by Nicholas Signoriello
In the days preceding the150th anniversary of Italy, I heard way too many people talking about the things that divide this beautiful country: each region still talks with their own dialect; regional identity still triumphs over national identity; the divide between the North and South is still ever-present.
The truth is that “patriotism” is subjective and should be applied differently to different countries. The traditional American idea of patriotism is very contradictory to what can be considered patriotism in Italy, which makes it understandable why there are so many doubts about Italians’ loyalty to their country. In my opinion, patriotism is essentially what unites a country and not what divides it because at the end of the day, every country has particular regional and sectional loyalties.
It would be cliché if I made the argument that coffee, food, and the national soccer team, are the three things that represent national unity so instead I am going to try and explain the true origin of Italian patriotism. I believe that the one thing Italians have in common from the southernmost region in Italy, Sicily, all the way up to the north in Trento, is their strong will to preserve their regional history or even the history of the small village they’re from.
In my opinion, every Italian is a historian to a certain extent. I grew up in the United States and I know U.S. history very well; I know the history of my home state, Connecticut, fairly well; but I have no clue what was happening in my hometown of Trumbull, CT over the course of the past century. An Italian, instead, would know the details of the significance of his town and region. I find this fascinating.
It is true that regional identity for many parts of Italy still triumphs over national identity, an idea reinforced by the dialects they speak. But here’s the unifier: it doesn’t matter what dialect they’re speaking, Italians love to talk! They are always talking; an American strolling along the street in Italy can easily mistake two people who are complete strangers for best friends because they just happened to erupt into conversation. In fact, if they speak different dialects it just makes for a more fun conversation.
I like to call Italian a formula rather than a language because every region manipulates particular words in certain ways, but any Italian will nonetheless understand. The Italian language is a unifying factor in itself because it’s only spoken on this peninsula. Unlike French, English, or German, there is only one place you can go to speak Italian and that is Italy. They have a fun language to speak and unless you speak it, you can’t comprehend its beauty; it’s something that only an Italian can cherish amongst his compatriots.
Speaking of beauty, its significance is different to Italians. Beauty is definitely something that unites the whole peninsula. The language, the food, the history, the buildings, even its natural beauty alone is rooted in Italian culture. Italians use the words “Bello,” “Bella,” “Bel,” “Bellezza” for almost everything. Italians can find beauty in things that no one else might notice. Nothing is right to an Italian if it’s not beautiful. In fact, the Italians have inspired me to find the beauty in what unites their country and what defines their patriotism.