This month we celebrate the birth of Giuseppe di Stefano, an opera singer from Sicily, who sang all over the world including Milan, New York, Vienna and even in New Orleans. At the very start of his musical studies, which began around the time of WWII, the young tenor was drafted into the Italian Army. He became known around camp as the singing soldier, where he entertained the troops with Neapolitan love ballads. His battalion was soon awarded the glorious opportunity of being shipped off to the Russian front, but thanks to the regimental doctor who loved opera, di Stefano was given a certificate that he could not serve on the front line. He stayed behind singing to the troops.
Then in 1943, Italy signed an armistice with the Allies. Germany invaded Sicily and started rounding up Italian troops and sending them to POW camps.
Di Stefano fled to Switzerland and stayed in a refugee camp. While there, he began singing and the camp’s inhabitants were much impressed. The camp commander allowed him to leave the camp on occasion and he began to sing all over Switzerland. He sang using the pseudonym, Nino Florio, to avoid problems with the Germans. In 1944, a priest heard him singing in a cafe and he put him in touch with the head of Radio Lussane. He was quickly invited to record with them.
Here is one of his recordings he made in 1944 from Manon by Massenet. Di Stefano is only 24 years old. He is still two years away from his debut in opera and three years away from his first appearance at La Scala in the same role heard in this excerpt. He would thereafter explode onto the opera scene.
This is the voice that would soon take over Italy and the world and would later become the main partner to the great Maria Callas. What a joy to have this recording of such a young, gifted singer. Even here, you can hear the perfect diction, the unabashed passionate tone, and style. This was the voice that Pavarotti, and in particular, Jose Carreras, would try to emulate.
Listen and enjoy Nino Florio aka Giuseppe di Stefano.
Continuing a recap of our Italian vacation, Part 2 will look at our visit to the island of Capri and the ancient ruins of the town of Pompeii.
Capri, known as the playground of the Emperors, is an island accessible from the city of Sorrento by boat. Surrounded by crystal clear blue water, Capri is stunningly beautiful. You arrive in the Port, known locally as Marina Grande. A Fannicula railroad leads you up to the main square of Capri. You can also take an uphill walk that will lead you the square as well. There you will find shopping, food, and high-end stores. But most of all, you will be awarded some of the best views in all of Italy. Here are a few pics of Capri.
The Blue Grotto was closed when we were there but will add a picture here as it is a must do if you are able.
It’s easy to see why there are ruins of palaces of the emperors on the island, who insisted on spending long periods of time living on the island.
Pompeii is the ancient town that sits at the base of Mt. Vesuvius, which always looms in the background as a majestic reminder of the absolute horror that occurred in 79 AD when the volcano erupted, entombing the city and its inhabitants. I highly recommend a tour guide who can lead you through the vast streets of Pompeii. It’s a fascinating insight into the way people of that time lived. I just love being able to walk these same streets and enter the same buildings that people did so long ago. But as I said, a tour guide can really bring it to life. If you just can’t find a tour guide, then I would recommend downloading Rick Steve’s Audio Europe which offers a great walking tour of the main sites while you listen on your phone.
Here are a few pics first of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples from Sorrento ….
and then Pompeii itself.
Capri and Pompeii – A stunning, must see, part of Southern Italy.
Author of A Song of Bellafortuna.
Having just returned from a trip with my family that took me from Soutern Italy all the way to Lake Como and then over the Swiss Alps into Germany and beautiful Salzburg, I will spend the next few blogs discussing a few spots on our trip with a few key insights, not from an expert, but just an ordinary traveler. I hope you find it rewarding.
Day 1 and 2. Paestum Italy
Paestum was used as the launching pad to Capri and Pompei. Paestum is a small city in the Campania region of Italy. It is mosty known for two things. Buffalo Mozzarella and the most intact Greek ruins in all of Italy.
We visited a Buffalo Mozzarello farm where you were treated to a taste of the most freshest Mozzarello you will ever have. I will state it was not my cup of tea. I think I like my Mozzarella a little more aged. However, in the little cafe, I had a cannoli that was to die for. Here are a few pics from the farm.
As for the Greek ruins, I did not get the chance to go see them while the site was open. However, I highly recommend going to see them at night. I got the hotel staff to bring a group of us by van to the site where you were able to see the ruins spectacularly lit up up night. It was a magical night and is a must do if you find yourself in this area.
Latly, Paestum has wonderful beaches surrounded by mountains in the distance. Great place to walk to in the evenings if you don’t have time to visit during the day.
Paestum: A fascinating little place that if you have the chance, visit if you can.