Showing posts with label San Siro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Siro. Show all posts

7 February 2024

Vasco Rossi - singer-songwriter

Controversial rock star still performing

Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's
biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi, a singer-songwriter in the rock genre who has sold more than 40 million records since releasing his first single in 1977, was born on this day in 1952 in Zocca, a village in a mountainous region of Emilia-Romagna.

Rossi, who has attracted criticism for his lifestyle and for the sometimes controversial content of his songs, enjoys a huge following among fans of Italian rock music.  An open-air concert he performed in Modena in 2017 sold 225,173 tickets, a record for tickets sold by any artist anywhere in the world.

Describing himself as a provocautore - a writer who provokes - he has written more than 250 songs, nine of which have been number one in the Italian singles charts, and made more than 30 albums, including five that were the best-selling album for the year of their release.

The enormous public enthusiasm for his work has not always been shared by the critics. Although his albums have won him many awards within his own sector of the music industry, when he appeared at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1982, the judging panel placed him bottom, reportedly in protest at the lyrics and his on-stage behaviour, which they thought was disrespectful to the competition. 

Despite his success, Rossi has at times struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and depression yet has used the darker periods in his life as the inspiration for songs.  Following his arrest and brief imprisonment for cocaine possession in the 1980s, he produced an album entitled Bollicine - Little Bubbles - that featured lyrics about drug use, attracting more opprobrium but at the same time helping secure his status as a rock icon.

Rossi in the 1970s, at the start of his career
Rossi in the 1970s, at
the start of his career
Rossi’s father, Carlo, was a truck driver, his mother, Novella, a housewife. It was Novella, herself an enthusiastic music fan, who had an inkling about his singing ability, enrolling him for singing lessons as a small child. He soon developed a love for music, joining his first band at the age of 14.  After the family had moved to Bologna, he studied accountancy at high school before enrolling for a degree course in Business and Economics at the University of Bologna, which he eventually abandoned.

Instead of equipping himself for a career in finance or business, he worked as a DJ, setting up the Punta Club, a party venue, before teaming up with some friends to open Punta Radio, one of Italy’s first private radio stations.  His own early recordings tended to get their first airing on Punta Radio.

His first EP was released in 1977, including the songs Jenny è pazza and Silvia, followed by his debut album the following year, and has brought out a new album almost every year since, an extraordinary output.  It took a few years to achieve peak popularity, while the shock of his father’s death in 1979 from a stroke at the age of just 56 almost persuaded him to quit. But by the late 1980s his albums were selling in huge numbers and he had to move from traditional concert venues into stadiums such as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza - better known as San Siro - in Milan, territory usually reserved for international superstars such as U2 and Madonna.

An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000 fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000
fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
Between 2001 and 2014, five of his albums - Stupido hotel (2001), Tracks (2002), Buoni o cattivi (2004), Vivere o niente (2011) and Sono innocente (2014) - outsold all other albums in Italy in the year of their release.  Yet he remains largely unknown outside Europe, a phenomenon he has claimed is down to overseas markets, specifically the British and American markets, being rigged.

He announced in 2011 that he was retiring from touring, yet was back on stage only two years later. In his career he has performed in more than 800 concerts, watched by more than 10 million fans. He has more dates planned this year.

Rossi has three children Davide and Lorenzo - both born in 1986 - and Luca, born in 1991, all by different partners. He married Luca’s mother, Laura Schmidt, in a low-key ceremony in Zocca in 2012.

Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km
(28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Travel tip:

Vasco Rossi’s home village of Zocca in Emilia-Romagna can be found around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena and a similar distance southwest of Bologna. It sits on the eastern side of the mountain that divides the Panaro River Valley from the Reno and Samoggia Valleys. It enjoys a strategically favourable position, which was reflected in mediaeval history by the  establishment of a number of castles in the area and more recently by its importance in World War Two as a stronghold of the Italian resistance movement.  Zocca has a pleasant centre characterised by elegant shops and a number of interesting churches, including the neo-Romanesque chiesa del Sacro Cuore di Gesù and the Santuario della Verucchia, which has its origins in the 12th century.  A music festival in Zocca was established by Rossi’s friend, Massimo Riva, and rock fans visit the area in large numbers in the summer months, attracted by a tour organised by the Visit Modena tourist office. A chestnut festival takes place every October.

The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal
Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
Travel tip:

Modena, where Vasco Rossi set a world record for ticket sales for his 2017 concert at the Enzo Ferrari Park motor racing venue, is a city on the south side of the Po Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region It is known for its car industry, as Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati have all been located there. The city is also well known for producing balsamic vinegar, while operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti and soprano Mirella Freni were both born in Modena.  One of the main sights in Modena is the huge, baroque Ducal Palace, which was begun by Francesco I on the site of a former castle in 1635. His architect, Luigi Bartolomeo Avanzini, created a home for him that few European princes could match at the time. The palace is now home to the Italian national military academy. In the Galleria Estense, on the upper floor of the Palazzo dei Musei in Modena, the one-metre high bust of Francesco I d’Este, Duke of Modena, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, still seems to be commanding the city.

Also on this day:

1497: Preacher Girolamo Savonarola’s ‘bonfire of the vanities’

1622: The birth of Vittoria delle Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany

1878: The death of Pope Pius IX

1909: The birth of cavalry officer Amedeo Guillet

1941: The birth of pop singer Little Tony


3 October 2018

Alessandro Mazzinghi - boxing champion

Tuscan fighter held world title twice

Sandro Mazzinghi won the world light middleweight crown in 1963 and 1968
Sandro Mazzinghi won the world light
middleweight crown in 1963 and 1968
The boxer Alessandro 'Sandro' Mazzinghi, who won the world light middleweight championship twice in his 64-fight career, was born on this day in 1938 in Pontedera in Tuscany.

Mazzinghi won the title for the first time at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan in September 1963, defeating the American Ralph Dupas, defending his title successfully in a rematch in Sydney, Australia in December of the same year.

He lost the crown to fellow Italian Nino Benvenuti in 1965 at the San Siro football stadium in Milan but regained it at the same venue in May 1968, defeating  the South Korean Ki-Soo.

He did so after recovering from an horrific car crash in January 1964 that claimed the life of his young wife, Vera, only 12 days after they were married.

The couple had been on their way home to Pontedera from a gala dinner in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany when their car slid off a muddy road in heavy rain and collided with a tree.  Vera was killed instantly and Mazzinghi, who was thrown from the car, suffered a fractured skull.

He was in a critical condition for several days but recovered. Amazingly, though, he was back in the ring within weeks and by the end of that year had made two more successful defences of his world title, against the American Tony Montano in Genoa in October and an Italian fighter, the European welterweight champion Fortunato Manca, in Rome in December.

Sandro Mazzinghi (right) in the ring with Nino Benvenuti in the 1964 title fight in Milan
Sandro Mazzinghi (right) in the ring with Nino
Benvenuti in the 1964 title fight in Milan
This created a clamour in the Italian sporting press for him to be matched with Benvenuti, an Olympic champion in Rome in 1960 who would go on to be regarded as one of the greatest Italian boxers of all time.

Mazzinghi resisted, claiming he had not been allowed enough time to recover from his accident to take on a fight of such magnitude, but Benvenuti pointed out that he had been in the ring 10 times since the crash and therefore must be fit.

The fight took place on a scorching June night in front of a sell-out crowd of at least 60,000 at the San Siro stadium, home of AC Milan and Internazionale football clubs.  The fight was close until Benvenuti connected with a right uppercut in the sixth round and Mazzinghi could not make the count. In the rematch in Rome it seemed Mazzinghi would exact revenge but Benvenuti came back strongly in the final rounds to win on points.

Nonetheless, Mazzinghi battled back to regain the title three years later on a split decision after a titanic struggle against Ki-Soo Kim, having won the European light middleweight title in 1966 against the Frenchman Yoland Leveque, a title he successfully defended four times in the next 18 months.

Mazzinghi during a TV interview to  mark his 70th birthday in 2008
Mazzinghi during a TV interview to
mark his 70th birthday in 2008
His world title defence against the fearsome American Freddie Little ended with his retirement with cuts to both eyebrows and a controversial ‘no contest’ verdict which allowed Mazzinghi to keep the title. However, the decision was overturned by a tribunal and the fight awarded to Little.

Mazzinghi was trained as a young man by his brother, Guido, who had been an Olympic medallist in Helsinki in 1952.  He turned professional in 1960 and fought without a break for 10 years, retiring in 1970 and making a brief comeback in 1977 before being obliged to quit for good, having reached the mandatory age limit.

He was married for a second time to Marisa, with whom he had two sons, and after boxing had a short career as a singer. He subsequently wrote several books after boxing and his life.  Nowadays he lives with his family at a villa in Tuscany, where he produces wine and olive oil.

Mazzinghi remains a celebrity in Pontedera, where there is a bronze statue of him in front of the municipal sports centre.

Pontedera's Palazzo Pretorio on the main square
Pontedera's Palazzo Pretorio on the main square
Travel tip:

Pontedera, the birthplace of Alessandro Mazzinghi, is in the province of Pisa in Tuscany in the Arno valley. Nowadays it houses the Piaggio motor vehicle company, the Castellani wine company and the Amedei chocolate factory. It was the seat of some notable historical battles. In 1369, the Milanese army of Barnabo Visconti was defeated by Florentine troops and in 1554 an army representing the Republic of Siena defeated the Florentines.  The area was badly hit when the Arno flooded in 1966, causing catastrophic damage in Florence in particular.

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is instantly recognisable for its distinctive spiralling walkways to the upper tiers
The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is instantly recognisable for
its distinctive spiralling walkways to the upper tiers
Travel tip:

The San Siro Stadium was built in 1925 as one of Italy’s only purpose-built football stadiums, without the athletics track between the stands and the pitch which was a feature of most publicly-owned arenas.  Originally a stadium for AC Milan, it has been the home of both major Milan clubs since Inter moved from the Arena Civica in central Milan in 1947. Its capacity when it opened was 35,000. It was extended between 1948 and 1955 to accommodate 100,000 spectators with the addition of two extra tiers and the construction of the spiralling ramps to the upper tiers that give it its distinctive appearance today. Renamed the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in 1980, it has hosted matches at two World Cups (1930 and 1990) and the 1980 European championships.

More reading:

How Vito Antuofermo rose from toiling in the fields to riches in the ring

Giuseppe Curreri - the Sicilian kid who became Johnny Dundee

The Calabrian childhood of bodybuilder Angelo Siciliano, better known as Charles Atlas

Also on this day:

1858: The birth of actress Eleonora Duse

1941: The birth of opera star Ruggero Raimondi


26 February 2017

Angelo Mangiarotti - architect and designer

Iconic glass church among legacy to city of Milan 

Angelo Mangiarotti, pictured at a conference in 2007
Angelo Mangiarotti, pictured at a conference in 2007
Angelo Mangiarotti, regarded by his peers as one of the greats of modern Italian architecture and design, was born on this day in 1921 in Milan.

Many notable examples of his work in urban design can be found in his home city, including the Repubblica and Venezia underground stations, the iconic glass church of Nostra Signora della Misericordia in the Baranzate suburb and several unique residential properties, including the distinctive Casa a tre cilindri - composed of a trio of cylindrical blocks - in Via Gavirate in the San Siro district of the city.

He also worked extensively in furniture design with major companies such as Vistosi, Fontana Arte, Danese, Artemide, Skipper and the kitchen producer Snaidero.

Inside the glass Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Misericordia
Inside the glass Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Misericordia
Mangiarotti graduated from the Architecture School of the Politecnico di Milano in 1948. He moved to the United States in 1953 and worked in Chicago as a visiting professor for the Illinois Institute of Technology. While in Illinois, he met internationally renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Konrad Wachsmann, all of whom were substantial influences.

He returned to Italy in 1950 and opened his own architectural firm in Milan with fellow architect Bruno Morassutti, a partnership which was active until 1960.

It was with Morasutti and another Milan-based designer and engineer, Aldo Favini, that Mangiarotti collaborated on the Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Misericordia, which signalled a massive change in the design features and construction techniques of Italian churches.

The church, in the Baranzate suburb to the north-west of Milan, was constructed of concrete, steel and glass - chosen as the materials that fuelled the rebirth of Italy after the devastation of the Second World War.

The Case a tre cilindri in the San Siro district of Milan
The Case a tre cilindri in the San Siro district of Milan
Mangiarotti's original designs helped create a timeless building that has recently been restored and continues to be an impressive example of modern, progressive design even 60 years after its original construction.

The church is very near the Fiera Milano metro station, which was Mangiarotti's last architectural project before his death in 2012.

Mangiarotti's designs for furniture, lighting, decorative objects, ceramics and glassware remain highly collectible and sell for high prices.  He also created a famous collection of Murano glass Giogali Lighting produced by Vistosi.

His partnership with Rino Snaidero, which began in 1960, helped establish Snaidero's position as a leader in kitchen design.

Mangiarotti designed the Cruscotto kitchen and Sistema lines for Snaidero, both of which were notable for the exceptionally refined materials used.  The Cruscotto design was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The distinctive Snaidero headquarters building
The distinctive Snaidero headquarters building
The relationship between Snaidero and Mangiarotti reached its peak when the architect was given the job of designing the new building to house Snaidero's offices and central headquarters in Majano in the province of Udine, for which he created a mushroom-shaped main building with a fibreglass facade secured to a reinforced concrete structure, supported by four columns.

It had rounded corners and slightly protruding elliptical windows reminiscent of a ship or an aeroplane.

Mangiarotti, who died in 2012 aged 91, passed on his ideas as a lecturer at universities and technical institutes in Venice, Palermo, Florence and Milan in Italy, as well as Lausanne in Switzerland, Hawaii and Adelaide, Australia.   His work won numerous awards.

Travel tip:

The San Siro district of Milan originated as a small settlement in the 19th century in the area now known as Piazzale Lotto. The area developed in the 20th century and has since become a very diverse district, with a mix of green space and congested residential neighbourhoods, combining villas and apartment blocks serving different income groups, and a concentration of sports facilities, most notably the Giuseppe Meazza football stadium, home of AC Milan and Internazionale, the Milanese hippodrome horse racing track and the Palasport di San Siro arena, which is mainly used for basketball and volleyball.

Milan hotels from

The Piazza della Libertà in Udine
The Piazza della Libertà in Udine
Travel tip:

Majano, the base of the Snaidero company headquarters that Mangiarotti designed, is a short distance from the city of Udine, an attractive and wealthy provincial city which is the gastronomic capital of Friuli. Udine's most attractive area lies within the medieval centre, which has Venetian, Greek and Roman influences. The main square, Piazza della Libertà, features the town hall, the Loggia del Lionello, built in 1448–1457 in the Venetian-Gothic style, and a clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio, which is similar to the clock tower in Piazza San Marco - St Mark's Square - in Venice.

More reading:

29 September 2016

Silvio Berlusconi - entrepreneur and politician

Businessman now barred from office but still leading his party

Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's longest serving post-war Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's longest serving
post-war Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi, who has served as Prime Minister of Italy in four Governments, was born on this day in 1936 in Milan.

Head of a large media empire and owner of the football club AC Milan, Berlusconi was Prime Minister for a total of nine years, making him the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister and the third longest-serving since Italian unification.

Berlusconi was the eldest of three children born to a bank employee and his wife and, after completing his secondary school education, he studied Law at the Università Statale in Milan, graduating with honours in 1961.

While at University he played the double bass in a group and occasionally performed as a cruise ship crooner. In later life he was to co-write both AC Milan’s and Forza Italia’s anthems and, in collaboration with Mariano Apicella, a Neapolitan singer and musician, he wrote the lyrics for two albums of Neapolitan-style songs, which Apicella put to music.

In the late 1960s, Berlusconi’s company, Edilnord, built 4,000 residential apartments in a new 'town' he called Milano Due and he was able to use the profits to fund his future businesses.

In 1973 he set up Italy's first private television network, TeleMilano and went on to buy two further television channels. He founded the media group Fininvest, which expanded into a country-wide network of local television stations.

In 1980 he founded Italy’s first private national television network, Canale 5. He followed this with Italia 1 and Rete 4, all of which come under the umbrella of another Berlusconi company, Mediaset, of which Fininvest is the largest shareholder.

Berlusconi in his days as a singer on a  cruise ship
Berlusconi in his days as a singer on a
cruise ship 
Berlusconi was helped by his connection with Bettino Craxi, secretary-general of the Italian Socialist Party, who was Prime Minister at the time. In October 1984 Craxi’s Government passed an emergency decree legalising the nationwide transmissions made by Berlusconi’s television stations. In 1990, Craxi was to be one of Berlusconi’s best men at his second wedding.

Berlusconi was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 1994. He became Prime Minister the same year, after his party, Forza Italia, gained a majority just three months after it was launched.

He was defeated in the elections of 1996 but won again in 2001, holding on to power till 2006, when he was defeated by a narrow margin. He became Prime Minister again in 2008 and led the Government until he had to resign in 2011. After the 2013 general election he became a member of the Senate.

While in power Berlusconi was criticised for his dominance of the Italian media and was also undermined by allegations of sex scandals.

He became embroiled in a number of court proceedings for alleged abuse of office and corruption and in 2013 was sentenced to a one-year prison sentence, but later acquitted of the offence of which he was accused.

Berlusconi has also been convicted of tax fraud but, because he was more than 70 years of age, was exempted from imprisonment and ordered to do unpaid community work.

The Senate has been forced to expel him and bar him from holding public office for six years.

UPDATE: Berlusconi, having pledged to remain leader of Forza Italia throughout the remaining period of his public office ban, was elected as an MEP at the 2019 European Parliament election and returned to the Senate after winning a seat in the 2022 Italian general election. He died in June 2023 after suffering from chronic leukaemia. 

The Italian government granted him a state funeral, which took place in the Duomo in Milan, before his body was cremated at the Tempio Crematorio Valenziano Panta Rei in Alessandria, and his ashes buried in the chapel at his Villa San Martino mansion in Arcore, next to the tomb of his parents Luigi and Rosa, and his sister Maria.

Travel tip:

Silvio Berlusconi’s football club, AC Milan, play at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro district of Milan. The club’s administrative headquarters are about three kilometres from the ground in Via Aldo Rossi in the Portello district, accessible from the centre of Milan via Linea 1 on the metro, getting off at the QT8 station. At the same location is the Mondo Milan museum, which charts the 117-year history of the club, founded in 1899 by two Englishmen, Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin.

Silvio Berlusconi's home, the Villa San Martino, is in the  town of Arcore, north-east of Milan
Silvio Berlusconi's home, the Villa San Martino, is in the
town of Arcore, north-east of Milan
Travel tip:

Silvio Berlusconi’s personal residence, the Villa San Martino, is about 20 kilometres to the north east of Milan, in the town of Arcore in the province of Monza and Brianza. Berlusconi’s home, along with other important villas in the area, was built in the 16th century by a wealthy noble Lombardian family.

More reading:

Berlusconi and Gianni Rivera - poles apart politically, linked by AC Milan

Giuseppe Meazza - Italian football's first superstar

Matteo Renzi - Italy's youngest Prime Minister


The Italians, by John Hooper

(Photo of Villa San Martino by MarkusMark CC BY-SA 3.0)