Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello was born in Florence in 1906. His American mother, Romeyne Robert, and the English nannies who took care of him when he was young introduced him to the anglophone culture. He first travelled to the USA with his grandmother in 1922. After completing his studies in Law in Rome, in 1930 he went back to the States and started working at Yale University as language assistant for the Italian Department. This first employment marked the beginning of his involvement in the promotion of Italy and its culture overseas. Besides teaching at Yale, between 1930 and 1936 Ranieri taught at the Italian Summer School of Middlebury College (Vermont), wrote for Il Corriere del Connecticut and Il Progresso Italo-Americano, became managing editor of Italy-America Review, and joined the editorial staff of Giornalino published by Casa Italiana (after meeting Giuseppe Prezzolini, who was back then Professor at Columbia University and director of Casa Italiana). Moreover, Ranieri attended and held conferences on Italian culture, history, and literature in many North American cities.
In 1936 Ranieri went back to Rome, where he started to work for the Italian Ministry of Culture. At the end of WWII, during which he had fought alongside the Anglo-American army, Ranieri resumed his commitment as cultural promoter and travelled back to the States. As a functionary of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1952 he was appointed cultural attaché at the Italian Embassy in Washington, and he was put in charge of the cultural office of the Consulate General of Italy in New York, laying the foundation of what was to become the Italian Cultural Institute years later. In 1953, Ranieri founded The Italian Scene, a monthly bulletin in English which presented Italian events, news, history, literature and curiosity. It was intended for communication and education professionals in cultural institutes, universities, schools, libraries, and cultural associations. The periodical turned out to be a success, which explains why, after a brief stop in 1957 due to his going back to Italy, in 1958 Ranieri resumed its publication in Rome. Besides working tirelessly on The Italian Scene, since 1954 Ranieri oversaw the restoration of Meucci and Garibaldi’s residence on Staten Island into a museum, The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. Moreover, he conducted a press campaign to entitle the new bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island to the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who had navigated the river Hudson a hundred years before Harry Hudson did (after whom the river was named). Ranieri’s campaign was successful: on November 21, 1964, the bridge was officially inaugurated as Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Another project Ranieri carried out on behalf of the Ministry was the creation of a literary audio-anthology in collaboration with the national archive of sounds, Discoteca di Stato in Rome. Voci dalla terra del “sì”, that is the name of the record, presents Italian excerpts of texts by a range of authors going from Saint Francis of Assisi to Umberto Saba, read by Riccardo Paladini and Maria Jacch. The vinyl which was out of commerce was offered as a gift to the members of the American Association Teachers of Italian (AATI).
Later in the sixties, Ranieri travelled extensively to the USA to attend conferences and hold lecture tours specifically for events such as the centenary of Italian Unification (1961), the seventh centenary of the birth of Dante in 1965 (his speech at San José State College on that occasion was broadcast on the radio), and the HemisFair Universal Exposition in San Antonio, Texas. He helped organize the Italian pavilion and curated the brochure Half a Millennium of Italian Presence in America. Ranieri’s commitment to promote Italian culture abroad and build a bridge across the Atlantic to connect the United States to Italy continued until his death in 1969. Even nowadays, the Fondazione Ranieri di Sorbello (Perugia, Italy) and the Romeyne Robert and Uguccione Ranieri Foundation (USA) promote research in the field of political, historical, economic and cultural relationship between Italy and the USA (through the Romeyne Robert and Uguccione Ranieri Fellowship Grant).
The Italian Scene
Bulletin of Cultural Information
Writer, literary critic, academic, journalist, publisher
Croci, Cristiano. "Uguccione Ranieri and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge." (February 2018) http://www.sorbellofoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Uguccione-and-the-Verrazano-Narrows-Bridge.pdf
Freeman, Steven A. The Middlebury College Foreign Language Schools, 1915-1970: The Story of a Unique Idea. Vermont: Middlebury College Press, 1972.
Fondazione Ranieri. “Notizie biografiche di Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello.” Last accessed February 8, 2022, http://www.fondazioneranieri.org/it/la-fondazione/notizie-biografiche-di-uguccione-ranieri-di-sorbello/
Ruggero, Ranieri. "The Life and Work of a Cosmopolitan Intellectual: Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello (1906-1969)." Perusia. Rivista del Dipartimento di culture comparate dell’Università per Stranieri di Perugia, no. 2 (2006): 7-14.
San Francisco Foghorn. “Di Sorbello Talk. SEC lecture fetes Dante centennial.” San Francisco Foghorn, vol. 60 no. 2 (1965): 5. https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.31074793
Sorbello Foundation. “Uguccione Virtual Exhibition.” Last accessed February 10, 2022, https://www.sorbellofoundation.org/uguccione-virtual-exhibition/
Sorbello Foundation. “Uguccione Sorbello.” Last accessed February 10, 2022, https://www.sorbellofoundation.org/uguccione-v/
Valoroso, Antonella and Ruggero Ranieri. Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello. Un intellettuale tra due mondi. Perugia: Morlacchi Editore, 2019.