Italy as an unsuccesful nation-state

There are 35 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Rice.

  • I find an excellent description of italy, the country where my ancestors came, in the book "Vanished Kingdoms, the history of the half forgotten Eurpoe, by Norman Davies, Penguin Books, 2011

    I think that is a good issue to promote opinions of this forum.

    The excerpt that I choose is:

    Historians increasingly believed that Italy’s malaise has deeper causes. Dysfunctional politics are perhaps the outward symptom of more fundamental flaws. The Unification of Italy, once held up as a glorious achievement, was proving at best as a partial success. The manner of its executions, as an instrument of the ambition of the Casa Savoia, never engendered a sense of solidarity between Italy’s diverse regions and even when the Savoia left, centrifugal forces remained strong.

    Geography and he vicissitudes of History made certain countries… more important that the sum of their parts might have indicated. In Italy the opposite was true. The parts are so stupendous that (some of them) would rival every other country in the world in the quality of its art and the civilization of its past. But the parts had never added up to a coherent whole.

    Untied Italy never became a nation its founders had hoped but because it’s making had been flawed both in conception as in execution…” a sin against history and geography” It was this predestined to be a disappointment…. The Italians have created much of the world´s greatest art, architecture and music… Yet the millennia of their past and the vulnerability of their placement have made it impossible for them to create a successful nation-state.

  • That's true and I do agree with it wholeheartedly. There are still many cultural differences between the various parts of Italy, though of course they are being leveled down as the time goes by (people moving within Italy to work and study and national TV made this possible). However, most people abroad think you are a racist when you talk about the differences between north and south or between two cities or regions.

    I found amusing that some Argentinians have referred traveling to Italy, introducing themselves as Italian, and ignoring these differences and rivalries were called names by locals. Names they were not able to understand and hence did not perceive as an insult.

    In the last years there have been efforts to promote local heritage in schools, by teaching the local dialects, however there is very little funding to support these initiatives and a general resistance by the rest of the population due to integration issues (many children come from different regions or another country, so are not familiar at all with the local dialect).

    This week I tried to find out the reason why Friulan is considered a language and not a dialect, to the point that on translation websites you can indicate Friulan as one of your working languages, but the same is not true for Roman or Sicilian or Sardinian dialect, as they are - as the word says - dialects and not languages. Apparently the line between a dialect and a language is blurred.

    That said, I believe the real cultural differences lie in the approach to civil duties, the perceived 'sense of the State', etc. As in the South of Italy the reality was a lot more fragmented, after the unity (1861) the reality did not change much and faced strong resistance. Partially because the south of Italy had a higher percentage of poor and uneducated people, partially because local 'Lords' still ruled their small feud. This is why there is the legit State and a parallel 'State' in some areas (the famous mafia associations), which 'takes care of things' their way. Across the years, the State invested a lot in Central and North Italy, and efforts in the South often ended in lot of money spent (somewhere...) and nothing done.

    Most public employees and military personnel are from the South, just like in Argentina a lot of military staff is from the Interior. And in the South there much more public employees per capita. A Sicilian town of 1000 inhabitants had 160 park rangers and 90% of the families lived on a public salary.

    Il Gattopardo (The leopard) by Tomasi di Lampedusa is a perfect portrait of that epoca and still a very actual reading that provides the key to understanding the Italian society and people. This NYT article describes it very accurately.

  • I suspected that creating this thread I will receive an inmediate response of Serafina. I was right.

    The lack of unity in Italy was so weak, that my grandmother, born in the former Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice, advised my father (her son) to return inmediately to Argentina, where he was born in 1898, just to prevent him to be incorporated to the Italian Army in 1915, because she did not want that his son would be fighting against the K. und K. Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph I, who for her was his real, legitimate ruler.

    That was a good deal to my father: he skip two world wars and lived in the prosperous Argentina at that time- He saw the wars in the cinema.

  • Carlos , your knowledge of Italian history is remarkable and far surpasses mine (I have never liked history nor geography as school subjects). Most Italo-Argentinians I meet here have a postcard-idea of Italy, which does not match the current (nor the former) reality. I feel very distanced from any Italo-Argentinian initiative I have found here, which are based on (wrong) clichés where only italo-argentinians with a poor knowledge of Italy could find themselves represented.

    Italian societies in Argentina are past-times for Argentinians and not for Italians!

  • your knowledge of Italian history is remarkable

    Thank you for your kind words, but the reason about my knowledge is that my father brought all my family to Italy in 1950, when I was 6 years old and again in 1955, both in a six months stay.

    Therefore I acquired inmediate command of the Italian language (as at home we spoke Spanish) because when you are a child you are like a sponge. So, there is no merit to me.

    I agree with you when the sons of Italians, born in Argentina, have no knowledge about their roots. Remember that most of the Italians immigrants were very poor and uneducated, and even they ignored from what region were their ancestors, and they even cannot pronounce well their family names.

    As they were poor, there was among the High society of Argentina an anti italian prejudice, that I suffered, but after 1970's, when the high development of Italy succeded, this bias was fading.

    Therefore, to be accepted in the High society you must pass several exams by people who were naturally haughty. (Proud of their Spanish "conquistadores" stock).

    It was a hard time to me, but I think I succeeded. My two sons are now married with members of this ex-haughty class, which by the way I see that they not so educated and instructed as everybody assumed. Things are not what they appear.

  • Therefore, to be accepted in the High society you must pass several exams by people who were naturally haughty. (Proud of their Spanish "conquistadores" stock).

    In all of America Latina, this pride of descending from the conquistadores is universal. I've had Mexicans who looked like Moctezuma tell me that they were of pure Spanish stock. I silently wondered why they would want to claim ancestry from some of the most brutal and ignorant thugs ever to blight the world. (Not that Moctezuma and his buddies were a lot better, but at least they were local.)

    I suppose the human race will never free itself of this kind of nonsense. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone judged everyone else based on who that person is and what he/she does with the one life issued, rather than concerning themselves with what long-dead relatives were doing back then?

  • It is curious that half of them complain about Colon and half of them are proud to be 'from the other side of the pond'.

    Those of who complain Columbus are a novelty in this country, especially fueled by the leftist groups who complain also the Western civilization as a whole. From 1916 October 12th was declared the Hispanity day, but recently aboriginal-pro communists inside the CFK government changed the name for "Dia de la Diversidad Cultural"

    The main question is that there are those who thinks that no culture is above the others, and those who thinks that there are cultures that are superior and others a bit inferior.

    This kind of "anomia" (No value scale) is a typical product of post modernist culture, valid in all matters. There are no rules to follow.

  • The inmediate past of Argentina, let´s say the last 50 years, makes that many argentines do not like to present them, as what they are, because of the poor performance of the country in the aforesaid period.

    I am those to still are and will be argentineans, but for me is like a harsh burden. Too many explanations to hid the rubbish below the carpet. I feel ashamed for the wicked behaviour of a great number of argentineans, who had abandoned the culture that we had in the "good old days" (For me the period 1880-1945) and prefer the short cuts of the "viveza criolla" (creole smartness) and accepts and adopt all the bad taste and flamboyant customs of many countries that have inferior culture.

  • I have found people here to be very proud of coming from Italy, even boastful about it. Interestingly, even above other nationalities. For example, my wife's family is half Italian and half Spanish. How they drone on about being Italian with rarely a peep about their Spanish heritage.

  • A couple of clients of mine are finishing a whirlwind trip across Europe. They had their first experience with European trains with DB, Thalys and Eurostar.

    They took the train yesterday from Venice to Milan, and their experience with Italian trains was markedly different.

    I mentioned off-handedly that Italy is probably the closest Europe has to Argentina, and he responded "Yes, I felt like I was in Retiro".

    I do airline tickets, car rental, hotels, cruises, insurance, and all-inclusive packages.

    If you want great service and low prices, look no further.
    I also sell local SIM cards for several countries.

  • I mentioned off-handedly that Italy is probably the closest Europe has to Argentina, and he responded "Yes, I felt like I was in Retiro".

    ^^ Can I chime-in and say that the restored Retiro is better than Milano Centrale Station? They both have similar architectural features, except that about 5 years ago, Ferrovie Italiane (the Italian railway company) decided to 'upgrade' Milano Centrale. What did they did is basically installing a mall within a historic station, and now you have three floors of shops and restaurants (nothing wrong with that, the Venchi ice cream shop (just close to the trains) makes a chocolate ice cream which is the best industrial/artisanal one in Italy, imho).

    What they did is also to install side conveyors belt, which means that to get out of the station you can: take the ol' but many steps OR the new conveyor belts from people which run *horizontally*.

    Which is nice if you are a teenager lingering with friends, but turns into a nightmare if you are running late nad have to catch a train. They also introduced a manual check of tickets to access the platforms, which slows down further the process.

    And the ticket office is two levels below the train platforms! And there are two types of ticket vending machines depending on whether you are taking a local train by a private company or the public-run trains. Security guards spend their days teaching tourists how to manage (I was one of those tourist, last time I went!).

    Below, on the left: the great Venchi ice cream and chocolate shop, the luminous signs announcing trains, below the sign there is the manual ticket check to access the platforms. Int he middle, the horizontal conveyors belts, on the right the big door leading to the good ol' steps (it reads' 'Biglietteria' on the top, but that's no longer true).




  • It seems that Argentina may owe more of today's customs and societal norms to the Italian immigrants and their descendants than to the original Spanish.

    Without the slightest doubt.

    I do airline tickets, car rental, hotels, cruises, insurance, and all-inclusive packages.

    If you want great service and low prices, look no further.
    I also sell local SIM cards for several countries.

  • Having commercial activity inside a mall doesn't feel wrong. If only because I've seen it done well, in very beautiful and impressive stations. Say, in New York's Grand Central Station Terminal, or Leipzig's Hauptbahnhof.

    What is important is that the primary function of the place - get people on and off trains - still be given first billing.

    What did Milane Centrale have before they installed those walkways? Stairs in the main section as well? If so, and there still are stairs, sounds like a net gain - the steps are there for those who prefer them them, and you have technological advancement and accessibility for the rest.

    Putting the ticket machines beyond the platforms is just ridiculous.

    I do airline tickets, car rental, hotels, cruises, insurance, and all-inclusive packages.

    If you want great service and low prices, look no further.
    I also sell local SIM cards for several countries.

    Edited once, last by ben ().

  • What did Milano Centrale have before they installed those walkways? Stairs in the main section as well?

    (Automated) stairs running vertically, in parallel to stone stairs. It was a shorter path, but hard with heavy luggage (elevators were also available, albeit not in the middle of the path). Now it looks like you have to appreciate each and every window before finally getting to the trains. Not to mention if you are arriving at the station by subway!