Showing posts with label Politicians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politicians. Show all posts

10 October 2023

Nunzia De Girolamo - politician and television presenter

Lawyer who moved from debating to dancing

De Girolamo served in prime minister Enrico Letta's cabinet from 2013 to 2014
De Girolamo served in prime minister
Enrico Letta's cabinet from 2013 to 2014
Politician and lawyer Nunzia De Girolamo, who served as Minister of Agriculture in the government of Enrico Letta from 2013 to 2014, was born on this day in 1975 in Benevento in Campania.

Nunzia became a member of the Italian parliament, representing Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, in 2008, and she was re-elected to parliament in 2013. She went on to become the youngest member of the Letta cabinet and one of just seven female politicians appointed.

While growing up, Nunzia attended the Liceo Classico Pietro Giannone in Benevento and then entered the faculty of jurisprudence to study law at the University of Rome La Sapienza. After graduating, she went into the legal profession.

Nunzia worked in the fields of civil law, employment law, and commercial law before going into politics.

She became a member of Forza Italia, but left the party in 2009. Voters chose her as an individual member of the People of Freedom party, when she stood for parliament for the second time.

In 2011, she married Francesco Boccia, the Minister for Regional Affairs and Autonomy. They had a daughter, who they named Gea.

After leaving the People of Freedom party in November 2013, Nunzia joined Angelino Alfano’s New Centre Right party.

However, she resigned from office in 2014, after claims were made that she had conducted herself improperly. Nunzia denied any wrongdoing, saying she had left her ministerial post in order to defend herself against the allegations made against her. After Prime Minister Letta accepted her resignation, Nunzia became the second minister to resign from the cabinet in the nine months since the elections.

With dancer Raimondo Todaro, De Girolamo  reached the finals of Ballando con le Stelle
With dancer Raimondo Todaro, De Girolamo
 reached the finals of Ballando con le Stelle
She subsequently served as House whip for the New Centre Right party, but she failed to be re-elected to the Chamber in the 2018 elections.

In 2019, Nunzia took part in the 14th series of the programme, Ballando con le Stelle, Italy’s version of the BBC's popular programme, Strictly Come Dancing and America's Dancing with the Stars. 

She was partnered by professional dancer Raimondo Todaro and the couple enjoyed some lively exchanges with the programme’s panel of judges at the end of their dances each week, yet were popular enough with the public to be one of six couples voted through to the finals show. 

The former politician’s Ballando con le Stelle appearances have since been followed by regular television work presenting programmes for Rai Uno.

Benevento's Arch of Trajan echoes the city's Roman past
Benevento's Arch of Trajan
echoes the city's Roman past
Travel tip: 

Benevento, Nunzia De Girolamo's birthplace, is a city built on a hill some 50km (31 miles) northeast of Naples in Campania. As Beneventum, it was an important Roman trading station along the Via Appia route between Rome and Brindisi and its Roman remains are a particular attraction to visitors. An outdoor theatre built by Hadrian to seat 10,000 spectators has been preserved in relatively good condition, as has the city's marble Trajan's Arch, built during the second century to mark the opening of the Via Traiano trade route. The arch had ornate decorative carvings of exceptional detail, which celebrate the life and times of Emperor Trajan. Benevento suffered extensive damage from bombing in World War Two and several major buildings, including the city's Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria de Episcopio - had to undergo restoration or complete rebuilding work. The church of Saint Sophia, a circular building with Byzantine touches consecrated in around 760, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The palace housing the Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza church, which was built from a tax on wine
The palace housing the Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza
church, which was bought with a tax on wine
Travel tip: 

The University of Rome - often referred to as the Sapienza University of Rome or simply La Sapienza, meaning 'knowledge' - was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII, as a place for  ecclesiastical studies over which he could exert greater control than the already established universities of Bologna and Padua. The first pontifical university, it expanded in the 15th century to include schools of Law, Medicine, Philosophy and Theology. Money raised from a new tax on wine enabled the university to buy a palace, which later housed the Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza church. The university was closed during the sack of Rome in 1527 but reopened by Pope Paul III in 1534. In 1870, La Sapienza ceased to be the papal university and as the university of the capital of Italy became recognised as the country's most prestigious seat of learning. A new modern campus was built in 1935 under the guidance of the architect Marcello Piacentini. 

Also on this day:

1881: The death of missionary Saint Daniele Comboni

1891: The birth of Mafia boss Stefano Maggadino

1921: The birth of poet Andrea Zanzotto


16 March 2023

Tiberius – Roman Emperor

The decline of a leader who ruled from a beautiful place of exile

The Death of Tiberius, perhaps attended by Caligula, imagined in an 1864 painting by Jean-Paul Laurens
The Death of Tiberius, perhaps attended by Caligula,
imagined in an 1864 painting by Jean-Paul Laurens
After starting his reign in glory, the Emperor Tiberius slowly deteriorated and is reputed to have become steadily crueller and more debauched until he died on this day in 37 AD in Misenum, now Miseno, in Campania.

Tiberius had become the second Roman Emperor, succeeding his stepfather, Augustus, in 14 AD. As a young man, he had been a successful general, but at the age of 36 he chose to retire and go and live in Rhodes because he was determined to avoid getting involved in politics. 

However, after the deaths of both grandsons of Augustus, his ailing stepfather had no choice but to make Tiberius his heir.

Tiberius inherited the throne at the age of 54 and was at first a hardworking ruler, trying to pass sensible and far-seeing laws. He stopped pointless, costly conflicts and the waste of the empire’s money and was said to have left the imperial coffers much fuller than when he inherited them.

But he was constantly at odds with the Senate, who claimed he gave vague orders to them and that they had to debate the orders among themselves so that they could decide what to do and therefore some of his legislation was never passed.

Tiberius left Rome after 13 years and never returned to the city
Tiberius left Rome after 13 years
and never returned to the city
After 13 years, Tiberius decided he had had enough and he went to live in a magnificent villa on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. He never visited Rome again and delegated his power over the Senate to the commander of his guard.

As the years passed by, Tiberius became increasingly paranoid and brooded constantly on the loss of his son, Drusus Julius Caesar, who was said to have died in mysterious circumstances.

Many historians have claimed that Tiberius became steadily more cruel and vindictive as he grew older, and that he enjoyed torturing his victims, the people he perceived to be his enemies. He then liked to kill them by having them thrown off the cliffs at a spot on Capri that has become known as Salto di Tiberio - Tiberius’s Leap.

One senator was allegedly condemned to death just for having carried a coin, with the head of Tiberius on it, into a public lavatory with him.

The Emperor Tiberius was also reputed to have become a paedophile, bringing in young boys and girls to take part in imperial orgies at his villa on Capri.

When he was 71, Tiberius brought his 18-year-old great-nephew, Caligula, to live on Capri and subsequently named him as heir to the empire. For six years Caligula remained docile and obedient towards Tiberius, although he was said to occasionally display signs of the sadism that would subsequently blight his years as emperor.

Early in AD 37, Tiberius travelled to what was then Misenum to take part in military games. After injuring his shoulder throwing the javelin, he became seriously ill. He eventually lapsed into unconsciousness and doctors declared that his death would be imminent. Caligula then took the imperial ring from his great uncle’s finger and showed himself to a local crowd as the new Roman emperor.

Then Tiberius apparently woke from his coma and demanded food, which terrified Caligula. However, one of the heir’s quick-thinking allies rushed into the bedroom of Tiberius and finished him off by smothering him in a blanket. Tiberius was 77 when he died and he had been in power for 22 years.

The historian Tacitus wrote that people in Rome cheered when they heard that Tiberius was dead, only to panic when they heard he had recovered. Then they rejoiced again when they heard that the debauched emperor’s life had finally ended.

Modern Miseno, looking towards Capo Miseno,  which offers views across the Bay of Naples
Modern Miseno, looking towards Capo Miseno, 
which offers views across the Bay of Naples
Travel tip:

Misenum, where Tiberius was injured and died, is now known as Miseno and is one of the frazioni of Bacoli in the province of Naples. Nearby Capo Miseno marks the north western end of the Bay of Naples, from where there are incredible views of Capri, Ischia, Sorrento, and Mount Vesuvius. For centuries, Misenum was the biggest naval base in the Roman empire and housed thousands of sailors.  Its beautiful natural setting and proximity to the nearby Roman cities of Puteoli - modern Pozzuoli - and Neapolis (Naples), Misenum also became a popular location for Roman luxury villas.

Villa Jovis, as it might have looked in the time of Tiberius. Today, there are only ruins
Villa Jovis, as it might have looked in the time of
Tiberius. Today, there are only ruins
Travel tip:

Tiberius ruled his empire from the Villa Jovis on Capri and the sheer cliff beside the villa, known as the Salto di Tiberio - Tiberius’s Leap - is said to be the precipice from which the Emperor had his victims hurled to their deaths. The biggest of 12 residences Tiberius had built on Capri, Villa Jovis occupies a spectacular position at the top of Monte Tiberio on the north east corner of the island. With an elevation of 334m (1,096ft), Monte Tiberio is the second-highest peak on the island, topped only by Monte Solaro (589m; 1,932ft) in Anacapri. Access to the remains of the villa is only possible on foot, and involves an uphill walk of about two kilometres from Capri town along Via Tiberio.

Also on this day:

1820: The birth of tenor Enrico Tamberlik

1886: The birth of athlete Emilio Lunghi - Italy’s first Olympic medallist

1940: The birth of film director Bernardo Bertolucci

1978: The kidnapping of former Italian PM Aldo Moro


23 February 2023

Emanuele Notarbartolo - banker and politician

First major figure to be assassinated by Mafia

Emanuele Notarbartolo spent 14 years in charge of the Banco di Sicilia
Emanuele Notarbartolo spent 14 years
in charge of the Banco di Sicilia
The banker and politician Emanuele Notarbartolo, whose determination to end corrupt banking practices in Sicily in the late 19th century would cost him his life, was born on this day in 1834 in Palermo.

Notarbartolo served as a conservative Mayor of Palermo from 1873 to 1876 and director of the Banco di Sicilia from 1876 to 1890.

He saved the bank from going bust by stamping down on the practice of doling out large and effectively unsecured loans to favoured individuals but in doing so made many enemies.

Having survived being kidnapped in 1882, Notarbartolo was stabbed to death in his first-class compartment on a train just outside Palermo, his body thrown out of the carriage on to the track side.

Although ultimately they were set free as the legal process broke down, Raffaele Palizzolo, a rival politician with Mafia connections as well as a fellow member of the Banco di Sicilia board, and a boss of the Villabate mafia clan, Giuseppe Fontana, were identified as being responsible for his death. Each was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Murders involving members of the Cosa Nostra were commonplace but the victims were generally other mafiosi or associates. Notarbartolo’s death is thought to have been the first instance of a politician or other prominent public figure being killed on Mafia orders.

Notarbartolo was born into one of Palermo’s most important aristocratic families and was given the title Marquis of San Giovanni. Orphaned as a child, he moved to Paris in his early 20s and then to London, where he developed a passion for economics and politics, becoming a supporter of liberal conservatism which on his return to Italy placed him on the Historical Right.

Newspapers in Italy covered the trial of Notarbartolo's alleged killers extensively
Newspapers in Italy covered the trial of
Notarbartolo's alleged killers extensively
He joined the Sardinian Army and joined Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand, taking part in the Battle of Milazzo as his red-shirted followers captured the island of Sicily and pushed towards the mainland.

Notarbartolo’s participation was rewarded with public office in Palermo, where he was for a while assessor of the city’s police force before being appointed president of the civic hospital. In his capacity as Mayor, to which office he was elected in September 1873, he promoted the construction of Palermo’s enormous opera house, the Teatro Massimo.

He developed a reputation for moral integrity, thanks to which he was appointed General Manager of the Banco di Sicilia in February 1876 at the behest of the Rome government led by Marco Minghetti. 

His brief was to reorganise the banking system on the island, which had fallen into such chaos that the Banco di Sicilia was at the brink of bankruptcy, threatening dire consequences for the entire Sicilian economy.

Notarbartolo soon discovered that incompetent bank managers were granting substantial loans to so-called entrepreneurs and builders purely on the basis of patronage, without asking for guarantees and allowing generous repayment terms.

This impacted on a considerable number of powerful people in Palermo, politicians and criminals alike, who had become used to easy finance with no questions asked. It was not long before there were plots to oust Notarbartolo.

Notarbartolo's rival Raffaele  Palizzolo was one of the accused
Notarbartolo's rival Raffaele 
Palizzolo was one of the accused

Yet he was not intimidated, even when he was kidnapped. After paying 50,000 lire as a ransom, he was released unharmed and vowed to redouble his efforts to rid the bank of corruption. By now he had several rows with Palizzolo and suspected that his rival was behind the kidnap, although it was never proved.

He wrote to the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in Rome, outlining the lax and corrupt practices he had exposed, but the letter was somehow intercepted and fell into the hands of Palizzolo, who informed the other members of the bank’s board. In 1890, his opponents, with the backing of Francesco Crispi’s government, forced Notarbartolo to resign.

After his successor as director of the bank made a number of reckless and costly decisions, there was talk of Notarbartolo being reinstated. Days after this came to light, he was killed.

Soon after the train carrying Notarbartolo towards Palermo from his country estate near Sciara left the station at Trabia, some 33km (21 miles) southeast of the capital along the Tyrrhenian coast, it entered a tunnel, at which moment two men entered the banker’s compartment and attacked him, stabbing him 27 times.  His body, thrown from the compartment, was found in undergrowth by the track.

Fontana and two supposedly complicit railway workers were arrested, but a court in Palermo quickly acquitted Fontana and convicted the railway workers. Despite testimony from a carabinieri officer pointing to him as a possible instigator of the murder, Palizzolo - by then a member of the Chamber of Deputies -  was never called.

Further trials in Milan and Bologna eventually found Fontana and Palizzolo guilty, the former of killing Notarbartolo, the latter of commissioning the murder. Each was sentenced in 1902 to 30 years in prison, only for the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome to overturn the verdicts a year later on the basis of procedural defects.

A new trial took place in Florence in 1904 at which a new witness was to be produced on behalf of the prosecutors after another mafioso, Matteo Filippello, had confessed to being the other man in the railway carriage attack.  A few days before he was due in court, however, Filippello was found dead, police reporting that he had hanged himself. 

Fontana and Palizzolo were both then acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence, the latter apparently welcomed by a cheering crowd on his return to Palermo.

Notarbartolo's bust in Palazzo Pretoria
Notarbartolo's bust
in Palazzo Pretorio
Travel tip:

Emanuele Notarbartolo is commemorated in Palermo in the Via Emanuele Notarbartolo, an important street in the city, part of a long, straight thoroughfare that stretches across the city from the harbour area in the direction of Monte Cuccio to the west. The street, which intersects with the Via della Libertà, has a modern feel with a mix of shops, offices and apartment buildings and a scattering of Liberty-style villas typical of the city. Palermo Notarbartolo station can be found halfway along.  A bust of Notarbartolo, carved by Antonio Ugo, can be seen in Palermo’s Palazzo Pretorio, where the city’s municipal council meets.

Stay in Palermo with

Sciara, which sits on a plain in the shadow of Monte  San Calogero, was founded by Notarbartolo's ancestors
Sciara, which sits on a plain in the shadow of Monte 
San Calogero, was founded by Notarbartolo's ancestors
Travel tip:

Sciara, where Emanuele Notarbartolo lived when away from Palermo, is a village just over 40km (25 miles) southeast of the Sicilian capital within the Monte San Calogero Nature Reserve, with its characteristic lush vegetation. The municipality was founded in 1671 by one of Notarbartolo’s ancestors, Baron Filippo Notarbartolo, by royal decree of Charles II of Spain. It was one of more than 30 fiefdoms owned by the family. Filippo built Sciara’s elevated castle and a couple of churches, including the Chiesa di Sant’Anna. The area is quite poor and many houses were left empty after families emigrated to the north of Italy, to Germany and the United States in the 1970s and ‘80s. Those villages who remain are often involved in the production of tomatoes, olives and artichokes.

Accommodation in Sciara from

More reading:

The Sicilian lawyer who made it his life's work to take on Mafia

The Palermo businessman who refused to pay

The president’s brother killed by the Mafia

Also on this day:

1507: The death of Renaissance painter Gentile Bellini 

1806: The birth of military general Manfredo Fanti

1821: The death in Rome of English poet John Keats

1822: The birth of archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi

1910: The birth of artist Corrado Cagli

(Picture credits: Notarbartolo bust by Sicilarch; Sciara panorama by Azotoliquido; via Wikimedia Commons)