Showing posts with label Bolzano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bolzano. Show all posts

19 April 2023

Lilli Gruber - groundbreaking TV journalist

Writer and broadcaster was first female to host prime time news bulletin

Lilli Gruber today conducts the current affairs talk show Otto e Mezzo on Italy's La7 channel
Lilli Gruber today conducts the current affairs
talk show Otto e Mezzo on Italy's La7 channel
The journalist Lilli Gruber, who in 1987 became the first woman to be appointed anchor of a prime time news show on Italian public television, was born on this day in 1957 in Bolzano.

In a distinguished career, as well as being the face of major news programmes for the national broadcaster Rai, Gruber has reported on many major international stories as a foreign correspondent, presented shows on German television, served as a Member of the European Parliament for five years, and written many books.

Since leaving politics in 2008, she has been the host of the long-running political talk show, Otto e Mezzo, on the Rome-based independent TV channel La7.

Nicknamed La Rossa both for her red hair and her political views, Gruber was born Dietlinde Gruber into a German-speaking family in Bolzano, the provincial capital of South Tyrol in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northeast Italy, which borders Austria and Switzerland.

It was her father, Alfred, an entrepreneur, who gave her the pet name Lilli, which stayed with her into adulthood.

Educated partly in Verona, where her father built up a business making machinery for the construction industry, and in the town of Egna, near Bolzano, where she attended a language school, Gruber graduated in foreign languages and literature from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, before embarking on a journalistic career in her home region.

Alongside reporting for the regional newspapers L’Adige and Alto Adige, she gained some television experience with the local channel, Telebolzano, before landing a job on Rai Südtirol, also known as Sender Bozen, a German language channel for Trentino-Alto Adige, where despite being part of Italy, around a third of the population speak German.

Gruber made Italian TV history in 1987 as the first female journalist to host a prime time news show
Gruber made Italian TV history in 1987 as the first
female journalist to host a prime time news show
From there, she moved to the Bolzano office of TGR, the regional news arm of Rai, and in 1984 was recruited as a reporter for TG2, which was responsible for news programming on Rai Due.

Her career flourished under the guidance of Antonio Ghirelli, TG2’s editor and a major figure in Italian journalism. As a foreign correspondent, Gruber reported in 1989 on the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, an experience that would become the subject of her first book, Quei giorni a Berlin - Those Days in Berlin - which was published in 1990.

In the meantime, Ghirelli had enabled her to make history by handing her the job of anchoring TG2’s main evening news programme, which aired at 7.45pm each weekday evening. The move broke new ground, Gruber’s professionalism meaning that what had been a glass ceiling on the career progression of women in Italian TV news coverage was shattered.

Her career soon continued on its steep ascent with a move to Rai’s flagship channel, Rai Uno, where she again combined foreign assignments with hosting. She became anchor for TG1’s main eight o’clock evening news programme while also reporting on the conflicts in Yugoslavia and Iraq and the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in the United States.

It was while in Baghdad to report on the second Iraq war that she met Jacques Charmelot, a French journalist she would later marry.

Gruber was elected an MEP in the 2004 elections
Gruber was elected an MEP
in the 2004 elections
Gruber’s decision to pursue a career in politics was rooted in her opposition to the restrictions on freedom of information introduced by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi after his return to power in 2001.  By curbing their rights of access to information, Berlusconi made it more difficult for journalists to call out corruption and maladministration in government departments.

Gruber allied herself to the Uniti nell’Ulivo coalition, a centre-left alliance, and was elected as an MEP for central Italy in the July elections of 2004. She quickly became an effective politician, joining the parliamentary group of the European Socialist Party, becoming president of the delegation for relations with the Gulf States, a member of Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of the delegation for relations with Iran. She also became a member of the EU’s Ethics Commission.

Yet she missed journalism and when an offer was made by the ambitious management of La7, which has become Italy’s largest TV company outside the auspices of Rai or Berlusconi’s Mediaset, to front their evening political debate, Otto e Mezzo, she felt she could not turn it down.

A versatile presenter fluent in four languages - Italian, German, French and English - she has also worked for a number of German TV companies and conducted an exclusive interview with the Italian actress, Sophia Loren, for the American network, CBS.

Famed for her dogged questioning in interviews with political figures, Gruber also became known as a stylish dresser, often presenting the news in tailored Armani suits. She became friends with Giorgio Armani, the designer who founded the brand in 1975 and who designed the honey-coloured gown she wore at her wedding to Charmelot in Montagna, a village near Bolzano, in 2000.

Gruber’s books have drawn on her experiences in journalism but also her passionate interest in women’s rights, particularly the rights of women in Islamic societies. Her book I miei giorni a Baghdad - My Days in Baghdad - sold more than 100,000 copies.

More recently, she has written a trilogy of novels about the history of her family and of South Tyrol between the 19th and 20th centuries, entitled Eredità (Inheritance), Inganno (Deceit) and Tempesta (Storm). 

The city of Bolzano sits in a wide valley in the
Alpine region of Trentino-Alto Adige (Südtirol)
Travel tip:

Gruber’s home city of Bolzano is the capital of the South Tyrol region of what is now northern Italy, also known as Alto Adige. Occupying a valley flanked by hills covered in lush vineyards, it has a population of 108,000, swelling to 250,000 with all the surrounding communities. One of the largest urban areas in the Alpine region, it has a medieval city centre famous for its wooden market stalls, selling among other things Alpine cheeses, hams and bread. Places of interest include the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, the imposing 13th-century Mareccio Castle, and the Duomo di Bolzano with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Three languages - Italian, German and a local language called Ladin - are spoken in the area, which consistently polls high among the Italian cities reckoned to have the best standard of living.  The nearest airport to Bolzano is at Verona, about 150km (93 miles) to the south and accessible in approximately an hour and a half by train, although some visitors arrive from Innsbruck in Austria, just over two hours by train in the opposite direction.

Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy, flanking the Adige river
Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy,
flanking the Adige river 
Travel tip:

Verona, where Gruber spent part of her upbringing, is the third largest city in the northeast of Italy, with a population across its whole urban area of more than 700,000. Among its wealth of tourist attractions is the Roman amphitheatre known as L’Arena di Verona, which dates back to AD30. With a seating capacity of 22,000, it is best known now as a venue for large-scale open air opera performances and other music concerts. Verona was chosen as the setting for three plays by William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew - although it is unknown whether the English playwright ever actually set foot in the city.  Each year, thousands of tourists visit a 13th century house in Verona where Juliet is said to have lived, even though there is no evidence that Juliet and Romeo actually existed and the balcony said to have inspired Shakespeare’s imagination was not added to the house until the early 20th century.

Also on this day:

1588: The death of Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese

1768: The death of painter Canaletto, known for views of Venice

1937: The birth of chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio

1953: The birth of Olympic high jumper Sara Simeoni


9 May 2019

Carlo Maria Giulini - conductor

Boy violinist who became a maestro of the baton

Giulini conducted some of the world's  great orchestras in a long career
Giulini conducted some of the world's
great orchestras in a long career
Carlo Maria Giulini, who conducted many of the world’s great orchestras in a career spanning 54 years, was born on this day in 1914 in Barletta, a town on the Adriatic coast 66km (41 miles) north of the port city of Bari.

Appointed musical director of Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1953, he went on to become one of the most celebrated conductors of orchestral performances, developing long associations with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia of London in particular, as well as the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

He became renowned for projecting serene authority from the podium, as well as his selfless devotion to the score. A handsome man who was always impeccably tailored, he had a magisterial presence. Initially most recognised for the breadth and detail he brought to the operas of Verdi and Mozart, he eventually became as well known for his orchestral repertoire.

Carlo Maria Giulini was born to a Neapolitan mother and a father from Lombardy. Although born in the south of Italy, he was raised in Bolzano, which was part of Austria until 1915. For Christmas in 1919, when he was five, Giulini was given a violin and he progressed rapidly thanks to local instructors, notably a pharmacist who was also a violinist, whom he nicknamed Brahms.

Giulini with his wife Marcella de Girolami, to whom he was married for more than half a century
Giulini with his wife Marcella de Girolami, to whom
he was married for more than half a century
When the distinguished Italian violinist and composer Remy Principe gave a recital in Bolzano in 1928, he invited Giulini to study with him at Italy's foremost conservatory, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He soon won a place in the academy’s prestigious orchestra.

He played under such giants of conducting as Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, and Otto Klemperer. Giulini’s first public performance was the Brahms Symphony No. 1 under Walter.

In 1940, Giulini won a competition with the prize of a chance to conduct the St. Cecilia orchestra. However, before the concert took place at which he was due to conduct, he was drafted into the Italian army and sent to the front in Croatia, in spite of being unequivocally opposed to Benito Mussolini and a committed pacifist. He refused to fire his gun at human targets.

In 1942, on a 30-day break in Rome, he married Marcella de Girolami, his girlfriend since 1938. They would remain together until her death 53 years later.

Giulini began his career mainly conducting opera, first for the Rai radio orchestra
Giulini began his career mainly conducting
opera, first for the Rai radio orchestra 
In September 1943, the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces was signed, but the occupying Nazis refused to abandon Rome. When Giulini's Italian commander ordered his troops to fight on, Giulini went into hiding, living for nine months in a tunnel underneath a home owned by his wife's uncle, along with two friends and a Jewish family. There were posters around Rome showing his face with instructions that he be shot on sight.

After the Allies liberated Rome in June 1944, Giulini - one of the few conductors not tainted by associations with Fascism - was chosen to lead the Accademia's first post-Fascist concert, held in July 1944. On the programme was the Brahms Symphony No. 4, which would become almost his signature work, one that he conducted 180 times over the course of his career.

In 1948, Giulini conducted his first opera, a production of Verdi’s La Traviata for Italian radio, before conducting his first theatre production of the same opera in Bergamo in 1950.

After hearing Giulini’s radio broadcast of Debussy's La mer, the great conductor Arturo Toscanini asked to meet Giulini and recommended him to be musical director at La Scala. He took up the post in 1953, although in the event he resigned after members of the audience jeered Maria Callas during a run of operas in 1956.

In 1958, Giulini conducted a highly acclaimed production of Verdi's Don Carlos at the Royal Opera House in London - directed by Luchino Visconti - and although he returned to Covent Garden several more times, and to other venues in Europe, he became so disillusioned with some of the modern visual interpretations of classic works that he effectively quit opera in 1965 to concentrate on orchestral works. Even the Metropolitan Opera in New York could not persuade him to change his mind.

Giulini, who worked into his 80s, had a long association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Giulini, who worked into his 80s, had a long association
with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
In 1955 he made his American debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leading to a 23-year association with the orchestra, of which he was principal guest conductor from 1969 to 1972 and continued to appear with them regularly until 1978. In 1956, he began his association with the Philharmonia of London.

In addition to his role in Chicago, he was music director of the Vienna Symphony from 1973 to 1976. From 1978 to 1984, he served as principal conductor and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, launching his tenure there with performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

In addition to being in great demand as a guest conductor of major orchestras around the world, Giulini made numerous recordings with the Philharmonia in London.

Two Mozart recordings, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze Di Figaro, brilliantly produced by Walter Legge, were recalled as exceptional. The recordings that followed during the early 1960s reflected a London concert repertory that included music by Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Ravel, as well as brilliant Rossini overtures and memorable performances of the Verdi Requiem.

Giulini often said that he found the public role of being a conductor uncomfortable and that ideally he would prefer to do no publicity at all. Yet he had an eccentric side that appeared to enjoy fame, to the extent that during his time in Los Angeles he would sometimes be spotted driving around in an open-top Mercedes, wearing sunglasses, a flowing scarf and a large hat that could scarcely fail to get him noticed.

His later years in America were marred somewhat by the ill health and eventual death of his wife in 1995, not long after which, in 1998, he announced his retirement, returning to Italy and living in the area around Brescia in Lombardy, where he died in 2005 at the age of 91.

The city of Bolzano is set against a backdrop of  stunning Alpine views
The city of Bolzano is set against a backdrop of
 stunning Alpine views
Travel tip:

Bolzano, where Giulini grew up, is a city in the South Tyrol province of northern Italy, also known as Alto Adige. It is in a valley amid hilly vineyards. A gateway to the Dolomites mountain range in the Italian Alps, it has a medieval city centre, where can be found wooden market stalls are laid out with Alpine cheese, ham and dark, seeded loaves. Bolzano us the home of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which features a Neolithic mummy called Ötzi the Iceman. Nearby is the imposing 13th-century Mareccio Castle, and the Duomo di Bolzano with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

The beautiful 14th century Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Barletta
The beautiful 14th century Basilica di Santa
Maria Maggiore in Barletta
Travel tip:

Giulini’s home town of Barletta is a working port with modern suburbs and an attractive historic centre, where one of the most famous sights is an ancient bronze 'Colossus', thought to be the oldest surviving bronze Roman statue. The identity of the figure the statue represents is not clear but one theory is that it is the Byzantine Emperor Marcian and that the statue’s original home was in Constantinople.  Barletta has a beautiful 12th century cathedral, renovated in the 14th century, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

More reading:

How a chance opportunity changed conductor Arturo Toscanini's life

The life of the passionate maestro Riccardo Muti

Why Luchino Visconti was known as the aristocrat of Italian cinema

Also on this day:

1740: The birth of composer Giovanni Paisello

1946: Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III abdicates

2013: The death of fashion designer Ottavio Missoni


28 February 2017

Karl Zuegg - jam and juice maker

Businessman turned family farm into international company

Karl Zuegg
Karl Zuegg
Karl Zuegg, the businessman who turned his family's fruit-farming expertise into one of Italy's major producers of jams and juices, was born on this day in 1915 in Lana, a town in what is now the autonomous province of Bolzano in Trentino-Alto Adige.

His grandparents, Maria and Ernst August Zuech - they changed their name to Zuegg in 1903 - had been cultivating fruit on their farm since 1860, when Lana was part of South Tyrol in what was then Austria-Hungary.  They traded at local markets and began exporting.

Zuegg and the company's other major brand names, Skipper and Fruttaviva, are among the most recognisable in the fruit products market in Italy and it is largely through Karl's hard work and enterprise.

He was managing director of the company from 1940 to 1986, during which time Zuegg became the first drinks manufacturer in Italy to make use of the ground-breaking Tetrapak packaging invented in Sweden, which allowed drinks to be sold in lightweight cardboard cartons rather than traditional glass bottles.

The family business had begun to experiment with jams in 1917 when austerity measures in Italy were biting hard and there was a need to preserve food.  Rather than throw away overripe apples, the family turned them into jam.

The Zuegg logo is well known in Italian grocery stores
The Zuegg logo is well known in Italian grocery stores
Their methods were successful with other fruits too and Zuegg jams went into mass production in 1923, achieving immediate success.

But it was not until Karl joined the board of the company in 1937 that the business began to expand on a large scale.

Under Karl's leadership, the Zuegg brand grew, with bigger production facilities and innovative technology. The company developed new products such as the Fruttino snack bar, a solid stick of quince jam enriched with vitamins that became a staple of children's school lunches throughout Italy.

The first Zuegg fruit juices arrived in 1954, with bottles of pear, peach and apricot juice soon becoming familiar items on the shelves of Italian grocery stores.

Fruit cultivation is an important part of Lana's economy
Fruit cultivation is an important part of Lana's economy
In the early 1960s, Zuegg intoduced the Fruttaviva jams, the first to be produced without the use of preservatives and dyes, and two years later, after opening a new plant in Verona - now the company's headquarters - became a supplier of fruit products for use in yogurt, pastries and ice cream.

It was in 1979, as Karl continually looked for innovations that would help grow the business further, that the company signed a deal for the Swedish company Tetrapak to supply its revolutionary cartons for Zuegg products.

Tetrapak's unique method, combining paper, polyethylene and aluminium, produced a lightweight packaging that not only kept fluids from leaking outwards. It also prevented bacteria from entering the product and, through the aluminium layer, protected the contents from deteriorating through exposure to light.

Selling drinks in these so-called 'briks' was a novelty in Italy and Karl Zuegg's vision made his company the market leader. Today, of course, such packaging is standard.

The original Zuegg headquarters in Lana
The original Zuegg headquarters in Lana
On the back of this success, Zuegg was able to open another Italian production plant at Luogosano, in the province of Avellino in Campania, in 1985.  Three years later, the Skipper line, selling 100 per cent pure fruit juices, was launched.

Today, Zuegg is an international company with six plants - two in Italy, two in Germany, one in France and one in Russia - and employs more than 500 staff.

As part of its campaign to promote healthy living, the company has a long history of sponsorship in sport, which has seen it provide financial backing for competitors in skiing and snowboarding, beach volleyball, basketball and tennis, and for two seasons promoted the brand as a main sponsor of Internazionale football club.

Karl Zuegg, who was made Cavaliere del Lavoro by the Italian government in recognition of his services to industry, died in 2005 in Lana, his home town, at the age of 91.  He is buried at the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Lana di Sotto.

Travel tip:

Lana is a small town and resort in the Adige valley in north-eastern Italy midway between Bolzano and Merano in the area of the Trentino-Alto Adige region also known as South Tyrol. The German influence on the area is so dominant that more than 90 per cent of the town's 12,000 residents speak German as their first language, and less than eight per cent Italian. It is popular with hikers and cyclists in the summer months, with a network of well defined cycle paths.  Lana is also home to the South Tyrol Museum of Fruit, which details the history of fruit cultivation in the area.

Hotels in Lana from

The Roman Porta Borsari in Verona is almost 2,000 years old
The Roman Porta Borsari in Verona is almost 2,000 years old 
Travel tip:

Verona is famous for the Arena, the Roman amphitheatre that stages open air concerts, and for Casa Giulietta, the house with the balcony said to be the one that featured in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  But there is more to the city's attractions.  In addition to the Arena, Verona is said to have more Roman ruins than any other Italian city and many are part of the everyday fabric of the city, including the Porta Borsari, with its two large arches and numerous smaller arches above, dating back to the 1st century, which straddles the entrance to Corso Porta Borsari, one of the city's main shopping streets.  There are many squares, including the charming Piazza dei Signori, which is surrounded by several fine buildings, including the Palazzo del Comune, the Palazzo Domus Nova and the Loggia del Consiglio.

More reading:

How Michele Ferrero's hazelnut spread became a worldwide phenomenon

Francesco Cirio and the canning revolution

A hotel empire that started with a single London coffee bar

Also on this day:

1940: The birth of F1 motor racing champion Mario Andretti

1942: The birth of record-breaking goalkeeper Dino Zoff

(Picture credits: Tractor in orchard by böhringer friedrich; Porta Borsari by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia Commons; Zuegg pictures from Zuegg company website)