected for Marcello Lippi's squad for the Finals as cover for first-choice left-back Gianluca Zambrotta, Grosso eventually secured a place in Lippi's team and went on to score one of the most important goals in Italy's World Cup history as they beat the hosts, Germany, to reach the final.

He then secured his place in Azzurri folklore by scoring the winning penalty in the final against France as Italy lifted the trophy for the fourth time, equalling Brazil's record.

Yet Grosso arrived at the finals as a player who, if not an unknown, seldom attracted attention and had enjoyed a career that was respectable but certainly not eye-catching.

Five years before 2006,  he was playing in Serie C for Chieti, in the town in Abruzzo where he grew up, and only two and a half years before the tournament he left Serie A side Perugia to play for Palermo in Serie B.

Nonetheless, Palermo did win promotion to Serie A soon after Grosso arrived and at the same time he quietly established himself as Lippi's first choice at left back in the 2006 World Cup qualifying competition.

Yet his solid performances seldom making headlines.  Commentators have speculated that some Italian fans might not have even recognised him before 2006.

Even after the finals, when he earned a €5 million move to Internazionale, his career was notable for its fits and starts.

Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
He won championships with Inter under Roberto Mancini and then in France with Olympique Lyon but at both clubs he quickly fell out of favour.  Inter sold him after one season, Lyon after two.

At international level, he retained Lippi's loyalty in the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup but was not selected in the final squad for South Africa.

After Lyon, he joined Juventus, where he enjoyed a respectable first season but figured in fewer matches in his second campaign and was rarely selected after Antonio Conte took charge in the summer of 2011.  After making just two appearances in the 2011-12 campaign, he announced his retirement.

Yet thanks to the 2006 World Cup, his career will never be forgotten.  Picked for the opening group match after Zambrotta had been injured in training, he then benefited from right-back Cristian Zaccardo's poor form, which persuaded Lippi to switch Zambrotta from his normal position and play Grosso at left-back.

His first important contribution came in the round-of-16 match against Australia, when he won a disputed penalty in stoppage time that enabled Italy to scrape into the quarter-finals.

Relieve Fabio Grosso's goal against Germany and Italy's second moments later

The semi-final goal in Dortmund that made him a star came with a penalty shoot-out just two minutes away after a match that had been goalless but full of dramatic excitement, with Germany desperate to reach the Final in their own country.

It stemmed from a corner on the right that found its way to playmaker Andrea Pirlo on the edge of the penalty area.  Pirlo kept the ball at his feet before he spotted Grosso in a yard of space inside the box to the right, threading the ball to him between two defenders.

Grosso admitted to half closing his eyes as he swung his left foot, aiming at where he hoped the far corner of the goal might be.  His guesswork and delivery could not have been better, the ball curling inside the post just out of the reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann's dive.

Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo
Grosso ran away, repeatedly shouting 'Non ci credo' - 'I don't believe it' - in a celebration reminiscent of Marco Tardelli after his goal in the 1982 final in Spain, before teammates piled on top of him.  Moments later, Alessandro Del Piero scored Italy's second goal on a break from defence as Germany threw all their players forward in search of an equaliser.

The quality of Grosso's shot took some fans by surprise but he had been a goalscoring winger in his early career, scoring 47 times in 108 games for Renato Curi Angolana in regional football in Abruzzo.  Only when he had joined Perugia was he converted to a full back.

It impressed Lippi enough to name him as the man to take the often crucial fifth penalty, and after David Trezeguet's miss for France gave Grosso the chance to win the match and the trophy for Italy, he kept his cool and duly scored, to be the man of the moment for the second time.

Married with two children, Grosso returned to Juventus in 2014 to join the coaching staff.  He is currently in charge of the Primavera (Under-20s) team, having turned down the chance to coach Crotone in Serie A earlier this year.

Travel tip:

Chieti is among the most historic Italian cities, supposedly founded in 1181BC by the Homeric Greek hero Achilles. Among its main sights are a Gothic Cathedral, rebuilt after earthquake damage in the 18th century on the sight of a church that dates back to the 11th century, and the Villa Comunale, a neo-classical palace of the 19th century that is home to the National Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo.

The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
Travel tip:

Perugia, an ancient city that sits on a high hilltop midway between Rome and Florence, has a history that goes back to the Etruscan times, when it was one of the most powerful cities of the period.  It is also a university town with a long history, the University of Perugia having been founded in 1308.  The presence of the University for Foreigners and a number of smaller colleges gives Perugia a student population of more than 40,000.  The centre of the city, Piazza IV Novembre, has an interesting medieval fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, which was sculpted by Nicolo and Giovanni Pisano.

More reading:

1990 World Cup: Italy's semi-final heartbreak on home soil

1982 World Cup: Paolo Rossi's hat-trick in classic victory over Brazil

1970 World Cup: Gianni Rivera - the midfield maestro who became a politician

Also on this day:

1907: The birth of novelist Alberto Moravia

3 June 2016

Roberto Rossellini - film director

Roman movie pioneer whose 'neo-realism' had lasting influence

Photo of Rossellini and Ingrid Bergmann
Roberto Rossellini pictured with his third wife,
the Swedish acress Ingrid Bergmann
Film director Roberto Rossellini died on this day in 1977 in Rome, the city that provided the backdrop to his greatest work and earned him the reputation as the 'father of neo-realism'.

Rossellini had been associated with the Fascist regime during the early part of the Second World War, in part due to his friendship with Vittorio Mussolini, the film producer son of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.  His three wartime movies, The White Ship, A Pilot Returns and The Man with a Cross, all had elements of pro-Fascist propaganda.

But after Mussolini was dismissed and his government collapsed in 1943, Rossellini began work on the anti-Fascist film Rome, Open City, which he described as a history of Rome under Nazi occupation.

It starred the popular actor Aldo Fabrizi in the role of a priest ultimately executed by the Nazis and the actress Anna Magnani as the heroine, Pina, but also featured footage of real Roman citizens originally intended to be used in two short documentary films.  Rossellini also used non-professional actors for many scenes, feeling that they could portray the hardships and poverty of Rome under occupation more authentically.  Rossellini's brother, Renzo, a musician, wrote the score.

The difficulties faced in production, such as the scarcity of film and an unreliable electricity supply, affected the quality of the end product but somehow added to the realism Rossellini sought to capture.

Rome, Open City was not well received by cinemagoers in Italy, who wanted escapism rather than to be confronted with a reality they knew only too well. There was still much war damage in evidence in Rome when the film had its premiere in September 1945.

However, it won critical acclaim and several major awards, including the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.  It was also nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay, written by Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei. Rossellini went on to direct Paisan (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1948), also regarded as classics.  The three movies became known as his Neorealist Trilogy.

Rossellini's later films were not commercially successful but his status in the history of Italian cinema was established and he has been cited as a major influence by many directors since, including the Italian-American colossus of American cinema, Martin Scorsese.

Photo of plaque commemorating Rossellini
A plaque on a wall in the Via degli Avignonesi marks one of
the locations used for Rossellini's film 'Rome, Open City'
Born in Rome in 1906, Rossellini's love of the cinema was influenced by his father, an architect, Angiolo Giuseppe "Beppino" Rossellini, who owned a construction company in Rome and built the city's first cinema, the Barberini, to which he gave the young Roberto an unlimited free pass.  After his father died, Roberto worked in a number of jobs related to film production and gained experience in many parts of the movie-making business.

His private life was turbulent.  The first of his four marriages was to a Russian actress, Assia Noris, whom he divorced in 1936 in order to marry Marcella de Marchis, a costume designer.  In 1948 he received a letter from Ingrid Bergman, the beautiful Swedish actress who had starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Cary Grant in the Hitchcock thriller Notorious, in which she declared herself "ready to make a film with you".

By coincidence - it is assumed - the characters in Rome, Open City had included one called Bergman and another called Ingrid.

They began an affair during the shooting of their first collaboration. It was regarded as a scandal in some countries, given that they were both married, and filled many column inches in the gossip magazines.  Bergman became pregnant with Roberto Ingmar Rossellini, after which they were married. They had two more children, Isabella Rossellini, the actress and model, and her twin, Ingrid Isotta.

While married to Bergman, Rossellini was invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jewaharlal Nehru, to help revive the ailing Indian cinema industry and began an affair with the Indian screenwriter, Sonali DasGupta, herself married. The scandal led Nehru to ask Rossellini to leave India.

Dasgupta quit India with him to become his fourth wife, although he would walk out on her in 1973, four years before his death from a heart attack, after beginning a relationship with a young woman, Sylvia D'Amico.  He was survived by six children, plus one adopted stepson and a stepdaughter.

Travel tip:

Rossellini's childhood home was in Via Ludovisi, situated in the rione of the same name, one of 22 neighbourhoods that make up the Centro Storico (Historic Centre) of Rome.  Ludovisi is dominated by the elegant, upmarket Via Vittorio Veneto.  The Cinema Barberini, built by Rossellini's father, is on Piazza Barberini.  He began shooting Rome, Open City, just a few streets away in Via degli Avignonesi.

Photo of the Fontana del Tritone
The Fontana del Tritone in Rome's
Piazza Barberini, close to Rossellini's home
Travel tip:

Piazza Barberini is a large square in Rome's Centro Storico situated on the Quirinal Hill. It was created in the 16th century and although many of the surrounding buildings have been rebuilt, the Fontana del Tritone or Triton Fountain, sculpted by Bernini between 1642 and 1643, remains intact as its centrepiece.

(Photo of Fontana del Tritone by Alers CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of plaque by Lalupa CC BY-SA 3.0)