Showing posts with label Forlì. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forlì. Show all posts

16 September 2018

Alessandro Fortis - politician

Revolutionary who became Prime Minister

Alessandro Fortis was Italy's prime minister from 1905 to 1906
Alessandro Fortis was Italy's prime
minister from 1905 to 1906
Alessandro Fortis, a controversial politician who was also Italy’s first Jewish prime minister, was born on this day in 1841 in Forlì in Emilia-Romagna.

Fortis led the government from March 1905 to February 1906. A republican follower of Giuseppe Mazzini and a volunteer in the army of Giuseppe Garibaldi, he was politically of the Historical Left but in time managed to alienate both sides of the divide with his policies.

He attracted the harshest criticism for his decision to nationalise the railways, one of his personal political goals, which was naturally opposed by the conservatives on the Right but simultaneously upset his erstwhile supporters on the Left, because the move had the effect of heading off a strike by rail workers. By placing the network in state control, Fortis turned all railway employees into civil servants, who were not allowed to strike under the law.

Some politicians also felt the compensation given to the private companies who previously ran the railways was far too generous and suspected Fortis of corruption.

His foreign policies, meanwhile, upset politicians and voters on both sides. His decision to join a Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary was particularly unpopular.

His downfall came with a commercial treaty negotiated with Spain, which included a reduction in duties on the importation of Spanish wines. This was seen to be a threat to the livelihood of Piedmontese and Apulian viticulturists and led to a defeat in the Chamber of Deputies, prompting Fortis to resign.

A scene from the Battle of Mentana, part of the 1867 assault on Rome in which Fortis fought under Garibaldi
A scene from the Battle of Mentana, part of the 1867 assault
on Rome in which Fortis fought under Garibaldi
Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Forlì, Fortis was influenced in his early political ambitions by hearing of a massacre in Perugia in 1859, when an unknown number of citizens were brutally slain by troops sent by Pope Pius IX to quell an uprising against the rule of the Papal States.  Aged 18, he was arrested for taking part in demonstrations as the Risorgimento movement gathered pace.

He attended the University of Pisa, where he studied law. There his friendship with Sidney Sonnino, who would succeed him as prime minister, strengthened his nationalist convictions.

He became a follower of Mazzini, the politician and journalist who became the driving force for Italian unification, and joined Garibaldi's volunteer army to fight in several battles, at Trentino and Monte Suello during the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866, and in the campaign for the liberation of Rome the following year, during which his cousin, Achille Cantoni, was killed.

As a Garibaldino - the name given to Garibaldi’s volunteers - he also went to France in 1870 to fight in support of the Third French Republic.

Fortis became friends with future prime minister Sidney Sonnino at university
Fortis became friends with future prime
minister Sidney Sonnino at university
On returning to Italy, he joined Mazzini’s Partito d'Azione - Italy’s first organised political party - and was arrested again, along with his fellow Mazzini follower from Forlì, Aurelio Saffi, during a raid on a radical rally at Villa Ruffi, in Romagna, on charges of organising an anti-monarchist insurrection, although after a period of imprisonment at Spoleto he was released for lack of evidence.

Afterwards, Fortis became more moderate politically, encouraged by the fall of the Historical Right as the controlling block in Italy’s parliament in 1876, and the advent of the Left under Agostino Depretis. Saffi and Fortis were among those who, having previously stood back, now decided to take part in the elections, sensing a change of the Italian ruling class.

After being elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1880, Fortis served as a minister in the first government of Luigi Pelloux between 1898 and 1899 before resigning, disillusioned with the repressive measures introduced under Pelloux to restrict political activity and free speech. He switched his allegiance to the Liberal opposition leader Giovanni Giolitti. 

In March 1905 on the recommendation of Giolitti, he formed his first government. The nationalization of the railways was one of his first major policy decisions.

He gained some credit after introducing a special law to help the victims of the 1905 Calabria earthquake but he was already unpopular and his government was defeated in December 1905 over the trade treaty with Spain.  He definitively resigned two months later after his attempt to form a new government failed. He died in Rome in December 1909.

Piazza Aurelio Saffi is the main square in Forlì
Piazza Aurelio Saffi is the main square in Forlì
Travel tip:

With a population of almost 120,000, Forlì is a prosperous agricultural and industrial city. A settlement since the Romans were there in around 188BC, the city has several buildings of architectural, artistic and historical significance. Forlì has a beautiful central square, Piazza Aurelio Saffi, which is named after Aurelio Saffi, who is seen as a hero for his role in the Risorgimento. Other attractions include the 12th century Abbey of San Mercuriale and the Rocca di Ravaldino, the strategic fortress built by Girolamo Riario and sometimes known as the Rocca di Caterina Sforza.

The town of Bagolino sits in the Caffaro valley in  the northern part of Lombardy
The town of Bagolino sits in the Caffaro valley in
the northern part of Lombardy
Travel tip:

The Battle of Monte Suello took place close to Bagolino, a small town in northern Lombardy, close to the border with Trentino, about 35km (22 miles) north of Brescia. Bagolino, whose location in the valley of the Caffaro river has been strategically important in several conflicts in history, has a well-preserved medieval centre with narrow streets, porticoes and steep staircases. The area produces a cheese called Bagòss, which is similar to Grana Padano and Parmigiano in its salty taste and hard texture, but is different in that it is subtly flavoured with saffron.

More reading:

Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand

Giuseppe Mazzini - hero of the Risorgimento

How Aurelio Saffi defied a 20-year jail sentence to become part of the first government of the unified Italy

Also on this day:

1797: The birth of Sir Anthony Panizzi - revolutionary who became Principal Librarian at the British Museum

2005: Camorra boss Paolo di Lauro captured in Naples swoop


11 April 2018

Battle of Ravenna

Thousands die in pointless conflict of the Italian Wars

The chaos of the Battle of Ravenna depicted in a  15th century woodcut
The chaos of the Battle of Ravenna depicted in a
15th century woodcut
French forces inflicted appalling casualties upon a largely Spanish Holy League army on this day in 1512 at Molinaccio just outside Ravenna.

The French, under the command of their brilliant 21-year-old leader Gaston de Foix, had taken Brescia in Lombardy by storm in February and then marched on Ravenna intending to provoke the papal Holy League army into battle. They also had an Italian contingent of soldiers with them under the command of Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

Ramon de Cardona, Spanish viceroy of Naples and commander of the Holy League forces, led an army through the papal states of the Romagna to relieve Ravenna, passing Forlì and advancing north along the Ronco River.

Both sides had learned the new rules of warfare in the gunpowder age and were reluctant to assault well defended earthworks with cavalry or infantry.

They indulged in an artillery duel and had to manoeuvre unwieldy cannons to find effective lines of fire.

But after two hours they changed tactics and both cavalry and infantry threw themselves forward in assaults. The casualties were heavy as horsemen clashed in swirling melees and infantry swarmed over ramparts and ditches.

Alfonso I d'Este, who led a contingent of  Italian soldiers in the battle
Alfonso I d'Este, who led a contingent of
Italian soldiers in the battle
The issue was decided when the French cavalry, having driven the opposing horsemen from the field, returned to attack the Spanish infantry.

While many of his soldiers were slaughtered, Cardona was taken prisoner.

Then, when the battle was effectively over, the French commander De Foix was killed during a pointless skirmish with the retreating Spanish infantry.

It was estimated that the French lost 4,500 men and the Holy League 9,000 in this battle, part of the War of the League of Cambrai, which took place during the long period of the Italian Wars.

The victory failed to help the French secure northern Italy and they were forced to withdraw from the region entirely by August of the same year.

Travel tip:

The Romagna, controlled by the Pope in the 16th century, was a region of Italy that approximately corresponds to the south eastern part of the present day region of Emilia-Romagna. It included the cities of Cesena, Faenza, Forlì, Imola, Ravenna and Rimini, where the Romagnola dialect is still spoken today.

The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
Travel tip:

Ravenna, in Emilia-Romagna, was 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.

More reading:

How the Treaty of Lodi brought peace to northern Italy

Ravenna, the Ostrogoths and the Sack of Rome

The murder of papal military leader Girolamo Riario


25 February 2018

Giovanni Battista Morgagni - anatomist

The father of modern pathological anatomy

Giovanni Battista Morgagni taught at the  University of Padua for 56 years
Giovanni Battista Morgagni taught at the
University of Padua for 56 years
Anatomist Giovanni Battista Morgagni, who is credited with turning pathology into a science, was born on this day in 1682 in Forlì in Emilia-Romagna.

Morgagni was professor of Anatomy at the University of Padua for 56 years and taught thousands of medical students during his time there.

He was sent by his parents to study philosophy and medicine at the University of Bologna when he was 18 and he graduated as a doctor from both faculties.

In 1706 he published his work, Adversaria Anatomica, which was to be the first volume of a series and helped him become known throughout Europe as an accurate anatomist.

He succeeded to the chair of theoretical medicine at the University of Padua in 1712 and was to teach medicine there until his death in 1771.

Morgagni was promoted to the chair of anatomy after his first three years in Padua, following in the footsteps of many illustrious scholars. He brought out five more volumes of his Adversaria Anatomica during his early years in Padua.

Morgagni's Adversaria Anatomica helped establish his reputation
Morgagni's Adversaria Anatomica helped
establish his reputation
In 1761, when he was nearly 80, he brought out the work that was to make pathological anatomy into a science – De Sedibus et causis morborum per anotomem indagatis (Of the seats and cause of diseases investigated through anatomy). This work, which contained the records of 646 dissections, was later reprinted several times in its original Latin and translated into French, English and German.

Morgagni was the first anatomist to understand and to demonstrate the absolute necessity of basing diagnosis, prognosis and treatment on an exact and comprehensive knowledge of anatomical conditions. His precision, thoroughness and freedom from bias are modern scientific qualities and he was also a widely respected clinician who maintained an active practice. His treatise was to lead to steady progress in pathology and practical medicine.

Morgagni had married a noble lady from Forlì during his early years in Padua who bore him three sons and 12 daughters. He died at the age of 89 in Padua.

He is today regarded as the father of modern pathological anatomy as his works helped to make it into an exact science.

Forlì's Palazzo Poste e Telegrafi in Piazza Saffi
Forlì's Palazzo Poste e Telegrafi in Piazza Saffi
Travel tip:

Forlì, where Morgagni was born, is today a prosperous city with a beautiful main square, Piazza Saffi, named after Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a prominent figure in the Risorgimento. The square is dominated by the monumental Palazzo Poste e Telegrafi, designed by Cesare Bazzani in 1932 to celebrate the Fascist regime. Benito Mussolini was born in nearby Predappio and blatantly favoured the area of his birth with imposing new buildings.

Palazzo del Bò in the centre of the city is the main building of the University of Padua
Palazzo del Bò in the centre of the city is the
main building of the University of Padua
Travel tip:

The University of Padua, where Morgagni taught for most of his life, was established in 1222 and is one of the oldest in the world, second in Italy only to the University of Bologna. The main university building, Palazzo del Bò in Via VIII Febbraio in the centre of Padua, used to house the medical faculty. You can take a guided tour to see the pulpit used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610.

More reading:

Paolo Mascagni, the first physician to map the human lymphatic system

How Gabriele Falloppio made key discoveries about human reproduction

Hieronymus Fabricius, the father of embyology

21 September 2017

Maurizio Cattelan - conceptual artist

Controversial work softened by irreverent humour

Maurizio Cattelan once said that he aimed to be "as  open and as incomprehensible as possible."
Maurizio Cattelan once said that he aimed to be "as
open and as incomprehensible as possible."
The conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, known for the dark humour and irreverence of much of his work, was born on this day in 1960 in Padua.

Cattelan, probably best known for his controversial waxwork sculptures of Pope John Paul II and Adolf Hitler, has been described at different times as a satirist, a prankster, a subversive and a poet, although it seems to have been his aim to defy any attempt at categorisation.

His works are often interpreted as critiques of the art world and of society in general and while death and mortality are recurring themes there is more willingness among modern audiences to see how even tragic circumstances can give rise to comedic absurdities.

Although some of his work has provoked outrage, more viewers have been enthralled than angered by what he has presented, and some of his creations have changed hands for millions of dollars.

Cattelan has said that his memories of growing up in Padua are of economic hardship, punishments at school and a series of unfulfilling menial jobs.  His artistic skills were entirely self-taught. He was designing and making wooden furniture in Forlì, in Emilia-Romagna, when he began his first experiments with sculpture and conceptual art.

Cattelan's controversial waxwork of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite
Cattelan's controversial waxwork of Pope John
Paul II felled by a meteorite
At the start, he set out to produce work that expressed his own insecurities and anxiety about not succeeding. What was meant to be his first solo exhibition in 1989, for example, consisted simply of a sign hanging from the locked door of the gallery with the words Torno subito or “Be right back,” while his contribution to a group exhibition was a ‘rope’ from a window made of bed sheets knotted together, signifying a hurried escape from his obligations.

On another occasion, in Amsterdam, again to create a metaphor for fear of failure, he stole the entire contents of another artist’s show from a neighbouring gallery to pass off as his own, although he was forced to return it under threat of arrest.

He used taxidermy in several notable creations in the 1990s, including The Ballad of Trotsky (1996) and Novecento (1997), both of which consisted of an embalmed horse suspended from the ceiling, its neck bent downwards and its hooves stretched out as if reaching for the floor, widely interpreted as symbolic of energy destined to find no outlet.

Cattelan sold the Ballad of Trotsky for $5,000 (€4,200). In 2004, it changed hands for $2.1 million (€1.7 million).

Cattelan's work is often humorous, as in this sculpture of himself
 peering at paintings by Dutch masters from a hole in the floor 
At the Venice Biennale in 1997 he assembled 200 taxidermied pigeons perched on the air conditioning pipes in the Italian pavilion, with droppings spattered on the floor below, in an exhibit entitled Turisti.

Towards the end of the 1990s he turned to waxwork and caused considerable controversy with La Nona Ora – “The Ninth Hour” – which depicted a prone Pope John Paul II, dressed in his robes and clutching the Papal Cross, having been felled by a lump of meteoric rock that has crashed through a skylight.

The sculpture provoked a lively debate as to its meaning but met with hostility when it went on display at the Zacheta Gallery of Contemporary Art in Warsaw – in John Paul II’s home country – where two members of the Polish parliament not only raised a petition, signed by 90 members, calling for the dismissal of the gallery’s director, but physically removed the rock and tried to stand the figure upright.

Nonetheless, Christie’s sold the piece for $886,000 (€745,000) in 2001. When a second version was auctioned by Phillips, de Pury & Company in 2004, it fetched $3 million (€2.52 million).

Cattelan's model of Hitler as a schoolboy kneeling
in prayer, on display in an alley in Warsaw
Similarly, not everyone appreciated his 2001 sculpture Him, in which a head clearly that of Hitler was mounted on the body of a schoolboy kneeling in prayer. The sculpture was frequently displayed at the end of a long hallway or at the opposite end of a white room, turned away from the viewer, so as to maximise the sense of surprise or shock when they advanced close enough to recognise the face.

Other waxwork sculptures included one of himself, or at least his head, created for a museum in Rotterdam, in which he is seen peering up through a hole in the floor at an exhibition of 17th century Dutch masters.

After the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, Cattelan sculpted Frank and Jamie (2002), in which two New York City policemen are turned upside down and propped against a wall in a posture that has been seen to convey the unfamiliar sense of vulnerability that permeated the United States in the wake of the terrorist outrage.

Cattelan, who today earns at least $200,000 (€168,000) for every new piece, claims there is no difference between his more recent work and his older pieces, but that he used to be “treated as an idiot” where now he is appreciated. He claims he doesn't know what his work means, but says his aim is to be “as open and as incomprehensible as possible.”

The artist, who divides his time between homes in Milan and New York, announced his retirement after a 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where his work was displayed hanging from the ceiling of the rotunda as if wilfully and randomly discarded.

He came out of retirement for another show at the Guggenheim in 2016, in which one exhibit was a fully functioning toilet in 18-carat gold.

Giotto's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel are one of the major attractions for visitors to Padua
Giotto's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel are one of the
major attractions for visitors to Padua
Travel tip:

Padua, where Cattelan was born, is city of some 210,000 people in the Veneto, about 40 minutes from Venice by train. It has much to see for the visitor, with the frescoes by Giotto that illuminate the Scrovegni Chapel undoubtedly the biggest attraction, so much so that booking ahead is now almost essential. Well worth a visit too are the substantial Basilica di Sant’Antonio – known in English as St Anthony of Padua – and the Abbazia di Santa Giustina, both close to the beautiful elliptical open space, Prato della Valle, which was once the site of a Roman amphitheatre.  The city has a large student population yet on the whole Padua is a fairly quiet city, a good base for exploring the area and a better-value alternative to staying Venice.

Piazza Aurelio Saffi is at the heart of the city of Forlì
Piazza Aurelio Saffi is at the heart of the city of Forlì
Travel tip:

Founded by the Romans 200 years before Christ as Forum Livii, Forlì is located between Faenza and Cesena in the eastern part of the Po Valley, no more than 30-35km (18-22 miles) from the Adriatic coast. The centrepiece of the town is Piazza Aurelio Saffi, which features notable buildings from different eras: the Romanesque Basilica of San Mercuriale with its 12th century bell tower, the 14th century Palazzo Comunale and Torre Civica clock tower, the 15th century Palazzo del Podestà and 20th century Palazzo delle Poste, an example of architecture of the Fascist era, also evident in the buildings of Viale della Libertà and Piazzale della Vittoria. Forlì’s older history is represented in the palaces along Corso Garibaldi and Via Maroncelli.

13 August 2017

Aurelio Saffi – republican activist

Politician prominent in Risorgimento movement

Giacinto Pin's portrait of Aurelio Saffi
Giacinto Pin's portrait of Aurelio Saffi
The politician Aurelio Saffi, who was a close ally of the republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini during Italy’s move towards unification in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1819 in Forlì.

He was a member of the short-lived Roman Republic of 1849, which was crushed by French troops supporting the temporarily deposed Pope Pius IX, and was involved in the planning of an uprising in Milan in 1853.

Saffi was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in the Milan plot but by then had fled to England.

He returned to Italy in 1860 and when the Risorgimento realised its aim with unification Saffi was appointed a deputy in the first parliament of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

At the time of Saffi’s birth, Forlì, now part of Emilia-Romagna, was part of the Papal States. He was educated in law in Ferrara, but became politically active in his native city, protesting against the administration of the Papal legates.

He soon became a fervent supporter of Mazzini, whose wish was to see Italy established as an independent republic and saw popular uprisings as part of the route to achieving his goal.

Giuseppe Mazzini captured in an early photograph
Giuseppe Mazzini captured in an
early photograph 
One such uprising took place in Rome on November 15, 1848, when the assassination of Pellegrino Rossi, a minister in the Papal government, was followed by mass demonstrations on the streets of the city, demanding a democratic government, social reforms and a declaration of war against the Austrian Empire.

The Pope slipped out of Rome dressed as an ordinary priest and fled to Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The new Roman Republic was declared in February 1849,  led by Mazzini, Saffi and Carlo Armellini.

The Roman Republic, however, lasted only until July 3, when a French army sent by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the new president of the French Republic - later the emperor Napoleon III - whose restoration of the papacy repaid his Roman Catholic supporters, defeated the republic’s army, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Saffi retired to exile in Liguria and later joined Mazzini in Switzerland before moving with him to London.  He returned to Italy in 1852 to plan a series of uprisings in Milan similar to the so-called Five Days of 1848, when the Austrians were temporarily driven out by Italian nationalists.

Again the project ended in failure.  Saffi went back to England, being sentenced in his absence to 20 years in jail. Obliged to put down roots in England, he was appointed the first teacher of Italian at the Taylor Institute in Oxford and married Giorgina Craufurl, an Italian-born English supporter of Mazzini, with whom he had four sons.

In 1860, Saffi moved to Naples, then under the control of Garibaldi, and was elected a deputy in the parliament of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy the following year.

He spent his last days in his villa in the countryside near Forlì after taking up a professorship at the University of Bologna.  He died in 1890 at the age of 70.

Aurelio Saffi's statue stands at the heart of Piazza Saffi
Aurelio Saffi's statue stands at the heart of Piazza Saffi
Travel tip:

Formerly Piazza Maggiore, the main square in the elegant city of Forlì was renamed Piazza Saffi in 1921 in honour of Aurelio Saffi, who by then was recognised along with Giuseppe Mazzini as an Italian hero thanks to their part in the unification.  A large square, it has a statue of Saffi at its centre and is bordered along its southern side by the Abbey of San Mercuriale, which was completed in the 12th century. On the opposite side is the Palazzo Comunale, which dates back to the 11th century. The most recent addition is the Palazzo delle Poste – the city’s Post Office – that was built in the 1930s.

Saffi's study at the Villa Saffi museum
Saffi's study at the Villa Saffi museum
Travel tip:

The Villa Saffi, about 4km (2.5 miles) south-west of the centre of Forlì, at which Saffi spent much of his time when he was living in Italy, is a former Jesuit convent bought by Aurelio’s grandfather, Tommaso Saffi, as a summer residence.  Much of Saffi’s collection of historical documents connected to Giuseppe Mazzini and the Risorgimento remains in the house, which is now municipally owned and open to the public as a museum with free admission.

18 April 2017

Ilario Bandini - racing car maker

Farmer's son who created beautiful and successful cars

Ilario Bandini, the car maker, pictured in 1988
Ilario Bandini, the car maker, pictured in 1988
Ilario Bandini, a businessman and racing driver who went on to construct some of Italy’s most beautiful racing cars, was born on this day in 1911 in Villa Rovere in Emilia-Romagna.

His cars won races in Europe and America and his designs earned the respect of the great Italian performance car maker Enzo Ferrari.

Bandini was from a farming family but was fascinated with cars and motorcycles and began to work part-time as a mechanic while he was still at school, eventually becoming an apprentice in a workshop in nearby Forlì.

At the age of 25 he took the bold decision to move to Eritrea, then an Italian colony, in northern Africa, where he repaired trucks and in time set up a transport business, which was very successful.

The venture made him enough money to open a garage in Forlì. when he returned to Italy in 1939, running a repair workshop alongside a car rental and chauffeured limousine business.

Bandini at the wheel of his first car, the Bandini 1100
Bandini at the wheel of his first car, the Bandini 1100
At around the same time, he began to compete in motorcycle races, soon graduating from two wheels to four. In 1940, he took part in the Mille Miglia, the 1,000-mile road race from Brescia, near Lake Garda, to Rome and back, driving a Fiat Balilla.

Bandini built his first car almost by accident.  In his possession during the Second World War was a Fiat 1100, which he cut apart and hid to avoid it being requisitioned by the German army.  He began to reassemble it after the war but made adaptations as he did so and equipped the chassis with an entirely different body, made in aluminium by the Turin coach builder Rocco Motto.

He felt entitled to call the car the Bandini 1100, which thus became the first car – “La Prima” – to carry the Bandini name. The small, two-seat car was notable for its elegant, curved lines.  Driving it himself, he finished second in the Predappio to Rocca delle Camminate, a road race held just outside Forlì.

The Bandini badge Ilario placed on the car featured a bantam rooster crowing, the symbol of the town of Forlì.

The 1100 Siluro, which brought Bandini his first race victory
The 1100 Siluro, which brought Bandini his first race victory
More cars followed. His 1100 Siluro, so-called because of its torpedo-like bodywork, gave him his first win in the Giro dell’Umbria, encouraging him to produce purpose-built racing cars to compete in races such as the Mille Miglia in Italy and the SCCA series in America. They were soon a force to be reckoned in Europe and the United States.

The model that established his reputation was the Bandini 750 Sport Siluro, a tiny sports car that he produced between 1950 and 1956. The car used a modified inline four cylinder Crosley engine, produced by Powel Crosley Jnr, an industrialist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

The 750 Siluro was versatile enough to contest all kinds of events, from hill climbs to road races, airbase circuits and endurance events.

In America, the Siluro won the SCCA class championships in 1955 and 1957 and claimed many other victories in different categories on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Bandini badge, featuring the crowing bantam, symbol of Forlì
The Bandini badge, featuring the
crowing bantam, symbol of Forlì
Known to his friends as Lili and sometimes referred to as the “great Drake of Forlì”, Bandini never moved into mass production cars.  There were 17 different models but all of his vehicles were one-offs, in effect, which is why only 73 Bandinis were ever built.  His final car, the Berlinetta 1000 Turbo 16V, was finished shortly before his death in 1992 at the age of 80.

Extraordinarily, Ilario was still getting behind the wheel to compete himself even into his 70s. He drove his 1300 16Vi in the Predappio hill climb in 1985, at the age of 73.

Members of Bandini’s extended family have preserved the memory of his achievements in a museum established in his last workshop in Forlì., which has many documents relating to his career and 10 Bandini cars, considered to be representative of the development of the marque. There are thought to be 46 surviving Bandinis, owned mainly by Japanese and American enthusiasts.

Travel tip:

Villa Rovere was a hamlet at the time of Ilario Bandini’s birth. Situated some 13km (8 miles) west of Forlì, it is now part of the city’s metropolitan area, almost a satellite community.  Forlì itself is a wealthy city with thriving clothing and footwear industries and a number of notable buildings, including the Basilica of San Mercuriale in the central Piazza Saffi, the Pinacoteca Comunale art gallery and the Rocca di Rivaldino, once the fortress stronghold of the redoubtable Caterina Sforza.  Local restaurants are notable for Romagnolo cuisine.

Hotels in Forlì from

The Bandini Collection is housed in a museum in Rovere
The Bandini Collection is housed in a museum in Rovere
Travel tip:

Ilario Bandini’s achievements were recognised in 2002 – 10 years after his death – when in a special ceremony in Forlì, a square just in front of the city’s railway station was renamed Piazzale Ilario Bandini in his honour.  The museum – the Collezione dell’Automobile Brandini – can be found in Via del Braldo in Rovere, although note that viewings are by appointment. 

14 April 2017

Girolamo Riario - papal military leader

Assassinated after failed attempt to unseat Medici family

Girolamo Riario
Girolamo Riario
Girolamo Riario, the 15th century governor of Imola and Forlì who was part of a major plot to displace the powerful Medici family as rulers of Florence, was assassinated on this day in 1488.

Riario, a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV who had appointed him Captain General of the Church, was unpopular with his subjects as a result of imposing high taxes, but his murder was thought to be an attempt by the noble Orsi family of Forlì to seize control of the city.

Two members of the family, Checco and Ludovico, led a group of assassins armed with swords into government palace, where Riario was set upon.  Despite the presence of guards, Riario was stabbed and slashed repeatedly.  Eventually, his dead body was left in a local piazza, surrounded by a crowd celebrating his demise, as the Orsi brothers and their gang looted the palace.

A decade earlier, Riario, who had been appointed Lord of Imola by Sixtus IV, joined with Francesco Salviati, whose family were the Papal bankers in Florence, and members of the Pazzi family in a plot to assassinate the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and his brother, Giuliano.

he Rocca di Ravaldino, a stronghold of Riario's power
The Rocca di Ravaldino, a stronghold of Riario's power
The Pazzi were another important family in Florence and like many other families were resentful of Lorenzo’s despotic rule. Although Florence flourished, and his patronage of the arts was so important to the Renaissance, he maintained his power largely through bribery, threats and strategic marriages.

Riario’s involvement was essentially on behalf of his uncle, Sixtus IV, who saw Lorenzo – also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent – as a threat to the Papal States.

It was Lorenzo’s attempt to buy Imola – a small town but important as a stronghold on the border between the Tuscan empire and the Papal States – from its owners, the Sforza family of Milan, that led to Riario being installed as governer.  Lorenzo had offered the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, a sizeable sum for but Sixtus IV gazumped him, offering a deal by which Caterina Sforza, the Duke’s illegitimate daughter, would marry Riario, thus forming a strategic alliance.  The Pazzi family had financed the purchase.

The assignation attempt took place in Florence’s Duomo on April 26, 1478, during High Mass.  Giuliano was killed but Lorenzo escaped with only minor injuries. A simultaneous attempt to seize key government buildings in Florence was foiled and most of the key figures in the plot were captured and killed.  Riario, who would have been placed in charge of a new government in Florence had the plot succeeded, managed to get away. Salviati was not so lucky and was hung within an hour of his capture.

Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Nonetheless, Riario continued to climb the ladders of power. In 1480, the pope made him Count of Forlì. He built the fortress of Rocca di Ravaldino, one of the strategically most important strongholds of the Romagna, and at the same time rebuilt much of Imola.

While his uncle remained pope, Riario and Caterina lived for the most part in Rome. As commander of the papal army, Riario wielded much power, although his wife had an increasingly strong influence over what he did. When Sixtus IV died, it was Caterina who ordered his troops to seize Castel Sant' Angelo to put pressure on the cardinals to elect a candidate who would work in accordance with the Riario interests. After 10 days of chaos in Rome, she had to be persuaded by Riario to withdraw in order for the conclave to begin.

However, the cardinals did not elect a new pope sympathetic to the Riarios, quite the contrary, going for Giovanni Battista Cybo, an old opponent, who became Pope Innocent VIII. He recognised Girolamo as Lord of Imola and Forlì and Captain-General of the papal forces but effectively allowed him no power.  It was his illegitimate son, Franceschetto, whom the Orsi family wanted to replace him.

After Girolamo’s death, Caterina was locked up, along with her children, but tricked her way out, promising to persuade the castellan, Tommaso Feo, to give up his defence of the Rocca di Ravaldino, which the Orsis had been unable to storm.

The Orsis had her children as hostages but Caterina reneged on their deal nonetheless.  From within the Rocca, she threatened dire consequences for the Orsi attackers if they dared touch the children and they fled, after which Girolamo’s son, Ottaviano, was made Lord of Forli with Caterina as his regent.

Imola's Rocca Sforzesca
Imola's Rocca Sforzesca

Travel tip:

The city of Imola of today is part of the large metropolitan area of Bologna, in the Emilia-Romagna region. The castle, the Rocca Sforzesca, is well preserved, and is nowadays the home of an internationally respected piano academy and the Cinema d’Este, which shows films in July and August. The city is best known today for its motor racing circuit, which used to host the Grand Prix of San Marino on behalf of the nearby independent republic.

The Abbey of San Mercuriale in Forlì
The Abbey of San Mercuriale in Forlì

Travel tip:

With a population of almost 120,000, Forlì is a prosperous agricultural and industrial city with a beautiful central square, Piazza Saffi, which is named after Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a prominent figure in the Risorgimento. Its major attractions include the Abbey of San Mercuriale and the Rocca di Ravaldino, the strategic fortress built by Girolamo Riario and sometimes known as the Rocca di Caterina Sforza.

More reading:

How Caterina's son, Giovanni, became the last of the great condottieri

Cosimo - the Florentine banker who founded the Medici dynasty

Priest Girolamo Savonarola's war on Renaissance 'excesses'

Also on this day:

1920: The birth of Lamberto dalla Costa, Italy's first Olympic bobsleigh champion

(Picture credits: Rocca di Ravaldino by AC2BR3L; Rocca Sforzesca by Ruben alexander; Abbey of San Mercuriale by Perkele; all via Wikimedia Commons)


5 April 2017

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere - condottiero

Medici soldier who fathered Cosimo I de' Medici

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere: a portrait by an unknown artist
Giovanni dalle Bande Nere: a portrait by an
unknown artist
Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, the military leader regarded as the last of the great Italian condottieri, was born on this day in 1498 in Forlì, in what is now the Emilia-Romagna region.

The condottieri were professional soldiers, mercenaries who hired themselves out to lead the armies of the Italian city-states and the Papacy in the frequent wars that ensued from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance.

Giovanni spent the greater part of his military career in the service of Pope Leo X, the Medici pope. Indeed, he was a Medici himself, albeit from a then secondary branch of the family. Baptised Ludovico, he was the son of Giovanni de’ Medici, also known as Il Popolano and a great-nephew of Cosimo the Elder, the founder of the dynasty.

It was his mother, Caterina Sforza, the powerful daughter of the Duke of Milan, who renamed him Giovanni in memory of his father, her fourth husband, who died when the boy was just five months old. He became Giovanni dalle Bande Nere much later, in 1521, when he added black stripes to his military insignia in a show of mourning for Pope Leo X.

His upbringing brought out the worst aspects of his character, which was deeply influenced by his mother’s fiery nature. The family moved to Florence after his father’s death and after Caterina herself passed away in 1509, his care was placed in the hands of Iacopo Salviati and Lucrezia de’ Medici, the daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Giovanni's wife, Maria Salviati, a portrait by  Jacopo Pontormo, in the Uffizi Gallery
Giovanni's wife, Maria Salviati: a portrait by
Jacopo Pontormo, in the Uffizi Gallery
Giovanni was no easy child to look after. At the age of 12, a rebellious and bored schoolboy, he murdered another boy of the same age and for a while was banished from the city.

It was Salviati who found him a way to channel his aggression to a profitable purpose, using his influence after the Medicis returned to power in 1512 following an 18-year exile to get him work as commander of a cavalry company of mercenaries fighting for Leo X during the Battle of Urbino (1516-17).

In 1517, Giovanni married Maria, Salviati's daughter. Their son Cosimo, born on June 15, would go on to be Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, under whose rule Florence enjoyed considerable prosperity and military power.

Giovanni continued to serve Leo X and in 1521 took part in the war to oust the French from the Duchy of Milan, gaining praise for his skirmishing tactics in securing a victory for the combined forces of Leo X and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V at Vaprio d’Adda.

His loyalties could be bought, however. Following the death of Leo X, and chronically in debt, he agreed to fight for the French, only to be on the losing side at the Battle of Bicocca in 1522.

Subsequently he fought for the Sforza family and then for another Medici pope, Clement VII, who agreed to pay off all his debts.

Bronzino's portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici
Bronzino's portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici
It was while he was in the service of Clement VII, who was part of the League of Cognac, which united France, the Duchy of Milan, Venice, Florence and the pope against Charles V, that Giovanni died.

During a battle in November 1526 to hold back the advance of Imperial forces into Lombardy, he was struck in the right leg by a cannon ball. His leg was amputated, but he died, probably of gangrene, four days later.

Buried initially in Mantua, his body was eventually returned to Florence in 1685 to be entombed in the Chapel of the Princes in the Basilica of San Lorenzo. It was exhumed in 2012 to preserve the remains, which had been submerged during the Florence floods of 1966.

Soon after his death, mobile cannons became much more common on the battlefield and the armoured cavalry companies that the condottieri tended to lead became almost obsolete very quickly, hence Dalle Bande Nere tends to be called the last of the condottieri.

Bandinelli's statue of Giovanne dalle Bande Nere dominates Piazza San Lorenzo
Bandinelli's statue of Giovanne dalle
Bande Nere dominates Piazza San Lorenzo
Travel tip:

Piazza San Lorenzo in Florence is notable for the statue of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I in honour of his father and created by the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, who placed Giovanni not on a horse but on a chair, holding what has been suggested is a broken lance. The statue was to have rested on a pedestal inside the Basilica of San Lorenzo but Cosimo I changed his mind and had the statue installed in the Palazzo Vecchio, in the Sala dell'Udienza.  However, the enormous marble pedestal on which Bandinelli wanted it to rest, decorated with a relief meant to depict the condottieri’s clemency towards his prisoners, proved too big and Cosimo changed his plans again, placing it in Piazza San Lorenzo. In another statue, under the portico of the Uffizi Gallery, Giovanni is standing and holding a sword.

Piazza Saffi is the main square in the centre of Forlì
Piazza Saffi is the main square in the centre of Forlì

Travel tip:

Forlì, a city of almost 120,000 inhabitants in the wealthy Emilia-Romagna region, has been the site of a settlement since the Romans were there in around 188BC.  Forlì today has several buildings of architectural, artistic and historical significance. At the heart of the city is Piazza Aurelio Saffi, named after the politician Aurelio Saffi, an important figure in the pro-republican faction during the Risorgimento. The Piazza Saffi also includes the 12th century Abbey of San Mercuriale.

More reading:

29 July 2016

The birth of Benito Mussolini

Future dictator inspired by his father's politics

Mussolini saw the First World War as an opportunity for Italy
Mussolini saw the First World War
as an opportunity for Italy
Benito Mussolini, who would become Italy's notorious Fascist dictator during the 1920s, was born on this day in 1883 in a small town in Emilia-Romagna known then as Dovia di Predappio, about 17km south of the city of Forlì.

His father, Alessandro, worked as a blacksmith while his mother, Rosa was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.  Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. He would later have a brother, Arnaldo, and a sister, Edvige.

It could be said that Alessandro's political leanings influenced his son from birth.  Benito was named after the Mexican reformist President, Benito Juárez, while his middle names - Andrea and Amilcare - were those of the Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.

Working in his father's smithy as a boy growing up, Mussolini would listen to Alessandro's admiration for the protagonists of the Italian unification movement, such as the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, and the military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. But he also heard him speak with approval about the socialist thinker Carlo Pisacane and anarchist revolutionaries such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin.

Alessandro's view would leave a lasting impression and, one way or another, shape the direction his son would eventually follow, although initially Benito saw himself as a traditional socialist.

Sent away to boarding school, Mussolini qualified as a schoolteacher but did not take up the profession, instead moving to Switzerland in order to avoid national service.  It was there that he first became politically active.

Mussolini in familiar pose as the military dictator
Mussolini in familiar pose as the
military dictator
He studied the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel, who advocated the violent overthrow of capitalism and liberal democracy. He also found much that he approved of in the writings of the Marxist Charles Péguy.

Mussolini was twice expelled from Switzerland, once after being arrested in Berne for trying to foment a general strike and violent uprising, the second time for falsifying his papers in order to return.  He did in time manage to secure a legal way back into the country and studied at the University of Lausanne before taking advantage of an amnesty granted to those who had evaded national service and returning to Italy.

A condition of the amnesty was that he joined the army but once his two-year stint was complete in 1906 he became a leading figure in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).

In the years that followed he would edit the left-wing newspaper Avanti and spend five months in jail following a riot he had helped organise in protest at Italy's invasion of Libya, which he denounced as "imperialist".

However, his position on Italy's involvement in armed conflict changed and he was expelled by the PSI because of his opposition to the party's neutral stance on the First World War.  He saw intervention as an opportunity to further the revolutionary aims of the left, particularly by overthrowing the Habsburg monarchies in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

By then, continuing to be influenced by his father's belief in nationalism and by Nietzsche's views on the merits of elitism, he began to lose faith in orthodox socialism, believing that national identity had become more important than class struggle in forging the kind of society that was central to his vision.

He now envisaged a brand of socialism in which the removal of class divides was still key but which also depended on strong, decisive leadership and which recognised culture, tradition, language and race as elements of a nation's identity that should be protected.  It was the beginnings of what would become known as Fascism.

Travel tip:

Predappio's embarrassment at being turned into a place of pilgrimage for neo-Fascists has been addressed by the town's Mayor, who has finally forged an agreement that the former regional headquarters of Mussolini's party, a dilapidated three-storey building in the centre of the town, is renovated as a musuem, not to pay homage to the former dictator - whose remains are buried in the local cemetery - but as a place of education and reflection.  The museum is due to open in 2019.

The Abbey of San Mercuriale dominates Piazza Aurelio Saffi in Forlì
The Abbey of San Mercuriale dominates
Piazza Aurelio Saffi in Forlì
Travel tip:

The main square in Forlì, Piazza Aurelio Saffi, is named after the politician Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a fervent supporter of the nationalist revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the driving forces behind the Risorgimento and the unification of Italy in the 19th century.  There is a statue of Saffi in the square, which is dominated by the 12th-century Abbey of San Mercuriale and its 75-metre bell tower, one of the tallest in Italy.

More reading:

The death of Mussolini at the hands of the partisans

How Mussolini's Fascists came into being

Giuseppe Mazzini - hero of the Risorgimento