Showing posts with label Marche. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marche. Show all posts

19 October 2017

Carlo Urbani – microbiologist

Infectious disease expert who identified SARS

 Carlo Urbani was a World Health Organisation specialist in infectious diseases
 Carlo Urbani was a World Health Organisation
specialist in infectious diseases
The doctor and microbiologist Carlo Urbani, whose decisive action after discovering the deadly SARS virus saved millions of lives, was born on this day in 1956 in Castelplanio, near Ancona.

Dr Urbani himself died after contracting the condition, which had been given the name severe acute respiratory syndrome.

He identified it in an American businessman who had been taken ill in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, with suspected influenza.

Recognising quickly that what he was dealing with was not a straightforward case of ‘flu, Urbani, who was working in Vietnam as an infectious diseases specialist for the World Health Organisation, immediately alerted WHO headquarters in Geneva.

He convinced them that what he had discovered posed a grave threat to life and thus sparked the most effective response to a major epidemic in the history of medicine.

At a local level, be persuaded the Vietnamese health authorities to introduce a raft of preventative measures, including large-scale screening and prompt, secure isolation of suspected victims, that slowed the spread of the disease.

At its peak, people in the areas affected by the SARS virus were encouraged to wear surgical masks in public places
At its peak, people in the areas affected by the SARS virus
were encouraged to wear surgical masks in public places
It was as a result of Urbani’s actions that the epidemic was largely contained, almost all deaths from the disease occurring in territories surrounding the South China Sea, namely southeast China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines.

Some 775 people died in the epidemic, two thirds of them prior to Urbani’s intervention.

The only significant outbreak beyond this area was in Canada, where 44 people died following the import of the disease into the country by a tourist who had stayed at the same hotel in Hong Kong as Urbani’s patient, who probably contracted the disease from a Chinese doctor who was a guest at a wedding there. 

This doctor had been treating patients suffering from the disease in Guangdong Province, just across the border from Hong Kong, where the virus is thought to have originated.

Urbani, whose parents were a teacher at the Ancona Commercial Navy Institute and a primary school headmistress, gained a degree in medicine from the University of Ancona and a postgraduate degree in tropical parasitology from the University of Messina in Sicily.  He began voluntary work in Africa while he was still at university.

Urbani contracted the virus after treating a sick businessman in Vietnam
Urbani contracted the virus after treating a
sick businessman in Vietnam
After a period of academic research, he went to work at a hospital in Macerata, about 55km (34 miles) from his home town of Castelplanio in the Marche region.  In 1993 he began to accept temporary assignments from the WHO in places such as the Maldives, Mauritania and Guinea.

In 1997, on a recommendation from the WHO, he joined Médicins San Frontières to work in Cambodia and Vietnam. He was elected president of the Italian section of MSF in 1999 and travelled to Oslo in the same year to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organisation.

A year later he was recruited by the WHO to be their infectious diseases specialist in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, based in Hanoi. He achieved success in reducing the health impact of parasitic flatworms.

Urbani was summoned to Hanoi’s French Hospital following the admission on February 23, 2003 of a 47-year old Chinese-American businessman called Johnny Chen, resident in Shanghai, who had begun to feel unwell with 'flu-like symptoms soon after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.

He became suspicious that Mr Chen had something different from normal influenza when several hospital workers who had been in contact with him quickly developed similar symptoms, some rapidly becoming seriously ill.

Sadly, the story has a tragic postscript.  After treating a number of sick patients, Urbani left Hanoi on March 11, bound for a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was to give a talk on the subject of childhood parasites.

During the flight he became feverish. He realised straightaway what had happened and when he arrived at the airport in Bangkok told a colleague sent to meet him that he should call an ambulance immediately and inform the operator that he had almost certainly contracted the SARS virus.  While they awaited the ambulance, Urbani insisted his to his colleague that he was to allow no one within eight feet of him.

Urbani was in intensive care for 18 days but died on March 29, having ultimately suffered a heart attack.  He was only 46 and left behind a wife and three children.

The Arena Sferisterio in Macerata
The Arena Sferisterio in Macerata
Travel tip:

The walled city of Macerata in Marche, where Carlo Urbani worked in the local hospital, is a charming historic city of cobbled streets perched on a hill between the Potenza and Chienti rivers.  At the heart of the city, in the pretty Piazza della Libertà, is the Loggia dei Mercanti with its two-tier arcades, dating from the Renaissance. Macerata’s university is among the oldest it Italy, established in 1290.  Each July and August the city hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival, which is held in the 2,500 seat open-air Arena Sferisterio, a huge neoclassical arena built in the 1820s.

The Arch of Trajan still stands guard over Ancona's harbour
The Arch of Trajan still stands guard over Ancona's harbour
Travel tip:

The coastal city of Ancona, where Urbani attended university, is a bustling port with a population of almost 102,000. Although the area around the port has an industrial feel, there are some notable beaches nearby and a good deal of history in the older part of the city, bearing witness to its Greek and Roman past. The 18m-high Arch of Trajan, built in honour of the emperor who built the city’s harbour, is regarded as one of the finest Roman monuments in the Marche region. Urbani may have been inspired to follow his chosen direction in life by the presence in Ancona’s harbour of the Lazzaretto, the pentagonal building constructed on an artificial island in the 18th century as a quarantine station designed to protect Ancona from diseases carried by infected travellers.

9 June 2016

Luigi Fagioli - racing driver

Man from Le Marche is Formula One's oldest winner

Photo of Luigi Fagioli in action
Luigi Fagioli in action in the 1928 Targa Florio
near Palermo in Sicily
Racing driver Luigi Fagioli, who remains the oldest driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix, was born on this day in 1898 at Osimo, an historic hill town in the Marche region.

Fagioli was a highly skilled driver but one who was also renowned for his fiery temperament, frequently clashing with rivals, team-mates and his bosses.

It was typical of his behaviour after recording his historic triumph at the F1 French Grand Prix at Reims in 1951 he announced in high dudgeon that he was quitting Formula One there and then.

He was furious that his Alfa Romeo team had ordered him during the race to hand his car over to Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine who would go on win the 1951 World Championship, which meant the victory was shared rather than his outright.

Nonetheless, at 53 years and 22 days, Fagioli's name entered the record books as the oldest F1 Grand Prix winner.

Fagioli trained as an accountant but was always fascinated with the new sport of car racing and his background - he was born into a wealthy family of pasta manufacturers - gave him the financial wherewithal to compete.

Having made his debut in 1926, he achieved his first major victories after signing as a works driver for Maserati in 1930, finishing first in the Coppa Ciano and the Circuito di Avellino.  He then won the Monza GP of 1931 and the Rome GP in 1932.

The bust of Luigi Fagioli in Osimo
In 1933 Fagioli was taken on to race Alfa Romeos for Enzo Ferrari, winning in the Coppa Acerbo and the Italian GP, which in turn earned him a move to Mercedes-Benz.

However, his relationship with team-mates Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudolf Caracciola was fraught with problems. When team manager Alfred Neubauer ordered Fagioli to move over for Brauchitsch in his very first race, the Italian simply dropped out, abandoning his car in disgust.

Despite winning three races for Alfa Romeo in 1934 and 1935, Fagioli quit to join Auto Union in 1937, becoming embroiled in an altercation with Caracciola during his first season in which he attacked his former colleague with a wheel hammer.

Struggling with rheumatism, which restricted him to the extent that at times he needed the aid of a stick to walk, he did not race again before the Second World War but in 1950, in much better health, he returned to the sport to race for the Alfa Romeo factory team, finishing on the podium in all but one race and finishing third in the inaugural F1 World Championship.

After his controversial exit from Formula One, he signed to drive in sportscar events for Lancia, taking great delight in finishing in front of Caracciola when he was third in the 1952 Mille Miglia.

His aggressive driving style sometimes bordered on the reckless and he had many accidents, one of which forced him out of a supporting race at the Monaco GP meeting in June of that year.

He broke a hand and a leg, which seemed relatively minor injuries, but he developed complications as he recovered in hospital and three weeks later, at the age of only 54, he died.

Photo of Osimo Cathedral
The Cathedral of San Leopardo in Osimo
Travel tip:

The town of Osimo, perched on top of a hill about 15 kilometres from the port of Ancona, can trace its origins to 200BC and parts if the city walls dating back to that time remain intact.  It is dominated by the Cathedral of San Leopardo, the main structure of which was built between the 12th and 13th centuries.

Stay in Osimo with

Travel tip:

Luigi Fagioli is commemorated in a bronze statue which can be found in the Giardini Pubblici in Osimo

More reading:

Vittorio Jano - genius designer behind Italy's Formula One success

(Photo of Luigi Fagioli bust by Giorgio Gentili CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Catheral by Parsifall CC BY-SA 3.0)


27 November 2015

Roberto Mancini footballer and manager

Skilful player now highly successful coach

Roberto Mancini, a former Italy player and the current manager of Inter Milan, was born on this day in Iesi in Marche in 1964.

Roberto Mancini enjoyed huge success with Internazionale in Italy and Manchester City in England
Roberto Mancini during his
Manchester City days.
Photo by Roger Goraczniak
Mancini, an elegant and creative forward, was capped 36 times by Italy between 1984 and 1994.

After a highly successful playing career, in which he was part of title-winning teams at Sampdoria and Lazio, he enjoyed immediate success as a manager, winning the Coppa Italia in his first season as Fiorentina boss in 2000. He repeated the feat in his second season at his next club, Lazio.

Mancini then made his mark emphatically at Internazionale, guiding the Milan club to a club record three consecutive Serie A titles, as well as winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (a pre-season match between the Serie A champions and the Coppa Italia winners) twice. This made him the club's most successful manager for 30 years.
While at Inter, he also set a Serie A record by winning 17 consecutive matches.

He was out of football for a year after being dismissed by Inter in 2008, despite his domestic success, having failed to meet expectations in the Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals in his first two seasons but being knocked out in the first round in the next two seasons.

He was hired by the wealthy new owners of Manchester City in December 2009 to replace Mark Hughes and again made a quick impact, winning the FA Cup in his first full season in charge, the club's first major trophy for 35 years. The following year, he led City to the Premier League title, making them English champions for the first time since 1968, after a 44-year wait.

Success in Europe again eluded him, however, and he was sacked in May 2013, following a shock defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup final.

After one season with Galatasaray in Turkey, he took charge at Inter for a second time in November 2014 and his customary winning ways quickly made an impact. Inter are the current leaders of Serie A.

UPDATE (November, 2022): Mancini was appointed head coach of the Italian national team in 2018 following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. Mancini likewise failed to secure a place at the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. Unlike his predeccessor, Luigi Di Biagio, however, he remained in post, having signed a renewed long-term contract shortly before leading the azzurri to victory at the delayed 2020 European Championship finals in England.

Roberto Mancini guided Inter to three consecutive Serie A titles
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in San Siro, Milan, home
of Mancini's current club, Internazionale.
Photo by Dan Heap
Travel tip:

FC Inter-
nazionale Milano, often referred to simply as Inter, play their home games at the San Siro stadium in Milan, which they share with their rivals A C Milan. The stadium in Via Piccolomini is a short tram ride out of the centre of Milan.

Travel tip:

Iesi, the town of Roberto Mancini’s birth, is in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. Le Marche (the Marches) run along the Adriatic Sea in the central part of the peninsula and are considered a good holiday destination for travellers who like to get off the beaten track in Italy.