Showing posts with label Umberto 1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Umberto 1. Show all posts

27 October 2023

Giovanni Giolitti – Prime Minister

Long-lasting Liberal politician made important social reforms

Giovanni Giolitti was one of Europe's main liberal reformers
Giovanni Giolitti was one of
Europe's main liberal reformers
Giovanni Giolitti, who served as Prime Minister of Italy five times, was born on this day in 1842 in Mondovì in Piedmont.

A Liberal, he was the leading statesman in Italy between 1900 and 1914 and was responsible for the introduction of universal male suffrage in the country.

He was considered one of the main liberal reformers of late 19th and early 20th century Europe, along with George Clemenceau, who was twice prime minister of France, and David Lloyd George, who led the British government from 1916 to 1922.

Giolitti is the longest serving democratically-elected prime minister in Italian history and the second longest serving premier after Benito Mussolini. He is considered one of the most important politicians in Italian history.

As a master of the political art of trasformismo, by making a flexible, centrist coalition that isolated the extremes of Left and Right in Italian politics after unification, he developed the national economy, which he saw as essential for producing wealth.

The period between 1901 and 1914, when he was Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior with only brief interruptions, is often referred to as the Giolitti era.

He made progressive social reforms that improved the living standards of ordinary Italians and he nationalised the telephone and railway operators.

Giolitti’s father, Giovenale Giolitti, had worked in the avvocatura dei poveri, assisting poor people in both civil and criminal cases. He died in 1843, the year after his son, Giovanni, was born. The family moved to live in his mother’s family home in Turin, where she taught him to read and write.

Giolitti earned a degree in law from the University of Turin
Giolitti earned a degree in law
from the University of Turin
Giolitti was educated in Turin and went to the University of Turin at the age of 16, where he earned a law degree after three years.

His uncle was a friend of Michelangelo Castelli, the secretary of Camillo Benso di Cavour - the united Italy's first prime minister but Giolitti was not interested in the Risorgimento and did not fight in the Italian Second War of Independence, choosing instead to work in public administration.

At the 1882 Italian general election, Giolitti was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. In 1889 he was selected by Francesco Crispi as the new Minister of Treasury and Finance, but he later resigned because he did not agree with Crispi’s colonial policy.

After the fall of a new government led by Antonio Starabba di Rudini, Giolitti was asked by King Umberto I to form a new cabinet.

He resigned after a series of problems and scandals and was impeached for abuse of power, but this allegation was later quashed. He was once again appointed prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel III, but he had to resign in 1905 after losing the support of the Socialists.

When the next prime minister, Sidney Sonnino, lost his majority in 1906, Giolitti became prime minister again. He introduced laws to protect women and child workers and passed a law to provide workers with a weekly day of rest.

Giolitti was re-elected in 1909 but soon had to resign again, afterwards supporting the new head of government, Luigi Luzzatti, while remaining the real power behind the scenes.

In 1911, Luzzati resigned from office and Victor Emmanuel III again gave Giolitti the task of forming a new cabinet.

In 1912, Giolitti got Parliament to approve an electoral reform bill that expanded the electorate from three million to eight and a half million voters. This is thought to have hastened the end of the Giolitti era. The Radicals brought down Giolitti’s coalition in 1914 and he resigned.  

He became prime minister again in 1920, supported by Mussolini’s Fascist party, but he had to step down in 1921. By 1925 he had become completely opposed to the Fascist party and refused to join. He died in 1928 in Cavour in Piedmont and his last words to the priest were that he could not sing the official anthem of the Fascist regime.

A section of the Piazza Maggiore, with its frescoed Baroque architecture
A section of the Piazza Maggiore, with its
frescoed Baroque architecture
Travel tip: 

Mondovì is a beautiful town of some 22,000 inhabitants situated in Italy’s Piedmont region at the foot of the southern Alps, close to the border between Piedmont and Liguria.  Like much of the area in which it sits, the town is rich in mediaeval frescoes and Baroque architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries, many of the buildings designed by local architect Francesco Gallo.  The town is in two sections: the lower town called Breo, which grew up alongside the Ellero river, is linked to the upper town of Piazza by a funicular railway.  Mondovì Piazza, the old part of the city founded around 1198, has the two-level Piazza Maggiore at its heart, surrounded by beautiful porticoed buildings such as Palazzo dei Bressani and the Governor’s Palace.  Mondovì was one of the most important towns during the Savoy era, with an ancient university and a printing press that produced, in 1472, the first book printed in Piedmont with modern typography.  The town’s printing museum - the Museo della Stampa - can be found in the 17th century Palazzo delle Orfane. 

Cavour is dominated by the giant Rocca di  Cavour, which looms over the town
Cavour is dominated by the giant Rocca di 
Cavour, which looms over the town
Travel tip: 

Cavour is a small town of around 5,500 residents in Piedmont, situated about 40km (25 miles) southeast of Turin, built at the foot of the Rocca di Cavour, an isolated mass of granite rising from otherwise flat terrain. On top of the Rocca, once the site of a Roman village, are some mediaeval remains. The town gave its name to the Benso family of Chieri, of whom the most famous member was Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, the statesman who was a driving force in the Risorgimento and was appointed the first prime minister of the united Italy in 1861.  The Rocca di Cavour has been a protected natural park since 1995.

Also on this day:

1782: The birth of virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini

1952: The birth of Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni

1962: The death of entrepreneur industrialist Enrico Mattei

1967: The birth of mountaineer Simone Moro


9 February 2020

Pietro Nenni - politician

Pietro Nenni led the Italian Socialist Party for 22 years in total
Pietro Nenni led the Italian Socialist
Party for 22 years in total

Orphan who became influential leader of Italian Socialist Party

The politician Pietro Sandro Nenni, who was a major figure of the Italian left for five decades, was born on this day in 1891 in Faenza in Emilia-Romagna.

Nenni was general secretary of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) on three occasions and rose to high office in the Italian government, twice serving as foreign affairs minister and several times as deputy prime minister, notably under the progressive Christian Democrat Aldo Moro in the centre-left coalitions of the 1960s.

He was a recipient of the Stalin Peace Prize in 1951 but returned the $25,000 that came with the honour in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Born into a peasant family, Nenni lost both his parents before he was five years old and grew up in an orphanage, having been placed there by the aristocratic landowners for whom his father had worked.

His experiences there seemed to stir in him a desire to rebel against authority.  He was only nine years old when, on learning of the assassination of King Umberto I by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci, he is said to have written ‘Viva Bresci’ on a wall in the orphanage.

Nenni volunteered to fight for his country in the First World War
Nenni volunteered to fight for his country
in the First World War
As soon as he was old enough to make his own way in the world he became involved in protest movements. By the age of 16 he was editing a Republican party newspaper in nearby Forlì, where the local Socialist newspaper was edited by Benito Mussolini.  He and Mussolini would become linked when both were arrested and briefly jailed after taking part in a strike against the Italo-Turkish War in Libya.

Both he and Mussolini supported Italy’s entry in the First World War, however. After the conflict, in which Nenni volunteered, was wounded, and returned to frontline service again, their paths diverged.

Both formed fascii - the Italian word in use at the time for political groups - but where Mussolini’s evolved into what would become the National Fascist Party, Nenni’s was soon dissolved. In the same year - 1921 - as Mussolini’s Fascists came into being, Nenni left the Italian Republican Party and joined the PSI, from which a breakaway group had recently left to form the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

Their opposition could not have been more clear when Mussolini was appointed prime minister in 1922 and Nenni, by now editor of the PSI newspaper Avanti!, attacked Mussolini’s ideology on a regular basis.

Mussolini looked for a way to silence Nenni, as he did with most of his political opponents, and he found one in 1925 when Nenni published a booklet whipping up anti-Fascist sentiment following the murder of Socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti.  Mussolini had Nenni arrested for anti-Fascist activity, and though he was soon released it was not long before Avanti!’s offices were damaged in an arson attack and a law brought in to ban its publication.

Nenni served as deputy prime minister in three governments led by the Christian Democrat Aldo Moro
Nenni served as deputy prime minister in three
governments led by the Christian Democrat Aldo Moro
Nenni fled the country and spent the next 17 years in exile, first in France and then Spain, where he fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War as co-founder of the Garibaldi Brigade.  He returned to France in 1943, by then under Nazi occupation, and was arrested by the Germans. He was held first in Vichy but then returned to Italy to continue his imprisonment on the island of Ponza.

After Italy was liberated later in 1943, he was able to resume his political career, his determination to bring about change hardening after learning of the death of his daughter, Vittoria, who had been taken prisoner by the Nazi regime earlier in the Second World War.

He became leader of the PSI and after the surrender of Italy to the Allies became a member of the National Liberation Committee, the political element of the Italian Partisans.  He was deputy prime minister in the interim government of Ferruccio Parri and the first government of Alcide De Gasperi. He became minister for foreign affairs in  the second De Gasperi government, the first administration after Italians voted to make their country a republic in 1946, for which Nenni had been a prominent campaigner.

For several years, the PSI worked closely with the Communists but Nenni broke with them again after Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary, which was an embarrassment to Nenni not only as a recipient of the Stalin Prize but also because he had returned from a meeting with the Russian leader before the invasion and proclaimed Stalin as a man of peace.

As a consequence, Nenni gradually shifted his party’s support away from the Soviet Union in favour of NATO, of which he advocated membership.

After the overwhelming victory of De Gaspari’s Christian Democrats in the divisive 1948 elections, it was not until the 1960s that Nenni’s Socialists were part of government again.  Now a veteran political figure in his 70s, he served as deputy leader under Aldo Moro in three centre-left coalitions that he had helped to broker.

Following poor results in the 1968 elections, Nenni began to release his grip on the PSI and resigned as leader the following year. He was made a senator for life in 1970 but his bid to become President of the Republic in 1971 was unsuccessful. He died in 1980, aged 88.

Faenza's cathedral still has a simple brick facade, and as  such is regarded as an unfinished project
Faenza's cathedral still has a simple brick facade, and as
such is regarded as an unfinished project
Travel tip:

Faenza is in the Emilia-Romagna region, about 50km (31 miles) southeast of Bologna and 35km (22 miles) southwest of Ravenna. The city is famous for the manufacture of a type of decorative majolica-ware known as faience. It is also home to the International Museum of Ceramics, which has examples of ceramics from ancient times, the Middle Ages and the 18th and 19th centuries as well as displaying work by important contemporary artists. The museum is in Viale Baccarini.  Although the origins of the city go back further, Faenza preserves traces of its Roman rectangular plan, surrounded by 15th-century walls. Notable landmarks include the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where the city’s cathedral, begun in 1474 by Giuliano da Maiano, can be found. Construction finished in 1515 but was never completed, inasmuch as the front of the building is plain brick, with no stone or marble facade.

Faenza hotels by

A Linea A metro train crosses the Ponte Pietro Nenni, which carries trains over the River Tiber in Rome
A Linea A metro train crosses the Ponte Pietro Nenni,
which carries trains over the River Tiber in Rome
Travel tip:

Not all architecture in Rome is classical. One example is the Ponte Pietro Nenni, which spans the Tiber as a link between the Flaminio and Prati districts and is known by many as the Metro Bridge, on account of its primary purpose, which was to carry Linea A of the Rome metro from one side of the river to the other in the only section of the line that is above ground.  It carries vehicular traffic on both sides of the metro tracks. The bridge, a concrete cantilever structure with two supporting V-shaped piles, was designed by the architect Luigi Moretti and the engineer Silvano Zorzi and built between 1969 and 1972. It was inaugurated in 1980 and dedicated to Nenni, who died a month before the inauguration.

(Picture credits: Top portrait by; Faenza cathedral by Tecsis; metro train by Lucaf1; via Wikimedia Commons)

10 April 2019

Agostino Bertani – physician and politician

Compassionate doctor was Garibaldi’s friend and strategist

Agostino Bertani was a hero for tending to the wounds of Garibaldi's soldiers
Agostino Bertani was a hero for tending
to the wounds of Garibaldi's soldiers
Agostino Bertani, who worked with Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi to liberate Italy, died on this day in 1886 in Rome.

He had been a surgeon in Garibaldi’s corps in the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859 and personally treated Garibaldi’s wounds after the military leader lost the Battle of Aspromonte in 1862.

Bertani became a hero to the Italian people for his work organising ambulances and medical services during Garibaldi’s campaigns and he became a close friend and strategist to the military leader.

Born in Milan in 1812, Bertani's family had many friends with liberal ideals and his mother took part in anti-Austrian conspiracies.

At the age of 23, Bertani graduated from the faculty of medicine at the Borromeo College in Pavia and became an assistant to the professor of surgery there.

He took part in the 1848 uprising in Milan and directed a military hospital for Italian casualties. He organised an ambulance service for soldiers defending Rome in 1849 and distinguished himself by his service in Genoa with Mazzini during the cholera epidemic of 1854.

In 1860 Bertani was one of the strategists who planned the attack on Sicily and Naples known as the Expedition of the Thousand.

Bertani was one of the strategists who planned the Expedition of the Thousand
Bertani was one of the strategists who
planned the Expedition of the Thousand
Bertani became Garibaldi’s secretary general after the occupation of Naples in 1860. While serving in this role he reorganised the police and planned the sanitary reconstruction of the city.

He organised the medical service for Garibaldi’s 40,000 and fought in the Battle of Mentana in 1867 during Garibaldi’s march on Rome, even though he had been opposed to the campaign.

Bertani became leader of the extreme left in the new Italian parliament established in 1861. He founded La Riforma, a journal advocating social reforms, and launched an inquiry into the sanitary conditions of ordinary people. It was Bertani who prepared the sanitary code adopted by the administration of Francesco Crispi.

In 1885, along with Anna Maria Mozzoni, a journalist and social reformer, he visited the anarchist Giovanni Passannante in prison. Passannante had attempted to kill King Umberto I but had failed. Originally condemned to death, his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Passannante was kept in solitary conferment in a tiny cell in Portoferraio on the island of Elba. The inhuman conditions he was kept in eventually drove him insane.

Bertani and Mozzoni reported on Passannante’s maltreatment and after an examination by doctors the anarchist was transferred to the asylum of Montelupo Fiorentino, although doctors there were unable to reverse his poor condition.

Bertani continued to serve in the Italian parliament until his death the following year at the age of 73 in Rome.

The statue of Bertani
in Milan
Travel tip:

There are streets named in honour of Agostino Bertani all over Italy and in his home town of Milan there is a monument to him in Piazza Fratelli Bandiera, near the historic gateway of Porta Venezia. In its present form, the gate dates back to the 19th century; nevertheless, its origins can be traced back to the Medieval and even the Roman walls of the city. The surrounding streets are often referred to as the Porta Venezia district.

The storming of the Roman walls at Porta Pia that enabled Garibaldi to declare the unification of Italy complete
The storming of the Roman walls at Porta Pia that enabled
Garibaldi to declare the unification of Italy complete
Travel tip:

Italy was officially declared united after crack infantry troops from Piedmont entered Rome on 20 September 1870 after briefly bombarding defending French troops. They got through Rome’s ancient walls near the gate of Porta Pia. A marble plaque commemorating the liberation of Rome marks the place. Not far away in Piazza Montecitorio is the Camera dei Deputati, Italy’s parliament, which Bertani first entered in 1861.

More reading:

The death of Garibaldi

Why Giuseppe Mazzini was the hero of Italian unification

The novel that became a symbol of the Risorgimento

Also on this day:

1762: The birth of Giovanni Aldini, the physicist thought to have given Mary Shelley the idea for Frankenstein

1926: An airship leaves Rome on an expedition to the North Pole

1991: The Moby Prince Disaster