Today I will talk about how it feels to be Italian.
I will not talk about the origins of the country but I will quickly introduce how Italy has become the country we know today.
Italy has had a tremendous amount of external influence when the country was on the stage of evolving itself for the past 2500 years. Alongside the early Italic cultures there were other ethnicities such as the Etruscan Civilisation in central Italy, Celts in northern Italy and Greek colonies in the south flourished during 8th to 5th centuries BC. We finally have the arrival of the Romans, one of the greatest Civilisation that has had a massive impact in the society we know today. They were great conquerors, they built numerous cities and roads, they created intrigued sewage systems, they invented the “Roman Baths”, had a massive impact in seeding the land and collecting the harvest to restock the Empire and much more.
Poor Romans, as always, all the good things come to an end soon or later. They were not expecting the arrival of the Goths and the territory the Romans have conquered was way to massive to manage back then (remember, there were not mobile phones or emails available). That is officially the decline and collapse of the Western Empire. Soon after it was divided between several barbarian kingdoms, and did not reunite under a single ruler until thirteen centuries later.
After that, we had a tremendous amount of events during the Middle Ages (or Dark Ages) that have happening all over the territory such as:
- In 756 Frankish forces defeated the Lombards and gave the Papacy legal authority over much of central Italy, thus establishing the Papal States.
- In 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the Pope in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
- Different invasions to the territory by the Arabs. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061.
- The turn of the millennium marked the end of the darkest period of Italian history.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Italy developed a peculiar political pattern, significantly different from feudal Europe north of the Alps. As no dominant powers emerged as they did in other parts of Europe, the oligarchic city-state became the prevalent form of government. Keeping both direct Church control and Imperial power at arms length, the many independent city states prospered through commerce, based on early capitalist principles ultimately creating the conditions for the artistic and intellectual changes produced by the Renaissance.
The Renaissance has been one of the most important periods in Italy. Renaissance has a deep consideration of the arts, architecture, literature, science, historiography and political theory influenced all of Europe. It has been an essential part of what has made the country we have today and still a lot of evidence supporting those times is present in an everyday Italian person that still lives on a Medieval village.
Already from the 13th Century, we can see from the map how the first “countries” were evolving. We can already see some famous cities being present back at the time. Most of the cities are still erected today and It would be great to go and visit them.
After that, we had other several factors that have influenced our cultural background such as:
- The Italian Wars – 1494 to 1559
- Increase of Spanish influence over the Peninsula, as well as of the power of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church – 17th Century
- The War of the Spanish Succession – 1701 to 1714
- The age of Napoleon
- Unification – 1814 to 1861
- Liberal Italy -1861 to 1922
- World War I
- Fascist Italy, World War II and Civil War -1922 to 1946
- Italian Republic – 1946 to present
Finally this “short” explanation on how the country came to be has come to an end. I guess it seems very tricky to follow if you think that other European Countries such as the United Kingdom and France had a less dramatic past (still they had their drama).
The question I am asking myself is how all this is affecting my social and cultural background and how other Italians see this issue? Is there any difference if you are born on the North of the country or the South? Is that still affecting the relation Italians have with each other?
Well, I guess so. I don’t mean it in a bad way, it’s just the way we are brought up. We need to remember and understand what we were before our country was unified. Each country-state had their own language, their own food, habits, music and traditions. Let’s take Venice as an example.
If I go to Venice , I will still be able to hear the ancient Venetian language ( Veneto’s dialect ). In Venice you will have particular food and architecture that you will not be able to find elsewhere but there. Traditions and costumes are very different compared to what people from Napoli would have. You will find the same differences as well in all the major cities which have kept their background intact through the years (such as Milan, Florence, Siena, Genoa, Rome, Bari, Palermo, etc.).
The reality today is that after the year 1861, all these mixed cultures had the chance to merge and become what is today known as Italy. Today we all speak the common language, Italian (coming from the Tuscany Dialect), we appreciate the same food and wine and we are definitely more united than 156 years ago. It will happen from time to time to joke about one’s original location before the unification and I am glad we reach the maturity point where my fellows Italians just don’t get upset about it.
Apart from some rich cultural background check, I am proud of having an Italian heritage.
I must confess, I will never get tired of enjoying the natural landscapes, the medieval villages, to enjoy the weather and the food. I guess I would need an extra 3 life times in order to explore all the territory properly but I still appreciate what I have seen so far.
I truly hope this article will be able to give some insight to you, Reader.
Hopefully when you will go to Italy next time, you will appreciate more its rich historical and cultural background.