Samuel Tinaglia

Samuel Tinaglia is a lifelong Chicago-area resident with a passion for history and Italian roots that trace back to Monreale and Vicari in Sicily. He grew up on the Northwest Side, graduated from Lane Tech and earned a degree in European history from the University of Chicago. He works in financial services and lives in Park Ridge with his wife and three children.

Unsung hero of Tripoli

When I was a boy, my father regaled me with stories about the history of Sicily. I remember him telling me about coastal watchtowers passing warnings via signal fires from the shores of the island into the interior. (According to historian Robert C. Davis, there are 137 such watchtowers on the coasts of Sicily. Isn’t it great when family legends match up with history?) When I visited Sicily later, I heard similar tales of how the fires from the coastal towers could be seen in Caccamo, and then the message would be passed along to our hometown of Vicari. The …

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Civil War hero Luigi Palma di Cesnola

The first Italian American to earn the Medal of Honor, Luigi Palma di Cesnola was instrumental in establishing the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cavalliere Emmanuele Pietro Paolo Maria Luigi Palma di Cesnola would never be mistaken for the “Modern Major General,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical take on the overly educated officers of 19th-century England. While Cesnola didn’t know everything “vegetable, animal and mineral,” he knew enough about the martial, pedagogical and archeological to more than get by. Cesnola led an amazing life, fighting wars on three continents, marrying an American blue blood and conducting groundbreaking archaeological digs …

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Cycling-legend-turned-war-hero Gino Bartali

One of history’s greatest cyclists, Gino Bartali went above and beyond the call of duty during World War II on behalf of Italy’s Jewish citizens. Life has peaks and valleys, happiness and sadness, good and evil. In the course of a storied career, Italian cycling legend Gino Bartali pedaled through countless highs and lows, both physical and emotional, battling more than his fair share of evil along the way. Gino was born to Torello and Giulia Sizzi Bartali in 1914 in Ponte a Ema, a small Tuscan town just south of Firenze. Torello often collected mud for bricks as a day …

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Marine Guard Joe Priola

A Marine Guard in Europe after World War II, Joe Priola had the time of his life while serving his country. This is a war story where no one gets hurt: Goodwill and humor are the weapons of choice. My first cousin Joe Priola was in the Marines at the tail end of World War II and a bit thereafter. Though 40 years separated us in age, I loved my cousin Joe like a big brother. Joe and his younger brother, Sam, were my dad’s nephews, and my grandparents and father raised them in the ’30s and ’40s. My father …

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Princess Mafalda of Savoy

Known for her piety and charity, Princess Mafalda of Savoy spoke out against Hitler with predictably tragic results. I have to admit I have always been fascinated by royalty. My father’s middle name was Umberto, in honor of Umberto I, the King of Italy who was assassinated in 1900. Many people know the story of the Russian czar and his family who were killed, so danger in troubled times is not unknown to royals. But then I ran across the amazing story of an Italian princess named Mafalda of Savoy. Mafalda is the Italianized version of Matilda, which appropriately, as …

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