At the presentation I recently made about Sarra Copia Sulam at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco, one audience member showed a remarkable knowledge of Venetian history. He approached me…
Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and Clara Petacci, his mistress, were executed by partisans in the northern Italian village of Giulino di Mezzegra on the 28th of April, 1945. Belie…
Lady Harriet Julia Jephson was an artist and writer, who wrote about her travel experiences in Notes of a Nomad, published in 1918. The Great War hung heavy over her narrative, and she reflected upon her many acquaintances who had been lost in the war. One in particular, caused her to remember a Christmas anecdote:
This cruel war, alas! has robbed each of a gifted son. Keith Anthony Stewart, a singularly brilliant scholar and athlete, a most lovable character and gallant soul, fell leading his platoon at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May, 1915. His noble, dauntless spirit showed itself even as a small child. At one time he had a great idea of the Navy as a future career, which Lord Galloway discouraged. One day Keith was out in a boat in Galloway Bay with his father, and the sea being very rough, poor Keith was desperately sea-sick.
“Aha, my boy,” said his father unsympathetically, “what about the Navy now?”
A small, very white face raised itself from the bottom of the boat, and…
Originally posted on toritto.
She wasn’t a teen beauty but she had a personality to make up for it.
She was bold and confident. She looked directly into men’s eyes when she spoke with them. She was one of the first women in Italy to drive a car, wear make-up and trousers, skimpy bathing attire at the shore.
She was very different from most of the women of her country and her era and for this reason men found her enchanting. And she was old enough to date.
Her father was a very prominent man, well known and feared. He was determined to keep a close eye on her. He ordered his security to monitor her activities and to report on her relationships directly to him. Whenever she began seeing someone he considered “unsuitable” he would bring an end to the affair. What made it worse was that she liked to flirt which could hurt her father’s position.
He decided she should get married. She was first engaged to Pier Francesco Orsi Mangelli, the young son of an industrialist nobleman. The couple seemed happy at first but it was soon apparent to both they were not…
The history books about Sicily have little to say about the time of the Spanish rule. I find this strange, because the Spanish changed Sicily more than any other conqueror. The way they wanted this island is the way it still is: the Sicilians just cannot seem to shake them off.
Some history books do tell us they brought tomatoes, which the Sicilians planted around Etna and with everything. They brought cocoa beans which the Sicilians of Modica still make into bars of raw chocolate using the Aztec recipe the Spanish conquistadores taught them. They brought the potato, and made Sicilians such an island of chip-lovers that they even invented the chip pizza. They created the Sicilian baroque style of architecture which is unique to this island, is found all over it, and is so spectacularly beautiful it has made six baroque Sicilian towns into a UNESCO…
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“Comrade Balabanoff! There is someone here I would like you to meet!”
Angelica turned around to face the voice. It was Franco, one of her colleagues on the Central Committee of the Italian Socialist Party.
“Good evening! How are you!” He gently kissed her on the cheek. With him was a young man rather shabbily dressed, looking somewhat down and out.
Angelica had seen thousands like him. No work and few prospects.
Her life had been so different. Born in Ukraine in 1878, she was the youngest of 14 children, 7 of whom had died before she was born. Her family was very well to do and she wanted for nothing except a mother’s love.
Her mother was a tyrant insisting that the poor peasant household servants bow and scrape, even before the children. Angelica still cringed with embarrassment thinking of grown men humiliating themselves before her because they needed…
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Originally posted on The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.
It may be hard to imagine, these days, that Sicily was once the cradle of European civilisation. Three super-powers battled for supremacy and Sicily was the centre of it all.
Today, I’ll tell you about the Phoenicians, the earliest super-power and Sicily’s first colonists.
Carthaginians and Phoenicians: the first empire
The Phoenicians were the first super-power, from the narrow strip of coastal land now called Lebanon.
Fearless sailors and ingenious traders throughout the known world, the Phoenicians invented money, created an alphabetic script for taking inventory, and built the world’s first import-export economy.
Everyone in the ancient world wanted their red murex shellfish, because wearing clothes in this special colour protected them against the Evil Eye, a terrifying primal force which caused infertility, crop failure and death. Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman Consuls and Greek dictators dared not leave the house without their red clothes on. The name „Phoenician“ comes from the Greek word for red.
This was not all they sold. They also produced fine glass artwork and ceramics, they transported rare food crops, and they sold the best wood in the world for making ships’ masts, from their indigenous Lebanese pines.
Phoenician colonies sprang up all over the Mediterranean. These began as small trading stations, with a warehouse and a few guards who stayed behind to protect the merchandise and trade with the locals. Gradually, they grew into full-scale city-states. Their seminal culture laid the groundwork for much of modern Mediterranean religions, foods, languages, agriculture and art.
Carthage (nowadays called Tunis), benefitted from its central position and eventually became the largest of all the Phoenician city-states. When the Assyrians of modern-day Iraq conquered Phoenicia around 800 B.C., Carthage became the centre of the Phoenician civilisation. Carthage founded colonies of its own, including many in Sicily.
And the evil eye? To this day, some elderly Sicilians sprinkle salt inside their doorways and hide red pouches of…
Originally posted on Saints, Sisters, and Sluts.
During the time of Laura Bassi and Maria Agnesi, there was another learned woman of mathematics and science. Maria Angela Ardinghelli was well-known during her time, although she has been overlooked from a historical perspective, or known simply as a translator of works by Stephen Hales. In fact, she was the only woman whose letters were read at the meetings of the Paris Academy of Sciences on a regular basis. Bertucci describes her as a de facto foreign correspondent of the scientific activities in Italy. She sent them meteorological data, natural history information about Naples, and reports of unusual medical cases.
Ardinghelli’s family was one of the oldest and most distinguished in Italy, having moved from Florence to Naples when the Medici family came to power. But Nicola, her father, married against his parents’ wishes and was punished accordingly. He was denied his hereditary titles and was restricted to a very modest fortune. Nicola and his wife, Caterina Piccillo, had two children, but Maria Angela’s brother died young, so she was raised an only child. Her father provided her with the best available tutors for her education. She studied mathematics, natural philosophy, English, French…
Dandyism spread in Italy as well at the end of the nineteenth century and Gabriele D’annunzio was its most outstanding exponent, for sure. Aesthete, politician, journalist, playwright, poet, lover: D’Annunzio was a man of many passions, but above all the architect of himself. He studied and created his own image carefully, a mixture of exquisite taste and love for heroic actions.He was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna in 1918. Some of the ideas and aesthetics seem to have influenced Italian fascism and also the style of Benito Mussolini. However he was the Vate, the Bard, of the Italian literature during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Gabriele D’Annunzio moved to Rome, when he was but nineteen and was soon fascinated by the swirling atmosphere of the capital. He managed to open his way to…
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Fascinating post by toritto about the 1908 earthquake that destroyed Messina, Sicily. You might also like to read about the experiences of my great-grandparents who were travelling from Algiers to Florence by sea at the time: Sicilian Earthquake 28 December 1908.
On December 28, 1908 at about 5:30 in the morning the greatest earthquake to ever strike the European continent in modern times struck Messina in Sicily.
Messina was home to about 180,000 at the time. It was Italy’s 3rd largest port of trade and the commercial center of Sicily.
Sicily was far away from the “new” Italy. In the Piedmont, birthplace of the Italian royal family people spoke of “going to Italy” when they had to leave their provincial home. Turin would become the industrial capital with Agnelli building cars and Gramsci leading the Italian Communist Party. Socialism was on the rise.
The intellectuals of Milan viewed Rome as a “city of waiters and prostitutes”, catering to German and English tourists who disdained them. Venice was considered a “tomb” which “should be shelled into the sea”; it represented only the past and not the future of a greater Italy. The…
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I hope that nobody is unaware of the fact that 2014 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, in August 1914. To many of you, especially those still young, it might seem like a dusty old piece of history, played out on TV in black and white. You may well consider that it has no relevance any more, and it is of no interest to you whatsoever. You will have no intention of sitting through the endless documentaries, dramatised reconstructions, or worthy coverage of commemorations. Please think again. We can all learn much from the follies of this tragic conflict, and the reasons that it began.
My own grandparents were born in the year 1900. Both of my grandfathers were lucky enough to not have to serve in this war, as they only reached the required age of 18 as the war ended. Other…
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Alberto Pollio, the chief of the Italian general staff, died early on Wednesday morning, 1st July 1914, in Turin, aged 62. He had entered the Naples military college in 1860, aged 8, and was first commissioned as a sub-lieutenant of artillery in 1870. He had written military histories of Waterloo and Custozza which had been widely translated and praised.
Lieutenant-General Pollio was an enthusiastic supporter of the Triple Alliance of 1882 between Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, despite the historical enmity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire towards Italy.
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Re-blogged from History And Other Thoughts: The May Queen
Marie-Jose of Belgium was brought up to become Queen of Italy, but she only stayed on its throne for 35 short days, which gained her the affectionate nickname of May Queen. The last Queen of Italy was born on 4 August 1906 in Ostend. She was the only daughter and youngest child of King Albert I of Belgium and his Queen, Elizabeth, Duchess of Bavaria. Her parents were very devoted to each other and Marie-Jose grew up in a tight, close family.
Her peaceful existence was disrupted by the First World War. The 8 year old princess was then sent, for her safety, to school in England, while her parents stayed in their country, sharing the hardships of its people, and her older brother Leopold, then just a teenager, served as a soldier. The princess, though, was allowed to visit her family. During these visits, she witnessed the horrors of the war and helped her mother in her hospital work, tending to the wounded soldiers…
Read more: History And Other Thoughts: The May Queen.