Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

22 July 2021

Massimo Carlotto - novelist

Writer wrongly jailed for murder now best-selling author

Massimo Carlotto is best known for his Alligator series
Massimo Carlotto is best known
for his Alligator mysteries
Massimo Carlotto, the best-selling novelist who spent three years on the run, eight years in jail and a further 11 years clearing his name over a murder he did not commit, was born on this day in 1956 in Padua.

Carlotto, who began his writing career in 1995 with a fictionalised autobiography, Il fuggiasco (The Fugitive), about his time on the run, is best known for his dark crime series featuring an unlicensed investigator, Marco Buratti, nicknamed L’alligatore (The Alligator), six of which have been published in English.

The so-called Carlotto Case became one of the most controversial episodes in Italian legal history.

It began in 1976, at the height of the period of intense political tension and unrest in Italy known as the Years of Lead, when the 19-year-old Carlotto, then a student, was a member of the ultra left activist group, Lotta Continua.

In January of that year, according to his own testimony, he was cycling past the house in Padua where his sister, Antonella, had an apartment, when he heard the cries of a young woman in distress. He entered the building, discovered that the cries were coming not from his sister’s apartment but from that of her neighbour, the front door of which was wide open.

Inside, he found Margherita Magello, a 24-year-old woman he knew superficially, inside a wardrobe, bleeding to death from multiple stab wounds. 

Carlotto pictured at the time of one of his many trials and retrials
Carlotto pictured at the time of one
of his many trials and retrials
He left the scene, panicking over the fact that his clothes were stained with her blood after he attempted to help her, but after telling friends what had happened, one of whom was a lawyer, decided to go to the carabinieri station station to explain what had happened.

The officers at the police station were not convinced by his story, however, and arrested him on suspicion of murder.  It is likely his political affiliations would not have helped him. In 1972, four of his fellow Lotta Continua members had been jailed for the killing of Luigi Calabresi, the Milan chief of police.

Held in prison for a year, he was tried in Padua in 1977, acquitted through lack of evidence and released. But the prosecution appealed and a further hearing in Venice found against him, sentencing him to 18 years, confirmed by Italy’s supreme court in 1982.

Shortly before the sentence was confirmed, Carlotto went into hiding, fleeing first to France and then Mexico, where he is sheltered by fellow political activists before a police check of his papers led him to be arrested and deported.

Over the next eight years he was tried and retried 11 times while a group of prominent supporters, including journalists, writers and politicians, campaigned on his behalf. He suffered serious illness while in prison but finally, in 1993, with public opinion on his side, the Italian president, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, granted him a pardon.

Several of Carlotto's novels have been published in English
Several of Carlotto's novels
have been published in English
Although it would take Carlotto and his lawyers until 2004 to have his sentence expunged from the record and all his civil and political rights reinstated, once he had recovered his health he began to write.

His first novel, Il fuggiasco (The Fugitive), was heavily based on his experience in Mexico, while he used what he had learned in prison in Italy, where he was held at different times in maximum security jails in Milan and Turin as well as Padua, alongside some of the country's most hardened criminals, to inform his crime novels.

In an interview in 2005, Carlotto explained that he had won favour as a negotiator between rival factions in prison, and made contacts in the world of organised crime by writing letters and documents for fellow prisoners.

He now uses those contacts to add authenticity to his crime stories. His novels are notorious for the graphic detail of sometimes horrific murders, but he claims all are based on real-life killings and offer a true reflection of crime in modern Italy rather than a toned-down, romanticised version.

The winner of multiple awards, Carlotto’s novels have been published in several different languages. His 2001 novel, Arrivederci, amore ciao, was turned into a film, The Goodbye Kiss, directed by Michele Soavi, in 2005.

The first of his Alligator series, which now numbers 10 novels, was published in 1995. Six have been translated into English, among them The Colombian Mule, The Master of Knots and Gang of Lovers.

Now 65, Carlotto lives with is family in homes in Sardinia and Padua.

Frescoes by Giotto decorate the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel
Frescoes by Giotto decorate the
walls of the Scrovegni Chapel
Travel tip:

Padua in the Veneto is home to Italy’s second oldest university and is an important centre for art. Its attractions include the Scrovegni Chapel, the inside of which is covered with frescoes by Giotto, an artistic genius who was the first to paint people with realistic facial expressions showing emotion. His scenes depicting the lives of Mary and Joseph, painted between 1303 and 1305, are considered his greatest achievement and one of the world’s most important works of art. The city’s history of student activism goes back to the 19th century, when students and professors at the university gathered in the Caffè Pedrocchi to plot the 1848 uprising against the Austrian occupation of much of northern Italy.

The Palazzo del Bò is the main building of the University of Padua
The Palazzo del Bò is the main building
of the University of Padua
Travel tip:

The University of Padua was established in 1222 and is one of the oldest in the world, second in Italy only to the University of Bologna . The main university building, Palazzo del Bò in Via VIII Febbraio in the centre of Padua, used to house the medical faculty. You can take a guided tour to see the lectern used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610. Other sights that are a must-see on a visit to Padua include the 13th century Basilica di Sant'Antonio.

Also on this day:

1559: The birth of St Lawrence of Brindisi

1913: The birth of prolific songwriter Gorni Kramer

1943: Palermo falls to the Allies

2001: The death of journalist Indro Montanelli


12 December 2018

Susanna Tamaro - bestselling author

Writer’s third published novel was international hit

Susanna Tamaro's novel is one of the biggest selling fiction titles in Italian literary history
Susanna Tamaro's novel is one of the biggest selling
fiction titles in Italian literary history
The writer Susanna Tamaro, whose novel Va' dove ti porta il cuore - published in English as Follow your Heart - was one of the biggest selling Italian novels of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1957 in Trieste.

Va' dove ti porta il cuore - in which the main character, an elderly woman, reflects on her life while writing a long letter to her estranged granddaughter - has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide since it was published in 1994.

Only Umberto Eco’s historical novel Il Nome della Rosa  - The Name of the Rose - has enjoyed bigger sales among books by Italian authors written in the 20th century.

Tamaro has gone on to write more than 25 novels, winning several awards, as well as contributing a column for a number of years in the weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana and even co-writing a song that reached the final of the Sanremo Music Festival.

Born into a middle-class family in Trieste, Tamaro is a distant relative of the writer Italo Svevo on her mother’s side. Her great-grandfather was the historian Attilio Tamaro.

Margherita Buy and Virna Lisi in a scene from Cristina
Comencini's 1996 movie version of Va' dove ti porta il cuore
In 1976, after obtaining a teaching diploma, Tamaro received a scholarship to study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Italian school of cinema in Rome.

She was awarded a diploma in direction after making a short animation film entitled The Origin of Day and Night, taken from an Incas myth. After returning briefly to Trieste to work as assistant director on a feature film, she settled in Rome, where she would from time to time work for the Italian state television network, Rai. 

She completed her first novel, Illmitz, in 1981 but it was rejected by every publisher she approached (it was eventually published in 2014) and it was not until 1989, when the Marsilio publishing house began a project aimed at launching a series of young unpublished writers, that she managed to make her literary debut with La testa tra le nuvole - Head in the Clouds.

The novel won two awards - the Italo Calvino Award and the Elsa Morante Award - which encouraged Tamaro to keep up her writing.

Susanna Tamaro is related through her mother to the Trieste-born novelist Italo Svevo
Susanna Tamaro is related through her mother
to the Trieste-born novelist Italo Svevo
Her second novel Per voce sola - For Solo Voice - published in 1991 won the PEN International prize and was praised by film director Federico Fellini and the novelist Alberto Moravia, although sales were not spectacular.

However, when Va' dove ti porta il cuore appeared in 1994, Tamaro became the toast of the Italian literary world, hailed as “a unique voice” whose story, while rooted in her native Italy, displayed “an understanding of human lives that is universal”.

The book was turned into a film in 1996, directed by Cristina Comencini and starring Virna Lisi and Margherita Buy. At the Turin Book Fair of 2011, it was named as one of the 150 most important books in the history of Italian literature. It has been translated into more than 35 languages.

Subsequently, Tamaro has written several bestsellers, including Anima Mundi, Rispondimi (Answer Me), Ascolta la mia voce (Listen to My Voice), Fuori (Outside) and her memoir, Verso Casa (Towards Home), many of which have been published in English.

In 1997 she collaborated with the songwriter Ron (artistic name of Rosalino Cellamare) to write a Sanremo entry for the singer Tiziana Tosca Donati.

Tamaro revealed recently that she suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, as a child
Tamaro revealed recently that she suffered from Asperger
Syndrome, a form of autism, as a child
She directed her first film, Nel mio amore (In My Love) in 2005, based on one of the stories in Rispondimi.

Since 1988 Tamaro has lived with the crime novelist Roberta Mazzoni, who invited her to stay in her home in Orvieto after she suffered a bout of asthmatic bronchitis, exacerbated by the smog and pollution of Rome.  The two subsequently shared a cottage in Porano, a nearby village. Tamaro has insisted that their relationship has always been platonic, describing it as “a loving friendship.” Tamaro recently revealed that she suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, as a child.

Tamaro’s novels have often conveyed her political views, including her opposition to abortion, surrogacy and euthanasia, but she declined an invitation to stand in the 2008 Italian elections on an anti-abortion ticket.

The Canal Grande is one of the attractions of Trieste, a port city with a great literary tradition
The Canal Grande is one of the attractions of Trieste, a
port city with a great literary tradition
Travel tip:

The coastal city of Trieste, where Tamaro was born, is the main town of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Officially, it became part of the Italian Republic only in 1954, having been disputed territory for thousands of years. It was granted to Italy in 1920 after the First World War, after which thousands of the resident Slovenians left. The final border with Yugoslavia was settled in 1975 with the Treaty of Osimo. The area today is one of the most prosperous in Italy and Trieste is a lively, cosmopolitan city and a major centre for trade and ship building. It has a strong literary tradition, having been the home of the Irish author James Joyce for more than a decade, during which he wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, most of Dubliners and the outline of Ulysses.  Joyce’s close friend, Italo Svevo, was one of several prominent writers born in the city, including the poet Umberto Saba and the essayist Claudio Magris.  The 19th century French writer Stendhal and the English novelist DH Lawrence also spent time there.

Orvieto's beautiful Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria  Assunta - is one of the finest cathedrals in Italy
Orvieto's beautiful Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria
Assunta - is one of the finest cathedrals in Italy
Travel tip:

The small city of Orvieto in Umbria, with a population of only 20,000, has a dramatic appearance, built on the top of a cliff of volcanic tuff stone, its elevated position further emphasised by the defensive walls built by the Etruscans. Situated about 120km (75 miles) north of Rome, it boasts one of Italy’s finest cathedrals in Italy - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta - with a stunningly beautiful Romanesque Gothic facade inlaid with gold mosaics fronting a building constructed from alternate layers of black and white marble.  The city’s medieval streets are a cultural paradise - busy with cafés and restaurants, bookshops, artisans' workshops and antique emporia.

More reading:

Why Alberto Moravia is recognised as a major figure in 20th century literature

The broad intellectual talents of Umberto Eco

How screen siren Virna Lisi turned back on glamour roles

Also on this day:

1685: The birth of composer Lodovico Giustini

1901: Marconi receives first transatlantic radio signal

1969: The Piazza Fontana bombing


27 September 2018

Grazia Deledda - Nobel Prize winner

First Italian woman to be honoured

Grazia Deledda was the first Italian woman to win a Nobel Prize
Grazia Deledda was the first Italian
woman to win a Nobel Prize
The novelist Grazia Deledda, who was the first of only two Italian women to be made a Nobel laureate when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926, was born on this day in 1871 in the city of Nuoro in Sardinia.

A prolific writer from the age of 13, she published around 50 novels or story collections over the course of her career, most of them drawing on her own experience of life in the rugged Sardinian countryside.

The Nobel prize was awarded "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general."

Deledda’s success came at the 11th time of asking, having been first nominated in 1913. The successful nomination came from Henrik Schuck, a literature historian at the Swedish Academy.

Born into a middle-class family - her father, Giovanni, was in her own words a “well-to-do landowner” - Deledda drew inspiration for her characters from the stream of friends and business acquaintances her father insisted must stay at their home whenever they were in Nuoro.

The cover of an early edition of Elias Portolu, Deledda's first big success
The cover of an early edition of Elias
Portolú, Deledda's first big success
She was not allowed to attend school beyond the age of 11 apart from private tuition in Italian, which was not at the time the first language of many Sardinians, who tended to converse in their own dialect, sardo logudorese. Beyond that, she continued her education by reading as much quality literature as she could get hold of.

Her parents did not encourage her writing but she persevered and, on the advice of her English teacher, submitted a story to a magazine when she was 13 and was delighted when they decided to publish it.

Even at that early stage in her career, her stories tended to be starkly realistic in their reflection of the hard life many Sardinians endured at the time and she often used the sometimes brutally challenging landscape of the island as a metaphor for the difficulties in her characters’ lives.

Yet she would more often blame societal factors and flawed morals for the difficult circumstances in which her characters found themselves, which reflected her own optimistic view of human nature.

However, she was chastised by her father for the way her stories questioned the patriarchal structure of Sardinian society and they were not received well generally in Nuoro, where some people expressed their displeasure by burning copies of the magazine that published her work.

There is a commemorative bust of Grazia Deledda on Pincio hill in Rome
There is a commemorative bust of
Grazia Deledda on Pincio hill in Rome
Deledda completed her first novel, Fior di Sardegna (Flower of Sardinia) in 1892, when she was not quite 21. She sent to a publisher in Rome, who accepted. Again it was shunned in Nuoro, but it was successful enough elsewhere for her to set about writing more and she submitted at least one every year, sometimes using a pseudonym.

In 1900, she visited Cagliari, the Sardinian capital on a rare holiday. She had never been far from Nuoro before but it proved a momentous occasion. She met Palmiro Madesani, a civil servant who would become her husband.  After they were married, they moved to Rome, where Deledda would live for the remainder of her life.

It was there that she tasted her first real success with Elias Portolú (1903), a novel that was published in Italian first but which was translated into French and subsequently all the major European languages, bringing her international recognition for the first time.

The period between 1903 and 1920 was her most productive phase for her, in which she wrote some of her best work. Her 1904 novel Cenere (Ashes) was turned into a film starring the celebrated actress Eleonora Duse.

Deledda preferred a quiet life with her family to any celebrity despite the attention the prize brought her
Deledda preferred a quiet life with her family to any
celebrity despite the attention the prize brought her
Life in Sardinia continued to be her favourite theme. Nostalgie (Nostalgia, 1905), I giuochi della vita (The Gambles of Life, 1905), L’ombra del passato (Shadow of the Past, 1907) and L’edera (The Ivy, 1908) brought her more success.

This brought her a comfortable living and she was happy in Rome, even if she preferred a quiet life at home to celebrity. If she was bitter at the way her family had reacted to her writing, she did not let it stand in the way of her humanity and she supported her brothers, Andrea and Santus, after her father died.

Deledda died in Rome in 1936 at the age of just 64, having suffered with breast cancer. Her last years were painful but she never lost her optimistic view of life, which she believed was beautiful and serene and gave her the strength to overcome physical and spiritual hardships. Her later works reflected her strong religious faith.

Italy's only other female Nobel Prize-winner is Rita Levi-Montalcini, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

The house in Nuoro where the novelist was born is now a museum
The house in Nuoro where the novelist
was born is now a museum
Travel tip:

Deledda's birthplace and childhood home in Nuoro has been preserved as a museum in her honour. Called the Museo Deleddiano, it consists of 10 rooms where the stages of the writer's life are reconstructed.  The building is located in Santu Pedru, one of the city's oldest quarters. The house was sold in 1913 but remains mostly unaltered. It was acquired by the Municipality of Nuoro in 1968 and, thanks to the generosity of the Madesani-Deledda family,  a large number of manuscripts, photographs, documents and personal belongings of the novelist are on display.  The museum, in Via Grazia Deledda, is open from 10am to 1pm and from 3pm to 7pm (8pm in summer), every day except Mondays.

Nuoro is situated in a ruggedly mountainous area
Nuoro is situated in a ruggedly mountainous area
Travel tip:

Nuoro, situated on the slopes of the Monte Ortobene in central eastern Sardinia, has grown to be the sixth largest city in Sardinia with a population of more than 36,000.  The birthplace of several renowned artists, including the poet Sebastiano Satta, the novelist Salvatore Satta - a cousin - the architect and car designer Flavio Manzoni and the award-winning sculptor Francesco Ciusa, it is considered an important cultural centre.  It is also home of one of reputedly the world’s rarest pasta - su filindeu, which in the Sardinian language means "the threads of God" - which is made exclusively by the women of a single family to a recipe passed down through generations.

More reading:

Giosuè Carducci - the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

How Nobel Prize-winner Dario Fo put the spotlight on corruption

The groundbreaking talent of actress Eleonora Duse

Also on this day:

1966: The birth of rapper Jovanotti

1979: The death on Capri of actress and singer Gracie Fields 


14 March 2018

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli – publisher

Accidental death of an aristocratic activist

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was both one of Italy's richest men and a passionate revolutionary
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was both one of Italy's
richest men and a passionate revolutionary
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a leading European publisher and one of Italy’s richest men, died on this day in 1972 after being blown up while trying to ignite a terrorist bomb on an electricity pylon at Segrate near Milan.

It was a bizarre end to the life and career of a man who had helped revolutionise Italian book publishing. He became famous for his decision to translate and publish Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago after the manuscript was smuggled out of the Soviet Union, where it had been banned on the grounds of being anti-Soviet.

This was an event that shook the Soviet empire and led to Pasternak winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Feltrinelli also started the first chain of book shops in Italy, which still bear his name.

He was born in 1926 into a wealthy, monarchist family. At the instigation of his mother, Feltrinelli was created Marquess of Gargnano when he was 12 by Benito Mussolini.

During the Second World War, the family left their home, Villa Feltrinelli, north of Salò on Lake Garda to make way for Mussolini to live there. But in the later stages of the war, Feltrinelli enrolled in the Italian Communist Party and fought against the Germans and the remnants of Mussolini’s regime.

The newspaper front page announcing the death of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli
The newspaper front page announcing the
death of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli
From 1949 onwards, Feltrinelli collected documents for the Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Library in Milan relating to the development of the international labour and socialist movements.

Feltrinelli established a publishing company in Milan in 1954.

His determination to publish Doctor Zhivago in 1957 was vindicated when it became an international best seller. He later sold the film rights to MGM for 450,000 dollars.

But Feltrinelli was criticised by Italian Communist Party members for defying Moscow and as a result decided not to renew his party membership.

He opened his first Feltrinelli book shop in Pisa in 1957 and, by his death, the chain of shops was the largest in Italy.

After meeting Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Feltrinelli published his writings, along with those of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh.

Among other causes, he gave financial support to the Palestine Liberation Front.

Feltrinelli increasingly advocated guerrilla activity in Italy on behalf of the working classes. Anticipating assassination attempts by the CIA or Mossad, he assumed a battle name, Osvaldo, and went underground.

Feltrinelli celebrates publishing the  banned Russian novel Doctor Zhivago
Feltrinelli celebrates publishing the
banned Russian novel Doctor Zhivago
After he was found dead at the foot of the pylon, apparently killed by his own explosives, his death was immediately thought to be suspicious.

His stepfather, the writer Luigi Barzini, considered but ultimately rejected the idea that he was deliberately killed.

In 1979 during an anti-terrorist trial, Red Brigades defendants read a signed statement to the court saying Feltrinelli had been engaged in an operation to sabotage electricity pylons to cause a blackout in a big area of Milan. They said he committed a technical error that led to his fatal accident and the failure of the whole operation.

Forty years after his death, the newspaper Corriere della Sera published forensic reports claiming Feltrinelli had been tied to the pylon before the bomb was detonated, implying he had been killed and framed by Italian or Israeli security forces. There has also been speculation that Feltrinelli was murdered by the KGB.

The Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli sits on the shore of Lake Garda
The Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli sits on the shore of Lake Garda
Travel tip:

Villa Feltrinelli, which was vacated by the Feltrinelli family to provide a home for Mussolini during the war, is now the Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli in Via Rimembranza, Gargnano. One of the most prestigious hotels in the world, this neo-Gothic villa was built by the Feltrinelli family on the shores of Lake Garda in the 19th century. It is where Mussolini spent his last 600 days, while he headed the Republic of Salò, before he was apprehended and executed while trying to escape from Italy.

Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Milan
Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Milan
Travel tip:

The Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Viale Pasubio, Milan, was founded in 1949 as a library. It has an archive of nearly 1.5 million items, 250,000 volumes and 16,000 journals on the themes of equal society and citizens’ rights. The current building, designed by the Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is open to visitors from 9.30 to 17.30 Monday to Friday. To arrange a guided tour, contact

More reading:

The accidental death of an anarchist

Piazza Fontana bombing

Mussolini's last stand

Also on this day:

1820: The birth of King Victor Emmanuel II

1835: The birth of Giovanni Schiaparelli, who believed there were canals on Mars

(Picture credit: Villa Feltrinelli by BMK via Wikimedia Commons)

27 January 2018

Giovanni Arpino – writer and novelist

Stories inspired classic Italian films

Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both a sports writer and a novelist
Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both
a sports writer and a novelist
The writer Giovanni Arpino, whose novels lay behind the Italian movie classics Divorce, Italian Style and Profumo di donna – later remade in the United States as Scent of a Woman – was born on this day in 1927 in the Croatian city of Pula, then part of Italy.

His parents did not originate from Pula, which is near the tip of the Istrian peninsula about 120km (75 miles) south of Trieste. His father, Tomaso, was a Neapolitan, while his mother, Maddalena, hailed from Piedmont, but his father’s career in the Italian Army meant the family were rarely settled for long in one place.

In fact, they remained in Pula only a couple of months. As Giovanni was growing up, they lived in Novi Ligure, near Alessandria, in Saluzzo, south of Turin, and in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. His father imposed a strict regime on Giovanni and his two brothers, who were required to spend a lot of their time studying.

In fact, Giovanni was separated from his family for a while during the Second World War, when his mother returned to the Piedmontese town of Bra, not far from Saluzzo in the province of Cuneo, to deal with the estate of her father, who passed away in 1940. He left the family a villa on the hill overlooking the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Fiori, on the outskirts of the town.  Giovanni remained at school in Piacenza.

After the armistice of 1943, his father left the military and they settled in Bra, where he attended high school before enrolling in the faculty of law at the University of Turin.  He later switched to literature, completing a thesis on the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin.

Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a  year-long battle with cancer
Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a
year-long battle with cancer
Arpino spent several periods of his life working in journalism, including a stint writing about football, for which he had a massive enthusiasm. Gianni Brera, the celebrated football writer, had brought his literary style to the sports pages a few years earlier and Arpino was encouraged to do the same.

His time working for La Stampa, the Turin daily newspaper, enabled him to travel to the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, from which his reports attracted a substantial following. 

It was as a novelist, however, that he truly made his mark. He wrote in a dry and sardonic style to which readers responded well.

His first novel, Sei stato felice, Giovanni (You’ve been happy, Giovanni), was published by Einaudi in 1952. At around the same time, having completed his own military service – compulsory rather than voluntary – he began courting his future wife, Caterina, whose parents owned the Caffe Garibaldi in Bra.

They married in 1953 and moved to Turin, where he began to work in the sales department of the Einaudi publishing house and at the same time wrote a column for the Rome newspaper Il Mondo about provincial life.

His first big break came when his fourth novel, Un delitto d’onore (An Honour Killing), published in 1962, formed the basis for the hit movie Divorzia all’Italiana – Divorce, Italian Style – a satirical comedy directed by Pietro Germi and starring Marcello Mastroianno.

Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene
from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Two years later, his sixth novel, L’Ombra delle colline (The Shadow of the Hills), about the apprehensions and delusions of a young man who, as a child, had witnessed partisans fighting for their country towards the end of the Second World War, won the Strega Prize – the Premio Strega – which is Italy’s most prestigious literary award.

The film industry gave him another massive sales boost in 1969 when his novel Il buio e il miele – The Darkness and the Honey – was turned into the film Profumo di donna, directed by Dino Risi and starring Vittorio Gassman, both of whom received David di Donatello awards.

Another version of the film was made in 2012, when Martin Brest directed Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, in which Pacino’s performance as Frank Slade, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who had lost his sight in an accident with a hand grenade, won him an academy award for best actor.

Arpino, whose enjoyment telling stories to his son, Tommaso, led him to write for children as well as for his established adult readership, developed cancer in his late 50s, which ultimately led to his early death in 1987 at the age of just 60.

Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of
Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Travel tip:

The town of Bra in Piedmont, situated some 50km (31 miles) southeast of Turin, is renowned as the birthplace of the Slow Food movement, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Every two years, Slow Food organizes the cheese festival in Bra, with artisanal cheese makers invited from across the world.  There are a number of attractive churches in the town, including the beautiful Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Apostolo, just off the main Piazza dei Caduti, which was built to a design by the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, famous for the impact his designs made in the city of Rome in the 18th century.

The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
Travel tip:

The Piedmontese town of Saluzzo, about 30km (19 miles) west of Bra on the edge of the southern part of the Alpine arc, is notable for a beautifully preserved 15th century historic centre characterised by a network of cobbled streets and steep passages by which to explore a number of fine palaces and churches, including the 15th century cathedral built in the Lombard-Gothic style.  At the summit of the town is the Castiglia, built in the 13th century by the Marquis Tommaso I and renovated in 1492 by Ludovico II of Saluzzo, at the time when the town was a powerful city-state.

25 November 2017

Giorgio Faletti – writer and entertainer

Comedian who became best-selling novelist

Giorgio Faletti had a varied career before becoming a best-selling novelist
Giorgio Faletti had a varied career before
becoming a best-selling novelist
Giorgio Faletti, who became a best-selling thriller writer, was born on this day in 1950 in Asti in Piedmont.

He was a successful actor, comedian, and singer-songwriter before he turned his hand to writing fiction. His first thriller, I Kill (Io uccido), sold more than four million copies.

Faletti’s books have now been published in 25 languages throughout Europe, South America, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

Faletti graduated from law school but then began a career as a comedian at the Milanese Club ‘Derby’.

In 1983 he made his debut on local television before appearing alongside the popular hostess and former actress, Raffaella Carrà, on RAI’s daytime game show, Pronto, Raffaella? He was cast as a comedian in the popular variety show, Drive In, which was followed by other television successes.

He wrote the soundtrack for a TV series in which he was one of the main actors and then released an album of his songs.

In 1992 he took part in the San Remo Music Festival with Orietta Berti with the song Rumba di tango.

The cover of Giorgio Faletti's  debut thriller, I Kill
The cover of Giorgio Faletti's
debut thriller, I Kill
In 1994, performing his own song, Signor tenente, he came second at San Remo.  In all, he recorded six albums. His last, entitled Nonsense, was released in 2000.

A motor racing enthusiast, Falleti began his writing career by penning a column for the Italian weekly magazine, Autosprint.

His first book was the humorous book, Porco il mondo che cio sotto I piedi! in 1994. His second book came as a surprise, the thriller, I Kill (Io uccido).

The book sold four million copies and the follow-up, The Killer In My Eyes (Niente di vero tranne gli occhi), three million and a half copies.

The writer Jeffery Deaver said of Faletti: ‘In my neck of the woods, people like Faletti are called larger than life, living legends.’

In November 2005 Faletti received the De Sica Prize for literature from the President of the Italian Republic.

The following year, in which he released his novel Outside Of An Evident Destiny (Fuori da un evidente destino) he starred in the film Notte prima degli esami (First Night of the Exams), in which he was nominated for the David di Donatello Award for best supporting actor.  It was the first of several acting roles.

In recognition of his literary achievements, Faletti was appointed president of the Astense Library, the civic library of Asti, in 2012.  The library subsequently became home to the Fondazione Biblioteca Astense Giorgio Faletti.

Faletti was asked to sign his name on the Muretto di Alassio
Faletti was asked to sign his name on the Muretto di Alassio
After his successes in music and literature, he was invited to sign his name on the Muretto di Alassio, a wall in the Ligurian resort of Alassio embedded with ceramic tiles, each bearing the signature of a celebrity.

Married to Roberta Bellesini, with whom he shared a house on the island of Elba, he died of lung cancer in Turin in 2014, aged 63.

Travel tip:

Asti, where Faletti was born, is a city in the Piedmont region of Turin, famous for its high-quality wines, Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling white wine and Barbera, a prestigious red wine.

Piazza Castello is at the heart of royal Turin
Piazza Castello is at the heart of royal Turin
Travel tip:

Turin, where Faletti died, was once the capital of Italy and its shopping streets reflect its former prestige, with 18km (11 miles) of arcades featuring the top names in fashion and jewellery. It is an important business centre and has architecture demonstrating its rich history, which is linked with the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin.

21 August 2017

Emilio Salgari – adventure novelist

Author’s heroes and stories are still part of popular culture

The novelist Emilio Salgari, photographed  in the early 20th century
The novelist Emilio Salgari, photographed
 in the early 20th century
Emilio Salgari, who is considered the father of Italian adventure fiction, was born on this day in 1862 in Verona.

Despite producing a long list of novels that were widely read in Italy, many of which were turned into films, Salgari never earned much money from his work. His life was blighted by depression and he committed suicide in 1911.

But he is still among the 40 most translated Italian authors and his most popular novels have been adapted as comics, animated series and films. Although he was not given the credit at the time, he is now considered the grandfather of the Spaghetti Western.

Salgari was born into a family of modest means and from a young age wanted to go to sea. He studied seamanship at a naval academy in Venice but was considered not good enough academically and never graduated.

He started writing as a reporter on the Verona daily newspaper La Nuova Arena, which published some of his fiction as serials. He developed a reputation for having lived a life of adventure and claimed to have explored the Sudan, met Buffalo Bill in Nebraska and sailed the Seven Seas. He actually met Buffalo Bill during his Wild West Show tour of Italy and never ventured further than the Adriatic.

He turned his passion for exploration and discovery into adventure fiction, signing his stories, Captain Salgari.

The cover of Salgari's 1900 novel, Le Tigri di Mompracem (The Tigers of Monpracem
The cover of Salgari's 1900 novel, Le Tigri
di Mompracem (The Tigers of Monpracem)
He once had to defend his pen name by fighting a duel, after his claim to the title was questioned.

Salgari married Ida Peruzzi, with whom he had four children, but despite his popularity in Italy and many countries abroad, he earned little money from his books and the family had to live hand to mouth.

In 1889 Salgari’s father committed suicide, then in 1903 Ida became ill and Salgari struggled to pay her medical bills. He became increasingly depressed and attempted suicide in 1910.

After Ida was committed to a mental hospital in 1911, Salgari took his own life by imitating the Japanese ritual of seppuku, disemboweling himself in the style of a samurai warrior.

He left a letter for his publisher, saying: ‘To you that have grown rich from the sweat of my brow while keeping myself and my family in misery, I ask only that from those profits you find the funds to pay for my funeral. I salute you while I break my pen. Emilio Salgari.’ One of his sons was also to commit suicide in 1933.

By the time he died, Salgari had written more than 200 adventure stories and novels set in exotic locations, inspired by reading foreign literature, travel magazines and encyclopediae.

His major series were The Pirates of Malaysia, The Black Corsair Saga and the The Pirates of Bermuda. He also wrote adventures set in the west of America. His heroes were pirates and outlaws fighting against greed and corruption.

Sergio Leone is said to have been a fan of Salgari's books, said to have been the inspiration for his Spaghetti Westerns
Sergio Leone is said to have been a fan of Salgari's books,
said to have been the inspiration for his Spaghetti Westerns
He opposed colonisation and his legendary hero, the pirate Sandokan, led his men in attacks against the Dutch and British fleets.

His books had been so popular that his publisher hired other writers to produce stories in Salgari’s name after his death, but no other Italian adventure writer was ever as successful as Salgari.

His style spread to films and television, with Sergio Leone’s outlaw heroes in his Spaghetti Westerns being inspired by Salgari’s characters.

Among the 50 film adaptations of Salgari’s novels is Morgan the Pirate, starring Steve Reeves.
His books were enjoyed by celebrities such as Federico Fellini, Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Eco and Che Guevara.

In the late 1990s, new translations of his novels began to be published and in 2001 the National Salgari Association was founded in Italy to celebrate his work.

It has been suggested that the first film adaptation of a Salgari novel was Cabiria, directed by Giovanni Pastrone, which bears many similarities to Salgari’s 1908 adventure novel, Carthage is Burning.

Federico Fellini was another fan
Federico Fellini was another fan
Gabriele D’Annunzio was billed as the official screenwriter but he came on board only after the film had been shot to change some of the names and captions.

Vitale di Stefano then brought Salgari’s pirates to the big screen in the early 1920s with a series of films that included The Black Corsair and The Queen of the Caribbean.

Salgari’s popular character, Sandokan, was played by Steve Reeves in Sandokan the Great and The Pirates of Malaysia. A Sandokan television miniseries later appeared throughout Europe starring Kabir Bedi in the title role.

Earlier this year, Neapolitan anti-mafia investigators announced plans to indict Francesco 'Sandokan' Schiavone, for the killing of a policeman in 1989. The gangster’s nickname shows Salgari’s character still has influence today, more than a century after his creator’s death.

The Arena at Verona, the city's most famous landmark
The Arena at Verona, the city's most famous landmark
Travel tip:

Emilio Salgari was born in Verona, which was made famous by another writer as the city of Romeo and Juliet. He began his writing career on the daily Nuova Arena newspaper, now called L’Arena, which was founded in 1866 before the Veneto became part of the Kingdom of Italy and is one of the oldest newspapers in Italy. Named after L’Arena, the Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra that hosts concerts and operas, the newspaper is now based in San Martino Buon Albergo, a small town just outside Verona.

The imposing entrance to the Cimitero Monumentale
The imposing entrance to the Cimitero Monumentale
Travel tip:

After his dramatic death, Emilio Salgari was laid to rest in the Cimitero Monumentale just outside the city walls of Verona in Piazzale del Cimitero. Designed by Giuseppe Barbieri in 1829, the cemetery has an impressive neo-classical façade with two carved lions on each side of the steps. These have prompted the Veronese to refer to the cemetery as Hotel dei Leoni, the hotel of the lions.

27 July 2017

Giosuè Carducci – poet and Nobel Prize winner

Writer used his poetry as a vehicle for his political views 

Giosuè Carducci in a photograph  taken in about 1870
Giosuè Carducci in a photograph
 taken in about 1870
Giosuè Carducci, the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, was born on this day in 1835 in Tuscany.

Christened Giosuè Alessandro Giuseppe Carducci, he lived with his parents in the small village of Valdicastello in the province of Lucca.

His father, a doctor, was an advocate of the unification of Italy and was involved with the Carbonari, a network of secret revolutionary groups. Because of his politics, the family was forced to move several times during Carducci’s childhood, eventually settling in Florence.

During his time in college, Carducci became fascinated with the restrained style of Greek and Roman literature and his work as an adult often used the classical meters of such Latin poets as Horace and Virgil. He published his first collection of poems, Rime, in 1857.

He married Elvira Menicucci in 1859 and they had four children.

Carducci in around 1900
Carducci in around 1900
Carducci taught Greek at a high school in Pistoia and was then appointed as an Italian professor at the University of Bologna.

Carducci was a popular lecturer and a fierce critic of literature and society. He was an atheist, whose political views were vehemently hostile to Christianity generally and the Catholic Church in particular.

These opinions were voiced in a deliberately blasphemous and provocative poem, Inno a Satana - Hymn to Satan. This poem was published in Bologna’s radical newspaper, Il Popolo, at a time when feelings against the Vatican were running high and the public were pressing for an end to the Vatican’s domination over the papal states.

In 1890 Carducci met Annie Vivanti, a writer and poet with whom he had a love affair.

His greatest works have been judged to be his collections of poems, Rime Nuove (New Rhymes) and Odi Barbare (Barbarian Odes).

A bust of Carducci stands proud in Castagneto Carducci
A bust of Carducci stands proud
in Castagneto Carducci
Carducci received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1906 and was also made a Senator of Italy.

In the words of the citation, the award was made to Carducci "not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces"

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded subsequently to five other Italians - Grazia Deledda, Luigi Pirandello, Salvatore Quasimodo, Eugenio Montale and Dario Fo.

During his life, Carducci wrote 20 volumes of literary criticism, biographies, speeches and essays.

He died in 1907 at the age of 71 in Casa Carducci, his home in Bologna and was buried in the Certosa di Bologna monumental cemetery.  His achievement is commemorated with busts and statues in public places in several Italian towns, including Castagneto Carducci, a hill town in the province of Livorno where he spent some years as a child.

Marina di Pietrasanta's beach is considered  to be in among the best in Italy
Marina di Pietrasanta's beach is considered
to be in among the best in Italy
Travel tip:

Valdicastello, where Carducci was born, is part of Pietrasanta, a small town in the province of Lucca in the north-west corner of Tuscany. The town has Roman origins and part of the Roman wall still exists. The town is three kilometres (two miles) inland from the coastal resort of Marina di Pietrasanta. The Marina, with its golden sand, is considered to have one of the best beaches in Italy.

The Casa Carducci in Bologna houses the  Civic Museum of the Risorgimento
The Casa Carducci in Bologna houses the
Civic Museum of the Risorgimento

Travel tip:

Casa Carducci, where the poet lived until his death in 1907, is a 16th century villa in Piazza Giosuè Carducci in Bologna. The ground floor now houses the Civic Museum of the Risorgimento, which tells the story of the unification of Italy from a cultural, social and economic perspective. Visitors can also see Carducci’s bedroom, with the small granite washbasin he used, and the family dining room, which has a large clock with the hands stopped at the exact moment of the poet’s death. In his office there is a framed fragment of a tunic belonging to Petrarch and an armchair, where Garibaldi is said to have sat while he was recovering from an injury. The library contains about 40,000 books, pamphlets and documents, meticulously catalogued by Carducci himself.

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.