Showing posts with label Palazzo Venezia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palazzo Venezia. Show all posts

30 December 2017

Alessandra Mussolini – politician

Controversial granddaughter of Fascist dictator

Alessandra  Mussolini is an Italian MEP
Alessandra  Mussolini is an Italian MEP
The MEP Alessandra Mussolini, niece of actress Sophia Loren and granddaughter of Italy’s former Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was born on this day in 1962 in Rome.

Formerly an actress and model, Mussolini entered politics in the early 1990s as a member of the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano, which had its roots in the Italian Social Republic, the German puppet state led by her grandfather from September 1943 until his death in April 1945.

Her views have changed in more recent years and she has become known for embracing modern issues including abortion, artificial insemination, gay rights and civil unions from a progressive standpoint that has more in common with left-wing feminism.

She has left behind her association with the far right and serves on the European Parliament as representative for Central Italy under a centre-right Forza Italia ticket.

However, she is not without some admiration for the policies of her grandfather.  Only recently she caused consternation when asked her opinion on what to do about an escalating Mafia war in the Roman seaside resort of Ostia by claiming that “granddad would have sorted this out in two or three months.”

Mussolini in her days as an  aspiring young actress
Mussolini in her days as an
 aspiring young actress
The daughter of Benito Mussolini’s fourth son Romano, a jazz pianist who married Sophia Loren’s younger sister, Anna Maria Villani Scicolone, also an actress, she was taken under Loren’s wing as a child and was only 14 years old when she appeared with her aunt (in the role of her daughter) and Marcello Mastroianni in Ettore Scola’s award-winning movie Una giornata particolare (A Special Day).

After studying at the American Overseas School and then Sapienza University in Rome, where she graduated in 1986 and then obtained a Master’s in medicine and surgery, Alessandra returned to the cinema, winning acclaim for her role in another Loren hit, Sabato, domenica e lunedi (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), directed by Lina Wertmüller.

Somewhat ironically, given her ancestry, she had a part in the American-made film The Assisi Underground, which focussed on the efforts of a Franciscan priest to rescue Jews from the Nazis

She also recorded an album of romantic pop songs, albeit released only in Japan, and twice posed for Playboy magazine shoots.

She was elected to the Italian parliament in 1992 for a Naples constituency as a member of MSI, which would later evolve into the Allianza Nationale.  The following year she ran for Mayor of Naples, although she was beaten by the former communist, Antonio Bassolino.

Alessandra has inherited some of her grandfather's talent for passionate speeches
Alessandra has inherited some of her
grandfather's talent for passionate speeches
At the time she did not shy from associations with her grandfather’s politics.  At an MSI rally in Rome in 1992, during which supporters defied party instructions not to wear blackshirts and give Fascist salutes, she stood on a balcony at the Palazzo Venezia, from which the self-proclaimed Duce had delivered many speeches, and shouted “Grazia, Nonno!” (Thanks, Granddad!) as supporters marched past.

Later, she quit the Allianza Nationale after its leader, Gianfranco Fini, in an attempt to move the party away from its perceived position at the far right, made a visit to Israel in which he apologised for Italy’s role as an Axis Power in the Second World War and described Fascism as part of the “absolute evil” that brought about the Holocaust, although she conceded that the world should “beg the forgiveness of Israel” for what had happened.

When she then formed the Social Action party and organised a coalition named Social Alternative, it was expected she would continue to propagate a far-right ideology, so it came as a surprise that she chose to campaign on progressive policies usually associated with the left.

After the Italian general election of April 2008, Mussolini served as a member of the Italian parliament within Silvio Berlusconi's alliance of right wing parties, The People of Freedom.

In the election in February 2013, she was elected to the Senate for The People of Freedom, which was rebranded in November 2013 as Berlusconi relaunched Forza Italia, which had brought him huge success in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, including an unprecedented nine years as prime minister, the longest-serving Italian leader since Benito Mussolini.

In the 2014 European Parliament election, Alessandra Mussolini was elected for Forza Italia, a position she still holds.

The Palazzo Venezia looks out over the Piazza Venezia and the Via del Plebiscito
The Palazzo Venezia looks out over the Piazza Venezia
and the Via del Plebiscito
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Venezia, formerly known as the Palace of St. Mark, is a palace in central Rome, just north of the Capitoline Hill. Originally a modest medieval house intended as the residence of the cardinals appointed to the church of San Marco, in 1469 it became a residential papal palace. In 1564, Pope Pius IV, to curry favour with the Republic of Venice, gave the mansion to the Venetian embassy to Rome on condition that part of the building would remain a residence for the cardinals. Today, the palace, which faces Piazza Venezia and Via del Plebiscito, houses a museum. Its association with Benito Mussolini, who had an office in the palace, led to the balcony from which he made his speeches remaining covered up for many years amid fears it would become a place of pilgrimage for Fascist sympathisers, but it has recently been renovated and opened to the public.

Roman ruins at Ostia Antica
Roman ruins at Ostia Antica
Travel tip:

The seaside resort of Ostia lies 30km (19 miles) to the southwest of the centre of Rome, yet is part of the Rome metropolitan area and thus the only part of the city on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Situated just across the Tiber river from Fiumicino, home of Rome’s largest international airport, it adjoins the remains of the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica. Many Romans spend the summer holidays in the modern town, swelling a population of about 85,000.

26 July 2017

Pope Paul II

Flamboyant pope who helped make books available to ordinary people

Cristofano dell'Altissimo's portrait of Pope Paul II
Cristofano dell'Altissimo's portrait
of Pope Paul II
Pietro Barbo, who became Pope Paul II, died on this day in 1471 in Rome at the age of 54.

He is remembered for enjoying dressing up in sumptuous, ecclesiastical finery and having a papal tiara made for himself, which was studded with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, topaz, large pearls and many other precious gems.

Barbo was born in Venice and was a nephew of Pope Eugenius IV through his mother and a member of the noble Barbo family through his father.

He adopted a spiritual career after his uncle was elected as pope and made rapid progress. He became a cardinal in 1440 and promised that if he was elected pope one day he would buy each cardinal a villa to escape the summer heat. He then became archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica.

It was reported that Pope Pius II suggested he should have been called Maria Pietissima (Our Lady of Pity) as he would use tears to help him obtain things he wanted. Some historians have suggested the nickname may have been an allusion to his enjoyment of dressing up or, possibly, to his lack of masculinity.

Barbo was elected to succeed Pope Pius II in the first ballot of the papal conclave of 1464.

Beforehand an agreement had been drawn up that bound the future pope to continue the Turkish war, to not journey outside Rome without the consent of the majority of the cardinals, nor to leave Italy without the consent of all of them.

Pope Paul II as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicles in 1493
Pope Paul II as depicted in the
Nuremberg Chronicles in 1493
The maximum number of cardinals was to be limited to 24 and any new pope was to be limited to having only one cardinal-nephew.

Upon taking office, the new pope, Paul II, was obliged to convene an ecumenical council within three years.

Paul II later modified these terms for his own benefit, losing the confidence of the college of cardinals as a result.

After his coronation, Paul withdrew from public life and became almost inaccessible. Audiences were granted only at night and even his good friends waited a fortnight to see him.

Paul II is reputed to have worn rouge in public. There was a story told by one cardinal that he meant to take the name Formosus II, which means handsome, but that he was persuaded not to. Another story claimed he was dissuaded from choosing Marcus because he was Venetian and the Cardinal of San Marco and because 'Viva San Marco' was the war cry of Venice.

Paul II built the Palazzo San Marco, which is now called Palazzo Venezia, in Rome and continued to live there even when he was pope.

He annoyed the College of Cardinals by creating new cardinals in secret without publishing their names. Some were believed to have even died before their names were published.

The house in Venice's Calle della Pietà, where Pietro Barbo was born.
The house in Venice's Calle della Pietà,
where Pietro Barbo was born.
He often clashed with papal officials and had some of them imprisoned and tortured and he excommunicated the King of Bohemia.

When Paul II died suddenly of a heart attack, reports of the cause of death varied. Some said he had collapsed with indigestion after eating an excess of melons. Some said he had died while being sodomised by a page boy.

Paul II oversaw the introduction of printing into the Papal States with the results that books became less expensive and enabled more people to be educated.

He also put on popular amusements for the locals such as a horse race during the Carnival along a main street in Rome, which then became known as Via del Corso.

He is said to have forced Jews to run naked in the streets for the amusement of non-Jews and it is claimed he made them identify themselves by wearing yellow handkerchiefs in public, a tactic used later during the Holocaust. After the death of Paul II, the next pope and a selecct group of cardinals discovered a quantity of jewels, pearls and gold that he had amassed.

Travel tip:

Before he became Pope Paul II, Pietro Barbo was made archpriest of the old St Peter’s Basilica, the church built over the burial site of St Peter in the fourth century. It contained tombs for most of the popes from St Peter to the 15th century  but in 1505, after Paul’s death, Pope Julius II decided to demolish the old Basilica and replace it with a bigger, far more imposing structure, which would house his own tomb. The present Basilica was designed by Donato Bramate, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The Palazzo San Marco - now Palazzo Venezia - was Pope Paul II's favoured residence in Rome
The Palazzo San Marco - now Palazzo Venezia - was Pope
Paul II's favoured residence in Rome
Travel tip:

Paul II lived at Palazzo San Marco in Rome even when he was pope. Now known as Palazzo Venezia, north of Capitoline Hill, the palace was originally a modest, medieval house for cardinals to live in. It took on a new layout in 1451 when owned by Pietro Barbo, the future Pope Paul II. It had some of the first Renaissance architectural features in Rome and much of the stone used was quarried from the nearby Colosseum, a common practice until the 18th century.

10 June 2016

Italy enters the Second World War

Mussolini sides with Germany against Britain and France

Photo of Mussolini making war declaration
A newspaper photograph of Mussolini announcing his
declaration of war from the Palazzo Venezia
One of the darkest periods of Italian history began on this day in 1940 when the country's Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, declared war on Great Britain and France, ending the possibility that Italy would avoid being drawn into the Second World War.

Mussolini made the declaration from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, where he had his office. The balcony enabled him to address a large crowd in the Piazza Venezia and he ordered his Blackshirts to ensure that the square was full of enthusiastic supporters.

Italy had already signed a Pact of Steel with Germany but had been reluctant to enter the conflict. Mussolini had a strong navy but a relatively weak army and a lack of resources across the board.

By June 1940, however, Germany was on the point of conquering France and it was thought that Britain would soon follow. Historians believe Mussolini's decision to enter the conflict was an opportunistic attempt to win a share of French territory.

He told the Italian people that going to war was a matter of honour after his efforts to preserve peace had been rebuffed by 'treacherous' Western democracies, but many believe his motives were simply to pursue his expansionist ambitions at minimal cost.

The Italian Army's chief of staff, Marshall Badoglio, was said to be against Italy becoming involved before it was ready and for a week after the declaration there was no movement from Italian forces.

Photo of Mussolini and Hitler
Mussolini and Hitler met in in Munich the
day before Italian troops attacked France
But German leader Adolf Hitler told Mussolini that France had agreed to enter negotiations for an armistice and that unless Italy made some contribution towards the campaign it would not be able to participate in negotiations and would have no claim in any settlement.

On June 20 Italian troops launched an offensive in south-eastern France.  It was quickly repelled but by June 24 France had formally surrendered and Mussolini's goal of winning territory was achieved, albeit at the cost of more than 1,200 dead or missing and more than 2,600 wounded.

United States President Franklin D Roosevelt condemned the invasion as "a dagger in the back of a neighbour" and there was a substantial backlash against Italians living in Britain, with Italian businesses attacked during riots in British cities. South Wales and Scotland, where there were large Italian communities, were particularly affected.  Italians in Liverpool also came under attack.

London's 10,000 Italians suffered relatively little trouble, although communities were swiftly torn apart when Britain's wartime leader, Winston Churchill, announced the day after the declaration of war that all Italians between 17 and 70 who had not been resident in Britain more than 20 years would be arrested and interned.  Some were even deported to Australia and Canada.

Travel tip:

The Palazzo Venezia, which housed Mussolini's office, is a palace in central Rome, just north of the Capitoline Hill. Originally a modest medieval house intended as the residence of the cardinals appointed to the church of San Marco, it became a residential papal palace. The palazzo faces Piazza Venezia and Via del Plebiscito and currently houses the National Museum of the Palazzo Venezia.

Photo of monument to Victor Emanuel II
Piazza Venezia in Rome is dominated by the huge
monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Travel tip:

The Piazza Venezia is dominated by the vast Altare della Patria, otherwise known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and sometimes 'the wedding cake' or Il Vittoriano, a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It features Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. Including the winged victories, it touches 81 metres (266 feet) tall. The base of the structure houses a small museum of Italian Unification.

(Photo of Il Vittoriano by Fczarnowski CC BY-SA 3.0)

More reading:

The death of Benito Mussolini

Italy rebuilds after the War