Showing posts with label Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Show all posts

8 April 2019

Renzo De Felice - historian

Renzo De Felice was accused of trying to generate sympathy for Fascism
Renzo De Felice was accused of trying
to generate sympathy for Fascism

Mussolini biographer whose views on fascism aroused anger

The controversial historian Renzo De Felice, best known for his 6,000-word four-volume biography of Benito Mussolini, was born on this day in 1929 in Rieti, the northernmost city in Lazio.

Although De Felice was Jewish and his other major work described in detail the persecution of Jews in Italy under Mussolini’s rule, he sparked considerable anger by arguing that the postwar world view of Fascism should be revised to recognise that the ideology in itself was not inherently evil.

De Felice contended that fascism as a political movement in Italy was not the same as Fascism as a regime, arguing that the former was a revolutionary middle-class ideology that had its roots in the progressive thinking of the Age of Enlightenment.

He argued that the ideology was effectively hijacked by Mussolini to provide the superstructure for his dictatorship and personal ambition and that fascism itself, as distinct from Mussolini’s interpretation, was a valid political concept, not just something to be demonized and dismissed in simplistic terms.

Renzo De Felice spent more than 30 years writing a 6,000-page biography of Mussolini
Renzo De Felice spent more than 30 years writing a
6,000-page biography of Mussolini
It was an argument that was respected by many intellectuals, even some who were staunchly anti-Fascist, but when De Felice’s magnum opus, which took him more than 30 years to write, seemed to challenge the established postwar view of Fascism as a criminal regime imposed by Mussolini and his squads of Black Shirts, there was considerable anger.

Critics of De Felice, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, interpreted his favourable assessment of some of social and economic reforms introduced by Mussolini, and his argument that he was largely a popular leader until the outbreak of the Second World War, as an attempt to rehabilitate fascism. Some accused him of being an apologist for the self-styled Duce.

Denis Mack Smith, an Oxford historian and the author of several histories of Italy, denounced De Felice for minimizing the uglier side of Fascism, such as Mussolini's personal responsibility for killing political opponents and leading Italy to ruin in his unwavering support for Hitler, while Nicola Tranfaglia, a professor of history at the University of Turin, argued that De Felice overstated Il Duce's popular support, pointing out that while Mussolini enjoyed a measure of popularity with ordinary Italians, he would not risk free elections.

From Italy’s political Left came complaints that De Felice was too sympathetic to Italian Fascism, even that he supported it. A few months before he died, two incendiary devices were thrown at his house in Rome, although no one claimed responsibility for the attack.

De Felice (right) with his publisher, Vito Laterza
De Felice (right) with his publisher, Vito Laterza
However, Italy’s intellectual Communist leader Giorgio Amendola defended De Felice, rejecting many of the criticisms and even endorsing some of De Felice's ideas, agreeing with his assessment that the movement had a revolutionary aspect in its infancy and that Mussolini's Fascism did attract support among the population.

De Felice himself was a former member of the Italian Communist Party, which he had joined as a student.  He left after the party declared its support for the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and joined the Italian Socialist Party.

He died in Rome in 1996 at the age of 67, having been ill for several years. In accordance with his wishes, he was given a small, private funeral, devoid of ceremony.

When news of his death emerged, there were tributes from many political figures, including the President of the Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, while many newspapers described him as one of the greatest Italian historians of the 20th century.

Beyond Italy, his death brought praise for De Felice for his independent spirit, his intellectual courage and the thoroughness of his research.

The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, with the Fontana dei Delfini, is the central square of Rieti
The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, with the Fontana dei Delfini,
is the central square of Rieti
Travel tip:

Situated about 80km (50 miles) northeast of Rome, the city of Rieti sits in the far northeastern corner of the Lazio region, near the borders with Abruzzo, Le Marche and Umbria. The ancient capital of the area once known as Sabina, Rieti has a population of around 47,000 people and is a popular destination for visitors from Rome, who enjoy the peaceful nature of the city and the surrounding area. Although it was once the site of a Roman city on the Via Salaria - the “salt road” linking Rome with the Adriatic coast - only a few remains are visible, although the remnants of a third-century bridge are a point of interest. At the heart of the present city is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, with the Fontana dei Delfini at the centre. The nearby 13th century Palazzo Comunale houses the Civic Museum, which houses artifacts from the 9th BC through to the Roman era, along with paintings from the 14th century onwards. Some famous architects worked in the city, including Carlo Maderno, who designed the Renaissance-style Palazzo Vecchiarelli in the late 16th century.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana originates from Amatrice, a town not from from Rieti famed for its food
Bucatini all'Amatriciana originates from Amatrice, a town
not from from Rieti famed for its food
Travel tip:

Rieti is known for its hill cuisine, with hearty stews and meat dishes and handmade pasta dishes. Potatoes, mushrooms, truffles, and wild berries grow in the area and figure into the regional cuisine, as does homemade Pecorino cheese and sausages. The nearby town of Amatrice, which suffered considerable damage in an earthquake in 2016, is home to the famed pasta dish Spaghetti all'Amatriciana. The Rieti area has its own DOC wines, too - Colli della Sabina, in white and red varieties.

Also on this day:

1492: The death of Renaissance ruler Lorenzo the Magnificent

1848: The death of composer Gaetano Donizetti

1868: The birth of equestrian pioneer Federico Caprilli


13 May 2018

Giuliano Amato – politician

‘Doctor Subtle’ is still working at the age of 80

Giuliano Amato twice served as
Italy's prime minister
Giuliano Amato, who has twice served as prime minister of Italy, was born on this day in 1938 in Turin.

During his first period as prime minister, for 10 months between 1992 and 1993, a series of corruption scandals rocked Italy, sweeping away the careers of many leading politicians. Amato was never implicated, despite being close to Bettino Craxi, the leader of the Italian Socialist party, who was investigated by Milan judges in the probe into corruption that became known as Mani pulite, which literally means ‘clean hands’. Craxi was eventually convicted of corruption and the illicit financing of his party.

Amato has earned the nickname ‘dottor sottile’ the sobriquet of the medieval Scottish philosopher Jon Duns Scotus, which is a reference to his perceived political subtlety.

Born into a Sicilian family living in Turin at the time, Amato spent his early years growing up in Tuscany.

He attended the Collegio Medico Giuridico, which is today the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, part of Pisa University, and obtained a degree in law. He also received a Masters degree in comparative law from Columbia Law School.

Amato taught at the universities of Modena, Perugia and Florence and then became professor of Italian and Comparative Constitutional Law at La Sapienza, the University of Rome.

Amato had close ties with the disgraced former prime minister Bettino Craxi
Amato had close ties with the disgraced
former prime minister Bettino Craxi
A member of the Italian Socialist Party, Amato was elected to parliament in 1983. He later served as under secretary of state, deputy prime minister and minister of the treasury.

After becoming prime minister in 1992, Amato responded effectively to two devaluations of the lira in the wake of currency speculation that led to Italy being expelled from the European Monetary System. He cut the budget deficit drastically, taking the first steps towards Italy adopting the Euro.

His government was challenged when it moved the responsibility for anti-corruption investigations into the hands of the police. The police were controlled by the government so it was feared the investigations would not have been independent.

Italians protested in the streets and President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro refused to sign the decree. It was never decided whether Amato was blameless, or had been trying to save the corrupt system.

After his term as prime minister, Amato held a number of high offices before becoming prime minister again in 2000. He promoted economic competitiveness as well as social protection and instigated political and institutional reforms.

When his second term came to an end he was appointed to help draft the European constitution and later served in Romano Prodi’s centre left government.

Still working right up to his 80th birthday, Amato currently serves the Constitutional Court, leads advanced seminars in International Public Affairs and is honorary co-chair for the World Justice Project.

His wife, Diana, is professor of family law at the University of Rome and they have two children and five grandchildren.

The Palazzo alla Giornata, part of the University of Pisa
The Palazzo alla Giornata, part of the University of Pisa
Travel tip:

Pisa University, where Amato obtained a law degree, was founded in 1343 making it the 10th oldest in Italy and it houses Europe’s oldest academic botanical garden. The main university buildings are in and around Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti, overlooking the River Arno, a short walk from the city’s famous Leaning Tower.

The entrance to LUISS in Rome
The entrance to LUISS in Rome
Travel tip:

Amato currently leads seminars in International Public Affairs at The School of Government of Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali (LUISS) Guido Carli in Rome. The university focuses on business studies, economics, politics and law and is based in parkland in Viale Romania in the city, close to the Catacombs of Priscilla.

Also on this day:

1804: The birth of Venetian patriot and leader Daniele Manin

1909: The first Giro d'Italia cycle race begins in Milan


19 March 2017

Benito Jacovitti - cartoonist

Multiple comic characters loved by generations 

Benito Jacovitti
Benito Jacovitti

Benito Jacovitti, who would become Italy's most famous cartoonist, was born on this day in 1923 in the Adriatic coastal town of Termoli.

Jacovitti drew for a number of satirical magazines and several newspapers but also produced much work aimed at children and young adults.

His characters became the constant companions of generations of schoolchildren for more than 30 years via the pages of Diario Vitt, the school diary produced by the publishers of the Catholic comic magazine Il Vittorioso, which had a huge readership among teenagers and young adults, and for which Jacovitti drew from 1939 until it closed in 1969.

Jacovitti gave life to such characters as "the three Ps" - Pippo, Pertica and Pallo - as well as Chicchiriccì and Jack Mandolino via their cartoon adventures in Il Vittorioso, introduced Zorry Kid, a parody of Zorro, through a later association with children's journal Il Corriere del Picoli, and the cowboy Cocco Bill, who emerged during his 10-year stint as cartoonist for the daily newspaper, Il Giorno.

Cocco Bill, the character Jacovitti created during his years working for Il Giorno
Cocco Bill, the character Jacovitti created
during his years working for Il Giorno
Born Benito Franco Iacovitti, he was the son of a railway worker.  Both his parents had Albanian origins. His first names stemmed from his father's fascination with the powerful political figures of the time.

Benito showed the first evidence of his artistic talent as a small child. He would draw comic stories on pavements in Termoli at the age of six.  The family moved to Macerata in Marche, where Jacovitti attended art school from the age of 11, and then to Florence, where he enrolled at the Art Institute as a 16-year-old.

It was there that he acquired the nickname lisca di pesce (fishbone) on account of his rather scrawny physique. He adopted the nickname as his signature.

He launched his career with the Florentine satirical magazine Il Brivido, where he decided he preferred his second name to begin with a 'J' rather than an 'I'.  The work with Il Vittorioso came soon afterwards and made him a household name.

Notable for his sense of the absurd, Jacovitti drew figures that inevitably had huge noses and gigantic feet and were sometimes quite grotesque. He has cited Elzie Crisler Segar, creator of Popeye, as one of his influences.

Though he became known for the characters and storylines he invented for his young audience, Jacovitti continued to maintain his skills as a satirist, drawing for the magazine Il Travaso for much of the 1950s under the signature of 'Franz'.

The Pippo cartoons with Il Vittorioso  established Jacovitti's popularity
The Pippo cartoons with Il Vittorioso
established Jacovitti's popularity
During his time with Il Travaso, he collaborated with the film director Federico Fellini on an anti-communist strip that was very popular.

Controversially, he also worked on Kamasultra, a comic book parody of the Hindu adult text the Kamasutra, which in some eyes somewhat tarnished Jacovitti's reputation.

He began to draw for newspapers in the 1950s, first for Quotidiano and, from 1956 to 1966, for Il Giorno, the national daily based in Milan.

Jacovitti's work was published in many other periodicals in Italy and abroad and he had commercial companies queuing up to use his characters in advertising for their products. They appeared in commercials for Eldorado ice cream, Fiorucci salami, Teodoro oils and Fiat cars among others.

During his career, Jacovitti created more than 60 characters and produced around 150 books, making him one of the most prolific and original artists in comic book history.

He was a great admirer of Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio, and illustrated a number of editions of the famous story during his career.

Awarded the title of Knight Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in 1994, he died in Rome in 1997 at the age of 74.

Travel tip:

Termoli, once primarily a fishing port but now a popular tourist resort, particularly with Italian families who flock to its sandy beaches, is notable for the Borgo Antico, an historic old town that sits on a promontory surrounded by walls which, on one side, drop into the sea.  An 11th century castle stands guard at the entrance and many of the houses are painted in pastel colours.  The Cathedral of St Mary of the Purification, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, is an example of Apulian Romanesque design. Contained within are the remains of the town's two patron saints, Bassus of Lucera and Timothy.

Termoli hotels by  

Macerata hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival every summer
Macerata hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival every summer
Travel tip:

The walled city of Macerata in Marche is not among Italy's mainstream tourist destinations yet offers much to charm the visitor with its hill-town characteristics and maze of cobbled streets.  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. There are several beautiful palaces and a university that is among the oldest it Italy, established in 1290.  Each July and August the city hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival, one of the most important dates on the Italian opera calendar, which is held in the 2,500 seat open-air Arena Sferisterio, a huge neoclassical arena built in the 1820s. Most of the world's great opera singers have performed there, attracted by its perfect acoustics, and it has been credited with staging some of the finest productions in the history of numerous regularly performed works, including Ken Russell's direction of Puccini's La Bohème in 1984.

9 September 2016

Oscar Luigi Scalfaro – President of Italy

Devout lawyer served the Republic all his life

Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who was the ninth President of the Italian Republic
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who was the ninth
President of the Italian Republic
The ninth President of the Italian Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, was born on this day in 1918 in Novara.

After studying law and entering the magistrature he became a public prosecutor and is the last Italian attorney to have obtained a death sentence.

In 1945 he prosecuted the former Novara prefect Enrico Vezzalini and five servicemen, who were accused of collaborating with the Germans. All six were condemned to death and the sentence was carried out a few months later.

Subsequently Scalfaro obtained another death sentence, but the accused was pardoned before the execution could take place.

Scalfaro was brought up to be a devout Catholic and studied law at Milan’s Università Cattolica.

Before the war ended he lost his wife, Maria Inzitari, who died a few weeks after giving birth to their daughter. He never remarried.

In 1948, as a member of Democrazia Cristiana, Scalfaro became a deputy representing Turin and was to keep the seat for more than 40 years, during which he held a number of leadership positions within the Christian Democrat party and in the Chamber of Deputies.

The cloister at the Università Cattolica in Milan, the largest private university in Europe
The cloister at the Università Cattolica in Milan, the
largest private university in Europe
At various times Scalfaro was the minister in charge of transport, civil aviation, education and the interior and, in 1987, he tried unsuccessfully to form a Government himself.

He was elected President of the Republic in 1992 and served till 1999. He then became a Senator for life.

He campaigned for the ‘No’ side in the 2006 referendum on constitutional reform and also served briefly as President of the Senate, despite by then being in his late eighties.

Scalfaro died in Rome in 2012 at the age of 93.

The 121m cupola of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio dominates the Novara skyline
The 121m cupola of the Basilica of San
Gaudenzio dominates the Novara skyline
Travel tip:

Novara, where Oscar Luigi Scalfaro was born, is in the Piedmont region to the west of Milan. In the historic centre you can still see part of the ancient Roman walls. The most imposing monument, which has become the symbol of Novara, is the Basilica of San Gaudenzio with its 121-metre high cupola designed by Alessandro Antonelli.

Travel tip:

The seat of the Italian Senate is Palazzo Madama in Rome, which was built on top of the ancient baths of Nero close to Piazza Navona at the end of the 15th century for the Medici family. The Palazzo takes its name from Madama Margherita of Austria, the illegitimate daughter of the Emperor Charles V, who married Alessandro dè Medici. In 1871 after the conquest of Rome by Victor Emmanuel’s troops, Palazzo Madama became the seat of the Senate of the newly-formed Kingdom of Italy.

More reading:

How Moro tragedy blighted career of President Cossiga

(Photo of Universita Cattolica by Scruch CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Novara cupola by Guido06 CC BY-SA 3.0)