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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query campari. Sort by date Show all posts

12 March 2020

Gaspare Campari - drinks maker

Bar owner who created classic red aperitif


Gaspare Campari created his eponymous liqueur while running a bar in Novara
Gaspare Campari created his eponymous
liqueur while running a bar in Novara
Gaspare Campari, whose desire to mix distinctive and unique drinks for the customers of his bar resulted in the creation of the iconic Campari aperitif, was born on this day in 1828 in Cassolnovo, a small town approximately 30km (19 miles) southwest of Milan.

He founded the company, subsequently developed by his sons, Davide and Guido, that would grow to such an extent that, as Gruppo Campari, it is now the sixth largest producer of wines, spirits and soft drinks in the world with a turnover of more than €1.8 billion.

Gaspare was the 10th child born into a farming family in the province of Pavia, where Cassolnovo is found, but he had no ambition to work on the land.  After working in a local bar, at the age of 14 he went to Turin, then the prosperous capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.

He obtained an apprenticeship to Giacomo Bass, the Swiss proprietor of a pastry and liqueur shop on Piazza Castello.  He is also said to have worked at the historic Ristorante Del Cambio, on Piazza Carignano, as a waiter and dishwasher.

In 1850, by then in his early 20s and armed with the knowledge he had acquired in about eight years in Turin, he moved to Novara, some 100km (62 miles) northeast of Turin and about 50km (31 miles) west of Milan.

The Caffè Campari inside Milan's historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II remains a popular bar today
The Caffè Campari inside Milan's historic Galleria
Vittorio Emanuele II remains a popular bar today
There he rented the Caffè dell’Amicizia, in a prime spot at the junction of Corso Italia and Corso Cavour.  He built up a large clientele and began to experiment by making innovative new alcoholic concoctions for his customers.  Among them was a bitter aperitif he made by blending herbs and fruits, including the cascarilla plant and the chinotto orange.

Its distinctive red colour was created in the original version by the addition of carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal beetles, although that ingredient is not used today.  Gaspare called it Bitter all’uso D’Hollanda, after a drink he had tasted on a visit to the Netherlands, but it was not long before patrons of the bar began to refer to it as Bitter del Signor Campari, and eventually simply Campari.  He began to bottle it in a workshop at the back of his premises, launching the Campari brand in 1860.

Married while in Novara, eventually becoming father to five children, he decided in 1862 to relocate to Milan, where he acquired a bar opposite the city's magnificent Gothic cathedral.  Five years later, as part of a plan to create a vast Piazza del Duomo, the building containing Campari’s car was earmarked for demolition.  Thankfully, Gaspare was handsomely compensated and moved into prestigious premises inside the new Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the glass-vaulted shopping arcade that links Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala.

Fortunato Depero's classic Camparisoda bottle was designed in 1932 and is still in use today
Fortunato Depero's classic Camparisoda bottle
was designed in 1932 and is still in use today
It is said that the bar, situated on the left-hand side at the Piazza del Duomo entrance to the Galleria and named Caffè Campari, became a meeting place for musicians and composers, with Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Arrigo Boito and the music publisher Giulio Ricordi among those supposed to have visited.

When Gaspare died in 1882, aged just 54, his widow, Letizia, is said to have taken control of the company until his son, Davide, who had been born in the same year that his father had moved into the Galleria. Guido took over the running of the bar.

In 1904, production of Campari moved to a factory at Sesto San Giovanni, a growing industrial town to the north of Milan, which would remain in operation until 2005, when a new production site was opened in Novi Ligure, in the province of Alessandria in Piedmont.

Fiercely marketed by Davide, the famous drink became known across Italy and beyond, especially after the launch in 1932 of Camparisoda, the mix of Campari liqueur and soda water still sold in its trademark conical bottle, designed by the Futurist artist Fortunato Depero.

Nowadays, the Campari Group is a massive drinks conglomerate, with a portfolio of brands that includes Aperol and Grand Marnier liqueurs, SKYY Vodka, Wild Turkey bourbon, Glen Grant Scotch whisky, Bisquit Cognac and Cinzano vermouth.

The multi-tiered 121-metre high cupola of Novara's  Basilica of San Gaudenzio
The multi-tiered 121-metre high cupola of Novara's
Basilica of San Gaudenzio
Travel tip:

Novara, where Gaspare first created his famous drink, is in the Piedmont region. It is the second biggest city in the region after Turin. Founded by the Romans, it was later ruled by the Visconti and Sforza families. In the 18th century it was ruled by the House of Savoy. In the 1849 Battle of Novara, the Sardinian army was defeated by the Austrian army, who occupied the city. This led to the abdication of Charles Albert of Sardinia and is seen as the beginning of the Italian unification movement.  The most imposing building in Novara is the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, which has a 121-metre high cupola.




The Piazza Delle Piane is an elegant square in the centre of Novi Ligure, flanked by the Palazzo Delle Piane.
The Piazza Delle Piane is an elegant square in the centre
of Novi Ligure, flanked by the Palazzo Delle Piane.
Travel Tip:

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Novi Ligure, where Campari switched production in 2005, was once a renowned inland resort for rich Genoese families, whose numerous noble palaces adorn the historical centre. These include Palazzo Negroni, Palazzo Durazzo and Palazzo Delle Piane, situated in Piazza Delle Piane.  Novi has retained part of its walls, erected in 1447 and partly demolished in the 19th century, together with the tower of the Castle.  There is a museum, the Museo dei Campionissimi, devoted to Fausto Coppi and another famous cyclist, Costante Girardengo, who were both born there.  The town is now a centre for the production of chocolate, notably the Novi brand.

30 March 2018

Fortunato Depero - artist

Futurist who designed iconic Campari bottle


Fortunato Depero's 1932 Campari Soda bottle is still in production today
Fortunato Depero's 1932 Campari Soda
bottle is still in production today
The Futurist painter, sculptor and graphic artist Fortunato Depero, who left a famous mark on Italian culture by designing the conical bottle in which Campari Soda is still sold today, was born on this day in 1892 in the Trentino region.

Depero had a wide breadth of artistic talent, which encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design.

He designed magazine covers for the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others, created stage sets and costumes for the theatre, made sculptures and paintings and some consider his masterpiece to be the trade fair pavilion he designed for the 1927 Monza Biennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, which had giant block letters for walls.

Yet it is the distinctive Campari bottle that has endured longest of all his creations, which went into production in 1932 as the manufacturers of the famous aperitif broke new ground by deciding to sell a ready-made drink of Campari blended with soda water.

It was the first pre-mixed drink anyone had sold commercially and Depero, who was already working with the Milan-based company on a series of advertising posters and stylish black-and-white newspaper ads, was tasked with creating a unique miniature bottle in which the new product would be packaged.

Depero became an important designer in the advertising world
Depero became an important designer
in the advertising world
The conical shape, a little like an upturned glass, made it stand out on the shelves and at a time when the modern and unconventional was considered chic was perfect in helping establish Campari Soda as the sophisticated pre-dinner drink of choice among Italy’s style-setters.

The shape, timelessly modern, has not changed fundamentally in 88 years since and has become an icon of Italian design.

Depero was born either in the village of Fondo or its neighbour Malosco, about 40-50km (25-31 miles) north of Trento, and went to college a little further south in Rovereto, between Trento and Verona. He was apprenticed in a marble workshop, having been turned down in his efforts to obtain a place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

He first became aware of the Futurist movement on a trip to Florence in 1913 and when his mother died the following year he decided to move to Rome, where he met fellow Futurist Giacomo Balla. Together they produced an extraordinary text entitled Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo (Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe), a manifesto that reflected the core values of the movement, which rejected everything ancient and classical and aimed to free Italy from what was perceived as a stifling obsession with the past.

The establishment tended to dismiss Futurists as cranks, because they admired the speed and technological advancement of cars and aeroplanes and the new industrial cities, all of which they saw as demonstrating the triumph of humanity over nature through invention, and wanted to depict those things in their art.

Il Motociclista (the Motorcyclist) is an example of Depero's art
Il Motociclista (the Motorcyclist) is an example of Depero's art
Yet in many ways, Depero and Balla and talented Futurist painters such as Carlo Carrà and Umberto Boccioni, who embraced a parallel obsession with nationalistic revolution and the overthrow of the hierarchical class system, foresaw how the 20th century would unfold, from the evolution of technology to the explosion of violence and the spread of mass communication.

The movement was ultimately tarnished by its association with Fascism, with which they initially shared similar goals in terms of wishing to build a strong, egalitarian, productive, youthful and modern Italy.  Once the link existed, it was difficult to break and after Mussolini’s regime was defeated there were many Futurists who found themselves shunned.

Depero himself found Italy an uncomfortable place after the Second World War and decided to return to New York, where he had spent a couple of years in the late 1920s, working on magazines and in the theatre and even building a house.  During his second stay, which lasted until the early 1950s, he published an English version of an earlier autobiography, entitled So I Think, So I Paint.

Depero returned to Italy and lived out his final days in Rovereto, where he died in 1960 from complications of diabetes.  A large collection of his work can be seen at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto.

Rovereto's Campana dei Caduti sounds 100 times at nightfall each day
Rovereto's Campana dei Caduti sounds
100 times at nightfall each day
Travel tip:

The picturesque small city of Rovereto, east of Riva del Garda, is notable not only for the aforementioned art museum but for a 14th century castle, which contains the Italian War Museum, and for the Maria Dolens (Mary Grieving) bell, also known as the Campana dei Caduti (the Bell of the Fallen) and the Bell of Peace. The second largest swinging bell in the world, it was originally the idea of a local priest, Father Antonio Rossaro, to honour the fallen of all wars and to invoke peace and brotherhood. Cast in 1924, since 1965 it has been located on Miravale Hill outside the town and sounds 100 times at nightfall each evening.

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

The city of Trento is considered to have arguably the best quality of life in Italy, based on climate, surroundings and employment opportunities. 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. It was controlled by the Austrians almost continuously from the 14th century until the First World War.  In the 16th century, it hosted the Council of Trent, the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that gave rise to the resurgence of the church following Protestant Reformation.

More reading:

The explosive art of leading Futurist painter Carlo Carrà

Luigi Russolo and the strange phenomenon of 'noise music'

Painter whose work depicted Fascist repression

Also on this day:

1282: The revolt that became known as the Sicilian Vespers

1905: The birth of Modernist architect Ignazio Gardella


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12 March 2023

12 March

Gianni Agnelli - business giant

Head of Fiat more powerful than politicians

The businessman Gianni Agnelli, who controlled the Italian car giant Fiat for 40 years until his death in 2003, was born on this day in 1921 in Turin.  Under his guidance, Fiat - Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, founded by his grandfather, Giovanni Agnelli, in 1899 - became so huge that at one time in the 1990s, literally every other car on Italy's roads was produced in one of their factories.  As its peak, Fiat made up 4.4 per cent of the Italian economy and employed 3.1 percent of its industrial workforce.  Although cars remained Fiat's principal focus, the company diversified with such success, across virtually all modes of transport from tractors to Ferraris and buses to aero engines, and also into newspapers and publishing, insurance companies, food manufacture, engineering and construction, that there was a time when Agnelli controlled more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange.  His personal fortune was estimated at between $2 billion and $5 billion, which made him the richest man in Italy and one of the richest in Europe.  It was hardly any surprise, then, that he became one of the most influential figures in Italy.  Read more…

____________________________________

Gaspare Campari - drinks maker

Bar owner who created classic red aperitif

Gaspare Campari, whose desire to mix distinctive and unique drinks for the customers of his bar in Milan resulted in the creation of the iconic Campari aperitif, was born on this day in 1828 in Cassolnovo, a small town approximately 30km (19 miles) southwest of the northern city.  He founded the company, subsequently developed by his sons, Davide and Guido, that would grow to such an extent that, as Gruppo Campari, it is now the sixth largest producer of wines, spirits and soft drinks in the world with a turnover of more than €1.8 billion.  Gaspare was the 10th child born into a farming family in the province of Pavia, where Cassolnovo is found, but he had no ambition to work on the land.  After working in a local bar, at the age of 14 he went to Turin, then the prosperous capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.  He obtained an apprenticeship to Giacomo Bass, the Swiss proprietor of a pastry and liqueur shop on Piazza Castello.  He is also said to have worked at the historic Ristorante Del Cambio, on Piazza Carignano, as a waiter and dishwasher.  In 1850, by then in his early 20s and armed with the knowledge he had acquired in about eight years in Turin, he moved to Novara.  Read more…

____________________________________

Gabriele D’Annunzio – writer and patriot

Military hero influenced Mussolini with his distinctive style

Poet, playwright and political leader Gabriele D’Annunzio was born on this day in 1863 in Pescara in Abruzzo.  He is considered to be the leading writer in Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as being a military hero and a political activist. Some of his ideas and actions were believed to have influenced Italian Fascism and the style of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.  D’Annunzio was the son of a wealthy landowner and went to university in Rome. His first poetry was published when he was just 16 and the novels that made him famous came out when he was in his twenties.  At the age of 30 he began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse and started writing plays for her. But his writing failed to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and he had to flee to France in 1910 because of his debts.  After Italy entered the First World War, D’Annunzio returned and plunged into the fighting, losing an eye during combat while serving with the air force. He became famous for his bold, individual actions, such as his daring flight over Vienna to drop thousands of propaganda leaflets and his surprise attack on the Austrian fleet with power boats when they were moored at Buccari Bay in what is now Croatia.  Read more…

____________________________________

Pietro Andrea Mattioli – doctor

The first botanist to describe the tomato

Doctor and naturalist Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli was born on this day in 1501 in Siena.  As the author of an illustrated work on botany, Mattioli provided the first documented example of an early variety of tomato that was being grown and eaten in Europe.  He is also believed to have described the first case of cat allergy, when one of his patients was so sensitive to cats that if he went into a room where there was a cat he would react with agitation, sweating and pallor.  Mattioli received his medical degree at the University of Padua in 1523 and practised his profession in Siena, Rome, Trento and Gorizia.  He became the personal physician to Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, in Prague and to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, in Vienna.  While working for the imperial court it is believed he tested the effects of poisonous plants on prisoners, which was a common practice at the time.  Mattioli’s interest in botany led him to describe 100 new plants and document the medical botany of his time in his Discorsi (Commentaries) on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist.  Read more…


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30 March 2023

30 March

NEW - Faustina Bordoni - mezzo-soprano

Brilliant career overshadowed by infamous on-stage fight

Faustina Bordoni, a feted mezzo-soprano ranked as one of the finest opera singers of the 18th century, was born on this day in 1697 in Venice.  Such was her popularity that when she joined her husband, the German composer Johann Adolf Hasse, in the employment of the Court of Saxony, where Hasse was maestro di cappella, her salary was double his.  Yet for all her acting talent and vocal brilliance, Bordoni is more often remembered as one half of the so-called ‘rival queens’ engaged by George Frideric Handel to join the company of the booming Royal Academy of Music in London in the 1720s, where she and the Italian soprano Francesca Cuzzoni allegedly came to blows on stage.  Born into a respected Venetian family, Bordoni’s musical talent was nurtured by the composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello and by her singing teacher, Michelangelo Gasparini.  She made her debut in Venice at the age of 19 in Carlo Francesco Pollarolo's Ariodante. The quality of her voice excited the critics, while audiences were instantly charmed by her youthful beauty and stage presence.  Read more…

_____________________________________

Fortunato Depero - artist

Futurist who designed iconic Campari bottle

The Futurist painter, sculptor and graphic artist Fortunato Depero, who left a famous mark on Italian culture by designing the conical bottle in which Campari Soda is still sold today, was born on this day in 1892 in the Trentino region.  Depero had a wide breadth of artistic talent, which encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design. He designed magazine covers for the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others, created stage sets and costumes for the theatre, made sculptures and paintings and some consider his masterpiece to be the trade fair pavilion he designed for the 1927 Monza Biennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, which had giant block letters for walls.  Yet it is the distinctive Campari bottle that has endured longest of all his creations, which went into production in 1932 as the manufacturers of the famous aperitif broke new ground by deciding to sell a ready-made drink of Campari blended with soda water.  It was the first pre-mixed drink anyone had sold commercially and Depero, who was already working with the Milan-based company on a series of advertising posters and stylish black-and-white newspaper ads, was tasked with creating a unique miniature bottle in which the new product would be packaged..  Read more…

______________________________________

Rimini Proclamation

Opening statement of the Risorgimento came from a Frenchman

The first political proclamation calling for all Italians to unite into a single people and drive out foreigners was issued on this day in 1815 in Rimini.  But the stirring words: ‘Italians! The hour has come to engage in your highest destiny…’ came from a Frenchman, Gioacchino (Joachim) Murat, who was at the time occupying the throne of Naples, which he had been given by his brother-in-law, Napoleon.  Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the Proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against the Austrians occupying Italy. He was trying to show himself as a backer of Italian independence in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang on to his own throne.  Although Murat was acting out of self-interest at the time, the Proclamation is often seen as the opening statement of the Risorgimento, the movement that helped to arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people. It led to a series of political events that freed the Italian states from foreign domination and unified them politically.  Murat’s Proclamation impressed the Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni, who wrote a poem about it later that year, Il proclama di Rimini.  Read more…

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Ignazio Gardella – architect

Modernist who created Venetian classic

The engineer and architect Ignazio Gardella, considered one of the great talents of modern urban design in Italy, was born on this day in 1905 in Milan.  He represented the fourth generation in a family of architects and his destiny was determined at an early age. He graduated in civil engineering in Milan in 1931 and architecture in Venice in 1949.  Gardella designed numerous buildings during an active career that spanned almost six decades, including the Antituberculosis Dispensary in Alessandria, which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Casa alle Zattere on the Giudecca Canal in Venice, in which he blended modernism with classical style in a way that has been heralded as genius.  During his university years, he made friends with many young architects from the Milan area and together they created the Modern Italian Movement.  He worked with his father, Arnaldo, on a number of projects while still studying.  On graduating, he set up an office in Milan, although he spent a good part of his early career travelling, sometimes with a commission but at other times to study.  Read more…

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The Sicilian Vespers

How the French lost control of the island they were ruling

As the citizens of Palermo walked to vespers - evening prayers - in the church of Santo Spirito on this day in 1282, a French soldier grossly insulted a pretty young Sicilian woman.  The girl’s enraged fiancé immediately drew his dagger and stabbed the soldier through the heart.  The violence was contagious and the local people exploded in fury against the French occupying forces. More than 200 French soldiers were killed at the outset and the violence spread to other parts of Sicily the next day resulting in a full-scale rebellion against French rule. This bloody event, which led to Charles of Anjou losing control of Sicily, became known in history as the Sicilian Vespers.  King Charles was detested for his cold-blooded cruelty and his officials had made the lives of the ordinary Sicilians miserable.  After he was overthrown, Sicily enjoyed almost a century of independence.  There have been different versions given of the events that led to the rebellion against the French and it is not known exactly how the uprising started.  But to many Italians the story of the Sicilian Vespers has always been inspirational.  Read more…


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12 March 2021

12 March

Gianni Agnelli - business giant

Head of Fiat more powerful than politicians

The businessman Gianni Agnelli, who controlled the Italian car giant Fiat for 40 years until his death in 2003, was born on this day in 1921 in Turin.  Under his guidance, Fiat - Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, founded by his grandfather, Giovanni Agnelli, in 1899 - became so huge that at one time in the 1990s, literally every other car on Italy's roads was produced in one of their factories.  As its peak, Fiat made up 4.4 per cent of the Italian economy and employed 3.1 percent of its industrial workforce.  Although cars remained Fiat's principal focus, the company diversified with such success, across virtually all modes of transport from tractors to Ferraris and buses to aero engines, and also into newspapers and publishing, insurance companies, food manufacture, engineering and construction, that there was a time when Agnelli controlled more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange.  His personal fortune was estimated at between $2 billion and $5 billion, which made him the richest man in Italy and one of the richest in Europe.  It was hardly any surprise, then, that he became one of the most influential figures in Italy.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Gaspare Campari - drinks maker

Bar owner who created classic red aperitif

Gaspare Campari, whose desire to mix distinctive and unique drinks for the customers of his bar in Milan resulted in the creation of the iconic Campari aperitif, was born on this day in 1828 in Cassolnovo, a small town approximately 30km (19 miles) southwest of the northern city.  He founded the company, subsequently developed by his sons, Davide and Guido, that would grow to such an extent that, as Gruppo Campari, it is now the sixth largest producer of wines, spirits and soft drinks in the world with a turnover of more than €1.8 billion.  Gaspare was the 10th child born into a farming family in the province of Pavia, where Cassolnovo is found, but he had no ambition to work on the land.  After working in a local bar, at the age of 14 he went to Turin, then the prosperous capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.  He obtained an apprenticeship to Giacomo Bass, the Swiss proprietor of a pastry and liqueur shop on Piazza Castello.  He is also said to have worked at the historic Ristorante Del Cambio, on Piazza Carignano, as a waiter and dishwasher.  In 1850, by then in his early 20s and armed with the knowledge he had acquired in about eight years in Turin, he moved to Novara.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Gabriele D’Annunzio – writer and patriot

Military hero influenced Mussolini with his distinctive style

Poet, playwright and political leader Gabriele D’Annunzio was born on this day in 1863 in Pescara in Abruzzo.  He is considered to be the leading writer in Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as being a military hero and a political activist. Some of his ideas and actions were believed to have influenced Italian Fascism and the style of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.  D’Annunzio was the son of a wealthy landowner and went to university in Rome. His first poetry was published when he was just 16 and the novels that made him famous came out when he was in his twenties.  At the age of 30 he began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse and started writing plays for her. But his writing failed to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and he had to flee to France in 1910 because of his debts.  After Italy entered the First World War, D’Annunzio returned and plunged into the fighting, losing an eye during combat while serving with the air force. He became famous for his bold, individual actions, such as his daring flight over Vienna to drop thousands of propaganda leaflets and his surprise attack on the Austrian fleet with power boats when they were moored at Buccari Bay in what is now Croatia.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

Pietro Andrea Mattioli – doctor

The first botanist to describe the tomato

Doctor and naturalist Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli was born on this day in 1501 in Siena.  As the author of an illustrated work on botany, Mattioli provided the first documented example of an early variety of tomato that was being grown and eaten in Europe.  He is also believed to have described the first case of cat allergy, when one of his patients was so sensitive to cats that if he went into a room where there was a cat he would react with agitation, sweating and pallor.  Mattioli received his medical degree at the University of Padua in 1523 and practised his profession in Siena, Rome, Trento and Gorizia.  He became the personal physician to Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, in Prague and to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, in Vienna.  While working for the imperial court it is believed he tested the effects of poisonous plants on prisoners, which was a common practice at the time.  Mattioli’s interest in botany led him to describe 100 new plants and document the medical botany of his time in his Discorsi (Commentaries) on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist.  Read more…


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12 March 2020

12 March

NEW - Gaspare Campari - drinks maker


Bar owner who created classic red aperitif

Gaspare Campari, whose desire to mix distinctive and unique drinks for the customers of his bar in Milan resulted in the creation of the iconic Campari aperitif, was born on this day in 1828 in Cassolnovo, a small town approximately 30km (19 miles) southwest of the northern city.  He founded the company, subsequently developed by his sons, Davide and Guido, that would grow to such an extent that, as Gruppo Campari, it is now the sixth largest producer of wines, spirits and soft drinks in the world with a turnover of more than €1.8 billion.  Gaspare was the 10th child born into a farming family in the province of Pavia, where Cassolnovo is found, but he had no ambition to work on the land.  After working in a local bar, at the age of 14 he went to Turin, then the prosperous capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.  He obtained an apprenticeship to Giacomo Bass, the Swiss proprietor of a pastry and liqueur shop on Piazza Castello.  He is also said to have worked at the historic Ristorante Del Cambio, on Piazza Carignano, as a waiter and dishwasher.  In 1850, by then in his early 20s and armed with the knowledge he had acquired in about eight years in Turin, he moved to Novara.  Read more…


__________________________________________________________________

Gabriele D’Annunzio – writer and patriot


Military hero influenced Mussolini with his distinctive style

Poet, playwright and political leader Gabriele D’Annunzio was born on this day in 1863 in Pescara in Abruzzo.  He is considered to be the leading writer in Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as being a military hero and a political activist. Some of his ideas and actions were believed to have influenced Italian Fascism and the style of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.  D’Annunzio was the son of a wealthy landowner and went to university in Rome. His first poetry was published when he was just 16 and the novels that made him famous came out when he was in his twenties.  At the age of 30 he began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse and started writing plays for her. But his writing failed to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and he had to flee to France in 1910 because of his debts.  After Italy entered the First World War, D’Annunzio returned and plunged into the fighting, losing an eye during combat while serving with the air force. He became famous for his bold, individual actions, such as his daring flight over Vienna to drop thousands of propaganda leaflets and his surprise attack on the Austrian fleet with power boats when they were moored at Buccari Bay in what is now Croatia.  Read more…


__________________________________________________________________

Gianni Agnelli - business giant


Head of Fiat more powerful than politicians

The businessman Gianni Agnelli, who controlled the Italian car giant Fiat for 40 years until his death in 2003, was born on this day in 1921 in Turin.  Under his guidance, Fiat - Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, founded by his grandfather, Giovanni Agnelli, in 1899 - became so huge that at one time in the 1990s, literally every other car on Italy's roads was produced in one of their factories.  As its peak, Fiat made up 4.4 per cent of the Italian economy and employed 3.1 per cent of its industrial workforce.  Although cars remained Fiat's principal focus, the company diversified with such success, across virtually all modes of transport from tractors to Ferraris and buses to aero engines, and also into newspapers and publishing, insurance companies, food manufacture, engineering and construction, that there was a time when Agnelli controlled more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange.  His personal fortune was estimated at between $2 billion and $5 billion, which made him the richest man in Italy and one of the richest in Europe.  It was hardly any surprise, then, that he became one of the most influential figures in Italy.  Read more…


__________________________________________________________________

Pietro Andrea Mattioli – doctor


The first botanist to describe the tomato

Doctor and naturalist Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli was born on this day in 1501 in Siena.  As the author of an illustrated work on botany, Mattioli provided the first documented example of an early variety of tomato that was being grown and eaten in Europe.  He is also believed to have described the first case of cat allergy, when one of his patients was so sensitive to cats that if he went into a room where there was a cat he would react with agitation, sweating and pallor.  Mattioli received his medical degree at the University of Padua in 1523 and practised his profession in Siena, Rome, Trento and Gorizia.  He became the personal physician to Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, in Prague and to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, in Vienna.  While working for the imperial court it is believed he tested the effects of poisonous plants on prisoners, which was a common practice at the time.  Mattioli’s interest in botany led him to describe 100 new plants and document the medical botany of his time in his Discorsi (Commentaries) on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist.  Read more…


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30 March 2020

30 March

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Rimini Proclamation


Opening statement of the Risorgimento came from a Frenchman

The first political proclamation calling for all Italians to unite into a single people and drive out foreigners was issued on this day in 1815 in Rimini.  But the stirring words: ‘Italians! The hour has come to engage in your highest destiny…’ came from a Frenchman, Gioacchino (Joachim) Murat, who was at the time occupying the throne of Naples, which he had been given by his brother-in-law, Napoleon.  Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the Proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against the Austrians occupying Italy. He was trying to show himself as a backer of Italian independence in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang on to his own throne.  Although Murat was acting out of self-interest at the time, the Proclamation is often seen as the opening statement of the Risorgimento, the movement that helped to arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people. It led to a series of political events that freed the Italian states from foreign domination and unified them politically.  Murat’s Proclamation impressed the Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni, who wrote a poem about it later that year, Il proclama di Rimini.  Read more…


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Ignazio Gardella – architect


Modernist who created Venetian classic

The engineer and architect Ignazio Gardella, considered one of the great talents of modern urban design in Italy, was born on this day in 1905 in Milan.  He represented the fourth generation in a family of architects and his destiny was determined at an early age. He graduated in civil engineering in Milan in 1931 and architecture in Venice in 1949.  Gardella designed numerous buildings during an active career that spanned almost six decades, including the Antituberculosis Dispensary in Alessandria, which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Casa alle Zattere on the Giudecca Canal in Venice, in which he blended modernism with classical style in a way that has been heralded as genius.  During his university years, he made friends with many young architects from the Milan area and together they created the Modern Italian Movement.  He worked with his father, Arnaldo, on a number of projects while still studying.  On graduating, he set up an office in Milan, although he spent a good part of his early career travelling, sometimes with a commission but at other times to study.  Read more…


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Fortunato Depero - artist


Futurist who designed iconic Campari bottle

The Futurist painter, sculptor and graphic artist Fortunato Depero, who left a famous mark on Italian culture by designing the conical bottle in which Campari Soda is still sold today, was born on this day in 1892 in the Trentino region.  Depero had a wide breadth of artistic talent, which encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design. He designed magazine covers for the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others, created stage sets and costumes for the theatre, made sculptures and paintings and some consider his masterpiece to be the trade fair pavilion he designed for the 1927 Monza Biennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, which had giant block letters for walls.  Yet it is the distinctive Campari bottle that has endured longest of all his creations, which went into production in 1932 as the manufacturers of the famous aperitif broke new ground by deciding to sell a ready-made drink of Campari blended with soda water.  It was the first pre-mixed drink anyone had sold commercially and Depero, who was already working with the Milan-based company on a series of advertising posters.  Read more…


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The Sicilian Vespers


How the French lost control of the island they were ruling

As the citizens of Palermo walked to vespers - evening prayers - in the church of Santo Spirito on this day in 1282, a French soldier grossly insulted a pretty young Sicilian woman.  The girl’s enraged fiancé immediately drew his dagger and stabbed the soldier through the heart.  The violence was contagious and the local people exploded in fury against the French occupying forces. More than 200 French soldiers were killed at the outset and the violence spread to other parts of Sicily the next day resulting in a full-scale rebellion against French rule. This bloody event, which led to Charles of Anjou losing control of Sicily, became known in history as the Sicilian Vespers.  King Charles was detested for his cold-blooded cruelty and his officials had made the lives of the ordinary Sicilians miserable.  After he was overthrown, Sicily enjoyed almost a century of independence.  There have been different versions given of the events that led to the rebellion against the French and it is not known exactly how the uprising started.  But to many Italians the story of the Sicilian Vespers has always been inspirational.  Read more…


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30 March 2022

30 March

Ignazio Gardella – architect

Modernist who created Venetian classic

The engineer and architect Ignazio Gardella, considered one of the great talents of modern urban design in Italy, was born on this day in 1905 in Milan.  He represented the fourth generation in a family of architects and his destiny was determined at an early age. He graduated in civil engineering in Milan in 1931 and architecture in Venice in 1949.  Gardella designed numerous buildings during an active career that spanned almost six decades, including the Antituberculosis Dispensary in Alessandria, which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Casa alle Zattere on the Giudecca Canal in Venice, in which he blended modernism with classical style in a way that has been heralded as genius.  During his university years, he made friends with many young architects from the Milan area and together they created the Modern Italian Movement.  He worked with his father, Arnaldo, on a number of projects while still studying.  On graduating, he set up an office in Milan, although he spent a good part of his early career travelling, sometimes with a commission but at other times to study.  Read more…

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Fortunato Depero - artist

Futurist who designed iconic Campari bottle

The Futurist painter, sculptor and graphic artist Fortunato Depero, who left a famous mark on Italian culture by designing the conical bottle in which Campari Soda is still sold today, was born on this day in 1892 in the Trentino region.  Depero had a wide breadth of artistic talent, which encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design. He designed magazine covers for the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others, created stage sets and costumes for the theatre, made sculptures and paintings and some consider his masterpiece to be the trade fair pavilion he designed for the 1927 Monza Biennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, which had giant block letters for walls.  Yet it is the distinctive Campari bottle that has endured longest of all his creations, which went into production in 1932 as the manufacturers of the famous aperitif broke new ground by deciding to sell a ready-made drink of Campari blended with soda water.  It was the first pre-mixed drink anyone had sold commercially and Depero, who was already working with the Milan-based company on a series of advertising posters and stylish black-and-white newspaper ads, was tasked with creating a unique miniature bottle in which the new product would be packaged..  Read more…

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Rimini Proclamation

Opening statement of the Risorgimento came from a Frenchman

The first political proclamation calling for all Italians to unite into a single people and drive out foreigners was issued on this day in 1815 in Rimini.  But the stirring words: ‘Italians! The hour has come to engage in your highest destiny…’ came from a Frenchman, Gioacchino (Joachim) Murat, who was at the time occupying the throne of Naples, which he had been given by his brother-in-law, Napoleon.  Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the Proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against the Austrians occupying Italy. He was trying to show himself as a backer of Italian independence in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang on to his own throne.  Although Murat was acting out of self-interest at the time, the Proclamation is often seen as the opening statement of the Risorgimento, the movement that helped to arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people. It led to a series of political events that freed the Italian states from foreign domination and unified them politically.  Murat’s Proclamation impressed the Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni, who wrote a poem about it later that year, Il proclama di Rimini.  Read more…

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The Sicilian Vespers

How the French lost control of the island they were ruling

As the citizens of Palermo walked to vespers - evening prayers - in the church of Santo Spirito on this day in 1282, a French soldier grossly insulted a pretty young Sicilian woman.  The girl’s enraged fiancé immediately drew his dagger and stabbed the soldier through the heart.  The violence was contagious and the local people exploded in fury against the French occupying forces. More than 200 French soldiers were killed at the outset and the violence spread to other parts of Sicily the next day resulting in a full-scale rebellion against French rule. This bloody event, which led to Charles of Anjou losing control of Sicily, became known in history as the Sicilian Vespers.  King Charles was detested for his cold-blooded cruelty and his officials had made the lives of the ordinary Sicilians miserable.  After he was overthrown, Sicily enjoyed almost a century of independence.  There have been different versions given of the events that led to the rebellion against the French and it is not known exactly how the uprising started.  But to many Italians the story of the Sicilian Vespers has always been inspirational.  Read more…


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30 March 2021

30 March

Fortunato Depero - artist

Futurist who designed iconic Campari bottle

The Futurist painter, sculptor and graphic artist Fortunato Depero, who left a famous mark on Italian culture by designing the conical bottle in which Campari Soda is still sold today, was born on this day in 1892 in the Trentino region.  Depero had a wide breadth of artistic talent, which encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design. He designed magazine covers for the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others, created stage sets and costumes for the theatre, made sculptures and paintings and some consider his masterpiece to be the trade fair pavilion he designed for the 1927 Monza Biennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, which had giant block letters for walls.  Yet it is the distinctive Campari bottle that has endured longest of all his creations, which went into production in 1932 as the manufacturers of the famous aperitif broke new ground by deciding to sell a ready-made drink of Campari blended with soda water.  It was the first pre-mixed drink anyone had sold commercially and Depero, who was already working with the Milan-based company on a series of advertising posters and stylish black-and-white newspaper ads, was tasked with creating a unique miniature bottle in which the new product would be packaged..  Read more…

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Rimini Proclamation

Opening statement of the Risorgimento came from a Frenchman

The first political proclamation calling for all Italians to unite into a single people and drive out foreigners was issued on this day in 1815 in Rimini.  But the stirring words: ‘Italians! The hour has come to engage in your highest destiny…’ came from a Frenchman, Gioacchino (Joachim) Murat, who was at the time occupying the throne of Naples, which he had been given by his brother-in-law, Napoleon.  Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the Proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against the Austrians occupying Italy. He was trying to show himself as a backer of Italian independence in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang on to his own throne.  Although Murat was acting out of self-interest at the time, the Proclamation is often seen as the opening statement of the Risorgimento, the movement that helped to arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people. It led to a series of political events that freed the Italian states from foreign domination and unified them politically.  Murat’s Proclamation impressed the Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni, who wrote a poem about it later that year, Il proclama di Rimini.  Read more…

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Ignazio Gardella – architect

Modernist who created Venetian classic

The engineer and architect Ignazio Gardella, considered one of the great talents of modern urban design in Italy, was born on this day in 1905 in Milan.  He represented the fourth generation in a family of architects and his destiny was determined at an early age. He graduated in civil engineering in Milan in 1931 and architecture in Venice in 1949.  Gardella designed numerous buildings during an active career that spanned almost six decades, including the Antituberculosis Dispensary in Alessandria, which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Casa alle Zattere on the Giudecca Canal in Venice, in which he blended modernism with classical style in a way that has been heralded as genius.  During his university years, he made friends with many young architects from the Milan area and together they created the Modern Italian Movement.  He worked with his father, Arnaldo, on a number of projects while still studying.  On graduating, he set up an office in Milan, although he spent a good part of his early career travelling, sometimes with a commission but at other times to study.  Read more…

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The Sicilian Vespers

How the French lost control of the island they were ruling

As the citizens of Palermo walked to vespers - evening prayers - in the church of Santo Spirito on this day in 1282, a French soldier grossly insulted a pretty young Sicilian woman.  The girl’s enraged fiancé immediately drew his dagger and stabbed the soldier through the heart.  The violence was contagious and the local people exploded in fury against the French occupying forces. More than 200 French soldiers were killed at the outset and the violence spread to other parts of Sicily the next day resulting in a full-scale rebellion against French rule. This bloody event, which led to Charles of Anjou losing control of Sicily, became known in history as the Sicilian Vespers.  King Charles was detested for his cold-blooded cruelty and his officials had made the lives of the ordinary Sicilians miserable.  After he was overthrown, Sicily enjoyed almost a century of independence.  There have been different versions given of the events that led to the rebellion against the French and it is not known exactly how the uprising started.  But to many Italians the story of the Sicilian Vespers has always been inspirational.  Read more…


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12 March 2022

12 March

Bar owner who created classic red aperitif

Gaspare Campari, whose desire to mix distinctive and unique drinks for the customers of his bar in Milan resulted in the creation of the iconic Campari aperitif, was born on this day in 1828 in Cassolnovo, a small town approximately 30km (19 miles) southwest of the northern city.  He founded the company, subsequently developed by his sons, Davide and Guido, that would grow to such an extent that, as Gruppo Campari, it is now the sixth largest producer of wines, spirits and soft drinks in the world with a turnover of more than €1.8 billion.  Gaspare was the 10th child born into a farming family in the province of Pavia, where Cassolnovo is found, but he had no ambition to work on the land.  After working in a local bar, at the age of 14 he went to Turin, then the prosperous capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.  He obtained an apprenticeship to Giacomo Bass, the Swiss proprietor of a pastry and liqueur shop on Piazza Castello.  He is also said to have worked at the historic Ristorante Del Cambio, on Piazza Carignano, as a waiter and dishwasher.  In 1850, by then in his early 20s and armed with the knowledge he had acquired in about eight years in Turin, he moved to Novara.  Read more…

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Gianni Agnelli - business giant

Head of Fiat more powerful than politicians

The businessman Gianni Agnelli, who controlled the Italian car giant Fiat for 40 years until his death in 2003, was born on this day in 1921 in Turin.  Under his guidance, Fiat - Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, founded by his grandfather, Giovanni Agnelli, in 1899 - became so huge that at one time in the 1990s, literally every other car on Italy's roads was produced in one of their factories.  As its peak, Fiat made up 4.4 per cent of the Italian economy and employed 3.1 percent of its industrial workforce.  Although cars remained Fiat's principal focus, the company diversified with such success, across virtually all modes of transport from tractors to Ferraris and buses to aero engines, and also into newspapers and publishing, insurance companies, food manufacture, engineering and construction, that there was a time when Agnelli controlled more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange.  His personal fortune was estimated at between $2 billion and $5 billion, which made him the richest man in Italy and one of the richest in Europe.  It was hardly any surprise, then, that he became one of the most influential figures in Italy.  Read more…

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Gabriele D’Annunzio – writer and patriot

Military hero influenced Mussolini with his distinctive style

Poet, playwright and political leader Gabriele D’Annunzio was born on this day in 1863 in Pescara in Abruzzo.  He is considered to be the leading writer in Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as being a military hero and a political activist. Some of his ideas and actions were believed to have influenced Italian Fascism and the style of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.  D’Annunzio was the son of a wealthy landowner and went to university in Rome. His first poetry was published when he was just 16 and the novels that made him famous came out when he was in his twenties.  At the age of 30 he began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse and started writing plays for her. But his writing failed to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and he had to flee to France in 1910 because of his debts.  After Italy entered the First World War, D’Annunzio returned and plunged into the fighting, losing an eye during combat while serving with the air force. He became famous for his bold, individual actions, such as his daring flight over Vienna to drop thousands of propaganda leaflets and his surprise attack on the Austrian fleet with power boats when they were moored at Buccari Bay in what is now Croatia.  Read more…

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Pietro Andrea Mattioli – doctor

The first botanist to describe the tomato

Doctor and naturalist Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli was born on this day in 1501 in Siena.  As the author of an illustrated work on botany, Mattioli provided the first documented example of an early variety of tomato that was being grown and eaten in Europe.  He is also believed to have described the first case of cat allergy, when one of his patients was so sensitive to cats that if he went into a room where there was a cat he would react with agitation, sweating and pallor.  Mattioli received his medical degree at the University of Padua in 1523 and practised his profession in Siena, Rome, Trento and Gorizia.  He became the personal physician to Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, in Prague and to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, in Vienna.  While working for the imperial court it is believed he tested the effects of poisonous plants on prisoners, which was a common practice at the time.  Mattioli’s interest in botany led him to describe 100 new plants and document the medical botany of his time in his Discorsi (Commentaries) on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist.  Read more…


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