Showing posts with label Roma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roma. Show all posts

10 June 2018

Carlo Ancelotti - football manager

Four-times winner of the Champions League

Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won
European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti, a former top-level player who has become one of football’s most accomplished managers, was born on this day in 1959 in Reggiolo, a small town in Emilia-Romagna.

With Real Madrid's defeat of Liverpool in the 2022 final, he became the only manager to have won the UEFA Champions League four times - twice with AC Milan and twice with Real Madrid. He is also the only coach to have managed teams in five finals.

Ancelotti, who has managed title-winning teams in four countries, is also one of only seven to have won the European Cup or Champions League as a player and gone on to do so as a manager too.

As a boy, Ancelotti often helped his father, Giuseppe, who made and sold cheese for a living, in the fields on the family farm, which is where he claims he acquired his appreciation of hard work.

But despite the cheeses of Emilia-Romagna having international renown, especially the famous Parmigiana-Reggiano, he saw how his father struggled to make enough money to feed his family and vowed to make more of his own life.

Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished coaches in world football
Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished
coaches in world football
His talent for football, allied to that work ethic, enabled him to fulfil that promise.

After playing for his local youth team in Reggiolo, Ancelotti was snapped up as a teenager by Parma, making his debut in Serie C - the third tier in Italian football - in the 1976–77 season, at the age of 18. His two goals in the decisive play-off earned the gialloblu promotion to Serie B the following year.

He joined Roma in 1979, staying in the capital for eight trophy-laden seasons, winning the Coppa Italia four times and his first Serie A title in 1983, under the great Swedish coach Nils Liedholm.

Then came six seasons with Arrigo Sacchi’s magnificent AC Milan team, which won the Scudetto - the Serie A title - in 1988, and the European Cup in both 1989 and 1990. He won his third Scudetto when Fabio Capello replaced Sacchi as manager.

An efficient and assiduous midfield player, he could create goals and score them, which earned him a place in the Italian national team, although injuries restricted him to 26 senior caps and caused him to miss the 1982 and 1986 World Cups as well as the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.  He did win a bronze medal as part of the Azzurri squad at the 1990 World Cup on home soil.

As a mentor to several future top-class players, including Giuseppe Giannini, Demetrio Albertini and Andrea Pirlo, Ancelotti displayed burgeoning man-management skills even while still a player.

Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning
it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Persistent knee injuries forced him to quit at the age of 33. He moved immediately into coaching with the Italian Football Federation at the national training headquarters at Coverciano, near Florence, where he rose to be assistant to his former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi on the Azzurri coaching staff as Italy reached the final of the 1994 World Cup.

Ancelotti stepped on to the club management ladder in familiar territory with Reggiana in Serie B in 1995. He had to wait seven years for his first major trophy, but claimed the biggest prize first as AC Milan, his fourth club after Reggiana, Parma and Juventus, won the 2002-03 Champions League final, defeating Juventus in the final on penalties.

Now major trophies came thick and fast: a Serie A title with Milan in 2004 and a second Champions League in 2007, when victory over Liverpool in the final in Athens made up for the catastrophe of losing the 2005 final to the same opponents in Istanbul after being 3-0 up at half-time.

The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes up his next management position in July
The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes
up his next management position in July
Moving to England, he led Chelsea to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 2009-10, won the French Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain in 2013, followed by a third Champions League with Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2014.

After taking some time off for a back operation, Ancelotti resurfaced at Bayern Munich, where he succeeded Pep Guardiola and led the German giants to their fifth consecutive Bundesliga title. But lack of success in the Champions League led to his dismissal in September 2017.

He later had spells with Napoli back in Italy and Everton in England, before returning to Real Madrid in 2021.

Having been with his first wife, Luisa, for 25 years before they divorced in 2008, Ancelotti is now married to the Canadian businesswoman Barrena McClay, whom he met while they were both working in London. He has two children, Katia and Davide, from his first marriage. Davide was on his father’s coaching staff at Bayern Munich.

(Updated on 09-06-22)

The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
Travel tip:

Ancelotti’s home town of Reggiolo is close to the border of Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, about 32km (20 miles) north of Reggio Emilia in the Padana plain. It is the same distance from Mantua in the Veneto and was the frequent target of attacks between the 12th and 14th centuries, when Mantua and Reggio disputed possession. This led to the construction of the impressive walled castle that remains the town’s main feature.

Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Travel tip:

Although the city of Reggio Emilia is often described as the home of Italy's world famous hard cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano - known in English as Parmesan - is thought to have originated in the commune of Bibbiano, in the Reggio Emilia province, about 15km (9 miles) to the southeast.  The province is also believed to have given Italy its tricolore national flag, with evidence that a short-lived 18th century republic, the Repubblica Cispadana, had a flag of red, white and green.  The city lacks the cultural wealth of neighbouring Parma and is consequently less visited but it 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.

More reading:

How Arrigo Sacchi started a tactical and technical revolution in Italian football

The genius of Andrea Pirlo

Coaching veteran Fabio Capello has won Serie A five times

Also on this day:

1918: The death of writer and composer Arrigo Boito

1940: Italy enters the Second World War


9 May 2018

Giovanni Paisiello - composer

Audience favourite with a jealous streak

Giovanni Paisiello was one of the most  popular Italian composers in the 18th century
Giovanni Paisiello was one of the most
popular Italian composers in the 18th century
The composer Giovanni Paisiello, who wrote more than 90 operas and much other music and was enormously popular in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1740 in Taranto.

Paisiello was talented, versatile and had a big influence on other composers of his day and later, yet he was jealous of the success of rivals and is remembered today primarily as the composer whose passionate fans wrecked the premiere of Gioachino Rossini’s opera Almaviva, which was based on the same French play as Paisiello’s Il barbiere di siviglia, which was regarded as his masterpiece.

Rossini’s opera would eventually be more commonly known as Il barbiere di siviglia, but not until after Paisiello had died.

Nonetheless, Paisiello’s supporters still felt Rossini was attempting to steal their favourite’s thunder and many of them infiltrated the audience at Almaviva’s opening night in Rome and disrupted the performance with constant jeers and catcalls.

History has shown that perhaps they were right to be worried: today, Rossini’s Barber of Seville is one of the world’s most popular operas, yet Paisiello’s is rarely performed.

Paisiello was educated at a Jesuit school in Taranto. His father wanted his son to become a lawyer but noted the beauty of his singing voice and enrolled him at the Conservatory of San Onofrio at Naples.

A poster advertising the premiere of Paisiello's opera Nina
A poster advertising the premiere
of Paisiello's opera Nina
There he displayed a talent for composing too, and the quality of some intermezzi he wrote for the conservatory’s theatre led to him being invited to write his first operas, La Pupilla and Il Marchese Tulissano. These brought him instant recognition and he settled in Naples, producing a series of successful operas, popular for being simple, dramatic, and always fast moving.

He set himself up in rivalry with the established giants of the Neapolitan school, Niccolò Piccinni, Domenico Cimarosa and Pietro Guglielmi. He was known for being bitterly outspoken when one or another of the trio staged a work that received public acclaim, but he enjoyed his own triumphs, in particular with his 1767 comic opera L'ldolo cinese. 

Paisiello left Naples only when he was invited in 1776 by the Russian empress Catherine II to St. Petersburg, where he remained for eight years. It was there that he produced Il barbiere di siviglia, with a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais.

Il barbiere premiered in St Petersburg in 1782 and its fame spread quickly around Europe. Among those influenced by the artistry of his score and the beauty of the melodies was Mozart, whose Marriage of Figaro made its debut four years later as a sequel to Paisiello’s Barbiere.

Paisiello left Russia in 1784, initially going to Vienna before returning to Naples to enter the service of King Ferdinand IV, where he enjoyed more success, composing what many regard as his best operas, including Nina and La Molinara, the latter featuring perhaps the best-known tune that Paisiello wrote in his lifetime, the duet Nel cor più non mi sento, which inspired works by Beethoven, Paganini and many others.

Domenico Cimarosa was a target for  Paisiello's outspoken comments
Domenico Cimarosa was a target for
Paisiello's outspoken comments
His decline began after he was invited to Paris in 1802 by Napoleon, for whom he had composed a march for the funeral of General Hoche. This time his rivals were Luigi Cherubini and Etienne Méhul, towards whom he displayed similar jealousy to that he once aimed at Cimarosa, Guglielmi and Piccinni.

However, the Parisian public was unimpressed and in 1803 he obtained permission to return to Italy, citing his wife's ill health. He kept his job in Naples even after the fall of Ferdinand IV, who was replaced as king by Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, and in turn by Joachim Murat.

But by then he was beginning to lose his touch and his fortunes declined just as the power of the Bonapartes was collapsing. His wife died in 1815 and his own health failed quickly thereafter. He died in 1816 at the age of 76.

In addition to his operas, Paisiello wrote a good deal of church music and instrumental works that include symphonies, harp and piano concerti, string quartets, sonatas for harp, violin and cello.

The 20th century saw his Barbiere and La Molinara revived along with a number of other operas and instrumental pieces.

The Castello Aragonese is a landmark in Taranto
The Castello Aragonese is a landmark in Taranto
Travel tip:

Taranto, situated at the top of the inside of the ‘heel’ of Italy, where Paisiello was born, is a large city - population in excess of 200,000 - of two distinct sections, divided by a swing bridge. The bridge links the small island containing the Città Vecchia, the old city, guarded by the imposing 15th century Castello Aragonese castle, which protects an area of Greek origins which has not been overdeveloped and has an authentic atmosphere of old southern Italy.  On the southern side of the bridge is the modern, new city, full of wide boulevards and carrying a much more prosperous air.  The city is heavily industrialised with a huge steel industry and a large naval base but its National Museum contains one of the most important collections of Greek and Roman artefacts in Italy.

The Conservatorio of San Onofrio
The Conservatorio of San Onofrio
Travel tip:

The Conservatorio of San Onofrio a Porta Capuana was one of the four original Naples conservatories, founded in 1588 and developed first as an orphanage. Almost one fifth of the students at the Conservatory of San Onofrio were castrati, which gave it a different identity.  Its popularity declined during the Napoleonic period, and only 30 students remained when the conservatory merged with that of Santa Maria di Loreto in 1797.


7 April 2018

Marco Delvecchio - footballer

Striker who became TV dance show star

Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Italy national team
Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22
appearances for the Italy national team
The former Roma and Italy striker Marco Delvecchio, who launched a new career in television after finishing runner-up in the Italian equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing, was born on this day in 1973 in Milan.

Delvecchio scored 83 goals in exactly 300 appearances for Roma, where he was part of the side that won the Scudetto in 2000-01 and where he became a huge favourite with fans of the giallorossi because of his penchant for scoring against city rivals Lazio.

His record of nine goals in the Rome derby between 2002 and 2009 was the best by any player in the club’s history until that mark was overtaken by the Roma great Francesco Totti, whose career tally against Lazio was 11.

Delvecchio’s talents were somewhat underappreciated at international level. He made 22 appearances for the azzurri and the first of his four goals was in the final of Euro 2000 against France, although he finished on the losing side. Yet after being favoured by Dino Zoff, he was not so popular with Zoff’s successor as head coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who took him to the 2002 World Cup but did not give him a game, and omitted him from his squad for the 2004 Euros.

Delvecchio enjoyed his best days in a Roma shirt
Delvecchio enjoyed his best
days in a Roma shirt
Unusually, after 17 seasons, 395 appearances and 94 goals in professional football, Delvecchio ended his career with an amateur club in the Rome area, Pescatori Ostia, for whom he scored 34 goals in one season.

Three years after quitting football, Delvecchio accepted an invitation to appear in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) and finished second with professional partner Sara Di Vaira. 

Popular with viewers, Delvecchio then teamed up with former Internazionale and Italy striker Christian Vieri in their own show, called Bobo e Marco - i re del ballo (Bobo and Marco - the kings of dance) - on satellite channel Sky Uno, in which the two ex-players went on their travels to examine dance culture around the world.

Delvecchio’s TV career has continued to develop. A regular football pundit on Sky Sports, Teleradiostereo, Retesport and Radio 105, he has recently taken part in a third dance show, Dance Dance Dance, on FoxLife, paired with his 18-year-old daughter Federica.

Almost 6ft 2ins (1.86m) in height, Delvecchio was characteristically strong in the air as a player but with quick feet too.  Brought up through the youth system at Inter, he made his senior debut shortly before he turned 19 in a Coppa Italia match against Juventus and his first appearance in Serie A came against Fiorentina a few days later.

He established himself in the Inter team after gaining experience on loan at Venezia and Udinese but was then sold to Roma, where he became a key player in a team bursting with attacking talent, playing initially alongside Daniel Fonseca and Abel Balbo and later with Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella, as well as the emerging Francesco Totti.

Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira
in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Trophy success came his way under the coaching of Fabio Capello, who led Roma to the Serie A title in 2000-01 and the Supercoppa Italiana later in 2001.

In international football, Delvecchio was a member of the Italian team that won the UEFA European Under-21 championships in 1994 and 1996 and played for the Italy team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, before making his senior azzurri debut under Zoff in December 1998.

Established in the Zoff team that qualified for Euro 2000, hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, Delvecchio was close to scoring a winner under the now defunct Golden Goal rule in the semi-final against the Netherlands, which the azzurri ultimately won on penalties, before scoring his first senior international goal to put Italy ahead in the final against France in Rotterdam, which ended in heartache for the Italians after Sylvain Wiltord equalised in the last minute of stoppage time, forcing a period of extra time in which David Trezeguet hit a Golden Goal winner for France.

In domestic football, Delvecchio left Roma in 2005 and had spells with Brescia, Parma and Ascoli, where injury forced the termination of his contract and obliged him to have a year out of the game. He came out of retirement to help a former Roma teammate, Massimiliano Cappioli, launch his coaching career with Pescatori Ostia in Eccellenza Lazio, an amateur regional league.

Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular
destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Travel tip:

The seaside resort of Ostia, where Delvecchio finished his career, lies 30km (19 miles) to the southwest of Rome, 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 their summer holidays in the modern town, swelling a population of about 85,000.

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous major football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous
major football matches
Travel tip:

FC Roma’s home ground is the Stadio Olimpico, the largest sports facility in the city, located within the Foro Italico sports complex, north of the city. The athletics stadium for the 1960 Olympics, the structure belongs to the Italian National Olympic Committee but is primarily a football stadium. Roma are joint tenants with city rivals Lazio and the ground also hosts the Coppa Italia final. It was rebuilt for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and it hosted the tournament final. Originally called Stadio dei Cipressi as part of the Foro Mussolini complex, the 70,000-capacity stadium has been the venue for four European Cup/Champions League finals, two European championship and one World Cup final, in 1990, as well as numerous high-profile athletics events.


20 October 2016

Claudio Ranieri - football manager

Title-winning Leicester City boss is 65 today

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri
Football manager Claudio Ranieri was born on this day in 1951 in Rome.

Ranieri, who won the English Premier League last season with rank outsiders Leicester City, has managed 14 clubs in four countries in a 30-year career in coaching.  He also had a stint in charge of the Greece national team.

Among the teams he has coached are a host of big names - Internazionale, Juventus, Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina in Italy, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in Spain, Monaco in France and Chelsea in England.

He has won titles in lower divisions as well as Italy's Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey in Spain but until Leicester defied pre-season odds of 5,000-1 to win the Premier League, a major league championship had eluded him.  He had finished second three times, with Chelsea, Roma and Monaco.

Before turning to coaching, Ranieri was a player for 14 seasons. He began in Serie A with home-town club Roma, but enjoyed more success in the lower divisions, enjoying promotion twice with the Calabrian club Catanzaro, where he spent the biggest part of his career, and once each with the Sicilian teams Catania and Palermo.

Ranieri was born in the San Saba district of Rome, not far from the ancient Baths of Caracalla and Circus Maximus in an area teeming with Roman ruins.  His father, Mario, was a butcher in neighbouring Testaccio, one of Rome's traditional working class neighbourhoods. His mother, Renata, now 96, still lives in Rome and Claudio regularly flies home to see her.

Where Testaccio, now increasingly popular with Rome's young professionals, was designed and built with blue collar workers in mind, San Saba is more middle-class historically, an area of houses rather than apartment buildings, with more urban green spaces such as the Piazza Gian Lorenzo Bernini, where Claudio and his friends would play football.

Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's
prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Ranieri's early life was spent largely confined to these two neighbourhoods and nearby Aventine Hill, which affords panoramic views of the city.

A Roma fan for as long as he can remember, Ranieri dreamed of playing for the giallorossi and after being spotted by a scout he realised his ambition. He was taken on for a trial, given a contract and made his debut in November 1973 as a defender.  He was unfazed by playing in front of 80,000 fans and continuing to help out in the family business on his day off kept him grounded.

Sadly, the dream did not turn into a place in Roma folklore, as the young Ranieri might have hoped.  By the following summer, having made just six appearances, it was clear he was not going to be in the team on a regular basis and he moved to the deep south of Italy to Catanzaro, in the part of Calabria that sits in the arch of the boot on the map of Italy, to play in Serie B.

It was a world away from the frenzied pace of Roman life and Ranieri felt a little like an alien but the eight years he spent there shaped his life in many ways.

Catanzaro's team included many outsiders and they formed a bond of friendship that remains strong to this day. Indeed, until recently, the team's goalkeeper, Giorgio Pellizzaro, was Ranieri's specialist goalkeeping coach.

They became a good team on the field, too, winning promotion to Serie A twice in his time there, the second time staying for five years.

Off the field, it was while playing for Catanzaro that Ranieri met his wife, Rosanna, the daughter of a football journalist.  The couple had a daughter, Claudia and bought a villa at nearby Copanello, overlooking the Ionian Sea, where they still spend their summers. Ranieri also has a house at Formello, a town about 30km north of Rome in the Monti Sabatini area of Lazio.

Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor Alessandro Roja
Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor
Alessandro Roja
Claudia is now married to the Roman actor, Alessandro Roja, who starred in the drama series Romanzo Criminale, set in the Rome underworld in the 1970s.  Rosanna runs two antiques shops in Rome.

Ranieri's character, well-mannered, good humoured, calm under pressure, is said by some to be more typically Calabrian than Roman but, as the Italian writer Gabriele Marcotti explains in an excellent biography - Hail, Claudio! - to be published next month, there is a steel behind the charm.

An example came when he had left Catanzaro for Catania, where he was made captain.  When the manager, the former Catanzaro player Gianni di Marzio, was sacked after Catania, newly promoted, had made a poor start in Serie A, Ranieri was so furious he stormed into the office of the club president to make his feelings known, and repeated them in a television interview soon afterwards.

He was sure he would be sacked as well for speaking his mind and effectively humiliating the president, an autocratic millionaire not known for his patience. Instead, after recovering from the shock, the president decided that if Ranieri was man enough to stand up to him in that way he was too good an asset to lose.

UPDATE: Since leaving Leicester City in 2017, Ranieri has increased the number of coaching positions he has held to 21. As of his 72nd birthday on October 20, 2023, he was in charge of Serie A club Cagliari for the second time in his career.

The original structure of the Basilica of Santa Sabina dates back to the fifth century
The original structure of the Basilica of Santa
Sabina dates back to the fifth century
Travel tip:

The Aventine Hill, which Ranieri knew well as a boy, has many attractions, apart from the ruins of the Roman chariot racing stadium, Circus Maximus, and the Baths of Caracalla.  The historic Basilica of Santa Sabina, which dates back to the fifth century, is just one of several notable churches, while the area's elevated position offers outstanding views of the Rome, particularly from the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges), overlooking the Tiber. A more unusual view is to be had from the Villa del Priorato di Malta, on Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, where crowds gather to peer through the keyhole in the wooden doors at the main gate, which provides a perfectly framed view of the dome of St Peter's Basilica.

The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be  found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be 
found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
Travel tip:

Occupying a position 300mt (980ft) above the Gulf of Squillace, Catanzaro is known as the City of the Two Seas because, from some vantage points, it is possible to see the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north of the long peninsula occupied by Calabria as well as the Ionian Sea to the south.  The historic centre, which sits at the highest point of the city, includes a 16th century cathedral built on the site of a 12th century Norman cathedral which, despite being virtually destroyed by bombing in 1943, has been impressively restored.  The city is about 15km (9 miles) from Catanzaro Lido, which has a long white beach typical of the Gulf of Squillace.

More reading:


Hail, Claudio! The Man, The Manager, The Miracle, by Gabriele Marcotti (Yellow Jersey)

(Photo of Alessandro Roja by Laura Penna CC BY 2.0)
(Photo of the view from the Giardino degli Aranci by Marten253 CC BY-SA 3.0)


10 September 2016

Historic victory at Rome Olympics

Bikila's golden moment for African athletics

Abebe Bikila (left) during the opening stages of the  marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics
Abebe Bikila (left) during the opening stages of the
marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics
History was made on this day at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome when Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila won the marathon.

Not only did he run the whole 26 mile 385 yards (42.195km) barefoot, he also became the first athlete from sub-Saharan Africa to win an Olympic gold medal.

Bikila retained the marathon title at Tokyo in 1964.  Subsequently, the middle and long-distance running events have become increasingly dominated by sub-Saharan runners, particularly Kenyans and Ethiopians.

The British runner Mo Farah - born in Somalia - continued that domination by winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at consecutive summer Olympics in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro this year.

In total, more than 40 gold medals at distances from 800m to the marathon have been won by sub-Saharan runners since Bikila's breakthrough.

Bikila competed in Rome only after a late call-up to the Ethiopia squad to fill a place vacated when a colleague became ill.

Bikila on the podium with runner-up Rhadi Ben Abdesselam
Bikila on the podium with runner-up Rhadi Ben Abdesselam
He arrived with no running shoes but hoped to be supplied with some by adidas, one of the Games sponsors.  However, by the time Bikila went to see their representatives in Rome, they had only a few pairs left and none would fit him comfortably, so he decided to run barefoot.

It was no real inconvenience in any event because he rarely trained in running shoes.

The starting point for the marathon was the foot of the wide staircase leading up to the Piazza del Campidoglio on Capitoline Hill and the finish line was at the Arch of Constantine, just outside the Colosseum.

Bikila came home first in a time of two hours 15 minutes 16.2 seconds, which at the time was an Olympic record.  He crossed the line 25 seconds ahead of the Moroccan runner, Rhadi Ben Abdesselam, from whom he had sprinted away in the last 500m.

The beautiful Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome
The beautiful Piazza del Campidoglio on the
Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome
According to accounts of the race, Bikila had been told before the race that Rhadi was his most dangerous rival but expected him to be wearing the number 26 on his vest.  In fact, Rhadi wore 185. The two ran side by side for more than half the distance with Bikila still believing there was another runner ahead of them, wearing 26.

Later in 1960, Bikila was briefly detained following an attempted coup in Ethiopia but was soon able to resume his career.  His winning time at Tokyo in 1964 was a world record 2 hours 12 minutes 11.2 seconds.

Travel tips:

The Capitoline is one of the Seven Hills of Rome.  It was the site of an ancient Roman citadel but few ruins exist.  The area was redeveloped in the 16th century in line with an urban plan drawn up by the artist and architect Michelangelo Buonarotti as a central square - the Piazza del Campidoglio - surrounded by palaces.

The parade of athletes at the opening ceremony of the 1960 Olympics at the Stadio Olimpico
The parade of athletes at the opening ceremony
of the 1960 Olympics at the Stadio Olimpico
Travel tips:

Rome's Olympic Stadium - the Stadio Olimpico - was built between 1928 and 1938 as part of the Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico), a sports complex Mussolini hoped would enable Rome to host the 1944 Olympics had they taken place.  Originally named Stadio dei Cipressi and later Stadio dei Centomila, it was renamed when Rome won the bidding process for the 1960 Games, pipping the Swiss city of Lausanne.  Rebuilt for the 1990 football World Cup, it is now home to the Roma and Lazio football clubs and has hosted four European Cup/Champions League finals.

(Photo of Piazza del Campidoglio by Prasenberg CC BY 2.0)
(Photo of Stadio Olimpico by Alex Dawson (Flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0)


13 July 2016

The founding of the Carabinieri

Italy’s stylish ‘First Force’

Carabinieri officers still wear elaborate dress uniform
Carabinieri officers still wear
elaborate dress uniform
The Carabinieri Corps was created on this day in 1814 in Italy by a resolution passed by Victor Emmanuel I of Savoy.

He established an army of mounted and foot soldiers to provide a police force, to be called Royal Carabinieri (Carabinieri Reali). The soldiers were rigorously selected ‘for their distinguished good conduct and judiciousness.’

Their task was defined as ‘to contribute to the necessary happiness of the State, which cannot be separated from protection and defence of all good subjects.’

Their functions were specified in the royal licence issued at the time, which underlined the importance of the personal skills required by the soldiers selected. It also affirmed their dual military and civil roles.

The sense of duty and high level of conduct displayed by the Carabinieri went on to win the respect of the Italian people.

They were called Carabinieri to avoid any comparisons with the former Napoleonic gendarmerie, and because they were equipped with carbines as weapons.

Their dress uniform was designed to reflect the solemn image of the sovereign state, with a two cornered hat, known as the lucerna, and dark blue dress coat. Their uniform is still in use today, with only slight changes made to it over the last 200 years.

After Italian unification in 1861 under Victor Emmanuel II, the Carabinieri were named ‘First Force’ of the new kingdom.

Carabinieri patrols use vehicles of all shapes and sizes
Carabinieri patrols use vehicles of all shapes and sizes

It was Carabinieri officers who arrested and imprisoned Mussolini on the orders of the King in 1943. Afterwards, the Germans ordered them to be disbanded and a large number of them joined the Italian resistance movement.

The Carabinieri have seen action in all battles involving Italian armies since 1815 and have fought against crime and terrorism at home, helping to promote respect for law and social order in Italy.

In recent years they have been dispatched on peace keeping missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq and they have also helped during natural catastrophes in Italy, such as floods and earthquakes.

Travel tip:

The headquarters (Comando Generale) of the Carabinieri in Rome is in Piazza Bligny, just to the north of the Villa Borghese. There is access for the public from 08:00 to 16.30 Monday to Friday and from 08:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays.

The monument to the Carabinieri Corps in the grounds of the Royal Palace in Turin
The monument to the Carabinieri Corps in the grounds of
the Royal Palace in Turin
Travel tip:

The Carabinieri Corps was formed in Turin in northern Italy after French soldiers had occupied the city at the end of the 18th century and then abandoned it to the Kingdom of Piedmont. Turin, which is in the region of Piedmont (Piemonte), was the capital of the Duchy of Savoy from 1563, then of the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the Royal House of Savoy, and finally became the first capital of the new unified Italy.  There is a monument to the Carabinieri in the grounds of the Royal Palace.

(Photo of monument by IlPassagero CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Carabinieri smart car by Jollyroger CC BY-SA 2.5)


18 June 2016

Fabio Capello - leading football manager

Veteran Champions League winner with five Serie A titles 

Photo of Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello, one of European club football's most successful managers, celebrates his 70th birthday today.

The winner of five Serie A titles as a coach and four as a player, plus two La Liga titles as manager of Real Madrid, and the Champions League with AC Milan, Capello was born in San Canzian d'Isonzo, close to the border of Italy and Slovenia, on this day in 1946.

At the time, San Canzian d'Isonzo was in an area occupied by Allied forces after the end of the Second World War.

His uncle, Mario Tortul, who was from the same village near Trieste, had been a professional footballer, playing in Serie A with Sampdoria, Triestina and Padova and making one appearance for the Italian national team.

Capello began his playing career at the Ferrara-based SPAL club and went on to represent Roma, Juventus and AC Milan.  A midfielder with an eye for goal, he was a Serie A champion three times with Juventus and once with Milan, also winning the Coppa Italia with Roma and Milan.

He represented Italy 32 times, playing at the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.  He regards scoring the only goal against England in 1973 as Italy won at Wembley for the first time in their history as the highlight of his international career.

He would later return to England to coach the national team, leading them to the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010.

After his retirement as a player, Capello coached Milan's youth teams, bringing through the likes of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta.  He began to work with the senior side in 1987 as assistant to the Swede Nils Liedholm and took over as temporary head coach for the last six games of the 1986-87 season when Liedholm left.

He was passed over in favour of Arrigo Sacchi when Milan appointed their next permanent head coach and succeeded Sacchi in 1991, inheriting a team that had been double European Cup winners under Sacchi but taking them to a new level of excellence.

Photo of Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello during his second spell as Real Madrid boss
Milan won four Serie A titles in five years, setting an Italian League record by remaining unbeaten for 58 matches between May 1991 and March 1993, which included the whole of the 1991-92 season.

At times his squad included stars from all around the world, including Maldini, the Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, the Montenegrin Dejan Savicevic, Croatia's Zvonimir Boban, the former Torino winger Gianluigi Lentini, for whom he paid a then world record fee of £15 million, the Frenchman Marcel Desailly and the Dane Brian Laudrup.

Milan's 4-0 defeat of Johan Cruyff's Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final with goals from Daniele Massaro (two), Savicevic and Desailly is regarded as one of the greatest performances in the history of European competition.  Milan were also twice beaten finalists under Capello

His reputation firmly established, Capello went on to coach Real Madrid twice, winning Spain's La Liga title in 1996-97 and again a decade later.  In between, he led Roma to the Serie A championship in 2000-01 and would have two more Serie A titles on his CV had his 2004-05 and 2005-06 triumphs with Juventus not been declared null and void because of the club's links to a match-fixing scandal, which prompted Capello to resign.

He achieved a personal ambition to manage one of football's major national teams when he was appointed as England head coach in December 2007 but his record thus far in international football has been unimpressive alongside his club career.

England qualified for the World Cup finals in 2010 under Capello but performed poorly in South Africa and although he led them through a successful qualification campaign for the 2012 European Championship, Capello resigned before the finals after John Terry was stripped of the captaincy against his wishes.

He subsequently coached Russia but was sacked in July 2015 after three years in charge, a period that encompassed more disappointment at a World Cup finals when Russia were knocked out at the group stage in 2014.  He has not worked since and claims he turned down an offer to succeed Antonio Conte as Italy's head coach.

Away from football, Capello is a collector of fine art and has acquired a collection of paintings valued at around £10 million.  SA devout Catholic, he prays twice a day and has been married for 40 years to his wife Laura, whom he met on a bus as a teenager.  They have two sons, Pier Filippo and Eduardo.

Travel tip:

Gorizia, about 25 kilometres from San Canzian d'Isonzo, is a fascinating town that straddles the border of Italy and Slovenia. It was the subject of a territorial dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia at the end of the Second World War and when boundaries were drawn up in 1947 it was agreed that Gorizia would remain Italian and a new town of Nova Gorica would be built on the Yugoslav side. The town is notable for a fine castle, parts of which date back to the 13th century.

Photo of a square in Trieste
Trieste's town hall is on the imposing Piazza Unità, which is
the largest seafront square in Italy
Travel tip:

Trieste, once the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian empire, has a diverse culture that recognises its multi-ethnic population, which comprises mainly Italians and Slovenians but also a significant number of Serbians, Croatians and Romanians. Its main sights include the 15th century Castel San Giusto and the majestic Piazza Unità d'Italia, the largest seafront square in Europe.

More reading:

Arrigo Sacchi - AC Milan manager's tactics revolutionised Italian football

Gianluigi Lentini: the world's most expensive footballer

The founding of Internazionale

(First photo of Fabio Capello by CC BY-SA 3.0) 
(Photo of Trieste town hall by Twice25 and Rinina25 CC BY-SA 2.5)


7 May 2016

Andrea Lo Cicero - rugby star turned TV presenter

Prop nicknamed "il Barone" now bona fide Knight

Photo of Andrea lo Cicero
Andrea lo Cicero
Former Italian international rugby star Andrea Lo Cicero today celebrates his 40th birthday, having been born on this day in 1976 in Catania, Sicily.

The 113 kilo (249lb) prop forward played rugby for the Azzurri between 2000 and 2013, retiring with 103 caps.  At the time it was the highest number won by any player and Lo Cicero was only the second player in the history of the national team to win more than 100 caps.

He made his debut against England at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome in March 2000, as the Five Nations Championship became the Six Nations with the inclusion of Italy for the first time, and ended his international career in the capital, although this time at the Stadio Olimpico, in a 22-15 victory over Ireland in the 2013 Championship, in front of a crowd of 80,054.

Highlights along the way included an outstanding performance in the 2004 Championship, when Italy beat Scotland in Rome and Lo Cicero was named in the BBC's Dream XV.  Later that year he was the only European player selected for the Barbarians team that took on New Zealand, in which he scored a rare try.

He also played in three rugby World Cups, in Australia in 2003, France in 2007 and New Zealand in 2011.

In his club career, Lo Cicero represented Amatori Catania before moving to Rovigo and then Rome, where he was part of an Italian Championship-winning team in 1999-2000.

He played in France for the first time when he joined Toulouse in 2001 and, after three seasons back in Italy with L'Aquila, finished his career with his longest spell at any one club, playing for Racing Metro for six years, winning promotion to the top flight of the French Championship in 2009 and twice being named best prop in the Championship.

Lo Cicero acquired the nickname "il Barone" because his ancestry could be traced back to Sicilian nobility.  He became interested in rugby through an uncle, Michele, who also played for Amatori Catania, but showed early promise also in canoeing, giving up only because he developed such large leg muscles he could not fit comfortably into the canoe.

Having grown up by the sea, however, he maintained an interest in water sports and has become an accomplished sailor, competing in the 2013 America's Cup as a crew member for the Luna Rossa team.

Since retiring from competitive sport, Lo Cicero has established a second career as a TV presenter, drawing on his passion for gardening, restoring antique furniture and renovating houses.

He hosts a Sky Italia show called Giardini di Incubo which can be roughly translated as Garden Nightmares, and appears in another, L'Uomo in Casa, which offers tips on DIY and renovation projects. He also guests in sports and cookery shows, runs a business that harvests saffron and helps disabled children through pet therapy.

An ambassador for the international children's charity UNICEF, and a former volunteer for the Italian Red Cross, he was made a Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic in January 2015.

Photo of the Duomo in Catania
Catania's impressive Baroque style Duomo
Travel tip:

Catania, where Andrea Lo Cicero grew up in the shadow of the still-active volcano Mount Etna, overlooking the Ionian Sea, is the second largest city in Sicily, with a population of 315,000.  It is notable for its Baroque city centre, which is a UNESCO heritage site, but also has some outstanding classical buildings, ancient remains buried over the centuries.  Greek and Roman cities built on the site of the present city disappeared under layers of lava from Etna's eruptions but parts of them have been unearthed, including an impressive Greek-Roman theatre.

Travel tip:

The Stadio Olimpico, which hosts home matches for both the Lazio and Roma football clubs as well as rugby and football internationals, is located by the banks of the River Tiber, a short distance to the north of central Rome. It was built in the 1930s as part of the Foro Mussolini (later Foro Italico), a large sports facility which Italy's dictatorial leader built to glorify the country's sporting past and celebrate its future. It became the Stadio Olimpico as the host venue for athletics events at the 1960 Olympic games.  A roof was added for the 1990 World Cup. Outside can be found Roman-style mosaics, statues of athletes and an obelisk dedicated to Mussolini.

More reading:

Sara Errani's claim to be Italy's best

Alessandro Costacurta, the champion of football longevity

Also on this day: 

1917: The birth of Sistine Chapel Choir director Domenico Bartolucci

1983: The birth of Olympic archery champion Marco Galiazzo

(Photo of Andrea Lo Cicero by Roberto Vicario CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Catania's Duomo by Urban CC BY-SA 3.0)