Angelo Rizzoli, story of the most famous lover of Ischia

by Leonardo Quagliuolo

When "Angelo Rizzoli" is named, today the well-known publishing house immediately comes to mind, which keeps the surname of its founder. However, Angelo Rizzoli has had a crucial role in the recent history of Ischia: it was thanks to him that the island was covered in luster, attracting the wealthiest tourists of the 1950s to a place on the island that had hitherto been little frequented and little known: Lacco Ameno.

Corso Angelo Rizzoli
In Lacco Ameno there is the "Corso Angelo Rizzoli"

Lacco Ameno: love at first sight

It was 1950. Angelo Rizzoli, whose name was already widely affirmed at a national and international level, he was invited by the doctor Pietro Malcovatti to participate in a challenging renovation project of the Regina Isabella spa of Lacco Ameno, on the island of Ischia.

Despite the unusual context for his business, an island still backward from the point of view of infrastructure, devoid of the comforts of the city and with economic precariousness which characterized Naples itself in the immediate post-war period and whose main wealth seemed to be a very luxuriant vegetation and suggestive panoramas, Rizzoli accepted with enthusiasm.

Rizzoli Lacco Ameno
Lacco Ameno beach in the early 1950s

That same year, Malcovatti and other doctors founded the Pithaecusa joint stock company, of which the Commendatore also joined. and then proceed topurchase of the decadent Regina Isabella spa complex and also that of Santa Restituta, with adjoining hotel.

And he was so fascinated by the green island that he decided to buy two other spas, the Terme Radium and Manzi: his goal was a tourist revitalization of proportions never seen before on the island, not even at the time of one of the biggest "fans" of Ischia, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, to which numerous building interventions are due.

The great Rizzoli project

Rizzoli soon drew up a detailed program of works to be carried out and structures from retrain, including hotels, spas and recreational areas and also took into account public utility works, such as the refurbishment of streets, squares and public lighting.

Between 1950 and 1954 completed the reconstruction of the Terme Regina Isabella, the original project, which would become a meeting place and vacation spot for famous people: attended you Charlie Chaplin which, at the invitation of Rizzoli, screened in the cinema hall inaugurated by him that year, "Reginella", The world premiere of his film"A king in New York”And, besides him, other famous names such as Gina Lollobrigida, Liz Taylor and Maria Callas were guests of the hotel. There was no shortage of world-renowned figures, such as him Shah of Persia and the famous heart surgeon Christian Barnard.

Rizzoli e Lollobrigida
Angelo Rizzoli and Gina Lollobrigida in Ischia, 1957, photograph by Coal Archive

In 1951, completely renovated Piazza Municipio of Lacco Ameno and, until 1957, he was engaged in the complete demolition of the old complex of Santa Restituta for theconstruction of the luxurious Hotel Regina Isabella, as well as in the reconstruction of the homonymous square.

In those years he also built the hotel La Reginella, whose project saw several changes in the course of construction, including a change of architect, as Rizzoli demanded that his ideal project be fully respected.

He had ambitious hotel projects, luxurious casinos, road and harbor extensions, a medium-sized golf course and even a small airport, which would ultimately consecrate Ischia as a luxury tourism destination, on which he would have detained a real monopoly.

It is of his own construction too the main hospital of Ischia, L'"Anna Rizzoli", Still today a fundamental point of reference on the island, inaugurated in 1961 in the presence of the President Amintore Fanfani and sold by Rizzoli to the "United Hospitals of Naples". He also built a sports field in Forio.

Angelo Rizzoli, storia del più celebre innamorato di Ischia
The Baths of Queen Isabella, renovated by Angelo Rizzoli

Among his numerous works to increase his business and the fame of the island of Ischia, he had the initiative to rent some of his newly built premises to antique dealers, who inaugurated the Galleria Plaza, which in the following years hosted important exhibitions, such as that of De Chirico and Guttuso, who went to the island to introduce them.

He had planned a total expenditure of approximately two and a half billion lire, of which two billion donated from his own pocket and the remainder provided by the state.

However, many of these projects remained on paper, for fiscal and political reasons: there was no shortage friction with the Municipality of Lacco Ameno itself, for example, regarding the acquisition by the Regina Isabella hotel of the beach in front, at the time used exclusively by fishermen. A was found compromise by the famous mayor of Lacco Ameno Vincenzo Mennella, in this and other situations. Furthermore, the phenomenon of building speculation in its worst sense, which was happening, in parallel, also in Naples.

Villa Arbusto Angelo Rizzoli
Villa Arbusto, which has now become the Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae

Villa arbusto, Angelo Rizzoli's dream home

In 1951, at the beginning of the great works commissioned by Rizzoli, the entrepreneur could not fail to notice an imposing villa which stood on a hill overlooking the Lacco Ameno area. He didn't think twice: in 1952 he bought it for himself, as a personal residence. For a short time it was even referred to as his main residence, temporarily ousting that of Milan.

Villa Arbusto was born as a simple farm, in the seventeenth century, which in the eighteenth century was purchased by the Duke Carlo Acquaviva d'Atri, who decided to establish his sumptuous summer residence there. The structure visible today from the outside is very similar to how the eighteenth-century villa must have been, since at the time of purchase by Rizzoli, the property underwent renovations for remove structural changes made in previous years and restore it to its former glory.

Once the renovations have been completed, the far-sighted Rizzoli he did not miss an opportunity to do so its "operational center" on the island of Ischia and a place to invite his personal guests, no less illustrious than those he hosted in his hotels. They spent time at the villa, for example, the President of the Republic Giovanni Gronchi e Pietro Nenni, as well as the archaeologist Giorgio Buchner.

In fact, the property was put up for sale by Rizzoli's heirs to his death, along with other properties on the island, using that money for continue their entrepreneurial activity. After some time, the property was purchased by the Province of Naples, who intended it for use museum.

Currently, the archaeological Museum has numerous pieces found in the adjacent areas from Giorgio Buchner, including the famous Cup of Nestor and also has a room entirely dedicated to the extraordinary life of Angelo Rizzoli, perhaps the man who loved Ischia more than anyone else.

-Leonardo Quagliuolo

Angelo Rizzoli, storia del più celebre innamorato di Ischia

For more:

Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae

Municipality of Lacco Ameno

Ischia island

Angelo Rizzoli, uncle of America from Ischia“, By Giorgio Balestriere

Coal photo archive

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