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Famous people of versilia


(1882 – 1936)

Lorenzo Viani

Lorenzo Viani portrait

Lorenzo Viani was an Italian painter and writer.
He spent his childhood at the Royal Villa in Viareggio, where his father was employed by Don Carlos of Bourbon. The Viani's economic situation was comfortable as long as the father continued to work for Don Carlos. Lorenzo attended only the first three grades of elementary school. The boy was not easily biddable and yet introspective. He preferred spending his time walking on the beach or in the woods.

When his father lost his job, the family fell upon hard times. Young Lorenzo was familiar with poverty since his peregrinations through the most destitute neighborhoods of Viareggio had left a deep impression upon his spirit. In 1893 he was put to work as a helper in Fortunato Primo Puccini's barbershop , where he remained for several years. Working for Puccini's shop brought Lorenzo into daily contact with people from all walks of life and these encounters were a sort of "education in human anatomy". He wrote: "Before drawing these unkempt faces, I had to handle them with my hands". As a result, Lorenzo's training was totally personal and independent from any traditional schooling.

Then he met Plinio Nomellini in Puccini's barbershop, the painter encouraged him to enroll at the Institute of Fine Arts in Lucca. Viani attended classes there for about three years, from 1900 to 1903; at the Institute he met Moses Levy. During his years in Lucca, Lorenzo became involved in politics, and together with other anarchists he was arrested and imprisoned. In 1904 he was accepted at the Free School for Drawing Nudes at the Academy of Fine Arts; he also started to go to Giovanni Fattori's studio, having met him in 1901, thanks to Nomellini's introduction. His months spent in Florence were very stimulating for Viani, especially because of the many acquaintances he made.

After returning to Viareggio, he took up residence in Torre del Lago and became a member of the "Bohème Club" In 1907 he spent a few months in Genoa and exhibited a handful of drawings at the Venice Biennial. He also traveled to Paris, where he spent a little over a year (January 1908 - Spring 1909). His long-coveted Parisian visit turned out to be filled with economic difficulties and loneliness, and it also proved to be very rewarding, yet, because of the experiences he had and the acquaintances he made. Between 1911 and 1915 Viani was busy working and travelling to his only shows in many Italian cities. He served in World War I from 1916 to 1919, years in which, despite his lack of free time, he managed to draw, paint and illustrate incessantly.

On March 2, 1919, he married Giulia Giorgietti and moved to Montecatini, where his wife worked as an elementary school teacher. His tender portraits of children busy studying and writing belong to this period. After two years, the couple returned to Viareggio. From 1920 to 1922 Viani regularly exhibited his works in Bologna, Lucca and Rome, he started writing again and also worked on the Viareggio War Memorial, which was unveiled in July 1927. In 1924 Viani moved to Fossa dell'Abate (today's Lido di Camaiore) where his son Franco was born the following year, after this Lorenzo left again for Paris.

In 1928 he suffered the first of many asthma attacks that would plague him with varying degrees of severity for the rest of his life. This was a happy time for Viani in terms of his career: he was well known all over Italy and his exhibits became a magnet for learned and international art lovers.
In 1933 he spent a long period in the psychiatric hospital of Nozano, near Lucca, after a serious bout of asthma. Throughout these dark months of pain and suffering Viani continued his work, producing an abundance of drawings: the mental patients attracted him just as the poor people of Viareggio. They were marginalized human beings who lived in a state of total unconsciousness, without any possibility of appeal: their mental illness made them forgotten and defenseless, and thus worthy of special attention.
In 1936 he was commissioned to do a series of paintings for Ostia College. After many days of incessant work he was unable to attend the inauguration and died from a severe attack of asthma on November 2, 1936.


(1858 – 1924)

Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini portrait

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (December 22, 1858 – November 29, 1924) was an Italian composer who obtained world–fame thanks to his operas and is considered as the successor of Giuseppe Verdi.

About his childhood, it's right to say that it wasn't very happy, above all due to the premature death of his father when he was only five years and the subsequent study-experience with his uncle, Fortunato Magi, who considered him to be an undisciplined students.

In 1880 Puccini enroled in the prestigious ‘Milan Conservatory’ to study composition with Amilcare Ponchielli and Antonio Bazzini. The composition of the ‘Messa’ (that he wrote at the age of 21) represents another example of his family long association with church music.

In 1883 Puccini obtained a libretto from Ferdinando Fontana and entered a competition for a one-act opera, even if he did not win he caught the attention of Giulio Ricordi, head of G. Ricordi & Co. music publishers, who commissioned a second opere, called Edgar (1889), to him.

From 1891 to 1921, Puccini spent lot of his time in Torre del Lago (a small community situated between the Tyrrhenian sea and the Massaciuccoli Lake), living in a villa which nowadays is called the 'Villa Museo Puccini'. During this period he composed the majority of his operas. After this long period he moved to Viareggio, above all due to the pollution caused by works on the lake of Massaciuccoli.
Towards the end of 1923, doctors diagnosed to him a throat cancer, which caused his death in the date of November 29, 1924.

News of his death reached Rome during a performance of ‘La Bohème’: the opera was immediately stopped and the orchestra played Chopin's Funeral March for the stunned audience. He was buried in Milan, but in 1926 his son arranged for the transfer of his father's remains to a specially-created chapel in the Torre del Lago house. His death marked the end of Opera as a popular form of art.

Moreover, the ‘Turandot’, his final opera, was left unfinished and the last two scenes have been completed by Franco Alfano, who started from the Puccini's sketches to do that.

Manon Lescaut (1893) was his third opera but his first great success.
Due to this success, he began his remarkable relationship with the librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, who collaborated with him on his next three operas, which became his three most performed operas. These were:

The Boheme (1896), is considered one of his best works as well as one of the most romantic operas ever composed. It is arguably today's most popular opera.

Tosca (1900), was arguably Puccini's first foray into verismo, the realistic depiction of many facets of real life including violence. This opera is generally considered of major importance in the history of opera in general because of its many significant features.

Madama Butterfly (1904), was initially greeted with great hostility (mostly orchestrated by his rivals) but, after some reworking, it became another of his most successful operas.

After 1904, compositions were less frequent. Following his passion for driving fast cars, Puccini was nearlky killed in a major accident in 1903. In 1906 Giacosa died and in 1909 there was scandal after Puccini's wife, Elvira, who falsely accused their maid Doria Manfredi of having an affair with Puccini, so that the maid committed suicide. Elvira was successfully sued by the Manfredis and Giacomo had to pay damages. Finally, in 1912 the death of Giulio Ricordi, Puccini's editor and publisher, ended a productive period of his career.

However, Puccini in 1910 completed ‘La fanciulla del west’, an opera which he later thought of as his most powerful, and finished the score of ‘La rondine’ in 1917, a piece he reworked from an operetta he had attempted to compose only to find that his style and talent were incompatible with the genre.

In 1918, ‘Il trittico’ excelled in New York. It is a work composed of three one-act operas: a horrific episode (Il Tabarro) following the style of the Parisian l, a sentimental tragedy (Suor Angelica) and a comedy (Gianni Schicchi). Among these three, Gianni Schicchi has remained the most popular because of it contains the popular and favorite ‘O mio babbino caro’.

Puccini's style is well-known for its complexity, enriched by the evident strong influence of Wagner.
The most important characteristics of his style are:
– the unparalleled manipulation of orchestral colours;
– the scenic atmosphere often created directly by the orchestra;
– his operas present a sense of continuous flow and connectivity (another sign of Wagner's influence);
– the use of 'leitmotifs' to connote characters;
– the use of voice in the style of speech (short phrases put one after another);

Moreover, Puccini is also known for his operas, such as some orchestral pieces, sacred music, chamber music and songs for voice and piano.
Puccini is celebrated, on the other hand, for his melodic gift and many of his melodies are both memorable and enduringly popular. These melodies are often made of sequences from the scale, a very distinctive example being ‘Quando me'n vo’ (Musseta's Waltz) from La Bohème and ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Act III of the Tosca. Today, it is rare not to find at least one Puccini aria included in an operatic singer's CD album or recital.

When the ‘Maestro’ (name that underline his importance into the society) died on 29 November 1924 due to the fact that his weak heart didn't tolerate the very hard treatment against cancer, the news of the tragedy interested and moved all over the world, and the main reason can be clarified by the words pronounced by Mussolini when the news reached the ‘aula of Montecitorio’; his discourse was roughly this: "I have to break the sad news that in a clinic in Bruxelles where he was hospitalised for a serious cancer, today is died Giacomo Puccini. His death is a loss not only for the Italian people, but also for all people of the civilized world, because he occupies an important place in the history of music and of the spirit of the Italian nationality...".
The funeral did not last long, but the funeral cortege was spectacular, in fact there were many personalities belonging to the cultural and political world of Italy and not only. Another cortege in honour of Puccini was organized also in Torre del Lago were he had lived; moreover, in Viareggio (30 of December – Politeama theatre) it was represented the ‘Madame Butterfly’, preceded by an important commemoration.


(1835 – 1907)

Giosuè Carducci

Giosuè Carducci portrait

He was born in Val di Castello, a small town in the North–West of Tuscany, near Pisa. His father, a doctor, was an advocate of the unification of Italy. Because of his politics, his family was forced to move several times during Giosuè's childhood, eventually settling for a few years in Florence.

During the time he lived in college, he was fascinated by the restrained style of Greek and Roman antiquity, so that his mature works reflect a restrained classical style, often characterized by the classical meters of such Latin poets as Horace and Virgil. He translated to Italian Book 9 of Homer's Iliad.

He received his Ph.D. in 1856 from the "Normal High School" of Pisa and began teaching in school. The following year, he published his first collection of poems with the title of "Rime". These were difficult years for Carducci; his father died, and his brother committed suicide.

In 1859 he married Elvira Menicucci and they had four children. He taught Greek at a high school in Pistoia for a brief period, then he was appointed Italian professor at the University of Bologna. He was a popular lecturer and a fierce critic of literature and society. His political views were generally opposed to Christianity and particularly against the secular power of the Catholic Church.

"I know neither truth of God nor peace with the Vatican or any priests. They are the real and unchanged enemies of Italy." he said in his later years.

This anti–clerical revolutionary zeal is prominently showcased in his most famous poem, the deliberately blasphemous and provocative "Hymn to Satan". The poem was composed in 1863 as a dinner party toast, published for the first time in 1865, then in 1869 by Bologna's radical newspaper, Il Popolo, as a provocation strictly connected to the 20th Vatican Ecumenical Council; it was a time when revolutionary fury directed against the papacy was running high as republicans pressed both politically and militarily for an end of the Vatican's domination over the papal states.

While "Inno a Satana" had quite a revolutionary impact, Carducci's finest poetry came in later years. His collections Rime Nuove ("New Rhymes") and Odi Barbare ("Barbarian Odes") contain his greatest works.
He was the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906. He was also elected a Senator of Italy. Although his reputation rests primarily on his poetry, he also produced a large body of prose works. Indeed, his prose writings including literary criticism, biographies, speeches and essays filled some 20 volumes. Carducci was also an excellent translator and translated some of Goethe and Heine into Italian.


(1863 – 1938)

Gabriele D'Annunzio

Gabriele d'Annunzio portrait

Gabriele D'Annunzio was an Italian poet, novelist and dramatist, a military hero and a supporter of fascist political ideas. In his work D'Annunzio combined naturalism, symbolism and erotic images, becoming in this way the best interpreter of European Decadence during Italian post–Risorgimento. His love affairs, his relationship with the world-famous actress Eleanora Duse, his heroic adventures during World War I and his occupation of Fiume in 1919 made of him a legend in his own time.

Gabriele D'Annunzio was born in Pescara (Abruzzo region), in the centre of Italy, on the Adriatic coast. This environment provided inspiration to him for many books. "On the soles of my shoes, the heels of my boots I carry the earth of Abruzzi, the mud of my estuary" D'Annunzio later said. His father was a wealthy landowner, dealer in wine and agricultural products, and later mayor of the town (originally his name was Francesco Paolo Rapagnetta). At the age of 13 Gabriele had been adopted by his uncle, Antionio D'Annunzio, and he legally added the ‘D'Annunzio’ to his name. In 1858 he married Luisa De Benedictis; they had three daughters and two sons.

D'Annunzio studied at the Liceo Cicognini in Prato (the school was one of the best in Italy at that time). D'Annunzio made his debut as a poet at the age of sixteen with Primo Vere (1879). The poems were inspired by Giosuè Carducci's "Odi barbare" (1877). In 1881 he entered the University of Rome, where he fully participated in the capital's social and cultural life, and contributed to newspapers, particularly ‘Fanfulla della Domenica’, ‘Capitan Francassa’, and ‘Cronaca Bizantina’. Since D'Annunzio's father was reluctant to give his blessing to his son's intention to marry his first love, Giselda Zucconi, D'Annunzio broke with him. On the other side, it is also generally agreed that in "The Triumph of Death" D'Annunzio portrayed him as an incurable womanizer, as he really was in real life.

In 1883 D'Annunzio married Maria Hardouin di Gallese, a duke's daughter. They had three sons, but their marriage ended in 1891. During these years D'Annunzio produced many commissioned works in order to support the expensive life style of his titled wife.

D'Annunzio's worked in the 1880s; "Canto Novo" (1882), "Terra Vergine" (1882) and "Intermezzo di Rime" (1883) expressed the sensuous joys of life, while his short stories showed the influence of the popular French writer Guy de Maupassant.
D'Annunzio published his first full–length novel, "The Child of Pleasure", in 1889. Other D'Annunzio's novels where: "The Victim" (1891), "Il Trionfo della Morte" (1894, The Triumph of Death), "Le Vergini delle Rocce" (1896). He also wrote a drama entitled "The Daughter of Jorio" (1904).

The visionary, excited imagination of the poet, led him to an exaggerated nationalism and ultimately, in the 1920's and 1930's, to his support of Mussolini: he saw the dictator in the light of mythical heroes who embodied the spirit of the nation.
In the early 1890s D'Annunzio moved to Naples, where his novel, "The Intruder" (1898), was serialized in Il corriere di Napoli. After a long liaison with the Countess Gravina Auguissola, D´Annunzio began in 1894 an affair with the actress Eleonora Duse. Their relationship started after D'Annunzio's journey to the Aegean islands. Inspired by Duse, he wrote several dramas for her, including "La Gioconda" (1899) and "Francesca da Rimini" (1901).

In 1897 D'Annunzio was elected to parliament for a three-year term, aligning himself in the beginning with the extreme right but moving then to the left. In 1899 D'Annunzio settled in a luxurious Tuscan villa, La Capponcina. He was defeated in the elections next year, but continued to live over his income. Accumulating debts forced D´Annunzio eventually to flee to France in 1910 , in Arcachon near Cap Ferret. There, he began a new career as a writer. "Le Martyr de Saint Sébastien" (1911), a play–with–music, was made with the French composer Claude Debussy.

When World War I broke out, D'Annunzio returned to Italy and started successful career as a military leader. D'Annunzio had yearned years for war which would change Italy's position as a second–rate power. He made speeches, wrote articles exhorting his countrymen to assist the Allied cause, and joined the air force, becoming one of Italy's most celebrated heroes. In a wartime flying accident, D'Annunzio lost an eye. His prose pieces in "Notturno" (1921) were composed when he was recovering from the injury. In 1919, annoyed that Italy had lost the town of Fiume, D´Annunzio's troops occupied the town, where he ruled it as a dictator for eighteen months until 1920. At one point he declared war against Italy but was finally forced to retreat.

Although Mussolini was much influenced by the tactics of D'Annunzio, the writer never held an important post in the Fascist government. D'Annunzio retired to his home on Lake Garda and spent his last years writing. In 1924 he was created Prince of Monte Nevoso and in 1937, following the death of Marconi, he was made president of the Italian Royal Academy.

D'Annunzio died of a stroke at his desk on March 1, 1938. He was given a state funeral by Mussolini. D´Annunzio´s collected works were published in the 1950s. His correspondence with Mussolini appeared in 1971.


(1826 – 1890)

Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Collodi was an Italian author and journalist, best–known as the creator of Pinocchio, the wooden boy puppet who magically came to life, famous because he had a nose which gained length when he told a lie and returned to normal size telling the truth. The story has inspired many film makers (Walt Disney among them) whose animation is well known from 1943. The Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce remarked that "the wood out of which Pinocchio is carved is humanity itself".

Carlo Collodi was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence as the son of Domenico Lorenzini, a cook, and Angela Orzali, a servant. Collodi was the first of ten children. The young Carlo spent his childhood in the hillside village of Collodi. After attending primary school in Collodi, he was sent to study for the priesthood at the seminary of Val d'Elsa. However, after graduation he started to work for a bookseller. When the movement for Italian national unification spread, Collodi plunged into politics.

At the age of 22, he became a journalist with the aim of working for Italian independence struggle. In 1848 he founded the satirical journal ‘Il Lampione’, which was suppressed in 1849. His next periodical, ‘La Scaramuccia’, was more fortunate, and in 1860 he revived again ‘Il Lampione’. Collodi also wrote comedies and edited newspapers and reviews. He took this pseudonym from the name of the town, where his mother was born.

In 1861, when Italy became a united nation, Collodi gave up journalism. After 1870 he settled down as a theatrical censor and magazine editor. He soon turned to children's fantasy, translating Italian versions of the fairy tales of the French writer Charles Perrault's. It was Perrault who reintroduced such half-forgotten tales as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and ‘Puss in Boots’. Collodi also began to write his own children's stories, including a series about a character named Giannettino.

The first chapter of "Pinocchio" appeared in the ‘Giornale dei bambini’ in 1881. It became an immediate success, but the church fathers were at the beginning afraid that Pinocchio would encourage rebellion. The story depicted a wooden puppet carved by an old man called Geppetto. Pinocchio, alive in the beginning of the book, has to learn how to be generous through hard lessons. His feet are burned off, he is chained, and he is even hanged. "...I am a heedless Marionette, heedless and heartless" Pinocchio says. "Oh! If I had only had a bit of heart..." Eventually Pinocchio ceases to be a marionette and becomes a boy. The lesson is that "Boys who love and take good care of their parents when they are old and sick, deserve praise even though they may not be held up as models of obedience and good behavior".

Original illustration was made by Eugenio Mazzanti (1883). The story was translated into English in 1892 by M.A. Murray. Collodi died in Florence on October 26, 1890.


(1873 – 1956)

Galileo Chini

Galileo Chini portrait

Galileo Chini was born in Florence on December 2nd, 1873 and died on August 23, 1956.
As his father died when he was thirteen, he began to work with his uncle who was a decorator and restorator. He attended evening lessons at a school of art and in 1896, he founded "The Art of Ceramics" (later called Factory Fornaci S.Lorenzo), a small factory where he created beautiful objects thanks to which he introduced the Liberty style in Italy.
As a painter, he took part at the "Biennale di Venezia" from 1901 till 1936. He worked, as a stage–designer with Sem Benelli and Giacomo Puccini. This cooperation brought to the creation of the scenes for "Gianni Schicchi" and "Turandot".
In 1911 he was in Bangkok to decorate Siam King's palace. He remained there till 1913. It was a triumph! Back in Italy, he taught at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. Some of his beautiful works of art can be found at the Modern Art Gallery in Rome, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and at the Modern Art Gallery in Palazzo Pitti. During the last years of his life, he lived mainly in Versilia, in Fossa Dell'Abate (today Lido Di Camaiore) where he had a beautiful villa (built in Liberty style), which is now the "Club I Pini Hotel", where you can still find some of his paintings and works of art. The hotel, which is 200 mt. far from the beach, is located in the centre of Lido Di Camaiore (between Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi).


(1557 – 1640)

The Porcellino by Pietro Tacca

Pietro Tacca's Porcellino in Florence

Pietro Tacca was an Italian sculptor born in Carrara in 1557. He was a pupil and a follower of Giambologna. He sculpted his first works in Mannerist style while the later ones are works in Baroque style. After Giambologna's death in 1608, Tacca completed his master's incompleted works. He begun with Giambologna's equestrian bronze of Ferdinando de' Medici today in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, Florence. He worked as court sculptor for the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Tacca's public works for the Medici include his masterpieces, the four slaves (1620–1624) at the foot of Baccio Bandinelli's statue of Ferdinand I de Medici in Piazza Darsena, Livorno. His inspiration by a Hellenistic marble boar (Il Cinghiale) resulted in Porcellino (1612), a copy of this work is exposed in Mercato Nuovo in Florence.

Tacca's works found their place in some of the world's biggest cities such as the equestrian bronza of Philip III (1616) in Plaza Mayor, Madrid and an equestrian Henry IV statue, Gaimbologna's work that Tacca finished for Paris. He died in 1640.

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