Distinguished people of Forlì

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Aurelio Saffi (1819-1890) was a republican politician. Born in Forlì on 13 October 1819 to Girolamo and Maria Romagnoli, he studied in Ferrara, graduating in 1841 with a degree in Law, and then moved to Rome where he approached the fervent ideals of independence. In 1848 he met Mazzini and the following year, with the birth of the temporary Roman Republic, he was elected triumvirate with Mazzini and Armellini. Exiled to Oxford in ’51 as a teacher of Italian literature he met Giorgina. Descended from an illustrious Scottish family of liberal traditions, she was the daughter of John Craufurd and Sophia Churchill, fervent Mazzinians and members of the Society of Friends of Italy. She married Aurelio in 1857, despite her father’s opposition. Aurelio returned to Italy in 1860, settling in Naples where he directed the newspaper ‘Il Popolo d’Italia’ and in 1861 was elected to the parliament of the new Kingdom of Italy. He resigned, however, in 1864, returning first to England, and then in 1867 he settled permanently with his family in the country villa of San Varano. Here, he dedicated himself to the organisation of the republican movement and the definition of its political direction, working in favour of local autonomy and social problems: with regard to these, he favoured the workers’ and craftsmen’s associations of Mazzinian inspiration.

He also participated in both the provincial and municipal administration of the city of Forlì. The last years of his life he thought law at the University of Bologna until 1890, the year of his death, which occurred at his villa in San Varano. Giorgina, on the other hand, continued to live in the big house, taking an interest in the politics, social issues, culture and art of the newly-born Italian nation. Testimony to this are the unpublished Letters of Giuseppe Mazzini to M.me X, given to the press in 1907, or the translation from English to Italian of the book L’educazione morale della gioventù, considerata nei suoi rapporti col sesso (1882), or again La vita e le opere di Correggio (1888). Her publishing activities were conducted thanks to her collaboration with the man of letters Giuseppe Mazzatinti, who allowed her to publish some of her husband’s unpublished writings. Her associationism and commitment to the feminist cause was something that always distinguished her; memorable are her writings Alle donne forlivesi and Alla società operaja femminile di mutuo soccorso in Forlì. She died on 30 July 1911, surrounded by the affection of her four sons: Giuseppe Attilio (1858- 1923), Giovanni Emilio (1861-1930), Carlo Luigi (1863-1896) and Rinaldo Arturo (1868-1929).



The natural daughter of the Duke of Milan Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Caterina was married at a very young age to Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV.

After the death of her husband, who fell victim to a conspiracy, and after an unconfessable love affair with the young squire Giacomo Feo, who was also killed, Caterina married Giovanni de’ Medici il Popolano, giving rise to the branch of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany through her son, who would go down in history as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere. Cesare Borgia, Duke Valentino and son of Pope Alexander VI, in his political plan to conquer Romagna, besieged the fortress defended by Caterina Sforza in December 1499 and conquered it on 12 January 1500. She spent the last years of his life in Florence where she devoted herself to educating her son and collecting medical, cosmetic and herbal recipes.

She died in 1509.


Giovanni Battista Maroncelli, a patriot, musician and poet from Forlì, was made famous by Silvio Pellico in the pages of “Le Mie Prigioni”(My Prisons). Born in 1795 in Forlì, from a young age he showed great musical talent, so much that he obtained a scholarship to study in Naples in 1810, where he also had his first contacts with Freemasonry.

After continuing his musical studies in Bologna in 1815, he founded a sectarian organisation with Carbonara roots. Returning to Forlì in 1817, he was arrested for the first time and sentenced, serving around ten months in prison.

In 1819, he was one of the promoters and disseminators of the Quadragesimale Italiano, one of the first clandestine sheets of the Risorgimento, and then moved to Milan where he organised the Lombard Carboneria. Arrested in 1820, he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to hard imprisonment in the Spielberg fortress in Brno where he remained until 1830.

On leaving prison, he worked on the drafting of several compositions and contributed additions to Pellico’s “Le Mie Prigioni”‘. In 1831, he moved to Paris, where he married the singer Amalia Schneider, but financial problems forced him to move to New York in 1833. There he taught music and became director of musical institutions.

Maroncelli died in New York in 1846, leaving behind a legacy of patriotic and artistic commitment that made him a significant figure in the Italian Risorgimento and 19th century European culture.



Girolamo Mercuriale (Forlì 1530 – ivi 1606) was a medical humanist and philologist, a profound connoisseur of Latin and Greek languages and ancient medical literature. He devoted himself to the study of various branches of medicine (hygiene, toxicology, therapeutics, paediatrics, ophthalmology, etc.); he also translated into Latin the works of many Greek authors, especially Hippocrates.

The “De arte gymnastica” is his best known and most original work, the result of almost seven years of study and research in the museums and libraries of Rome. The work is the first complete treatise on medical gymnastics, in which the gymnastics of the ancients is connected with modern gymnastics. Gymnastics, considered by Mercuriale as a therapeutic means, is examined from a historical, medical and more generally hygienic point of view.

After studying medicine at the University of Bologna, he graduated from the University of Padua, where he had the opportunity to meet the famous Venetian physician Vettor Trincavella.

His life was marked by an exceptional career in ecclesiastical and academic circles; his fame led him to be sought after as a personal physician by Popes, Cardinals, Emperors and Grand Dukes, as well as a lecturer at the most renowned Italian universities including Padua (1569), Bologna (1587) and Pisa (1592-1604).

Mercuriale died in Forlì in 1606 and was buried in the family chapel of the Abbey of S. Mercuriale.


A physician and anatomist (Forlì 1682 – Padua 1771), he is considered the founder of pathological anatomy: he understood that diseases alter the human body, leaving behind recognisable traces.

After graduating in philosophy and medicine at the age of nineteen in Bologna, where he was a pupil of A. Valsalva, he obtained the first chair of theoretical medicine in Padua in 1711.

He obtained the chair of anatomy in Padua in 1715, which he occupied until his death; here, thanks to his didactic artistry, he attracted students from all over Europe.

His scientific production, which began with the first of his six “Adversaria anatomica” (1706) in which he reported countless original observations on the structure and function of numerous anatomical formations, opened up new horizons for the medical art.

In his subsequent monumental work “De sedibus et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis” (1761), Morgagni laid the foundations of pathological anatomy, teaching how to study the relationship between disease and concomitant alterations of the organs involved.

The prestigious statue in Piazza Morgagni is dedicated to him. Sculpted by S. Salvini, it was donated to the city of Forlì by Prof. Camillo Versari in 1875.


Diego Fabbri is one of Forlì’s most illustrious personalities, famous for his brilliant career as a playwright and for the profound spiritual richness that permeates his works, which has made him one of the most eminent individuals on the modern literary and theatrical scene.

Born on 2 July 1911 in Forlì, Diego Fabbri started writing plays at the age of 19, thus beginning his extraordinary career as a playwright. He quickly established himself as one of the leading figures on the Italian scene, achieving success with plays such as “Inquisizione” (‘Inquisition’ )(1946), “Rancore” (‘Rancour’ )(1948), “Il Seduttore” (‘The Seducer’ )(1951), and many others.  Co-director (from 1948), then director of the Fiera letteraria (Literary Fair), from 1977 he directed “Il dramma” ( ‘The Drama’ ).

He was the author of essays, original texts for television and film subjects, collaborating on the screenplays for films directed by De Sica and Rossellini, among others.

His cultural and ideological formation placed Christianity at the centre of his work, considering theatre as a fundamental ethical and cultural tool for society. Through his works, Fabbri sought to convey emotional truths and interpretations of everyday life, encouraging the search for the essential values of life that could lead individuals towards redemption and love.
Diego Fabbri passed away on 14 August 1980 in Riccione, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the Italian theatre scene.

In his honour, the Teatro Diego Fabbri, located in the old town centre, not far from Piazza Saffi, has been dedicated to Forlì, testifying to his indelible impact on the culture of his hometown.



Francesco Menzocchi (Forlì about 1502 – 1574) was a pupil of Girolamo Genga, who fostered his career for a long time and with whom he worked in the Imperial Villa of Pesaro.

In Venice, between 1539 and 1540, Menzocchi took part in the decoration of the lost ceiling of the Psyche room in Palazzo Grimani near S. Maria Formosa in Venice (1539), in collaboration with Camillo Mantovano and Francesco de’ Rossi known as ” il Salviati”.

Sensitive to the manner of Pordenone and the elegant cadences of Parmigianino, he painted, with accentuated chiaroscuro effects, Crucifixion and Saints (Forlì, Church of San Biagio), Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (1533, Cesena, Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte), Deposition from the Cross (1538, Forlimpopoli, Church of S.Ruffillo).


Born in Forlì in 1899, he is a pupil of the painter Giovanni Marchini, founder of the Cenacolo Artistico Forlivese in 1920.

In 1912 he moved with his family to Lyon, where he continued his artistic studies, working alongside fellow artist Pietro Angelini. After the First World War he returned to Romagna and actively devoted himself to painting.
In 1934 he was hired by the Istituto Nazionale Luce in Rome as a designer, but also distinguished himself for the design of advertising and exhibition products.

From 1941 to 1943 he worked as a war reporter, again on behalf of the Istituto Luce, taking over six thousand photographs and making works on war subjects, some of which will then be exhibited at the Galleria Il Milione in Milan (1942).

During the Roman decade, decisive for his artistic process, Maceo executed still lifes, female nudes, urban views and war scenes that he presented in numerous exhibitions in the capital and with which he organized three solo shows in Rome and one in Milan. Also in Rome, he collaborated as a billboardist with Giacomo Balla and Mario Sironi and met Mario Mafai. In particular, in 1937 some of his works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome.

Between 1946 and 1947 he stayed in Venice, where he met and hung out with Filippo de Pisis.

From the beginning of the fifties he came back to Forlì and lived here permanently, intensifying his artistic activity with his participation at exhibitions and painting competitions. He became a master of the 19th century figurative tradition, beginning with the great lesson of the French Impressionists, cultivated for a long time as an exercise in good painting in the wake of a lyrical realism completely independent of the trends and tastes of his time.

In 1968 he donated over one hundred and fifty works (paintings, watercolours, drawings) to the Pinacoteca Civica of Forlì.

He died at the age of ninety in 1992.


Born in Forlì 1456, Palmezzano studied alongside Melozzo degli Ambrosi, also known as Melozzo from Forlì: Palmezzano was his “dear pupil” and he worked with him in Rome and Loreto.

Returning to Forlì in 1493-1494, he always collaborated with his master in the decoration of the Feo Chapel in the church of San Biagio, which was destroyed during a bombing in 1944.

After a brief experience in Venice in 1495, Palmezzano moved permanently to Forlì, concentrating his activity in the Romagna centres and becoming the reference painter of the local aristocracy. The result of his artistic work is the great altarpiece with the Annunciation (Forlì, Civic Museum of San Domenico), dated around 1495-96. In a vaulted nave on breccia columns, open on a bright and lively landscape, takes place the meeting between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin.

The last thirty years of his activity saw his success and the undisputed affirmation of his model of perspective altarpiece, his compact and lucid painting.

Palmezzano’s artistic activity was extraordinarily long-lived and prolific; Forlì and Romagna still preserve numerous of his paintings that still attract today for their enameled and compact oil painting and for their spectacular backgrounds.

The San Domenico museum complex in Forlì houses fourteen of his works, including the altarpiece of the Annunciation; inside the Abbey of San Mercuriale, among the three works of Palmezzano, you can find large altarpieces of The Immaculata with the Eternal Father and Saints Anselm, Augustine and Stephen and The Madonna with Child and Saints. You can find oher works by Palmezzano at the Church of San Antonio Abate in Ravaldino, the Cathedral of Santa Croce, the Church of San Biagio and the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi in Forlì.

Other masterpieces are in Forlimpopoli at the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, in Castrocaro Terme in the Church of Saints Niccolò and Francesco, in Brisighella in the Collegiate Church of Saints Michael and John the Baptist and in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Dozza Imolese in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, in Faenza in the Pinacoteca Civica.



Gino Mandolesi (Forlì, 1915 – Forlì, 1955) began his studies within the Società Industrie Fotografiche, where he met Maceo Casadei, a painter active in the field of image retouching; from whom he learned the rudiments in the artistic field. Mandolesi honed his skills under the guidance of his master until 1934, when Maceo Casadei moved to Rome to work at the Istituto Luce.

Four years later, thanks to the intercession of Maceo Casadei, Mandolesi obtained a job at the Istituto Luce as a retoucher. In Rome Mandolesi was involved, in his free time, to painting from life and to attending the Nude School in Via Margutta. However, contacts with other artists are limited and there are few traces of his presence at art exhibitions and events.

In 1946, after his experience as a war reporter on the African front, Mandolesi returned to Forlì and began to exhibit his works in collective and interprovincial exhibitions, achieving success and visibility. Over the years he participated in numerous solo exhibitions together with other artists from Forlì, such as Maceo Casadei, Leonida Brunetti, Giorgio Spada and Alberto Pacciani.

Firmly anchored in the nineteenth-century figurative tradition, and without ever detaching himself from Maceo’s lesson, the artist is particularly appreciated as a landscape painter, author of still lifes and genre scenes.

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