Showing posts with label Viterbo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viterbo. Show all posts

30 January 2020

Hyacintha Mariscotti – Saint

Noblewoman gave up luxurious lifestyle to help the poor


Viterbo-born Domenico Corvi's painting of Saint Hyacintha Mariscotti
Viterbo-born Domenico Corvi's painting
of Saint Hyacintha Mariscotti
Hyacintha Mariscotti, an Italian nun of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis, died on this day in 1640 in Viterbo in Lazio.

Pope Pius VII canonised her in 1807 and her feast day is now celebrated on 30 January every year.

Hyacintha, known as Santa Giacinta Marescotti in Italian, was born in 1585 into a noble family living in the castle of Vignanello in the province of Viterbo and was baptised as Clarice.

Her father was Count Marcantonio Marescotti, who was descended from Marius Scotus, a military leader who served Emperor Charlemagne. Her mother was Countess Ottavia Orsini, whose father built the famous gardens of Bomarzo.

The young Clarice was sent with her sisters to the monastery of Saint Bernardino to be educated by the nuns of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. When their education was complete, her elder sister, Ginevra, chose to enter the community as a nun, becoming Sister Immacolata.

Clarice had set her sights on marrying the Marchese Capizucchi, but he chose her younger sister, Ortensia, instead. Following her disappointment, she entered the monastery at Viterbo taking the name Hyacintha (Giacinta). She admitted later that she did this only because she was upset and was not prepared to give up the luxuries she was used to.

She kept a private stock of extra food, wore a habit made from the finest material and went out to see people and received visitors as she wished, although she always retained a strong religious faith.

Pope Pius VII made Hyacintha Mariscotti
a saint in 1807
After ten years she became seriously ill and was visited in her cell at the monastery by the priest serving as her confessor, who was bringing her Holy Communion.  When he saw the extent of the luxuries she was keeping there he admonished her and told her to observe more closely the way of life she had committed herself to.

Hyacintha completely changed her life, wore an old tunic and went barefoot, frequently fasting on bread and water.

During an outbreak of plague in the city she became devoted to nursing the sick.

Hyacintha went on to establish two confraternities, whose members were Oblates of Mary, often referred to as ‘Sacconi’. They provided aid, such as food, clothes and bed linen for sick, poor and elderly people, and prisoners.

Hyacintha is said to have worked numerous miracles and had the gifts of prophecy and discerning the secret thoughts of others.

When Hyacintha died on 30 January 1640 she had established a reputation for holiness. During her wake her religious habit had to be replaced three times because pieces of it were constantly being snipped off by people wishing to keep the scraps of material as relics.

Hyacintha was beatified by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. She was canonised by Pope Pius VII in 1807. Her remains are preserved in the church of her now defunct monastery, which has been named after her, the Church of Santa Giacinta Marescotti.


A giant turtle carrying a statue of a woman - one of the  bizarre sculptures in the Gardens of Bomarzo
A giant turtle carrying a statue of a woman - one of the
bizarre sculptures in the Gardens of Bomarzo
Travel tip:

The Gardens of Bomarzo, created by Hyacintha’s grandfather, are in Bomarzo in the province of Viterbo. Also known as Park of the Monsters, it was created during the sixteenth century in a wooded valley beneath the castle of Orsini. It has grotesque sculptures and small buildings set among the natural vegetation. The garden was created by Pier Francesco Orsini as a way of coping with his grief after the death of his wife, Giulia Farnese. Over the centuries the park became overgrown and neglected, but in the 1950s, after the artist Salvador Dali did a painting based on the park and made a short film about it, there was a major restoration project and today it is a tourist attraction.



The Piazza della Rocca in Viterbo, with its fountain designed by the 16th century architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola
The Piazza della Rocca in Viterbo, with its fountain designed
by the 16th century architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola
Travel tip:

The walled city of Viterbo is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Rome in the region of Lazio. The historic centre is one of the best preserved medieval cities in central Italy and is unusual because of the many buildings with ‘profferli’ - external staircases - that remain intact. A main attraction is the Palazzo dei Papi, which hosted the papacy for 20 years during the 13th century. The Church of Santa Giacinta Marescotti is close to Piazza del Plebiscito in the centre of Viterbo.


More reading:

Compassionate nun Saint Veronica Giuliani

Saint Agatha of Sicily - Christian martyr

Frances Xavier Cabrini - the first American saint

Also on this day:

1629: The death of architect Carlo Maderno

1721: The birth of landscape painter Bernardo Bellotto

1935: The birth of actress Elsa Martinelli

The Feast of Saint Martina of Rome



12 April 2019

Giorgio Cantarini - actor

Child star of Oscar-winning Life Is Beautiful


Cantarini's performance as Roberto Benigni's son in Life Is Beautiful captivated cinema audienced
Cantarini's performance as Roberto Benigni's son in Life Is
Beautiful
captivated cinema audiences
Giorgio Cantarini, who delivered an award-winning performance in the triple Oscar-winning movie Life Is Beautiful when he was just five years old, was born on this day in 1992 in Orvieto.

Cantarini was cast as Giosuè, the four-year-old son of Roberto Benigni’s character, Guido, in the 1997 film, which brought Academy Awards for Benigni as Best Actor and, as the director, for Best Foreign Film. For his own part, Cantarini was rewarded for a captivating performance in the poignant story with a Young Artist award.

Three years later, in Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Gladiator, Cantarini was given another coveted part as the son of Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus.

Born to parents who separated soon after his fifth birthday, Cantarini went to an audition for the part of Giosuè after an uncle read a description in a newspaper article of the kind of child Benigni wanted and told him he was a perfect match.

Cantarini remains a close friend of the director Roberto Benigni (above)
Cantarini remains a close friend of
the director Roberto Benigni (above)
Cantarini recalled in an interview in 2018 that the audition consisted simply of a conversation with Benigni, with no acting involved. Once shooting began, he was told what to do on a scene-by-scene basis.

Despite the success of Life Is Beautiful and Gladiator, and the acclaim he received, Cantarini went back to school with no thought of becoming an actor when he grew up. His ambition was to become a footballer. Once he was in high school, however, his friends and teachers convinced him he should not let his acting talent go to waste.

After appearing in a small number of films and tv dramas - plus an appearance on the the popular tv show Ballando con le Stelle - he joined hundreds of hopefuls in applying for a place at the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia - the national film school - in Rome and to his surprise and delight was accepted as one of just six boys and six girls to be admitted in 2012.

After graduation, he was immediately cast in the lead role of AUS- adotta uno studente - Adopt a Student - the first online-only series produced by Rai.

Following a period working in Paris, he returned to Italy in 2016 to perform, direct and produce Harold Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter for theatres in Rome and Vicenza, in collaboration with his friend and colleague, Miguel Gobbo Diaz.

Giorgio Cantarini today
Giorgio Cantarini today
In 2017, he played the lead role in Il dottore dei pesci - The Fish Doctor - an Italo-American short film directed by Susanna Della Sala, which was presented at numerous film festivals in Europe and Canada.

At the beginning of 2018 he moved to New York to study at the New York Film Academy and later in the year  was selected for the cast of Lamborghini - the Legend, directed by Bobby Moresco, filmed in Italy and starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin.

Cantarini’s home in Italy is in Viterbo in Lazio, where his mother and brother Lorenzo live. He remains in touch with Roberto Benigni, who provided a reference for his application for a visa to work in the United States.

Travel tip:

Orvieto, where Cantarini was born, is a small city in Umbria with a population of just 20,000, built on the top of a cliff of volcanic tuff stone. Surrounded by defensive walls built by the Etruscans, it makes an imposing sight. Situated about 120km (75 miles) north of Rome, it boasts one of Italy’s finest cathedrals in Italy - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta - with a stunningly beautiful Romanesque Gothic facade inlaid with gold mosaics fronting a building constructed from alternate layers of black and white marble.  The city’s medieval streets are known as a cultural paradise - busy with cafés and restaurants, bookshops, artisans' workshops and antique emporia.

Travel tip:

Viterbo, where Cantarini now lives when in Italy, is the largest town in northern Lazio, situated about 80km (50 miles) north of Rome. It is regarded as one of the best preserved medieval towns in Italy, with many buildings in the San Pellegrino quarter featuring external staircases. The town’s impressive Palazzo dei Papi, was used as the papal palace for about 20 years during the 13th century. Completed in about 1266, the palace has a large audience hall, which connects with a loggia raised above street level by a barrel vault.

More reading:

How Life Is Beautiful turned Roberto Benigni into a household name

Dino De Laurentiis – the Campanian pasta seller helped make Italian cinema famous 

The brilliance of Life Is Beautiful cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli

Also on this day:

1710: The birth of the famed castrato opera singer Caffarelli

1948: The birth of World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi

1950: The birth of controversial entrepreneur Flavio Briatore



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15 October 2018

Roberto Vittori – astronaut

High-flying Colonel contributed to space research


Roberto Vittori has taken part in three space flights including the last by Space Shuttle Endeavour
Roberto Vittori has taken part in three space flights,
including the last by Space Shuttle Endeavour
Roberto Vittori, the last non-American to fly on board the US Space Shuttle, was born on this day in 1964 in Viterbo.

An Italian air force officer, Vittori was selected by the European Space Agency to be part of their Astronaut Corps and has participated in three space flights.

In 2011 Vittori was on board the Space Shuttle that travelled to the International Space Station to install the AMS-02 cosmic ray detector to examine dark matter and the origin of the Universe.

Vittori had to grapple the six-tonne AMS-02 with the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm and move it to the station for installation. This was to be the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.

He is one of five Italians to have visited the International Space Station. The others are Umberto Guidoni, who was the first European to set foot on board when he flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2001, Paolo Nespoli, who visited as recently as 2017 and at 61 is the European Space Agency’s oldest active astronaut, Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space.

Vittori, right, met up with fellow Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli
after arriving at the International Space Station in 2011
Nespoli, who has participated in three International Space Station missions, was coming to the end of a 159-day stay when Vittori visited.

Vittori graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in 1989 with a degree in Aeronautical Science and afterwards flew with the Italian air force from a base in Piacenza.

After completing his basic training with the US Air Force in 1990, Vittori graduated from the US Navy Test Pilot School in 1995. He also graduated from the Nato Defence College Senior Course in 2006 and completed a Masters degree in Physics in 2007.

Vittori, left, with some of his fellow crew members after the Endeavour arrived at the International Space Station
Vittori, left, with some of his fellow crew members after
the Endeavour arrived at the International Space Station
In 2002, he flew to the International Space Station on board a Russian Soyuz craft and worked alongside the resident crew overseeing scientific experiments. The mission successfully delivered a new lifeboat for use in the event of an on board emergency.

In 2005, again part of a Soyuz mission, he became the first European to visit the Space Station twice when he went to conduct experiments in upper limb fatigue and the germination of herbaceous plant seeds for possible space nutrition.

After Space Shuttle Columbia was lost in 2003, Vittori served on the accident investigation team.

Now a Colonel in the Italian Air Force, Vittori has logged nearly 2000 miles in more than 40 different aircraft. He is married to Valeria Nardi, who comes from Città di Castello in the province of Perugia, and they have three children.

He was made Commendatore della Repubblica by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the then President of the Italian Republic, in 2005.

The impressive Palazzo dei Papi is among many  well-preserved medieval buildings in Viterbo
The impressive Palazzo dei Papi is among many
well-preserved medieval buildings in Viterbo
Travel tip:

Viterbo, where Roberto Vittori was born, is the largest town in northern Lazio, situated about 80km (50 miles) north of Rome. It is regarded as one of the best preserved medieval towns in Italy, with many buildings in the San Pellegrino quarter featuring external staircases. The town’s impressive Palazzo dei Papi, was used as the papal palace for about 20 years during the 13th century. Completed in about 1266, the palace has a large audience hall, which connects with a loggia raised above street level by a barrel vault.

The Piazza Cavalli in Piacenza is so called because of its two bronze equestrian statues by Francesco Mochi
The Piazza Cavalli in Piacenza is so called because of
its two bronze equestrian statues by Francesco Mochi
Travel tip:

Piacenza, where Roberto Vittori was based with the Italian air force after qualifying as a pilot, is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, who succeeded him. The statues are masterpieces by the sculptor Francesco Mochi.

More reading:

Samantha Cristoforetti - Italy's record-breaking first woman in space

How astronaut Umberto Guidoni launched a career in politics

Giovanni Schiaparelli and 'canals on the moon'

Also on this day:

1764: Edward Gibbon's moment of inspiration

1905: The birth of footballer Angelo Schiavio, whose goal won Italy's first World Cup


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3 April 2018

Alessandro Stradella – violinist and composer

Talented musician lived for romance and adventure


Stradella was a prolific composer but also an insatiable adventurer
Stradella was a prolific composer but
also an insatiable adventurer
Baroque composer Alessandro Stradella, who led a colourful life courting danger while producing more than 300 highly regarded musical works, was born on this day in 1639 at Nepi in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome in the Lazio region.

After an affair with the mistress of a Venetian nobleman he was attacked in the street and left for dead by two hired assassins, but he lived on for another few years to compose more music.

Five years later he was stabbed to death in Genoa, but the identity of his killers was never confirmed.

Stradella was born into an aristocratic family and by the age of 20 was making a name for himself as a composer.

He moved to Rome where he composed sacred music for Queen Christina of Sweden, who had abdicated her throne to go and live there.

It is believed he tried to embezzle money from the Roman Catholic Church and his numerous reckless affairs with women also made him enemies among powerful people in the city.

In 1637 he moved to Venice where he was hired by a nobleman, Alvise Contarini, as a music tutor to his mistress.

Stradella began an affair with her and they attempted to elope together to Turin in 1677.

Arcangelo Corelli is said to have borrowed the concerto grosso form from Stradella
Arcangelo Corelli is said to have borrowed
the concerto grosso form from Stradella
They were followed by Contarini who insisted they either marry or his mistress had to take the veil. She took the veil, but Stradella later married her. Shortly afterwards, he was attacked and left for dead in the street.

He fled to Genoa where he composed music for the local nobility and the theatre, but he was stabbed to death in a square in Genoa in 1682, aged just 42. He was buried in the Church of Santa Maria delle Vigne in Genoa.

Stradella was an influential composer whose works were adapted by other composers, including Handel, later. He originated the concerto grosso, a form that Arcangelo Corelli went on to use. He wrote at least six Baroque operas, 170 cantatas, six oratorios and 27 instrumental pieces.

Stradella, an opera based on his life and violent death by Louis Niedermeyer, was produced in Paris in 1837, followed by another opera, called Alessandro Stradella, composed by Friedrich von Flotow, in 1844.

The American writer Francis Marion Crawford wrote a novel, Stradella, about the composer’s affair and flight from Venice.

The Castello dei Borgia in Nepi
The Castello dei Borgia in Nepi
Travel tip:

Nepi, where Alessandro Stradella was born, is about 30 km south east of Viterbo. It is well known for its mineral springs and its bottled water, Acqua di Nepi. One of the main sights is the 16th century Castello dei Borgia, a medieval castle that was refurbished for Lucrezia Borgia. In 1819 the castle was drawn by the artist J M W Turner and the resulting sketch is now in the Tate Britain’s collection.

The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Vigne
The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Vigne
Travel tip:

The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Vigne, where Alessandro Stradella was buried, is in Vico del Campanile delle Vigne in Genoa. The church dates back to the 10th century, but the main altar was not completed until 1730 and it is decorated with 17th and 18th century works of art.

More reading:

Why Arcangelo Corelli was a major influence on the development of music

The student of Corelli who gave Antonio Vivaldi work as a violin tutor

How novelist Francis Marion Crawford found inspiration in Sorrento

Also on this day:

1881: The birth of Alcide de Gasperi, the future prime minister jailed by Mussolini

1899: The birth of supercentenarian Maria Angela Radaelli

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11 October 2017

Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte – adventurer

Colourful life of Italian-born prince


Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor
Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor
Prince Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte, a nephew of the Emperor Napoleon, was born on this day in 1815 in Rome.

He was to become notorious for shooting dead a journalist after his family was criticised in a newspaper article.

Bonaparte was the son of Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, and his second wife, Alexandrine de Bleschamp. He grew up with his nine siblings on the family estate at Canino, about 40 kilometres north of Rome.

The young Bonaparte helped to keep bandits at bay, spending a lot of time with the local shepherds who were armed and had dogs to protect them.

He set out on a career of adventure, joining bands of insurgents in the Romagna region as a teenager.

In 1831 he spent time in prison for a minor offence and was banished from the Papal States.

He went to the United States to join his uncle, Joseph Bonaparte, in New Jersey. He spent some time in New York before going to serve in the army of the President of Columbia. At the age of 17 he became the President’s aide and was given the rank of Commander.

Bonaparte returned to the family estate at Canino where he enjoyed hunting with his brothers. One day they caught a well-known bandit and one of his brothers wounded him.

They delivered the bandit to the police, who instead of being grateful tried to arrest them. Bonaparte lashed out with his hunting knife and killed a young officer.

The ruins of the Bonaparte mansion at Luzipeo in Corsica
The ruins of the Bonaparte mansion at Luzipeo in Corsica
He was condemned to death, but after serving nine months in prison, he was released after an intervention by the Pope, on the condition that he left Canino.

He travelled to the US, Britain and Corfu, from where he sailed to Albania with friends. He was set upon by bandits and managed to fight them off but was then asked to leave Corfu.

After the revolution of 1848 he returned to France and was elected to the National Assembly as deputy for Corsica, declaring himself a republican.

But after his cousin Louis became Napoleon III, he accepted the title of Prince, losing the support of the Republicans.

In 1853 he married Justine Eleonore Ruffin, the daughter of a Parisian workman. They had two children, Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte in 1858 and Princess Jeannne Bonaparte in 1861.

Napoleon III, now on the throne of France, did not approve of the marriage and so the family went to live in Calinzana in Corsica.

Bonaparte shot and killed a journalist but was acquitted of murder
Bonaparte shot and killed a journalist
but was acquitted of murder
They set up house at Grotta Niella near Calvi but then had a mansion built at Luzipeo. The ruins of it still stand on a hill overlooking the bay of Crovani. The last time it was occupied was during World War II by the Italian army.

In 1869 a dispute broke out between two Corsican newspapers, the radical La Revanche and the loyalist L’Avenir de la Corse.

After La Revanche criticised the Emperor Napoleon, L’Avenir published a letter by Prince Pierre Bonaparte calling the staff of La Revanche ‘cowards and traitors’.

Paschal Grousset, the editor of La Marsellaise, supported La Revanche and was offended by the Prince’s words.

The Prince wrote to the founder of the newspaper, Henri Rochefort, claiming he was upholding the good name of his family and giving him his address.

Grousset sent Victor Noir and Ulrich de Fonvielle as his seconds to fix the terms of a duel and present him with a letter.

The Prince said he would fight Rochefort, another nobleman, but not deal with his menials. According to Fonvielle, after Noir replied to him, the Prince slapped his face and shot him dead.

According to the Prince, Noir took umbrage at being called a menial and struck him first, whereupon he drew his revolver and shot the journalist. This version was accepted by the court.

Prince Pierre Bonaparte died in 1881 at Versailles and was interred in the Cimitière des Gonards there.

Canino sits on a hillside in the Province of Viterbo
Canino sits on a hillside in the Province of Viterbo
Travel tip:

Canino, where Prince Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte grew up, is to the north of Rome in the province of Viterbo and dates back to Etruscan times. Lucien Bonaparte, Pierre’s father, was made Prince of Canino by Pope Pius VII and there is a Palazzo Bonaparte in the town.

A square in the centre of Calinzana
A square in the centre of Calinzana
Travel tip:

Corsica was part of the Republic of Genoa for centuries, until in 1768 it was ceded to the French. This was a year before the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte in the capital city of Ajaccio. Under French rule, the Corsican language, which is closely related to standard Italian, declined. But during the first half of the 19th century the people of Corsica still identified with Italian culture. Children were sent to Pisa to study, official acts were written in Italian and books were printed in Italian. Calinzana (known as Calenzana in French), where Prince Pierre Napoleon went to live, is on the northwest coast of the island. The ruins of his mansion can still be seen on a hill overlooking the coast. It is remembered that it was thanks to his generosity that the people of Calinzana could enjoy the benefits of freely available drinking water. There is a square named after him with a bust of the prince.



25 December 2016

Lina Cavalieri – soprano

Christmas Day baby became singing beauty


Lina Cavalieri was described as 'the world's most beautiful woman'
Lina Cavalieri was described as 'the
world's most beautiful woman'
Singer and actress Lina Cavalieri was born Natalina - meaning 'Little Christmas' - Cavalieri on this day in 1874, in Viterbo in Lazio.

During her career she starred opposite Enrico Caruso in operas and earned the title of ‘the world’s most beautiful woman', while many of her female contemporaries tried to attain her hour-glass figure by using tight-laced corsetry.

Raised as one of five children in humble circumstances, she was expected to work to supplement the family income.  To this end, she sold flowers and sang on the streets of Rome.

After a music teacher heard her singing, she was offered some music lessons.  Subsequently, she found work as a café singer and then in theatres in Rome.

Increasingly popular both for her voice and her physical beauty, she made her way from Rome first to Vienna and then Paris where she performed in music halls including the Folies-Bergère and worked with singing coaches to develop her voice.

The progression to opera came in 1900, when she made her debut in Lisbon as Nedda in Pagliacci, by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It was in the same year that she married her first husband, the Russian Prince, Alexandre Bariatinsky, whom she had met in Paris and who had encouraged her to believe she should not be content with working in mere music halls.

The Lisbon audience gave her a difficult time, however, and the production was abandoned after only a few nights, at which point Bariatinsky left her.  Cavalieri returned to Paris and might have given up her operatic ambitions without the encouragement of her sister, Ada, who helped her rebuild her confidence.

Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso in Paris and New York
Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso
in Paris and New York
After successes at Teatro San Carlo in Naples, in Warsaw, Ravenna, Palermo and St Petersburg, a breakthrough moment came when in 1905 she starred opposite Caruso in Umberto Giordano’s opera, Fedora, at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris.

The performance was so successful they took the production to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Cavalieri stayed with the Met for two seasons, performing again with Caruso in 1907 in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut. She became one of the most photographed stars of the time and women everywhere tried to copy her figure.

She had a brief, second marriage to Robert Winthrop Chanler, an American artist and a member of the Astor and Dudley-Winthrop families.  Married in 1910, the had separated within weeks and were divorced in 1912.

During her career she sang with many famous singers, including the French tenor Lucien Muratore, who became her third husband in 1913.

After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a beauty salon in Paris and wrote an advice column on make-up for a magazine. She also launched her own range of beauty products and perfumes.

A poster for the film 'The World's Most  Beautiful Woman' with Gina Lollobrigida
A poster for the film 'The World's Most
 Beautiful Woman' with Gina Lollobrigida
In 1915 she returned to Italy to make films and then went back to America, where she starred in silent movies, many of which have since been lost.

She moved to Italy again after marrying her fourth husband, the writer Paolo d’Arvanni.

Despite being in her sixties when the Second World War began, she became a volunteer nurse.

Tragically, Cavalieri and her husband were both killed in 1944 after an Allied bombing raid destroyed their home near Florence.

After her death, Cavalieri was painted repeatedly by the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti, who found her face in an old magazine and became obsessed with her, creating hundreds of versions of her image.

In 1955 she was portrayed by Gina Lollobrigida in the film Beautiful but Dangerous, which was alternatively called The World’s Most Beautiful Woman, a French-Italian production directed by Robert Z Leonard.

Travel tip:

Viterbo, where Lina Cavalieri was born, is the largest town in northern Lazio, situated about 80km (50 miles) north of Rome. In the 12th and 13th centuries, with Rome often chaotic as rival families engaged in feuds, Viterbo became a favourite refuge for embattled popes. Much of its most notable architecture, such as the Papal Palace, has echoes of that period. It was bombed heavily during the Second World War but much of its historical centre remained intact and nowadays it is a somewhat overlooked city.


The Villa del Poggio Imperiale outside Florence
The Villa del Poggio Imperiale outside Florence
(picture by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons)
Travel tip:

Lina Cavalieri was killed at her home just outside Florence at Poggio Imperiale, near the imposing neoclassical Villa del Poggio Imperiale, which was once the home of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. It was seized from the Salviati family by the Medici and was then later given to Napoleon’s sister before becoming a girl’s school. Some of the frescoed state rooms are open to the public by appointment.

More reading:

Giuseppina Strepponi - the inspiration for Donizetti and Verdi

How Ruggero Leoncavallo created one of the world's favourite operas

Renata Tebaldi - soprano with the 'voice of an angel'

Also on this day:

Christmas in Italy


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7 July 2016

Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola - architect

Legacy of beautiful Renaissance buildings throughout Italy


Vignola's Villa Farnese at Caprarola, near Viterbo in Lazio, acknowledged as one of the architect's masterpieces
Vignola's Villa Farnese at Caprarola, near Viterbo in Lazio,
which is acknowledged as one of the architect's masterpieces

One of the great architects of the 16th century, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, died on this day in 1573 in Rome.

Often referred to simply as Vignola, the architect left the world with a wealth of beautiful buildings and two acknowledged masterpieces, the Villa Farnese at Caprarola and the Church of the Gesù in Rome.

Along with Andrea Palladio and Sebastiano Serlio, Vignola was responsible for spreading the style of the Italian Renaissance throughout Europe.

He was born at Vignola near Modena in Emilia-Romagna in 1507. He began his career as an architect in Bologna and then went to Rome to make drawings of Roman temples. He was invited to Fontainebleau  to work for King Francois I, where it is believed he first met the Bolognese architect, Serlio.

Back in Italy he designed the Palazzo Bocchi in Bologna and then moved to Rome to work for Pope Julius III. He later worked alongside the artist Michelangelo, who greatly influenced his architectural style.

From 1564 onwards, Vignola worked on the new St Peter’s Basilica, following the plans Michelangelo had drawn up for the domes.

Vignola died in Rome at the age of 65. His remains were reburied in the Pantheon as recently as 1973.

Travel tip:

Villa Farnese, which is also sometimes known as Villa Caprarola, is a beautiful house in the town of Caprarola in the province of Viterbo in Lazio, about 50 kilometres north west of Rome. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese commissioned Vignola to design his residence and it is now recognised as one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy. The architect worked on it until his death in 1573.


The Chiesa del Gesù in Rome was built to Vignola's design
The Chiesa del Gesù in Rome was built to Vignola's design
Travel tip:

The Church of the Gesù, Chiesa del Gesù, is the mother church of the Jesuits in Piazza del Gesù in the Campo dè Fiori area of Rome. The church was built in 1568 to Vignola’s specifications and its baroque façade is believed to be the first of this style ever designed.

(Photo of Villa Farnese by Livioandronico2013 CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of Chiesa del Gesù by Jebulon CC0 1.0)

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