The rediscovery of classical drama and the flourishing of popular comedic forms in the fifteenth century contributed to the exponential growth of theater in sixteenth-century Italy. Interest in theater was also fed by the many social and political problems facing Italian states and their citizens, especially a series of wars that they eventually lost. Theater served both as an instrument of catharsis for powerful emotions and as a laboratory in which to experiment with solutions. With the second half of the century, tragedy grew in importance, and restraints were placed on comedy. Aristotelian norms were developed that called for clearly defined genres and character types. Toward the close of the century, as audiences tired of predictability, mixed genres grew in popularity, as did the pastoral. Seventeenth-century theater saw the predominance of the commedia dell'arte and of melodrama. During the eighteenth century, plays participated in the conflict between the old hierarchical system of social authority and the growing recognition of the value of each member of society.
COMEDY AND TRAGEDY: REVIVAL OF THE ANCIENTS AND CREATION OF NEW GENRES
In the early sixteenth century, a new genre took shape: the erudite or regular comedy. Inspired by Roman comedy, this genre was also influenced by Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron (1348–1353). Written in Italian, erudite comedy focused on contemporary issues and characters, chiefly conflicts between the generations about money and love. Important plays include La cassaria (The coffer), I suppositi (The pretenders), and Il negromante (The necromancer or The magician) by Ludovico Ariosto; La mandragola (The mandrake root), Andria (Woman from Andros), and Clizia by Niccolò Machiavelli; and Calandria (The follies of Calandro) by Bernardo Dovizi (Il Bibbiena).
Comedy soon departed from strict erudite norms. In the works of Sienese playwrights and those of Angelo Beolco (Il Ruzante), who wrote between about 1516 and 1536, Arcadian shepherds mingled with real peasants who spoke rural dialects. When wars, famine, and plague ravaged Italy in the late 1520s, Beolco's plays depicted the terrible sufferings inflicted on peasants. Ariosto's Lena (1528), which was probably influenced by Beolco, presents a bleak picture of lower-class urban life, while Pietro Aretino's comedies La corte Giana (1525; The courtesan) and Il marescalco (1526–1527; The stablemaster) satirize courtly life. The anonymous La veneziana (The Venetian woman) explores the hidden and transgressive amorous activities of Venetian patrician women.
The rediscovery of Aristotle's Poetics, first translated into Latin in 1498 and into Italian in 1549, sparked a lively debate about comedy and tragedy. From Aristotle's observations on art as imitation and on appropriate plot, character, sentiment, and diction choices for each genre, theorists derived laws about dramatic form. These laws included the famous unities of time, place, and action (plot) that confined the play to a single action occurring in one location on a single day and, adding Roman theories of dramatic structure, the division into five progressive acts. Gian Giorgio Trissino's Poetics began the debate with the first part (1529) and closed it with the second part (1563).
Respect for tragedy was fostered by Aristotle's belief that its subject matter (rulers) and the emotions it generated (horror and compassion) made it superior to comedy. Comedy's purpose was to reform behavior by showing the undesirable consequences of ridiculous actions; comic characters were from the lower classes. While observing the strict rules governing tragedy prescribed by classical theoreticians, Renaissance authors incorporated contemporary life into their plays. The first regular tragedies were written during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509–1517): Gian Giorgio Trissino's Sophonisba (1515), depicting the suicide of a queen defeated by the Romans, and Giovanni Rucellai's Rosmunda. The first vernacular tragedy, Giambattista Giraldi Cinzio's Orbecche, was staged at the Este court in Ferrara in 1541. The 1542 performance of Sperone Speroni's Canace was postponed by Beolco's death and eventually abandoned because of the controversy it generated. In the first generation of staged tragedy much blood was shed, and rulers and their families were depicted as depraved tyrants who committed murder and incest, causing distress among tragedy's aristocratic audiences.
At the same time that plays acquired fixed structures, theatrical presentations acquired fixed venues, with a permanent theater becoming a necessary feature of a signorial palazzo.
THE LATE SIXTEENTH CENTURY: VARIATIONS ON ESTABLISHED THEMES
Once Aristotelian norms had been established, it was no longer acceptable to laugh at upper-class characters. A new comic genre was born, the commedia dell'arte, performed by professional troupes rather than courtiers. These troupes worked not with scripts but with nonaristocratic typed characters and plot devices. Only Venice and Florence, with their republican traditions, maintained a robust written comedy, in the works of playwrights such as Andrea Calmo and Anton Francesco Grazzini. The pastoral, epitomized by Tasso's Aminta (1573), offered an acceptable courtly alternative, and erudite plays written early in the century continued to be staged.
Rigid Aristotelian distinctions, which audiences did not favor, were later softened. Comedy returned, written in a vernacular that was both subversive and deformed and with more lower-class and female characters. Exemplifying these developments are the comedies (1589–1601) of Giambattista Della Porta and The Candlebearer (1582) by Giordano Bruno. After a short hiatus, tragedy developed in more moderate directions, including the new genre of the tragedy with a happy ending. In these plays, kings owed their ill deeds to councillors rather than their own defects, and unpalatable actions occurred offstage. The pastoral reappeared in Ferrara with Giovanni Battista Guarini's Faithful Shepherd, written in a tragicomic style. Other blended forms such as the melodrama and the serious or dark comedy enjoyed popularity.
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
Theatrical activity flourished in the seventeenth century, with the commedia dell'arte, mixed genres, and melodrama dominating the stage. To make performance a profitable enterprise, large theaters were built and the public was charged an entrance fee. The leading family acting troupes such as the Andreini received public acclaim.
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY: COMEDY AND TRAGEDY
During the eighteenth century much literary energy was directed toward the stage. These achievements were epitomized in the works of the great Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, born in 1707. Although he began his career when the commedia dell'arte was dominant, Goldoni soon followed his audiences' interests and his own inclination toward realism. His plays increasingly included worthy characters of the middle and lower classes who spoke in dialect, and an unusually large number and variety of roles for women, including economically powerful women of the working classes. Goldoni's reform provoked an attack by Pietro Chiari, a Venetian cleric and playwright; their dispute resulted in the censure of the theater by Venetian authorities, who on a number of occasions required Goldoni to rewrite plays. Carlo Gozzi, an impoverished member of the upper class, led aristocrats in criticism of Goldoni for supposedly inverting the social order. Gozzi created a dramatic alternative that audiences favored: exotic tales set in a world of wealth and privilege. In 1762 Goldoni left for Paris, where he worked with the commedia dell'arte and wrote his memoirs in French.
A desire to overthrow the tyranny of outside powers over the states of the Italian peninsula inspired the tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri. After extensive travels abroad, Alfieri settled in Florence, dedicating himself to exposing the defects of tyrannical rule in his plays and his 1777 treatise Of Tyranny. Yet Alfieri showed signs of a lingering attachment to the old order, choosing the most conservative, aristocratic genre and never showing a ruler deposed. In his masterpiece, Saul, King Saul maintains his dignity despite his struggle with the knowledge that the mantle of leadership will soon pass to David.
See also Commedia dell'Arte ; Goldoni, Carlo ; Italian Literature and Language .
Alfieri, Vittorio. Of Tyranny. Translated by Julius A. Molinaro and Beatrice Corrigan. Toronto, 1961. Translation of Della tirannide (1777).
Aretino, Pietro. The Marescalco. Translated by Leonard G. Sbrocchi and J. Douglas Campbell. Ottawa, 1986. Translation of Il Marescalco (1533).
Ariosto, Lodovico. The Comedies of Ariosto. Translated and edited by Edmond M. Beame and Leonard G. Sbrocchi. Chicago, 1975. Translations of The Coffer [in prose], The Pretenders, The Necromancer, Lena, The Coffer [in verse], The students, The scholastics (1508–1533).
Beolco, Angelo (Il Ruzante). La Moschetta. Translated by Antonio Franceschetti and Kenneth R. Bartlett. Ottawa, 1993. Translation of La Moscheta (1528–1530).
——. Ruzzante Returns from the Wars. In The Servant of Two Masters and Other Italian classics, edited by Eric Bentley. New York, 1958. Translation of Il Parlamento (Il Reduce) (1529).
Bruno, Giordano. The Candlebearer. Translated by Gino Moliterno. Ottawa, 1999. Translation of Il candelaio (1582).
Della Porta, Giambattista. Gli duoi fratelli rivali. Edited and translated by Louise George Clubb. Berkeley, 1980.
Goldoni, Carlo. Four comedies [by] Goldoni. Translated by Frederick Davies. Harmondsworth, U.K., 1968. Translation of I due gemelli Veneziani (1750), La vedova scaltra (1748), La Locandiera (1753), and La casa nova (1761).
——. Villeggiatura Trilogy. Translated by Robert Cornthwaite. Lyme, N.H., 1994. Translation of Le smanie della villeggiatura, Le avventure della villeggiatura, and Il ritorno dalla villeggiatura (1761).
Guarini, Battista. The Faithful Shepherd. Translated by Thomas Sheridan. Edited and completed by Robert Hogan and Edward A. Nickerson. Newark, Del., and Cranbury, N.J., 1989. Translation of Il pastor fido (1589).
Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Comedies of Machiavelli. Edited and translated by David Sices and James B. Atkinson. Hanover, 1985. Translations of Mandragola (1504–1518), Andria (1517–1518), and Clizia (1524–1525).
Poliziano, Angelo. A Translation of the Orpheus of Angelo Politian and the Aminta of Torquato Tasso. Translated by Louis E. Lord. Reprint. Westport, Conn., 1986. Translation of Orfeo (1480).
Angelini, Franca. Vita di Goldoni. Rome, 1993.
Asor Rosa, Alberto. Storia della letteratura italiana. Florence, 1985.
Attolini, Giovanni. Teatro e spettacolo nel Rinascimento. Rome, 1988.
Baratto, Mario. La letteratura teatrale del Settecento in Italia: studi e letture su Carlo Goldoni. Vicenza, 1985.
Carroll, Linda L. Angelo Beolco (Il Ruzante). Boston, 1990.
Di Maria, Salvatore. The Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance: Cultural Realities and Theatrical Innovations. Lewisburg, Pa., 2002.
Ferroni, Giulio. Storia della letteratura italiana dal Cinquecento al Settecento. Milan, 1991. Vol. 4 of Storia della letteratura italiana.
Fido, Franco. Guida a Goldoni. Teatro e società nel Settecento. Turin, 1977.
——. Nuova guida a Goldoni. Teatro e società nel Settecento. Turin, 2000.
Oreglia, Giacomo. The Commedia dell'Arte. Translated by Lovett F. Edwards. London, 1968.
Radcliff-Umstead, Douglas. The Birth of Modern Comedy in Renaissance Italy. Chicago, 1969.
Siciliano, Enzo. La letteratura italiana. 3 vols. Milan, 1986–1988.
Linda L. Carroll
POPULATION: About 58 million
LANGUAGE: Italian, French, Slovene, German, and Fruilian
RELIGION: Roman Catholic; small numbers of Protestants, Jews, and Greek Orthodox
Unified Italy is a latecomer among the nations of Europe: its 20 regions did not unify as a single country until 1870. However, its people have wielded great political and cultural influence since the days of ancient Rome. Each year millions of tourists come to view the country's cultural and historical legacy dating back to Rome's Colosseum and the Greek ruins of Sicily and its beautiful landscapes, which range from Alpine peaks to picturesque hill towns and sandy beaches. Today Italy is a modern industrial nation and a leading member of the European Union. In the 1950s economic growth was so rapid that it was called the "Italian miracle." Continuing problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, slow economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north. Modern Italy has also had a turbulent political life: in 2008 it elected its 62nd government since World War II.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Located in southern Europe, Italy is geographically divided into three major regions: the north Italian Plain and the Italian Alps ("continental"); the peninsula south of the plain ("pen-insular"); and Sardinia, Sicily, and numerous smaller islands ("insular"). Italy's only major river, the Po, flows from west to east before it empties into the Adriatic sea.
There is a sharp division in temperament, traditions, and socio-economic conditions between Italians living in northern and central regions, and those living in the south. The city of Rome marks the boundaries between the two parts of the country. The more prosperous northern and central regions are more "European," while the poorer, historically neglected south (also called the Mezzogiorno) is more "Mediterranean."
Italian is the official language and is spoken by the vast majority of the population. Nearly every region has its own dialect, but dialect speakers are rapidly declining-except in Naples and Sicily-due to social mobility, radio, television, and other mass media which use only the standard language. Present-day Italian originated as the regional language of Tuscany. Other languages spoken in Italy include French, Slovene, German, and Fruilian, which is related to the Romansch spoken in Switzerland.
According to a myth that probably originated in the 4th century bc, Rome was founded by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, born to Mars, the god of war. Set adrift to drown in the Tiber River, they came to rest at the future site of the city, where they were suckled by a wolf and later found by a herdsman. After the founding of Rome, Remus was killed by Romulus, who consolidated his power and after his death was worshipped as the god Quirinus.
Italy is an overwhelmingly Catholic country: 90% of Italians describe themselves as Roman Catholics, but it is estimated that only about one-third of Italian Catholics attend mass regularly. Catholicism is closely intertwined with many aspects of Italian life, from education to family life. Priests have traditionally taught in Italian schools, although fewer do so since a 1984 law abolishing compulsory religious education. The church's position on such matters as abortion and divorce has had a profound impact on marriage and the family. Italy is also the home of the Vatican, for centuries the international center of the Catholic Church and an independent political entity. In addition, nearly all the Popes through the centuries have been Italians; the current German-born Pope, Benedict XVI (b. Joseph Alois Ratzinger) is a notable exception.
There are about 500,000 Protestants living in Italy, about 30,000 of them belonging to the sect known as Waldensians. Concentrated in the Piemonte region, they practice a French-based Calvinism and, until the late 19th century, held most of their services in French. There are significant numbers of Eastern and Greek Orthodox Christians.
There are about 825,000 Muslims living in Italy, or 1.4% of the population. The Muslim population is diverse, the largest group coming from Morocco. Others are from elsewhere in North Africa, South Asia, Albania, and the Middle East. Most arrived from the 1980s onwards, many of them as students. Up to 160,000 Muslims are Italian born. Most Muslims have the right to reside and work in Italy, but are not citizens. Italy also has about 45,000 Jews.
Aside from the standard holidays of the Christian calendar, legal holidays in Italy are New Year's Day, Liberation Day (April 25), and Labor Day (May 1). Cities and towns also celebrate the feast days of their patron saints. Colorful traditions mark many observances of religious holidays. In Florence, Easter isthe occasion for the reenactment of a medieval tradition called scoppio del carro and on Ascension Day children take part in a "cricket hunt" in the city's largest park. A ritualized secular event is the Palio, a famous annual horse race in Siena with competing equestrian teams representing the 17 neighborhoods of that city.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Italy is a modern, industrialized, primarily Roman Catholic country. Many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.
American influence in Italian society is reflected most conspicuously on the lifestyle of young people, who share with American teenagers the same taste in clothing, music, and entertainment. The factors that motivate such influence are Hollywood films, American television programs dubbed and shown on Italian television, as well as the tens of thousands of students and young tourists who visit Italy every year.
The 19th-century French author Stendhal remarked that "one quickly reaches a note of intimacy in Italy, and speaks about personal matters." Italians are characteristically open, friendly, outgoing, and easily engaged in conversation. Like the people of other Mediterranean nations, they often use a variety of gestures to illustrate or emphasize what they are saying.
The standard form of greeting among acquaintances is the handshake. Italians have fewer inhibitions about personal space than people in some other parts of Western Europe or in the United States. It is common for two grown men to greet by kissing each other on both cheeks, or for either men or women to walk down the street arm in arm. This element of informality, however, is coupled with a traditional respect for the elderly, for instance, young persons often stand up when an older relative or friend enters a room.
In all Italian regions there is a marked difference in living conditions between large cities and the towns that dot the Italian landscape. In cities, people live in apartments and condominiums; in most towns, the average family lives in two-story homes. The standard of living is comparable to industrialized countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Homes in both north and south have such basic creature comforts as refrigerators, color television, and the like. In northern and central Italy, the standards of living tend to be higher than the south. Thousands of middle-class Italians living in large cities own summer homes in the countryside, in coastal areas, or in the mountains. They spend weekends there to avoid the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as the traditional two weeks of vacation in August called ferragosto (August holy days).
Italian cities are numerous, historical and attractive. Generally they have a centro storico (historical center) corresponding to the center of the town. Here one finds churches, museums, and buildings of esthetic and architectural significance. Southern towns are typically situated on a hilltop with a church, a square or piazza, at the center.
Most Italian hospitals are run by regional governments, some by Catholic religious orders. Since 1980 Italy has had a national health plan that covers health care costs for most of its citizens, but facilities in some rural areas are still inadequate. Average life expectancy is 80 years, and the infant mortality rate is below the European average.
Italy's highway system is one of the most modern in the world. The Autostrada del Sole (Highway of the Sun) links Milan, Rome, and Naples to the southernmost tip of the Italian "boot." High-speed modern train service is provided between major cities; bus service is generally regional, connecting towns to cities. However, public transportation is often halted by strikes. Italy's only natural inland water route is the Po River, and the national airline is Alitalia.
The family is the backbone of Italian society. The noted journalist Luigi Barzini has called family loyalty the true patriotism of the Italians. Marriage choices, employment, business relationships, and often political affiliations are all influenced by family ties.
Many aspects of Italian family life have been influenced by the Catholic Church, through both its own beliefs and the influence it has wielded on government policy. The sale and purchase of contraceptive devices was illegal until 1971, bolstering the traditional tendency toward large families, and abortion was not legalized until 1978. Divorce became legal in 1970 and two-thirds of the voters upheld this policy four years later in a referendum. The divorce rate in Italy jumped 74% between 1995 and 2005, and separations increased 57% during the same decade. There were 82,291 separations in 2005 and 47,036 divorces. Marital break-ups and separations were more common in the industrialized and richer north versus the poorer south, which tends to be more religious and socially conservative. There were 6.2 separations and 4 divorces for every 1,000 marriages in the north in 2005, against 4.2 separations and 1.8 divorces in the south.
Italian fashion had its beginnings more than 150 years ago, when the national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, bought up a surplus shipment of bright red butchers' tunics for his 1,000-man revolutionary army. From 1922 to 1942 the black shirt became the official uniform-and the symbol-of fascist forces headed by Benito Mussolini. Today, Italy earns more money from clothing, textiles, and footwear than from any other of its exports, and these industries are Italy's largest employers. Designers such as Versace, Armani, and Nino Cerruti are among the fashion industry's elite, and Benetton clothing is mass marketed throughout the world. Maintaining one's appearance is very important to the Italians. Even their casual clothing is generally of high quality; jeans are popular, but not if they are tattered or frayed. Dress wear includes fashionable silk ties and exquisitely cut suits for men, and elegant dresses or skirts and blouses for women.
Italy's national food is pasta, in all its varieties: ravioli in the north of the country, lasagne and tortellini in Bologna, cannel-loni in Sicily, spaghetti with tomato or clam sauce in Naples. In general northern Italians eat much less pasta, preferring rice, prepared in various ways, and polenta, a mush made with corn, barley, or chestnut flour. In the north, people tend to use more butter and margarine; in the south, more olive oil. Pasta has been manufactured in the south since the 19th century and pasta dishes are often prepared with such vegetables as zucchini and eggplants. Altogether, Italy has 20 regional cuisines, all at least partially determined by locally available produce. The range of typical dishes includes fegato alla veneziana (liver and onions) in Venice; cotoletta alla milanese (veal cutlets) in the Lombard city of Milan; bagna cauda (a garlic-anchovy sauce for dipping vegetables) in the Piedmont region; and pesto (a basil-and-garlic sauce now popular in the United States) in Genoa and throughout the Liguria region. The Emilia-Romagna region, in central Italy, and the city of Bologna are famous for their cuisine. One regional dish that has become particularly well known worldwide is pizza, which originated in Naples.
Espresso is a standard beverage throughout Italy. Customers at the country's numerous espresso bars can often be heard ordering customized versions such as lungo (diluted), macchiato (with milk), or freddo (iced). Italy is also the world's largest wine producer, and wine accompanies most meals.
In 2001 Italy had a literacy rate of around 98%, a substantial improvement over the 1930s, when some 20% of the population was illiterate. However, schools in some rural areas, and in the south generally, lag behind those in the rest of the country.Elementary education in Italy is regarded as the most progressive and innovative in the world. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14, and secondary education is offered in either the sciences or humanities, as well as in technical and teacher training schools. A small percentage of students follow their secondary education with study at one of Italy's 77 institutions of higher learning (63 state universities and 14 non-state universities).The university population in 2003 amounted to 1,800,000 individuals. The oldest is the University of Bologna, founded in the 11th century.
In the visual arts, Italy's cultural legacy dates back to the sculpture and architecture of ancient Rome. The Renaissance, beginning in 15th-century Florence, was the golden age of painting, which saw the production of such works as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Other great Italian Renaissance artists included Donatello, Boticelli, Raphael, and Titian. In music, Italy is known for its glorious operatic tradition, from the early works of Monteverdi, the "father of opera," to the great 19th-century achievements of Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi, who is considered the greatest composer of opera. Italy is also known for the compositions of the baroque masters, including Vivaldi, and the makers of great violins such as the Stradivarius. In literature, Italy's great masterpieces include the Aeniad of the Roman writer Virgil and the 14th-century works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, including Dante's Divine Comedy, the first great work in the Italian language. Since 1901, there have been six Italian authors who have received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In recent years, employment in Italy's service sector has increased rapidly. In 2001, it accounted for 63% of the nation's work force, compared to about 32% for industry and 5% for agriculture. Italian industry expanded rapidly after World War II, especially between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. The Piedmont region in the north is one of Europe's major auto manufacturing centers and figures in the "industrial triangle" of Turin, Milan, and Genoa, where most of the country's major industries are concentrated. Southern Italy is less developed economically and has a higher rate of unemployment (around 20% in 2008). Many Sicilians now work abroad, and their earnings figure significantly in the island's economy. Labor strikes are common among workers in many areas of the service sector, including the post office, railroads, hospitals, schools, banks, and the media. Italy's economy has approximately the same total and per capita output as France and the United Kingdom. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported.
Soccer ("football," called calcio in Italy) is by far Italy's most popular sport. In 2006 the Italian national team won the World Cup-its fourth. Nearly all large and medium-size cities have a team in one of the three professional divisions. Totocalcio is a very popular betting pool connected with the scores of the soccer games in the three divisions. In addition to its popularity as a spectator sport, soccer is played by many Italians, and games at the village, city, and district level are accompanied by intense competition. Italians also enjoy bicycle and motorcycle racing, basketball, boxing, tennis, and downhill skiing in the Italian Alps. A type of bowling played on clay court called bocce is popular in small towns.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Like many Europeans, Italians are passionate soccer fans (called tifosi), watching games in stadiums and at home on television. The fanaticism surrounding this sport has caused major riots (in which people have died), as well as heart attacks during games (even by fans watching at home). Mammoth traffic jams are commonplace on Sunday afternoons, when games are played. Italians are also avid followers of auto and bicycle racing. Many bicycle races are sponsored by cities and corporations, and crowds congregate at the finish line regardless of the weather.
Many Italians like to spend their leisure hours with friends at a cafe, where they can stay as long as they like. Cafes are also popular spots for such solitary pursuits as reading or letter writing. Even daily meals are a form of recreation in Italy: Italians commonly spend up to two hours eating their midday meal, generally joining their families for food, wine, and conversation. On Sundays, the whole family may gather at an outdoor restaurant for this extended meal and spend the entire afternoon there. Even a night on the town in a sophisticated city like Rome generally means dining late at a trattoria (a small restaurant) and lingering over wine as the waiters are closing up for the night.
Beaches are popular recreational spots, especially with young people, who also enjoy "hanging out" at the local piazza, or square.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Italy's handcrafted products include fine lace linens, glass, pottery, carved marble, and gold and silver filigree work. The sale of these products is important to the Italian economy, and the government provides assistance to the artisans who produce them.
Bureaucratic red tape and administrative inefficiency affect many aspects of daily life, including transportation, mail and telephone service, health care, and banking, among others. The resulting delays and inconveniences experienced regularly as a result are exacerbated by frequent service-sector strikes. Another traditional problem that still plagues Italy is organized crime, especially in the south of the country. Mafia violence may involve feuds between competing gangs, the kidnapping of wealthy persons or their relatives, or drug-related activities. Mob trafficking in narcotics and other drugs has given Italy a drug problem worse than that in most other European countries. Other problems in the 21st century include illegal immigration, high unemployment, and sluggish economic growth.
Officially, the father is the authority figure in the family, although women wield great power within the domestic sphere, especially in terms of the influence they exercise on their sons-Italian men are said to have an unusually strong lifetime attachment to their mothers. Although many Italian women continue to fulfill traditional roles, more and more work outside the home and pursue professional careers.
Italy, as the home of the Catholic Church, has negative attitudes towards homosexuality in general. Ironically, Italy is one of the few countries in the world that never enacted any specific anti-homosexual legislation. In the poorer south, gays are more stigmatized or discriminated against than in the more cosmopolitan north, especially in the larger cities of Milan and Bologna, where there is much more tolerance and acceptance. Rome and Naples are two exceptions to this rule and both cities have large gay communities. Italian attitudes toward homosexuals are changing, however. A survey taken in 2006 showed that 31% of Italians surveyed supported same-sex marriage and 24% recognized same-sex couples' rights to adopt (compared to the EU-wide average of 44% and 33%, respectively). In February 2007 the Romano Prodi government proposed a new law allowing a restricted version of civil union, which would grant rights to unmarried couples in areas of labor law, inheritance, tax, and medical assistance. The law faced strong opposition from the Catholic church and from Christian members of parliament. The Prodi government fell in 2008, and it was unclear if the legislation would be revived under Silvio Berlusconi.
Barzini, Luigi. The Italians: A Full-Length Portrait Featuring Their Manners and Morals. New York: Atheneum, 1965. Benedetti, Laura. The Tigress in the Snow: Motherhood and Literature in Twentieth-Century Italy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
Bennett, A. Linda, ed. Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Europe). Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992.
Duggan, Christopher. Force of Destiny: A History of Italy since 1796. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.
Fodor's 2008 Italy. New York: Random House, 2007.
Hofmann, Paul. That Fine Italian Hand. New York: Henry Holt, 1990.
Locatelli, Giorgio. Made in Italy: Food & Stories. New York: Ecco, 2007.
Mignone, Mario B. Italy Today. A Country in Transition. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.
Pavlovic, Zoran. Italy. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.
Pojmann, Wendy A. Immigrant Women and Feminism in Italy. Aldershot, England; Ashgate, 2006.
Travis, David. The Land and People of Italy. New York: Harp-erCollins, 1992.
-revised by J. Hobby
POPULATION: 57 million
LANGUAGE: Italian; French; Slovene; German; Fruilian
1 • INTRODUCTION
The twenty regions that make up Italy were united into a single country in 1870. The country and its people have been a profound political and cultural influence on the world since the days of ancient Rome. Each year millions of tourists visit Italy to see the country's cultural and historical landmarks such as the Colosseum in Rome and the Greek ruins in Sicily. Italy is a modern industrial nation and a leading member of the European Community (EC). In the 1950s economic growth was so fast that its economy was called the "Italian miracle."
2 • LOCATION
Located in southern Europe, Italy is divided into three major regions: the north Italian Plain and the Italian Alps (continental); the peninsula south of the plain (peninsular); and Sardinia, Sicily, and numerous smaller islands (insular). Italy's only major river, the Po, flows from west to east before it empties into the Adriatic sea. The mainland is a boot-shaped peninsula, with the Mediterranean Sea to the southwest, and the Adriatic to the east and northeast.
There is a sharp division in temperament, traditions, and economic conditions between Italians living in northern and central regions, and those living in the south. The city of Rome marks the boundaries between the two parts of the mainland. The wealthier northern region is considered to be more "European." The poorer, historically neglected south is considered to be more "Mediterranean." There has even been a movement among northerners to create an independent country.
3 • LANGUAGE
Italian is the official language and is spoken by the vast majority of the population. Other languages spoken in Italy include French, Slovene, German, and Fruilian, which is related to the Romansch language spoken in Switzerland.
4 • FOLKLORE
According to myth, the city of Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, in 753 bc. Their father was Mars, the god of war. They were set adrift in the Tiber River. Instead of drowning as was planned, they floated to the future site of the city of Rome. They were raised by a wolf and later found by a herdsman. After the founding of Rome, Romulus killed Remus and took over his power. After his death, Remus was worshiped as the god Quirinus.
5 • RELIGION
Italy is an overwhelmingly Catholic country: 99 percent of Italians describe themselves as Roman Catholics. Only about one-third of Italian Catholics, however, attend Mass regularly. Catholicism plays an important role in everyday life, even for those who do not attend church regularly.
Before a 1984 law ended compulsory religious education, priests were the primary teachers in the schools. The Catholic Church's position on abortion and divorce has had a major impact on marriage and family life.
Italy is also the home of the Vatican, a tiny, independent country within Rome. For centuries, the Vatican has been the head-quarters of the Catholic Church and is where the Pope lives. For centuries, almost every Pope has been Italian. Becoming Pope in 1978, the Polish-born John Paul II is a notable exception.
There are about 150,000 Protestants living in Italy. Most of them belong to a sect known as Waldensians. Italy is also home to about 35,000 Jews and a small number of members of the Greek Orthodox church.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
In additon to the standard holidays of the Christian calendar, legal holidays in Italy are New Year's Day, Liberation Day on April twenty-fifth, and Labor Day on May first. Cities and towns also celebrate the feast days of their individual patron saints. Colorful traditions mark many celebrations of religious holidays.
In Florence, Easter (in March or April) is the occasion for the reenactment of a medieval tradition called scoppio del carro, which means "explosion of the cart." It is the eruption of a cartful of fireworks set off by a mechanical dove released from the altar during Mass. On Ascension Day children take part in a "cricket hunt" in the city's largest park.
The annual summer Palio horse race, held in Siena, is a colorful, bareback horse race with racers competing for the banner, the palio.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Italy is a modern, industrialized, Roman Catholic country. Many rites of passage that young people experience are religious sacraments such as baptism, first communion, and confirmation. In many families, a student's progress through the education system is celebrated with parties.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Italians are characteristically friendly, outgoing, and generous. They love to talk and are easily immersed in conversation. Like people of other Mediterranean nations, they often use body language to illustrate or emphasize what they are saying.
The standard form of greeting among peers is the handshake. Italian people are very affectionate in public. It is common for two grown men to greet by kissing each other on both cheeks, and for either men or women to walk down the street arm in arm. These very informal manners, however, are blended with a deep and traditional respect for the elderly. Young people often stand up when an older relative or friend enters the room.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Throughout the country there are differences in living conditions between large cities and the smaller towns that dot the Italian landscape. In the cities, people live in apartments and condominiums. In most towns, the average family lives in two-story homes. The standard of living is comparable to industrialized countries such as France, England, and the United States.
Thousands of middle-class Italians who live in large cities also own summer homes in the country, in coastal areas, or in the mountains. They spend weekends there to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. They also use these retreats during the traditional two weeks of vacation in August called ferragosto (August holy days).
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The family is the backbone of Italian society. Choice of marriage partner, type of employment, business relationships, and often political affiliation are all influenced by family ties. Officially, the father is the authority figure in the family, although mothers have great power. This is especially true in the raising of sons. Italian men are said to have an unusually strong lifetime attachment to their mothers.
Many aspects of Italian family life have been influenced by the Catholic Church, by its own doctrine and the influence it has had on government policy. Until 1971, the sale and purchase of birth control devices were illegal. Abortion was legalized in 1978. Although divorce became legal in 1970, Italy's divorce rate of one in every fifteen new marriages is still much lower than that of other industrialized nations such as France, England, and the United States. Southern Italy has an even lower rate of divorce.
11 • CLOTHING
Italian fashions are known all over the world. Italy earns more money from selling its clothing, fabrics, and shoes than from any other export. These industries are Italy's largest employers. Designs by such names as Versace, Armani, and Nino Cerruti are among the fashion industry's most expensive and elite. Benetton clothing is marketed throughout the world. Leather goods, from handbags to gloves to jackets, are excellent buys. "Made in Italy" has become synonymous with style, quality, and craftsmanship.
Maintaining a good appearance is very important to Italians. Even their casual clothing is of high quality. Jeans are popular, but not if they are torn. Dress wear includes fashionable silk ties and well-cut suits for men, and elegant dresses and skirts and blouses for women.
12 • FOOD
Italy's national food is pasta. It is served in many varieties: ravioli in the north of the country, lasagne and tortellini in Bologna, cannelloni in Sicily, spaghetti with tomato or clam sauce in Naples. Northern Italians eat much less pasta. They prefer rice and polenta, a mush made with corn, barley, or chestnut flour. Pasta has been manufactured in the south since the nineteenth century and pasta dishes are often prepared with such vegetables as zucchini and eggplants.
Favorite Italian dishes include fegato alla veneziana (liver and onions); cotoletta alla milanese (veal cutlets); bagna cauda (a garlic-anchovy sauce for dipping vegetables); and pesto (a basil-and-garlic sauce now popular in the United States). One regional dish that has become particularly well known is pizza, which originated in Naples.
Espresso, a very strong coffee drink, is popular throughout Italy. It can be ordered as lungo (diluted), macchiato (with milk), or freddo (iced). Italy is also the world's largest wine producer, and wine is served with most meals. Tap water is safe in most areas, although most people order bottled acqua minerale (mineral water) in restaurants. A ristorante (restaurant) usually posts its menu in the window so one can see what is available before going inside.
13 • EDUCATION
In 1990 Italy had a literacy rate of about 97 percent. Schools in some rural areas and in the south, however, lag behind those in the rest of the country. Elementary education in Italy is regarded as the most progressive and innovative in the world.
Education is free and required between the ages of six and fourteen. Secondary education is offered in the sciences or humanities, as well as in technical and teacher training schools. A small percentage of students follow their secondary education with study at one of Italy's forty-one state or fifteen private universities and colleges. The oldest is the University of Bologna, founded approximately in A.D. 1060. It is also Europe's first university.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Italy's importance in the history of world culture cannot be overstated. Its contributions to culture are as important as any civilization's, including Persian, Chinese and Greek.
In the visual arts, Italy's legacy dates back to the sculpture and architecture of ancient Rome, the city in which Nero fiddled and Mark Antony praised Caesar. The Renaissance, beginning in fifteenth-century Florence, was a movement in art, literature, and philosophy that combined new realism with classical antiquity, especially seen in paintings. It saw the creation of such works as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo's painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Other great Italian Renaissance artists included Donatello, Boticelli, Raphael, and Titian.
In music, Italy is known for its glorious operatic tradition, from the early works of Monteverdi, the "father of opera," to the great nineteenth-century achievements of Rossini and Verdi. Verdi is considered the greatest composer of opera. Italy is also known for the music of the composer Vivaldi.
Italy's great masterpieces of literature include the Aeniad by the Roman writer Virgil (70 B.C. to A.D. 19). The fourteenth-century works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, including Dante's Divine Comedy, are considered some of the greatest works in literature. In the twentieth century, six Italians have won the Nobel Prize for literature. The modern Italian writer who is probably best known internationally is Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
In the last half of the twentieth century, employment in Italy's service sector increased rapidly. By 1992, services employed 60 percent of the nation's work force. About 30 percent worked in industry and less than 10 percent in agriculture. Italian industry expanded quickly after World War II (1939–45), especially between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. The Piedmont region in the north is one of Europe's major auto manufacturing centers.
Southern Italy is less developed economically and has a higher rate of unemployment. Many Sicilians work abroad, and their earnings are important to the island's economy. Labor strikes are common among workers in many areas of the service sector, including the post office, railroads, hospitals, schools, banks, and the media.
16 • SPORTS
Soccer (called calcio ) is by far Italy's most popular sport. Nearly all large and mediumsize cities have a team in one of the three professional divisions. Totocalcio is a very popular betting pool connected with soccer. In addition to its popularity as a spectator sport, soccer is played by most Italians. Games at the village, city, and district levels are accompanied by intense competition.
Italians also enjoy bicycle and motorcycle racing, basketball, boxing, tennis, and downhill skiing. A type of bowling played on clay court called bocce is popular in small towns.
17 • RECREATION
Like many Europeans, Italians are passionate soccer fans. The fanaticism surrounding this sport has caused major riots in which people have died. Some fans have had heart attacks while watching games at home. Mammoth traffic jams are common on Sunday afternoons, which is when the games are played.
Many Italians like to spend leisure time visiting with friends at cafes. Cafes are also popular spots for solitary pursuits like reading or writing letters. Even daily meals are a form of recreation in Italy: Italians normally spend up to two hours eating their midday meal. Meals are times for families to get together for food, wine, and conversation.
Beaches are popular recreation areas, especially with young people, who also enjoy "hanging out" at the local piazza, or town square.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Italy's handcrafted products include fine laces, linens, glass, pottery, carved marble, leather, and gold and silver work. The sale of these products is important to the Italian economy, and the government subsidizes the artisans who create them.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
A problem that has long troubled Italy is organized crime, especially in the southern part of the country. Mafia violence may involve rivalry among competing gangs, kidnapping of wealthy persons or their relatives, and drug-related activities. Italian mob trafficking in drugs has resulted in a drug problem worse than that in most other European countries.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Barzini, Luigi. The Italians: A Full-Length Portrait Featuring Their Manners and Morals. New York: Atheneum, 1965.
Bell, Brian, ed. Italy. Insight Guides. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Western Europeans. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Sproule, Anna. Italy: The Land and Its People. Morristown, N.J.: Silver Burdett Press, 1987.
Travis, David. The Land and People of Italy. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Winwar, Frances. The Land and People of Italy. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972.
Embassy of Italy, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.italyemb.nw.dc.us/italy/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Italy. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/it/gen.html, 1998.
Italians are citizens of Italy (the Republic of Italy). Italy occupies 301,230 square kilometers and in 1990 had an estimated population of 57,657,000. The modern nation of Italy, unified in 1861, is a mix of different regional cultures who, prior to unification, formed a number of distinct political, linguistic, and cultural units. The Tuscan dialect of Italian is the national standard, although regional dialects and languages are still widely spoken and in some areas other languages, such as Sard on Sardinia, are considered official second languages. In addition to the regional cultures—Tuscans, Sicilians, Calabrese, Piemontese, etc.—there are also distinctive national minorities—Austrians, Albanians, Germans, Greeks, French, Slovenes—and linguistic minorities such as the Ladin and Friuli.
See Calabrese; Friuli; Ladin; Piemontese; Piemontese Sinti; Sardinians; Sicilians; Slovensko Roma; Swiss, Italian; Tiroleans; Tuscans; Xoraxané Romá
Kurian, George T. (1990). Encyclopedia of the First World. 2 vols. New York: Facts on File.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (1988). 7th ed. New York: Worldmark Press.
I·tal·ian / iˈtalyən/ • adj. of or relating to Italy, its people, or their language. • n. 1. a native or national of Italy, or a person of Italian descent. 2. the Romance language of Italy, also one of the official languages of Switzerland. DERIVATIVES: I·tal·ian·ize / -ˌnīz/ v.
So Italianate XVI. — It. italianato. Italic pert. to a school of philosophy founded in Magna Graecia XVI; pert. to ancient Italy or its tribes; (i-) of printing type introduced by Aldo Manuzio of Venice XVII. — L. Italicus — Gr. Italikós: hence italicize print in italics XVIII. Italiot(e) pert. to Gr. colonies or colonists in ancient Italy. XVII. — Gr. Italiṓtēs. Italo-, used as comb. form of Italian. XVIII.