Showing posts with label Trentino-Alto Adige. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trentino-Alto Adige. Show all posts

19 April 2023

Lilli Gruber - groundbreaking TV journalist

Writer and broadcaster was first female to host prime time news bulletin

Lilli Gruber today conducts the current affairs talk show Otto e Mezzo on Italy's La7 channel
Lilli Gruber today conducts the current affairs
talk show Otto e Mezzo on Italy's La7 channel
The journalist Lilli Gruber, who in 1987 became the first woman to be appointed anchor of a prime time news show on Italian public television, was born on this day in 1957 in Bolzano.

In a distinguished career, as well as being the face of major news programmes for the national broadcaster Rai, Gruber has reported on many major international stories as a foreign correspondent, presented shows on German television, served as a Member of the European Parliament for five years, and written many books.

Since leaving politics in 2008, she has been the host of the long-running political talk show, Otto e Mezzo, on the Rome-based independent TV channel La7.

Nicknamed La Rossa both for her red hair and her political views, Gruber was born Dietlinde Gruber into a German-speaking family in Bolzano, the provincial capital of South Tyrol in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northeast Italy, which borders Austria and Switzerland.

It was her father, Alfred, an entrepreneur, who gave her the pet name Lilli, which stayed with her into adulthood.

Educated partly in Verona, where her father built up a business making machinery for the construction industry, and in the town of Egna, near Bolzano, where she attended a language school, Gruber graduated in foreign languages and literature from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, before embarking on a journalistic career in her home region.

Alongside reporting for the regional newspapers L’Adige and Alto Adige, she gained some television experience with the local channel, Telebolzano, before landing a job on Rai Südtirol, also known as Sender Bozen, a German language channel for Trentino-Alto Adige, where despite being part of Italy, around a third of the population speak German.

Gruber made Italian TV history in 1987 as the first female journalist to host a prime time news show
Gruber made Italian TV history in 1987 as the first
female journalist to host a prime time news show
From there, she moved to the Bolzano office of TGR, the regional news arm of Rai, and in 1984 was recruited as a reporter for TG2, which was responsible for news programming on Rai Due.

Her career flourished under the guidance of Antonio Ghirelli, TG2’s editor and a major figure in Italian journalism. As a foreign correspondent, Gruber reported in 1989 on the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, an experience that would become the subject of her first book, Quei giorni a Berlin - Those Days in Berlin - which was published in 1990.

In the meantime, Ghirelli had enabled her to make history by handing her the job of anchoring TG2’s main evening news programme, which aired at 7.45pm each weekday evening. The move broke new ground, Gruber’s professionalism meaning that what had been a glass ceiling on the career progression of women in Italian TV news coverage was shattered.

Her career soon continued on its steep ascent with a move to Rai’s flagship channel, Rai Uno, where she again combined foreign assignments with hosting. She became anchor for TG1’s main eight o’clock evening news programme while also reporting on the conflicts in Yugoslavia and Iraq and the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in the United States.

It was while in Baghdad to report on the second Iraq war that she met Jacques Charmelot, a French journalist she would later marry.

Gruber was elected an MEP in the 2004 elections
Gruber was elected an MEP
in the 2004 elections
Gruber’s decision to pursue a career in politics was rooted in her opposition to the restrictions on freedom of information introduced by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi after his return to power in 2001.  By curbing their rights of access to information, Berlusconi made it more difficult for journalists to call out corruption and maladministration in government departments.

Gruber allied herself to the Uniti nell’Ulivo coalition, a centre-left alliance, and was elected as an MEP for central Italy in the July elections of 2004. She quickly became an effective politician, joining the parliamentary group of the European Socialist Party, becoming president of the delegation for relations with the Gulf States, a member of Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of the delegation for relations with Iran. She also became a member of the EU’s Ethics Commission.

Yet she missed journalism and when an offer was made by the ambitious management of La7, which has become Italy’s largest TV company outside the auspices of Rai or Berlusconi’s Mediaset, to front their evening political debate, Otto e Mezzo, she felt she could not turn it down.

A versatile presenter fluent in four languages - Italian, German, French and English - she has also worked for a number of German TV companies and conducted an exclusive interview with the Italian actress, Sophia Loren, for the American network, CBS.

Famed for her dogged questioning in interviews with political figures, Gruber also became known as a stylish dresser, often presenting the news in tailored Armani suits. She became friends with Giorgio Armani, the designer who founded the brand in 1975 and who designed the honey-coloured gown she wore at her wedding to Charmelot in Montagna, a village near Bolzano, in 2000.

Gruber’s books have drawn on her experiences in journalism but also her passionate interest in women’s rights, particularly the rights of women in Islamic societies. Her book I miei giorni a Baghdad - My Days in Baghdad - sold more than 100,000 copies.

More recently, she has written a trilogy of novels about the history of her family and of South Tyrol between the 19th and 20th centuries, entitled Eredità (Inheritance), Inganno (Deceit) and Tempesta (Storm). 

The city of Bolzano sits in a wide valley in the
Alpine region of Trentino-Alto Adige (Südtirol)
Travel tip:

Gruber’s home city of Bolzano is the capital of the South Tyrol region of what is now northern Italy, also known as Alto Adige. Occupying a valley flanked by hills covered in lush vineyards, it has a population of 108,000, swelling to 250,000 with all the surrounding communities. One of the largest urban areas in the Alpine region, it has a medieval city centre famous for its wooden market stalls, selling among other things Alpine cheeses, hams and bread. Places of interest include the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, the imposing 13th-century Mareccio Castle, and the Duomo di Bolzano with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Three languages - Italian, German and a local language called Ladin - are spoken in the area, which consistently polls high among the Italian cities reckoned to have the best standard of living.  The nearest airport to Bolzano is at Verona, about 150km (93 miles) to the south and accessible in approximately an hour and a half by train, although some visitors arrive from Innsbruck in Austria, just over two hours by train in the opposite direction.

Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy, flanking the Adige river
Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy,
flanking the Adige river 
Travel tip:

Verona, where Gruber spent part of her upbringing, is the third largest city in the northeast of Italy, with a population across its whole urban area of more than 700,000. Among its wealth of tourist attractions is the Roman amphitheatre known as L’Arena di Verona, which dates back to AD30. With a seating capacity of 22,000, it is best known now as a venue for large-scale open air opera performances and other music concerts. Verona was chosen as the setting for three plays by William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew - although it is unknown whether the English playwright ever actually set foot in the city.  Each year, thousands of tourists visit a 13th century house in Verona where Juliet is said to have lived, even though there is no evidence that Juliet and Romeo actually existed and the balcony said to have inspired Shakespeare’s imagination was not added to the house until the early 20th century.

Also on this day:

1588: The death of Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese

1768: The death of painter Canaletto, known for views of Venice

1937: The birth of chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio

1953: The birth of Olympic high jumper Sara Simeoni


11 February 2018

Carlo Sartori – footballer

Italian was first foreigner to play for Manchester United

Italian-born Carlo Sartori in action  for Manchester United
Italian-born Carlo Sartori in action
 for Manchester United 
Carlo Domenico Sartori, the first footballer from outside Great Britain or Ireland to play for Manchester United, was born on this day in 1948 in the mountain village of Caderzone Terme in Trentino.

The red-haired attacking midfielder made his United debut on October 9, 1968, appearing as substitute in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at the London club’s White Hart Lane ground.

On the field were seven members of the United team that had won the European Cup for the first time the previous May, including George Best and Bobby Charlton, as well as his boyhood idol, Denis Law, who had missed the final against Benfica through injury.

Sartori, who made his European Cup debut against the Belgian side Anderlecht the following month, went on to make 56 appearances in four seasons as a senior United player before returning to Italy to join Bologna.

Although they dominate the Premier League today, players from abroad were a rarity in British football in Sartori’s era and United did not have another in their ranks until they signed the Yugoslav defender Nikola Jovanovic from Red Star Belgrade in 1980.

Jovanovic, in fact, was the first United player to be signed from an overseas club, Sartori having grown up in Manchester after arriving in the city with his family as a 10-month old baby.

Sartori made 56 senior appearances for  United before joining Bologna
Sartori made 56 senior appearances for
United before joining Bologna
They lived at first in the Ancoats area to the northeast of the industrial city, which at the time had a large Italian community.

Later, they would move a little further out of the city to Collyhurst, where his father established a knife-sharpening business that still thrives today, with clients in Liverpool as well as Manchester, and which would later provide Carlo with a living.

The young Sartori caught the eye as a schoolboy and a number of professional clubs began to monitor his progress.  Everton, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion all expressed an interest in signing him, and he had a trial with Manchester City, before United sent Joe Armstrong, their chief scout, to meet him and his parents at their home and offer him an apprenticeship.

His career made good progress while Matt Busby was United manager but began to wane after the legendary Scottish boss retired. In 1973 came the opportunity to play in Italy for Bologna, although in order to return to Italy he had to accept a period of compulsory national service.

Even so, Sartori was able to keep his football skills in order by turning out for the Italian Army team, with whom he won the World Military Cup.  Though he had to content himself initially with being on the fringes at Bologna, he still picked up a medal in his first season as a member of their victorious Coppa Italia squad.

He went on to play for a number of clubs in Italy, including 100 appearances for Lecce, before finishing his career, appropriately, with Trento, which meant he was able to rediscover his roots, having been born just 30km (19 miles) away.

Sartori, pictured at the time of his retirement, spent 29 years as a knife-sharpener
Sartori, pictured at the time of his retirement,
spent 29 years as a knife-sharpener
Had fate not intervened he might well have settled in the area. He qualified as a coach and was about to take up his first appointment, with the Serie C club at nearby Merano, when he learned that one of his two brothers, who had remained in England to run his father’s business, had passed away.

It meant that the surviving brother was left with more work that he could manage on his own and he asked Carlo to consider returning to England to help out.  After giving the matter some thought, he decided family came first.

So it was that Sartori, the former Manchester United star, became a familiar figure in the kitchens of the restaurants and hotels around Manchester that relied on the services of Sartori and Sons.

The business sustained him and his family for the next 29 years until he retired in 2013.  Now living near the town of Halifax in West Yorkshire, about 48km (30 miles) northeast of Manchester, he still returns to Italy from time to time and was recently honoured at a civic reception in Caderzone Terme.

The Alpine lakes at San Giugliano are one of the tourist attractions near Caderzone Terme
The Alpine lakes at San Giugliano are one of the tourist
attractions near Caderzone Terme
Travel tip:

Caderzone Terme is one of a cluster of villages in the middle of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park in the Valle Rendena area of Trentino-Alto Adige, the autonomous region of northwest Italy that is also known as Sudtirol, with an Austrian as well as Italian heritage.  Traditionally, it was farming that provided for a population of around 5-600 inhabitants; nowadays, increasingly, the local economy is based on tourism. Nearby are the Alpine lakes of San Giugliano, Garzon and Vacarsa, while the mountains offer skiing and trekking opportunities.

Piazza Duomo in Trento, with the Palazzo Pretorio and Torre Civica on the left, and the Duomo to the right
Piazza Duomo in Trento, with the Palazzo Pretorio and Torre
Civica on the left, and the Duomo to the right
Travel tip:

The regional capital, Trento, is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities and often ranks highly in polls for quality of life, standard of living and business and job opportunities.  As well as being a modern city in terms of its strong scientific and financial sectors, Trento has a picturesque historic centre and a beautiful Alpine backdrop, with many of its suburbs retaining the feel of traditional rural or Alpine villages. At the centre of the city is the beautiful Piazza Duomo with its late Baroque Fountain of Neptune. The Duomo itself, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, sits on top of a late Roman basilica, the remains of which can be seen in the underground crypt.

4 February 2018

Cesare Battisti – patriot and irredentist

Campaigner for Trentino hailed as national hero

Cesare Battisti photographed in 1915
Cesare Battisti photographed in 1915
Cesare Battisti, a politician whose campaign to reclaim Trentino for Italy from Austria-Hungary was to cost him his life, was born on this day in 1875 in the region’s capital, Trento.

As a member of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party, Battista was elected to the assembly of South Tyrol and the Austrian Imperial Council, where he pushed for autonomy for Trentino, an area with a mainly Italian-speaking population.

When the First World War arrived and Italy decided to side with the Triple Entente and fight against Austria-Hungary, Battisti decided he could fight only on the Italian side, joining the Alpini corps.

At this time he was still a member of the Austrian Chamber of Deputies, so when he was captured wearing Italian uniform during the Battle of Asiago in 1916 he was charged with high treason and executed.

Italy now looks upon Battisti as a national hero and he is commemorated in monuments in several places in the country, as well as having numerous schools, streets and squares named after him.

At the time of his birth, the son of a merchant, also called Cesare, Trento was part of Tyrol in Austria-Hungary, even though it was a largely Italian-speaking city. As Battisti became politically active as a young man, first while studying law in Graz, in Austria, and later literature and philosophy at the University of Florence, he found himself drawn towards the Italian irredentism movement, one of whose aims was achieving autonomy for Trentino as part of a unified Kingdom of Italy.

Battisti as a student in Florence, where he became drawn to the irredentist movement
Battisti as a student in Florence, where he
became drawn to the irredentist movement
He began a student movement, the Società degli Studenti Trentini, and with like-minded fellow students founded a number of magazines and newspapers to spread the message and rally support for the cause.

In 1911, standing on an SDWP ticket, he was elected to the Reichsrat, the parliament of Vienna, with the aim of achieving change from within.

In 1914, with the support of Guido Larcher and Giovanni Pedrotti, he sent an appeal to the king, Vittorio Emanuele III, exhorting the monarch to respond to his wishes and unite Italy.

By the time the Austro-Serbian war had broken out, later in 1914, Battisti sensed the possibility of Italy being drawn into the conflict in opposition to Austria-Hungary and decided to leave Trento to find a safer part of Italy.

Not long afterwards, Battisti began to campaign for Italy to join forces with the Triple Entente countries – Russia, France and Great British – against Austria-Hungary, and when the First World War broke out he decided he could be true to his principles only by fighting on the side of the Italian forces.

Battisti volunteered for the Italian army and soon won medals for bravery. He was promoted to lieutenant with the Vicenza Battalion of the 6th Alpine Regiment. 

He was captured by Austrian forces during the Battle of Asiago, which took place about 60km (37 miles) east of Trento and a similar distance north of Vicenza. When it was realised who he was he was taken to his home town to face a court martial, at the Castello di Buonconsiglio, at which his parliamentary immunity was over-ridden and he was sentenced to death.

The Mausoleum housing Cesare Battisti's tomb stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking Trento
The Mausoleum housing Cesare Battisti's tomb stands on
a rocky outcrop overlooking Trento
His request to face a firing squad so as not to dishonour the Italian uniform was denied and he was executed by hanging on July 12, 1916, at the age of 41. The incident damaged support for Austrians in the area, particularly after photographs of a smiling execution squad posing with Battisti’s body were published in newspapers. He left a widow, Ernesta, and three children.

At the conclusion of the conflict, Trento became an Italian city as part of the settlement.  Battisti was hailed as a hero and monuments to him have been erected in Rome as well as at the Bolzano Victory Monument in another part of South Tyrol that was successfully reclaimed from Austria. 

With the agreement of his family, his remains were moved in 1935 to a mausoleum built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city. The structure, consisting of a circular base supporting 16 columns topped by a balustrade, was designed by the architect Ettore Faguioli to resemble a classical temple.

The Piazza Duomo in Trento
The Piazza Duomo in Trento
Travel tip:

Trento today is a cosmopolitan city considered to be one of the most desirable places to live in Italy on the basis of job opportunities and quality of life. With a population of 117,000, it is situated in an Alpine valley on the Adige river between the northern tip of Lake Garda and the border city of Bolzano, about 115km (71 miles) north of Verona. Settled by the Romans in the first century, it changed hands many times before becoming a major city in the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrians took charge in the 14th century and it remained under their control, with the exception of a spell of French domination in the Napoleonic era until the First World War.  It is notable in the 16th century for hosting the Council of Trent, the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that gave rise to the resurgence of the church following Protestant Reformation.

Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento
Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento
Travel tip:

The Castello del Buonconsiglio, where Battisti was tried and executed by the Austrians, is a castle next to Trento’s city walls built in the 13th century.  It consisted at first of the building now known as the Castelvecchio, which was the seat of the Bishopric of Trento until the 18th century, and saw the addition of several more buildings as various bishops chose to enlarge and reinforce it. Legend has it that there was a secret tunnel linking it with the city’s cathedral. It became a military barracks under the Austrians, then a jail, before falling into disrepair.  It was restored after Trento became part of Italy in the 1920s and now houses a museum and art gallery. 

Also on this day:

28 February 2017

Karl Zuegg - jam and juice maker

Businessman turned family farm into international company

Karl Zuegg
Karl Zuegg
Karl Zuegg, the businessman who turned his family's fruit-farming expertise into one of Italy's major producers of jams and juices, was born on this day in 1915 in Lana, a town in what is now the autonomous province of Bolzano in Trentino-Alto Adige.

His grandparents, Maria and Ernst August Zuech - they changed their name to Zuegg in 1903 - had been cultivating fruit on their farm since 1860, when Lana was part of South Tyrol in what was then Austria-Hungary.  They traded at local markets and began exporting.

Zuegg and the company's other major brand names, Skipper and Fruttaviva, are among the most recognisable in the fruit products market in Italy and it is largely through Karl's hard work and enterprise.

He was managing director of the company from 1940 to 1986, during which time Zuegg became the first drinks manufacturer in Italy to make use of the ground-breaking Tetrapak packaging invented in Sweden, which allowed drinks to be sold in lightweight cardboard cartons rather than traditional glass bottles.

The family business had begun to experiment with jams in 1917 when austerity measures in Italy were biting hard and there was a need to preserve food.  Rather than throw away overripe apples, the family turned them into jam.

The Zuegg logo is well known in Italian grocery stores
The Zuegg logo is well known in Italian grocery stores
Their methods were successful with other fruits too and Zuegg jams went into mass production in 1923, achieving immediate success.

But it was not until Karl joined the board of the company in 1937 that the business began to expand on a large scale.

Under Karl's leadership, the Zuegg brand grew, with bigger production facilities and innovative technology. The company developed new products such as the Fruttino snack bar, a solid stick of quince jam enriched with vitamins that became a staple of children's school lunches throughout Italy.

The first Zuegg fruit juices arrived in 1954, with bottles of pear, peach and apricot juice soon becoming familiar items on the shelves of Italian grocery stores.

Fruit cultivation is an important part of Lana's economy
Fruit cultivation is an important part of Lana's economy
In the early 1960s, Zuegg intoduced the Fruttaviva jams, the first to be produced without the use of preservatives and dyes, and two years later, after opening a new plant in Verona - now the company's headquarters - became a supplier of fruit products for use in yogurt, pastries and ice cream.

It was in 1979, as Karl continually looked for innovations that would help grow the business further, that the company signed a deal for the Swedish company Tetrapak to supply its revolutionary cartons for Zuegg products.

Tetrapak's unique method, combining paper, polyethylene and aluminium, produced a lightweight packaging that not only kept fluids from leaking outwards. It also prevented bacteria from entering the product and, through the aluminium layer, protected the contents from deteriorating through exposure to light.

Selling drinks in these so-called 'briks' was a novelty in Italy and Karl Zuegg's vision made his company the market leader. Today, of course, such packaging is standard.

The original Zuegg headquarters in Lana
The original Zuegg headquarters in Lana
On the back of this success, Zuegg was able to open another Italian production plant at Luogosano, in the province of Avellino in Campania, in 1985.  Three years later, the Skipper line, selling 100 per cent pure fruit juices, was launched.

Today, Zuegg is an international company with six plants - two in Italy, two in Germany, one in France and one in Russia - and employs more than 500 staff.

As part of its campaign to promote healthy living, the company has a long history of sponsorship in sport, which has seen it provide financial backing for competitors in skiing and snowboarding, beach volleyball, basketball and tennis, and for two seasons promoted the brand as a main sponsor of Internazionale football club.

Karl Zuegg, who was made Cavaliere del Lavoro by the Italian government in recognition of his services to industry, died in 2005 in Lana, his home town, at the age of 91.  He is buried at the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Lana di Sotto.

Travel tip:

Lana is a small town and resort in the Adige valley in north-eastern Italy midway between Bolzano and Merano in the area of the Trentino-Alto Adige region also known as South Tyrol. The German influence on the area is so dominant that more than 90 per cent of the town's 12,000 residents speak German as their first language, and less than eight per cent Italian. It is popular with hikers and cyclists in the summer months, with a network of well defined cycle paths.  Lana is also home to the South Tyrol Museum of Fruit, which details the history of fruit cultivation in the area.

Hotels in Lana from

The Roman Porta Borsari in Verona is almost 2,000 years old
The Roman Porta Borsari in Verona is almost 2,000 years old 
Travel tip:

Verona is famous for the Arena, the Roman amphitheatre that stages open air concerts, and for Casa Giulietta, the house with the balcony said to be the one that featured in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  But there is more to the city's attractions.  In addition to the Arena, Verona is said to have more Roman ruins than any other Italian city and many are part of the everyday fabric of the city, including the Porta Borsari, with its two large arches and numerous smaller arches above, dating back to the 1st century, which straddles the entrance to Corso Porta Borsari, one of the city's main shopping streets.  There are many squares, including the charming Piazza dei Signori, which is surrounded by several fine buildings, including the Palazzo del Comune, the Palazzo Domus Nova and the Loggia del Consiglio.

More reading:

How Michele Ferrero's hazelnut spread became a worldwide phenomenon

Francesco Cirio and the canning revolution

A hotel empire that started with a single London coffee bar

Also on this day:

1940: The birth of F1 motor racing champion Mario Andretti

1942: The birth of record-breaking goalkeeper Dino Zoff

(Picture credits: Tractor in orchard by böhringer friedrich; Porta Borsari by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia Commons; Zuegg pictures from Zuegg company website)