Francesco Paolo Ducci
Francesco Paolo Ducci spent his early years in a culturally stimulating environment, thanks to the circle of intellectuals and artists which his father, Domenico Antonio, patron, art collector, and great traveler, created around himself. He moved to Naples in 1919, at that time a cosmopolitan metropolis, fleeing what he called “the static and conservative mentality of the beautiful Tuscan province.”
The eclecticism of interests resulting from this environment led Francesco Paolo to neglect formal studies, despite the private tutors whom his father entrusted to educate him carefully. Painting, military modeling, and reading Italian and foreign fiction were, in fact, his main occupations.
The widespread idealism of that time, strengthened by Italy’s involvement in World War I, coalesced with his natural sense of adventure and desire for knowledge, leading him to decide, regardless of his father’s wishes, to suspend his course of studies and set out for Africa as a volunteer at a very young age in 1941, whence he would return only in 1946. The long imprisonment to which he was subjected (1943-1946) took a heavy toll on him, leading to a forced maturation.
Thanks to a series of favourable circumstances facilitated in part by his father, during the last year of his imprisonment he was moved to Cairo where he was assigned the duties of a librarian. He carried out these tasks with great passion, thus continuing his previously suspended studies.
Upon his return to Naples as an adult, Mr. Ducci earned his high school diploma and then continued his education in law school. Furthermore, he reconnected with his Tuscan roots, where his father would exclusively entrust him with the care of his family responsibilities, starting in the early ‘50’s. He also had the opportunity to get in touch with the cultural environments of Florence and Siena. In these areas, and especially in the Chianti region, a newly settled grouping of foreign intellectuals, mainly British and French, was gaining international prominence after the war.
Most importantly, a major turning point in his life, also in a cultural sense, occurred when in the late ‘40’s in a Naples still war-torn yet eager for redemption, he met at one of the first great social events of the time a very young Neapolitan aristocratic, Annamaria Ferraro di Silvi e Castiglione.
Annamaria Ferraro di Castiglione
Annamaria was of ancient Neapolitan lineage, linked to the Bourbon court, which included several eminent jurists. She spent her adolescence in the terrible years of World War II.
Her father, Edmondo, lived during the magical time of the cultural and mundane period of Naples between the two world wars – from the Dandyism of the ‘20’s to those ‘30’s which thanks to French, British, and American influences marked the most international phase of the city. He was already a master of ceremonies in the cultural scene of the city, he was a friend of Farouk of Egypt and of many other personalities who established their residence in Naples or had been based there for an extensive period of time. Annamaria’s mother, Giuseppina di Mirabella, who was educated at the exclusive upper-class school at Poggio Imperiale in Florence (also attended in the same years by the girls of the House of Savoy), was an extraordinary beauty but bashful and introverted (she rejected one after the other many highly qualified suitors). She met Edmondo and they got married when they were both over thirty.
Edmondo, a liberal spirit, would never adhere to fascism and such an ideological stance would leave a significant mark on the development of the young Annamaria.
The bombings of Naples which began in 1943 became increasingly persistent. The family was forced to leave the city apartment and take refuge in the countryside at the family properties in Gragnano. Annamaria, however young, was already showing her resourcefulness and her sense of initiative. She organized the family ménage and coordinated the work of gardeners, without neglecting what most fascinated her: literature and especially poetry. Her early compositions in rhyme were written in this period.
The return to Naples in 1946 and the resumption of her studies did not restrain her but rather enlivened her passion. The meetings with some Neapolitan intellectuals and family friends encouraged her to focus even more intensively on her studies. It is precisely in those years that she discovered her interest in art, especially classical art. Nevertheless, she did not fail to devote herself, together with her parents, to acts of solidarity towards the people most affected by the outcome of the war.
Francesco Paolo and Annamaria: their life together
Francesco Paolo began an intense process of self-reflection and cultural maturation with Annamaria – especially thanks to her. This would lead him to an organic review of his past experiences and to take a new life path, while honouring his personal history and valuing his personal inclinations.
In this period, he got in touch with the literary and intellectual environments of a vibrant Naples ruled by a new political class more interested in property speculatio rather than the rebirth of the city. Naples was hardly able to reassert itself as the international and cultural capital it was before World War II.
In the late ’50’s, the young couple, delighted by the birth of their first two children, Domenico and Paolo (Daniela will be born later), decided to purchase a pied-à-terre in Rome, in Via XX Settembre, where, while continuing to usually reside in Naples, they spent long periods.
This represented a major breakthrough in the ménage of Francesco Paolo and Annamaria, because it allowed them to significantly broaden their cultural horizons. The infinite charm of Rome’s ‘dolce vita,’ the internationality of the capital, and the vitality of its intellectual circles fascinated them and both remained completely captivated by it.
Their contacts with the international community of Rome stimulated the curiosity and interest of the young couple for other cultures and beginning in the mid-Sixties, they embarked on their season of travels, which lasted for almost their entire lives. First, Europe and the Mediterranean region: France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia; then the ancient civilizations: Greece, Turkey, and Egypt; furthermore, the reality of the iron curtain: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia; and finally North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
Their style of travel resembled that of the explorers of the 1800’s rather than tourism in its contemporary sense. In fact, in that period contemporary tourism did not even exist yet, at least for Italians. The pursuit of knowledge, contact with the native people, and in-depth analysis of the most obscure and hidden cultural aspects characterized their tours. Meanwhile, Francesco Paolo developed another passion: the art of cooking. Thus, their trips provided him with a great opportunity to pursue this passion.
Then the ‘70’s and ‘80’s saw Francesco Paolo and Annamaria moving towards non-European continents: from Thailand to Australia and New Zealand, from Indonesia to Alaska and the Pacific, they covered the length and breadth of these countries, and then to Japan where they were fascinated by the diverse and profound reality of the country and therefore decided to spend an entire month there.
However, in 1973 something significant happened in their lives. Francesco Paolo and Annamaria moved their residence in Rome to Parioli, on Via Ruggero Fauro.
The cultural salon of Fauro Street
In their new apartment in Parioli, which Annamaria renovated and furnished herself taking into account the need for a space to accommodate friends, the couple intended to gather leaders of culture, art, politics and diplomacy. Soon, a new addition to the “project” entered the scene: Alba, an exceptional cook, who would leave her mark on Roman society.
Starting in the late ’70’s, Francesco Paolo and Annamaria opened their Roman residence to artists and, with the help of the Hungarian painter Eva Varsányi, who had long been living in Rome, they hosted a series of exhibitions of young painters, mainly foreigners.
The relationships established with the directors of several academies in Rome, in particular the French Academy, allowed them to come into contact not only with the artists based in the city (some of them were invited to exhibit their works in via Fauro) and with the intellectual world, but especially with the great “culture makers” who animated the cultural life of the capital of the ’80’s.
Francesco Paolo and Annamaria stayed regularly in Rome from Thursday to Sunday of every week. This allowed them to enjoy the Roman cultural life and at the same time be a source of ideas and opinions, without cutting off ties with Naples.
Meanwhile, usually on Thursday evenings, the social gathering hosted prominent intellectual representatives of society and the cultural world, and many others participated starting in the early ‘80’s. The cultural gathering of via Fauro brought together ministers, diplomats, writers, journalists, art critics, museum directors, generals, cardinals, artists, musicians, politicians, and businessmen.
Annamaria, who continued to deepen her passion for art of the XVII and XVIII centuries, published some articles about Neapolitan paintings of that period, but she did not abandon her primary passion for poetry and encouraged young poets, also supporting them financially.
Francesco Paolo, who had always been a Europeanist, strengthened his convictions about the need for a rapid but thorough integration process for the countries of the Old Continent. He also began to show interest in helping the development of Third World countries, with the ultimate aim of fostering dialogue between different cultures. He started to collaborate with the activities of a number of companies operating in the field of cooperation, including the Italian Institute for Development and International Cooperation, becoming a member of the Board of Directors.
Meanwhile, in 1989, returning from a long period abroad, their eldest son Paolo, a career diplomat, also enthusiastically took part in the organization of the social gathering and gave his own contribution, broadening the range of subject matters and the type of guests in order to bring new and exciting content to the discussion. Many foreigners, in fact, included as part of their Italian tour a visit to the cultural gathering of the Ducci house.
The activity continued to intensify, thus increasig the fame of the social gathering. The years from 1989 to 1994 were actually considered as its most fruitful and vital period, both for the variety of guests and for the presence of some very important personalities. Only Francesco Paolo’s illness, and the simultaneous departure of Paolo to Germany, slowed down the pace of the meetings and the banquets. The worsening conditions of Francesco Paolo and his death in May 1996 seemed to close the curtain permanently on the Ducci cultural gathering and on its lively and versatile activities.
Annamaria, after several months of dismay, reacted with her well-known strength of will. First, she traveled on a few trips, conducting cultural tours in Europe. Then, she completely renovated the apartment on via Fauro, intending to reopen the social gathering. Thanks to the support of some of her closest friends, in early 1998 the cultural gathering in via Fauro was brought to life again. However, unexpectedly, in early June, Annamaria was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. Subsequently, after a few days in a coma, on June 5th, she passed away.
The Birth Of The Ducci Foundation
Following the unexpected loss of his parents with whom he had established a relationship of true and deep friendship and complicity, Paolo declined carrying out a second foreign mission after being posted to Köln, and decided to return to Italy both to reorganize the patrimonial assets of the family and to find his serenity again after two serious bereavements.
As a result, Paolo decided that honoring the memory of the cultural and social commitment of his parents would become one of his most important priorities. Mindful of the successes of the social gathering of Via Fauro and and because of the many memories linked to the apartment, Paolo decided to leave it permanently. He was motivated by the guests of his parents, who had shown great feelings of friendship and respect, to explore what had been considered as a possibility in the past by his parents: some form of institutionalization of the cultural gathering, but in a different framework and perhaps in a way more compatible with his professional activities.
It is from this perspective that Paolo decided to found in October 1999, in memory of his parents’ cultural and social commitment, the “Francesco Paolo and Annamaria Ducci Foundation,” with the intention to work in the socio-economic, scientific, cultural, and artistic fields, as well as in historical-political research. This plan intends to promote the spirit of the Renaissance, which reached its highest point in Italy. The affirmation of the European common heritage of thought and creativity represents the core mission of the Ducci Foundation. This goal is significant especially today, as the phenomenon of globalization is challenging the notion of independent ideas and the intellectual and emotional qualities of the individual.
The research and comparative in-depth analysis of the themes in the above-mentioned fields regarding the sphere of the European continent, are the themes most applicable to international relations and historical development which help to promote the events and moments of reflection with the intention of encouraging the circulation and the comparison of the different souls of the European culture in its many forms. The Foundation works to achieve its objectives through a process of enlargement and integration of the institutional reality that, does not abandon, but praises the diversity that these themes represent.
Particularly aware of the significant changes emerging in today’s society, with special regard to the serious demographic, nutritional, ecological, and environmental issues affecting the world, the “Francesco Paolo and Annamaria Ducci Foundation” intends to pursue its objective within the framework of a harmonious development of different religious, philosophical, and ideological movements. Above all, the Foundation aims to bridge the rift between humanistic and technical sciences, with particular attention to the dialogue between the most important world cultures, as well as the recovery of the threatened civilizations and to the contribution that the EU can provide to the economic and social advancement of the countries of Eastern Europe and of the Third World with respect for their cultural identity.