d’Italia, l’Italia s’e desta, dell’elmo di Scipio, s’e cinta la testa. That’s all I knew by heart. I also could not identify the precise year Italy
was united. (Yes, I know what you are thinking). Now I can, because on occasion
of the 150th anniversary of the Unità D’Italia, Florence, like nearly every other Italian city, has been
struck by a wave of long, overdue patriotism.
say ‘overdue’ because Italy was in desperate need of refreshing its jubilant
spirit. Roberto Benigni’s moving speech on our national anthem at the San Remo
Musical Festival got us in the celebratory mood, and the Italians out on the
eve of March 17 seemed, well, different.
lived in Florence for the past six years, I had always thought that this city
excluded itself from Italy, as if to prove a point. Focaccia is schiacciata. Headbands, which in Italian are
are called passata in Florence. Moreover, the more conservative citizens relentlessly remind
anyone in ear shot that Florentine is ‘the real’ Italian.
little credibility can be given to them, as, according to the Istituto per gli
studi sulla Pubblica Opinione, 13 percent of Florentine citizens are considered
presumptuous and another 22 percent close-minded. Nevertheless, while I was
walking around the city on the eve of Italy’s 150th birthday, I had to rethink
my stance. Everything that could be lit up was colored green, white and red;
hordes of people (more, it seemed, than during the peak of tourist season) were
wearing Italy’s tricolors; the music was playing; bands were marching, shops
were open late. There was, overall, so much spirit that I hardly recognized the
there I was, struck by a sense of patriotism, which got me wondering whether I
was the only teen in the city who felt as connected as ever to her roots.
During a press conference in Barcelona a couple of years ago, Roberto Saviano
said, ‘Italian youth emigrates to die with dignity or to be happier.’ Harsh!
But is he right? Are Italian teenagers prone to leave their country for
I asked my peers how patriotic they were feeling at this moment, the results
were mixed. Asked if they feel ‘Italian,’ more than half of my peers replied
‘yes,’ a small minority said ‘no,’ and the rest considered themselves Italian
‘but ashamed of it’ (other observations were made, but to be politically
correct I’ll keep them to myself and my Facebook inbox). A smattering feel
Italian and aren’t at all ashamed of it, while some ‘would have rather been
born in Switzerland.’
asked if they considered Italy to be truly united, well, that’s where the
problems arose. Bianca, who goes to my school said, ‘I feel as if Italy is not
united, never has been, and will always be separated. People feel closer to
their native cities rather than to their nation… apart from when there’s the
World Cup, of course.’ Alex, a university student, said ‘I feel Italian, but I
think the problem is not the government but Italians themselves: as individuals
Italians are geniuses, but as a collective we suck.’
there’s the real issue. It’s not that
teenagers don’t feel connected to their nation; it’s that their nation isn’t
connected within itself. However, although other European nations, such as
France and England, seem more ‘united,’ there is something intangible that
seems to bind Italians. The majority of us still feel Italian, ashamed, proud or indifferent-perhaps we’re
united in this belief.
me play devil’s advocate for a moment: I don’t think Italy is united. And
although it might take another 150 years for it to achieve unity, I still feel Italian. Sure, our government is a joke and all of its derivatives are, too,
but we were once the Roman Empire! Nothing can beat that. And when someone
attacks Italy, I can’t help but feel that it is my duty to defend it and cite
myriad historic and cultural reasons to prove why we rule. Yet, when I speak of
this country, it is most usually a criticism.
my mind, the past 150 years does nothing but confirm the following: Italians
will be united as soon as we face a challenge, a real challenge. I guess we
don’t know what we have ‘til it may just be gone!