from “The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Italians” [pgs. 1-2 & 17]:

“The Italians are not a race, but a collection of peoples. They tend to think of themselves and each other first and foremost as Romans, Milanese, Sicilians or Florentines, and secondly as Italians. There is little that really links Turin and Bari, or Naples and Trieste, except the autostrada, the rail network and the Catholic Church.

“The regions of Italy are very different from one another and the deeply ingrained regionalism is quite understandable, considering that Italy has only existed as a nation since 1861 before which the Italian peninsula consisted of several independent states. The unification process required a skilful exercise in geopolitical patchwork, and the leading politicians of the time were well aware of the difficulties ahead. They included Massimo D’Azeglio who said: ‘Italy has been made at last; now let us make the Italians.’ Were he alive today, he would still be working at it….

“Campanilismo

“Italians know exactly where they come from, and will carry that place around with them for life, like a standard. The man from San Giorgio in Puglia who lives in Turin will maintain his links with San Giorgio all through his life. Even if he left the town 30 years ago, and only goes back once a year to see his second cousins, he will still have to help anyone else who comes from San Giorgio. Similarly, successful tycoons and politicians are supposed to look after their hometowns, investing money in them and finding work for their fellow townsfolk.

“Stating where you come from is closely linked to the key Italian concept of campanilismo, which literally means ‘loyalty to your local bell-tower,’ but really involves thinking that your village or town is the best in the world….

“Such civic pride, however, also implies great competition, and this is especially strong between neighbouring villages, towns, provinces and regions. The rivalry is often so fierce that Italians have little time left for much else, for they know that other human beings, and especially Italians from other families, villages, towns or regions, are sadly lacking in self-discipline, and cannot be trusted. How wonderful Italy would be without gli altri – ‘those other’ Italians….

“The extended family is a very large-scale social unit, including all possible relatives. It is seen at christenings, weddings, and funerals, and generally involves large numbers of people. Family functions are occasions of enormous ostentation and generosity, where the pecking order of power and wealth in the family is carefully evaluated. An Italian will even go as far as to pretend to be seriously ill in order not to go to a second cousin’s wedding where he fears he might cut a brutta figura if he hasn’t enough money for an expensive present and a new suit.

“The Italian family is a highly sophisticated network of patronage and power held together by a complex system of exchanging presents and performing favours. Going against the wishes of the family is hard and in reality so difficult for most Italians that few are inclined to try.”

previously: inbreeding in italy and democracy in italy

(note: comments do not require an email. campanilismo?! (*^_^*) )