Showing posts with label Brindisi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brindisi. Show all posts

10 February 2018

ENI – oil and gas multinational

Italian energy company 65 years old today

The ENI logo, with its strange six-legged dog
The ENI logo, with its strange
six-legged dog
The Rome-based multinational oil and gas company ENI, one of the world’s largest industrial concerns, was founded on this day in 1953.

The company, which operates in 79 countries, is currently valued at $52.2 billion (€47.6 billion) and employs almost 34,000 people.  It is the 11th largest oil company in the world.

Its operations include exploration for and production of oil and natural gas, the processing, transportation and refining of crude oil, the transportation of natural gas, the storage and distribution of petroleum products and the production of base chemicals and plastics.

A wholly state-owned company until 1995, ENI is still to a large extent in the control of the Italian government, which owns just over 30 per cent of the company as a golden share, which includes preferential voting rights, almost four per cent through the state treasury, and a further 26 per cent through the Italian investment bank, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

ENI came into being as Italy was rebuilding after the Second World War, which had left its economy in ruins. Enrico Mattei, an industrialist and a Christian Democrat deputy, was assigned the task of winding down the existing state-owned oil company Agip (Azienda Generale Italiana Petrolio), an entity that had come into being under the Fascist regime and was seen as unsustainable.

Enrico Mattei, ENI's founder, was a Christian Democrat deputy
Enrico Mattei, ENI's founder, was a
Christian Democrat deputy
Instead of closing Agip, however, Mattei rebuilt and expanded it, setting up a new company, Ente Nationale Idrocarburi – the National Hydrocarbons Authority – which would control the petrochemical industry throughout Italy.

The famous ENI logo – a six-legged imaginary dog – came into being at an early stage, the six legs symbolising the four wheels of a car and the two legs of the driver.

Mattei’s tactics were controversial.  Attempting to break the dominance of the world oil market by the so-called “Seven Sisters” – the seven mainly American companies that controlled 85 per cent of the global market from the mid-40s onwards, he made independent deals with Algeria, Egypt and Iran and, at the height of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union that greatly enhanced ENI’s value.

When Mattei was killed in a plane crash in 1962, there was strong evidence that the private jet in which he and the Time-Life journalist William McHale were travelling from Catania in Sicily to Milan had been sabotaged and conspiracy theories about the involvement of Italian and American secret service agents acting in the interests of the “Seven Sisters” rumbled on for years. After several enquiries, a court ruled in 1995 that Mattei’s cause of death was homicide, although the perpetrators have never been identified.

Even after Mattei’s death, however, ENI’s ties with the Middle East and Algeria were further strengthened, especially after the crisis of 1973, when the OPEC countries imposed an embargo on US and Netherlands companies in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.

Emma Marcegaglia, ENI's
current president
The ENI enterprises included an oil pipeline between Algeria and Sicily, via Tunisia, and, more recently, a joint initiative with Russia to import gas supplies into Europe.

Within Italy, ENI sells petrol and diesel under the ENI and Agip brands, and has seven power plants run using natural gas, at Brindisi in Apulia, Ferrara and Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, Livorno in Tuscany and Bolgiano, Mantua and Ferrera Erbognone in Lombardy.

These supply power to 7.45 million residential customers in Italy and 2.09 million in other parts of Europe.

The ENI group includes companies in the construction, engineering and drilling businesses, with much energy devoted to finding new reserves off oil and gas, particularly off the coast of Africa and in the southern Mediterranean.

The company is chaired by the 52-year-old businesswoman Emma Marcegaglia, who was appointed president by Italian premier Matteo Renzi. The CEO is Claudio Descalzi, who first worked for ENI in 1981.

The Duomo at Brindisi, rebuilt after 1743 earthquake
The Duomo at Brindisi, rebuilt after 1743 earthquake
Travel tip:

The port of Brindisi, where the power plant is part of substantial ENI involvement in the area’s industry, sits on a large natural harbour overseen by the red-stone Aragonese Castle known as Forte a Mare that stands on a small island at the entrance, and by the Castello Grande or Castello Federiciano, which was once a residence of King Victor Emmanuel III.  Within the medieval centre of the city, which boasts a reconstructed Romanesque Duomo – the 11th or 12th century original was destroyed in an earthquake in 1743, two ancient Roman columns, which has been adopted as symbols of the city, are said to mark the beginning of the Appian Way, which linked Brindisi with Rome.

ENI's headquarters in the EUR district of Rome
ENI's headquarters in the EUR district of Rome
Travel tip:

ENI’s headquarters in Rome, the Palazzo ENI or Palazzo di vetro (The Glass Palace) is situated in the area known as Parco Centrale del Lago, a large green space in the middle of the EUR district, the modern city within a city built for the Universal Exposition that was scheduled to be held in Rome in 1942 but never took place. The Palazzo looks out over the Lago dell’EUR – the EUR lake – a short distance from the Palazzo dello Sport, the circular arena built by Marcello Piacentini and Pier Luigi Nervi for the 1960 Olympics.   Designed by the architects Marco Bacigalupo and Ugo Ratti, assisted by engineers Leo Finzi and Edoardo Nova, it is 85.5m high and has 22 floors. When it was inaugurated, it was the tallest building in the capital, after the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano, but has since been eclipsed by nearby Torre Europarco (120m) and the Eurosky Tower (155m).

(Picture credits: Brindisi duomo by LPLT; ENI building by Blackcat)


20 May 2017

Albano Carrisi - singer

Performer best known as Al Bano has sold 165 million records

Al Bano Carrisi
The singer Albano Carrisi, better known as Al Bano, was born on this day in 1943 in Cellino San Marco, a town in Puglia about 30km (19 miles) from Lecce.

He enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist in the late 1960s but became more famous still in Italy and across mainland Europe for his collaboration with the American singer Romina Power – daughter of the actor Tyrone Power.

They met during the shooting of a film - one of several, mainly romantic comedies and a vehicle for his songs, in which he starred during the 1970s.

They not only formed a professional partnership but were married for almost 30 years.  They twice performed as Italy’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, finishing seventh on both occasions, and appeared several times at Italy’s prestigious Sanremo Music Festival, winning the top prize in 1984.

They divorced in 1999 but re-united on a professional basis in 2013 and when they performed at the Arena di Verona in 2015 before a sell-out crowd of 11,000 the show was broadcast by the Italian TV network Rai and shown in seven other countries, with a combined audience estimated at 51 million.

Carrisi’s total record sales as Al Bano are said to be in the region of 165 million, mainly in Italy, Austria, France, Spain, Romania and Germany.

Albano Carrisi with Romina Power in a publicity
picture for the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest
When he was born during the Second World War, his mother, Iolanda Ottino, named him Albano because at the time his father Carmelo Carrisi was fighting in Albania for the Royal Italian Army.

The name established a link with the country that remained with him. In 2016 he was awarded Albanian citizenship.

He made his debut as a singer in 1966 and won the Disco per l'Estate, an Italian song contest, with Pensando a te in 1968. More hits followed. His song, Nel sole, sold more than a million copies.

His musical collaboration with Romina Power began soon afterwards and would last for almost 30 years. They took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 in The Hague with the song We'll Live It All Again (Noi lo rivivremo di nuovo), which finished seventh behind winners The Brotherhood of Man, from the UK.

They returned in 1985 in Gothenburg with Magic Oh Magic, which also finished seventh. The contest was won by the Norwegian duo Bobbysocks.

They entered Sanremo five times and won first prize in 1984 with Ci sarà.

Albano Carrisi in one of his films, Nel sole
Following their breakthrough hit Sharazan in 1981, which reached number two in the Italian charts, they had two number ones with Felicità (1982) and Ci sarà.  Their commercial success continued well into the 1990s, with many records selling in Spain, Germany and Austria.

Al Bano returned to his solo career in 1996 and to Eurovision in 2000, providing backing vocals for the Swiss entry (performed in Italian) La vita cos'è? by Jane Bogaert. After starring with his daughter Romina Carrisi in the 2005 edition of the Italian reality show L'isola dei Famosi – an equivalent of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and Celebrity Survivor – he entered Sanremo in his own right in 2007, finishing second will Nel perdono.

Although he has made his name in the pop world, Carrisi’s tenor voice is of such quality that he is comfortable singing opera, which was his passion growing up.  He released an album of operatic arias in 1997 and once performed alongside Placido Domingo and José Carreras as a stand-in for Luciano Pavarotti.

Carrisi pictured in 2014
Even at the age of 74, Carrisi still tours and remains is a familiar face on Italian television. He had heart surgery in December 2016 and was admitted to hospital in March this year following a scare but returned to work after a brief rest, insisting he did not want to disappoint his fans.

He and Romina Power had four children although they suffered personal tragedy when Yelena Maria, the oldest of their three daughters, disappeared at the age of 23 in New Orleans in January 1994 while backpacking. Carrisi never established what happened despite employing several investigators and in 2013 after almost 20 years requested that she be declared as presumed dead.

After his divorce, he had two more children with his girlfriend, Loredana Lecciso, a former showgirl almost 30 years his junior.

He still lives in Cellino San Marco.

Travel tip:

Cellino San Marco is a town of just under 7,000 people a little more than 20km (12 miles) south of Brindisi and about 14km (9 miles) inland from the coast. It was the site of a so-called ‘oven grave’ – a mass burial place with an entrance resembling that of a stone oven thought to date back to the Bronze Age. Its main attraction today is the nearby Carrisiland aquatic theme park.

Travel tip:

The port of Brindisi has been an important city in Italy since ancient Greek times, mainly because of its natural harbour and its strategic position on the heel of Italy.  The Romans connected it to Rome via the Appian Way (Via Appia) and it remains a busy port to this day, the main point of departure for trade with Greece and the Middle East.  Although it has an industrial feel to parts of the city, there is an attractive promenade and some interesting buildings, including an 18th-century reproduction of the 11th century cathedral destroyed in an earthquake, two castles and the 16th century Renaissance style Palazzo Granafei-Nervegna.

9 February 2017

Vito Antuofermo - world champion boxer

Farmer's son from deep south who won title in Monaco

Vito Antuofermo won the European light-middleweight title in 1976 and became world middleweight champion in 1979
Vito Antuofermo won the European light-middleweight title
in 1976 and became world middleweight champion in 1979
Vito Antuofermo, who went from working in the fields as a boy to becoming a world champion in the boxing ring, was born on this day in 1953 in Palo del Colle, a small town in Apulia, about 15km (9 miles) inland from the port of Bari.

He took up boxing after his family emigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s.  After turning professional in 1971, he lost only one of his first 36 fights before becoming European light-middleweight champion in January 1976.

In his 49th fight, in June 1979, he beat Argentina's Hugo Corro in Monaco to become the undisputed world champion in the middleweight division.

Antuofermo's success in the ring, where he won 50 of his 59 fights before retiring in 1985, opened the door to a number of opportunities in film and television and he was able to settle in the upper middle-class neighbourhood of Howard Beach in New York, just along the coast from John F Kennedy Airport.  He and his wife Joan have four children - Lauren, Vito Junior, Pasquale and Anthony.

He grew up in rather less comfort. The second child of Gaetano and Lauretta Antuofermo, who were poor tenant farmers, he was working in the fields from as young as seven years old.

Antuofermo (left) in action against Britain's Alan Minter
Antuofermo (left) in action against Britain's Alan Minter
Often travelling two hours even before starting work, young Vito would help to harvest grapes, olives and almonds, sometimes trudging along behind a mule-drawn plough attempting to break up sun-baked earth to prepare for planting crops.

It was physically hard work from which it was difficult for his family to make a living and after a series of severe droughts in southern Italy, they decided to move to the United States, where Lauretta had an uncle living in Brooklyn, New York.  Leaving Gaetano to follow later, she took her two oldest boys, hoping they would find opportunities for a better life. For Vito, one came along - although not in a way he had planned.

Picked up by the police with two other young men after a fight in the street, he was lucky that his arresting officer was a boxing fan and a friend of Joe LaGuardia, the ex-boxer in charge of the gym at the Police Athletic League. Instead of taking the three into the police station, the officer took them to the gym, instructing LaGuardia to “see if you can do something with them."

Vito Antuofermo in 2006 after his induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame
Vito Antuofermo in 2006 after his
induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame
LaGuardia saw potential in Antuofermo, who lacked physical strength but packed a good punch and never backed off his opponent.  He inspired him by talking about Rocky Marciano, another son of southern Italian immigrants, who was world heavyweight champion from 1952 to 1956, and Antuofermo became fixated with the idea of becoming world champion too.

As an amateur, he won the New York Golden Gloves championship in 1970, turning professional the following year after it became clear his status would not allow him to compete for Italy or the United States in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

He began to rack up wins and good purses as a professional, even winning the approval of his father, who had initially opposed his ambitions to box.

Victories over former world champions Denny Moyer and Emile Griffith in November 1974 confirmed Antuofermo's potential, and he claimed his first major title by defeating Germany's Eckhard Dagge on his home soil in Berlin to become European champion in January 1976.

His reign was short-lived, the British fighter Maurice Hope taking the crown from him nine months later.  It was another British boxer, Alan Minter, who deprived him of his world title in March 1980, again after only nine months, although Antuofermo did have the satisfaction of making one successful defence, against America's Marvin Hagler, who would go on to beat Minter for the title in 1980 and hold on to it for seven years.

Antuofermo quit the ring after losing to Hagler in 1981 but make a comeback in 1984, winning four more bouts before defeat to Canada's Matthew Hilton in Quebec in October 1985 prompted him to retire for good.

Antuofermo played a bodyguard in The Godfather Part III
Antuofermo played a bodyguard
in The Godfather Part III
After retirement, Antuofermo enjoyed success as an actor. He was picked for a small role in The Godfather Part III as the chief bodyguard of gangster Joey Zasa and was a mobster in the hit television show The Sopranos.  After Godfather star Al Pacino persuaded him to take acting lessons, he also landed a series of parts in theatre plays.

Never afraid of hard work, he was employed by the Port Authority of New York as a crane operator for a sizeable part of his fight career, while his business pursuits included stints working in marketing for Coca-Cola and for an Italian beer company, and running a landscaping company in Long Island.

Travel tip:

Often overlooked in favour of Lecce and Brindisi when tourists venture towards the heel of Italy, Bari is the second largest urban area after Naples in the south of the country. It has a busy port and some expansive industrial areas but plenty of history, too, especially in the old city - Bari Vecchia - which sits on a headland between two harbours.  Fanning out around two Romanesque churches, the Cattedrale di San Sebino and the Basilica of St Nicholas, the area is a maze of medieval streets with many historical buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants.  There is also a castle, the Castello Svevo.

Find a hotel in Bari with

Bari's San Sebino cathedral by night
Bari's San Sebino cathedral by night
Travel tip:

Bari's more modern centre is known as the Centro Murattiano, or the Murat quarter, in that it was built during the period in the early 19th century in which Joachim Murat, for a long time Napoleon's most trusted military strategist, ruled the Kingdom of Naples, of which Bari was a part.  Set out in a grid plan between Bari's main railway station and the sea, the area is the commercial heart of the city and the home of the most prestigious shops, but also of a vibrant night life in a city with a large student population.

More reading:

Angelo Siciliano - the Brooklyn Italian who became Charles Atlas

How Bruno Sammartini dodged wolves and Nazis in Abruzzo before finding fame in the wrestling ring

Why charismatic Joachim Murat's life was ended by a firing squad

Also on this day:

1621: Alessandro Ludovisi becomes Pope Gregory XV

1770: The birth of classical guitar composer Ferdinando Carulli

22 July 2016

St Lawrence of Brindisi

Talented linguist who converted Jews and Protestants

A statue of St Lawrence at the Convent of Capuchin Friars in Rovigo, in the Veneto
A statue of St Lawrence at the Convent of
Capuchin Friars in Rovigo, in the Veneto
St Lawrence of Brindisi was born Giulio Cesare Russo on this day in 1559 in Brindisi.

He became a Roman Catholic priest and joined the Capuchin friars, taking the name Brother Lawrence.

He was made St Lawrence in 1881, remembered for his bravery leading an army against the Turks armed only with a crucifix.

Lawrence was born into a family of Venetian merchants and was sent to Venice to be educated. He joined the Capuchin order in Verona when he was 16 and received tuition in theology, philosophy and foreign languages from the University of Padua. He progressed to be able to speak many European and Semitic languages fluently.

Pope Clement VIII gave Lawrence the task of converting Jews living in Rome to Catholicism because of his excellent command of Hebrew. Lawrence also established Capuchin monasteries in Germany and Austria and brought many Protestants back to Catholicism.

The Palazzo Bo at the University of Padua, where Lawrence acquired his command of languages
The Palazzo Bo at the University of Padua, where
Lawrence acquired his command of languages
While serving as the imperial chaplain to the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II, he led an army against the Ottoman Turks threatening to conquer Hungary armed only with a crucifix and many people attributed the subsequent victory to his leadership.

He was later sent to be papal nuncio to Bavaria and then to Spain. Lawrence eventually retired to live in a monastery in Spain but was recalled to be a special envoy to the King of Spain in order to intercede on behalf of the rulers of the Kingdom of Naples.

His mission, made in the sweltering summer heat, exhausted him and he died on 22 July 1619, his 60th birthday, in Lisbon.

Lawrence was beatified in 1783 by Pope Pius VI and canonised in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. He was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

The feast day of St Lawrence is celebrated on 21 July each year.

A feature in Brindisi, birthplace of St Lawrence, are the remains of two columns marking the end of the Appian Way
A feature in Brindisi, birthplace of St Lawrence, are the
remains of two columns marking the end of the Appian Way
Travel tip:

Brindisi, the birthplace of St Lawrence, is a coastal city in Apulia in southern Italy. Its port is still important today for trade with Greece and the Middle East. The city has two Roman columns, thought to have once marked the end of the Appian Way from Rome, which were used as a port reference for sailors out at sea centuries ago.

Travel tip:

The University of Padua, where St Lawrence became proficient in languages, 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 pulpit used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610.

(Photo of St Lawrence statue in Brindisi by Threecharlie CC BY-SA 3.0)