20 May 2017

Albano Carrisi - singer

Performer best known as Al Bano has sold 165 million records

Al Bano Carrisi
The singer Albano Carrisi, better known as Al Bano, was born on this day in 1943 in Cellino San Marco, a town in Puglia about 30km (19 miles) from Lecce.

He enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist in the late 1960s but became more famous still in Italy and across mainland Europe for his collaboration with the American singer Romina Power – daughter of the actor Tyrone Power.

They met during the shooting of a film - one of several, mainly romantic comedies and a vehicle for his songs, in which he starred during the 1970s.

They not only formed a professional partnership but were married for almost 30 years.  They twice performed as Italy’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, finishing seventh on both occasions, and appeared several times at Italy’s prestigious Sanremo Music Festival, winning the top prize in 1984.

They divorced in 1999 but re-united on a professional basis in 2013 and when they performed at the Arena di Verona in 2015 before a sell-out crowd of 11,000 the show was broadcast by the Italian TV network Rai and shown in seven other countries, with a combined audience estimated at 51 million.

Carrisi’s total record sales as Al Bano are said to be in the region of 165 million, mainly in Italy, Austria, France, Spain, Romania and Germany.

Albano Carrisi with Romina Power in a publicity
picture for the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest
When he was born during the Second World War, his mother, Iolanda Ottino, named him Albano because at the time his father Carmelo Carrisi was fighting in Albania for the Royal Italian Army.

The name established a link with the country that remained with him. In 2016 he was awarded Albanian citizenship.

He made his debut as a singer in 1966 and won the Disco per l'Estate, an Italian song contest, with Pensando a te in 1968. More hits followed. His song, Nel sole, sold more than a million copies.

His musical collaboration with Romina Power began soon afterwards and would last for almost 30 years. They took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 in The Hague with the song We'll Live It All Again (Noi lo rivivremo di nuovo), which finished seventh behind winners The Brotherhood of Man, from the UK.

They returned in 1985 in Gothenburg with Magic Oh Magic, which also finished seventh. The contest was won by the Norwegian duo Bobbysocks.

They entered Sanremo five times and won first prize in 1984 with Ci sarà.

Albano Carrisi in one of his films, Nel sole
Following their breakthrough hit Sharazan in 1981, which reached number two in the Italian charts, they had two number ones with Felicità (1982) and Ci sarà.  Their commercial success continued well into the 1990s, with many records selling in Spain, Germany and Austria.

Al Bano returned to his solo career in 1996 and to Eurovision in 2000, providing backing vocals for the Swiss entry (performed in Italian) La vita cos'è? by Jane Bogaert. After starring with his daughter Romina Carrisi in the 2005 edition of the Italian reality show L'isola dei Famosi – an equivalent of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and Celebrity Survivor – he entered Sanremo in his own right in 2007, finishing second will Nel perdono.

Although he has made his name in the pop world, Carrisi’s tenor voice is of such quality that he is comfortable singing opera, which was his passion growing up.  He released an album of operatic arias in 1997 and once performed alongside Placido Domingo and José Carreras as a stand-in for Luciano Pavarotti.

Carrisi pictured in 2014
Even at the age of 74, Carrisi still tours and remains is a familiar face on Italian television. He had heart surgery in December 2016 and was admitted to hospital in March this year following a scare but returned to work after a brief rest, insisting he did not want to disappoint his fans.

He and Romina Power had four children although they suffered personal tragedy when Yelena Maria, the oldest of their three daughters, disappeared at the age of 23 in New Orleans in January 1994 while backpacking. Carrisi never established what happened despite employing several investigators and in 2013 after almost 20 years requested that she be declared as presumed dead.

After his divorce, he had two more children with his girlfriend, Loredana Lecciso, a former showgirl almost 30 years his junior.

He still lives in Cellino San Marco.

Travel tip:

Cellino San Marco is a town of just under 7,000 people a little more than 20km (12 miles) south of Brindisi and about 14km (9 miles) inland from the coast. It was the site of a so-called ‘oven grave’ – a mass burial place with an entrance resembling that of a stone oven thought to date back to the Bronze Age. Its main attraction today is the nearby Carrisiland aquatic theme park.

Travel tip:

The port of Brindisi has been an important city in Italy since ancient Greek times, mainly because of its natural harbour and its strategic position on the heel of Italy.  The Romans connected it to Rome via the Appian Way (Via Appia) and it remains a busy port to this day, the main point of departure for trade with Greece and the Middle East.  Although it has an industrial feel to parts of the city, there is an attractive promenade and some interesting buildings, including an 18th-century reproduction of the 11th century cathedral destroyed in an earthquake, two castles and the 16th century Renaissance style Palazzo Granafei-Nervegna.

19 May 2017

Andrea Pirlo - footballer

Midfielder who won multiple honours with AC Milan and Juventus

Andrea Pirlo made 119 career appearances for the Italian national team
Andrea Pirlo made 119 career appearances for the
Italian national team
The footballer Andrea Pirlo, who some commentators bracket with Roberto Baggio as one of the two best Italian footballers of the last 25 years, was born on this day in 1979.

The midfielder, who left Italy to join the Major League Soccer team New York City, has played in six Italian championship-winning teams and is a double winner of the Champions League among a host of honours as a club player.

In international football he has a World Cup winner’s medal as a member of the 2006 Italian national team that lifted the trophy in Germany.  The fulcrum of the Azzurri midfield, he scored one goal and was credited with the assist for three other goals during the tournament.

One of those assists resulted in the crucial opening goal for Italy scored by Fabio Grosso in the classic semi-final against the host nation.  He was also one on Italy’s successful penalty takers during the shoot-out that decided the final against France.

He was named man of the match three times in the tournament, more than any other player.  He matched that achievement six years later at Euro 2012, when Italy were beaten in the final.

In all he won 119 caps for his country, the fourth highest total of all Italian internationals. Fellow players nicknamed him l’architetto – the architect – for his ability to design and construct attacking moves.

Although he began his career as an attacking midfielder or sometimes even a second striker, Pirlo excelled as a deep-lying central midfielder, a playmaker with wonderful vision and the ability to hit accurate passes over any distance.

Pirlo won three Serie A titles with Juventus
Pirlo won three Serie A titles with Juventus
He also acquired renown as a free kick specialist, capable of curling the ball into the net beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. He claims he honed his technique by watching Baggio train at Brescia, the club at which Baggio wound down his career and Pirlo began his.

Pirlo was born in Flero, Italy, in the province of Brescia and began his career with the Flero youth side. He joined Brescia in 1994 and made his debut in Serie A in May the following year at the age of 16, although it took him a further 18 months to win consistent selection for the senior side.

When he did, Brescia won the Serie B title and with it promotion to Serie A in 1998. It won him a move to Internazionale of Milan but could not break into the first team permanently and was loaned to Reggina for the 1999-2000 season and then back to Brescia in 2000-01, where he played alongside Baggio, his childhood idol.

Because Baggio occupied the attacking midfield position for Brescia, manager Carlo Mazzone decided to deploy Pirlo in the deep-lying playmaker role that he would make his own. Years later, Pirlo still described the moment he delivered a long pass that enabled Baggio to score against Juventus as one of the high spots of his career.

After three seasons on Inter’s books, Pirlo was sold to city rivals AC Milan for 33 billion Italian lire – just over 17 million euro – in June 2001.

Pirlo's brilliance as a playmaker emerged under Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan
Pirlo's brilliance as a playmaker emerged
under Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan
It was at Milan, in particular under Carlo Ancelotti, where Pirlo at last began to realise his talent and became a world class player.

Recalling Mazzone’s use of him at Brescia, Ancelotti decided to position Pirlo just in front of his defence, which allowed him more time on the ball to pull the strings in terms of setting up attacks, where he could use his, anticipation, imagination and inventiveness to best effect.

He was a key player in a period of consistent success as Italian football became dominated by Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan and MassimoMoratti’s Inter.

Milan won two Champions Leagues (2003 and 2007), two UEFA Super Cups (2003 and 2007), two Serie A titles (2004 and 2011), a FIFA Club World Cup (2007), a Supercoppa Italiana (2004), and a Coppa Italia (2003) during Pirlo’s time.

Baggio himself sang his praises. “Andrea can visualise and anticipate plays before everyone else. His vision, what he can do with the ball, and what he's able to create, make him a true superstar,” he said.

After Ancelotti left to become Chelsea manager in 2009, soon failing with a bid to take Pirlo with him, Pirlo remained with Milan for a further two seasons, winning the scudetto again in 2011, but new coach Massimiliano Allegri used him differently and his final season was restricted to 17 appearances for Serie A, which prompted him to seek a change of direction.

Pirlo left Juventus to join MLS  club New York City
Pirlo left Juventus to join MLS
club New York City
But Milan’s loss turned out to be Juventus’s gain after the so-called Old Lady of Italian football, without a trophy since 2003 after two Serie A titles in 2005 and 2006 were stripped from them over the match-fixing scandal, signed him on a free transfer.

Under coach Antonio Conte he added three more Serie A titles (2012, 2013, 2014), as well as two more Supercoppa Italiana titles (2012 and 2013). When Conte left to become national manager, Pirlo again worked with Allegri but more successfully this time, playing his part in a league and cup double in 2015 before leaving for New York.

His final appearance was in the Champions League final – his fourth – in which Juventus were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona.

One of two children – he has a brother Ivan – Pirlo was married for 13 years to Deborah Roversi, with whom he had two children, Niccolò and daughter Angela.

His father founded a metal trading company in Brescia in 1982 called Elg Steel, in which Pirlo has a stake. A wine connoisseur, he also runs his own vineyard.  In 2013, his autobiography, Penso Quindi Gioco - I Think, Therefore I Play) – became a bestseller.

Travel tip:

Flero, where Andrea Pirlo was born, is a town in Lombardy of just under 9,000 residents, situated a few kilometres south of Brescia in the flat plain of the Po Valley, although close enough to the Italian pre-Alps for snow-capped mountains to be visible on clear winter days.  Lake Garda and Lake Iseo are a short distance away.  Flero itself is a typical northern Italian commuter town, orderly and clean with a couple of churches and a few modern shops.

Travel tip:

The city of Brescia tends not to attract many tourists compared with nearby Bergamo or Verona, partly because of the counter-attraction of the lakes.  Yet it has plenty of history, going back to Roman times, and many points of interest, including two cathedrals – the Duomo Vecchio and its neighbour, the Duomo Nuovo – and the attractive Piazza della Loggia, with a Renaissance palace, the Palazzo della Loggia, which is the town’s municipal centre.  The Torre dell’Orologio clock tower bears similarities to the one in St Mark’s Square in Venice.

18 May 2017

Ezio Pinza - opera and Broadway star

Poor boy from Rome who made his home at the Met

Ezio Pinza
The opera star Ezio Pinza, who had 22 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1926 to 1948 and sang to great acclaim at many other of the world’s most famous opera houses, was born on this day in 1892 in Rome.

Pinza, a bass who was blessed with a smooth and rich voice and matinee idol looks, also had a successful career in musical theatre on Broadway and appeared in a number of Hollywood films.

Born Fortunio Pinza in relative poverty in Rome, he was the seventh child born to his parents Cesare and Clelia but the first to survive.  He was brought up many miles away in Ravenna, which is close to the Adriatic coast, about 85km (53 miles) from Bologna and 144km (90 miles) from Venice.

He dropped out of Ravenna University but studied singing at Bologna’s Conservatorio Martini and made his opera debut at Cremona in 1914 in Bellini’s Norma.

Pinza signed up to fight for his country in the First World War, after which he resumed his career in 1919. Within a short time he was invited to perform at Italy’s most prestigious opera house, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where he came under the baton of the brilliant but demanding conductor, Arturo Toscanini.

Toscanini recognised his talent and under his guidance, Pinza began to prosper. For a bass his voice had unusual beauty and Pinza had a great drive to make the most of the opportunity it gave him.

Ezio Pinza in the Broadway production of South
Pacific that made his name in musical theatre
His family’s circumstances had meant that he missed out on a formal education.  As a consequence, he was not able to read music, yet he had a sharp ear. He would listen to his part played on the piano and then sing it accurately, even picking up stylistic nuances.

Seen as a successor to the great Italian basses Francesco Navarini, Vittorio Arimondi and Nazzareno De Angelis, by November 1926 he had been invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, where he made his debut in Spontini's La vestale, which starred the popular American soprano Rosa Ponselle in the title role.

As he became established, Pinza became associated with Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Figaro and Sarastro, as well as many roles in the Italian operas of Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi, and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, which was sung in Italian.

Engagements at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, soon followed. He sang in London from 1930 to 1939 and was invited to sing at the Salzburg Festival in 1934-1937 by the German conductor Bruno Walter.

Like many Italians, he felt at home in America. Pinza sang again under the baton of Toscanini in 1935, this time with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall as the bass soloist in performances of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, one of which was broadcast on radio and recorded.

His life was rudely interrupted in 1942 after America had entered the Second World War.  All Italians and Germans living in the United States came under close scrutiny from the authorities and Pinza was accused of having a connection with Benito Mussolini, the Italian Fascist dictator.

With no warning, plain clothes FBI officers arrived at his house at Mamaroneck in Westchester County, overlooking Long Island Sound, and arrested him. After being taken to the Foley Square courthouse in Manhattan, where he was not allowed an attorney, he was detained at Ellis Island.

Pinza was only four months away from being granted his American citizenship and, fortunately for him, his fame afforded him more consideration than most of his compatriots and he was allowed to go free again after 12 weeks.

Pinza's grave
After the war, he announced his retirement from opera in 1948, when the Metropolitan Opera honoured him by naming the fountains at the new Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Centre after him.

He was not finished as a singer. Embarking on a second career in Broadway musicals, he achieved more success. His role in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, in which the lead male part of the French planter Emil de Becque and the classic song Some Enchanted Evening were created specifically for him, turned him into a still bigger celebrity. In 1950, he received a Tony Award for best lead actor in a musical.

The fame brought him movie and television work and enabled him to buy a plush house next to the golf course at Westchester Country Club at Rye, where he was a member.  Sadly, he died suddenly in 1957 at the age of 64, having suffered a stroke. He is buried at Putnam Cemetery at Greenwich, Connecticut.

Travel tip:

Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until its collapse in 406. The city’s Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture, is famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside Turkey, including masterpieces studded with gold, emerald and sapphire. The city was where the poet Dante lived in exile until his death in 1321. His tomb can be found in the Basilica of San Francesco, and the pretty Piazza del Popolo.

Travel tip:

The Conservatorio Martini, where Pinza received his formal musical education, can be found in Bologna’s Piazza Rossini, adjacent to the church of San Giacomo Maggiore, about 10 minutes’ walk from the city’s central square, Piazza Maggiore. Opened in 1804 as the Liceo Filarmonico di Bologna, its prestige was enhanced by its association with the composer Gioachino Rossini, who had attended the conservatory as a student, and returned later in life as a consultant.

17 May 2017

Luca Cadalora - motorcycle world champion

Modena rider won titles in 125cc and 250cc categories

Luca Cadalora in action in 1993
Luca Cadalora in action in 1993
Luca Cadalora, the motorcycle racer who was three times a world champion, was born on this day in 1963 in Modena, Emilia Romagna.

Currently working as coach to Italy’s seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi, Cadalora began his professional motorcycle racing career in 1984, riding an MBA in the 125cc world championship.

He picked up a respectable 27 points to finish eighth in his debut season, his best performance a second place in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, but had a very disappointing second season, finishing only three races to collect a meagre four points.

His switch to the Garelli team, the dominant force at the time in the 125cc class, catapulted him to fame.

Cadalora and team-mate Fausto Gresini, his fellow Italian, battled it out for the title through the season, each finishing with four wins. Cadalora took the upper hand by winning four of the first seven races and it was his consistency over the campaign that clinched the title. He failed to complete only one of 11 races and finished in the top four in the other 10, finishing runner-up in his last three to pip Gresini by 114 points to 109.

Cadalora is now coach to  Valentino Rossi
Cadalora is now coach to
Valentino Rossi
That success earned him a promotion to the 250cc class with Giacomo Agostini's Marlboro Yamaha factory racing team in 1986.  Again he was competitive consistently, improving year by year, finishing seventh, sixth, fifth and third for Agostini.

But again it was a switch of team that made the difference.  With five GP wins under his belt, he switched to the Rothmans Honda factory racing team in 1991.

Winning an impressive eight races, he roared to his first 250cc world championship aboard an Erv Kanemoto-tuned Honda NSR250, collecting 237 points.  This time his closest rival was the German Helmut Bradl, who won five races, but fell 17 points short of his rival.

Cadalora successfully defended his title with Honda in 1992, claiming his third world championship.  Bradl failed to win a single GP this time and Cadalora won by a much wider margin, beating the Italian Loris Reggiani, riding for Aprilia, by 44 points.

In 1993 he graduated to the blue riband 500cc division as Wayne Rainey's team mate in the Kenny Roberts-Yamaha team.

Seven-times world MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi teamed up with Cadalora in 2016
Seven-times world MotoGP champion Valentino
Rossi teamed up with Cadalora in 2016
In three seasons on the Roberts Yamaha, he displayed flashes of brilliance and usual consistency, winning two GPs in each of those seasons and finishing as high as second to Mick Doohan in 1994.

Cadalora rejoined Kanemoto for the 1996 season racing a Honda NSR500. Despite lacking any major sponsors, he still managed to finish the season in third place aboard the Kanemoto-Honda.

For the 1997 season, he was contracted as official Yamaha rider in the new Promotor Racing team backed by an Austrian businessman.   After only a handful of races, however, the team collapsed due to financial problems. WCM rescued the team with the help of a Red Bull sponsorship and Cadalora ended the season in sixth place.

At the beginning of the 1998 season, WCM and Cadalora lost Yamaha official support. He returned to the Rainey-Yamaha works team for a few races to replace an injured Jean-Michel Bayle, then helped develop the new MuZ race bike.

Cadalora finished his career with Kenny Roberts' Modenas team in 2000, retiring with 34 Grand Prix victories in his three classes.

In 2016, Cadalora returned to the top level of motorcycle racing as trackside coach to Valentino Rossi, the all-time great among Italian riders, helping him finish second in the MotoGP class for the third year running as he strives to equal his compatriot, Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight world titles in the 500cc/Moto GP category.

He has signed on for a second year, with Rossi leading the field after the first four races.

Modena's cathedral is on Piazza Grande at the heart of the city
Modena's cathedral is on Piazza Grande
at the heart of the city
Travel tip:

Cadalora’s home city of Modena is one of Italy’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, its historic centre off limits to traffic except for residents, commercial operators and tourists staying at city centre hotels with special permits. The centre is walkable, with most of the main sights enclosed within the former city walls.  The cobbled Piazza Grande is the heart of the city and is where visitors can find the city’s cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and consecrated in 1184, and the 86-metre tall Ghirlandia Tower.

Travel tip:

During his two 250cc world title seasons,  Cadalora won the Italian GP both years, the second time at the Mugello circuit in Tuscany. The Mugello is a historic region in northern Tuscany, which takes its name from the Mugello river. Located north of Florence, the region was occupied by the Etruscans, who have left many archeological traces, and subsequently colonised by the Romans. The towns of Borgo San Lorenzo, Scarperia and San Piero a Sieve are part of the Mugello.

More reading:

The 15 world titles of Giacomo Agostini

How Valentino Rossi joined the all-time greats

16 May 2017

Massimo Moratti - business tycoon

Billionaire chairman oversaw golden era at Internazionale

Massimo Moratti followed his father, Angelo, in becoming chairman of Internazionale of Milan
Massimo Moratti followed his father, Angelo, in
becoming chairman of Internazionale of Milan
The billionaire tycoon and former chairman of the Internazionale football club, Massimo Moratti, was born on this day in 1945 in Bosco Chiesanuova, a small town in the Veneto about 20km (12 miles) north of Verona.

His primary business, the energy provider Saras, of which he is chief executive, owns about 15 per cent of Italy’s oil refining capacity, mainly through the Sarroch refinery on Sardinia, which has a capacity of about 300,000 barrels per day.

Moratti is estimated to have net wealth of about €1.28 billion ($1.4 billion) yet is said to have spent close to €1.5 billion of his personal fortune on buying players during his chairmanship of Inter, which lasted from 1995 until 2013 and encompassed a period of unprecedented success.

Between 2005 and 2011 Inter won the Serie A title five times, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana four times each, the Champions League once and the FIFA World Club cup once.

The five Scudetti came in consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2010, equalling the league record.

The only comparable period was the 1960s, when Massimo's father, Angelo, was chairman and Inter won three Scudetti and the European Cup, forerunner of the Champions League, twice, with the team known as Grande Inter – ‘the great Inter’.

Moratti is a billionaire businessman who made his fortune from the family's energy company, Saras
Moratti is a billionaire businessman who made his fortune
from the family's energy company, Saras
Moratti would go to any lengths to sign the best players. His most famous purchase was the Brazilian striker Ronaldo – then considered the best player in the world – from Barcelona in the summer of 1997, but two years later he paid a then world-record €48 million for Lazio striker Christian Vieri.

Other superstars who wore the famous blue and black stripes in his time included Roberto Carlos, Hernán Crespo, Roberto Baggio, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Luís Figo and Patrick Vieira.

Yet he was notorious for hiring and firing coaches. In his time in office there were 15 changes of coach. Even during the years of success, he ditched Roberto Mancini for José Mourinho.

Mancini won three consecutive Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa Italiana twice, yet failed to win in Europe, which is where Moratti found him wanting.

Moratti was vindicated when, under Mourinho, Inter won the Champions League in 2010.  In fact, the Portuguese coach led the team to an unprecedented treble that season, winning Serie A and the Coppa Italia as well.

The fourth son of industrialist Angelo, who founded Saras, Moratti was born in the family villa in Bosco Chiesanuova. He graduated from Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli with a master's degree in political science.

On his father's death in 1981, he inherited his shares in the Saras Group, whose main business is the refining of petroleum.

Moratti is also the owner of Sarlux, based in Cagliari, which focuses on the production of electricity from waste oil. He has another company involved in generating electricity from alternative sources such as wind energy.

Members of the Inter team that won the Scudetto five times between 2006 and 2011
Members of the Inter team that won the Scudetto five
times between 2006 and 2011
In fact, he is married to the environmental activist Emilia Moratti (née Bossi), with whom he has have five children. Moratti is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

As Inter chairman he had a long-time rivalry with SilvioBerlusconi, the owner of AC Milan, which even extended to him supporting the left-wing candidate Giuliano Pisapia in a bid to oust his sister-in-law, Letizia, as Mayor of Milan.

Letizia had served in Berlusconi’s Forza Italia government as Minister of Education between 2001 and 2006 and was elected Mayor of Milan in 2006 under the flag of another of Berlusconi’s parties, the centre-right alliance Casa della Libertà (House of Freedoms).

In May 2011, however, Moratti put his weight behind the former communist Pisapia, who emerged as a surprise winner.

Moratti scaled back his interest in Internazionale in November 2013, when International Sports Capital took control of 70 per cent of the club. Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir, a part-owner of that company, was elected chairman, with Moratti in the role of honorary chairman.

In June 2016, he sold the remainder of his stake in the club to Thohir's Nusantara Sports Ventures HK Limited for €60 million. Thohir then resold those shares to Zhang Jindong's Suning Holdings Group.

The family connection remained through Moratti's wife, Emilia, who had a place on the club’s advisory board, but Massimo Moratti himself ceased to be involved.

The Piazza Chiesa in Bosco Chiesanuova
The Piazza Chiesa in Bosco Chiesanuova
Travel tip:

Bosco Chiesanuova, part of a picturesque area known as Lessinia, offers visitors a range of outdoor activities from summertime nature walks and horse riding to skiing and ince skating in the winter months. The town’s beautiful squares are notable for balconies overflowing with geraniums and roof-tops groaning under the weight of snow, depending on the season. In the attractive Piazza Chiesa is the beautiful church of San Benedetto and San Tommaso Apostolo.

Pula in Sardinia has many Roman ruins such as this arch in the centre of the town
Pula in Sardinia has many Roman ruins such as this arch
in the centre of the town
Travel tip:

The Sarroch refinery in Sardinia is close to Pula, about 25km (15 miles) south of Cagliari, which is renowned as ‘the prettiest town in southern Sardinia’, famous for relaxing beaches and a spectacular coastline, but also for its history.  The beach at nearby Nora has a Roman amphitheatre right by the sea, which stages concerts during the summer. Another beach, at Porto d’Agumo, is guarded by two Spanish watchtowers. The town fans out from a beautiful central piazza full of interesting restaurants, gelateria and bars.

More reading:

Internazionale - birth of a football superpower

How Roberto Mancini coached Inter to a record three consecutive Serie A titles

Luigi Riva - the prolific striker who slipped through Inter's net

Also on this day:

1974: The birth of singer-songwriter Laura Pausini


15 May 2017

Anna Maria Alberghetti - singer and actress

Child prodigy who rejected Hollywood to become Broadway star

Anna Maria Alberghetti's good looks made her attractive to movie studios
Anna Maria Alberghetti's good looks made
her attractive to movie studios
The actress and operatic singer Anna Maria Alberghetti was born on this day in 1936 in the Adriatic resort of Pesaro.

She moved with her family to the United States in her teens and became a Broadway star, winning a Tony Award in 1962 as best actress in a musical for her performance in Bob Merrill’s Carnival, directed by Gower Champion.

Alberghetti was a child prodigy with music in her blood. Her father was an accomplished musician, an opera singer and concert master of the Rome Opera Company, who also played the cello. Her mother was a pianist.

They influenced the direction in which her talent developed and by the age of six she was singing with symphony orchestras with her father as her vocal instructor.

After success touring Europe, Anna Maria was invited to perform in the United States and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of 14. Given the state of Italy after the Second World War, the idea of settling permanently in America became too attractive for the family to resist.

Alberghetti in an early publicity shot for the MGM studios
Alberghetti in an early publicity shot
for the MGM studios
At that time, Anna Maria’s focus was on a career as an opera singer but the American cinema industry was obsessed with European actresses and saw in her someone with the same qualities as her contemporary Anna MariaPierangeli, the beautiful actress from Sardinia who became better known as Pier Angeli.

Paramount was the studio that showed the most interest, foreseeing a bright future for her on screen.  She made her debut in the hypnotic Gian Carlo Menotti's chamber opera The Medium in 1951. It was an art-house movie that was well appreciated by the devotees of that genre but Paramount had bigger plans for their new discovery.

However, her talent was used strangely used. After an extended operatic solo in the Bing Crosby comedy Here Comes the Groom (1951), she played a Polish émigré befriended by a singer (played by Rosemary Clooney) who discovers the girl has musical talent of her own in The Stars Are Singing (1953).

But thereafter, her vocals were required less and less as Paramount pushed her towards mainstream parts, casting her in adventure stories and comedies. It was not a path she wanted to follow and after being cast in the Jerry Lewis farce Cinderfella (1960), in which all the songs were sung by Lewis and none by her, she became disillusioned and quit cinema to seek expression on the Broadway stage.

It was on Broadway that she found stardom, landing the part of Lili in the musical Carnival for which she received outstanding reviews. Her delightful and moving performance was rewarded with the Tony Award.

Alberghetti in the Broadway hit Carnival which established her stardom
Alberghetti in the Broadway hit Carnival
which established her stardom
More success followed in the title role in Fanny (1963), Maria in West Side Story (1964), Marsinah in Kismet (1967) and Luisa in The Fantasticks (1968), to name just a few. 

Via the Ed Sullivan TV show, she became a familiar face – and voice - to millions of American households and appearances in other TV shows followed, as well as a recording career.

She often figured in the gossip pages of newspapers and magazines after romantic associations with a number of famous figures in the entertainment world, including the singer Vic Damone, the actors Bob Wagner  and Dick Contino and Count Alberto Mochiand, a 30-year-old Italian doctor who bought her a pearl and diamond engagement ring.

She was briefly engaged to the producer-composer Buddy Bregman but cancelled the wedding plans and began dating Claudio Guzman, the Chile-born television director, whom she married in September 1964. They had two children, Alexander, Pilar, but divorced in 1972.  

Travel tip:

Pesaro, in the Marche region on Italy's Adriatic coast, is a traditional seaside resort blessed with sandy beaches, particularly popular with Italians. Situated to the north of the region, it is around 40km (25 miles) south of the better known resort of Rimini and represents an interesting alternative, although with a population of 95,000 it is by no means a quiet backwater. A feature, too, is its many cycle paths, which earned Pesaro the nickname City of Bicycles.

Rossini's birthplace is now a museum
Rossini's birthplace is now a museum
Travel tip:

The older part of Pesaro, inland from the grid of streets parallel with the shoreline where most of the hotels and holiday apartments are situated, has no shortage of history.  Look out for the Ducal Palace and Rocca Costanza, the palace and castle built by the Sforza family in the 15th century and the 16th century Villa Imperiale, built in the 16th century for Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere and his wife.  The Piazza del Popolo is a pleasant main square where there is a regular market. The town’s most famous son, the opera composer Gioachino Rossini, is commemorated in many ways, in particular with the a museum at his birthplace in what is now Via Rossini and the Conservatorio Statale di Musica in Piazza Oliveri.

More reading:

14 May 2017

Aurelio Milani - footballer

Centre forward helped Inter win first European Cup

Aurelio Milano scored Inter's second goal in the 1964 European Cup final in Vienna
Aurelio Milano scored Inter's second goal in the
1964 European Cup final in Vienna
Aurelio Milani, who helped Internazionale become the second Italian football club to win the European Cup, was born on this day in 1934 in Desio, about 25km (15 miles) north of Lombardy’s regional capital.

Inter beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the final Vienna in 1964 to emulate the achievement of city rivals AC Milan, who had become the first European champions from Italy the previous year.

Milani, a centre forward, scored the all-important second goal in the 61st minute after his fellow attacker Sandro Mazzola had given Inter the lead in the first half, receiving a pass from Mazzola before beating Real goalkeeper Vicente Train with a shot from outside the penalty area.

Madrid, whose forward line was still led by the mighty Alfredo di Stefano with Ferenc Puskas playing at inside-left, pulled a goal back but Mazzola added a third for Inter.

But this was the so-called Grande Inter side managed by the Argentinian master-tactician Helenio Herrera, who coached them to three Serie A titles in four years and retained the European Cup by defeating Eusebio’s Benfica 12 months later, when the final was played in their home stadium at San Siro in Milan.

Sadly, Milani could not be on the field on that occasion. Playing against Dinamo Bucharest in San Siro in November, he scored the final goal in a resounding 6-0 win for Inter only to suffer a displaced vertebra in a collision with another player, the injury serious enough effectively to end his career at the age of 31.

Milani (right) with goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti, who would join him at Inter, and coach Nandor Hidegkuti, at Fiorentina
Milani (right) with goalkeeper Giuliano
Sarti, who would join him at Inter, and
coach Nandor Hidegkuti, at Fiorentina
Although he was best remembered for his time with Inter, Milani had also played in Serie A for Sampdoria, Padova and Fiorentina, where he played in a European Cup-Winners’ Cup final and finished the 1962-63 season as the joint leading scorer in Serie A with 22 goals.

Milani had begun his career with his local club, Aurora Desio, in their youth side before being scouted by the Bergamo team, Atalanta, who loaned him to another Lombardy club Fanfulla, based in the city of Lodi. In 1955 he was sold to Simmenthal Monza, for whom he scored 37 times over two Serie B seasons. Those figures earned him his first move outside Lombardy, to Triestina in Friuli, where he scored 17 goals in 30 Serie B appearances in his first and only season.

By now he was regularly attracting scouts from Serie A and signed for Sampdoria, where he proved he could be an equally effective striker at the top level, with 13 goals in his debut season.  Injury blighted his second season but his talents were not forgotten and after one year with Padova, where he scored another 18 goals, he earned his move to Fiorentina in the summer of 1961.

Interestingly, his first two goals in the famous purple shirt of the viola were also the first two goals conceded in the career of the legendary Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who was making his professional debut for opponents Udinese, aged 19.

After his injury in 1964 he attempted a comeback in the lower divisions with the Piedmont club Verbania but after eight appearances he decided to call it a day.

Milani, who had made his international debut a few months before the injury, which denied the chance to add to his debut cap in a friendly against Switzerland, died at his home in Borgo Ticino, near Lake Maggiore, in 2014 at the age of 80.

The Villa Tittoni Traversi, the former royal palace at Desio
The Villa Tittoni Traversi, the former royal palace at Desio
Travel tip:

Desio, a town of 42,000 inhabitants that built its prosperity around the wool and silk industries, is historically significant for having been the site of a battle in 1277 between the Visconti and della Torre families for control of Milan. The birthplace of Pope Pius XI.  There is an impressive basilica, dedicated to the Saints Siro and Materno, in the centre of the town in Piazza Conciliazione.  Also worthy of a visit is the Villa Tittoni Traversi, a former royal palace that has been home to King Ferdinand IV of Naples and King Umberto I of Italy.

Travel tip:

Situated 32km (20 miles) south of Lake Maggiore, Borgo Ticino is a small town of fewer than 5,000 people. Nearby attractions include the pretty lakeside towns of Arona and Angera and the Volandia Museum of Flight in Somma Lombardo, close to Milan Malpensa airport, which houses 45 aircraft.

More reading:

Why Giuseppe Meazza was Italian football's first superstar

Dino Zoff - the record-breaking career of football's oldest World Cup winner

The unparalleled success of former Inter coach Giovanni Trapattoni

Also on this day:

1916: The birth of architect and designer Marco Zanuso