Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

6 May 2024

Massimiliano Alajmo – Michelin-starred chef

Innovative cook is carrying on a family tradition 

Massimiliano Alajmo has been working at Le Calandre since 1993
Massimiliano Alajmo has been
working at Le Calandre since 1993
Massimiliano “Max” Alajmo, who at 28 years old became the youngest chef in history to be awarded a Michelin star, was born on this day in 1974 in Padua.

Along with his brother, Raffaele, and his sister, Laura, Alajmo is part of the fifth generation of his family to become a chefs and restaurateurs and he now helps them run a group of 14 restaurants, mainly situated in the Veneto region of Italy, as well as in Paris and Marrakech.

Alajmo is renowned for a culinary philosophy that emphasizes lightness and depth of flavour, often illustrated in innovative takes on Italian classics. Some of the more distinctive dishes on his menu include: crispy buffalo’s milk ricotta and mozzarella cannelloni with tomato sauce, saffron risotto with liquorice powder, and hand-chopped Piemontese beef with black truffle. One of his most famous dishes is risotto with capers and espresso.

After attending a hotel management school, Alajmo furthered his culinary education in the kitchens of Alfredo Chiocchetti of Ja Navalge in the comune - municipality - of Moena, which is in the heart of the Dolomites in Trentino Alto Adige.

He then moved on to work with Marc Veyrat and Michel Guerard at restaurants in Veyrier du Lac d'Annecy and Eugénie les Bains in France. . 

In 1993 he began working at Le Calandre in Sarmeola di Rubano in Padua with his mother, the chef Rita Chimetto, who had earned the restaurant its first Michelin star.  Rubano has always been the family’s base.

Saffron risotto sprinkled with powdered liquorice is one of the signature dishes on Alajmo menus
Saffron risotto sprinkled with powdered liquorice
is one of the signature dishes on Alajmo menus
Alajmo was later appointed executive chef of Le Calandre. The restaurant was awarded a second Michelin star in 1997 and in 2002 it received its third, thanks to Massimiliano.

In 2006, Alajmo and his family self-published their first cookbook, In.gredienti. It won Best Cookbook of the Year at the 2007 Gourmand International World Cookbook Awards.

After remodelling the dining room of Le Calandre in 2010, the family launched Alajmo Design, a line of glassware, tableware, and cutlery produced by Italian craftsmen.

In 2011, the Alajmo family then took on the management of Quadri, the famous café in St Mark’s Square in Venice. Unlike its rival, Caffè Florian, Quadri has its own restaurant, the only one on the square. 

Since 2013, Alajmo has been on the board of directors of Master della Cucina Italiana, a culinary school developed to shape a new generation of Italian chefs.

Alajmo is also involved with Il Gusto della Ricerca, a non-profit organisation founded in 2004 to raise funds to support research into childhood illnesses.

Le Calandre, the headquarters of the Alajmo Group, was originally opened in 1981 by Erminio Alajmo and Rita Chimetto. When the restaurant earned its third Michelin star in 2003, it made Massimiliano, at the age of 28, the youngest chef in the world to have received this recognition. 

The restaurant has also remained on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for more than ten years.

Le Calandre is the Alajmo family's original base and main restaurant in Sarmeola di Rubano
Le Calandre is the Alajmo family's original base
and main restaurant in Sarmeola di Rubano
Travel tip:

Rubano, home of the Alajmo family’s flagship restaurant, Le Calandre, is a municipality of 16,631 inhabitants about 5km (three miles) west of the city centre of Padua in the Veneto. It consists of three villages: Bosco di Rubano, Sarmeola and Villaguattera.  Padua itself is one of the most important centres for art in Italy and home to the country’s second oldest university. It has become acknowledged as the birthplace of modern art because of 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. At Palazzo Bo, where Padua’s university was founded in 1222, you can still see the original lectern used by Galileo and the world’s first anatomy theatre, where dissections were secretly carried out from 1594.

The town of Moena nestles in Val di Fossa in the Trentino region of northern Italy
The town of Moena nestles in Val di Fossa
in the Trentino region of northern Italy
Travel tip:

Moena, where Alajmo worked in the kitchens of Alfredo Chiocchetti of Ja Navalge, is sometimes known as the “Fairy of the Dolomites”, a charming town in Val di Fassa celebrated for the enchanting pink light that bathes the mountain tops at sunrise and sunset, offering breathtaking views. A major ski resort during the winter, when visitors can enjoy a network of ski lifts and slopes suitable for all levels, during the summer months, the town offers picturesque walks in the countryside, mountain hiking and cycling. Its local cuisine includes Puzzone di Moena DOP cheese, while among its cultural highlights are the church of San Vigilio, which has a Gothic bell tower and 18th-century paintings by Valentino Rovisi, and the ancient church of San Volfango, featuring 15th-century frescoes and a Baroque ceiling.  The area is notable for its high number of residents who speak the Ladin dialect, based on an ancient language derived from Latin.

Also on this day:

1527: Rome sacked by soldiers of Holy Roman Empire

1895: The birth of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino

1905: The birth of architect and polymath Carlo Mollino

1963: The birth of ballerina Alessandra Ferri


11 February 2024

Giuseppe De Santis - film director

Former Resistance fighter famous for neorealist classic Bitter Rice

Giuseppe De Santis used his films to highlight social problems in postwar Italy
Giuseppe De Santis used his films to highlight
social problems in postwar Italy
The writer and film director Giuseppe De Santis, who is best remembered for the 1949 neorealist film Bitter Rice - screened as Riso Amaro for Italian audiences - was born on this day in 1917 in Fondi, a small city in Lazio about 130km (81 miles) south of Rome.

De Santis is sometimes described as an idealist of the neorealism genre, which flourished in the years immediately after World War Two, yet it can also be argued that he moved away from the documentary style that characterised some of neorealism’s early output towards films with more traditional storylines.

Bitter Rice, for example, while highlighting the harsh working conditions in the rice fields around Vercelli in the Po Valley and the exploitation of labourers by wealthy landowners, is also a tale of plotting, jealousy and treachery among thieves.

Nonetheless, De Santis, a staunch opponent of Mussolini and Fascism, an Italian Communist Party member who fought against the Germans with the Italian Resistance, inevitably underpinned his work with a strong social message.

The son of a surveyor, De Santis wrote stories from an early age, drawing on the day-to-day lives of the people around him in Fondi and the surrounding countryside. He enrolled to study literature and philosophy at university in Rome, making friends among the city’s young intellectuals, meeting poets, writers and artists who shared his vision. The Osteria Fratelli Menghi in Via Flaminia was a popular hang-out.

Luchino Visconti, with whom De Santis worked on Ossessione
Luchino Visconti, with whom De
Santis worked on Ossessione
He identified cinema as the art form in which he would most like to work and began to attend Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, a cinema school established under Mussolini - who at one time banned all foreign films from Italian cinemas - to encourage the development of a thriving Italian film industry.

Despite their opposition to Fascism, De Santis and other anti-Fascists in the industry did not turn down the chance to take advantage of the facilities available at the CSC. At the same time, aware that a group of talented young directors could achieve his aims for the industry, Mussolini turned a blind eye to their political views, which some of the articles De Santis and others - including fellow future directors Antonio Pietrangeli, Luchino Visconti and Michelangelo Antonioni - wrote for the fortnightly Cinema magazine did not disguise.

While working for Cinema magazine, De Santis met the screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, under whose influence he became proponent of early neorealist filmmakers such as Visconti, who sought to make films that mirrored the reality of life for working-class Italians in the tough years of post-war rebuilding, shooting on location and giving parts to ordinary people with no acting experience.

De Santis, in fact, worked with Visconti on scripting the latter’s 1943 film Ossessione, a crime drama based loosely on the James M Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, which the Fascists initially banned as morally corrupting.

His own directing debut came in 1947 with Caccia Tragica (Tragic Hunt), the first of three films protesting about conditions for working people that culminated in Riso Amaro, which starred the already-established Vittorio Gassman and the American actress Doris Dowling in the headline roles, with former footballer and journalist Raf Vallone making his debut.

It is remembered largely for the performance of Silvana Mangano, a voluptuous 19-year-old in her first credited part, who conveyed a combination of physical strength and earthy beauty that audiences and critics found entirely convincing in the role of a peasant worker accustomed to hours of slog in the rice fields, but still with the energy to dance the night away to her beloved boogie-woogie music.  Mangano ultimately married the film’s producer, Dino De Laurentiis.

De Santis's Bitter Rice turned the previously  unknown actress Silvana Mangano into a star
De Santis's Bitter Rice turned the previously 
unknown actress Silvana Mangano into a star
The film, which premiered at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival and was a finalist for the Palme d'Or, was a box office success in Italy and the United States. The film was nominated for Best Story in the 1950 Academy Awards.

De Santis made another important neorealist film three years later entitled Roma, ora 11 (Rome, 11 o’clock), a dramatic reconstruction of a real-life event in the Italian capital the previous year when a staircase collapsed under the weight of women queuing for job interviews, causing one death and multiple injuries.

In 1959 he won a Golden Globe with La strada lunga un anno (The Road a Year Long), which gained him another Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

However, none of his subsequent work really had the same impact as Riso Amaro, which has been included on several subsequent lists of the best films in Italian cinema history.

De Santis directed his last feature film in 1972. He returned to the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in the 1980s and ‘90s, this time in the role of lecturer. In 1995 he received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival and came out of retirement to direct, jointly with Bruno Bigon, a documentary called Oggi è un altro giorno (Today is Another Day) - Milano 1945-1995, a documentary about the Resistance in Milan.  

He died in Rome in 1997 at the age of 80, suffering a heart attack. A day of mourning was declared in Italy. His widow, Gordana Miletic, joined friends in establishing the Giuseppe De Santis Foundation, which gives an annual award in his memory to an emerging young film-maker. 

The Castello Baronale, parts of which date back to the 12th century, stands proudly over Fondi
The Castello Baronale, parts of which date back
to the 12th century, stands proudly over Fondi
Travel tip:

Situated on the Via Appia, the former Roman road that was once the main route from Rome to much of southern Italy, the city of Fondi rarely features on tourist itineraries, yet travel guides often include the word charming, even enchanting, in their description. Situated on a small plain - il Piano di Fondi - between the Ausoni and Aurunci mountain ranges and the Tyrrhenian Sea, it was founded by the ancient Romans, it became an important commercial centre in mediaeval times, when the powerful Caetani family built the impressive Castello Baronale, which still dominates the skyline. Subsequently the home of the literary court of Giulia Gonzaga, in more recent times it has housed a museum. The Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta,a beautiful Gothic-style church, is another attraction. The plain also benefits from a fine stretch of natural beach and Fondi has a tradition of excellent seafood.

Find accommodation in Fondi with

An arch over the original Via Flaminia in Umbria
An arch over the original
Via Flaminia in Umbria
Travel tip:

The Osteria Fratelli Menghi, the historic tavern in Rome where De Santis would hang out with painters, actors, musicians and writers, was located in Via Flaminia on the site today occupied by the Caffè dei Pittori. The osteria was just 300m on foot from Piazza del Popolo, one of the major squares in the heart of Rome, yet there is much more to the Via Flaminia than simply a street in central Rome. It follows the route of the ancient Roman Via Flaminia, which was built by Gaius Flaminius in around 220 BC, going due north to cross the Tiber by way of the Ponte Milvio and continuing via a course over the Apennine Mountains to Ariminum (Rimini) on the coast of the Adriatic, a distance by the more recent of two routes of 328km (204 miles). The modern route from Rimini to Rome still follows closely the path of the original Roman road, a distance of 341km (), tracking the Adriatic coast to Fano, turning inland to pass close to Urbino, Perugia and Assisi and onwards towards the capital.

Rome hotels by

More reading:

Luchino Visconti - the aristocrat of Italian film

The enigmatic ‘last great’ of Italian cinema

The director known as the ‘father of neorealism’

Also on this day:

1791: The birth of architect Louis Visconti

1881: The birth of painter Carlo Carrà

1929: The Lateran Treaty gives independence to The Vatican

1948: The birth of footballer Carlo Sartori

1995: The birth of singer Gianluca Ginoble

(Picture credits: Via Flaminia by Imcarthur via Wikimedia Commons)


7 February 2024

Vasco Rossi - singer-songwriter

Controversial rock star still performing

Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's
biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi, a singer-songwriter in the rock genre who has sold more than 40 million records since releasing his first single in 1977, was born on this day in 1952 in Zocca, a village in a mountainous region of Emilia-Romagna.

Rossi, who has attracted criticism for his lifestyle and for the sometimes controversial content of his songs, enjoys a huge following among fans of Italian rock music.  An open-air concert he performed in Modena in 2017 sold 225,173 tickets, a record for tickets sold by any artist anywhere in the world.

Describing himself as a provocautore - a writer who provokes - he has written more than 250 songs, nine of which have been number one in the Italian singles charts, and made more than 30 albums, including five that were the best-selling album for the year of their release.

The enormous public enthusiasm for his work has not always been shared by the critics. Although his albums have won him many awards within his own sector of the music industry, when he appeared at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1982, the judging panel placed him bottom, reportedly in protest at the lyrics and his on-stage behaviour, which they thought was disrespectful to the competition. 

Despite his success, Rossi has at times struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and depression yet has used the darker periods in his life as the inspiration for songs.  Following his arrest and brief imprisonment for cocaine possession in the 1980s, he produced an album entitled Bollicine - Little Bubbles - that featured lyrics about drug use, attracting more opprobrium but at the same time helping secure his status as a rock icon.

Rossi in the 1970s, at the start of his career
Rossi in the 1970s, at
the start of his career
Rossi’s father, Carlo, was a truck driver, his mother, Novella, a housewife. It was Novella, herself an enthusiastic music fan, who had an inkling about his singing ability, enrolling him for singing lessons as a small child. He soon developed a love for music, joining his first band at the age of 14.  After the family had moved to Bologna, he studied accountancy at high school before enrolling for a degree course in Business and Economics at the University of Bologna, which he eventually abandoned.

Instead of equipping himself for a career in finance or business, he worked as a DJ, setting up the Punta Club, a party venue, before teaming up with some friends to open Punta Radio, one of Italy’s first private radio stations.  His own early recordings tended to get their first airing on Punta Radio.

His first EP was released in 1977, including the songs Jenny è pazza and Silvia, followed by his debut album the following year, and has brought out a new album almost every year since, an extraordinary output.  It took a few years to achieve peak popularity, while the shock of his father’s death in 1979 from a stroke at the age of just 56 almost persuaded him to quit. But by the late 1980s his albums were selling in huge numbers and he had to move from traditional concert venues into stadiums such as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza - better known as San Siro - in Milan, territory usually reserved for international superstars such as U2 and Madonna.

An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000 fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000
fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
Between 2001 and 2014, five of his albums - Stupido hotel (2001), Tracks (2002), Buoni o cattivi (2004), Vivere o niente (2011) and Sono innocente (2014) - outsold all other albums in Italy in the year of their release.  Yet he remains largely unknown outside Europe, a phenomenon he has claimed is down to overseas markets, specifically the British and American markets, being rigged.

He announced in 2011 that he was retiring from touring, yet was back on stage only two years later. In his career he has performed in more than 800 concerts, watched by more than 10 million fans. He has more dates planned this year.

Rossi has three children Davide and Lorenzo - both born in 1986 - and Luca, born in 1991, all by different partners. He married Luca’s mother, Laura Schmidt, in a low-key ceremony in Zocca in 2012.

Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km
(28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Travel tip:

Vasco Rossi’s home village of Zocca in Emilia-Romagna can be found around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena and a similar distance southwest of Bologna. It sits on the eastern side of the mountain that divides the Panaro River Valley from the Reno and Samoggia Valleys. It enjoys a strategically favourable position, which was reflected in mediaeval history by the  establishment of a number of castles in the area and more recently by its importance in World War Two as a stronghold of the Italian resistance movement.  Zocca has a pleasant centre characterised by elegant shops and a number of interesting churches, including the neo-Romanesque chiesa del Sacro Cuore di Gesù and the Santuario della Verucchia, which has its origins in the 12th century.  A music festival in Zocca was established by Rossi’s friend, Massimo Riva, and rock fans visit the area in large numbers in the summer months, attracted by a tour organised by the Visit Modena tourist office. A chestnut festival takes place every October.

The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal
Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
Travel tip:

Modena, where Vasco Rossi set a world record for ticket sales for his 2017 concert at the Enzo Ferrari Park motor racing venue, is a city on the south side of the Po Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region It is known for its car industry, as Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati have all been located there. The city is also well known for producing balsamic vinegar, while operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti and soprano Mirella Freni were both born in Modena.  One of the main sights in Modena is the huge, baroque Ducal Palace, which was begun by Francesco I on the site of a former castle in 1635. His architect, Luigi Bartolomeo Avanzini, created a home for him that few European princes could match at the time. The palace is now home to the Italian national military academy. In the Galleria Estense, on the upper floor of the Palazzo dei Musei in Modena, the one-metre high bust of Francesco I d’Este, Duke of Modena, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, still seems to be commanding the city.

Also on this day:

1497: Preacher Girolamo Savonarola’s ‘bonfire of the vanities’

1622: The birth of Vittoria delle Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany

1878: The death of Pope Pius IX

1909: The birth of cavalry officer Amedeo Guillet

1941: The birth of pop singer Little Tony


30 December 2023

For a Few Dollars More released in Italy

Second in Spaghetti Western trilogy

The poncho-wearing Clint Eastwood became one of the Western genre's most famous characters
The poncho-wearing Clint Eastwood became one
of the Western genre's most famous characters
The movie For a Few Dollars More, the second in what became known as the Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, was released for public viewing in Italy on this day in 1965.

Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name, the film followed the unexpected success of the low-budget feature A Fistful of Dollars, released 15 months earlier, which overcame poor initial reviews to become, for a time, the biggest-grossing movie in Italian cinema history.

Released for Italian audiences as Per Qualche Dollaro in Più, the follow-up proved even more commercially successful than its predecessor. By 1967, it had displaced A Fistful of Dollars as the highest-grossing Italian production, generating 3.1 billion lire ($5 million) in ticket sales from more than 14 and a half million admissions.

Eastwood, who had been little known outside America before A Fistful of Dollars catapulted him to international fame, had been paid a reputed sum of just $15,000 for his role in the original film, from a production budget of only $200,000.

This time Leone had more money at his disposal after teaming up with Italian producer Alberto Grimaldi and Eastwood received $50,000, although co-star Lee Van Cleef, given the part of a rival bounty hunter after Charles Bronson turned the role down, was paid a rather more modest $17,000.

One of the original posters advertising the film in Italy
One of the original posters
advertising the film in Italy
As with A Fistful of Dollars, the lead villain in For a Few Dollars More was played by Gian Maria Volonté, who was to become one of Italy’s most celebrated movie actors, famous for portraying memorable but neurotic characters in high-profile social dramas, usually with a political message. Volonté always insisted he took the Dollars roles only for the money.

Some critics were again derisive, dismissing the theme as corny, others accusing the director of glorifying violence and murder, yet For a Few Dollars More transfixed audiences with a gripping storyline, stunning cinematography, and powerful performances, as well as another brilliant musical score by Leone’s former school friend, the great Ennio Morricone.

The central plotline revolves around the rivalry between Eastwood’s character, on this occasion known as Manco, and Van Cleef’s former army officer, Colonel Douglas Mortimer, a fellow bounty hunter, with Volonté as a cold-blooded bank robber known as El Indio, who is just out of prison with a price on his head.

In common with the original, the film was shot on location in Spain rather than Italy. The original takes were all recorded without sound. Voices, sound effects and the musical score were all added later.

Leone completed the trilogy the following year with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which teamed Eastwood again with Lee Van Cleef but with Eli Wallach taking over from Volonté as the chief villain.

The budget this time was $1.2 million and box office revenue worldwide was almost as much as the first two parts of the trilogy combined.  Eastwood and Leone’s careers went in opposite directions but both enjoyed considerable success.

Leone scored another huge western hit with Once Upon a Time in the West in 1968 and, despite turning down the chance to direct The Godfather, directed a great gangster epic of his own in 1984, with Once Upon a Time in America. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 60.

Eastwood went on to enjoy countless box office successes as an actor before becoming an Oscar-winning director, remaining active even into his 90s.

The arches of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana echo those of the Colosseum
The arches of the Palazzo della Civiltà
Italiana echo those of the Colosseum 
Travel tip:

Sergio Leone, born in Rome, died there in 1989 when he suffered a fatal heart attack in the villa he used to entertain friends in the city’s EUR district, the complex to the south of central Rome that was originally developed to host the 1942 World's Fair - the Esposizione Universale Roma - which was cancelled because of the Second World War.  Mussolini’s modern city within a city was designed by a team of prominent architects, headed by Marcello Piacentini and including Giovanni Michelucci. The designs combined classical Roman elements with Italian Rationalism in a simplified neoclassicism that came to be known as Fascist architecture.  The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, which has become known as the “square colosseum”, is regarded as the building which is the most symbolic of EUR. Designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto La Padula, and Mario Romano, it draws inspiration from the Colosseum with its rows of arches, while its square shape and stark whiteness are reminiscent of metaphysical art.

The historic entrance to the Cinecitta film studios in Rome, in its heyday the largest in Europe
The historic entrance to the Cinecitta film studios
in Rome, in its heyday the largest in Europe
Travel tip:

The Italian film industry for many years revolved around Cinecittà, the Rome film studio that is the largest in Europe, spreading over an area of 100 acres with  22 stages and 300 dressing rooms. Situated six miles south of the city centre, like EUR it was built during the Fascist era under the personal direction of Mussolini. The studios were bombed by the Allies in the Second World War but were rebuilt and used again in the 1950s for large productions, such as Ben Hur. These days a range of productions, from television drama to music videos, are filmed there. The complex contains a permanent exhibition about the history of the studio, within which a special hall is devoted to the work of Sergio Leone, who worked at Cinecittà in the early stage of his career as an assistant director on several large-scale international productions, notably Quo Vadis (1951) and Ben-Hur (1959).

Also on this day: 

39: The birth of Roman emperor Titus

1572: The death of architect Galeazzo Alessi 

1962: The birth of politician Alessandra Mussolini

1991: The birth of tennis star Camila Georgi


22 November 2023

Beatrice Trussardi – entrepreneur

Art promoter chosen among the 100 most successful Italian women

Beatrice Trussardi has become an important promoter of art and design
Beatrice Trussardi has become an
important promoter of art and design
Art and design promoter and business woman Beatrice Trussardi, the daughter of fashion designer Nicola Trussardi, was born on this day in 1971 in Milan.

Since 1999, Beatrice has been president of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which was founded by her father to promote contemporary art and culture.

Nicola Trussardi, who was born in Bergamo, went to work in his grandfather’s glove making business in the city and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business that helped contribute to the popularity of the Made in Italy label throughout the world.

Beatrice, who was his eldest child, obtained a degree in Art, Business and Administration at New York University and went on to work at the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.  

She directed the move by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi from its permanent exhibition space in Milan to develop a new, itinerant model. The foundation now focuses on holding art exhibitions in historical monuments and forgotten buildings in Milan, that were not previously accessible to the public.

As part of this, Palazzo Litta, Palazzo Dugnani and Palazzo Citterio have all been restored, enabling them to host major exhibitions by contemporary artists.

In 2021, Beatrice launched the Beatrice Trussardi Foundation, a nomadic art foundation, working with artistic director Massimiliano Gioni to produce and exhibit art installations in international locations. Issues such as climate change, gender inequality and talent empowerment are at the core of the foundation’s research programme.

Beatrice was CEO of her father's Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice was CEO of her father's
Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice became president and CEO of Trussardi Group in 2003, positions she held until 2014.

In 2007, she enrolled in the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st century programme at the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Beatrice became one of 237 people selected by the World Economic Forum to be part of its Young Global Leaders group in 2005. She joined the Women’s Leadership Board at the John F Kennedy School of Government, which was founded to promote gender equality in society and politics, in 2007. She became president of the Friends of Aspen at Aspen Institute Italia, whose aim is to analyse and discuss important economic, social and cultural issues fundamental to development.

She was appointed to the Board of Directors of Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome in 2013 by invitation of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and, in 2014, she joined the Board of Directors of Comitato Fondazioni Italiane Arte Contemporanee.

Beatrice is married to businessman Federico Roveda and the couple have two children. She was chosen by Forbes Italia as among the 100 Most Successful Italian Women in 2019.

Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing
walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Travel tip:

Bergamo, where Trussardi’s father, Nicola, was born, is a beautiful city in Lombardy about 50km (31 miles) northeast of Milan. It has upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians who ruled at the time. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.  The Trussardi family home, Casa Trussardi, which they acquired in 1983, sits on top of the south-facing walls overlooking Viale delle Mura, with commanding views over the Città Bassa and the vast Po Valley.

Travel tip:

Palazzo Litta, also known as Palazzo Arese-Litta, is a Baroque palace on Corso Magenta in the centre of Milan, opposite the church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore and a short distance from the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s wall painting of The Last Supper. Built between 1642 and 1648, it dates back to the period of Spanish rule of the city. The original owner was Count Bartolomeo Arese, a member of one of Milan’s most influential families of the period, who went on to become President of the Senate of Milan in 1660. The structure of the palace has changed over time, although parts of architect Francesco Maria Richini’s original design remain intact. Having become the property of the Litta family in the mid-18th century, the palace was given a facelift when Bartolomeo Bolli constructed the current façade, highly decorated with Rococò features. Apart from its exhibition spaces, the palace is home to the oldest theatre in Milan, originally Richini’s oratory and later turned into a private theatre for the use of the Arese family and guests. It is still in use as the Teatro Litta di Milano.

Also on this day:

1533: The birth of Alfonso II d’Este, last Duke of Ferrara

1710: The death of Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini

1902: The birth of Mafia boss Joe Adonis

1911: The birth of Olympic champion cyclist Giuseppe Olmo

1947: The birth of footballer and coach Nevio Scala

1949: The birth of entrepreneur Rocco Commisso

1954: The birth of former prime minister Paolo Gentiloni


29 December 2021

The opening of Venice’s historic Caffè Florian

Meeting place on St Mark’s Square became an institution

The Caffè Florian took its name from its
original owner, Floriano Francesconi
Venice’s famous Caffè Florian opened its doors for the first time on this day in 1720.

Florian’s nowadays occupies a long stretch of the arcades on the southern side of Piazza San Marco, its seats stretching out across the square with a permanent orchestra in residence to entertain clients. Yet the original consisted of just two rooms. 

It was officially given the grand title of Alla Venezia Trionfante (“To Triumphant Venice”), but soon became known as Florian’s after the owner, Floriano Francesconi.

The cafè’s 301-year history makes it the oldest still-active coffee house in Italy and the second oldest in Europe behind the Café Procope in Paris, which was founded in 1686. 

Florian’s soon became a fashionable meeting place for Venetian society, especially its writers. Among its 18th century clientele were the Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Goldoni and the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, while the writer and adventurer Giacomo Casanova is said to have been regularly seen there, possibly drawn by the cafè’s then-unusual policy of opening its doors to women.

Florian's sits under the arcade on the southern side of the piazza
Florian's sits under the arcade on
the southern side of the piazza
When the critic and dramatist Gasparo Gozzi launched his literary magazine Gazzetta Veneta in 1760, Florian’s agreed to help him publicise his venture and sell copies.

Its popularity with writers continued in the 19th century, when the growing number of tourists visiting Venice might have found themselves sitting at the next table to English poet Lord Byron, the French novelist Marcel Proust or the increasingly popular English novelist Charles Dickens. 

Florian’s would remain in family ownership for more than a century. After the death of Floriano, his grandson, Valentino Francesconi, took over the running of the establishment in 1773 - by then expanded to four rooms - and he in turn handed it on to his son, Antonio, in 1810.

In the late 18th century, in the last days of the Republic of Venice, Florian’s was closed on order of the authorities, who were worried that its rooms were being used by would-be revolutionaries encouraged by the uprising in France that had toppled the French court of Louis XVI.  In the event, it was only a matter of months before the army of Napoleon Bonaparte began to support the Venice revolutionaries and the cafè was allowed to re-open.  

Today, Florian’s is known for its sumptuous elegance and for its art, a tradition that stems from its change of hands in 1858, which marked an era of new ownership outside the Francesconi family.  The new proprietors commissioned the architect and designer Lodovico Cadorin to undertake a substantial renovation project.

Cadorin transformed its four rooms, which emerged on the completion of his work as the Sala del Senato (Senate Room), the Sala Greca (Greek Room), the Sala Cinese (Chinese Room) and the Sala Orientale (Oriental Room).

Inside the sumptuously decorated Sala del Senato, one of Florian's several elegant rooms
Inside the sumptuously decorated Sala del Senato,
one of Florian's several elegant rooms
The Senate Room was notable for its paintings by Giacomo Casa, mainly themed around the progress of civilisation and science, while both the Chinese and Oriental Rooms were decorated by Antonio Pascuti, whose paintings had an exotic nature inspired by the art of the Far East.

The Sala degli Uomini Illustri (Hall of the Illustrious Men) was decorated by Giulio Carlini with paintings of notable Venetians; Vincenzo Rota’s decorations in the Sala degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors) represented the four seasons.

Having been suspected of being a centre of revolutionary plotting in the 18th century, Florian’s openly played a part in the upheavals of the 19th century. The Senate Room became a meeting point for Venetian patriots eager to promote the cause of the Risorgimento and was used as a temporary hospital as Venetians fought to expel the occupying forces of Austria from the city in 1866.

More peaceful times followed, and early in the 20th century, Florian’s followed the fashion in central Europe for providing entertainment for its clients with daily concerts, a practice that soon led to the appointment of a resident orchestra. At around the same time, a seventh room was added, given the name of Sala Liberty, decorated in an art nouveau style.

The cafè’s position in the Venetian art world had taken on a new dimension in 1893 when it became home to the Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Contemporanea (International Exhibition of Contemporary Art), known today as the Venice Biennale.  Since 1988, Florian’s has hosted a contemporary art exhibition that takes place every two years in conjunction with the modern Biennale.

Piazza San Marco is often thronged with visitors
Piazza San Marco is often
thronged with visitors
Travel tip:

Piazza San Marco, often known by its English name, St Mark's Square, is Venice’s main public space. It has the distinction of being one of only two squares in Venice to be known as piazza (Piazzale Roma is the other one). All the other open spaces in the city are called campi, campo being the Italian word for field. Along with the Piazzetta, which connects the main Piazza to the waterfront, San Marco has become the religious, political and social centre of the city. It flanks the Basilica di San Marco, the city’s cathedral church, and the Doge’s Palace, which was the traditional seat of government when Venice was an independent state, while also playing host on opposite sides to two of the city’s most famous cafes, Florian and Quadri.  Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have dubbed the square as ‘the drawing room of Europe’.

The gold mosaics that adorn the facade of Basilica San Marco led it to be nicknamed Chiesa d'Oro
The gold mosaics that adorn the facade of Basilica
San Marco led it to be nicknamed Chiesa d'Oro
Travel tip:

The Basilica di San Marco is one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture in existence. Because of its opulent design and gold ground mosaics it became a symbol of Venetian wealth and power and has been nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold). The spacious interior with its multiple choir lofts inspired the development of the Venetian polychoral style used by the Gabrielis, uncle and nephew, and Claudio Monteverdi. The original church on the site of the basilica may have been built in the ninth century, although the earliest recorded mention was dated 1084. It has been rebuilt several times, the present neoclassical church dating from a rebuilding of 1795-1806, for patrician Pietro Zaguri, by Giannantonio Selva.

Also on this day:

1847: The birth of the sculptor Gaetano Russo

1891: The birth of WW1 flying ace Luigi Olivari

1941: The death of mathematician Tullio Levi-Civita

1966: The birth of footballer Stefano Eranio