Patriotism Alive and Well in Italy’s 150th Year

One of the most interesting things I noticed during this visit to Italy was the plethora of Italian flags hanging on people’s balconies. Generally speaking, in my experience, Italians are not the most nationalistic of people, except when it comes to the Azzurri – the national soccer team.

That being said, this time was different. On two occasions, I was awakened by people singing the national anthem with their children, in two distinct parts of the country. My friend Stefano and his 2 1/2 year old daughter were doing a rousing version in Stefano and Anne Caterine’s home outside of Monza in a place called Vedano al Lambro. Stefano sings in a choir but in all the years I have known him, I have never heard him sing the National Anthem.

On another day, later in my visit when I was at Susanna Crociani’s agriturismo Cantastorie with friends, my dear friend Teresa’s 6 year old son Gabriele broke out into song and guess what it was? L’Inno di Mameli, of course.

Goffredo Mameli wrote the anthem in 1847 and the music was composed by Michele Novaro. This was at the beginning of the Risorgimento wars and immediately became a very popular revolutionary song.

In all the years I lived in Italy and all the years I have been a frequent visitor, more than 20 years, I have never had anyone sing the anthem to me. I found it quite touching. Susanna said that she thought Roberto Benigni’s performance at the San Remo Festival had something to do with it. It is quite fitting in this 150th year of Italian Unification. Even for those who don’t understand Italian, I think this is moving because you can catch Benigni’s enthusiasm.

This morning by chance I picked up a copy of the Canti, a newly translated collection of poems by Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s greatest poets from Recanati in Le Marche.

I read the first canto entitled All’Italia . A beautiful poem and a fabulous translation. Leopardi died in 1837 before the Risorgimento and Italian unification. His desire to see Italy’s greatness is displayed in this gorgeous poem. I wonder what he would think on this anniversary.

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