Showing posts with label Lago Maggiore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lago Maggiore. Show all posts

15 April 2023

Italy’s first nuclear reactor opens

Facility based on pioneer Enrico Fermi’s historic Chicago-Pile series

The Ispra-1 reactor was the first nuclear reactor to be built on Italian soil
The Ispra-1 reactor was the first nuclear
reactor to be built on Italian soil
The first nuclear reactor to be built on Italian soil was inaugurated on this day in 1959 at Ispra, a small town on the eastern shore of Lago Maggiore.

The facility, which preceded the first generation of nuclear power plants serving the need for clean, reliable and plentiful electricity sources for industrial and domestic use, was built purely for research purposes.

It was opened four years ahead of the country’s first commercial nuclear plant, at Latina in Lazio.

The 5 megawatt Ispra-1 research reactor, as it was titled, was modelled on the latest version of the Chicago-Pile 5 series developed by Enrico Fermi, the Rome-born nuclear physicist who created the world’s first nuclear reactor, the Chicago-Pile 1, following his discovery that if uranium neutrons were emitted into fissioning uranium, they could split other uranium atoms, setting off a chain reaction that would release enormous amounts of energy.

The Ispra-1 reactor was built by Italy’s National Nuclear Research Council. It was officially transferred to the European Community in March 1961, becoming a Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. 

It was used for studies and research on core physics, new materials for the construction of nuclear power reactors, as well as neutron fluxes and their interaction with living matter.

Until the 1960s, much of Italy’s electricity had been generated from renewable sources. Although the first power plant in continental Europe, opened in Milan in 1883, was carbon-fuelled, the country’s abundance of mountains and lakes enabled it to develop a huge hydroelectric power sector.

The Trino Vercellese nuclear plant was named after the Italian nuclear pioneer Enrico Fermi
The Trino Vercellese nuclear plant was named
after the Italian nuclear pioneer Enrico Fermi
Fossil fuels began to take over in the 1960s to meet the needs of a growing population but there was a common belief that nuclear energy could provide, within only a few years, safely and economically, all the power that Italy needed. 

By 1964, three nuclear power plants had been built, all approximately 50km (31 miles) from major cities. They were at Trino Vercellese, north of Turin, at Sessa Aurunca in Campania, north of Naples, and at Latina, south of Rome.

Yet after the electricity sector in Italy was nationalised in 1962, investment in nuclear stalled. It was not until 1978 that a fourth nuclear power station, at Caorso in Emilia-Romagna, was completed.  The 1973 world oil crisis had prompted another round of enthusiastic plans for the nuclear sector, but again they were ultimately downgraded.

The most significant setback of all followed the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, fallout from which affected parts of northern Italy and was blamed for a decline in birth rate in 1987. The Italian government organised a referendum to gauge public feeling about the future of nuclear power, the results of which led to a decision to close two plants and terminate work on another.

Another referendum in 2011 following a nuclear accident in Japan confirmed that public opinion had not shifted and a new company was created to take charge of decommissioning all nuclear sites in Italy, including the research facility at Ispra.

The Cattedrale di San Marco is an example of Latina's architecture
The Cattedrale di San Marco is an
example of Latina's architecture
Travel tip:

Latina, where one of Italy’s now-decommissioned nuclear power stations was opened in 1963, is a city built during the Fascist era of the 1920s and 1930s when Mussolini’s government fulfilled a pledge to drain the inhospitable, mosquito-ridden Pontine Marshes, visitors to which frequently became infected with malaria. Built on that reclaimed land, and originally called Littoria when it was established in 1932, its stands as a monument to the architectural style that typified the era, which combined some elements of classicism, with its preponderance of columns and arches, with the stark lines of 1920s and 30s rationalism. It has a large number of monuments and edifices, including a town hall with a tall clock tower and a cathedral, designed by architects such as Marcello Piacentini and Angiolo Mazzoni. Renamed Latina in 1946, it has grown into a substantial city with a population of 126,000, making it the second largest city in Lazio after Rome.

Ispra's coastal pathways are popular with visitors to the Lago Maggiore town
Ispra's coastal pathways are popular with
visitors to the Lago Maggiore town
Travel tip:

Ispra, which sits on the eastern shore of Lago Maggiore about 25km (16 miles) west of its provincial capital, Varese, is an area popular with walkers for its lakeside footpaths, including the poetically named passeggiata dell’amore, and with golfers for the Parco del Golfo della Quassa. The Joint Research Centre still exists, despite the decommissioning of the nuclear plant. It comprises the Institute for the Protection and the Security of the Citizen (IPSC), the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) and the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP). The site itself is an area of natural preservation, covering an area of 157 hectares (390 acres) of pine, birch, oak and chestnut trees.

Also on this day:

1446: The death of architect Filippo Brunelleschi

1452: The birth of Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci

1754: The death of mathematician Jacopo Riccati

1882: The birth of anti-Fascist politician Giovanni Amendola


15 August 2016

Gianfranco Ferré - fashion designer

Sought to create clothes for real women 

The Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré
Gianfranco Ferré
Gianfranco Ferré, who became one of the biggest names in Italian fashion during the 1980s and 1990s, was born on this day in 1944 in Legnano, a town in Lombardy north-west of Milan, between the city and Lake Maggiore, where in adult life he made his home.

Ferré was regarded as groundbreaking in fashion design in the same way as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent in that his clothes were created with real people rather than catwalk models in mind, yet without compromise in terms of aesthetic appeal.

At the peak of his popularity, his clients included Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, the Queen of Jordan, Paloma Picasso, Sophia Loren and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Ferré first trained to be an architect, placing emphasis on the structure of his garments in which strong seams were often a prominent feature. He was once dubbed the Frank Lloyd Wright of fashion, which was taken to be a reference to the powerful horizontals in his designs.  His staff addressed him as "the architect".

He was also well known for inevitably including variations of white dress shirts in his collections, adorned with theatrical cuffs or multiple collars.  At one point, Ferré blouses were an essential in the wardrobe of high-flying career women.

Ferré won the Italian fashion industry's 'Oscar' - the Occhio D'Oro Award - six times and became the first designer from outside France to be made artistic director of Christian Dior in Paris, for whom he worked between 1989 and 1997.

From high school in Legnano, Ferré moved to the Politecnico di Milano University, where he graduated with a degree in architecture.  His first job was in the design studio of a furniture company but amused himself by designing accessories for a girl friend that were noticed by the owners of a boutique in Portofino, who asked him to design for them.

The Basilica of San Magno in Legnano, where the funeral of Gianfranco Ferré took place in 2007
The Basilica of San Magno in Legnano, where the funeral
of Gianfranco Ferré took place in 2007
After a period working for a rainwear company, he founded his own company, Baila, in 1974, and four years later in 1978 founded his own fashion house in the Brera district of Milan with his friend and business partner, Franco Mattioli.  He launched his first collection of pret-a-portér (ready-to-wear) clothing for women, which was followed the same year by a more sporty line, Oaks by Ferré. His first man's collection was released in 1982 and added a perfume range in 1984.

On leaving Dior, he returned to full-time to working on the Ferré clothing and accessory lines, which by now had substantial export sales in the United States.  But he and Mattioli fell out over the direction of the company and in 2000 they sold 90 per cent of Gianfranco Ferré SpA, although Ferré stayed on as creative director. 

Ferré died in 2007 at the age of 62, a few days after being admitted to hospital in Milan, having suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.  A big, bear-like figure, nonetheless always beautifully dressed in one of his trademark three-piece suits, he had always struggled to control his weight and had had at least one stroke previously. 

He was buried in his home town of Legnano after a funeral attended by giants of the fashion world, including Giorgio Armani, Valentino Garavani and Donatella Versace.

Travel tip:

Legnano is famous for being the only town, apart from Rome, to which reference is made in the Italian national anthem, thanks to the historic Battle of Legnano, in which the Lombard League inflicted a heavy defeat on the forces of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1176.  Almost 700 years later, Garibaldi referred to the battle as an inspiration in the struggle for unification of Italy.  The 16th century Basilica of San Magno, where Gianfranco Ferré's funeral took place, is the town's most important building.

Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore
Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore
Travel tip:

Lake Maggiore is the largest lake in Italy at some 34 miles (64km) long, its most northerly extremity extending into Switzerland.  While the upper end is of alpine character, the lake in general enjoys a mild climate all year round and is famous for the greenery of its surrounding terrain and for its gardens, many growing rare and exotic plants, in particular those located on the Borromean Islands and Isola Bella.

(Photo of Basilica of San Magno by Heimdall CC BY-SA 2.5)
(Photo of Isola Bella by MbDortmund GFDL 1.2)