Showing posts with label 1994. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1994. Show all posts

4 August 2017

Giovanni Spadolini - politician

The first non-Christian Democrat to lead Italian Republic

Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini in 1987
Giovanni Spadolini, who was the Italian Republic’s first prime minister not to be drawn from the Christian Democrats and was one of Italy's most respected politicians, died on this day in 1994.

In a country where leading politicians and businessman rarely survive a whole career without becoming embroiled in one corruption scandal or another, he went to the grave with his reputation for honesty intact.

Although he was an expert on Italian unification and became a professor of contemporary history at the University of Florence when he was only 25, a background that gave him a deep knowledge of Italian politics, he first built a career as a journalist.

He became a political columnist for several magazines and newspapers, including Il Borghese, Il Mondo and Il Messaggero, and was appointed editor of the Bologna daily II Resto del Carlino in 1955, at the age of 30.

In 1968, having doubled Il Resto’s circulation, he left Bologna to become the editor at Corriere della Sera, in Milan, where he remained until 1972.  It was while editing the Corriere that he became known for his anti-extremist stance, condemning violent student activists on the left and terrorists on the right in equal measure.

Under his stewardship, the Corriere took a strong anti-Communist stance, provoking attacks on its offices by angry demonstrators. Once, a stone thrown by a demonstrator smashed through Spadolini’s office window. He picked it up and placed it on his desk, where it remained throughout his time as editor, as a reminder of the turmoil brought about by political extremism.

Prime Minister Spadolini with the Italian president, Sandro Pertini
Prime Minister Spadolini (right) with the
Italian president, Sandro Pertini
During his time in Milan, Spadolini was persuaded to enter politics. In 1972, after leaving the Corriere, he was elected senator as an independent with the Republican Party. He was appointed Minister of Cultural Affairs in Aldo Moro’s cabinet in 1974.

He became leader of the Italian Republican Party in 1979, a position he held until 1987, and in 1981 he was chosen to be Italy's first non-Christian-Democrat prime minister by the Socialist President, Sandro Pertini.

In partnership, these two men did much to restore the credibility of Italy's political institutions after years of terrorist violence and the scandal of the secret P2 Masonic lodge, a secret society that included politicians, businessmen, some high-ranking military officers and policemen, that attempted to create a ‘state within a state.’  Spadolini introduced laws suppressing secret organisations.

It was during Spadolini’s time in office that the anti-terrorist unit of the Italian police freed the United States general James Lee Dozier, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades.  He also achieved a drop in inflation from 22 per cent to 16 per cent during his 18 months in office.

Spadolini, born into a bourgeois Florentine family, was known as a connoisseur of good food and drink and his wide girth became the target of Italy's political cartoonists.

Yet, in the 1983 national election, the Republican Party capitalised on Spadolini's popularity, realising 5.1 per cent of the vote, the highest they had achieved.

The Spadolini villa outside Florence is now the home of a cultural foundation
The Spadolini villa outside Florence is
now the home of a cultural foundation
He became dismayed at a new class of politician emerging at that time, whom he felt were preoccupied with grabbing the spoils of power rather than healing the ills of the country. As the speaker of the Senate from 1987, Spadolini regularly underlined his concern for Italy's institutions.

From 1987 to April 1994, he was president of the Italian Senate and, for a month in 1992, acting president of Italy, following the resignation of Francesco Cossiga. 

After the electoral success of Silvio Berlusconi's House of Freedoms party, he lost the presidency of the Senate to Carlo Scognamiglio Pasini by a single vote. He died four months later in Rome.

In his villa at Pian dei Giulliari, in the countryside near Florence, Spadolini left a library containing some 70,000 volumes on contemporary history and the 19th century. The villa became home to a cultural foundation dedicated to the study of Italian unity.

Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Casa Spadolini at 28 Via Cavour in Florence
Travel tip:

Spadolini’s home until 1978 was at 28 Via Cavour, one of the principal streets in the northern part of the historic centre of Florence, a four-storey palazzo that had been acquired by his grandfather.  Spadolini kept the house as his main residence even while he was editing in Bologna and Milan and serving the country in Rome. He left for the family villa in Pian dei Giullari after the death of his mother.

Travel tip:

Pian dei Giullari is a picturesque village in the hills some 5km (3 miles) south of Florence.  Many villas line the Via Pian dei Giullari that runs through the village. The Spadolini Foundation is at number 139. On the same street can be found Il Gioiello, where the physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei spent his last years.

6 August 2016

Domenico Modugno – singer and song writer

Artist who gave us a song that conjures up Italy

Domenico Modugno, who co-wrote the iconic Italian pop song Volare
Domenico Modugno, who co-wrote the iconic
Italian pop song Volare
Domenico Modugno, who was one of the writers of the iconic Italian song, Volare, died on this day in 1994 in Lampedusa, Sicily.

Modugno wrote Volare with Franco Migliacci and performed it in the San Remo music festival in 1958 with Johnny Dorelli.

Sometimes referred to as 'Nel blu dipinto di blu', the song won San Remo and became a hit all over the world.

It was the Italian entry in the 1958 Eurovision song contest. It came only third, yet received two Grammy Awards and sold more than 22 million copies.

Modugno was born in 1928 at Polignano a Mare near Bari in Apulia. After completing his military service he enrolled in drama school and had a number of parts in films while still studying.

The success of Volare proved to be the turning point in his career. He won the San Remo music festival again in 1959 and came second in 1960.

Watch an historic recording of Modugno's performance at Eurovision 

He also represented Italy in the Eurovision song contest for a second time in 1959.

Modugno at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest with the conductor Alberto Semprini
Modugno at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest with the
conductor Alberto Semprini
In 1962 he won San Remo for a third time and represented Italy at Eurovision again in 1966 with his song 'Dio come ti amo'. It was recorded in Italian and also in English as Oh How Much I Love You by other artists.

In 1984, Modugno suffered a severe stroke which left him partially paralysed and from 1986 onwards he worked to promote the rights of disabled people.

In 1987, Modugno was elected to the Italian Parliament as a Radical. He spoke out against the conditions in a psychiatric hospital in Sicily and held a concert to raise money for the patients.

His last song, Delfini, was written in 1993 in collaboration with one of his sons.

Modugno died on 6 August 1994 after a heart attack while he was staying at his seaside home in Lampedusa.

Polignano a Mare, where Modugno was born, is built on rocky promontories overlooking the Adriatic sea
Polignano a Mare, where Modugno was born, is built on rocky
promontories overlooking the Adriatic sea
Travel tip:

Polignano a Mare, where Modugno was born, is in the province of Bari and looks out over the Adriatic sea. The resort benefits from tourism, agriculture and fishing. It is believed to be the site of the ancient Greek city of Neapolis.

Travel tip:

Lampedusa, where Modugno had a seaside home, is a large island in the Mediterranean sea that is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento. It is the southernmost part of Italy. The nearest land to it is Tunisia, which is about 113 kilometres away.

(Photo of Polignano a Mare by Martin Stiburek CC BY-SA 4.0)