Lugano commemorates 150th anniversary of the death of philosopher Carlo Cattaneo

Alex Macbeth
Alex Macbeth - [email protected] • 7 Feb, 2019 Updated Thu 7 Feb 2019 11:20 CEST
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Lugano is paying tribute to the Italian philosopher who helped shape modern Italy but lived in exile in Switzerland for two decades.

"The anniversary is important for the City of Lugano because Cattaneo lived there in exile, after the Five Days of Milan, from 1848 to his death, which took place in the house of Castagnola on February 5th, 1869," Pietro Montorfani, head of Lugano's historical archive, told The Local. 

Italian philosopher Carlo Cattaneo led the Milan city council during the 1848 uprising in Lombardy against the occupation by Austrian forces under Marshal Radetzky. 

The so-called Five Days of Milan saw residents of the northern Italian city rise up and boycott tobacco and gambling, key revenues for the Austrians – which resulted in violent street clashes.

That protest is widely seen as the one of the incidents that kickstarted the Italian 'Risorgimento' (the Italian unification movement led by Garibaldi) and Italy's drive towards independence and a unified nation state.

But when the Austrians returned to occupy Milan in revenge for the uprising led by Cattaneo, the Italian philosopher was forced to flee to Lugano in late 1848, where he wrote his most famous work, History of the 1848 Revolution.

He died just over 20 years later in 1869 outside the Italian-speaking Swiss city of Lugano, where he had spent the last 20 years of his life in exile. 

Now the city is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of one of its most famous residents with a series of talks and events in schools, museums and universities. 

The talks on Cattaneo cover everything from his time in and subsequent influence on the canton of Ticino; the philosopher's impact on European thought, as well as the thinker's contemporary relevance. 

"Catteneo is one of the most important Italian-Swiss exiles," Pietro Montorfani, head of Lugano's historical archive, told The Local.

The Five Days of Milan uprising, as well as other similar revolts across the Italian peninsula in 1848, contributed to Italy's First War of Independence. 

Cattaneo was elected to the Italian parliament several times after Italy's unification in 1861. Each time he refused to take up his seat, citing resistance to swearing an oath to the king.  

Cattaneo always rejected Cavour and Garibaldi's overtures to join their movement because of opposition to its patron, Victor Emmanuel II, the king of the House of Savoy in Piedmont. Cattaneo was a lifelong and staunch republican.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about March 17th, Italy's Unity Day

Zeitgeist in the house

Cattaneo died in 1869 but the home he lived in in Castagnola, on the outskirts of Lugano, inherited some of his revolutionary spirit.

"Two Latvian exiles, Rainis and Aspazija also lived in that same building from 1906 to 1908," adds Montorfani. From 1980 to 2019, Cattaneo's former home in exile served as the seat of the Historical Archive of the City of Lugano.

The season of commemorative events from March to October 2019 is organized by the Carlo Cattaneo Association, the Italian-Swiss Committee for the publication of the works of Cattaneo, the State Archives of the Canton of Ticino, the Cantonal Library of Lugano and the Historical Archive of the City of Lugano.

The commemoration is translational. Events are scheduled in Lugano in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland, as well as in the Italian cities of Milan and Castellanza, home to Carlo Cattaneo University.

Some of the commemoration's highlights include: 


March 11th, March 25th, April 1st, 18:00: 'The Return of Carlo Cattaneo: 1869 to 2019'

Various experts will introduce Cattaneo's work, life and influence. 

Location: University of Italian Switzerland, Red Palace - Hall A 11, Via Giuseppe Buffi 13, 6900 Lugano.

March 25th, 18:00–19:30: 'Cattaneo in Lugano'

A reflection on Cattaneo's presence in and influence on the canton of Ticino, as well as a review of his philosophy. 

Location: University of Italian Switzerland, Red Palace - Hall A 11, Via Giuseppe Buffi 13, 6900 Lugano.

May 7th, 18:00, September 7th, 18:00: 'Carlo Cattaneo - A European intellectual in Lugano'

A talk on Cattaneo's influence on European identity. 

Location: Cantonal Library, viale C. Cattaneo 6, 6900, Lugano.

May 15th: 'Cattaneo's places in images'

A virtual tour through the places Cattaneo lived and worked in: Milan, Zurich, Livorno, Lugano, Paris, Naples. 

Location: Liceo Cantonale, viale C. Cattaneo 4, 6900, Lugano. 


April 10th: 'Carlo Cattaneo, contemporary thinker'

A course with several interventions from experts.

Location: L'Università Carlo Cattaneo, Corso G. Matteotti, 22, 21053 Castellanza VA. 


March 19th, 11:00: Series of talks

'Cattaneo and Milan', commemoration of the Five Days of Milan, by Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala
'Cattaneo before and after 1848', by Mariachiara Fugazza
'The relevance of Carlo Cattaneo' Illustration of the initiatives for the 150th anniversary, by Alberto Martinelli

Location: Town Hall, hall of the City Council, building Marino, Piazza della Scala 2, Milan.

March 19th, 18:00: 'The modernity of Carlo Cattaneo'

Conference organized by the Istituto Lombardo Accademia of Sciences and Letters.

Location: Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Maria salon Teresa, via Brera 28, 20121, Milan. 

October 29th-30th: 'Cattaneo after Cattaneo'

An international conference promoted by the Italian-Swiss Committee,

Location: Museo del Risorgimento, via Borgonuovo 23, 20121, Milan.

READ MORE: Italy's most famous politicians




Alex Macbeth 2019/02/07 11:20

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