you ever thought of Istanbul as a city of Italian character? Has it
occured to you, for example, that the city’s dome technology arrived
from Rome, that it first acquired its metropolitan identity in the Roman
period... and its aqueducts... And then the Venetians arrived, the Florentines,
throngs from Pisa and Amalfi... And the rule of the Geneose... The Levantine
influence which produced the Galata Tower, Podesta, Galata... And mingling
with this, the migration of brains and bodies in the 19th
century... The Levantine influence brought the sense of a world city...
The grandchildren and descendants of these pioneers... People who carried
traces of the Byzantine - Ottoman period... The Italian influence is
an element that has shown its presence in the history of Istanbul since
the 9th century. But it is an element that has never dulled,
diminished or died. It has been enriched and enlivened by new elements
from every period. Though Italians have dropped dramatically in number
today the Italian art of living is very much mirrored in the city.
interview date 2005
It was the Romans who made Byzantines into urbanites. Romans taught
the Byzantines a lot of things. Hagia Sophia is inherently bestowed
with Roman technology. The science of supporting domes in Roman. According
to architect Mete Göktuğ, ‘both Hagia Sophia and the Valens
aquaduct that was built 300 years earlier should be considered as Roman,
who thus were able to take care of the water needs of the Byzantines.
For centuries both Byzantines and Ottomans used this facility to build,
wash, take ablutions and cook’.
At a time when Italian from Genoa starting settling in Galata, the symbols
of the city of Constantinopolis were Hagia Sophia and Valens aquaduct,
and the Italians built the Galata tower as a counter symbol.
During the Middle Ages, merchants from republics such as Genoa, Amalfi
and Venice had already spread around the Mediterranean, thus planting
Italian culture and language around these ports. Professor Ilber Ortayli
compares the Italians to Occidentals possessing Oriental culture. Ortaylı
states these people were never like the 19th century British
and French colonists, integrated with their new settings, as they had
a similar culture, sharing the same sea.
Professor of political science, Aldo Baldini also points out that despite
the occupation of south Anatolia at the end of the First World War,
there were no major incidents or fights between the locals and Italians.
Baldini who is also the vice president of Casa d’Italia and national
jockey, states that even during the brief and formal occupation, relations
were good. Born in Maçka, Istanbul, Prof Baldini is an expert
on Turco-Italian relations. A graduate of political science from the
University of Rome during the 1970s, Baldini’s phd thesis was titled,
‘Turkish nationalism and Turco-Italian relations during 1917-1924’,
and his tutor was the eminent Italian politician Aldo
Moro. Professor Moro is also the father of the ‘historical reconciliation’
idea and at the time suggested Baldini publish as a book his thesis.
Aldo Baldini’s family emigrated from Palmanova, a place between Udine
and Trieste, to Postacılar street in Beyoğlu
[Pera]. Grand-father Guisto Jogna headed a well known machine
repair and manufacturing firm. Baldini's father Umberto Baldini for
many years was the president of the Italian benevolent society [Societa
Italiana di Beneficenza].
Old Venetian and Genoese families
When Istanbul was captured  the established Genoese and Venetian
communities were allowed to remain. When Crimea and Trabzon were captured
the Genoese families from there are also brought to Istanbul. For a
long time the Genoese Zecchino remains the best currency in Pera and
the Genoese Podesta continues its function within the Ottoman Empire
until the end of the Venetian republic at the begining of the 18th
century. We know the Podesta building was situated on the Voyvoda street
in Galata (photos).
There are well known families living in Istanbul, descendants of Genoese
times, as merchants, bankers, diplomatic dragomans, some of whom have
acquired French, German and Austrian nationality. For example Doria,
Novoni, Olivieri, Brutti, Corpi, Chiavari, Testa, Contarini, Gritti
and Pisani. There are the dragoman families: Marini, Silvestri, Paradi
and the Orlandis are Venetian nobility.
The book written by Alphonse Belin, ‘Historie de la Latinite de Constantinopolis’
is the best source for these family histories.
Concentrating on one of these families, as the name would suggest, Grittis
were from Crete and held an important position in Venetian history.
Gritti becomes rich as a grain merchant in Istanbul, lives a life
of luxury and sires 4 children with an Istanbul Greek lady. Not only
does he become a go-between during the Ottoman-Venetian wars, stopping
it, but succeeds in extending the lenghts of residence of the Venetian
ambassadors. His accession to the Venetian presidency ensures Ottoman-Venetian
relations lives the golden age. Venice reaches the pinnacle of Renaissance
revival. Since his son Alvise (Luigi) Gritti was conceived out of wedlock,
cannot reside in comfort in Venice and prefers Istanbul. This merchant
becomes rich through the trade of saffron, wine, gold, silver, salt
and grain, not only gains prominence through the political activities
in Transylvania [Erdel] and Hungary but holds sway in Ottoman-Venetian
relations. In 1531 becomes a Muslim and during his tenure of the tenure
of the governor [beylik] of Transylvania, is assassinated.
It is known that not only does Alvise Gritti preserves the mansion he
inherited from his father in Pera but enlarged it and hosted the visiting
Venetian representatives there. The quarter was later known (as still)
as Beyoğlu (son of the bey), and with a high degree of probability,
thus the name’s origin.
The Corpis are a family whose roots go back to the Genoese. They settle
in Istanbul in the 1200s and in the 19th century Ignace Corpi becomes
a well known banker. He is the original owner of the American consulate
in Tepebaşı (part of Pera) and formerly he was active in politics.
It is common knowledge that the British supported the Ottomans during
the Russo-Ottoman war. However it was also the same British who provided
financial backing to this war. The proof of this is the declaration
to the Ottomans, that ‘we will give half the money, obtain the rest
from the bankers’. Later the Ottoman government defaults on its payments,
and Corpi who was one of the backers receives land in the region of
Morea. When Corpi goes to claim his land there, he is told that, ‘the
land is part of free Greece.’ This prominent banker is thus one of the
first to realise the start of the Greek war of liberation. This story
is told by Aldo Baldini, who is a close relation of the Corpis.
Garibaldi and Societa
‘Within the Ottoman Empire the Italians organise themselves as the Latin
nation, and other Roman Catholic Europeans are also considered of this
group. For this reason until the end of the 18th century, Italian is
the language of all Latin Catholics. It’s after this that the Latin
group starts to speak French’ observes Ilber Ortali. In actual fact
19th century Levantines use an outmoded form of French peculiar
to their community. However the Italians still maintain their language
in that era. Immigrants arrive from all regions of Italy and from all
social strata, to cities such as Istanbul, Izmir and Alexandria. A major
group amongst those trying their luck in these cities, escaping the
economic recession and unemployment in Italy, are construction workers
and master masons. It’s under these conditions that the Italian workers
solidarity association is founded in 1863 in Istanbul. The ‘La Societa
Operia Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso’ is established to solve the shared
problems of the workers. It’s a period when a large number of great
buildings are erected in Istanbul. The Societa
is still located at Deva Çıkmazı street in Beyoğlu
and its name is still associated with Guiseppe
Garibaldi, the Italian general and republican patriot. After being
defeated in Rome in 1862, he came to Istanbul and settled in Madame
Sauvaigo’s pension at Linardi [Çiçekçi]
street at Galatasaray [central Pera / Beyoğlu] where he gave lessons
in French. He arrived with a group of political exiles dubbed ‘the red
shirts of Naples’ and it was this group that formed Societa, which elected
Garibaldi as its first head, and the first building it occupied was
on Jurnal street. In 1862 Garibaldi celebrates his birthday at Naum
theatre, a Galatasaray venue famous at the time. He orchestrates the
donation by the Societa of 10,000 franks and the sending of 45 volunteers
for the Italian army fighting the Prussians at the time.
One of the red shirts who arrived with Garibaldi is Doctor Gennaro Marhesi.
His uncle was Cardinal Andolfi in Naples who warned him: ‘go at once
from here, the political situation is unsafe, you’ll be arrested’, so
he went to Istanbul. Marchesi was a Mason who had a love of fine arts,
settles in Beyoglu and becomes one of the founder members of Societa.
Since he could not practice medicine in Istanbul, for a while he becomes
an arts teacher. He gets together a group of fellow artisans, who work
on the Catholic St Esprit church as well as a few Greek and Armenian
ones, in addition to the halls and rooms of the Sultan’s palaces of
Topkapı and Yıldız. He marries a Mademoiselle Guiseppina
of Beyoğlu and of their offspring, Ernesto Marchesi is the grandfather
of Ida Lepori, who gave the above information.
Today Ms Lepori lives in Levent [suburb of Istanbul] but was
born in Güneşli street in Cihangir [Eastern edge
of Beyoğlu]. Having graduated from the Italian high school,
went to the faculty of economics in Rome and a master at Neuchatel.
Today’s head of Societa Operia is Demetrio Monteverde. Monteverde cannot
be considered an old timer Italian. Born at Porta Civita Nova, he has
lived in Istanbul for 50 years. He is the son of a chemist who wanted
to establish a flower essence factory. But in those days, that is the
1940s he couldn’t get the permission to buy a still, so his dream was
Living at Kristal apartment on Firüzağa Akarsu street,
Lucia Borcic’s great-grandfather Constantino Fiorentino Rossi came at
the height of the migration from Qasalmonte. His architect son, Vittorio
Rossi, was involved in the construction of important buildings such
as the American consulate, Haydarpaşa train station [still
standing imposingly by the Bosphorus] and the Tekel tobacco building
at Adana. Rossi worked for a long time by another Italian architect
who arrived at the same period, Eduardo de Nari, and one of their most
enduring works are the now semi-ruined houses known as ‘Rossi houses’
at Galatasaray Hamalbasi street. Vittorio Rossi lived in one of these
houses himself. Rossi’s granddaughter, born in Cihangir-Siraselviler,
Lucia Borcic’s father’s side is Austrian extraction Levantine Fettel
family. Madame Lucia went to the now non-existent Italian Ivrea school
at Yeşilköy [by the airport], and later to St Pouchherie
and Sankt Georg. Her husband Emil Borcic is a Levantine of Croatian
extraction. Husband and wife are nostalgic about the old Beyoğlu
scene. ‘There was a lot happening at Societa Operia and Casa d’Italia’
and cannot forget the balls.
The Italian literary heritage
According to the archives, in 1885 in Istanbul there were 1082 Italians,
and in 1902 the number of Italian homes were 2662, giving an estimate
Aldo Baldini states that by 1939 the number of Italians in Istanbul
had reached 35,000.
With Giovanni Scognamillo we talk about his Italian research. First
he mentions Willy Sperco. Sperco is a writer and journalist, and during
the 30s and 40s works for the French Levantine papers ‘Beyoglu’ and
‘Journal d’Orient’. Occasionally he is a contributor to the paper ‘Istanbul’.
Sperco not only writes biographies of politicians of the day such as
Ataturk and Mussolini, but his best known piece is the Turing [automobille
club with a major stake in architectural restoration] published
‘When Beyoglu was Pera’. Sperco also has works on studies of Istanbul
and Istanbul Italians. The owner of the Beyoglu newspaper during that
period was Gilberto Primi.
Another important writer and researcher is Edmondo de Amics. He too
wrote a book titled ‘Istanbul’. However Amics was a writer who was not
fond of the Istanbul Levantines. Coming to the Ottoman lands in 1874,
he finds the Italian spoken here strange. He notes, ‘the Italians of
Pera speak an Italian composed of the accent of their place of origin
and the language of Istanbul. They might understand each other, but
it is difficult to communicate with them in our Italian.’ Also Alphonse
Belin describes the Italian families in his book, ‘Historie de la Latinite
We ask film critic Giovanni Scognamillo whether Italians of Turkey had
a representative in cinema. After thinking, Scognamillo says ‘yes, there
is. But one associated with cinema of the Mussolini era. His name was
Valenti, the Valentis were the oldest Italian family of Beyoğlu.
One member was a barber, the favourite of the Italian consul. Because
he held a foreign passport he had to work illegally. His son Osvaldo,
born in Istanbul, while still a child followed his mother to Italy abandoning
his father, settled in Rome, and with time became a film star. He became
one of the leading actors of Italian cinema in the 1930-40s, and his
best roles he found with director Alessandro Blasetti, films such as
‘un aventura di Salvador Rosa’ (an adventure of Salvador Rosa, 1940),
‘la corona di ferro’ (crown of iron, 1941), and such like. Later he
formed a relationship with an actress of the period, Luisa Ferida and
because he was a keen fascist, he was arrested with his lover in 1945
and killed by firing squad’.
Today the first person we think of as an Istanbul Italian is Giovanni
Scognamillo. The neighbourhood he lives in is as Italian as his name.
Scognamillo lived in Glavani apartment, between Postacılar Street
and Tomtom Captain Street.
As an old Beyoglu man he has lived in many of its corners. Asmalımescit,
Glavani Street (today Kallavi) and his current residence Postacılar
Street, all retain their Latin character. On one side the French school,
on the other the Glavani apartment and on the other the Spanish chapel.
The rich Italian who gave his name to the apartment, Glavani, in the
19th century owned two large houses on Meşrutiyet Street. One of
these he later converted to Hotel Angleterre. The street starting by
the Hotel to Istiklal [Pera] Street was once known as Glavani Street.
Italians in Anatolia
When we look at the 18th and 19th centuries, not
only Istanbul and Izmir, but cities such as Salonica, Bursa, Edirne,
Zonguldak, Kastamonu, Giresun, Trabzon, Aleppo, Damascus, Tripoli, Alexandria,
Alexandretta and Beirut, port cities of an empire spanning three continents,
have Italian communities. Also not forgetting some middle age colonies
and their trading activities. In the 15th century Bursa had
traders from Florence and Amasra had a Genoese colony.
The owner of the book-binding shop, next to the Rejans restaurant on
Emir Nevruz street in Beyoğlu, Bruno Vidoni is proud to be born
in Giresun. His father Federico Vidoni was an engineer who worked for
the council at Giresun. Vidoni’s grandfather, also an engineer, built
the former iron bridge between Yenimahalle and Yeşilköy. Father
Federico left Turkey of the enacted in 1935, number 2007, relating to
foreign residents. The Vidoni family came from Udine and Venice. Bruno
Vidoni has been binding for 50 years and has done work to the brother
of Fatih Rüştü, Prof Fuat Köprülü. He
is also a close friend of Çelik Gülersoy, the both late
Reşit Saffet Atabinen and Sait Duhani. He states local Italians
do not have important problems, and are for the most part happy, and
adds ‘us here are more genial than those in Italy, more cosmopolitan
and more poly-lingual. We all speak Turkish, Greek, French and English.
Most in Italy cannot speak these languages’.
Note: The recently late Çelik
Gülersoy has undertaken numerous restoration projects, as the
head of the Turkish Automobile Association, and has written many articles
concerning restoration and reconstruction of works to preserve the cultural
and historical assets in Istanbul. He also established an “Istanbul
Izmir had a Venetian colony in the 17th century and the districts
of Punta (Alsancak), Cordelio (Karşıyaka), Karantina, Bornova,
Buca and Urla [the site of the ancient Klazomenai, 38 km south west
of the city along the coast] are apparent as areas where Levantines
left their mark.
Today families such as Aliberti, Penetti, Petrini, Bragiotti, Mainetti,
Aliotti, Tito and Missir still live in Izmir.
Istanbul Italian chamber of commerce head, Enrico Aliotti is also from
the Izmir Aliottis. The Aliottis came to Izmir from Florence via the
island of Chios. Enrico Aliotti’s great grandfather Antonio Aliotti
was the consul for the Toskana grand-duchy. Antonio Aliotti continues
with this post till 1860, as soon a unified Italy would be founded.
Grandfather Baron Enrico Aliotti exported tobacco, cotton and figs,
with the firm of ‘Aliotti brothers’.
Enrico Aliotti’s father was a partner of the Izmir founded Oriental
carpet manufacturers (O.C.M), a firm formed by the unification of
carpet traders of Izmir, and with time became a major international
concern. As his father was sent to Tabriz as the firm’s representative
Enrico Aliotti was born in that city. Later the family moved to Beyoglu,
Istanbul and Mr Aliotti was brought up at Gianetti (today Ferah) apartment
on Hayriye – Yeniçarsi streets. Later they lived on Nuruziya
street. Enrico Aliotti went to the Garibaldi primary school on Hayriye
Mr Aliotti states that in actual fact there are three different Aliotti
families in Izmir. One centred at Punta, one in Boudjah and the other
at Cordelio, and adds, ‘we are from Cordelio’. A cousin of Enrico Aliotti
is from the main branch of the family, Ing. Enzo Alliotti living in
Rome and it is he that carries the title of Baron.
Note: Mr Enrico Aliotti informed
me that he was the president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce for
Turkey from 1988 to May 2000. By coincidence his namesake grandfather
- photo- was president of the Italian
Chamber of Commerce of Smyrna in the year 1900.
The general secretary of the Italian chamber of commerce is also an
Izmir Italian. His name is Claudio Petrini. The Petrini family came
to the Ottoman lands in the 1840s to settle in Izmir Punta. The Petrinis
are from Ancona, a city that then was part of the Papal states. Claudio
Petrini mentions that at the time there was much emigration from the
city, those who went to America were adventurous and those who went
East were more of a creative disposition. The Italian immigrants congregated
most in Punta (today’s Alsancak), and the community were mostly involved
in small businesses. Claudio Petrini’s grandfather establishes a leather
industry with the Petrini firm and its factory at Darağaç
[north Punta]. His father then participates in the war in Abyssinia
and by settling there, Claudio Petrini is born in that country.
Italians in trade
Returning again to Istanbul, we’re at Bankalar
(Banks) street in Karaköy [lower Galata]. All the stone commercial
buildings and banks from the 19th century here are the work
of Italians. In this region, where the Italians were prominent in trade
at the time, a Rinaldo Levante established an insurance company by the
name of Levante, in the post WWI period. Andriano Marinovich is retired
from this firm. The Marinoviches came from the city of Stolivo in Montenegro
to Istanbul. Stolivo at the time was a province of the Venetian republic,
so Italian was spoken there. The Marinoviches came to Istanbul with
Austrian nationality and as a middle class family sold nautical gear.
During that period, Beyoğlu – Galata was awash with mariners.
Bruno Morea, who works as a secretary at the Istanbul Italian chamber
of commerce is young representative of the remaining Istanbul Italians.
His grandfather left Torino for Istanbul when he retired from the textile
trade in the 19th century.
Guiseppe Mattalon is also an Istanbul Levantine. At the end of the last
century Mattalon was the leader in the export of silk and cloth, as
recorded in the Italian chamber of commerce that was active at the time
too. The Fernandez family export spices. The La Candela family are involved
in sowing thread and clothing, and was particularly powerful in the
Antonio Parma’s company is still based at Özbek han on Meşrutiyet
road. The Parmas were important again in the 19th century
in the importation of tea, spirits, food and tinned goods, and the firm
has been going for 120 years. While the Parma held a monopoly in the
importation of macaroni, Fernet Branca was the sole trader of Torino
vermouth. The Parmas also establish Turkey’s first macaroni factory
at Bomonti where the social security building now stands. Grandfather
Guiseppe Parma’s ‘Parma apartment’ at Tarlabaşı [the northern
edge of Pera], still stands as one of the most attractive buildings
of that district.
While wandering Beyoğlu it is possible still to encounter a few
shop keepers with Italian roots. At Yeniçarşı at Galatasaray
was the shop of Salvatore Genovesi, one of the first pressboard merchants
of Turkey, where his sons, Nikola, Salvo and Giulio used to assist.
On Aynalıçesme street in Tarlabaşı the proprietor
of the stationers, ‘Pul kırtasiye’, Angelo Teresi’s great-great
grandfather came from Sicily’s capitol of Palermo in the 1850s, as a
mariner. Giogio Casagrande is a greengrocer at Balıkpazarı
[fish market by the British consulate at Galatasaray], and
his shop he has operated for 50 years, he inherited from his father.
His great-grandfather came from Genoa in the 19th century
and worked as a carriage-man [fayton] at Feriköy. The
Casagrande family still live in Feriköy. Mr Casagrande has never
seen Italy in his life, and his son, Alessandro, carrying on his father’s
trade, is currently doing his military service at Kayseri as a military
Food and restaurant culture
It is difficult to spot a culinary culture of
Italian Levantines, separate from that of Italy, affected by the cuisine
of local Greeks, Turks and Armenians. Those from Beyoğlu would
know of the famous restaurant where it is customary to eat on Sundays.
Where the sauce of the meat is mixed in with the macaroni, often with
a bottle of Chianti. The desert is the famous panetone, a dry Christmas
cake containing raisins, orange peel and cognac. The Italians are also
keen on raw ham, named crudo, and all this from where?
The first name from the past is Degüstasyon, situated at Cité
de Pera (Çiçek pasajı), off Istiklal street,
now occupied by Gold fast food. Under the direction of Edmondo Morigi,
between 1920s to 1978, when Çiçek pasajı went to
ruin, serving mostly Italian fare, and acting as leader to the small
pubs and restaurants that later opened within this arcade. This locale
was frequented by the likes of Ahmet Haşim, Yahya Kemal, Esef Şefik,
Süleyman Nazif, Münir Nurettin Selçuk and Adnan Menderes,
as well as the name cropping up in various poems and novels.
Today there are various popular Italian restaurants in Istanbul. But
the place of Mafalda restaurant, that opened last month at Avunduk mansion
at Yeniköy, is different. The proprietor of the restaurant, Leonardo
Armanli, is the grandson of Guiseppe Carlotti, the man who the first
man-hole covers of Istanbul. At the end of the 19th century, Guiseppe
Carlotti together with Natalie Carlotti established the firm, ‘Carlotti
brothers’ in Şişli, a firm along side ‘D’Apei’ was one of
the first iron foundries of Turkey. The name of the restaurant comes
from Mr Armali’s mother Mafalda, a place decorated with furnishings
with Italy, with photographs of Izzet Kehribar [famous photographer],
and cooks from Italy.
Life style, culture and arts
When we go back a long way, we see that the first modern band was established
by Donizetti Pasha. Guiseppe
Donizetti was at the same time the head of Muzika-i Hümayun,
and lived at a house on Asmalımescit street in Beyoğlu. -
The first theatre and opera house was built in 1839 by a member of an
old Venetian family, Giustiniani. Known as the ‘French theatre’, it
was the first building open to the Ottoman public for operettas and
Another theatre in Pera was built by an Italian tight rope walker, Bosco,
in the 1940s.
It was also an Italian who formulated the modern musical notation system
in Turkey; Guido da Arezzo.
When Naum theatre was opened, its first art director was Monsieur Guatelli.
Notes: 1- There is more information
on the opera houses of Bosco, and its continuation, Michael Naum’s in
2- There is an online synopsis of an article, published in the Feb.
2006 edition of the Skylife magazine (THY inflight), that highlights
some of the ‘cavalcade
of stars’, leading theater actresses who performed in the various
venues in Pera, adding to the cultural vibrancy of the city of the time.
It is known that in those days, Pera had many Italian entertainment
establishments, such as Croissant, Odeon and on Linardi (today Eski
çiçekçi) street, Concordia.
Rosario Nava is the man who brought music to civilian society, who studied
music composition at St. Marcello conservatory and with time became
a musical director. Nava composed a symphonic concerto for the first
time in 1895 and in 1901, in memory of Guiseppe Verdi, published his
work titled, ‘history of music at Constantinople’. Rosario Nava also
acted as director of the influential club, Societa Musicale.
During the same period the daughter of lawyer Enrico Furlani, is a pianist
and has many compositions, with the Toccata, receiving wide acclaim.
Mademoiselle Furlani worked as a concert pianist at Paris University.
She’s particularly well received at Trard Salle, and her works ‘Spanish
serenade’ and ‘Turkish rhapsody’ become famous in Istanbul.
The violinist Centola, who composed elegant pieces, received his training
at St. Pietro conservatory at Maiella, and completed his masters at
Berlin. He later works with the Naples quartet and as part of a tour
visits Istanbul. He then settles in the city and opens a music school.
There is also sister Ciciriello during the same period, who starts church
music in Istanbul. Cicirello founds a women’s choir and is also the
organ player at the Istanbul catholic St. Esprit church.
In the later republic years, there aren’t any prominent musicians, but
in the 1940s and 50s there is Maggi, the pianist at the Park hotel,
and the orchestra chef at Ses theatre. Maggi lived at Nuruziya street
and was the arranger of local jazz and tango songs.
In the 1960s another Italian musician, Taki Cenerini, comes into prominence.
Cenerini is an accordion virtuosi, the son of a barber, but as an Italian
national, without the right to work. The gazinos [music halls] of the
time did not ask for papers, so from an early age Cenerini gained experience
at these venues. He became more noticed in the 1950s at Istanbul radio
and in the 60s with his programmes at Hilton hotel. In these programmes
he is accompanied by a two man band.
In the 1980s, the Izmir Levantine Maria Rita Epik, breaks new ground
in Turkey by being the first woman to write, compose and sing songs
with a feminist undertone.
In fine arts, the big names are Fausto Zonaro, Amadeo
Preziosi and Giovanni Brindesi [and Leonardo De Mango (1843-1930)].
The Malta born Preziosi came to Istanbul in the 1840s and lived with
his Greek wife and three daughters and a son on Hamalbaşı
street, situated between Meşrutiyet and Tarlabaşı streets.
Since his paintings were bought by foreign tourists as souvenirs, most
of his works are now abroad. Preziosi worked with a mixture of pen,
ink and watercolour.
Fausto Zonaro, came from the town of Masi in 1891 to Istanbul, and his
works are a mirror of the city at the time. With time he is recognised
by the Sultan Abdülhamit II, who then decorates him with ‘ressam-i
hazret-i sehriyari’, and a studio for his use is provided for at Beşiktaş
Akaretler. He worked as an astute observer of the city, influenced heavily
his students, Mihri Müşvik and Celile hanım (mother of
the poet Nazım
Hikmet), and lived in a wooden house near Taksim.
Then there is Giovanni Brindesi, the Italian artist who depicted in
his works the daily life and the historical atmosphere of Istanbul.
He arrives in Istanbul in 1850 and for 17 years lives at Yeniçarşı
street at Galatasaray.
Brindesi publishes his collected works in two albums. The first in 1856,
shows the uniforms of state officials during the reign of Mahmut II,
titled ‘Elbisei Atika, les anciens costumes, musée des costumes
turcs de Constantinople’. His second album, ‘souvenir de Constantinople’
published in 1860 depicts the daily life in Istanbul and its pleasurable
pastimes. This second album includes subjects such as the sweet sellers
in front of Galata tower, concubines and female servants at the harem,
ladies at Göksu, Turkish flute player at the cemetery, all done
in colour etchings. Original portions of these albums can be found in
Topkapi palace museum and Istanbul university library.
Apart from these acclaimed artists, we can count the artists Salvatore
Valeri and one worked in Indian ink, Lina Gabuzzi.
In the architectural field the Italians left a profound mark on Istanbul.
From the 1850s onwards the regenerated quarters of Galata, Karaköy,
Beyoğlu, Harbiye, Nişantaşı, Eminönü and
Tahtakale, are all doted with large buildings, mosques, churches designed
by Italians or Italian Levantines. Amongst the most important are, Palazzo
Corpi (later the American embassy), Prussian embassy (today the Doğan
apartment), the Dutch and Russian consulates (Fossati brothers), Karaköy
palas, Maçka palas, the former Italian legation, Majik cinema
(today Taksim stage - Mongeri), Saray cinema (Barborini), Hanif han
(Perpignani), Italian hospital (Stampa brothers), Botter
apartments [D’aronco 1900 for J. Botter, Abdülhamit’s Dutch
tailor, considered to be the most important Art Nouveau style in the
city], library and fountain of Seyh Zafir at Beşiktaş, the
fire destroyed trade sciences academy at Sultanahmet (D’aronco), and
Antoine church (Mongeri - 1906).
Amongst the most prominent of these architects are Raimondo
D’aronco, Giulio Mongeri and the Swiss Italian brothers Guiseppe
Raimondo D’aronco from Udine was with the select group of Stille Florale
at Venice, and was at the forefront of the art
nouveau movement in Turkey. D’aronco is considered the most prominent
architect of this style in Istanbul history.
Istanbul born Giulio Mongeri is considered the vanguard of Turkish national
architectural style. He reflects on his architectural edifices, changes
in Turkish cultural environment. If we consider his works in three different
phases, these are Italian influenced select, Ottoman revival and modern
periods. In this last category we can include his private residence
at Nişantaşı (today Güzelbahçe clinic) and
the famous Çelik Palace hotel at Bursa.
Considering the Fossati brothers, of these Gaspare Trajano received
in 1836 the ‘palace architect’ decoration in St Petersburg and was then
sent to Istanbul to build the Russian embassy. He worked with an extensive
team of Italian artisans including his younger brother Guiseppe and
local craftsmen. He was supported by and with the resonance he received
with his Russian embassy commission, was involved in more that fifty
projects afterwards. He thus had an important contribution in the regeneration
of Istanbul. Amongst his important works are the restoration of Hagia
Sophia, the burnt Naum theatre and the coastal palace of Reşit
Pasha (today the Baltalimanı bone hospital).
With Reşit Pasha palace and other stone palaces along the Bosphorus,
Fossatis start a period when foreign and Levantine architects achieve
prominence. Other important Istanbul architects are Eduardo de Nari,
Istanbul born Giorgio Domenico and Ercole Stampa brothers, Giacomo Leone
and Salvatore Fleri.
In Istanbul many streets, squares and arcades particularly in Beyoğlu
and Galata carry Italian characteristics. Amongst the most striking
examples are Tomtom Kaptan street, Postacılar street, Hayriye road,
Faik Paşa street, Aslanyatağı street and surroundings
in Cihangir, Tünel arcade, General Yazgan street, Sofyalı
street, the surroundings of Galata Sahkulu, Kule square, Lüleci
Hendek street, Serdar-I Ekrem street, Voyvoda street, Aynalıçesme
road and Bankacılar road.
We ask Consul-general Giulio Tonini. Are there no documents concerning
the architecture, culture and lifestyle of these areas? Could there
be an institute for the preservation of buildings lived in by Italians,
a pilot region encompassing perhaps a street or a neighbourhood? While
interviewing the respectful consul-general we realise he hasn’t realised
all these possibilities. However there are some ongoing projects. For
example the Italian
consulate summer residence at Tarabya built by D’aronco, is being
restored. A project under consideration is the restoration of the Podesta
building at Galata Voyvoda street.
An Italian pharmacist: Faik pasha
Coming from a poor family background, Francesco Della Suda, following
his mother’s death, comes to Istanbul in 1826, and is placed in an orphanage.
Works as a junior assistant in a chemists, followed by pharmacists’
assistant at Maltepe military hospital. Francesco later enters the Mektep’i
Tibbiye pharmacy exam and graduates as a military pharmacist. During
the Crimean war he shows great effort to ensure the military hospitals
are adequately supplied with medicines and medical materials. Della
Suda also participates in international exhibitions at London, Paris
and Istanbul, with Ottoman medicine collections and receives medals.
Because of his achievements in the field of pharmacy, he receives the
titles of ‘army central pharmacy manager’, ‘state head pharmacist’ and
in 1859 ‘pasha’. Della Suda is then known as ‘Faik Pasha’. He is amongst
the founder members of cemiyet-i eczacıyan der asitane-I aliyye
(sociéte de pharmacie de Constantinople) and cemiyet-i tibbiye-i
sahane (sociéte impériale de medicine de Constantinople),
and Faik Pasha becomes the first Ottoman member of pharmacie de Paris
(today académie national de pharmacie). The pharmacy he opens
on Beyoğlu Pera street in 1849, ‘grand pharmacie Della Suda’ is
amongst the first chemists of Istanbul.
Faik Pasha also gave his name to a street in Çukurcuma [between
Pera and Cihangir], an area still retaining its Italian character.
As Italian institutions in Istanbul, there is the Italian cultural centre,
Societa operia Italiana (Italian workers’ solidarity association), Ospedale
Italiano (Italian hospital), Italian high school and Italian girls’
The Italian cultural centre has been active since 1951. Before this
date the Italian community used this as their own cultural centre as
‘Societa Italiano’. There are currently more than 12 thousand books
at the library of the cultural centre. The centre also has a tourism
bureau, cinema and theatre shows, conferences and language courses allowing
many people to learn the language for a long time.
The same building known as Casa d’Italia, also serves the Italian chamber
of commerce and the Societa Italiana di Beneficenza (Italian beneficiary
The Italian high school situated on Beyoğlu Tomtom Kaptan
street since 1919, has graduated 3,500 students since its inception
in 1888. Today the school instructs 500 students of mixed gender. The
Italian girls secondary school is still functioning at Galatasaray Tornacıbaşı
street and was opened by Giannina Macchi in 1870 as a nursery,
primary and secondary school.
As for the Italian hospital (Ospedale Italiano), this institution was
commissioned to two architect brothers Giorgio Demenico and Ercole Stampa,
by king Vittorio Emanuele II in 1876, and is situated at Tophane Defterdar
yokuşu [road leading from Cihangir to the Bosphorus].
The functioning hospital with 70 beds is served by 11 Italian nuns,
acting as nurses. The hospital has a mixture of Armenian, Greek and
Turkish doctors, but no Italian doctors anymore. The hospital doesn’t
accept emergencies, and is a specialist in hand and micro-surgery.
Note: The hospital became a private
clinic in early 2000, and the nuns left for good. For further details
there is a web
site in French.
Until the 19th century the place of burials was at Tepebaşı
[western edge of Pera] petit champs de mord, latin cemetery (today the
location of the exhibition centre of Tüyap) and since
then the community has been using the Feriköy catholic cemetery,
to where some of the headstones from the earlier cemetery were moved
Italians as fellow Mediterranean people helped Turks forge the first
cultural bridges to Europe, as they were the first Europeans living
with them. In the past, Italians helped the Turks to ease their transition
to achieve a modern urban society. There has never been a snob value
attached to speaking Italian in Turkey or using Italian words when speaking
Turkish. Many slang or mainstream words in Turkish have Italian origin,
such as the word ‘lokanta’ for restaurant. This is a small measure of
the foundation of Italians’ Levantine heritage on this land.
Notes: The above passage
is a translation of a web
site that is almost unique in dealing with Levantine achievements,
originally published in the ‘art of living’ magazine.
From the Turkish / Italian web
site, we are informed that the Italian cultural centre is situated
within the historic ‘Casa d’Italia’ building that served as the consulate
of Sardinia from 1823. With the unification of Italy, the building was
restored by the architect Alessandro Bresci in 1867 and till 1919 was
used as the Italian embassy. When Count Sforza got back the Venetian
palace from the Austrians [part of war reperations?] the Italian embassy
moved there. After 1919 ‘Casa d’Italia’ was given to the Italian colony
for their use and in 1951 became the home of the newly founded Italian
cultural centre. The building also houses the Italian chamber of commerce,
the Rome club and a private theatre.
There is an active ‘Italian archaeological mission to Turkey’ and its
work can be viewed in an excellent multi-lingual web site here.
The online chapter 1 of Book, ‘Constantinople
- City of the world’s desire - Philip Mansel’, has a good account
of the dynamics of the early Ottoman Empire and of the Ottoman sultan’s
policy of encouraging Frankish settlement in his capital, and how he
played Florence against Venice to his advantage, and the story of the
establishment of Galata’s merchant dynasties - the Testa, Draperis,
Istanbul born and resident Hakkı Sabancalı is a professional
writer and illustrator. Between 1994-96 he was the director of the ‘Yaşamasanatı’
(Art of living) magazine, a publication dedicated to the research of
subjects ranging from the history of various streets, personal profiles
of characters, and sites of interest within Istanbul. Published articles
also included the analysis of various communities within the city, such
as immigrants from Salonica, or Italian-Levantines, built up through
interviews. Between 1996-98 Mr Sabancalı had a regular column in
the ‘Beyoğlu’ magazine where the streets of Tarlabaşı
[a lower class peripheral neighbourhood of Beyoğlu] were examined
in a historic light. In the same period (1996-99) Mr Sabancalı
had research articles published in 3 different magazines (all part of
the Hürriyet group), 2 articles in the Istanbul special issue of
the ‘Atlas’ magazine, an article on the Istanbul Italians in the ‘Amica’
magazine, and as a monthly contributor to the ‘Istanbul life’ magazine,
writings covering subjects such as the Levantine and foreign architects
of the city at the start of the 20th century, and minority cultures
of the city. He acted as the advisor to the TV documentary ‘Beyoğlu’
(broadcast in 1999 by TRT2) that won the ‘Vitali Hakko’ prize. Between
1998-2000 in the Istanbul supplement of the Hürriyet newspaper,
Mr Sabancalı had articles published covering the streets of Pera
and various personalities - an on-line example
in Turkish. In 2001 Mr Sabancalı researched the heritage of French
Levantines of Istanbul, however the resulting article has still not
been published. In 2004 he had the ‘Istanbul Kültür Atlası’
[Istanbul Cultural Atlas] published, a book supported by the Istanbul
municipal council within the context of the ‘kentim Istanbul’ [my city
Istanbul] project. Also last year, Mr Sabancalı hosted a TV documentary
‘Kent ve kültür’ [city and culture] where the streets of Pera
were explored, broadcast on TRT2.