Italian mourners bid farewell to literary giant Umberto Eco

Hundreds of mourners flocked to Milan's Sforza Castle on Tuesday to pay their respects to Italian literary giant Umberto Eco, the intellectual phenomenon behind the best-selling "The Name of the Rose".

Italian mourners bid farewell to literary giant Umberto Eco
Literary superstar Umberto Eco was laid to rest on Tuesday. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Fans gathered outside the writer's home in the north Italian city applauded as Eco's coffin, laden with white roses, was carried to the imposing 15th century citadel and laid in state in a courtyard, under a presidential guard.
Musicians played Arcangelo Corelli's Baroque sonata “La Follia”, a favourite which Eco used to play on the clarinet, before dignitaries including the cultural and education ministers paid homage to one of Italy's most loved sons.
“It was a piece that accompanied us always, my husband loved it very much,” Eco's widow Renate Ramge said.
Eco, who had been suffering from cancer, passed away at home late on Friday at the age of 84.
The philosopher and semiotics lecturer who once famously described writing best-selling, heavyweight novels as “something I do at the weekends” lived within a maze of bookshelves, more vast library than house – and one he knew inside-out.
“You could see in his silences that he was consulting the unending library he carried within. Thank you Maestro for having spent your life looking out of the window for us,” said Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini.
Friends remembered a gentle man who enjoyed whisky and wordplay in equal measure and had a nice line in self-deprecating humour, with one of his grandsons standing up to say how proud of his grandpa he was.

 'Lost a master'

Some speakers choked back tears as they addressed the crowd in front of large heraldic flags sent by cities across Italy in a gesture of respect. Others told jokes they had shared with the intellectual.
“We have yet to fully understand his greatness. He was a friend and I thank him for having cared so much,” said Elisabetta Sgarbi, head of the publishing house which will release Eco's last book on Friday.
La Nave di Teseo, which announced the release date on its Facebook page, is a new publishing house that emerged after notable writers, including Eco, moved to protect their independence and editorial diversity.
“Eco is the symbol of that innovative classicism which is so essential and which our country brings to the world. We have lost a master but we have not lost his teachings,” Education Minister Stefania Gannini said.
Eco was revered around the world, largely thanks to “The Name of the Rose”, the blockbuster novel that became a hit film starring Sean Connery in the role of a medieval monk with the detective brilliance of Sherlock Holmes.
“The Name of the Rose”, which has been translated into 43 languages, has sold more than 10 million copies.
A Gothic murder mystery set in an Italian medieval monastery, it combines semiotics, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory.
Eco leaves his wife, a German art teacher whom he married in 1962, and a son, a daughter and grandchildren.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?