Showing posts with label Publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Publishing. Show all posts

18 November 2023

Gianni Mazzocchi - publisher

Business success marred by personal heartache

Gianni Mazzocchi working on an edition of Domus, his first magazine venture
Gianni Mazzocchi working on an edition
of Domus, his first magazine venture
The publisher Gianni Mazzocchi, a magazine editor-proprietor who founded more than 15 national magazines, of which several titles, including Il Mondo, L'Europeo and Quattroruote, continued to be published long after his death, was born on this day in 1906 in Ascoli Piceno in Marche.

Mazzocchi became a publisher by accident after quitting university to support his family. But through a combination of boundless energy and a chance meeting with the architect and designer Gio Ponti, he launched himself as a magazine proprietor with enormous success.

His life was bookended by personal heartache. His early years were marred when illness and misfortune struck his family. Towards the end of his life he suffered the ordeal of having his eldest daughter kidnapped and was then left a widower, the stress of the episode being blamed for the sudden death of his wife. 

Mazzocchi, whose father was a breeder of silkworms at a time when such skills could yield a good living, seemed destined for a career in the law after winning a scholarship to study jurisprudence in Rome.

But the family’s prosperity abruptly collapsed when Mazzocchi’s father lost his business to a confidence trickster. With both his mother and sister in poor health and his father struggling with mountainous debts, Gianni abandoned his studies in order to find work. He moved to Milan, believing that opportunities were likely to be more plentiful in the northern city.

Gio Ponti, the architect and designer, put his trust in Mazzocchi's talents
Gio Ponti, the architect and designer,
put his trust in Mazzocchi's talents
His first offer of work came from Father Giovanni Semeria, a prominent Catholic priest concerned with fund-raising projects aimed at improving the lives of victims of poverty in southern Italy.  Mazzocchi was charged with typing up manuscripts of books Father Semeria produced and sold to raise money.

This gave him an introduction to publishers and book traders in Milan and it was not long before he found a permanent position paying enough for him to send money home as well as keep himself.

It was through Father Semeria that Mazzocchi met Ponti - with whom he shares a birthday - who was impressed enough by the young man’s talents to invite him to take over the running of his own architecture and design magazine, Domus, which was facing closure.

Mazzocchi and Ponti assembled a group of backers and Mazzocchi launched a new publishing company, taking over all aspects of administration and marketing while Ponti concentrated on the content. Over time, Mazzocchi increased his stake in the company, becoming sole proprietary by 1940, and began to publish other titles, using Domus as the template.  Able to anticipate public appetites, he turned a magazine about needlework into an early fashion title and acquired another that foresaw the growing interest in homes and interior design.

His first venture into news magazines came with Panorama, which appeared in 1939 as a fortnightly chronicle of public events. It was closed down after a year by the Fascist authorities, which was enough to persuade Mazzocchi to steer clear of news for the remainder of World War Two.

Panorama, which is still published today, was revived by the Mondadori publishing house and could be seen as an opportunity that slipped through Mazzocchi’s hands, but he had his own successes in the news market. 

L'Europeo became Italy's leading news magazine under Mazzocchi
L'Europeo became Italy's leading
news magazine under Mazzocchi
After the war, he launched L’Italia libera, a centre-left daily newspaper, and then, in partnership with Arrigo Benedetti, L’Europeo, for which a team of leading journalists was assembled. Finding a market along Italy’s growing intellectual class, the magazine prospered sufficiently for Mazzocchi to expand still further.

A second major news magazine, Il Mondo, launched in 1949, became Italy’s leading political title, before Mazzocchi expanded his interests to include car magazines such as Quattroruote and L’Auto Italiana. He had a car collection of his own that included Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.

Mazzocchi married one of his editors, Emma Robbutti, and they had two daughters, Maria Grazia and Giovanna. But their world was shattered in May 1978 when Maria Grazia, by then a journalist aged 33 and the mother of her own two sons, disappeared after leaving her father’s editorial offices to meet a friend for dinner.

It eventually transpired she had been kidnapped, a not uncommon occurrence in Italy in the 1970s as gangs snatched individuals, usually prominent or wealthy members of Italian society or their relatives, for political or criminal purposes.

The motive in this instance was simply to extract money. The original demand was for three billion lire but Mazzocchi secured his daughter’s release for one and a half billion after she had been held for two months. Maria Grazia was physically unharmed but the psychological strain was too much for her mother, Emma, who died within days of her release.

Gianni Mazzocchi was himself never the same man, losing much of the energy that had seen him work into his 70s. He died in 1984 at the age of 77, being laid to rest in a family mausoleum he had built at Gignese on Lake Maggiore.

His younger daughter, Giovanna, took over the running of the business, while Maria Grazia became president of the Domus Academy, a private school of design founded by her father two years before his death.

The elegant Piazza del Popolo at the centre of  the town is Ascoli Piceno's focal point
The elegant Piazza del Popolo at the centre of 
the town is Ascoli Piceno's focal point
Travel tip: 

Ascoli Piceno, where Gianni Mazzocchi was born, is a beautiful small city located in the Marche region of Italy, about 30km (19 miles) inland from the Adriatic coast. It is known for its picturesque mediaeval architecture and rich cultural heritage. Main attractions include the Piazza del Popolo, noted for the honey-coloured travertine stone of its paving and the historic buildings around it. Lined with cafes and restaurants, the square is a lively meeting place. Other places worth visiting include the Palazzo dell’Arengo, which houses a museum showcasing the history of the city, the Ventidio Basso Theatre and the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio, which dates back to the fifth century and houses an altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli. According to traditional accounts, Ascoli Piceno had some 200 towers in the Middle Ages, of which around 50 can still be seen today.

The Giardino Alpinia above Gignese offers stunning views across Lake Maggiore
The Giardino Alpinia above Gignese offers
stunning views across Lake Maggiore
Travel tip:

Located in a scenic position on the slopes of Mount Mottarone, overlooking Lago Maggiore, Gignese, where Mazzocchi was laid to rest in the family tomb, is said to have been founded by Genesio Dotti, from Genoa, in the 12th century.  It has strong connections with both the Visconti and Borromeo families.  Gignese became well known for the manufacture of umbrellas and today boasts the Museo dell’Ombrello e del Parasole (Museum of the Umbrella and Parasol), which houses an interesting and unique collection of umbrellas and parasols from the period between 1840-1940.  A nearby attraction is the Giardino Alpinia in the hamlet of Alpino, a botanical garden dedicated to the flowers and grasses of the Alps. The panoramic views from the garden’s natural balcony include Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, the Lombardy plain and the Alps.

Also on this day:

1626: The consecration of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome

1630: The birth of Eleonora Gonzaga – Holy Roman Empress

1804: The birth of military leader Alfonso Ferrero La Marmora

1849: The birth of builder and architect Stefano Cardu

1891: The birth of architect and designer Gio Ponti

1911: The birth of poet Attilio Bertolucci


31 October 2022

Angelo Rizzoli – publisher

Rags to riches story of an editorial entrepreneur

Angelo Rizzoli was raised in an orphanage in Milan
Angelo Rizzoli was raised in
an orphanage in Milan
Printer, publisher and film producer Angelo Rizzoli was born on this day in 1889 in Milan.

Rizzoli was orphaned when still very young and grew up in poverty, but by the time he was in his 20s he had become an entrepreneur.

Young Angelo was brought up in the orphanage of Martinitt in Milan, which had been founded in the 16th century in Via Manzoni for orphaned and abandoned Roman Catholic boys. It was there that he learnt the trade of a printer. 

Along with another trained print worker, and using his savings for the downpayment on a Linotype machine, he opened a typographical firm under the name of A. Rizzoli & C. in Via Cerva in Milan in 1911. The company was later to evolve into the publishing giant, RCS MediaGroup.

Rizzoli acquired Novella magazine, a bi-weekly aimed mainly at women and went on to add new publications, such as Annabella, Bertoldo, Candido, Omnibus, Oggi and L’Europeo.

In 1929, he started publishing books, producing La Storia del Risorgimento by Cesare Spellanzon. He later began producing both classic and popular novels.

The Rizzoli logo has become famous in Italian publishing
The Rizzoli logo has become
famous in Italian publishing 
His business gradually grew. He bought the Lama di Reno paper mill, near the town of Marzabotto in Emilia-Romagna, which would become the supplier of paper for the entire publishing empire, and in 1960 the moved to a large complex in the northeast of Milan in Via Civitavecchia, since renamed Via Angelo Rizzoli. 

Rizzoli’s dream of producing a new national newspaper never materialised although four years after his death his company purchased Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest selling daily. 

His interest in the film industry led him to create the production and distribution house Cineriz - short for Cinema Rizzoli - in 1956. The company produced two of Federico Fellini’s most famous films, La dolce vita in 1960 and Otto e mezzo in 1963.

Angelo Rizzoli (right) with son Andrea (centre) and nephew Angelo jr, who would take over the business
Angelo Rizzoli (right) with son Andrea (centre) and
nephew Angelo jr, who would take over the business
In recognition of his success as an entrepreneur, Rizzoli was given the title cavaliere del lavoro. In 1967, he was also given the title of Conte, by the ex-king of Italy, Umberto of Savoy, who was at the time living in exile in Lisbon in Portugal.

Rizzoli married Anna Marzorati, the daughter of one of his first clients, in 1912. The couple had three children, Andrea, Giuseppina, and Giuditta. Rizzoli died in 1970 at the age of 81 in Milan, leaving a fortune of more than 100 billion lire in his will.

The company passed into the hands of Andrea Rizzoli. His nephew, also called Angelo, joined the company’s board. Andrea enjoyed success in another sphere as the owner and president of AC Milan football club between 1954 and 1963, during which time the club won the Serie A title four times and the European Cup for the first time in its history.

RCS Media group (formerly Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera) has since changed hands a number of times but remains an international multimedia publishing group producing daily newspapers, magazines and books and operating in radio broadcasting, new media and digital and satellite TV.

The Casa Manzoni can be found where Via Morone meets Piazza Belgioioso
The Casa Manzoni can be found where
Via Morone meets Piazza Belgioioso
Travel tip:

Rizzoli grew up in the orphanage of Martinitt in Via Manzoni in Milan, which was housed in the oratory of Saint Martin that had been originally given to the founder of the orphanage, Gerolamo Emiliani, by Francesco II Sforza. The street takes its name from the writer Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), one of the most famous novels in Italian literary history, who was born in a house on nearby Via Gerolamo Morone. Via Manzoni, which stretches from Piazza della Scala towards the Piazza Cavour, today is a busy shopping street, one section of which is part of the quadrilatero della moda - Milan’s famous fashion quarter, where most of the biggest names in haute couture have a presence.

Rizzoli's Albergo Reginella Isabella  was Ischia's first luxury hotel
Rizzoli's Albergo Reginella Isabella 
was Ischia's first luxury hotel
Travel tip:

Angelo Rizzoli has a street named after him on Ischia, the verdant island off Campania that he fell in love with on his first visit in 1950. He established a home for himself and his family there in Villa Arbusto, an 18th century house in the spa of Lacco Ameno. The house is now given over to a museum displaying Greco-Roman and other artefacts recovered on the island. Rizzoli was invited to take part in a project to renovate the Regina Isabella spa at Lacco Ameno and accepted enthusiastically. He also built the main hospital of Ischia, which is named Anna Rizzoli in honour of his wife, and the Albergo Reginella Isabella, the island’s first luxury hotel .

Also on this day:

23 October 2021

Carlo Caracciolo - newspaper publisher

Left-leaning aristocrat who co-founded L’Espresso and La Repubblica 

Carlo Caracciolo set up La Repubblica in 1976
Carlo Caracciolo set up
La Repubblica in 1976
The newspaper publisher Carlo Caracciolo, who was the driving force behind the news magazine L’Espresso and the centre-left daily La Repubblica, was born on this day in 1925 in Florence.

Caracciolo aligned himself politically with the Left and spent the last two years of World War Two fighting against the Fascists as a member of a partisan unit he joined at the age of 18.

Yet he was born into Italian aristocracy, inheriting the titles Prince of Castagneto and Duke of Melito with the death of his father in 1965. After his younger sister, Marella, married the Fiat chairman, Gianni Agnelli, in 1953, he became one of the best connected individuals in Italian society. His funeral in 2008 was attended by members of five of Italy’s most powerful dynasties: Agnelli, Caracciolo, Borghese, Visconti and Pasolini.

Tall and handsome, effortlessly elegant in his dress sense and instinctively well-mannered, he could not disguise his refined roots but never flaunted them. He was at his most comfortable in the company of left-wing intellectuals and insisted he be known only as Carlo.

At the same time, however, he was a formidable businessman, pursuing his ideals of an independent free press but at the same time rebuilding his family’s fortune, which had suffered after the stock market crash of 1929 when his American mother, heir to a distilling company in Illinois, lost much of her inheritance. He was said to be the only man Gianni Agnelli, whose wealth and influence made him the most powerful person in Italy, genuinely regarded as an equal.

Caracciolo was fortunate to survive his experience of fighting with the partisans, which saw him arrested and sentenced to death. In an early indication of his talent for negotiating, however, he secured his escape from prison by striking a deal with his jailer, promising that when the Axis alliance fell to the Allies he would use his influence to return the favour.

Caracciolo (right) pictured with Eugenio Scalfari,  who helped him make L'Espresso his first success
Caracciolo (right) pictured with Eugenio Scalfari, 
who helped him make L'Espresso his first success
After the conflict ended, Caracciolo was sent to study law first in Rome and then at Harvard. It was there he met and became friends with Giorgio Agnelli, Gianni’s brother. Caraciollo remained in America for a while, working for a leading New York law firm.

He moved to Milan in 1951, where he worked at a trade publication for the packaging industry.  His business contacts soon included Adriano Olivetti, who inherited the Olivetti typewriter company from his father, Camillo, but had a progressive view of entrepreneurialism, believing that profits generated should be reinvested for the benefit of wider society.

Caracciolo likewise was a man of progressive ideas and wanted to challenge Italy’s tradition of clientelism, where so much depended on patronage, connections and favours, and which made it difficult for there to be a truly free press. He saw in Olivetti the perfect partner for his ambition to set up a genuinely independent news magazine. Together, they created the Nuove Edizioni Romane publishing company, enlisted two of Italy’s most respected journalists, Arrigo Benedetti and Eugenio Scalfari, and launched L’Espresso.

From the start, L'Espresso championed aggressive investigative journalism, seeking out the corruption and clientelism on which Caracciolo felt the Christian Democrats relied to maintain their grip on Italian politics. This had repercussions for Olivetti, who lost some major contracts as a result. Olivetti ultimately had to withdraw and handed Caracciolo his majority shareholding for a token amount.

Scalfari and Caracciolo (centre) at the launch of La Repubblica in Rome in 1976
Scalfari and Caracciolo (centre) at the launch
of La Repubblica in Rome in 1976
At that point, the magazine was losing money but, with the help of Scalfari in particular, Caracciolo transformed L’Espresso, redesigning it along the lines of Time magazine and altering Italian attitudes to the purpose and potential of a free press.

The magazine’s success gave them the platform to pursue their dream of publishing an independent daily. Seeking an investor, Caracciolo homed in on Giorgio Mondadori, who was looking for a new venture after a somewhat acrimonious split with the publishing house set up by his father, Arnoldo Mondadori, and saw their project as the right fit.

Thus, La Repubblica was launched on 14 January, 1976. Based in Rome, it was to be the first Italian daily to position itself on the centre-left, playing an important role in shifting Marxist activism in Italy towards contemporary social democracy.  Caracciolo was astute enough to see the value of arts coverage in building a strong circulation, particularly among younger readers.  He also correctly judged that adopting the Berliner format, the compact size that is slightly bigger than a tabloid but shorter and narrower than a broadsheet, would appeal to readers buying a newspaper to read on the go.

As a newspaper that was neither the voice piece of a political party nor owned by an industrial tycoon, La Repubblica was able to forge an independent path that also enabled it to recruit some of the best journalists in the country, giving them a chance to report the news without fear or favour.

Caracciolo's sister, Marella, who married Gianni Agnelli
Caracciolo's sister, Marella,
who married Gianni Agnelli
Caracciolo took his publishing activities to the Italian stock exchange in 1984 and four years later, with a circulation of 730,000 that made La Repubblica the most read newspaper in Italy, he sold his holdings in Editoriale L'Espresso to Mondadori. 

Much to his dismay, parts of the company subsequently ended up in the hands of Silvio Berlusconi, the entrepreneur whose politics were diametrically opposed to his own, but it was another Berlusconi opponent, Carlo De Benedetti, who took control of L’Espresso and La Repubblica.

With the money he made from the venture - his fortune was estimated at around $200 million (€172m; £145m) - Caracciolo acquired two country estates, one in Tuscany and the other - Torrecchia Vecchia - south of Rome, where he had a 17th-century barn converted into a villa by the architect Gae Aulenti and employed the English gardener and TV presenter Dan Pearson to design gardens that became his favourite part of the estate. He also owned an elegant apartment in the Trastevere district of central Rome. 

Caracciolo died in 2008, having survived his wife of 12 years, Violante Visconti di Modrone, a niece of the stage and film director Luchino Visconti, by eight years. He is survived by three children, Carlo, Margherita and Jacaranda.

The house on the Torrecchia Vecchia estate where Caracciolo spent much of his time when not in Rome
The house on the Torrecchia Vecchia estate where
Caracciolo spent much of his time when not in Rome
Travel tip:

Torrecchia Vecchia, one of two estates owned by Caracciolo, covers over 1500 acres just outside the town of Cisterna di Latina, some 55km (34 miles) south of Rome. Recognised as a Natural Monument in 2007, it may be visited by permission. Containing over 625 acres of woodland, the estate originally contained a medieval hilltop village and ruined castle, which was abandoned some 800 years ago.  Cisterna di Latina is acknowledged to have grown on the site of the village of Tres Tabernae, which was mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the towns where Saint Paul stopped on his way to Rome.

The Basilica of Santa Maria is one of Rome's oldest churches
The Basilica of Santa Maria is
one of Rome's oldest churches
Travel tip:

Although formerly a working class neighbourhood alongside the Tiber, the Trastevere district, where Caracciolo kept an apartment for when he was working in Rome, is regarded as one of the city's most charming areas for tourists to visit. Full of winding, cobbled streets and well preserved medieval houses, it is fashionable with Rome's young professional class as a place to live, with an abundance of restaurants and bars and a lively student music scene. It is also home to one of the oldest churches in Rome in the Basilica of Santa Maria, with a wall structure and floor plan dating back to the fourth century, although most of it was built in the first half of the 12th century. Inside, the walls and ceiling are covered with breathtakingly beautiful 13th century mosaics, by Pietro Cavallini.

Also on this day:

1457: The forced abdication of Francesco Foscari after 34 years as Doge of Venice

1966: The birth of racing driver and Paralympian Alex Zanardi

The Feast of Saint John of Capistrano


1 June 2021

Arrigo Benedetti - journalist and author

Founder and editor of three major news magazines

Arrigo Benedetti had a passion for news journalism
Arrigo Benedetti had a passion
for news journalism

Arrigo Benedetti, one of the most influential figures in postwar Italian news journalism, was born on this day in 1910 in Lucca.

Benedetti was the founding editor of three of Italy’s most important news magazines, one of which, L’Espresso, still ranks as one of the two most prominent Italian weeklies, alongside Panorama.

Of the other two, L’Europeo, which was launched in 1945, ceased publication in 1995, although the title was briefly revived in the 2000s, while Oggi continues to be published some 82 years after its inception, making it one of Italy’s oldest still-active magazines.

Arrested by the Fascist regime during World War Two, Benedetti escaped after the prison in which he was being held was bombed during an Allied air strike.

Born Giulio Benedetti, the son of a sales representative, he studied literature and philosophy at the University of Pisa and had some literary works published in the early 1930s. 

But he had ambitions to pursue a career in journalism rather than academia and in 1937 moved to Rome to join his boyhood friend, Mario Pannunzio, in working for a new weekly news magazine, Omnibus, edited by Leo Longanesi.

Omnibus was closed on the orders of prime minister Benito Mussolini in 1939, deemed to be a subversive publication. Benedetti follows Longanesi in writing for another newspaper, Tutto, which was also suppressed.

At this point, Benedetti decided to leave Rome, accepting an invitation along with Pannunzio from the publisher, Angelo Rizzoli, to go to Milan with the aim of launching a new newspaper. They decided on a weekly publication along the lines of Omnibus, inviting young intellectuals not aligned with the Fascist regime to write social commentaries, and launched Oggi on June 3, 1939.

A modern edition of L'Espresso, which was launched by Benedetti in 1955
A modern edition of L'Espresso, which
was launched by Benedetti in 1955
Oggi’s existence was tolerated until 1942 before the regime finally moved to close its offices and prevent the publication of further editions.

When Mussolini was overthrown and arrested in 1943, Benedetti celebrated. In collaboration with Pannunzio and Longanesi, he wrote a leader column in Il Messaggero, the Rome newspaper, hailing the return to freedom.

It was only a matter of weeks, however, before Mussolini was freed from his house arrest by a daring Nazi raid on the Apennine mountains ski lodge where he was being held.

Benedetti left Milan with his pregnant wife, Caterina, whom he had married in 1938, to live at her parents' home outside Reggio Emilia, reasoning that they would be safer there than in the Lombardy capital. 

Italy by then had signed an armistice with the Allies, but much of northern Italy was still under the control of the Nazis, who installed Mussolini as the leader of a new Italian Social Republic.

Benedetti was soon arrested, along with many other opponents of the regime, and detained in a prison in Reggio Emilia. He was accused of aiding and abetting the Allies and of being in possession of weapons. On the eve of his trial, however, the prison was almost destroyed in an air raid and Benedetti escaped.

Back in Milan, he joined the anti-Nazi resistance before returning to journalism as soon as he could once the German surrender was secured.

Politician Eugenio Scalfari, pictured in 2016
Politician Eugenio Scalfari,
pictured in 2016
In 1945, along with the entrepreneur Gianni Mazzocchi, he launched the news magazine L'Europeo, which quickly established a following among Italian readers thanks to the contributions of journalists such as Tommaso Besozzi, Enzo Biagi, Giorgio Bocca, Oriana Fallaci and Indro Montanelli.

In 1953 the Rizzoli publishing company bought the publication, but Benedetti’s relationship with the publisher became difficult and he left the magazine and teamed up with politician Eugenio Scalfari to launch another new weekly, L'Espresso, in October 1955, with backing from the progressive industrialist Adriano Olivetti.

Benedetti was the editor-in-chief until 1963, having uncovered major scandals in the health and housing industries. He handed over to Scalfari, who was strongly focussed on corruption and clientelism by the Christian Democrat party. 

In addition to his journalism, Benedetti wrote novels notable for their meticulous attention to detail and a narrative style that drew comparisons with Italian neorealist cinema, in particular in his last novel, Rosso al vento (Red in the Wind), describing life in Italy during World War II. 

He intended to spend his last years living in his villa outside Lucca but became increasingly ill in his later years and died of kidney failure in a Rome clinic in October, 1976. 

The oval Piazza Antifeatro is a point of interest in the Tuscan city of Lucca
The oval Piazza Antifeatro is a point of interest
in the Tuscan city of Lucca
Travel tip:

Lucca is situated in western Tuscany, just 30km (19 miles) inland from Viareggio on the coast and barely 20km (12 miles) from Pisa, with its international airport.  It is often overlooked by travellers to the area in favour of Pisa’s Leaning Tower and the art treasures of Florence, 80km (50 miles) to the east, yet has much to recommend within its majestic walls, where visitors can stroll along narrow cobbled streets into a number of beautiful squares, with lots of cafes and restaurants for those content to soak up the ambiance, but also a wealth of churches, museums and galleries for those seeking a fix of history and culture.   Of particular interest is the oval Piazza Antifeatro, which owes its shape to a second century Roman amphitheatre. The Renaissance walls, still intact, are an attraction in their own right, providing a complete 4.2km (2.6 miles) circuit of the city popular with walkers and cyclists. 

The Basilica di San Prospero in the square of the same name in Reggio Emilia
The Basilica di San Prospero in the square
of the same name in Reggio Emilia
Travel tip:

Reggio Emilia, a city in the Po Valley 28km (17 miles) southeast of Parma and 32km (20 miles) northwest of Modena, has an attractive historic centre with a number of notable buildings, including the Basilica della Ghiara and the 10th century Basilica di San Prospero, which overlooks the elegant Piazza of the same name.  The city is believed to have given Italy its tricolore national flag. There are historical records that suggest that a short-lived 18th century republic, the Repubblica Cispadana, had a flag of red, white and green that was decreed in Reggio Emilia in 1797.  The city today lacks the cultural wealth of neighbouring Parma and is consequently less visited but it Italy's world famous hard cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano - known in English as Parmesan - is thought to have originated in nearby Bibbiano, about 15km (9 miles) to the southeast.

Also on this day:

1675: The birth of playwright Francesco Scipione

1819: The birth of Francis V, the last reigning Duke of Modena

1858: The birth of mezzo-soprano Alice Barbi

1901: The birth of Princess Iolanda of Savoy, one of the Italian royals banished in 1946

(Picture credits: Piazza Antifeatro by Saverio Giusti from Pixabay; Basilica di San Prospero by RatMan1234 via Wikimedia Commons)


2 January 2019

Giulio Einaudi - publisher

Son of future president who defied Fascists

Giulio Einaudi ran his publishing company for more than 60 years
Giulio Einaudi ran his publishing company
for more than 60 years
Giulio Einaudi, who founded the pioneering publishing house that carries the family name, was born on this day in 1912 in Dogliani, a town in Piedmont.

The son of Luigi Einaudi, an anti-Fascist intellectual who would become the second President of the Italian Republic, Giulio was also the father of the musician and composer Ludovico Einaudi.

Giulio Einaudi’s own political leanings were influenced by his education at the the Liceo Classico Massimo d'Azeglio, where his teacher was Augusto Monti, a staunch opponent of Fascism who was imprisoned by Mussolini’s regime in the 1920s.

After enrolling at the University of Turin to study medicine, Einaudi decided to abandon his studies to work alongside his father Luigi in publishing an anti-Fascist magazine Riforma Sociale - Social Reform.

His own contribution was to establish a cultural supplement, edited by the writer and translator Cesare Pavese, which so offended Mussolini that in 1935 the magazine was closed down and the staff arrested.

Einaudi spent 45 days in jail along with Pavese and several writers who would later become celebrated names, including Vittorio Foa, Massimo Mila, Carlo Levi and Norberto Bobbio.

The publisher's famous ostrich logo is still on the cover of every Einaudi publication
The publisher's famous ostrich logo is still on
the cover of every Einaudi publication
By that time, in collaboration with Mila, Bobbio, Pavese and Leone Ginzburg, he had founded the publishing house - Giulio Einaudi Editore - whose offices were on Via Arcivescovado in Turin. Critics who later accused Einaudi of being a literary mouthpiece for the Italian Communist Party (PCI), rather than a genuinely independent publisher, would delight in pointing out that it was the same building that had hosted L'Ordine Nuovo - The New Order - the journal published by the Marxist philosopher and PCI founder Antonio Gramsci.

The first book to carry the company’s famous ostrich emblem - borrowed from the magazine - was a translation - by his father - of Henry A. Wallace's What America Wants, an analysis of New Deal economics. Mussolini apparently approved of the substance of the book but not of Luigi Einaudi’s foreword.

Luigi Einaudi, Giulio's father, was the 2nd President of the Italian Republic
Luigi Einaudi, Giulio's father, was the
2nd President of the Italian Republic
Despite Giulio’s imprisonment and the Fascist Party verdict that the purpose of Giulio Einaudi Editore was “disseminating anti-fascist publications and gathering together anti-fascist elements from the intellectual world”, the publishing house survived the war years.

This was despite being damaged in bombing raids on Turin and Giulio’s decision to decamp temporarily to Switzerland, from where he returned to support the resistance movement in Piedmont.

Once the Fascists had been overthrown, the business grew quickly. Einaudi was well placed to feed the literary needs of a nation embracing a left-wing renaissance and although the publisher had a close relationship with many leading members of the PCI, many literary historians have argued that Einaudi was already the father of left-wing culture in Italy and that his writers influenced the PCI rather than other way round.

At the same time, Einaudi had an eye for spotting young talent, publishing authors such as Natalia Ginsburg, Elsa Morante, Italo Calvino and Primo Levi while they were still unknown.

When Giulio Einaudi Editore celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1983, it had published more than 5,000 titles, its back catalogue representing a history of 20th century Italian literature, with Carlo Emilio Gadda, Leonardo Sciascia and the poet Eugenio Montale also among his authors.

The composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi is Giulio's son
The composer and pianist Ludovico
Einaudi is Giulio's son
In addition to original fiction and non-fiction, Einaudi published translations of Goethe and Defoe and was the first to publish the studies in psychology of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in Italian.

Known as Il principe (the prince) because of his distinguished appearance, his biggest failing was that he spent money as if he were royalty. Seldom would he reject a project on the grounds of cost and years veering from one financial crisis to another came to head in 1994, when his bankers ran out of patience and the need for outside investment led to the company being taken over by Mondadori, the publishing conglomerate controlled by the right-wing former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, although Einaudi remained chairman.

Einaudi enjoyed Rome as much as Turin and died at his country house just outside the capital in April 1999, aged 87. He was survived by his wife, Renata Aldrovandi, sons Mario, Riccardo and Ludovico, and a daughter, Giuliana.

Dogliani's imposing church of Sant Quirico and Paolo, designed by Giovanni Battista Schellino
Dogliani's imposing church of Sant Quirico and
Paolo, designed by Giovanni Battista Schellino
Travel tip:

Einaudi’s home town of Dogliani, where there has been a settlement since pre-Roman times, is about 60km (37 miles) southeast of Turin in the Langhe, a picturesque area of hills to the south and east of the Tanaro river famous for wines, cheeses and truffles. As well as being the home of the red wine Dolcetto di Dogliani, the town is famous for the annual tradition of Presepio Vivente, in which around 350 people take part in a living nativity scene in the medieval streets.  The town is also notable for the magnificent parish church of Santi Quirico and Paolo, designed by Giovanni Battista Schellino. The Einaudi home, a farmhouse just outside the town called San Giacomo, was acquired by Luigi Einaudi in 1897 and became the heart of the family’s wine-producing business.

Rome's Isola Tiberina used to be one of Giulio Einaudi's favourite places in the capital
Rome's Isola Tiberina used to be one of Giulio Einaudi's
favourite places in the capital
Travel tip:

When in Rome, Giulio Einaudi would often be spotted at a table outside a cafe in Piazza Navona or, in the summer months, on the Isola Tiberina, situated in the bend in the Tiber that wraps around the Trastevere district, with which it is connected by the Ponte Cestio. A footbridge allows access from the other bank of the river.  The island was once the location of an ancient temple to Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing, and in modern times the Fatebenefratelli Hospital, founded in the 16th century. The 10th century the Basilica of St. Bartholomew is also located on the island, which is just 270m (890ft) long and 67m (220ft) wide.

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More reading:

Cesare Pavese, the author whose translations introduced Italy to the great American writers of the 20th century

How the murder Giacomo Matteotti changed the mind of Luigi Einaudi

Antonio Gramsci - the Communist intellectual Mussolini could not gag

Also on this day:

533: Pope John John II is the first pontiff not to us his own name

1462: The birth of painter Piero di Cosimo

1909: The birth of mountaineer Riccardo Cassin


16 April 2018

Fortunino Matania - artist and illustrator

War artist famous also for images of British history

Fortunino Matania was one of the leading 20th century magazine artists
Fortunino Matania was one of the leading
20th century magazine artists
Chevalier Fortunino Matania, a prodigiously talented artist who became known as one of the greatest magazine illustrators in publishing history, was born on this day in 1881 in Naples.

Matania made his name largely in England, where in 1904 he joined the staff of The Sphere, the illustrated news magazine that was founded in London in 1900 in competition with The Graphic and the Illustrated London News.

The use of photography on a commercial scale was in its infancy and artists who could work under deadline pressure to produce high-quality, realistic images to accompany news stories were in big demand.

Never short of work, he was commissioned by magazines across Europe, including many in his native Italy.

Matania’s best known work was from the battlegrounds of the First World War but he also covered every major event - marriages, christenings, funerals and state occasions - from the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 to that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  He produced illustrations of the Sinking of the Titanic for The Sphere.

He was also in demand to design advertising posters, such as those inviting travellers on the LNER and other railways to visit Blackpool or Southport. He created posters, too, for Ovaltine and Burberry, the sports outfitter.

Matania was the war artist for the London magazine The Sphere
Matania was the war artist for the
London magazine The Sphere
Later in his career, he drew voluptuous women, often nude, for the women’s magazine Britannia and Eve, and was one of the first illustrators hired to work on the ground-breaking children’s magazine, Look and Learn.

Fascinated with British royalty and the Empire, Matania wrote as well as illustrated historical stories and in the years up to his death in 1963 produced a series of paintings for the Look and Learn publisher Leonard Matthews called a Pageant of Kings, which began with William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings.

He was working on a painting entitled Richard II and His Child Bride when he died in London at the age of 81.

Matania’s prolific output also included illustrations to be used in Hollywood movies.

His talent was plainly in his genes, to a certain extent. His father was Eduardo Matania, an artist who became an illustrator for magazines in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He studied at his father's studio, designing a soap advertisement at the age of nine and exhibiting his first work at Naples Academy by the times he was 11.

By the age of 14, he was good enough to take on some of his father’s workload for books and magazines and earned a commission in his own right to produce weekly illustrations for the periodical L'Illustrazione Italiania.

Matania was also in demand to create advertising posters, this one extolling the virtues of winter in Southport
Matania was also in demand to create advertising posters,
this one extolling the virtues of winter in Southport
He took the bold step to move to Paris in 1901 to work for Illustration Francaise. It was an invitation to cover the Coronation of Edward VII for The Graphic in 1902 that took him to London, where he quickly became in such demand that he stayed.

It was his coverage of the Great War that made it clear he was possessed of extraordinary talent. Not only was he able to work at great speed, he was able to recreate scenes as if he was using a camera, noting small details of the way people stood or moved and the expressions on their faces and bringing them together in vivid scenes so natural as if he had captured a moment in time exactly as it was when he saw it.

Although he spared readers the worst elements of what he had seen, his illustrations as much as anything in the news coverage of the conflict brought home to readers the full horrors of the conflict.

Naples, looking from Mergellina towards Santa Lucia
Naples, looking from Mergellina towards Santa Lucia
Travel tip:

Eduardo Matania produced many paintings depicting the life of fishermen and their families on the Bay of Naples, particularly in the Santa Lucia area, a neighbourhood clustered around the Castel dell’Ovo and only a short distance from the Royal Palace. Today, the area is a good place to eat, with many restaurants setting up around the harbour.

The Brera district has many restaurants
The Brera district has many restaurants
Travel tip:

The publishing centre of Milan was traditionally in the Brera district, an area just to the north of the city centre which once had the Bohemian atmosphere of a kind of Italian Montmartre.  Nowadays, it is the home of the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the city’s major art galleries, and also of many fine restaurants, and retains its chic reputation.

More reading:

Felice Beato, the Venetian who may have been the world's first war photographer

How war injuries suffered in Italy inspired the great writer Ernest Hemingway

The First World War nurse who was made a saint

Also on this day:

1118: The death of Adelaide del Vasto, Countess of Sicily

1839: The birth of Antonio Starabba, twice Italy's prime minister


20 January 2018

Franca Sozzani – magazine editor

Risk taker who turned Vogue Italia into a major voice

Franca Sozzani was editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia for 28 years
Franca Sozzani was editor-in-chief of
Vogue Italia for 28 years
Franca Sozzani, the journalist who was editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Vogue magazine for 28 years, was born on this day in 1950 in Mantua.

Under her stewardship, Vogue Italia was transformed from what she saw as little more than a characterless clothing catalogue for the Milan fashion giants to one of the edgiest publications the style shelves of the newsstands had ever seen.

Sozzani used high-end fashion and the catwalk stars to make bold and sometimes outrageous statements on the world issues she cared about, creating shockwaves through the industry but often selling so many copies that editions sometimes sold out even on second or third reprints.

It meant that advertisers who backed off in horror in the early days of her tenure clamoured to buy space again, particularly when the magazine began to attract a following even outside Italy.

She gave photographers and stylists a level of creative freedom they enjoyed nowhere else, encouraging them to express themselves through their photoshoots, particularly if they could deliver a message at the same time.  She encouraged her writers, too, not to shy away from issues she thought were important, and not to regard fashion as an insular world.

Among the most famous editions of the magazine were those that drew attention to broad topics such as drug abuse and rehab, domestic abuse and plastic surgery, and specific issues such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 and America’s election of a first black president, which she marked with an edition in which all of the models used were non-white.

Sozzani had a vision to set Vogue Italia apart from its sister publications in other countries
Sozzani had a vision to set Vogue Italia apart from
its sister publications in other countries
The work they did for her advanced the careers of many photographers, including Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi, Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel, whose elevation to star status in magazine photography owed almost everything to her guidance and nurture.

Sozzani wanted her readers to think about issues, even to disturb them, and she sometimes attracted criticism. For instance, when she had the model Kristin McMenamy photographed covered in oil, as a stricken bird of paradise, in response to the Gulf oil spill, it was seen as insensitive.  Her response was to say that if you wanted to take risks, as she did, then you should expect people to make judgments, good or bad.

Brought up in a comfortable environment in Mantua, the historic and prosperous city in Lombardy where her father, Gilberto, was an engineer, Sozzani might never have followed the career path that was to unfold in front of her had her father not talked to her about the virtues of getting a steady job.

She attended convent schools and then the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, where she graduated in literature and philosophy, following her free spirited nature by getting married at the age of 20 and then going travelling in London and India.

The marriage collapsed after just three months, after which she sought to convince her father that she could take a long-term view of her future and took a job as a secretary at Condé-Nast, the magazine publishing company.  From there in 1976 she became an editorial assistant on the company’s Vogue Bambini title and gradually worked her way up the production ladder.

The 2008 'black edition' of Vogue Italia was one of Sozzani's notable triumphs
The 2008 'black edition' of Vogue Italia
was one of Sozzani's notable triumphs
This in time led to the editorship in 1980 of a new Italian magazine, Lei, which was the Italian equivalent of Glamour, and two years later its sister title aimed at the male market, Per Lui.  It was while working for those magazines that she began to use photographers such as Weber and Meisel and Olivieri Toscani, who had much to do with the multicultural and socially aware advertising campaigns followed by Italy’s trendsetting Benetton company.

The two titles remained her focus until the late 80s, at which point she felt she had taken both as far as she could and was prepared to move on, only for Condé-Nast to realise the talent they were about to lose and gave her Vogue Italia, which lagged the British, American and French versions of the magazines in sales and prestige and needed freshening up.

No one was better suited to create an identity for Vogue Italia than Sozzani, whose vision from the outset was that where Vogue in the UK was about elegance and romance, in the US about glossy celebrity and the French version intellectual chic, her readers would understand that each edition of Vogue Italia would say something about the world, in words but sometimes only in images.

Her own attitude to fashion helped shape her editorial policy. She thought many aspects of the fashion world were ridiculous and in her own day-to-day life favoured clothes that were easy to wear, elegant but understated. 

After her first misadventure, Sozzani never married again, and managed to keep subsequent relationships largely out of the spotlight. One of them produced a son, Francesco Carrozzini, who was born in 1982. She died in 2016 after a long illness, at the age of 66.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua
The Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua
Travel tip:

Mantua, where Franca Sozzani was born, is an atmospheric old city in Lombardy, about 180km (112 miles) to the south east of Milan, surrounded on three sides by a broad stretch of the Mincio river, which has always limited its growth, making it an easy place for tourists to look round. At the Renaissance heart of the city is Piazza Mantegna, where the 15th century Basilica of Sant’Andrea houses the tomb of the artist, Andrea Mantegna.

Each wall of the Sforza Castle is 180m long,  while the Torre di Filarete is 70m high
Each wall of the Sforza Castle is 180m long,
 while the Torre di Filarete is 70m high
Travel tip:

Vogue Italia’s headquarters are in Milan in Piazza Castello, the horseshoe-shaped piazza that wraps around the city’s impressive Castello Sforzesco – the Sforza Castle – which was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan on the site of a fortification erected in the previous century by another Milanese warlord, Galeazzo II Visconti. One of the largest citadels in Europe, it has a central tower, the Torre del Filarate, that climbs to 70m (230ft) in height, while each of the four walls is more than 180m (590ft) long. At the end of the 15th century, Ludovico Sforza commissioned artists including Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci to improve the interior decoration and they painted several notable frescoes.