How many Italies and how many Italians…

  Sometimes, during our Classes, we use Italian songs as props to stimulate our brains and discuss Italian topics which are at the heart of Italian life. In fact, songs such as ‘Inno nazionale’ (Italian anthem) written by the singer-songwriter Luca Carboni and ‘Italiano vero’, written by the singer-songwriter Toto Cotugno, are ironically denouncing situations which have their origins very deeply rooted in Italian history. 

Those who have travelled a little bit around Italy can easily understand what Luca Carboni means when he sings: ‘Tu sei troppo siciliano egli è troppo calabrese, voi (siete) troppo molisanie noi siamo troppo chiusi … abbiamo sempre troppi confini’ (you are too Sicilian, he’s too Calabrian, you are too Molisan and we are too closed off … we always have to many borders). From another perspective, but also singing on the same subject Toto Cotugno says that Italians have their national flag at the dry cleaner’s… In a few lines these two singers have brought up a very important Italian feature and issue, the so called Campanilismo. Campanilismo is the Italian belief that what matters is what one can see from the bell tower (campanile) of their local church. I should say that this is a sociological concept and not many Italians are aware of this term and its definition and not all Italians know exactly where the local church is… but it doesn’t make it untrue. 

What Luca Carboni is highlighting in his song is the Italian fragmentation in an endless amount of local realities in which Italians identify themselves. Italian borders are, in fact, not only between Italy and other states such as France, Switzerland, Austria and so on, but between Italian regions and, sometimes, between Italian towns and their peoples. There are a couple of sayings in Italian which make crystal clear how thick these borders are. The first one is from Genova (Genoa): ‘Meglio un morto in casa che un pisano alla porta’ (it’s better to have a death in the house than a Pisanat the door). The second is from Siena and says: ‘A Firenze anche il vento soffia male’ (in Florence the wind is bad, too). We must remember that Italy was divided into many city states which were frequently at war with each other until 1861 when Italian unification took place. Thus, many of these local jealousies, grievances and feuds remain an active part of contemporary Italian life. On the other hand, as a result of this phenomenon, we also have a wonderful variety of bread, cheese, pasta and local products so different from one locality to another and in which each townprides itself. 

This is why Toto Cotugno reminds us that our national flag is at the dry cleaner’s… with our nationalism.

Sometimes, it seems that the Italian Risorgimento with his heroes and martyrs and the unification achieved by Garibaldi and king Vittorio Emanuele II in 1861 never took place… but when the Azzurri (the Italian soccer team) are playing in the World Cup, then our flags are all out on our balconies!





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