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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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.