Showing posts with label Campania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Campania. Show all posts

9 February 2018

Ezechiele Ramin – missionary

Priest from Padua who was murdered in Brazil

Ezechiele Ramin spent his adult life working on behalf of those in poverty or peril
Ezechiele Ramin spent his adult life working on
behalf of those in poverty or peril
Ezechiele Ramin, a Comboni missionary who was shot to death by hired killers after standing up for the rights of peasant farmers and traditional tribesmen in a remote rural area in Brazil, was born on this day in 1953 in Padua.

Ramin was only 32 when he was murdered in July 1985, having worked in the South American country for about a year and a half.

He had already completed missionary assignments in North and Central America, worked to help victims of the Irpinia earthquake in Campania and organised a demonstration against the Camorra in Naples before being posted to Brazil.

He was based in the state of Rondônia, an area in the northwest of Brazil next to the border with Bolivia, where small farmers found themselves oppressed, by legal and illegal means, by wealthy landowners, and where government measures had been introduced to curb the freedom of the indigenous Suruí tribes.

Ramin, an easy-going and popular man who amused himself by making sketches and playing the guitar, tried to solve the problems by arranging for a lawyer, paid for by the Brazilian Catholic Church through the Pastoral Land Commission, to act on behalf of the peasant farmers to see that their legal rights were properly observed.

This led to Ramin finding himself regularly threatened by the same armed gangs, hired by the landowners, who intimidated the rural workers.

Ramin was known for his friendly and  outgoing demeanour
Ramin was known for being a friendly
 and outgoing character
He was advised by his superiors at the Comboni Mission to act with caution but he continued towards his goal and on July 24, 1985 made a journey of around 100km (62 miles) from the city of Cacoal, in the Amazon valley, where he was based, to a large estate called the Fazenda Catuva. He had with him a trade union leader, Adilio de Souza, to chair a meeting of peasant farmers.

The meeting broke up and he had left the estate at the start of his return journey when a gang of seven armed gunmen, hired as an assassination squad by the landowners, ambushed the car in which he and De Souza were travelling and opened fire.

De Souza managed to escape but Ramin was hit by an estimated 50 bullets.  The irony is that feelings ran so high at the meeting he had attended that he spent much of it trying to persuade the farmers not to take up arms against the landowners, urging a peaceful solution.

His body was recovered by his fellow missionaries the following day, having been protected overnight by Suruí tribesmen, before being flown back to Italy for burial in the Cimitero Maggiore in Padua.

The possessions that were brought back with him included a substantial number of sketches, mainly in charcoal, which were displayed some time later in an exhibition in Padua.

A few days after his death, Ramin was defined as a “martyr of charity” by Pope John Paul II.

Adilio de Souza travelled with Ramin but escaped the assassins' bullets
Adilio de Souza travelled with Ramin but
escaped the assassins' bullets
Ramin had been born in the parish of San Giuseppe in Padua, the fourth of six sons in a family of modest means.  Known as Lele, he was a handsome boy who, according to some of his male friends, always seemed to be surrounded by groups of girls.

He was described as outgoing and sporty, with a particular enthusiasm for cycling.  In ball games he was highly competitive and if ever he lost he would always challenge his opponent to an immediate rematch.

But his family always encouraged him – and all of his brothers – to be true to their Christian principles and think about the wellbeing of others, and when Ezechiele became aware of how much poverty existed around the world he joined a charity called Mani Tese (Outstretched Hands), organising fund-raising activities to support projects in the Third World.

In 1972, he decided to join the religious institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. His studied in Florence, in Venegono Inferiore, in the province of Varese, and in Chicago, where he graduated from Catholic Theological Union and served in the St. Ludmila Parish.

He did his first missionary work with impoverished Native Americans in South Dakota and later in Baja California in Mexico.

A bronze of Ezichiele Ramin in Piazza San Giuseppe in Padua
A bronze of Ezichiele Ramin in
Piazza San Giuseppe in Padua
Ramin was ordained a priest in 1980 in Padua. He was assigned to a parish in Naples but, following the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, he moved to the village of San Mango sul Calore, near Avellino, to assist survivors in an area almost completely destroyed.

Back in Naples in 1981, he organised one of the first peaceful demonstrations against the Camorra, the ruthless Neapolitan equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia.

In 2005, on the 20th anniversary of his death, a bronze sculpture created in his honour by Ettore Greco was unveiled in Piazza San Giuseppe in Padua, in front of the church he used to attend as a boy. In the same year, an icon depicting Father Ezekiel – as he was known in Rondônia – with a dove of peace was painted by Robert Lentz for the Chicago Catholic Theological Union.

The Comboni Mission, meanwhile, is trying to promote the idea of Ramin being beatified and, in time, made a saint.

The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua is a spectacular sight when illuminated at night
The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua is a spectacular
sight when illuminated at night
Travel tip:

The city of Padua in the Veneto – Padova in Italian – would almost certainly attract more visitors were it not for its proximity to Venice, which is less than half an hour away by train. Apart from being a picturesque city to explore, with a dense network of arcaded streets and several communal squares, it is the home of the Scrovegni Chapel and its wonderful circle of frescoes by Giotto, the vast Palazzo della Ragione, the Teatro Verdi, the elliptical square Prato della Valle and the two basilicas, of St Anthony of Padua and Santa Giustina.

Ariano Irpino is a popular town among visitors to Irpinia
Ariano Irpino is a popular town among visitors to Irpinia
Travel tip:

Irpinia, which was the centre of the earthquake in 1980 that killed at least 2,500 people and possibly nearer 4,000, is an area of the Apennine Mountains around the city of Avellino, about 55km (34 miles) inland from Naples.  A largely mountainous area, it has a great tradition for producing wine and food.  The Greco di Tuffo, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi wines are indigenous to the area, while local produce includes scamorza and caciocavallo cheeses, sopressata – a type of salami – and sausages, as well as chestnuts, hazelnuts and black truffles. Ariano Irpino, a town built on three hills, is a popular destination for visitors to the area.

1891: The birth of politician Pietro Nenni

1953: The birth of world champion boxer Vito Antuofermo

(Picture credits: Bust by McMarcoP; Basilica by Tango7174; Ariano Irpino by Djparella; via Wikimedia Commons)

20 June 2016

Giannina Arangi-Lombardi – opera singer

Soprano’s superb voice was captured in early recordings

Photo of Giannina Arangi-Lombardi
Giannina Arangi-Lombardi
Soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi was born on this day in 1891 in Marigliano near Naples in Campania.

She studied singing at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples and made her debut on the stage in Rome in 1920. Arangi-Lombardi sang mezzo-soprano roles for the next three years at theatres in Rome, Sicily, Parma, Florence and Naples.

She then underwent further study and returned to the stage as what is known as a spinto soprano, a singer who can reach the high notes of the lyric soprano but can also achieve dramatic climaxes with her voice.

Arangi-Lombardi’s second debut, this time as a soprano, was in 1923. The first time she sang the role of Aida in Verdi's opera of the same name the audience was stunned by her voice and her fame quickly spread.

She appeared on stage at Teatro alla Scala in Milan for the first time in 1924 singing Elena in Boito’s Mefistofele. The orchestra for her debut performance was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.

She sang regularly at La Scala until 1930 and appeared at many other opera houses in Europe as well as in South America.

She took part in Dame Nellie Melba’s farewell tour of Australia in 1928, when she sang the title role in the Australian premiere of Puccini’s Turandot.

After retiring from the stage in 1938 Arangi-Lombardi taught at the music conservatory in Milan and then later became director of the music conservatory in Ankara in Turkey.

Arangi-Lombardi died in Milan in 1951 a few weeks after celebrating her 60th birthday.

Her voice can still be heard today in the recordings she made of full length operas between 1929 and 1931.

Photo of Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala in Milan
Travel tip:

La Scala in Milan, where Arangi-Lombardi appeared regularly, has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and for a few days when it is closed in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30 pm.

Travel tip: 

Milan’s Conservatory of Music (Conservatorio di Musica ‘Giuseppe Verdi’) is in Via Conservatorio, just off Via Pietro Mascagni, behind the Duomo and just a short walk from Teatro alla Scala. 

Read more:

Cecilia Bartoli renowned for interpretations of Rossini and Mozart


5 June 2016

Salvatore Ferragamo - shoe designer

From humble beginnings to giant of the fashion industry

Photo of Ferragamo shoes
Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo
Salvatore Ferragamo, the craftsman once dubbed 'Shoemaker to the Stars' after his success in creating made-to-measure footwear for movie stars and celebrities, was born on this day in 1898 in Bonito, a small hill town in Campania, in the province of Avellino.

Although in time he would become a prominent figure in the fashion world of Florence, Ferragamo learned how to make shoes in Naples, around 100 kilometres from his home village.  He was apprenticed to a Neapolitan shoemaker at the age of just 11 years and opened his first shop, trading from his parents' house, at 13.

When he was 16 he made the bold decision to move to the United States, joining one of his brothers in Boston, where they both worked in a factory manufacturing cowboy boots.  Salvatore was impressed at how modern production methods enabled the factory to turn out large numbers of boots but was concerned about compromises to quality.

This led him to move to California and to set up shop selling his own hand-made shoes in Santa Barbara, where he made his first contacts in the burgeoning American film industry.  Eager to make shoes that not only looked good but were comfortable to wear, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to study anatomy.

He moved to Hollywood when the movie makers relocated there and it was after opening the Hollywood Boot Shop that he acquired the label 'shoemaker to the stars'.

Picture of Ferragamo logo
The famous Ferragamo logo
In 1927, after 13 years in the United States, Ferragamo returned to Italy to base his business in Florence, a city with a wealth of skilled craftsmen. He opened a workshop in the Via Mannelli and was soon making shoes for some of the wealthiest women in the world.

The collapse of the US stock market in 1929, sparking the Great Depression, hit him hard, virtually destroying the export side of his business, and he filed for bankruptcy in 1933.  Yet such was his enterprise and appetite for work that, by concentrating on the domestic market, he was able to make a rapid recovery.

In 1936 he rented two workshops and opened a shop in Palazzo Spini Feroni in Via de' Tornabuoni, which he subsequently bought and which remains the company's headquarters.

By the 1950s, as Italy recovered from wartime austerity and embraced la dolce vita, Ferragamo was the shoe of choice for wealthy young socialites in Italy and beyond and the company workshops were employing 700 craftsmen turning out up to 350 pairs of shoes per day.

Photo of The Rainbow shoe
The Rainbow platform sandal Ferragamo crafted for the
 actress and singer Judy Garland
Among Salvatore's creations were stiletto heels with metal reinforcement made famous by Marilyn Monroe, and a platform sandal he made for Judy Garland, which he called The Rainbow as a tribute to the actress and singer's performance in the Wizard of Oz. His 'invisible' sandal, which featured almost transparent nylon thread uppers, won the Neiman Marcus Award in 1947, the first time the prestigious mark of recognition in the fashion world was given to a shoe designer.

In 1940 Salvatore had married the daughter of the local doctor in Bonito, Wanda Miletti, who joined him in Florence. They had six children: three sons - Ferruccio, Leonardo and Massimo - and three daughters - Fiamma, Giovanna and Fulvia.

Salvatore died in 1960 aged just 62, leaving the company to be run by the family, with Wanda initially in charge.  Nowadays, Ferruccio is the president of a business employing more than 4000 people with 550 stores in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

It now has a range of products that includes eyewear, perfume, belts, scarves, bags, watches and clothing, as well as shoes.

Travel tip:

Bonito, perched on top of a hill between the valleys of the Arvi and Calore rivers, is roughly equidistant between Benevento and Avellino in inland Campania.  The Church of the Assunta contains the tomb of Santa Crescenzo, an 11-year-old boy killed during the persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletianus in the third century and subsequently celebrated as a martyr.

Photo of the entrance to the Ferragamo museum
The entrance to the Ferragamo museum at
the Palazzo Spini Feroni
Travel tip:

A museum dedicated to the life and work of Salvatore Ferragamo was opened in 1996 within the company's headquarters at the historic Palazzo Spini Feroni in Via de' Tornabouni, Florence's famed upmarket shopping street.  The museum has films, press cuttings, advertising posters, clothing and accessories and a staggering 10,000 shoes created by Salvatore himself or the skilled craftsmen he employed.

(Photo of Ferragamo shoes by Ben CC BY-SA 2.0)
(Photo of Judy Garland shoe by Sailko CC BY-SA 3.0)


19 April 2016

Antonio Carluccio - chef and restaurateur

TV personality and author began his career as a wine merchant

The chef, restaurateur and author Antonio Carluccio was born on this day in 1937 in Vietri-sul-Mare in Campania. 

An instantly recognisable figure due to his many television appearances, Carluccio moved to London in 1975 and built up a successful chain of restaurants bearing his name.  He wrote 21 books about Italian food, as well as his autobiography, A Recipe for Life, which was published in 2012.

Although born in Vietri, a seaside town between Amalfi and Salerno famous for ceramics, Carluccio spent most of his childhood in the north, in Borgofranco d'Ivrea in Piedmont.  His father was a station master and his earliest memories are of running home from the station where his father worked to warn his mother that the last train of the day had left and that it was time to begin cooking the evening meal.

Antonio Carluccio
(Photo: Andrew Hendo)
Carluccio would join his father in foraging for mushrooms and wild rocket in the mountainous countryside near their home and it was from those outings that his interest in food began to develop, yet his career would at first revolve around wine.  Having moved to Austria to study languages, he settled in Germany and between 1962 and 1975 was a wine merchant based in Hamburg.

The wine business then took him to London, where he specialised in importing Italian wines.  He was already acknowledged among friends as a talented cook and he was persuaded by his partner and future wife, Priscilla Conran, to enter a cookery competition promoted by a national newspaper, in which he finished second.

Carluccio and Priscilla married in 1980, after which his new brother-in-law, the designer and entrepreneur Terence Conran, made him manager of his Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden, which launched him on his new career.

Carluccio's logo
He bought Neal Street in 1989 and, two years later, opened a deli next door, called simply Carluccio's. The shop expanded into a mail order business and, in 1998, with Priscilla providing the business brains, he opened the first Carluccio's Caffè.  It was the first step in building a nationwide chain of restaurants, which they eventually sold for around £90 million in 2010.  He now works for the company, which has more than 80 branches in the United Kingdom alone, as a consultant.

Carluccio's television career began in 1983, when he made his first appearance in the BBC2 show Food and Drink, talking about Mediterranean food.  At the same time he was asked to write his first book, An Invitation to Italian Cooking, and soon became a familiar face as the number of cooking programmes on TV soared.  He hosted several of his own series and shared the spotlight with his former assistant at Neal Street, Gennaro Contaldo, in the hugely popular Two Greedy Italians. By coincidence, Contaldo was born in Minori, less than 20 kilometres along the Amalfi Coast from Carluccio's home town of Vietri-sul-Mare.

Carluccio was generally seen as a jolly figure with a zest for life, yet endured difficult times. Although his parents did their best to shield him, he admitted that some of his experiences growing up in wartime Italy were not pleasant. He suffered a family tragedy aged 23 when his younger brother, Enrico, 10 years' his junior, drowned while swimming in a lake. Carluccio was divorced from Priscilla Conran in 2008 and revealed in his autobiography that he had waged a long battle against depression.

In 1988, Carluccio was honoured in Italy by being made Commendatore dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, the equivalent to a knighthood in Britain, where in 2007 he was made an OBE.

Carluccio died in November 2017 at the age of 80 following a fall at home.

Photo of Church in Vietri-sul-Mare
The majolica-clad dome of the Church of St John
the Baptist in Vietri-sul-Mare, Carluccio's birthplace
Travel tip:

Vietri-sul-Mare, which is situated just 12 kilometres from Salerno in Campania, is the first or last town on the Amalfi Coast, depending on the starting point.  It is sometimes described as the first of the 13 pearls of the Amalfi Coast. A port and resort town of Etruscan origins, it has been famous for the production of ceramics since the 15th century. The Church of St. John the Baptist, built in the 17th century in late Neapolitan Renaissance style, has an eyecatching dome covered with majolica tiles.

Travel tip:

Borgofranca d'Ivrea is a village of 3,700 inhabitants situated just north of Ivrea in Piedmont, a town with a population of 23,000 people notable for its 14th century castle, a square structure that originally had a round tower in each corner, one of which was destroyed by an explosion in 1676 after lightning struck an ammunition store.  There is also a cathedral, parts of which date back to the fourth century, that now has an elegant neo-classical faҫade added in the 19th century.

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