My Italy: 150 years of Italian Unity

Yesterday, in one of the most tumultuous moments of its history (between the general discontent of its people, the governmental crisis, and the situation in Libya, its historical client state), Italy celebrated 150 years of Unity.

My friend Simona, author of the excellent Italian gastronomy blog Briciole, published this FANTASTIC post including the video above. I highly recommend it: she’s composed a beautifully woven timeline for Italy’s last (and first) 150 years as a united country and she’s translated a number of the quotes from the video above (you’ll find quotes by a number of historical figures that have appeared here on my blog).

Chapeau bas, Simona!

Above: The Italian Alps, as seen from the vineyards of my friend Giampaolo Venica, September 2010.

My friend Simone, a young and gifted wine professional from Lucca, wrote me to remind me this morning of a poem dear to both of us and as vibrant and topical as it was when Petrarch wrote it (probably) during the siege of Parma in 1344-45 (the fact it was composed in Parma will not be lost on those who fear and loathe the rise of the Italian Separatist Party). It’s one of Petrarch’s most moving political poems and I spent hours and hours pouring over every line, every syllable, and every scansion as I prepared my dissertation on Petrarchan prosody. I’ve scanned and reproduced the Robert Durling prose translation below (Petrarch’s Lyric Poems, Harvard, 1976), which I also highly recommend to you.

On our recent trip to Italy, every time Tracie P and I gazed at the Alps, I couldn’t help but think of the lines (see the fifth stanza below), Nature provided well for our safety/when she put the shield of the Alps/between us and the Teutonic rage.

The incipit of the song is immensely powerful and could not be more a propos today — whether in the sphere of Italian politics or viticulture.

    Italia mia, ben che’l parlar sia indarno
    a le piaghe mortali

    My Italy, although speech does not aid
    those immortal wounds

The song’s congedo is even more moving… Your divided wills are spoling the loveliest part of the world.

2 thoughts on “My Italy: 150 years of Italian Unity

  1. Grazie, Jeremy. I loved the video at first sight and immediately got the idea to explain it to people not familiar with Italian history (in the broader sense). As I was mining YouTube to get the various videos, I was moved over and over again. I wish I could explain more, like the scene with Toto’ and Peppino, and what Pertini says in the World Cup video.
    Great choice from beloved Petrarca! It’s amazing how deeply his words resonate today. If there is a silver lining in this awful situation, it is the renewed interest on our Constitution (see the recent public demonstrations) and also on our public schools, both under sustained attack by the current government.

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