Showing posts with label Maurizio Costanzo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maurizio Costanzo. Show all posts

5 December 2018

Maria De Filippi - television presenter

One of the most popular faces on Italian TV

Maria De Filippi has become one of the  most popular presenters on Italian TV
Maria De Filippi has become one of the
most popular presenters on Italian TV
The television presenter Maria De Filippi, who has hosted numerous talk and talent shows in a career spanning 25 years, was born on this day in 1961 in Milan.

De Filippi is best known as the presenter of the long-running talent show Amici de Maria De Filippi, which completed its 17th season this year, having been launched in 2001.

The show’s predecessor, called simply Amici, was hosted by De Filippi from 1993 onwards.

One of the most popular faces on Italian television, De Filippi has been married since 1995 to the veteran talk show host and journalist Maurizio Costanzo, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year.

The daughter of a drugs company representative and a Greek teacher, De Filippi was born in Milan before moving at age 10 to Mornico Losana, a village in the province of Pavia, where her parents owned a vineyard.

A graduate in law, she had ambitions of a career as a magistrate but in 1989, while she was working in the legal department of a video cassette company, she had a chance meeting with Costanzo at a conference in Venice to discuss ways of combating musical piracy.

Maria De Filippi presented the 2017 Sanremo Music Festival along another popular TV host, Carlo Conti
Maria De Filippi presented the 2017 Sanremo Music
Festival along another popular TV host, Carlo Conti
She clearly made an impression on the broadcaster, already well known as the face of the Maurizio Costanzo Show. He soon invited her to move to Rome to work for his communication and image company.

What began as a professional relationship then turned into a romance. Costanzo, who was separated from his third wife, the television presenter  Marta Flavi, moved in with De Filippi and after five years they were married, in 1995.

The chance for De Filippi to break into television came in 1992 when the original choice as presenter of the Amici show, Lella Costa, withdrew after becoming pregnant.  With little time to find a replacement, the producers decided to take a chance with De Filippi, despite her lack of experience, and it paid off handsomely.

The show, modelled on the United States hit Fame, featuring a school in which two groups of aspiring young singers and dancers compete against each other before a panel of judges, proved hugely popular, twice winning coveted Telegatto awards, and De Filippi was soon being offered more television work.

Maria De Filippi survived a car bomb attack on her husband in 1993
Maria De Filippi survived a car bomb
attack on her husband in 1993
She had another hit with Uomini e donne (Men and Women), which began as a talk show focusing on conflicts between husband and wife but evolved into a dating show.

De Filippi became a judge on Canale 5’s Italia’s Got Talent in 2009, alongside Gerry Scotti and Rudy Zerbi, a position she kept until Mediaset lost the rights to the show in 2014, after which she was asked to front a new show, Tù si que vales.

Alongside Carlo Conti, she presented the Sanremo Music Festival in 2017 and currently presents Uomini e donne, Tù si que vales and C’è posta per te (You’ve Got Mail) as well as Amici, and produces a number of other shows.

Before they were married, she and Costanzo had a lucky escape in 1993 from a Mafia-organised car bomb attack, a response to a number of programmes Costanzo produced focusing on the fight against the Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

The bomb detonated in the Via Ruggero Fauro, close to the Parioli Theatre in Rome where the Maurizio Costanzo Show was filmed, but Costanzo and De Filippi were not in the car they usually used. Their driver and bodyguard suffered injuries but they were unhurt.

UPDATE: Sadly, De Filippi was widowed in February, 2023, when Costanzo died at the age of 84 in a clinic in Rome, where he had been recovering from colon surgery. After a funeral at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Montesanto, he was buried at the Italian capital's Campo Verano cemetery.

The landscapes of the Oltrepò Pavese, which includes Mornico Losana, give it the look of rural Tuscany
The landscapes of the Oltrepò Pavese, which includes Mornico
Losana, give it the look of rural Tuscany
Travel tip:

Mornico Losana, where De Filippi moved when she was 10 years old, is in the Oltrepò Pavese, an area of scenic beauty south of the Po river in Lombardy that is often called the Tuscany of the North, on account of its rolling hills, medieval villages and castles and panoramic views. It is the largest wine producing area of Lombardy and one of the largest in Italy, specialising in Pinot Nero grapes. The landscape is scattered with vineyards and is popular with hikers and mountain bikers.

The Teatro Parioli, part of the wealthy Parioli neighbourhood, north of Rome's city centre
The Teatro Parioli, part of the wealthy Parioli
neighbourhood, north of Rome's city centre
Travel tip:

The Parioli district, in which the Parioli Theatre is located on Via Giosuè Borsi, is one of Rome's wealthiest residential neighbourhoods. Located north of the city centre, it is notable for its tree-lined streets and elegant houses, and for some of Rome's finest restaurants. The Auditorium Parco della Musica and the Villa Ada, once the Rome residence of the Italian royal family and surrounded by the second largest park in the city, can also be found within the Parioli district.

Rome hotels from TripAdvisor

More reading:

Gerry Scotti - host of Italy's Millionaire

Why Sanremo winner Adriano Celentano is Italy's biggest selling recording artist of all time

The remarkable life of veteran talk show host Maurizio Costanzo

Also on this day:

1443: The birth of Pope Julius II

1687: The birth of composer and violinist Francesco Gemianini

1861: The birth of World War One general Armando Diaz


21 May 2018

Propaganda Due suspects named

Italy horrified as list reveals alleged members of ‘secret state’ 

Licio Gelli's home was raided by investigators
Licio Gelli's home was raided
by investigators
Ordinary Italians were stunned and the country’s elite rocked to the core on this day in 1981 when a list was made public of alleged members of Propaganda Due, a secret Masonic lodge which sought to run the country as a ‘state within the state’.

A staggering 962 names were on the list, including 44 members of parliament, three of whom were cabinet ministers, 49 bankers, numerous industrialists, a number of newspaper editors and other high-profile journalists, the heads of all three of Italy’s secret services and more than 200 military and police officers, including 12 generals of the Carabinieri, five of the Guardia di Finanza, 22 of the army and four from the air force.

The existence of the illegal, underground lodge, known as P2 had been rumoured for several years but there had been little concrete evidence until magistrates investigating the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in Milan raided the home in Tuscany of Licio Gelli, the former Fascist financier who turned out to be the Grandmaster.

The list of alleged members, which was made public by Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani on the advice of the prosecuting team, was found among paperwork seized in the raid.

Arnaldo Forlani's government collapsed in the wake of the P2 scandal
Arnaldo Forlani's government collapsed
in the wake of the P2 scandal
The names included Roberto Calvi, the former head of the Banco Ambrosiano who would be found dead in London the following year, Admiral Giovanni Torrisi, the Chief of the Defence Staff of Italy, and the future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had yet to enter politics but was already on his way to becoming Italy’s most powerful media tycoon.

The lodge was headed by Gelli, who had the title "Maestro venerabile".

Another major name on the list was Adolfo Sarti, the Minister of Justice, who resigned a couple of days after the list was published, triggering the collapse of Forlani’s ruling coalition and their resignation en masse.

The prosecuting magistrates told Forlani there was evidence that Gelli had constructed “a very real state within the state,'' using blackmail, favours, promises of advancement and bribes.

Their report described P2 as “a secret sect that has combined business and politics with the intention of destroying the constitutional order of the country and of transforming the parliamentary system into a presidential system.”

Banker Roberto Calvi, a member of P2, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London
Banker Roberto Calvi, a member of P2, was found
hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London
It added that Gelli's strategy had been “to bring under his control a large number of powerful and highly-placed persons and thus to break down, for the first time in Italian history, the separation between political, administrative, military and economic spheres.''

Exactly how much power P2 wielded has been debated in all the years since it was exposed, although one undeniable coup was achieved when Gelli took control of Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s leading newspapers.

The paper, edited by Piero Ottone, had run into financial trouble and was finding it difficult to obtain loans because the banks were not impressed by Ottone’s outspoken opposition to the powerful Christian Democratic Party, the dominant force in Italian politics. Gelli stepped in to arrange a cash injection from the Vatican Bank. Ottone was fired, P2 member Franco Di Bella was appointed in his place and the paper's editorial line shifted to the right.

In 1980 the paper published a long interview with Gelli conducted by the television talk show host Maurizio Costanzo, another whose name was on the list.  Gelli told Costanzo he was in favour of rewriting the Italian constitution towards a Gaullist presidential system.

In the same year, there were suspicions that P2 members were involved in the bombing of Bologna railway station and the spreading of false stories seeking to undermine the Italian Communist Party in one of its biggest strongholds. In fact, Gelli and the deputy director of Italy's military intelligence service, SISMI, Pietro Musumeci were arrested for attempting to mislead the police investigation into the massacre, which killed 85 people, wounded more than 200 and was eventually blamed on a far-right terrorist group.

P2 members were certainly involved in the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, one of Milan's principal banks - owned in part by the Vatican Bank, and of the Franklin National Bank in New York, owned by a Calvi associate and P2 member, Michele Sindona, who was suspected of facilitating a Mafia money-laundering network involving the Banco Ambrosiano and the Vatican Bank.

Calvi, convicted of illegal money exports in 1980 but released from prison pending an appeal, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982. Sindona, who was tried and found guilty of organising the murder of one of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal investigators, died in prison after being poisoned.

Arezzo's beautiful Piazza Grande is at the heart of the major Tuscan city
Arezzo's beautiful Piazza Grande is at the heart of the
major Tuscan city
Travel tip:

Arezzo, where Licio Gelli lived, is one of the wealthiest cities in Tuscany. Situated at the confluence of four valleys - Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana – its medieval centre suffered massive damage during the Second World War but still has enough monuments, churches and museums to be a worthwhile stopover on tourist itineraries. In addition to the Basilica di San Francesco and the Piero della Francesca fresco cycle, sights to take in include central square Piazza Grande, with its sloping pavement in red brick, the Medici Fortress, the Cathedral of San Donato and a Roman amphitheatre.

The neoclassical main grandstand at the Arena Civica sports stadium in central Milan
The neoclassical main grandstand at the Arena Civica
sports stadium in central Milan
Travel tip:

One of Milan’s often overlooked attractions is the Arena Civica, which was opened in 1807 in the city's Parco Sempione, behind the Castello Sforzesco. It is one of Milan's main examples of neoclassical architecture, an elliptical amphitheatre commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte soon after he became King of Italy in 1805.  Napoleon wanted it to be Milan's equivalent of the Colosseum in Rome, although there are Greek influences too. The first event to be staged there, fittingly, was a chariot race.  It was adapted for football in the early part of the 20th century and was the home of Internazionale until the move to San Siro in 1947. Nowadays it is renamed Arena Gianni Brera in honour of one of Italy's most influential sports journalists.

More reading:

How Roberto Calvi, the financier known as 'God's Banker', met a mysterious death

Michele Sindona - shady banker with links to Mafia and P2

Maurizio Costanzo - record-breaking broadcaster

Also on this day:

1910: The birth in Sicily of Philadelphia gang boss Angelo Bruno

1972: Attacker damages Michelangelo masterpiece


29 August 2016

Libero Grassi - anti-Mafia hero

Businessman brutally murdered after refusing to pay

Libero Grassi was murdered by the Mafia in Palermo in 1991
Libero Grassi
Libero Grassi, a Palermo clothing manufacturer, died on this day in 1991, shot three times in the head as he walked from his home to his car in Via Vittorio Alfieri, a street of apartment buildings not far from the historic centre, at 7.30am.

It was a classic Mafia hit to which there were no witnesses, at least none prepared to come forward. Such killings were not uncommon in the Sicilian capital as rival clans fought for control of different neighbourhoods.

Yet this one was different in that 67-year-old Grassi had no connection with the criminal underworld apart from his brave decision to stand up to their demands for protection money and refuse to pay.

Grassi owned a factory making underwear, which he sold in his own shop.  He employed 100 workers and his business had a healthy turnover. In a struggling economy, he was doing very well.

Of course, the Mafia wanted their cut.  Grassi began receiving demands, first by telephone, then in person, that he fall in line with other Palermo businesses and pay a pizzo, the term used for the monthly payment the mob collects from businesses in the city in a racket worth today in the region of €160 million a year.

The penalties imposed for not paying range from vandalism or arson directed at business premises to physical harm and even death.  It is little wonder than an estimated 80 per cent of businesses comply, each paying around €500 per month.

Libero Grassi pictured in his factory in Palermo
Libero Grassi pictured in his factory in Palermo
But Grassi decided he would not pay.  Indeed, he was so outraged by the practice routinely accepted as normal that in January 1991 he wrote an open letter in a Palermo daily newspaper denouncing the Mafia and proudly telling the city of his stand.  He also gave the names of his would-be extortionists to the police, as a result of which five members of the Mafia were arrested.

Grassi was hailed as a hero by the Mayor of Palermo and attracted widespread media attention, even appearing on national television.  Yet within the business community there was little support.  In fact, Grassi found himself shunned and isolated for attracting headlines that his fellow traders felt did damage to the image of the Palermo business community.

Meanwhile, the Mafia continued to make demands and Grassi continued to dismiss them, despite his shop being broken into and subjected to a failed arson attack.  Eventually, he paid the ultimate price.

After the killing, a protest movement began, initially a spontaneous demonstration involving 10,000 people taking to the streets, eventually leading to the formation in Sicily of the Addiopizzo movement, which encouraged businesses to resist extortion demands and consumers to buy only from shops on a "pizzo-free" list.

Following gestures of support for Grassi's stand that included a five-hour TV special hosted by Maurizio Costanzo and Michele Santoro, two of Italy's best known presenters, the police eventually charged Salvatore Madonia, the son of the head of Palermo's Resuttana crime family, with his murder.

The placard out up by Grassi's family close to the spot where he was gunned down near his home
The placard out up by Grassi's family close to the spot
where he was gunned down near his home
With the help of evidence from a "supergrass", Madonia, his father Francesco and 28 other mobsters were convicted of around 60 murders, including Grassi.

His widow, Pina, and two children, Davide and Alice, put up a placard on the spot where Libero was killed, denouncing not only the Mafia but also the business community that refused to support him and the politicians that sat on their hands rather than move to clamp down on illegal activities.

Today, anti-Mafia campaigners meet on Via Vittorio Alfieri every August 29 in a show of solidarity. The Palermo authorities have honoured Grassi by giving his name to a technical college and a station on the city's new metro.

Travel tip:

Happily, visitors to Palermo would normally witness nothing to suggest that the criminal underworld exerts any influence on daily life.  The Sicilian capital, on the northern coast of the island, is a vibrant city with a wealth of beautiful architecture bearing testament to a history of northern European and Arabian influences.  The church of San Cataldo on Piazza Bellini is a good example of the fusion of Norman and Arabic architectural styles, having a bell tower typical of those common in northern France but with three spherical red domes on the roof.

The church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its mix of Norman and Arabic architectural styles
The church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its mix of
Norman and Arabic architectural styles
Travel tip:

Although Mount Etna typically has snow on its upper slopes in the winter, away from the mountainous regions Sicily has a particularly mild climate, with daytime temperatures even in December and January usually climbing above 10 degrees Celsius and rarely slipping below five degrees even at night.  Palermo is the sunniest city in Italy with typical averages of between 10 and 14 hours of sunshine daily between April and September.

More reading:

Giovanni Falcone - judge and anti-Mafia crusader

Carlo Gambino - the Palermo mobster who became a Mafia Don in New York


Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia, by John Dickie

The Sicilian Mafia: A True Crime Travel Guide, by Carl Russo

(photo of Church of San Cataldo by Bjs CC BY-SA 2.5)


28 August 2016

Maurizio Costanzo - talk show host

Journalist whose show is the longest running on Italian TV

Maurizio Costanza pictured early in his broadcasting career, as host of a 1972 radio show, Buon Pomeriggio
Maurizio Costanza pictured early in his broadcasting
career, as host of a 1972 radio show, Buon Pomeriggio
Veteran talk show host and writer Maurizio Costanzo celebrates his 78th birthday today.

Born on this day in 1938 in Rome, Costanzo has spent 40 years in television.  His eponymous programme, the Maurizio Costanzo Show, has broken all records for longevity in Italian television.

Launched on September 18, 1982, the current affairs programme continued for 27 years, alternating between Rete 4 and Canale 5, two of Italy's commercial television networks, part of the Mediaset group owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. 

Its run came to an end in 2009 but was relaunched on the satellite channel Mediaset Extra in 2014 and returned to terrestrial television in 2015, again on Rete 4.

Costanzo began his media career in print journalism with the Rome newspaper Paese Sera at just 18 years old and by the time he was 22 he was in charge of the Rome office of the mass circulation magazine Grazia.

After branching into radio, he switched to television in 1976, hosting the RAI programme Bontà loro, which is considered to be Italy's first TV talk show.  Others followed before the launch of the Maurizio Costanzo Show, which involved prominent politicians and others in the public eye, discussing major issues of the day.

Costanzo returned to print in 1978, while continuing his broadcasting career in parallel, when he was appointed editor of La Domenica del Corriere, the Sunday edition of the Milan newspaper, Corriere della Sera, a move that saw Costanzo caught up in scandal.

Maurizio Costanza as TV audiences know him today
Maurizio Costanza as TV audiences know him today
Corriere della Sera had in 1977 secretly fallen into the control of Propaganda Due, a clandestine network that evolved from a masonic lodge into an alliance of industrialists, members of parliament, military leaders, journalists and other influential figures who aimed to create a "state within a state" to control the direction of Italy's social and political future.

In 1980, Costanzo conducted a controversial interview with Licio Gelli, a former Fascist blackshirt who was head of Propaganda Due - already under scrutiny because of apparent links with the disgraced former banker, Michele Sindona - in which Gelli denied P2 had any malevolent agenda but spoke about his support for a rewriting of the Italian constitution along the lines of the Gaullist presidential system of France.

Less than a year later, police investigating Sindona raided Gelli's villa outside Arezzo in Tuscany and discovered a list of supposed subscribers to P2 that ran to almost 1,000 names.  As well as Berlusconi, 44 MPs, the heads of all four of Italy's secret services and 195 officers of the armed forces, the names included Costanzo himself.

Although at first he denied being a member, Costanzo later admitted his involvement but stressed his deep regret, insisting he was naive and acted only in the interests of safeguarding his career. He publicly distanced himself from the organisation and Gelli, who was subsequently jailed.

Costanzo rebuilt his reputation in the eyes of the public after shifting his political stance more towards the left and risking his own safety to campaign against the Mafia through his broadcasting. It is suspected that a car bomb that exploded in Rome in 1993 outside the Teatro Parioli, which was regularly used for the Maurizio Costanzo Show, was intended either to do him harm or at least frighten him.

A man of immense professional energy, Costanzo had a parallel career as a screenwriter both for television and the cinema, with a long list of credits from the 1960s until as recently as 2007.

He has been married four times and has two children by his second wife, journalist Flaminia Morando, of whom, Saverio, is a film director. He married his current wife, television host and producer Maria de Filippi, on his 57th birthday in 1995.

UPDATE: Maurizio Costanzo sadly passed away in Rome on February 24, 2023, at the age of 84. His funeral took place at the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto, known as the Church of the Artists, in Piazza del Popolo, on Monday, February 27, 2023. His remains were buried at the Campo Verano cemetery.

Travel tip:

The Teatro Parioli - full name Teatro Parioli Peppino De Filippo - is situated in the Parioli district of Rome, about 20 minutes north of the city's historic centre. Opened in 1938 in the Via Giosuè Borsi, it takes its name from the Italian artist Peppino De Filippo.  Costanzo became artistic director in 1988 and remained in the position until 2011.

April in Rome: a view over St Peter's Square along  Via della Conciliazione towards the Tiber
April in Rome: a view over St Peter's Square along
Via della Conciliazione towards the Tiber
Travel tip:

Seasoned visitors to Rome consider the Eternal City to be at its best between October and April, when there are fewer tourists and hotel prices are generally cheaper than in the high season.  The early part of October can still feel like summer with temperatures in the low to mid-20s, although there is an increasing chance of rain.  April tends to be a little cooler but is often dry and with plenty of sunshine.

(Photo of Maurizio Costanzo today by Birillo253 CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of St Peter's Square by Diliff CC BY-SA 3.0)