Showing posts with label Ferrara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ferrara. Show all posts

3 January 2024

Beatrice d’Este – Duchess of Milan

The brief life of a politically astute noblewoman from Ferrara

Beatrice D'Este, portrayed in a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Francesco Podesti
Beatrice D'Este, portrayed in a painting by the
19th century Italian artist Francesco Podesti
Beatrice d’Este, who became Duchess of Bari and Milan after her marriage to Ludovico Sforza and was an important player in Italian politics during the late 15th century, died on this day in 1497 in Milan.

The Duchess was said to have shown great courage during the Milanese resistance against the French in what was later judged to be the first of the Italian Wars. At the time of the French advance on Milan, with her husband ill, Beatrice made the right decisions on his behalf and helped prevent the Duke of Orleans from conquering her adopted city.

Sadly, she died when she was just 21, after giving birth to a stillborn baby.

Beatrice was born in the Castello Estense in Ferrara in 1475, but spent her early years growing up in her mother’s home city of Naples. When she was 15, her family sent her to marry the 38-year-old Ludovico Sforza, nicknamed Il Moro - The Moor - because of his dark complexion, who was acting as regent of Milan on behalf of his nephew, Gian Galeazzo Sforza.

Ludovico and Beatrice’s wedding celebrations were directed by Leonardo da Vinci, who worked at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan for 17 years, designing elaborate festivals for the Sforza family as well as painting and sculpting.

Ludovico became Duke of Milan after Gian Galeazzo died in 1494, seemingly of natural causes. However, it was rumoured at the time he had been poisoned by his uncle.

Ludovico Sforza, to whom Beatrice was betrothed at 15
Ludovico Sforza, to whom
Beatrice was betrothed at 15
Beatrice found herself at the centre of court life in Milan, where she was much admired for her beauty, charm, and diplomatic skills.

As well as associating with Da Vinci and the architect, Donato Bramante, she spent time with poets such as Baldassare Castiglione and Niccolò da Correggio. Her husband seemed to have been genuinely fond of her, despite having a string of mistresses, and once described her as ‘happy by nature and very pleasing.’

Beatrice was trusted to represent her husband as an ambassador to Venice and she also attended a peace conference, along with many powerful political figures of the day, including Charles VIII, King of France.

She gave birth to two sons, Massimiliano, who was born in 1493, and Francesco, who was born in 1495. They each, in turn, went on to become the Duke of Milan.

Beatrice was on course to make Milan one of the greatest Renaissance capitals of Europe when her life ended abruptly.

Pregnant for the third time, she seemed to be in good health when she was seen out in her carriage on January 2, 1497.

Ludovico Sforza mourns his wife's death by her tomb in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Ludovico Sforza mourns his wife's death by her
tomb in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
She waved to the crowds on her way to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, where Da Vinci was in the process of painting his famous masterpiece, The Last Supper, known in Italian as Il Cenacolo, on the wall of the refectory.

After saying her prayers in the church, Beatrice returned to the Castello Sforzesco, where she was said to have taken part in dancing during the evening. Afterwards, she started to suffer stomach pains and she gave birth to a stillborn son. She never recovered from the birth and died half an hour after midnight, on January 3.

Later that day, her heartbroken husband wrote about the sad news to his brother-in-law, Francesco II Gonzaga, who was married to Beatrice’s sister, Isabella. He asked for no visits of condolence, saying he wanted to be left alone to grieve. He remained locked in his apartment for two weeks and when he reappeared, he had shaved his head and was dressed in black, wearing an old, torn cloak.

The beautiful Beatrice has been immortalised in sculptures and paintings and has gone down in history as ‘a virago who showed the courage of a man’, during a time when Milan was at war.  

The Castello Sforzesco in Milan, almost 600 years old, is one of the largest castles in Europe
The Castello Sforzesco in Milan, almost 600 years
old, is one of the largest castles in Europe
Travel tip:

One of the main sights in Milan is the impressive Sforza castle, Castello Sforzesco, built by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, in 1450. After Ludovico Sforza became Duke in 1494, he commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to fresco several of the rooms. The castle was built on the site of the Castello di Porta Giovia, which had been the main residence in the city of the Visconti family, from which Francesco Sforza was descended. The Viscontis ruled Milan for 170 years. Renovated and enlarged a number of times in subsequent centuries, it became one of the largest citadels in Europe and now houses several museums and art collections.  The Cairo metro station is opposite the main entrance to Castello Sforzesco, which is about a 20 minute walk from Milan’s Duomo.

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, which he painted on the wall of the refectory
Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, which he
painted on the wall of the refectory
Travel tip:

Santa Maria delle Grazie, a church and Dominican convent in Milan, is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper - Il Cenacolo, which is on the wall of the refectory where the monks used to eat their meals. Entrance to the refectory is now limited to 25 people at a time for a maximum stay of 15 minutes and it is necessary to book a visit in advance.  In addition to Il Cenacolo, the church also has a chapel decorated with the frescoes Stories of Life and The Passion of Christ, by Gaudenzio Ferrari and other works by Ferrari, Titian and Bramantino. Titian’s painting, The Coronation of Thorns, once hung in the same chapel as the Ferrari frescoes but is now in the Louvre, in Paris.

Also on this day:

106BC: The birth of Roman politician and philosopher Cicero

1698: The birth of opera librettist Pietro Metastasio

1785: The death of composer Baldassare Galuppi

1877: The birth of textile entrepreneur and publisher Giovanni Treccani

1920: The birth of singer-songwriter Renato Carosone

1929: The birth of film director Sergio Leone

1952: The birth of politician Gianfranco Fini


Home



26 November 2022

Giorgio Cini - heroic entrepreneur

Name lives on in cultural life of Venice

Giorgio Cini was born into a wealthy family
Giorgio Cini was born into
a wealthy family
Giorgio Cini, the man whose name was given to a major cultural institution on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice was born on this day in 1918 in Rome.

The eldest child of Vittorio Cini, who in the early 20th century was one of Italy’s wealthiest industrialists, and the celebrated silent movie actress Lyda Borelli, Giorgio took on an entrepreneurial role in his father’s businesses, which encompassed a broad range of interests, in the financial and insurance sector, steel and electrical, maritime and tourism.

Vittorio was born in Ferrara, owned a castle in Monselice near Padua, but adopted Venice as his home and devoted much of his energy to enhancing the wealth of the city. A key figure in the development of the port of Marghera, he was a close friend and business partner of Giuseppe Volpi, the businessman and politician who founded the Venice Film Festival.

Giorgio’s life was tragically cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in 1949 at the age of just 30, shortly after taking off from the small airport of Saint-Cassien near Cannes, where he had been with his fiancee, the American-born actress Merle Oberon. He had just been handed the controls by the pilot of the twin-engined aircraft when it came down.

Vittorio was plunged into grief at the sudden loss of his son, not least because he owed his life to Giorgio’s heroism during World War Two.

A politician as well as a businessman, Vittorio joined Mussolini’s Fascist party in the 1930s. He was appointed minister of communications in February 1943 but resigned after six months, one of several members of Mussolini’s cabinet who had implored the dictator to find a way to withdraw from a war that was having disastrous consequences for Italy.

Vittorio Cini was one of Italy's richest men in the early part of the 20th century
Vittorio Cini was one of Italy's richest men
in the early part of the 20th century
After Mussolini was toppled and Italy signed an alliance with the Allies, Vittorio was identified as one of those who had turned against Mussolini, arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the Dachau concentration camp, near Munich.

With his father’s fate unknown, Giorgio took it upon himself to try to help him escape. Armed with a substantial sum of money from the sale of his mother’s jewellery, he managed to make his way successfully to Dachau, despite the dangers of undertaking such a journey. His father had been moved to a hospital wing, where Giorgio bribed the staff to release his father.

The two then travelled the 200km (124 miles) or so to the safety of neutral Switzerland, where they remained until it was safe to return to Italy. While in exile, Vittorio provided substantial financial support to the Italian Resistance movement in their operations against the Nazis and the Fascist stronghold in the north of Italy.

With Giorgio’s death, Vittorio decided to devote himself to philanthropy in the name of his son. 

The Cini family also gave Venice the former Palazzo Foscari
The Cini family also gave Venice
the former Palazzo Foscari 
Granted a concession by the Italian state to develop the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, which apart from Andrea Palladio’s famous basilica of the same name was home to a convent destroyed by Napoleon and military facilities once used by the Austrian and Italian armies, in 1951 he announced the launch of the Giorgio Cini Foundation. 

He restored the convent and repurposed it as a centre for Venetian culture. It now houses a library containing around 15,000 historical volumes, as well as an archive of manuscripts and documents about history, music, theatre and art. It also serves as a venue for exhibitions, concerts and meetings.

As well as the Foundation, the Cini family have also given Venice the Palazzo Foscari on the Grand Canal, which was Vittorio’s Venice home until his death in 1977.

The palace - now the Palazzo Cini - was donated to the Foundation in 1984 by Vittorio’s daughter, Yana, to house her father’s personal collection of Tuscan paintings and decorative arts, and to offer a space for exhibitions in conjunction with the Venice Biennale. 

Both Vittorio and Giorgio are buried with other family members in the family tomb within the monumental cemetery of the Certosa di Ferrara.

The Castello Monselice was painstakingly restored by Vittorio Cini in the 1930s
The Castello Monselice was painstakingly
restored by Vittorio Cini in the 1930s
Travel tip:

The Castello Monselice, at the town of Monselice, about 25km (15 miles) south of Padua, expanded over several hundred years. The oldest part is the Casa Romantica, built in the 11th century, to which was added the Castelletto in the 12th century. During the 13th century, the Torre Ezzelino was erected and in the 15th century, after it had been acquired by the Marcello family of Venice, the Ca’ Marcello was built as a connecting building to link the defensive tower with the main building. An elegant library and a Venetian courtyard were added in subsequent centuries but the complex suffered during the First World War, when it was used by the Royal Italian Army and left in a poor state. Vittorio Cini inherited it from his family in 1935 and set about its restoration, a seven-year project in which he took care with the use of furnishings and decoration to be faithful to period detail. Still named the Castello Cini, but now owned by the Veneto region, it now offers visitors a number of guided tours each day.

The white marble facade of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore is a familiar sight in Venice
The white marble facade of the church of San
Giorgio Maggiore is a familiar sight in Venice
Travel tip:

Andrea Palladio’s church of San Giorgio Maggiore is a 16th-century Benedictine church built between 1566 and 1610. Constructed in classical Renaissance style, the basilica’s brilliant white marble facade is visible directly across the Venetian lagoon from the Piazzetta di San Marco and its presence draws the eye from every part of the Riva degli Schiavoni. When Palladio arrived in Venice in 1560, the site was occupied by a Benedictine church and monastery that had been rebuilt following an earthquake in the 13th century. The architect, whose work in Venice also includes the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore on the Giudecca island, died in 1580 and so did not live to see San Giorgio Maggiore completed, although his successors in the project kept faithfully to his designs.


Also on this day:

1908: The birth of businessman Charles Forte

1940: The birth of mathematician Enrico Bombieri

1949: The birth of politician and businesswoman Letizia Moratti

1963: The death of popular soprano Amelita Galli-Curci


Home



23 August 2022

Giovanni Minzoni - priest

Devout Catholic murdered for opposing Fascists

Giovanni Minzoni objected to the Fascist youth movement in his town
Giovanni Minzoni objected to the
Fascist youth movement in his town
Don Giovanni Minzoni, a Catholic priest whose name is commemorated in many street names around Italy, was murdered by Fascist thugs in the small town of Argenta in Emilia-Romagna on this day in 1923.

A parish priest in the town, midway between the cities of  Ferrara and Ravenna, Don Minzoni was attacked at around 10.30pm as he returned to his rectory in the company of Enrico Bondanelli, a parishioner, when he was set upon by two men who were attached to a Fascist militia in Casumaro, almost 50km (31 miles) from Argenta on the other side of Ferrara.

He was pelted with stones and, when the blows made him fall to the ground, was beaten. What proved to be the fatal blow was struck with a heavy walking stick. He had a fractured skull and, despite being helped home by Bondanelli and neighbours, died a couple of hours later. His attackers were later named as Giorgio Molinari and Vittore Casoni, who were allegedly acting on the orders of Italo Balbo, a Blackshirt Commander who would later be seen as an heir to dictator Benito Mussolini.

Don Minzoni, a former military chaplain, had made no secret of his opposition to the Fascist regime. Shortly before he was attacked, he had set up a Catholic Scout group in Argenta in response to the introduction in the town of the Opera Nazionale Balilla, the Fascist youth movement.

He had been involved in a stand-off with the local militia when he invited Father Emilio Faggioli, a leading figure in the Catholic Scout organisation in Emilia-Romagna, to give a talk about the virtues of Catholicism and the scouts in the parish hall on Piazza d’Argenta, the town’s main square.

Blackshirt Italo Balbo (second right) was suspected of ordering the murder
Blackshirt Italo Balbo (second right)
was suspected of ordering the murder


The Fascists said local youths would be forbidden to attend but more than 70 defied them and gathered in the square.

A militia chief attempted to bring Don Minzoni over to his side by offering to make him the chaplain of their group.  Not surprisingly, the priest refused. He did not expect his decision to be well received and an entry in his diary chillingly anticipated his fate:

“With an open heart, with a prayer for my persecutors that will never disappear from my lips, I await the tempest, the persecution, maybe even death, for the cause of Christ to triumph.”

Born into a middle class family in Ravenna, Minzoni chose at an early age to dedicate his life to Christianity and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. He was made deputy pastor in Argenta, a position he held for three years before leaving to study in Bergamo, in Piedmont, where he graduate in 1914.

He was to have returned to Argenta in 1916 to become parish priest of San Nicoló, following the death of the incumbent, but instead was called by the army of the Kingdom of Italy, who asked him to serve as a military chaplain on the Italian north-eastern front. He was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valour after showing great courage in the field during the Battle of the Piave River.

Don Minzoni is commemorated in the names of streets and squares in many Italian towns and cities
Don Minzoni is commemorated in the names of
streets and squares in many Italian towns and cities
On his return to Argenta at the end of the war, he became politically active, joining Partito Popolare Italiano, a forerunner of the Christian Democrats. His shock at the murder of a socialist union leader with whom he had become friends hardened his dislike of Fascism. He also favoured co-operation between political groups to tackle social problems, which put him at odds with the Fascists. 

His murder was covered extensively by two still relatively free newspapers, Il Popolo and La Voce Repubblicana, who named the perpetrators. When they came to trial, however, Molinari and Casoni along with Balbo were acquitted, the process effectively collapsing because intimidation of journalists and witnesses made a fair hearing impossible.

A re-trial did take place at the end of World War Two, in which Molinari and Casoni were found guilty of second degree murder. Balbo, who had been killed when the plane in which he was a passenger was shot down over Libya in 1940, was absolved of blame.

After the war, Don Minzoni became a symbol of the Italian Catholic Resistance, and many books were written about him. Pope John Paul II recalled his courage in a letter to the Bishop of Ravenna in 1983, on the 60th anniversary of his death, when his remains were moved from the monumental cemetery of Ravenna to the Cathedral of San Nicolò in Argenta.

The Cathedral of San Nicolò di Argenta, with the monument to Don Manzoni in the foreground
The Cathedral of San Nicolò di Argenta, with
the monument to Don Manzoni in the foreground
Travel tip:

Argenta, which is situated about 30 kilometres (19 miles) southeast of Ferrara and a little over 40km (25 miles) northwest of Ravenna, is a town of Roman origin in a flat agricultural region near the Valli di Comacchio lagoon wetlands, much of which is designated as a wildlife sanctuary with many facilities for ornithology.  Situated close to the German Gothic Line, it suffered damage in World War Two. In 1973, a monument to Don Giovanni Minzoni, sculpted in bronze by Angelo Biancini, was placed in front of the Cathedral of San Nicolò di Argenta, when celebrations of his life in the town were inaugurated by the President of the Republic, Giovanni Leone.

The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna is famous for its beautiful Byzantine mosaics
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna is famous
for its beautiful Byzantine mosaics
Travel tip:

Ravenna, where Giovanni Minzoni was born, became the capital city of the western Roman empire in the fifth century. It is known for its well preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture and has eight UNESCO world heritage sites. The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe, famous for its superb Byzantine mosaics.  The poet Dante died while living in exile in Ravenna in about 1321. He was buried at the Church of San Pier Maggiore in Ravenna and a tomb was erected there for him in 1483.  Another tomb was built for Dante in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence but despite repeated requests for the return of Dante’s remains to the city of his birth, Ravenna has always refused.

Also on this day:

1945: The birth of teenage pop star Rita Pavone

1943: The birth of guitarist and composer Pino Presti

1974: The death of eminent psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli


Home







4 March 2022

Giorgio Bassani - writer and novelist

Best-known work reflected plight of wealthy Jewish Italians in 1930s

Giorgio Bassani's novels drew on his own background in Ferrara
Giorgio Bassani's novels drew on his
own background in Ferrara
Giorgio Bassani, rated by many critics as alongside the likes of Cesare Pavese, Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia among the great postwar Italian novelists, was born on this day in 1916 in Bologna.

Bassani’s best-known work, his 1962 novel Il giardino dei finzi-contini - The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - was turned into an Oscar-winning movie by the director Vittorio De Sica.

Like much of his fiction, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is semi-autobiographical, drawing on his upbringing as a member of an upper middle-class Jewish family in Ferrara, the city in Emilia-Romagna, during the rise of Mussolini’s Fascists and the onset of World War Two.

Bassani, who was the editor of a number of literary journals and a respected screenplay writer, had already achieved recognition for his work through his Cinque storie ferraresi - Five Stories of Ferrara - which won the prestigious Strega Prize in 1956.

But it was The Garden of the Finzi-Continis that won him international acclaim. The novel was part of a series that expanded on the same theme in presenting a picture of the world during the author's formative years, against a background of state-promoted antisemitism.

The son of a doctor and an aspiring singer, Bassani was born in Bologna. His father, Angelo Enrico Bassani, had served with the Italian Army as a medical officer in World War One and was on furlough in Bologna, where his pregnant wife, Dora, joined him but went into labour during the visit.

They were both from Ferrara, where they returned after the war ended. Giorgio was named after the patron saint of the Po Valley city, on whose feast day his parents had become engaged.

Bassani's most famous novel is a Penguin Modern Classic
Bassani's most famous novel is
a Penguin Modern Classic
With his younger brother, Paolo, and their little sister, Jenny, Bassani had a childhood that was, at first, idyllic. They lived in a big family home on Via Cisterna del Follo, receiving their education at the Liceo Ludovico Ariosto and spending many hours outdoors, playing tennis or football, taking their summer holidays in the seaside resorts of the northern Adriatic coastline, and going skiing in the winter.

There was wealth on both sides of the family. Their paternal grandfather had been a landowner and cloth merchant; their maternal grandfather was a professor of medicine and head of the main hospital in Ferrara, an expert in gastroenterology who was still working right up to his death, aged 99. 

Yet the ambitions of all three siblings were thwarted by Mussolini’s anti-semitic Racial Laws. Giorgio, a talented pianist, completed his degree at the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the University of Bologna, but with Jews barred from most professions the only work he could find was as a teacher at the Jewish School in Via Vignatagliata.

Paolo hoped to become a doctor, like his father and grandfather, but with Jews barred from Italian universities, he was forced to go to France, where he studied engineering instead, before being expelled following the German invasion. Jenny became one of Giorgio’s pupils at the Jewish School but, with little prospect of making a career in Ferrara, fled to Florence.

It was while he was teaching, in 1940, that Bassani published his first novel,  Una città di pianura  - A City of the Plain - which he wrote under a pseudonym, Giacomo Marchi, so as to evade the race laws. It was around this time that he became a political activist, joining the anti-Fascist resistance. He was arrested in May 1943 but thankfully spent only a couple of months in jail, freed after Italy formally surrendered to the allies and Mussolini was arrested.

Dominque Sanda and Lino Capolicchio, stars of the film version of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Dominique Sanda and Lino Capolicchio, stars of the
film version of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
The threat to the safety of Jews was not over, however.  With his new wife, Valeria, whom he married soon after his release from prison, he too fled to Florence, where they lived under assumed names with forged passports.  Bassani managed somehow to rescue his parents, and his sister Jenny, from the advancing Germans; Paolo, who eventually returned to Italy after a spell on the run in Spain, fought in the resistance and survived, settling in Rome. Sadly, most of their extended family left in Ferrara died at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Bassani, too, drifted south to Rome, where his literary career gathered pace. As an editorial director of the publisher Feltrinelli, he was responsible for the posthumous publication of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel Il Gattopardo - The Leopard. He published some poetry and short stories of his own before his Cinque storie ferraresi raised his profile following the award of the Premio Strega.

His 1958 novel, Gli occhiali d'oro - The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles, which was later also made into a film, examined the marginalisation of Jews and homosexuals and ultimately became the first in a series of books known as Il romanzo di Ferrara - the Ferrara Stories.  

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which was one of the series, is narrated by a young middle-class Jew in the Italian city of Ferrara, who is fascinated with the Finzi-Continis, a wealthy Jewish family, and especially by their beautiful daughter Micòl, with whom he becomes infatuated.

The Finzi-Continis live in a lavish walled estate, which becomes a meeting place for other wealthy Jews, who find sanctuary there. The narrator - himself called Giorgio - finds his love for Micòl ultimately unrequited in a poignant portrait of a family and friends enjoying their final days of freedom before the horrors of the world outside the walls close in on them. 

After Dietro la porta - Behind the Door (1964), L'airone - The Heron (1968) and L'odore del fieno - The Smell of May (1972) completed his series of Ferrara stories, Bassani wrote very little more in the way of fiction.

Estranged from his wife, he spent the final years of his life with his companion, Portia Prebys, an American-born professor of literature, whom he met in 1977. Suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and a heart complaint, he died in 2000 at the age of 84. 

De Sica’s film of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which starred Lino Capolicchio as Giorgio and Dominique Sanda as Micòl, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1972.

The centre of the city of Ferrara, looking down from the Castello Estense
The centre of the city of Ferrara, looking
down from the Castello Estense
Travel tip:

Ferrara is a city in Emilia-Romagna, about 50 km (31 miles) to the north-east of Bologna. It was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598. Building work on the magnificent Este Castle in the centre of the city began in 1385 and it was added to and improved by successive rulers of Ferrara until the end of the Este line.  The castle was purchased for 70,000 lire by the province of Ferrara in 1874 to be used as the headquarters of the Prefecture.   Ferrara is also notable for Palazzo dei Diamanti, a palace in Corso Ercole I d’Este, that takes its name from the 8500 pointed diamond shaped stones that stud the façade, diamonds being an emblem of the Este family. It was designed by Biagio Rossetti and completed in 1503. The palace now houses the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara on its first floor.

Hotels in Ferrara by Booking.com


The bustling Via Giuseppe Mazzini is part of what used to be Ferrara's Ghetto
The bustling Via Giuseppe Mazzini is part of
what used to be Ferrara's Ghetto
Travel tip:

Via Vignatagliata in Ferrara, where Giorgio Bassani found work as a teacher at the Jewish School - formerly at No 79 - is part of what used to be the city’s Jewish Ghetto, established in 1624, when about 1,500 Jews lived in Ferrara. Centrally situated, only about 500km (546 yards) from the Castello Estense, it remained open, on and off, until 1859, when it was permanently closed, although it remained the heart of the city’s Jewish community for many years afterwards. Criss-crossed by cobbled streets, the area maintains much of its structure and character. Its main street, Via Giuseppe Mazzini, which begins at Piazza della Cattedrale, is largely pedestrianised and has evolved into one of Ferrara’s main shopping streets.

Also on this day:

1678: The birth of composer Antonio Vivaldi

1848: The approval of the Albertine Statute, which became the basis for the Italian Constitution

1943: The birth of singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla


Home



14 December 2021

Guarino da Verona – Renaissance scholar

Humanist who lost Greek manuscripts went grey overnight

Guarino da Verona was a humanist philosopher
Guarino da Verona was a
humanist philosopher
Professor of ancient Greek, Guarino da Verona, who dedicated his life to learning the language and educating others to follow in his footsteps, died on this day in 1460 in Ferrara.

Da Verona studied ancient Greek in Constantinople for more than five years and returned to Italy with two cases full of rare Greek manuscripts that he had collected. It is said that when he lost one of the cases during  a shipwreck, he was so distraught that his hair turned grey in a single night.

Da Verona, who was also sometimes known as Guarino Veronese, was born in 1374 in Verona. He studied in Italy and established his first school in the 1390s before going to Constantinople.

After returning to Italy, he earned his living by teaching Greek in Verona, Venice and Florence.

Da Verona taught the philosophy of humanism to Leonello, Marquis of Este, who then became his patron and employed him to teach Greek in Ferrara. Da Verona’s method of teaching became renowned and he attracted students from all over Italy and Europe, even from as far away as England. He supported poor students using his own money and many of them became well known scholars themselves.

He was particularly influenced by the philosopher Georgiu Gemistus Pletho, one of the most famous Greek scholars during the late Byzantine era and a pioneer of reviving Greek scholarship in Western Europe.

Da Verona's Regulae Grammaticales
Da Verona's Latin grammar
Regulae Grammaticales
Da Verona is remembered for his translations of works by the Greek historian, geographer and philosopher, Strabo, and the Greek biographer, essayist and historian, Plutarch.

He also compiled Regulae Grammaticales, the first Renaissance Latin grammar, which was used well into the 17th century.

The layout of Leonello d’Este’s Studiolo in the Palazzo Belfiore was believed to have been the work of Da Verona. He is also said to have corresponded with the writer and humanist Isotta Nogarola, the first female humanist, who was considered to be one of the most important humanists of the Italian Renaissance and who was also from Verona.

Da Verona died in Ferrara at the age of 86.

The Castello Estense dominates Ferrara
The Castello Estense
dominates Ferrara
Travel tip:

The city of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, about 50km (31 miles) northeast of Bologna, was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598 and is dominated by the magnificent Castello Estense (Este Castle)  in the centre of the city began, originally built in 1385 and added to and improved by successive rulers of Ferrara until the Este line ended with the death of Alfonso II d’Este.  It was constructed originally as a defensive shield to protect the palace of the Marquis Niccolò II d'Este following a revolt of the Ferrarese population against high taxes at a time when catastrophic floods had left many local people destitute.


A private residence now stands on the site of the former church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
A private residence now stands on the site of
the former church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Belfiore in Ferrara, of which Leonello d'Este's Studiolo was a feature, was destroyed by a fire in 1683, having suffered extensive damage 200 years earlier at the hands of a Venetian army. It is known that it was situated near the Corso Ercole I d'Este, approximately 1km (0.62 miles) north of the Castello Estense. The palace was one of the so-called delizie of the Este dynasty, which were palaces where members of the family could find pleasurable diversions from daily life.  These included pursuits that were intellectually stimulating and the Studiolo was a study designed by Da Verona and lined with paintings of the so-called Muses of Greek religion and mythology, nine inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. The nearby church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, also destroyed, once was one of the main burial sites for the Este family. The site of the church is now occupied by a private residence.

Also on this day:

1784: The birth of Princess Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily

1853: The birth of anarchist Errico Malatesta

1922: The birth of novelist and translator Luciano Bianciardi

1966: The birth of racing driver Fabrizio Giovanardi


Home

29 May 2020

Virginia de’ Medici – noblewoman

Duchess was driven mad by husband’s infidelity


Virginia de' Medici married into the House of Este, gaining wealth and power
Virginia de' Medici married into the House
of Este, gaining wealth and power
Virginia de’ Medici, who for a time ruled the duchy of Modena and Reggio, was born on this day in 1568 in Florence.

She protected the autonomy of the city of Modena while her husband was away, despite plots against her, and she was considered to have been a clever and far-sighted ruler.

Virginia was the illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and his mistress, Camilla Martelli.

Her paternal grandparents were Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and his wife Maria Salviati, who was the granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Her maternal grandparents were Antonio Martelli and Fiammetta Soderini, who were both members of important families in Florence.

In 1570, Cosimo I contracted a morganatic marriage with his mistress, Camilla, on the advice of Pope Pius V, which allowed him to legitimise his daughter.

Virginia lived with her parents at the Villa di Castello during the summer and in Pisa in the winter.

Cosimo I’s older children resented his second marriage and after his death in 1574 they imprisoned Camilla in a convent.

Cesare d'Este became Virginia's husband in an arranged marriage in 1586
Cesare d'Este became Virginia's husband in
an arranged marriage in 1586
Virginia’s older brothers negotiated a marriage for her with a member of the Sforza family and when she was 13 she was betrothed to Francesco Sforza, Count of Santa Fiora.

The marriage did not take place because Sforza chose an ecclesiastical career and eventually became a Cardinal.

They then arranged a marriage for her with a member of the Este family and in 1586 Virginia married Cesare d’Este, the grandson of Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara and son of Alfonso, Marquess of Montecchio. 

A play was written and performed to celebrate this event in Florence and the poet, Torquato Tasso, who was living in Ferrara, dedicated a Cantata to the newly married couple.

When the couple arrived in Ferrara, they lived in the Palazzo dei Diamanti, which was given to them by Cardinal Luigi d’Este, Cesare’s uncle.  A year later, Cesare’s father died and Virginia became Marchioness Consort of Montecchio after her husband inherited the title.

After Duke Alfonso II died in 1597 without issue, Cesare became the head of the House of Este and Virginia became Duchess Consort of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio and was given a wealth of other titles to do with territories owned by the Este family, some of which were in France.

Their rule over Ferrara did not last long as Pope Clement VII decided not to recognise Cesare’s succession. The Duchy of Ferrara was officially abolished and returned to the Papal States and Cesare and his family had to move to Modena. In 1601 he was also stripped of all his domains and titles in France.

The church of San Vincenzo in Modena, where Virginia is buried
The church of San Vincenzo in
Modena, where Virginia is buried
Virginia bore ten children for Cesare and acted as regent for him while he was away in Reggio. She stopped the attempts of the Podestà and Judge of Modena to seize control in his absence.

But she began to have unpredictable fits of anger and was thought to have been driven mad by knowing that her husband was often unfaithful to her. Her Jesuit confessor claimed she was possessed by the devil and tried to exorcise her demons.

It was later thought her mental illness was caused by having been married against her will and that it was worsened by her husband’s infidelity.

After Virginia’s death in 1615 in Modena at the age of 46 there were rumours that she had been poisoned by her husband but this was never proved. She was buried in the Este family crypt in the church of San Vincenzo in Modena.

The Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, which was a gift to Virginia and Cesare from Cesare's uncle, Cardinal Luigi d'Este
The Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, which was a gift to
Virginia and Cesare from Cesare's uncle, Cardinal Luigi d'Este
Travel tip:

Virginia and Cesare’s first home together was the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara. The palace, which is in Corso Ercole I d’Este, takes its name from the 8500 pointed diamond shaped stones that stud the façade, diamonds being an emblem of the Este family. It was designed by Biagio Rossetti and completed in 1503. The palace now houses the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara on its first floor, where you can also see the 16th century apartments inhabited by Virginia de’ Medici, three rooms that overlook Corso Biagio Rossetti. The art gallery is open from 10.00 to 17.30 Tuesday to Sunday.

The Palazzo dei Musei in Modena, which houses much of  the Este inheritance Cesare and Virginia took to Modena
The Palazzo dei Musei in Modena, which houses some of
the Este inheritance Cesare and Virginia took to Modena
Travel tip:

Modena is a city on the south side of the Po Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region, known for its car industry and for producing balsamic vinegar. Operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti and soprano Mirella Freni were both born in Modena. When Cesare and Virginia had to relocate from Ferrara to Modena, they tried to take with them as much of the Este inheritance as possible, including cases full of rare and precious objects. These now form part of the Este family collection on display in the Gallerie Estensi, on the upper floor of the Palazzo dei Musei in Largo Porta Sant’Agostino in Modena. The galleries are open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday. 

Also on this day:

1926: The birth in Florence of UK television personality Katie Boyle

1931: The execution of anarchist Michele Schirru

2013: The death of actress and writer Franca Rame


Home

10 April 2020

Jacopo Mazzoni – philosopher

Brilliant scholar could recite long passages from Dante


Jacopo Mazzoni was known for literary criticism as well as philosophy
Jacopo Mazzoni was known for literary
criticism as well as philosophy
Jacopo Mazzoni, a University professor with a phenomenal memory who was a friend of Galileo Galilei, died on this day in 1598 in Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna.

Mazzoni, also sometimes referred to as Giacomo Mazzoni, was regarded as one of the most eminent scholars of his period. His excellent powers of recall made him adept at recalling passages from Dante, Lucretius, Virgil and other writers during his regular debates with prominent academics. He relished taking part in memory contests, which he usually won.

Mazzoni was born in Cesena in Emilia-Romagna in 1548 and was educated at Bologna in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, rhetoric and poetics. He later attended the University of Padua where he studied philosophy and jurisprudence.

He became an authority on ancient languages and philology and promoted the scientific study of the Italian language.

Galileo Galilei was a fellow professor at Pisa University
Galileo Galilei was a fellow
professor at Pisa University
Although Mazzoni wrote a major work on philosophy, he became well known for his works on literary criticism, in particular for his writing in defence of Dante’s Divine Comedy - Discorso in Difesa Della Commedia della Divina Poeta Dante - published in 1572 and Della Difesa Della Commedia di Dante, which was not published until 1688.

Mazzoni was also influenced by Plato and Aristotle and often made references to their works.

In turn, his theories about poetry influenced romantic writers who came later such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Friedrich von Schiller.

Mazzoni is also credited with helping to found the Accademia della Crusca, a society of scholars of Italian linguistics and philology, in 1583. The academy, in Florence, is the oldest linguistic academy in the world and the most important research institution into the Italian language.

The pala - shovel - given to Mazzoni by the Accademia della Crusca
The pala - shovel - given to Mazzoni
by the Accademia della Crusca
Crusca is the Italian word for bran, its use a reflection of the society's symbology, which likened 'good' language to flour sifted from bran.  The society's emblem was the frullone, a machine used to separate flour from bran. The operator would load bran into the machine using a pala - shovel - and the society extended the symbolism by presenting each member with a shovel bearing the member's name and a motto, usually a line of verse.

Mazzoni worked as a university professor, first at Macerata and then at Pisa, where he taught philosophy from 1588 to 1597. It was there he met Galileo, who was a young mathematics professor at the university. They became good friends and in May 1597, Galileo wrote Mazzoni a letter in which he commented on Mazzoni’s latest book, In universam Platonis et Aristotelis philosophiam praeludia, and also stated his inclination towards the Copernican system over the Ptolemaic one.

Later that year, Mazzoni accepted the chair in philosophy at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

He was asked to accompany Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini on a mission to Venice in 1598. After they stopped off in Ferrara on the way back, Mazzoni was taken ill and later died. He was 57 years old.

The Rocca Malatestiana in Cesena, once a prison, now houses a museum of agriculture
The Rocca Malatestiana in Cesena, once a prison, now
houses a museum of agriculture
Travel tip:

Cesena, the birthplace of Jacopo Mazzoni, is a city in Emilia-Romagna, south of Ravenna and west of Rimini. One of the main sights in the town is the 15th century Biblioteca Malatestiana, which houses many valuable manuscripts and was the first public library in Europe. The library has been preserved in its 15th century condition and is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. The city’s castle, the Rocca Malatestiana, was used by Cesare Borgia as a prison during the Italian Wars and is now a museum.


The Castello Estense is the centrepiece of the city of Ferrara, where Mazzoni died
The Castello Estense is the centrepiece of the city
of Ferrara, where Mazzoni died
Travel tip:

Ferrara, where Jacopo Mazzoni died, is a city in Emilia-Romagna, about 50 km (31 miles) to the northeast of Bologna. It was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598. Building work on the magnificent moated Este Castle (Castello Estense) in the centre of the city began in 1385 and the castle was added to and improved by successive rulers of Ferrara until the end of the Este line. The castle was purchased for 70,000 lire by the province of Ferrara in 1874 to be used as the headquarters of the Prefecture. You can still see Ferrara’s original narrow, medieval streets to the west and south of the city centre, between the main thoroughfares of Via Ripa Grande and Via Garibaldi. These were the original heart of the city in the middle ages before the Este family redesigned it.

Also on this day:

1726: The birth of physicist Giovanni Aldini

1886: The death of physician and politician Agostino Bertani

1926: Airship leaves Rome for the North Pole

1991: The Moby Prince disaster

(Picture credits - Mazzoni's shovel by Sailko CC-BY-3.0; Rocca Malatestiana by Otello Amaducci CC-BY-SA 3.0) 


Home






6 June 2019

Italo Balbo - Fascist commander

Blackshirt thug turned air commander was Mussolini’s ‘heir apparent’


Italo Balbo was the commander of Italy's air force in the 1930s
Italo Balbo was the commander of
Italy's air force in the 1930s
Italo Balbo, who rose to such a position of seniority in the hierarchy of the Italian Fascists that he was considered the man most likely to succeed Benito Mussolini as leader, was born on this day in 1896 in Quartesana, a village on the outskirts of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna.

After active service in the First World War, Balbo became the leading Fascist organizer in his home region of Ferrara, leading a gang of Blackshirt thugs who became notorious for their attacks on rival political groups and for carrying out vicious reprisals against striking rural workers on behalf of wealthy landlords.

Later, he was one of the leaders of the March on Rome that brought Mussolini and the Fascists to power in 1922.

As Maresciallo dell'Aria - Marshal of the Air Force - he rebuilt Italy’s aerial warfare capability. At the height of his influence, however, he was sent by Mussolini to be Governor of Italian Libya.

Many believed that Mussolini saw Balbo as a threat and when, early in the Second World War, Balbo was killed when the plane in which he was travelling was shot down - seemingly accidentally - by Italian anti-aircraft guns over Tobruk, there were immediately those among Balbo’s supporters who believed the incident was not an accident.

Balbo (second right), with Mussolini and other Blackshirt leaders of the March on Rome in 1922
Balbo (second right), with Mussolini and other Blackshirt
leaders of the March on Rome in 1922
Balbo had been at odds with Mussolini over the dictator’s race laws, which he deeply opposed. He was also the only leading Fascist to speak out against the alliance with Nazi Germany, on the basis that Italy, he felt, would merely be Hitler’s lackeys in the partnership.  He advocated that Italy should side with the British.

Balbo was politically active from a young age. After Italy initially declared itself as neutral in the First World War, Balbo joined in several pro-war rallies. Once Italy entered the war in 1915, he served with the Italian Royal Army.

He enlisted in the Alpini mountain infantry and won two silver medals for military valour, rising to the rank of captain. Later, after obtaining a degree in Social Sciences in Florence, Balbo went back to Ferrara and joined the Fascist Party, quitting his job as a bank clerk to be branch secretary.

Party members increasingly formed gangs and would behave aggressively towards opponents.  Balbo proved himself as an adept gang commander. For several years, he led a unit called the Celibanisti, named after the squad’s ritual of ordering a specific cherry brandy in the afternoons at Caffè Mozzi in Piazza del Duomo.

An illustration from an American newspaper showing Balbo's squadron
An illustration from an American
newspaper showing Balbo's squadron 
The Celibanisti directed their violence towards Socialist, Communist, and Democratic party members. Balbo was implicated in the murder of a parish priest in Argenta, another town in the Ferrara province, and left the area to move to Rome.

Balbo held a number of senior positions in the Fascist hierarchy under Mussolini, including Commander in Chief of the Militia (1922), Secretary of State for National Economy (1925), Undersecretary of the Air Force (1926), General of the Air Fleet (1928) and Air Minister (1929).

As commander of the air forces, he organised many spectacular displays of air power, often involving formation flying.  His prestige soared after a visit to America in 1933 when, having made it his business to learn to fly, he commanded a squadron of sea planes that flew to Chicago to take part in the Century of Progress Fair.  He was welcomed as a hero and President Roosevelt awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Just as his popularity was growing at home, however, Balbo was ordered to Libya as Governor-General of the Italian colony.

The appointment was an effective exile from politics in Rome, however. Mussolini was wary of Balbo’s close relationship with the suspected anti-Fascist Prince Umberto, the king’s son. Mussolini became so paranoid that he ordered that Italian newspapers could not mention Balbo's name more than once a month.

The site of the crash, including a makeshift grave, in which Balbo died when his place was shot down over Libya
The site of the crash, including a makeshift grave, in which
Balbo died when his place was shot down over Libya
He was an effective leader in Libya. He bolstered the economy by improving railways and roads, including the Litoranea Libica coastal highway which stretched across the Libyan coast.  He was a major supporter of colonising Libya with Italian peasants.  By 1940, approximately 110,000 Italians were living in Libya. Ultimately, 12 per cent of the Libyan population was of Italian origin.

Balbo died on June 28, 1940. He was a passenger on a plane that attempted to land at Tobruk airfield shortly after an attack by British aircraft. Italian anti-aircraft batteries defending the airfield misidentified his aircraft as a British fighter and opened fire. 

His remains were buried outside Tripoli and later moved to the cemetery at Orbetello in Tuscany, close to the airfield from which he flew his sea plane squadron to the United States in 1933, by Balbo's family.  He is buried with many other airmen associated with the base.

The Este Castle at Ferrara in winter snow
The Este Castle at Ferrara in winter snow
Travel tip:

Apart from the impressively well preserved Castello Estense right at the heart of the city, Ferrara - situated midway between Bologna and Venice in Emilia-Romagna - has many notable architectural gems, including many palaces from the 14th and 15th centuries.  Among them is the striking Palazzo dei Diamanti, so-called because the stone blocks of its facade are cut into the shape of diamonds. The palace holds the National Picture Gallery, which houses many works from the  masters of the 16th-century School of Ferrara, including Lorenzo Costa, Dosso Dossi, Girolamo da Carpi and Benvenuto Tisi. Ferrara was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598 and it was they who built the magnificent castle, work on which began in 1385.

The entrance to what remains of the  seaplane base at Orbetello
The entrance to what remains of the
seaplane base at Orbetello
Travel tip:

The remains of the Orbetello seaplane base, the military structure built at the beginning of the century and best known for its links to the squadrons commanded by Italo Balbo, are still visible in the town of Orbetello, which occupies a narrow peninsula surrounded by a natural lagoon on the coast of Tuscany, about 44km (27 miles) south of Grosseto.  The field was used by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War and the town was therefore hit by frequent air attacks. By the end of the war it was being used as an American base.  Nowadays, it is in a state of semi-abandonment. The western area that was in charge of housing the officers' families is now called Parco delle Crociere and is used as a playground. Some structures are still standing, including the entrance, which bears the name of Agostino Brunetta, a seaplane pilot.

Home




11 May 2019

Filippo De Pisis - painter and poet

Artist known for extravagant lifestyle


A 1923 painting by Filippo De Pisis entitled Still Life with a Bottle
A 1923 painting by Filippo De Pisis
entitled Still Life with a Bottle
The painter and poet Filippo De Pisis, whose works grace the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome among other galleries, was born Luigi Filippo Tibertelli De Pisis in Ferrara on this day in 1896.

A close associate for a while of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà, De Pisis is best known for his cityscapes, metaphysically-inspired maritime scenes, and still life pictures, especially depicting flowers.  De Pisis, who was homosexual, also made many homoerotic sketches of the male nude. Later in life, he lived in Venice and became somewhat eccentric, travelling everywhere in his personal gondola.

Born into a noble family, as a boy he was known as Gigi. He was educated at home and was strongly influenced by his sister, Ernesta Tibertelli, who was a distinguished illustrator with libertarian views, and who probably introduced De Pisis to mystical writings.

De Pisis spent his childhood reading, drawing, collecting butterflies and wildflowers and writing poetry. He studied literature and philosophy at the University of Bologna, and published a volume of poems, Canti della Croara, in 1916. That same year, he met Carrà, De Chirico and his brother Alberto Savinio and and was attracted to metaphysical painting.

De Pisis spent 14 of his most productive years as a painter living in Paris
De Pisis spent 14 of his most productive years as
a painter living in Paris
In 1919, he moved to Rome, living in Via di Monserrato, near the Palazzo Farnese. He met more artists, including Armando Spadini, and began to paint in earnest. He still wrote, publishing a collection of essays, La città dalle 100 meraviglie - The City of 100 Wonders - in 1920.

He had been criticised for the overly-sentimentality of some of his poetry, yet his emotional nature worked in his favour in his painting, which received early acclaim.

Seeking new adventures and subjects, in 1925 he moved to Paris, which would be his base for the next 14 years, with only brief interruptions. He met and became friends with Édouard Manet, Camille Corot, Henri Matisse and members of the avant-garde fauve movement.

After holding a personal exhibition, presented by Carrà, in the Lidel room in Milan, he returned to Paris and began an intense relationship with the painter Onofrio Martinelli, who he had met in Rome. They shared a house-studio in the Rue Bonaparte in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter.

He became part of a group of artists known as the Italians in Paris, which included De Chirico, Savinio, Massimo Campigli, Mario Tozzi, Renato Paresce and Severo Pozzati.  During his Parisian period he also visited London several times, forming friendships with the British painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

De Pisis was probably best known for his cityscapes. This one, painted in Venice in 1942, is Rio della Torricella
De Pisis was probably best known for his cityscapes. This
one, painted in Venice in 1942, is Rio della Torricella 
De Pisis returned to Italy in 1939, anticipating the outbreak of the Second World War.  He settled in Vicenza for a few weeks before moving to Milan, taking up residence at the Hotel Vittoria in Via Durini.  He might have remained in Milan, but in 1943 his studio in Via Rugabella was destroyed in a bombing raid.

He moved again to Venice, where he was inspired by the paintings of Francesco Guardi and other Venetian masters of the 18th century, and began to live a rather extravagant lifestyle, travelling to and from his house on the Rio de San Sebastian canal in the Dorsoduro district by gondola. He maintained two gondoliers on 24-hour duty, who wore black-and-gold livery.

His health began to decline after the war and in 1948 he was treated in a clinic for neurological disorders in Bologna. From 1949 until his death in 1956 he lived mainly in a nursing home for sufferers from nervous diseases in Brugherio, a town north of Milan.  As well as the collections in New York, Venice and Rome, there are a large number of his paintings at the Museo Filippo De Pisis in his home city of Ferrara.

After moving to Venice permanently in 1943, De Pisis lived in a house on Rio de San Sebastian in Dorsoduro
After moving to Venice permanently in 1943, De Pisis lived
in a house on Rio de San Sebastian in Dorsoduro
Travel tip:

Dorsoduro, where De Pisis lived after leaving Milan in 1943, is one of the six sestieri - municipal areas - of Venice, and sits between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal.  It is regarded as a good place to get a feel for the more traditional Venice, without the huge crowds and tourist trappings associated with the areas around St Mark's and the Rialto.  There are many traditional bacari, the small bars that sell inexpensive small snacks - cicchetti - along with glasses of wine - known locally as ombre, as well as squares where local people meet during the day and students gather at night.  It is also home to some fine churches, such as San Sebastiano, close to Casa De Pisis, which is full of works by Veronese. Nearby are two of the city's most prestigious galleries, the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim.


The Villa Fiorita in Brugherio used to house the nursing home where De Pisis was cared for in his later years
The Villa Fiorita in Brugherio used to house the nursing
home where De Pisis was cared for in his later years
Travel tip:

The nursing home in which De Pisis spent the last few years of his life was housed in the Villa Fiorita, an historic aristocratic urban mansion in Brugherio that was built in 1721 for the Scotti family. After being bought and sold a number of times, it was given over for use as a nursing home in 1938. De Pisis spent much of his time in the mansion’s vast greenhouse, which is situated in its large landscape gardens, which he chose because of its optimal exposure to sunlight and relaxing parkland setting. The mansion now houses Brugherio’s municipal offices. The greenhouse has been renamed Serra De Pisis.



More reading:

Giorgio de Chirico, founder of the scuola metafisica movement

How Carlo Carrà captured violence and speed on canvas

Vittorio Miele, the artist of the metaphysical school who lost his family in World War II battle

Also on this day:

1715: The birth of opera composer Ignazio Fiorillo

1817: The birth of ballet star Fanny Cerrito

1932: The birth of fashion icon Valentino





Home