Showing posts with label Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Show all posts

5 May 2018

Francesco Bussone da Carmagnola – Condottiero

Adventurous soldier lived on in literature


Bussone was beheaded for alleged treason against the Republic of Venice
Bussone was beheaded for alleged treason aginst
the Republic of Venice
The soldier of fortune, Francesco Bussone da Carmagnola, who has been featured in poetry, books and an opera, was executed on this day in 1432 in Venice.

The military leader had been seized, imprisoned and brought to trial for treason against La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and was beheaded between the columns of San Marco and San Todaro at the entrance to the Piazzetta.

Francesco Bussone had been born at Carmagnola near Turin into a peasant family. He began his military career at the age of 12, serving under the condottiero, Facino Cane, who was in the service of the Marquess of Monferrat at the time, but later fought for Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan.

After the death of Gian Galeazzo, the duchy was divided up, but his son Filippo Maria was determined to reconquer it by force. He gave command of the army to Bussone da Carmagnola, who had taken over Cane’s role after his death.

Carmagnola subdued Bergamo, Brescia, Parma, Genoa and many smaller towns until the whole duchy was under Filippo Maria’s control.

The landmark columns of San Marco and San Todaro at the entrance to the Piazzetta, just off St Mark's Square in Venice
The landmark columns of San Marco and San Todaro at the
entrance to the Piazzetta, just off St Mark's Square in Venice
Filippo Maria rewarded Carmagnola financially, but fearing he might become a danger, did not give him further military commands. He made him governor of Genoa instead, but an aggrieved Carmagnola offered his services to the Venetians in 1425.

The Doge of Venice, Francesco Foscari, was anxious to go to war with Milan and accepted Carmagnola’s word that it was an opportune moment.

Venice wanted a quick and decisive operation but, as a soldier of fortune, it was in Carmagnola’s interest to make the operation last as long as possible, so some battles were won and others lost, with no definite result achieved.

His most decisive victory was the Battle of Maclodio in 1427 when his Venetian forces triumphed over the Milanese near Brescia. Carmagnola was given a palace at San Stae, property in Brescia and a letter of appreciation from the Doge.

But he decided not to advance on Cremona, to release all his prisoners and to retire his army for the winter. The Venetians lost patience with him and the Council of Ten decided to bring him to justice.

The cover of an early edition  of Manzoni's drama
The cover of an early edition
of Manzoni's drama
When summoned to Venice to discuss future operations, he arrived in 1432 without any suspicion of what lay ahead of him. He found it was too late in the day to meet the Doge, but as he turned to get back into his gondola, one of the men sent to meet him directed him to the Pozzi prison instead. He was sentenced to death after a trial and beheaded as a traitor.

Alessandro Manzoni made Francesco Bussone the subject of a poetical drama, Il Conte di Carmagnola, in 1820.

More recently, a drama-documentary about Bussone's life was released on a DVD, directed by Claudio Uberti and starring Omar Pedrini.

The opera, Le Comte de Carmagnola, with music by Ambroise Thomas, was produced at the Paris Opera in 1841. The French soprano, Elizabeth Vidal, has recorded one of the main arias from the opera.

Carmagnola was also one of the characters portrayed in Rafael Sabatini’s historical novel, Bellarion, published in English in 1926.

In Milan, there is a plaque on a wall in Via Rovello, not far from the Sforza Castle, marking the house in which Bussone lived when he was in the service of Gian Galeazzo Visconti.


Piazza Sant'Agostino in Carmagnola. The town's war memorial is in the foreground
Piazza Sant'Agostino in Carmagnola. The town's war
memorial is in the foreground
Travel tip:

Carmagnola, where Francesco Bussone was born, is a town 29km (18 miles) south of Turin. In the oldest part of town, the Church of Sant’Agostino, in Piazza Sant’Agostino, dates back to 1406. A gastronomic fair, la Sagra del Peperone, is held between the last week of August and the first week of September. During the Sagra of 2010, Carmagnola was entered into the Guinness Book of Records for producing the biggest ever peperonata, a sauce made with peppers, weighing in at 1,190 kg.

The remains of the Trezzo Bridge, which provided access to the Visconti castle, on the left, across the Adda
The remains of the Trezzo Bridge, which provided access to
the Visconti castle, on the left, across the Adda
Travel tip:

During a siege in 1416, Bussone da Carmagnola ordered the destruction of the Trezzo Bridge, the largest existing medieval single arch bridge, for military reasons. The bridge, at Trezzo sull’Adda in Lombardy was completed in 1377 and held the record for the largest span for hundreds of years. It was not until early in the 20th century that masonry bridges with larger openings were constructed. The Trezzo bridge provided access to a Visconti castle high above the Adda, but Carmagnola deliberately caused it to collapse by weakening one of its supports, robbing the world of an architectural marvel.

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18 April 2018

Ippolita Maria Sforza – noble woman

Learned lady sacrificed happiness for a political alliance


Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped  forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped
forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza, a cultured young noblewoman who wrote poetry, letters and documents in Latin, was born on this day in 1446 in Cremona.

She was married to Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, who later became King Alfonso II of Naples, because it was a politically advantageous alliance, but she did not live long enough to become his Queen consort.

Ippolita was the eldest daughter of Francesco I Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti.

She was tutored along with her six younger brothers and one younger sister by a Greek scholar who taught her philosophy and Greek.

When she was 14 years old she composed a Latin address for Pope Pius II, which became well known after it was circulated in manuscript form.

She wrote many letters, which were published in Italy in one volume in 1893. She also wrote poetry and a Latin eulogy for her father, Francesco.

Ippolita was married at the age of 19 to Alfonso, the eldest son of King Ferdinand I of Naples. The marriage created a powerful alliance between the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan.

A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to
be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
But her husband, perhaps threatened by her high level of education, treated her with a lack of respect throughout their marriage.

Ippolita’s letters from this period display the adroit diplomacy she used to strengthen the alliance between Milan and Naples amid crises, such as her brother’s assassination in Milan and the Turkish invasion of Otranto.

The couple had three children. Their eldest son, Ferdinand, became King of Naples, their daughter, Isabella, married Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, and their youngest son, Piero, died of an infection after surgery.

Ippolita died at the age of 38 in 1484 in Naples. Her husband then married his long-standing mistress by whom he already had two illegitimate children.

Soon after Ippolita’s death, the Naples-Milan alliance collapsed.

Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Travel tip:

Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height. As well as the manufacture of violins, Cremona is also famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the  Kings of Naples
The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the
Kings of Naples


Travel tip:

In the area around Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples you can see buildings with royal connections. The impressive Palazzo Reale at the eastern end of the piazza was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The palace is home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, both now open to the public. Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples. Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice. In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

More reading:

Bianca Maria Visconti - powerful woman who ran Milan

How the despotic Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies ruled for 65 years

Ludovico III Gonzaga - 15th century ruler of Mantua

Also on this day:

1480: The birth of the notorious beauty Lucrezia Borgia

1911: The birth of car maker Ilario Bandini

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16 December 2017

Ivana Spagna – singer-songwriter

Dance track made 30 years ago still holds record


Spagna performing her 1986 hit Easy Lady
Spagna performing her 1986 hit Easy Lady
The singer and songwriter Ivana Spagna, whose single Call Me achieved the highest placing by an Italian artist in UK chart history when it reached number two in 1987, was born on this day in 1954 in the town of Valeggio sul Mincio, in the Veneto.

Often performing as simply Spagna, she has sold more than 10 million copies of her singles and albums in a career spanning 46 years, having released her first single in 1971 at the age of 16.

She began to sing professionally in the early 1980s, when she provided the vocals for a number of disco tracks lip-synched by other artists, and when she relaunched her recording career in her own right she met with immediate success.

The single Easy Lady, recorded in 1986 and which she tends to regard as her debut single as a professional artist, sold more than two million copies, as did Call Me, which was released the following year.

Spagna defied the expectations of her record company, who had misgivings about promoting an Italian singing in English under the stage name “Spain” but were pleasantly surprised by her popularity.

The cover for Spagna's UK success Call Me
The cover for Spagna's UK success Call Me
Call Me topped the European singles chart and reached No 13 in the Billboard dance chart in the United States.

In 1987, her first album, featuring both successful singles under the title Dedicated To The Moon, achieved a further 500,000 sales. She followed up with a dance-rock album, You Are My Energy, and another hit in the UK chart, Every Girl and Boy.

Supported by Sony Music, Spagna moved to the US in 1990, living in Santa Monica, working on her new disco-pop album No Way Out, which was geared to the US market.

After returning to Europe in 1993, recording her last European hit, Lady Madonna, in 1995, Spagna decided it was time to start singing in her native Italian.

Her big ‘break’ in that regard was to be chosen to sing Elton John’s song Circle of Life, in Italian, for the soundtrack of the Italian version of the Disney movie The Lion King. Released as a single, it was a big hit in Italy.

Encouraged by the TV host Pippo Baudo, she took part in several Sanremo Festivals, finishing third in 1995 with Gente Come Noi (People Like Us), which was another successful single in Italy.

Ivana Spagna as she was in 1969
Ivana Spagna as she was in 1969
Her first album in Italian, Siamo in due, sold more than 350,000 copies, which made it the best-selling album by a female singer in Italy in 1995.

Throughout her early career in particular, Spagna was guided by her brother, Giorgio Theo Spagna, who gave her piano lessons and wrote songs for her.  He and Larry Pignagnoli, the promoter and producer, joined forces with Spagna in the Opera Madre group as they set out to conquer the Italo Disco scene.

Pignagnoli, who also writes songs, has worked with Spagna for most of her career.

Today, Spagna is still recording and more recently returned to creating dance tracks. She has also written a book, SarĂ  capitato anche a te (It will have happened to you too), describing the premonitory dreams she claims to have experienced repeatedly during her life.

Tortellini di Valeggio
Tortellini di Valeggio
Travel tip:

Spagna’s home town of Vallegio sul Mincio, which can be found about 25km (16 miles) southwest of Verona, is famous for tortellini pasta, which it claims was invented there (although Bologna also makes that claim). Vallegio’s story is that the shape of the pasta parcels was inspired by the legend of Marco, a captain in the Visconti army, who eloped with a girl he originally took to be a nymph from the Mincio river, leaving behind a knotted gold silk handkerchief as a symbol of their love. The pasta shape is supposed to represent the knotted handkerchief.

The remains of the fortified dam, the Ponte Visconteo
The remains of the fortified dam, the Ponte Visconteo
Travel tip:

Each year on June 18, Vallegio sul Mincio stages a festival that not only celebrates tortellini but also the 650m (710yds)-long Ponte Visconteo, a fortified dam built across the Mincio by Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1393. Two huge tables of 600m (656yds) each are assembled on the 25m (27yds)-wide bridge with seats for 4,000 diners, who are served local specialities including the tortellini, which has a filling of beef, pork and chicken flavoured with celery, carrot and rosemary and is served cooked in a broth, with butter and sage and a sprinkling of cheese.

Also on this day: