Showing posts with label Ludovico Ariosto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ludovico Ariosto. Show all posts

30 November 2017

Veronica Gambara – writer and stateswoman

Politically astute poet wrote an ode to Emperor Charles V

Veronica Gambara, as portrayed by Antonio Allegri, known as Il Correggio
Veronica Gambara, as portrayed by Antonio
Allegri, known as Il Correggio
Veronica Gambara, a lyric poet who ruled the state of Correggio for 32 years, was born on this day in 1485 in Pralboino in the province of Brescia.

Under her rule, the court of Correggio became an important literary salon visited by many writers and artists.

Gambara signed a treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, which guaranteed Correggio would not be besieged and in her political poems she expressed Italy as an entity centuries before unification.

Gambara came from an accomplished family, one of the seven children of Count Gianfrancesco da Gambara and Alda Pio da Carpi.

The humanist poets Ginevre and Isotta Noarola were her great aunts and Emilia Pia, the principal female interlocutor of Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano, was her aunt.

Gambara studied Latin, Greek, philosophy and theology and by the age of 17 had begun corresponding with the poet, Pietro Bembo, who later became her mentor when she sent him her poetry to read.

When Gambara was 24 she married her cousin, Giberto, Count of Correggio, a widower aged 50, and they had two sons, Ippolito and Girolamo. After her husband’s death in 1518, Gambara took charge of the state, which included managing Correggio’s condottieri. She also supervised the education of her two sons and her stepdaughter, Costanza.

Pietro Bembo was an influence on Gambara's poetry
Pietro Bembo was an influence on
Gambara's poetry
With Gambara at its head, the court of Correggio was visited by important figures such as Pietro Bembo, Gian Giorgio Trissino, Marcantonio Flaminio, Ludovico Ariosto and Titian.

Although Gambara’s poems were not published during her lifetime they were circulated in manuscript form. About 80 of her poems and 50 of her letters are still in existence.

She composed poems on political issues, devotional poems and love poems dedicated to her husband. She also corresponded with the poet Bernardo Tasso and Emperor Charles V.

After allying Correggio with the Holy Roman Empire, Gambara personally received the Emperor in Correggio in 1530, when she composed an ode to him in Latin. They signed a treaty together guaranteeing Correggio’s safety. This was broken in 1538 when the Count of Mirandola and Concordia launched an attack on Correggio but Gambara organised a successful defence and saw to it that Charles V paid for improved fortifications.

Gambara died in June 1550. A complete English translation of her poems was published in 2014.

The 18th century Palazzo Gambara in Pralboino
The 18th century Palazzo Gambara in Pralboino
Travel tip:

Pralboino, where Veronica Gambara was born, is a village in the province of Brescia in Lombardy. It is about 35 kilometres to the south of the city of Brescia. The 18th century Palazzo Gambara was built on the site of a previous 13th century castle, where the poet lived until her marriage to the Count of Correggio.

The Corso Giuseppe Mazzini in Correggio
The Corso Giuseppe Mazzini in Correggio
Travel tip:

Correggio, which was ruled by Veronica Gambara between 1518 and 1550, is a town in the Emilia-Romagna region. The Renaissance painter Antonio Allegri, who was known as Il Correggio, was born there in 1489. One of the main sights in Correggio is the elegant Palazzo dei Principi in Corso Cavour. In 1659 Correggio was annexed to the Duchy of Modena. The present Duke of Modena, Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, is the current holder of the title of Prince of Correggio.

27 October 2016

Roberto Benigni - Oscar winner

How Life is Beautiful made Tuscan actor and director famous

Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni, whose performance in the 1997 film Life is Beautiful won him an Oscar for Best Actor, was born on this day in 1952 in rural Tuscany, around 20km south of Arezzo.

The Academy Award, for which he beat off strong competition from Nick Nolte (Affliction) and Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) among others, put him in the company of Anna Magnani (1955) and Sophia Loren (1961) as one of just three Italian winners of best actor or actress.

Benigni, who also directed Life is Beautiful, had won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film earlier in the awards ceremony, which delighted him so much he famously clambered on to the back of the seats of audience members in the row in front of his to lead the applause before stepping up to the stage to receive the award from Sophia Loren.

When Helen Hunt called out his name for Best Actor - the first since Loren to win the most coveted prize with a foreign language film - he began his acceptance speech by apologizing for having "used up all my English", before proceeding to deliver another joyously emotional expression of gratitude.

Benigni was born in the hamlet of Manciano la Misericordia, near the walled town of Castiglion Fiorentino.  His family moved when he was six years old to Vergaio, a village near Prato, to which he made reference in his speech, thanking his parents, Luigi and Isolina, for "the gift of poverty", despite which he had a happy childhood and believes shaped his character and made him appreciate his good fortune all the more.

Roberto Benigni with his wife and co-star, Nicoletta Braschi
Roberto Benigni with his wife
and co-star, Nicoletta Braschi
He based Life is Beautiful, the story of a Jewish Italian bookshop owner who uses his comic imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp, in part on the experiences of his father, who spent almost three years in the Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

Written in collaboration with Vincenzo Cerami, the film was attacked by some critics for presenting an unrealistic picture of the Holocaust which contained too little suffering, and suggested that "laughing at everything" was disrespectful to the millions of victims.

However, others praised Benigni for having the artistic daring and skill to create such a sensitive comedy against a background of dark, unparalleled tragedy.

Before the huge fame the movie brought him, Benigni, who was raised as a Catholic and was an altar boy in his local church, had enjoyed relatively modest success in his acting and directing career.

After studying initially to become a priest, a path he abandoned after the school he attended in Florence was damaged in the floods of 1966, he developed a fascination with a circus that was playing near his home and was offered work as a magician's assistant.

He had his first taste of theatre in Prato before moving to Rome, where he appeared in avant-garde theatre and became popular for his improvisation of epic poems, such as those of Ludovico AriostoEdmund Spenser and Dante Alighieri.

It was in Rome that he met Giuseppe Bertolucci - brother of Bernardo - who cast him in a film entitled Berlinguer, I love You, that appealed to his Communist sympathies.  Enrico Berlinguer was the leader of the Italian Communist Party.

See Roberto Benigni's acceptance speech for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

He appeared in a number of TV shows directed by Renzo Arbore, one of which was banned by the censors, and worked on films with Bernardo Bertolucci and Federico Fellini.

The first of his nine films as a director was Tu mi turbi (You disturb me), a comedy that satirizes religion and the banking system.  He also starred in the film opposite Nicoletta Braschi, an actress from Cesena with whom he became romantically involved.  They have been married since 1991.  Braschi also appears in Life is Beautiful as the wife of Benigni's character.

Benigni's two films after Life is Beautiful - Pinocchio and The Tiger and the Snow - played well with home audiences but were less well received outside Italy and in the 11 years since the latter he has not made another film, although he hinted recently that he has a new project in mind.

Roberto Benigni on stage in his touring  one-man show, TuttiDante
Roberto Benigni on stage in his touring
one-man show, TuttiDante
He has remained successful on stage and television with his 90-minute one-man show TuttiDante, in which he has returned to his love of improvisatory poetry - a particularly Tuscan art form for which his father was an enthusiast.

During the show, Benigni combines current events with his memories of the past in a passionate interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

No stranger to controversy, apart from his role in the Abore TV show that was taken off the air, he attracted headlines for appearing to call Pope John Paul II by an impolite name, for lifting a startled Enrico Berlinguer off his feet in an embrace at a Communist rally, and then for gatecrashing a TV news bulletin reporting on a protest against Silvio Berlusconi in which he had taken part, removing his shirt, draping it around the shoulders if the presenter and declaring (falsely) that Berlusconi had resigned.

Travel tip:

Arezzo, where much of Life is Beautiful is filmed, is a city in eastern Tuscany famous among other things for the frescoes of the artist, Piero della Francesco, in the 13th century church of San Francesco.  The Legend of the True Cross, painted between 1452 and 1466, is considered to be one of Italy’s greatest fresco cycles.  Arezzo is also the birthplace of the 14th century Renaissance poet, Francesco Petrarca, widely known by his English name, Petrarch.

The view through one of the archways in Giorgio Vasari's loggia
The view through one of the archways
in Giorgio Vasari's loggia
Travel tip:

Apart from its 13th century walls, the Tuscan hill town of Castiglion Fiorentino, of which Manciano la Misericordia, Benigni's birthplace, is a frazione (parish), is notable for a handsome nine-arch loggia designed by the 16th century artist and architect, Giorgio Vasari, along one side of the Piazza del Municipio, which offers a beautiful vista looking out over the Val di Chio below the town.  Vasari, who worked for the Medici family in Florence, designed the loggia at the Palazzo degli Uffizi and the Vasari Corridor, which connects the Uffizi with the Medici residence across the River Arno at Palazzo Pitti and includes the covered Ponte Vecchio bridge.

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(Top photo of Benigni by Gorup de Besanez CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Second photo of Benigni by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Vasari's loggia view by Silviapitt CC BY-SA 3.0)


8 September 2016

Ludovico Ariosto – poet

Writer led the way with spirituality and humanity

This painting by Titian, circa 1512, is accepted as likely to portray Ludovico Ariosto
This painting by Titian, circa 1512, is accepted
as likely to portray Ludovico Ariosto
The man who coined the term humanism - umanesimo - Ludovico Ariosto, was born on this day in 1474 in Reggio Emilia.

He became famous after his epic poem, Orlando furioso, was published in 1516.  It is now regarded by critics as the finest expression of the literary tendencies and spiritual attitudes of the Italian Renaissance.

Ariosto chose to focus on the strengths and potential of humanity, rather than upon its role as subordinate to God, which led to the Renaissance humanism movement.

His family moved to live in Ferrara when he was just ten years old and the poet has said he always felt ferrarese.

His father insisted he studied law but afterwards Ariosto followed his natural instincts to write poetry.

When his father died in 1500, Ariosto had to provide for his four brothers and five sisters and took the post of commander of the Citadel of Canossa at the invitation of Ercole I d'Este.

Then, in 1503, he entered the service of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Ercole I. He was obliged to follow the Cardinal on diplomatic, and sometimes dangerous, missions and expeditions.

From about 1505 onwards, Ariosto was working on Orlando furioso and he continued to revise and refine it for his entire life.

The text of Orlando furioso is kept at the Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea in Ferrara
The text of Orlando furioso is kept at the
Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea in Ferrara
The first edition was published in Venice in 1516 and the second in Ferrara in 1521. Both were written in the ottavo rima form, eight line stanzas, in the tradition of Boccacio.

The poem follows the fortune of its hero, Orlando, who goes mad out of unrequited love against the backdrop of war between Christians and Saracens. Ariosto’s own refined spirituality is said to come through in his characters.

Orlando furioso instantly became popular and profoundly influenced the literature of the Renaissance.

Ariosto went on to compose seven satires and five comedies, while he was having to serve as governor of the Garfagnana, a wild province in the Apennines, out of financial necessity.

But by 1525 he had saved enough money to return to Ferrara, where he secretly married his mistress, Alessandra Benucci, and bought a house with a garden to settle down in.

He produced a third edition of Orlando furioso, which was published a few months before his death in 1533, and he wrote an appendix to it that was published posthumously.

The statue of Ludovico Ariosto in the city of Reggio Emilia
The statue of Ludovico Ariosto in the
city of Reggio Emilia
Travel tip:

Reggio Emilia is an ancient walled city in the region of Emilia-Romagna. There is a statue of Ariosto and you can see the villa he was born in, near the municipal building in the centre. You can also see a villa outside the town, Il Mauriziano, where he spent  time while he was governing the city on behalf of the Dukes of Ferrara.

Travel tip:

Ferrara, where Ariosto lived for most of his life, is a city in Emilia-Romagna, about 50 kilometres to the north east of Bologna, which has many palaces dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, when it hosted the court of the House of Este. Dominating the centre is the magnificent Castello Estense, where Lucrezia Borgia lived after her marriage to Alfonso I d’Este. The moated, brick-built castle is open to the public every day from 9.30 till 5.30 pm, apart from certain times of the year when it is closed on Mondays. For more details and ticket prices visit

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