Showing posts with label Carabinieri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carabinieri. Show all posts

30 September 2017

Angelo Cerica - Carabinieri general

First job was to arrest Mussolini

General Cerica was hand-picked as the  Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Cerica was hand-picked as the
Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Angelo Cerica, the police commander tasked with arresting the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed as party leader in 1943, was born on this day in 1885 in Alatri, in the Ciociaria region of Lazio, about 90km (56 miles) south of Rome.

Mussolini was arrested on July 25 as he left his regular meeting with the King, Vittorio Emanuele III, the day after the Fascist Grand Council had voted to remove him from power.  The monarch had informed him that General Pietro Badoglio, former chief of staff of the Italian army, would be replacing him as prime minister.

Cerica had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Carabinieri, Italy’s para-military second police force, only two days previously, succeeding General Azolino Hazon, who had been killed in a bombing raid.

He was hand-picked for the job by General Vittorio Ambrosio, who was party to secret plot among Carabinieri officers to depose Mussolini irrespective of the Grand Council vote.  They wanted a commander who would not oppose the anti-Mussolini faction and would carry out the arrest.

Cerica, in fact, shared their view of il Duce, blaming him for leading Italy into a ruinous alliance with Germany in the Second World War and eager for him to be removed, so that Italy could seek an armistice with the Allies.

He was comfortable, therefore, to position himself with a brigade of Carabinieri to arrest the dictator as he stepped out of the Palazzo Quirinale following the meeting with the King.

Cerica fought with partisans after German army swept into Rome
Cerica fought with partisans after
German army swept into Rome
He then instructed his officers to ready themselves for any public backlash against the arrest, although in the event the news was generally well received.

Later in the year, after the Badoglio Proclamation of September 8 informed the Italian population of the switch of allegiance, Cerica led a battalion of Carabinieri in a battle with German troops on the Via Ostiense in Rome.

The Germans’ superior firepower won the day but Cerica escaped and went into hiding, eventually joining up with partisans in Abruzzo and fighting on the side of the Italian Resistance movement.

Once the Allies had liberated the area, he rejoined the mainstream military, heading a department in the Army of the South, also known as the Italian Liberation Corps, until the end of the war.

In 1945, in Florence, commissioned by the Minister of War Alessandro Casati, he directed the liberation struggle against the Germans. After the war was over, he was presented with the Medal for Freedom Silver Palm by the US President, Harry S Truman. 

Cerica, born to Pietro Felice Cerica and Luisa Villa in Alatri, was set on a military career from an early age, entering a military academy soon after leaving school. In 1906, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the 74th Infantry Regiment, being promoted to full lieutenant in June 1909.

During June 1912, he was transferred to the Carabinieri Corps. He participated in the First World War, attaining the rank of captain. In September 1920, he was promoted to major and became a lieutenant colonel in 1927.

Allied tanks arrive in Rome
Allied tanks arrive in Rome
During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Cerica was appointed commander of the Carabinieri Legion in Asmara, an office he held from September 1936 to June 1939, eventually promoted to colonel.

Due to exceptional merit, he received the rank of brigadier general later that year, becoming the chief of Carabinieri forces in Italian East Africa. He served in the same capacity in Italian North Africa from July 1940 until February 1941. Cerica was posted back to Italy, attained the rank of Divisional General in June 1942.

After leaving the Carabinieri, Cerica served as the President of the Supreme Military Court from May 1947 to September 1951. He was also a Member of the Senate for the Christian Democrats.  

He died in Rome in April 1961, aged 75.

The church of Santa Maria Maggiore
The church of Santa Maria Maggiore 
Travel tip:

Alatri is a town in southern Lazio in the Ciociaria region notable for its acropolis, a Roman citadel built on the top of a hill surrounded by polygonal walls.  The old town within the walls contains many churches and ancient architectural structures, including the Cathedral of San Paolo, which dates back to the 10th century.  Outside the citadel, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the main square, built on the site of an early Christian temple of the fifth century, has a facade in the Romanesque-Gothic style and hosts a number of works of art, including a wooden statue of the Madonna di Costantinopoli of the 13th century and a fine triptych by Antonio da Alatri (15th century), in the left nave.

Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Travel tip:

The Via Ostiense follows the route of the Via Ostiensis, an important road in ancient Rome that ran west 30km (19 miles) from the city of Rome to its sea port of Ostia Antica, from which it took its name. The road began near the Forum Boarium, ran between the Aventine Hill and the Tiber River along its left bank, and left the city's Servian Walls through the Porta Trigemina. When the later Aurelian Walls were built, the road left the city through the Porta Ostiensis (Porta San Paolo). The modern Via Ostiense is the main connecting route between Rome and Ostia, passing the important basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

28 April 2017

Nicola Romeo - car maker

Engineer used profits from military trucks to launch famous marque

Nicola Romeo bought the car manufacturer Alfa of Milan in 1915
Nicola Romeo bought the car manufacturer
Alfa of Milan in 1915
Nicola Romeo, the entrepreneur and engineer who founded Alfa Romeo cars, was born on this day in 1876 in Sant’Antimo, a town in Campania just outside Naples.

The company, which became one of the most famous names in the Italian car industry, was launched after Romeo purchased the Milan automobile manufacturer ALFA - Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili.

After making substantial profits from building military trucks in the company’s Portello plant during the First World War, in peacetime Romeo switched his attention to making cars. The first Alfa Romeo came off the production line in 1921.

The cars made a major impact in motor racing, mainly thanks to the astuteness of Romeo in hiring the the up-and-coming Enzo Ferrari to run his racing team, and the Fiat engineer Vittorio Jano to build his cars.  Away from the track, the Alfa Romeo name sat on the front rank of the luxury car market.

Romeo’s parents, originally from an area known as Lucania that is now part of the Basilicata region, were not wealthy but Nicola was able to attend what was then Naples Polytechnic – now the Federico II University – to study engineering.

Enzo Ferrari at the wheel of an Alfa during his driving days in 1920
Enzo Ferrari at the wheel of an Alfa
during his driving days in 1920
He left Italy to work abroad at first, obtaining a second degree – in electrical engineering – in Li├Ęge, Belgium. In 1911 he returned to Italy and set up his first company, manufacturing machines and equipment for the mining industry.

With success in that market, Romeo was keen to expand. He acquired a majority stake in Alfa in 1915, taking full ownership three years later.

As Italy entered the First World War, Italy had a desperate need for military hardware and Romeo converted and enlarged his new factory specifically to meet this demand. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components, compressors, and generators based on the company's existing car engines were produced.

It made a great deal of money for Romeo, who in the post-war years invested his profits in buying locomotive and railway carriage plants in Saronno – north-west of Milan – Rome and Naples.

He did not consider car production at first but the Portello factory had come with 105 cars awaiting completion and in 1919 he decided that, subject to certain modifications, he was happy to finish the building of these vehicles. In 1920, he rebranded the company Alfa Romeo.  The first car to carry the new badge was the 1921 Torpedo 20-30 HP.

Romeo wanted his company to rival Fiat and was particularly astute in recognising talented individuals who would take the brand forward and establish Alfa Romeo's long-term credibility.

Antonio Ascari won the first Grand Prix world title driving the Vittorio Jano-designed Alfa Romeo P2
Antonio Ascari won the first Grand Prix world title
driving the Vittorio Jano-designed Alfa Romeo P2
He retained Alfa’s chief engineer, the talented Giuseppe Merosi, and encouraged a youthful Enzo Ferrari to join the company, soon putting him in charge of his new works racing team and its star drivers Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari and Ugo Sivocci.

When Merosi left to take up a position in France, Romeo pulled off a major coup, sending Ferrari to cajole the Fiat engineer Vittorio Jano to jump ship. The Jano-designed engines propelled Alfa Romeo to the pinnacle of success in motor racing, his P2 car winning the four-race series for the first Grand Prix world championship in 1925.

Jano's first production car, the 6C 1500, was launched in 1927, but Romeo’s personal role in Alfa Romeo ended in 1928.

Some bad investments following the collapse of its major investor, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, had left the company close to going bust.  Under boardroom pressure to quit, Romeo at first accepted a figurehead role as president but then decided to sever his links altogether.

Married to Angelina Valadin, a Portuguese opera singer and pianist, he was the father of seven children. He died in 1938 at his home in Magreglio, a village overlooking Lake Como, at the age of 62.

An Alfa Romeo 20-30 at the Alfa Romeo museum at Arese, about 15km north-west of Milan
An Alfa Romeo 20-30 at the Alfa Romeo museum at
Arese, about 15km north-west of Milan
Luckily for the company, it was kept in business initially by the Italian government after Mussolini decided to promote Alfa Romeo as an Italian national emblem and used it to build bespoke cars for the wealthy, the sleek 2900B being a prime example.

After the Second World War, Alfa Romeo continued its success on the racing circuit, too, with Giuseppe Farina and the Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio winning the first two Formula One world titles, in 1950 and 1951, driving the famous Alfetta 158/159.

The marque’s iconic status was further strengthened in the 1960s when both the Italian state police and the quasi-military Carabinieri stocked their fleets with Alfa Romeo cars.

The Church of Madonna del Ghisallo at Mareglio
The Church of Madonna del Ghisallo at Magreglio
Travel tip:

Magreglio, where Romeo was living at the time of his death, is a village perched on a hill overlooking the south-eastern fork of Lake Como, is famous for its association with cycling, thanks to the nearby Ghisallo hill, which has been long established on the route of the Giro di Lombardia cycle race and has often featured in the Giro d’Italia. The Madonna del Ghisallo was adopted in 1949 as the patron saint of cycling and the church of the same name now contains a small museum dedicated to competitive cycling and an eternal flame burns for cyclists who have died in competition.

Travel tip:

Almost 70 years after his death and on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of his birth, Naples dedicated a street to the memory of Nicola Romeo, called Via Nicola Romeo, which can be found in the Lauro district of the city, above Mergellina and not far from the Stadio San Paolo, home of Napoli football club.

More reading:

16 September 2016

Paolo Di Lauro - Camorra boss

Capture of mobster struck at heart of Naples underworld

Paolo di Lauro's prison mug shot.  Before his arrest, the Camorra boss was rarely seen in public
Paolo di Lauro's prison mug shot.  Before his arrest, the
Camorra boss was rarely seen in public
Italy's war against organised crime achieved one of its biggest victories on this day in 2005 when the powerful Camorra boss Paolo Di Lauro was arrested. 

In a 6am raid, Carabinieri officers surrounded a building in the notorious Secondigliano district of Naples and entered the modest apartment in which Di Lauro was living with a female companion.  The 52-year-old gang boss did not resist arrest, possibly believing any charges against him would not be made to stick.

However, at a subsequent trial he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment for drug trafficking and other crimes and remains in jail.

Di Lauro's conviction was significant because it removed the man who had been at the head of one of the most lucrative criminal networks in all of Italy for more than 20 years and yet managed to maintain such a low profile that police at times suspected he was dead.

At its peak, the Di Lauro clan presided over an organisation that imported and distributed cocaine and heroin said to be worth around €200 million per year.  The clan essentially controlled the run-down northern suburbs of Naples, making money also from real estate, counterfeit high-end fashion and prostitution.

Police raids are a regular feature of life in the run-down Secondigliano district of Naples
Police raids are a regular feature of life in the
run-down Secondigliano district of Naples
Although born and brought up in the depressingly poor neighbourhood in which he was ultimately located and seized, there are few clues in Di Lauro's early life that he would become such a powerful figure.

An orphan adopted by a labourer and his wife, he dropped out of school when barely into his teens and worked as a shop assistant before moving to northern Italy, where he sold bed sheets and underwear to poor migrants from the south.

By the time he returned to Naples, where he settled and married a local girl, he had become more interested in making money from gambling than crime, having become adept at card games.  However, his success did not escape the notice of the Camorra, in particular the boss who then controlled Secondigliano and the surrounding neighbourhoods, Aniello La Monica.

La Monica noted Di Lauro's sharp, mathematical brain and in 1975 invited him to work for his organisation as book-keeper.

Di Lauro began to appreciate the money that bosses such as La Monica were making from organised crime but soon realised he could be making more. An old-fashioned Camorrista, La Monica was happy to reap the proceeds of black market cigarettes, the corrupt construction industry and protection rackets but shied away from the growing drugs market.

A narrow street in the Spanish quarter of Naples
A narrow street in the Spanish
quarter of Naples
From time to time, Di Lauro would urge his boss to move into heroin and cocaine, where he could make much bigger profits.  Eventually his patience ran out and, in 1982, with La Monica still refusing to be persuaded, he set about removing him from power.

Not a man inclined to employ violent tactics as a first resort, Di Lauro hoped he could turn La Motta's supporters against him by spreading stories among clan members that he had been cheating them out of their rightful share of profits.

But La Monica learned about his treachery and hired two professional killers to track him down.  Di Lauro escaped and his retaliation revealed his own cold, ruthless side.  He lured La Monica into an ambush by arranging for him to step out on to the street outside his house, supposedly to meet an associate with some stolen diamonds.  There was no associate, but before La Monica realised it was a trap a car drew up from which four men emerged, firing pistols.  He was left face down in the street, dying from his wounds.

Di Lauro joined a large gathering of mourners at La Monica's funeral, although it was revealed later that he had probably been one of the gunmen in the car.

Thereafter, Di Lauro took control, impressing upon prominent clan members that they should at all times follow his code and remain as inconspicuous as possible, living modestly, dressing modestly, driving an ordinary car, never using drugs themselves and, if they wanted to do anything ostentatious, doing it only on faraway holidays.

Vesuvius looms above the sprawling port city with its beautiful bay and panoramic views
Vesuvius looms above the sprawling port city with
its beautiful bay and panoramic views
He disappeared from public view himself so effectively that the police lost track of him completely in about 1997, at which point they assumed he was dead.  However, in 2004 he returned to Secondigliano in the hope of stamping out a feud developing between rival groups within the Di Lauro clan.

He was not successful and in the ensuing months a breakaway group tried to seize control.  The so-called Scampia Feud claimed more than 60 lives, with shootings often taking place in busy public areas.  It led to demonstrations on the streets and calls for a police crackdown.

It was this that brought so many Carabinieri into the area, many working undercover.  Di Paulo was tracked down after intelligence officers made a connection between the mobster and a woman they noticed making daily visits to a fish stall in the area they suspected he was living. Di Paulo was known to be partial to sea bream and salmon, which were the two fish the woman always bought.  It was by following her movements that they identified Di Paulo's apartment.

Travel tip:

Naples has some wonderful historic buildings, such as the Duomo di San Gennaro, the lavish Royal Palace and the 13th-century Castel Nuovo. But it is also rewarding just to wander the streets of the historic centre, particularly the chaotic Spanish Quarter and the ancient street known as Spaccanapoli, a narrow, straight thoroughfare largely closed to traffic that bisects the old party of the city.

The ancient Roman city of Herculaneum is much  better preserved than its neighbour Pompei
The ancient Roman city of Herculaneum is much
better preserved than its neighbour Pompeii
Travel tip:

Tourists flock to the ruins of Pompeii to appreciate the damage wreaked by Vesuvius but a better preserved example of a Roman town or city can be found at Ercolano, a settlement built over the ruins of Herculaneum, that like Pompeii was completely buried by the 79AD eruption.  Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum did not suffer catastrophic fires and many of the buildings remain intact.


24 July 2016

Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia

The first king to be called Victor Emmanuel

King Victor Emmanuel I
King Victor Emmanuel I
The King of Sardinia between 1802 and 1821, Victor Emmanuel I was born on this day in 1759 in the Royal Palace in Turin.

He was the second son of King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia and was known from birth as the Duke of Aosta.

When the King died in 1796, Victor Emmanuel’s older brother succeeded as King Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia.

Within two years the royal family was forced to leave Turin because their territory in the north was occupied by French troops.

After his wife died, Charles Emmanuel abdicated the throne in favour of his brother, Victor Emmanuel, because he had no heir.

The Duke of Aosta became Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia in June 1802 and ruled from Cagliari for the next 12 years until he was able to return to Turin.

During his reign he formed the Carabinieri, which is still one of the primary forces of law and order in Italy.

The Carabinieri, the Italian police corps  recognisable for their elaborate uniforms
The Carabinieri, the Italian police corps
recognisable for their elaborate uniforms
On the death of his older brother in 1819, he became the heir general of the Jacobite succession as Victor Emmanuel I of England, Scotland and Ireland, but he never made any public claims to the British throne.

He abdicated in favour of his brother, Charles Felix, in 1821 and died three years later at the Castle of Moncalieri in Turin.

When the newly-unified Kingdom of Italy was officially proclaimed in 1861, the first monarch chose to call himself Victor Emmanuel II, out of respect for his ancestor, Victor Emmanuel I.

Victor Emmanuel II had become King of Sardinia in 1849 after his father, Charles Albert, had abdicated. He in turn had succeeded his distant cousin, Charles Felix, the brother of Victor Emmanuel I.

Travel tip:

Turin is the capital city of the region of Piedmont in the north of Italy and has a rich history linked with the House of Savoy. There are many impressive Renaissance, baroque and rococo buildings in the centre of the city. 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.

The dome of the Cathedral towers over Cagliari's medieval Castello quarter
The dome of the Cathedral towers over Cagliari's
medieval Castello quarter
Travel tip:

Sardinia is a large island off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. It has sandy beaches and a mountainous landscape. The southern city of Cagliari, from where Victor Emmanuel I ruled, has a medieval quarter called Castello, which has narrow streets, palaces and a 13th century Cathedral.

(Carabinieri photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Castello by Martin Kraft CC BY-SA 3.0)

More reading: 

Camillo Benso di Cavour - Italy's first Prime Minister


13 July 2016

The founding of the Carabinieri

Italy’s stylish ‘First Force’

Carabinieri officers still wear elaborate dress uniform
Carabinieri officers still wear
elaborate dress uniform
The Carabinieri Corps was created on this day in 1814 in Italy by a resolution passed by Victor Emmanuel I of Savoy.

He established an army of mounted and foot soldiers to provide a police force, to be called Royal Carabinieri (Carabinieri Reali). The soldiers were rigorously selected ‘for their distinguished good conduct and judiciousness.’

Their task was defined as ‘to contribute to the necessary happiness of the State, which cannot be separated from protection and defence of all good subjects.’

Their functions were specified in the royal licence issued at the time, which underlined the importance of the personal skills required by the soldiers selected. It also affirmed their dual military and civil roles.

The sense of duty and high level of conduct displayed by the Carabinieri went on to win the respect of the Italian people.

They were called Carabinieri to avoid any comparisons with the former Napoleonic gendarmerie, and because they were equipped with carbines as weapons.

Their dress uniform was designed to reflect the solemn image of the sovereign state, with a two cornered hat, known as the lucerna, and dark blue dress coat. Their uniform is still in use today, with only slight changes made to it over the last 200 years.

After Italian unification in 1861 under Victor Emmanuel II, the Carabinieri were named ‘First Force’ of the new kingdom.

Carabinieri patrols use vehicles of all shapes and sizes
Carabinieri patrols use vehicles of all shapes and sizes

It was Carabinieri officers who arrested and imprisoned Mussolini on the orders of the King in 1943. Afterwards, the Germans ordered them to be disbanded and a large number of them joined the Italian resistance movement.

The Carabinieri have seen action in all battles involving Italian armies since 1815 and have fought against crime and terrorism at home, helping to promote respect for law and social order in Italy.

In recent years they have been dispatched on peace keeping missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq and they have also helped during natural catastrophes in Italy, such as floods and earthquakes.

Travel tip:

The headquarters (Comando Generale) of the Carabinieri in Rome is in Piazza Bligny, just to the north of the Villa Borghese. There is access for the public from 08:00 to 16.30 Monday to Friday and from 08:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays.

The monument to the Carabinieri Corps in the grounds of the Royal Palace in Turin
The monument to the Carabinieri Corps in the grounds of
the Royal Palace in Turin
Travel tip:

The Carabinieri Corps was formed in Turin in northern Italy after French soldiers had occupied the city at the end of the 18th century and then abandoned it to the Kingdom of Piedmont. Turin, which is in the region of Piedmont (Piemonte), was the capital of the Duchy of Savoy from 1563, then of the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the Royal House of Savoy, and finally became the first capital of the new unified Italy.  There is a monument to the Carabinieri in the grounds of the Royal Palace.

(Photo of monument by IlPassagero CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Carabinieri smart car by Jollyroger CC BY-SA 2.5)